After becoming convinced that the sudden spiritual awakening which came to his own church and community in Worcester, South Africa, truly was the work of God’s Spirit, Andrew Murray joined in supporting the powerful revival as it continued to sweep across the country. This blog, the last of a three-part miniseries, shows how God used Murray as a discerning and skilled young minister to help promote the awakening that took place throughout South Africa in 1860 and 1861.
In the weeks that followed the commencement of the revival at Worcester during the middle of 1860, Andrew Murray’s wife, Emma, wrote her mother of the ongoing, dramatic awakening in their parish: “We are having many visitors from the surrounding places who come to see us on account of the revival meetings, and they go away blessed, saying that half has never been told. It is a solemn thing to live in such a congregation at such a time.
“I feel sure the Lord is going to bless us even more, and yet there are heavy trials before us; the work is deeply interesting and yet some things are painful. In the midst of an earnest address [by Murray] a man drove a dog into the church with a tin tied on its tail and frightened the people. Andrew came down the aisle and prayed a most solemn, heart-searching prayer, that if the work was not of God, He Himself would put a stop to it. The people were terrified as the excitement was very intense and some even fainted.
“The prayer meeting last night was very full and ten men decided for Christ, but fifty undecided left the building about twelve o’clock. We had no idea of the time. Two souls afterwards came through who were wrestling in agony for a time, but got into the light in their own houses. Some go through a fiery struggle. Two sisters have both passed through, are now bright and rejoicing.
“Last night again the church was full and Andrew preached so powerfully and yet so simply on ‘the Lamb of God.’ He is so very discreet in dealing with souls. About twenty came forward, and others stayed behind to be talked to. We do feel and realize the power and presence of God so mightily. His Spirit is indeed poured out upon us.”
Several other South African towns were visited and transformed by the revival around that same time. Toward the end of the year God began to use Murray’s powerful preaching ministry in even greater ways than he had previously experienced. He was invited to speak at a number of conferences from Cape Town to Graaff-Reinet, 500 miles to the east. His itinerant ministry was greatly blessed by the Lord and helped further the revival in various locations.
During 1861 the awakening continued to spread across South Africa, impacting some two dozen additional parishes. Some of the communities first awakened in 1860, including Worcester, continued to be powerfully impacted by the revival in 1861. Early in September of the latter year a ministerial friend of Murray’s named Nicolaas Hofmeyr visited Worcester. He was on a collection tour to raise funds for missions but also wanted to observe for himself the “vehement, excited and confused prayer meetings” he had heard were taking place at Worcester, purportedly as an inevitable outcome of the mighty work of God’s Spirit.
Murray was away at the time of Hofmeyr’s arrival at Worcester, so the latter attended a prayer meeting with a church elder. As Hofmeyr opened the meeting in prayer he heard a few people moan. Then when a youth who had been powerfully converted began to pray in emotional tones, the assembly broke out in a bewildering verbal tumult. Due to their emotional distress, people tended to pray in short outbursts: “Lord, won’t you pour out your Holy Spirit?” “Yes, Lord, do it!” “O Lord, convert the unconverted!” As soon as the young man’s emotional prayer came to an end, the commotion stopped. But when other individuals subsequently prayed with great fervor the same type of group response occurred.
Hofmeyr was convinced that such behavior was not of God’s Spirit, was unedifying and needed to be stopped. As soon as Murray arrived home, Hofmeyr expressed his concerns and suggested that Murray put an immediate stop to the questionable behavior. Murray instead told Hofmeyr he was in no position to accurately judge a whole movement by observing it during its middle phase rather than from its beginning. Murray further explained that he had tried to put a halt to the emotional behavior, but had been unable to do so. He had concluded that these prayers from the heart served as the most powerful proof that the Holy Spirit was at work. It was for this reason that he was reticent to suppress such manifestations with force.
This incident certainly shows the change of perspective Murray had come to have concerning his own role in the midst of revival. He was now seeking not to interfere with, rather than to moderate, the mighty moving of God’s Spirit. To Hofmeyr’s credit, he did not press the issue further.
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A full account of the revival in South Africa is recorded in chapters 11 and 12 of my comprehensive biography on Murray entitled Andrew Murray, Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. Much spiritual encouragement and instruction can be gained through the consideration of his outstanding life of service for Christ Jesus.
Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie