In a few months my newest biography, Andrew Murray of South Africa, is to be published by Christian Focus Publications. Murray was blessed with a devout ancestry and upbringing. He reminds us (1) how blessed we are if we have had those same benefits and (2) what a great blessing we can be to our descendants by providing them with those spiritual advantages.
Andrew Murray’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all deeply committed Christians. Andrew’s father, after whom he was named, emigrated from Scotland to South Africa as a young man. Murray, Sr., devoted his entire ministerial career of over forty years to pastoring the Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet, located some 500 miles northeast of Cape Town. In addition to shepherding his own congregation, Murray established eight other Dutch Reformed Churches in that part of Cape Colony.
Murray, Sr., married Maria Stegmann. They had sixteen children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood. One of their children testified of their home: “The chief characteristic of the household was reverence. We reverenced God’s name and God’s day and God’s Word. The wife reverenced her husband; the children reverenced their parents; the servants reverenced their master and mistress. The children were trained in the ways of the Lord. They were taught to render obedience in such a way that they never seemed to know it.”
Murray was deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of his children and that they would come to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. On a Sunday evening, following family worship when a child came for a goodnight kiss, he would ask, ‘Well, dearie, have you given your heart to Christ yet?’ or ‘Will you not, before you go to bed tonight, give yourself to Jesus?’ On a child’s birthday he would say, ‘This is your birthday. Are you born again?’
Murray impressed spiritual truths upon his children through other means as well. A daughter related: “Many sweet words out of God’s Word became engraven in the hearts of his children by hearing their father repeat them with such feeling and emphasis. The word of Christ did indeed dwell in him richly, and he taught and admonished us in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in his heart unto the Lord [Col. 3:16]. Many a sweet verse has been imprinted on our minds and memories from hearing him repeat it half aloud to himself, as he walked up and down the large dining room after supper.”
Maria Murray also played a crucial role in the spiritual development and general education of her children. She taught them to read before they were old enough to attend school, and the hymns and Bible verses they learned at her knee remained in their memory throughout life. When her husband was away from home on ministry responsibilities, she listened to her sons rehearse their daily lessons before they went to school.
Peace and restfulness of spirit, even in the midst of work, marked Maria’s life. A regular habit of personal communion with God was the secret to her trust and tranquility. She always took time for her private devotions, and her children and servants knew that when her bedroom door was closed she was not to be disturbed unless absolutely necessary.
The Lord’s Day was strictly observed by the Murrays. There were almost always three Sunday church services, in addition to Sunday School, and the older Murray children were expected to attend them all. In addition, Mrs. Murray taught her children the Shorter Catechism on Sunday afternoon, and toward evening the family enjoyed a time of singing together. One of their children later wrote: “On looking back upon it all, it does seem almost wonderful that the children did not weary of the long services. For the morning service lasted two hours, and on Communion Sundays three, and we remained to the end. It is perhaps to be ascribed to habit, or still more to the fact that the parents delighted in the worship of God, so the children learned to delight in it too.”
All of Andrew and Maria’s children and nearly all of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to faith in Christ and faithfully served Him, in various capacities, with their lives. In 1922 ‘a remarkable centenary gathering’ was held in Graaff-Reinet to commemorate the arrival of Andrew Murray, Sr., in South Africa. 220 of his 486 descendants gathered for the special reunion. With humble gratitude to God it was duly noted: “During the hundred years now ending, over fifty ministers have been connected with the family by birth or marriage, and about the same number of men and women have given the whole or part of their lives to work in the foreign mission field. Some of the young men are now attending the Theological Seminary and others are expecting to enter it in due time, some are studying medicine in the hope of becoming medical missionaries. … Looking over the past one could only adore the goodness of the covenant-keeping God and entrust to the same God the keeping of the future generations.”
A few years before his death in 1917, Andrew Murray, Jr., doubtless thinking of the blessed influence of his own parents and grandparents, wrote in a memorandum addressed to the entire Murray family circle: ‘A godly parentage is a priceless boon. Its blessing rests not only upon the children of the first generation, but has often been traced in many successive generations.’
Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie