In 1848, at the age of 20, Andrew Murray, Jr. returned home to Cape Town, South Africa from his theological studies in Scotland and Holland. The Dutch Reformed Church required ministers to be at least 22 years old before they would ordain them, so young Andrew was sent by the church to the Transvaal, far to the north to the Afrikaaner farmers and their black servants, living between the Vaal and Orange Rivers in what came to be known as the Orange Free State.
He set up a four church circuit in the Transvaal, and soon realized the spiritual health of the people was far worse than he had originally imagined. Soon he knew that he must preach simply, plainly, and logically to these rough farmers. After eleven years of ministry there, Murray returned to the Cape Peninsula to pastor a church there.
The Cape Peninsula was also a spiritual wasteland prior to 1860. For years the Dutch India Company had controlled the appointment of pastors and the planting of churches, and required all worship services, sermons and even personal devotions to be conducted in Dutch, not in Afrikaans, the more simple form of Dutch which the people had been speaking for many years. The people had trouble understanding Dutch and consequently their spiritual lives languished. When the British gained power over the Cape, they forbade Afrikaans to be spoken and appointed all their ministers to be from Scotland.
Andrew Murray, Sr. was a mighty preacher who had an intolerable burden for revival, and had been praying without fail every Friday night for 36 years for revival. But for years nothing had happened. In fact, the church was as apathetic as ever. There was a vast shortage of pastors and finding staff and teachers for Christian schools was next to impossible. The black population was largely given to drunkenness and witchcraft.
But in the U.S., the Fulton Street revival in New York City had been flourishing since October 1857, and spread throughout the United States and across the Atlantic to Wales and North Ireland. By 1858, John Girardeau, pastor of the Zion Presbyterian Church, saw a mighty movement of God in Charleston, S.C., with preaching every night except Saturdays for 8 consecutive weeks, seeing as many as 1000 slaves and white people saved. Then in 1859, 3 pastors of the Dutch Reformed Church challenged their fellow pastors to preach a series of sermons on the attributes of God, the role of the Holy Spirit in the church, and the need for private and corporate prayer to ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They wrote—
“An awakening can occur through the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the gift is promised in answer to prayer . . . . we earnestly beseech you to faithfully and fervently pray one hour every week with others or alone, that God by His grace may visit our land and give us the blessing of the outpouring of the Spirit.”
While many pastors were moved to action, their congregations remained largely disinterested. Most of the prayer meetings were no more than two or three people gathering weekly for one hour. Then in May, 1860, a conference was held at Worcester, South Africa, with 374 people and 20 congregations represented. Andrew Murray, Jr. prayed fervently at the beginning of the meeting and the Spirit of God began to move powerfully in the meeting. In another part of the building, another group of people were gathered in prayer.
A fifteen year old girl asked if she could pray. As she prayed, spontaneously the whole room erupted into prayer. Murray, whose experience with revival had only been in Scotland where the people were more subdued, had come in from the other meeting and when he saw what was happening, he tried to silence the people, saying that the meeting was out of order because God is a God or order. The people did not hear him and continued praying.
Finally an observer said to Murray, “Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and this is precisely what I witnessed there.” Revival fires began to burn brilliantly and powerfully all over South Africa.
Pastor Servaas Hofmeyr, who experienced the revival, observed, “Before the days of revival, the situation of our congregation was lamentable. Love of the world and sin, no earnestness or desire for salvation, and sin and idleness was the order of the day; so when the Lord started to move among us, how intense were the prayers for revival and the cries for mercy. ‘I am lost’, cries one here; ‘Lord, help me’, cries another. None of this was expected by anyone or prepared by anyone, nor was it worked up or preached up by anyone. It was all the Spirit of God, and not for a few hours or days only, but months long.”
One of the side benefits of the revival was the establishment of Afrikaans as a language of South Africa. So much of what was said in the revival was in that language that the British authorities had no other recourse but to embrace the language.
So today what must we do? We need to truly believe in the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know we already say that we believe in the Holy Spirit. After all, you are a Christian and you ascribe to one God in three persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus told them repeatedly in His Upper Room Discourse, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper . . . When the Helper comes, He will testify about Me . . . .”
Our problem it seems is that we do not comprehend the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, who is Christ in you. The disciples needed something more than simply being Christians. So did Andrew Murray and his fellow believers in South Africa.
– Al Baker