The Missionary Hero of KURUMAN.
DAVID J. DEANE,
AUTHOR OF "JOHN WICLIFFE, THE MORNING STAR OF THE REFORMATION," "MARTIN LUTHER, THE REFORMER," ETC.
FIFTH EDITION. TWENTY-FIFTH THOUSAND.
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY
NEW YORK CHICAGO TORONTO
Publishers of Evangelical Literature.
The record of a life like that of Robert Moffat, the South African missionary, can never be devoid of interest until all appreciation for noble deeds and patient endeavour becomes extinct in the heart of man. Till then, our pulses will quicken and our enthusiasm kindle as we read of dangers encountered and overcome, of the true courage that could undismayed encounter the king of beasts roaming on the African plain, and of passing the time with savage chiefs, beneath the spears and clubs of whose warriors thousands had been slain. Or our sympathy is awakened as stories of sickness and suffering, of hunger and terrible thirst, of trying disappointments, continued year after year, are related. Anon, gratitude causes the tear to start to our eye as we witness the love that prompts the effort to win the heathen to the Saviour, and see the once benighted ones clothed and subdued, learning in mind and heart the truth of the Gospel. Gratitude arises that we have men, heroic Christian men, who count nothing dear to them, not even their lives, that they may win sinners to the love of Jesus Christ.
Such an one was he, whose memoir we present to our readers, with the earnest desire that his strong faith may strengthen ours, that his quiet courage may excite us to perseverance in well-doing, and that his deliverance from manifold and very real dangers may lead us to place reliance upon Him in whom Moffat trusted, and who never forsakes those that trust in Him. May we all see, and especially the youth of our land, as we read the records of such noble lives, that true godliness detracts not from true manhood, but rather that it glorifies and ennobles it, until evil is overcome, and the wicked are put to silence.
In writing this brief sketch of the life of the Rev. Dr. Moffat, the author has been much indebted to those who have trodden the path before him; especially to the two well-known works, "Robert and Mary Moffat," by their son John S. Moffat, and to Robert Moffat's own book, "Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa." He also owes his acknowledgments to "The Missionary Magazine," "The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society," to the Reports of various Missionary Societies, "A Life's Labours in South Africa," and to other works from which information upon the subject has been gathered. To the two first named the author especially refers those of his readers who wish for fuller details than are given in this volume.
I. PIONEER MISSIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA, 9
II. CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH, 18
III. DEPARTURE FOR THE CAPE, 27
IV. MARRIAGE AND ARRIVAL AT LATTAKOO, 49
V. THE MANTATEE INVASION, 63
VI. VISIT TO MAKABA, 71
VII. THE AWAKENING, 85
VIII. VISIT TO ENGLAND, 101
IX. THE SECHWANA BIBLE, 118
X. CLOSING SCENES, 141
XI. CONCLUSION, 150
PIONEER MISSIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA.
The history of missions in South Africa abounds in interesting facts and incidents. Stories of heroism, strange adventures, and descriptions of journeyings among savage tribes and through countries frequented by beasts of prey, form part of its details. Its theme is love to God and love to man, and its facts have been called into existence through the efforts of noble-minded and true-hearted men and women to bring their coloured brethren and sisters to the knowledge of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Many names are held in veneration in connection with these missions, names of those who, having laboured faithfully upon earth, have been called to their reward; among these none stands forward with greater prominence than that of Robert Moffat.
A brief glance at the development of the colony at the Cape of Good Hope, and at the early efforts made to evangelise the native races, may enable the reader better to understand the work carried on by Robert Moffat, and the success achieved; also to realise something of the position of affairs when he first landed in South Africa.
Discovered by the Portuguese in 1486, it was not until the middle of the seventeenth century that much was done in the way of European colonisation. In 1652 the bold and mountainous promontory of the Cape was taken possession of by the Dutch, and a settlement was founded on the site of the present Cape Town. The earliest colonists were chiefly Dutch and German farmers; who were joined a little later on by numbers of French and Piedmontese Huguenots, driven from their native lands for conscience' sake.
At this early period the whole of what is now designated the Colony, was inhabited by Hottentots, a people lighter in colour than the Kafirs and Bechwanas, having pale yellow-brown skins, symmetrical in form when young, hardy, and having small hands and feet. They have nomadic tendencies; and, in their uncivilised state, scarcely practise agriculture. Their system of government is somewhat patriarchal; and they live in "kraals," or villages, consisting of bee-hive shaped huts, arranged in circular form. Their ideas of a Deity are extremely faint, they possess little in the nature of religious ceremonies, but the power of sorcerers among them is great. According to the locality occupied, they are known as Hottentots, Namaquas, or Corannas.
As the European colonists increased in numbers, they gradually advanced northward and eastward, either driving back the natives or subjugating them as slaves to their service. In 1806 the colony passed into the hands of the English, and, after a season of conflict, the Hottentots within the British territory were emancipated. This act of justice took place on 17th July, 1828.
In the early years of the present century, the natives of South Africa comprised—besides the Hottentots, who occupied the southern portion of the country, and were thinly scattered, to the north-west, in Great Namaqualand—the Kafirs, who dwelt in the south-east, beyond the Fish River; the Basutos, whose kraals were south of the Orange River; the Bechwanas and kindred tribes to the north of that river; and far away to the north-west, beyond Namaqualand, the Damara tribes, of whom but little was known at that time. Besides these, there were the Bushmen, a roving people, small in stature, and sunk to the lowest depths of barbarism, hunted down by the Dutch farmers like wild beasts, who had their hands turned against every man, and every man's hand turned against them.
To the Moravians belongs the honour of first seeking to bring the natives of South Africa under the influences of Christianity. In 1737 George Schmidt, who had been sent forth by the small Moravian church of Herrnhut, arrived in Cape Colony, and at Genadendal (the Vale of Grace), then known as Bavian's Kloof (the Glen of Baboons), established a mission station, where he laboured among the despised and oppressed Hottentots with much success for seven years. His work excited considerable opposition and persecution. He gathered a small Christian community and a school; but the Boers, or Dutch farmers, becoming jealous of the black population receiving education, he was summoned to Holland, and not allowed to return.
Fifty years elapsed before the Brethren were able to resume their work; but in 1792, three humble Christian artisans recommenced labour at Genadendal. The occupation of the colony by the British Government gave security to their mission, and it soon grew to be a large settlement, and a centre of light and civilisation to the surrounding country.
In 1799 the London Missionary Society commenced work in Cape Colony; at first by four brethren, who were shortly reinforced by Dr. J.P. Vanderkemp, a native of Holland, a man of rare gifts and dauntless courage. Successively scholar, cavalry officer, and physician, he was for some years a sceptic, but being converted through the drowning of his wife and child, and his own narrow escape from death, he commenced the earnest study of the Bible and the Eastern languages, and gained such wonderful proficiency in the latter, that it is stated he had a fair knowledge of sixteen.
Vanderkemp chose the Kafir tribes for his field of labour, and in 1799 proceeded from Graf Reinet, then the most distant colonial town, and that nearest to the Kafirs, to the headquarters of that people. Frequently in danger of his life, among those who considered the murder of a white man a meritorious deed, he worked and endured great hardship and privation, that he might make known the truths of the Gospel to the ignorant around, until the close of the year 1800, when, owing to a rebellion among the farmers, and the general unsettled state of the frontier, he was compelled to relinquish his mission.
Afterwards he laboured among the Hottentots of the colony with rare self-devotedness, often in great straits and many perils, but with frequent manifestations of the Divine blessing upon the work carried on. Finally, the Hottentot mission was transferred to Bethelsdorp, where steady progress was made. The scholars readily learned to read and write, and their facility in acquiring religious knowledge was astonishing, considering the peculiar apathy, stupidity, and aversion to any exertion, mental or corporeal, which characterised the natives. Dr. Vanderkemp died in 1811, after breathing out the Christian assurance, "All is well."
While Dr. Vanderkemp bent his steps towards Kafirland, three other missionaries, by name Kitcherer, Kramer, and Edwards, proceeded to the Zak River, between four hundred and five hundred miles north-east of Cape Town. Here a mission was established to the Bushmen, which, although unsuccessful in its original intention, became the finger-post to the Namaquas, Corannas, Griquas, and Bechwanas, for by means of that mission these tribes and their condition became known to the Christian world. After moving from their original location to the Orange River, at the invitation of a Griqua chief, Berend Berend by name, the mission was carried on among the Corannas, Namaquas, and Bastards (mixed races), finally removing in 1804 to Griqua Town, where it developed into the Griqua Mission, under Messrs. Anderson and Kramer, and became a powerful influence for good; continuing in existence for many years.
Mr. Anderson thus describes the condition of the Griquas when he first settled in their midst, and for some time afterwards:—
"They were without the smallest marks of civilisation. If I except one woman, they had not one thread of European clothing among them; and their wretched appearance and habits were such as might have excited in our minds an aversion to them, had we not been actuated by principles which led us to pity them, and served to strengthen us in pursuing the object of our missionary work; they were, in many instances, little above the brutes. It is a fact that we were present with them at the hazard of our lives. When we went among them they lived in the habit of plundering one another; and they saw no moral evil in this, nor in any of their actions. Violent deaths were common. Their usual manner of living was truly disgusting, and they were void of shame."
By missionary effort these unpromising materials yielded such fruit, that, in 1809, the congregation at Griqua Town consisted of 800 persons, who resided at or near the station during the whole or the greater part of the year. Besides their stated congregations the missionaries were surrounded by numerous hordes of Corannas and Bushmen, among whom they laboured. The land was brought under cultivation, and fields waving with corn and barley met the eye where all had been desolation and barrenness. In 1810 a threatened attack from a marauding horde of Kafirs was averted in answer to prayer. Mr. Janz, the only missionary then on the place, with the people, set apart a day for special supplication; they sent a pacific message and present to the Kafirs, who immediately retired. In place of war there was peace, and the blessings of civilisation followed the preaching of the Gospel.
A mission had also been commenced by the London Missionary Society in Great Namaqualand, north of the Orange River, on the western coast of Africa; a country of which the following description was given by an individual who had spent many years there: "Sir, you will find plenty of sand and stones, a thinly scattered population, always suffering from want of water, on plains and hills roasted like a burnt leaf, under the scorching rays of a cloudless sun."
The missionaries, after a journey of great difficulty and suffering, reached the land of the Namaquas, and halted for a time at a place which they named "Silent Hope," and then at "Happy Deliverance;" finally they settled at a spot, about one hundred miles westward of Africaner's kraal, called Warm Bath. Here, for a time, their prospects continued cheering. They were instant in season and out of season to advance the temporal and spiritual interests of the natives; though labouring in a debilitating climate; and in want of the common necessaries of life. Their congregation was increased by the desperado Jager, afterwards Christian Africaner, a Hottentot outlaw, who, with part of his people, occasionally attended to the instructions of the missionaries; and they visited the kraal of this robber chieftain in return. It was here that he first heard the Gospel, and, referring afterwards to his condition at this time, he said that he saw "men as trees walking."
Terrible trials soon came upon these devoted missionaries. Abraham Albrecht, one of their number died, and Africaner, becoming enraged, threatened an attack upon the station. The situation of the missionaries and their wives was most distressing. Among a feeble and timid people, with scarcely any means of defence, a bare country around, no mountain, glen, or cave in which they could take refuge, under a burning sun and on a glowing plain, distant two hundred miles from the abodes of civilised men, between which and them lay the dreary wilderness and the Orange River; such was their position, with the human lion in his lair, ready to rouse himself up to deeds of rapine and blood.
For a whole month they were in constant terror, hourly expecting the threatened attack. Their souls revolted at the idea of abandoning the people, who were suffering from want, to become a prey to a man from whom they could expect no quarter. On one occasion they dug a square hole in the ground, about six feet deep, that in case of an attack they might escape the musket balls. In this they remained for the space of a week, having the tilt sail of a waggon thrown over the mouth of the pit to keep off the burning rays of an almost vertical sun. Eventually they withdrew northward to the base of the Karas mountains, but finding it impossible to settle, retired to the Colony.
Africaner approached the station, and finding it deserted, plundered it of whatever articles could be found; one of his followers afterwards setting fire to the houses and huts. Thus for a season, this mission was brought to a close. It was after a time resumed at a place south of the Orange River named Pella.
Thus missions in South Africa had been commenced, stations among the Hottentots and others had been formed, good work had been done, and the way pioneered. The field was opened and it was wide, but as yet the labourers were few.
At the time when Vanderkemp closed his eyes on this world, a lad was working as an apprentice to a Scotch gardener, rising in the dense darkness of the cold winter's mornings at four o'clock, and warming his knuckles by knocking them against the handle of his spade. He was passing through a hard training, but this lad was being prepared to take up the work which Vanderkemp had so well begun, though in a somewhat different sphere, and to repair the loss which had been sustained by the missionary cause through his death. The name of this lad was Robert Moffat.
CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
Robert Moffat was born on the 21st of December, 1795. His parents dwelt at that time at Ormiston, in East Lothian, Scotland. They were pious God-fearing people; the mother though holding a stern religious faith, yet possessed a most tender loving heart, and very early sought to instil into the minds and hearts of her children the love of God and a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
Of the early childhood of the future missionary very little is stated. In 1797 his father received an appointment in the Custom House at Portsoy, and in 1806 the home of the Moffats was at Carronshore, on the Firth of Forth. At this time the family consisted of four sons and two daughters, besides the subject of this memoir.
A glimpse of the interior of their cottage, during the long winter evenings, is given, which shows how the mother by her gentle influence may become the means of sowing seed, which shall spring up in after years bearing fruit a hundred-fold. The lads were gathered by the fireside learning to knit and sew, and while so engaged their mother, who took great interest in the missionary enterprises then carried on, read aloud, in such publications as she could obtain, the descriptions given of the work and sufferings of the pioneer labourers in heathen lands, more especially of the Moravians in Greenland and the East Indies.
Of educational advantages, Robert had but few in his early days. One, "Wully Mitchell," as he was popularly called, the parish schoolmaster was his first tutor; and "the Shorter Catechism," the title-page of which contained the alphabet, his first instruction book. His progress was but slow, his hands often being made to suffer for the dullness of his brains. A boy living in the midst of shipping, his desires were more for nautical matters than for Wully's books, and so he ran off to sea. The captain of the ship on which he was, became much attached to the lad, so with his parent's consent, he made several voyages in the coasting trade. Many hairbreadth escapes fell to his lot, and at last he quitted the sea, as he states "to the no small joy of my parents."
When about eleven he accompanied his elder brother, Alexander, to Mr. Paton's school at Falkirk. This school was for writing and book-keeping, but such as chose to pay received lessons in astronomy and geography after school hours. Alexander was one of these, and Robert was allowed to wait for his brother in the large room while the class was being conducted. "I felt queer," he tells us "to know what the master was doing within the circle, and used to look very attentively through any little slip of an opening under an elbow, while I eagerly listened to the illustrations given, the master all the while never suspecting that I was capable of understanding the planetary system. What I could not understand my brother explained on our way home." In this manner he picked up some knowledge of astronomy.
At this school the lad continued for six months. It was the last he ever attended.
When about fourteen, Robert Moffat was apprenticed to a gardener, named John Robertson, a just but hard man, who lived at Parkhill, Polmont. The toil was severe and the food scanty. Often in the bitter cold of a Scottish winter the lads employed were required to commence work at four o'clock in the morning, and had to hammer their knuckles against the handles of their spades to try and bring some feeling into them. Here he remained till the end of 1812.
While thus engaged, he managed to attend an evening class occasionally, and made an attempt at learning Latin and mensuration. He also picked up some knowledge of the smith's craft, and acquired sufficient skill to play a little on the violin. A special craving, which stood him in good stead in after life, impelled him to learn something of whatever he came in contact with.
Upon the completion of his apprenticeship, in 1812, he obtained a situation at Donibristle, a seat of the Earl of Moray at Aberdour. Here, he delighted his fellow-workers of an evening by his violin performances, was fond of athletic sports, in which he excelled, and became an accomplished swimmer, saving the life of one of his companions, who having got out of his depth was in imminent danger of drowning.
In this situation he continued about a twelvemonth, and then, being about sixteen, he found employment as under-gardener to Mr. Leigh, of High Leigh, in Cheshire. While at Donibristle he had been able to frequently visit his parents; the time had now come when he must bid them adieu.
The parting scene between Robert and his mother has been sketched by his own hand and appeared in the Bible Society's "Gleanings for the Young." It is described as follows:—
"When we came within sight of the spot where we were to part, perhaps never again to meet in this world, she said—
"'Now, my Robert, let us stand here for a few minutes, for I wish to ask one favour of you before we part, and I know you will not refuse to do what your mother asks.'
"'What is it, mother?' I inquired.
"'Do promise me first that you will do what I am now going to ask, and I shall tell you.'
"'No, mother, I cannot till you tell me what your wish is.'
"'O Robert, can you think for a moment that I shall ask you, my son, to do anything that is not right? Do not I love you?'
"'Yes, mother, I know you do; but I do not like to make promises which I may not be able to fulfil.'
"I kept my eyes fixed on the ground. I was silent, trying to resist the rising emotion. She sighed deeply. I lifted my eyes and saw the big tears rolling down the cheeks which were wont to press mine. I was conquered, and as soon as I could recover speech, I said—
"'O mother! ask what you will and I shall do it.'
"'I only ask you whether you will read a chapter in the Bible every morning and another every evening?'
"I interrupted by saying, 'Mother, you know I read my Bible.'
"'I know you do, but you do not read it regularly, or as a duty you owe to God, its Author.' And she added: 'Now I shall return home with a happy heart, inasmuch as you have promised to read the Scriptures daily. O Robert, my son, read much in the New Testament. Read much in the Gospels—the blessed Gospels; then you cannot well go astray. If you pray, the Lord Himself will teach you.'
"I parted from my beloved mother, now long gone to that mansion about which she loved to speak. I went on my way, and ere long found myself among strangers. My charge was an important one for a youth, and though possessing a muscular frame and a mind full of energy, it required all to keep pace with the duty which devolved upon me. I lived at a considerable distance from what are called the means of grace, and the Sabbaths were not always at my command. I met with none who appeared to make religion their chief concern. I mingled, when opportunities offered, with the gay and godless in what are considered innocent amusements, where I soon became a favourite; but I never forgot my promise to my mother."
After several delays, High Leigh was reached on Saturday, 26th December, 1813, and there the young man found himself surrounded by a genial atmosphere. The head gardener took to him, and soon left a great deal in his hands. This made his work very heavy and responsible; but, although labouring almost day and night, he yet managed to devote some time to the study of such books as he could obtain. The kindly notice of Mrs. Leigh was attracted to him, and she lent him books, and encouraged him to studious pursuits.
In very early years serious impressions had been made upon the heart of Robert Moffat. The earnest teachings of his minister, combined with his mother's counsels and prayers, left recollections which could never be effaced. These impressions were now to be deepened, and the good seed that had been sown to be quickened. The Wesleyan Methodists had commenced a good work at High Leigh, and a pious Methodist and his wife induced Moffat to attend some of their meetings. He became convinced of his state as a sinner, and unhappy, but after a severe and protracted struggle, he found pardon, justification, and peace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and henceforth his life was devoted to the service of his Lord. Energetically he threw himself into the society and work of his new friends, but by so doing, lost the goodwill of Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, who were grieved that one in whom they took so much interest should have become a Methodist. So were these good people despised by many in those days.
At this time Robert's worldly prospects were brightening, and a position of honour and comfort seemed opening before him. But the anticipations of that day were not to be.
Apparently unimportant events frequently determine the whole course of our lives, and a simple incident was now about to change the current of this young man's life, and to convert the rising gardener into the God-honoured and much-beloved missionary. How this came to pass we now relate:
While at High Leigh, Robert Moffat had occasion to visit Warrington, a town about six miles distant He set off one calm summer evening. All nature seemed at rest, and thoughts of God and a feeling of admiration for His handiworks took possession of the young man's mind. His life was reviewed, and with thoughts full of hope he entered the town. Passing over a bridge he noticed a placard. It contained the announcement of a missionary meeting, over which the Rev. William Roby, of Manchester, was to preside. He had never seen such an announcement before. He read the placard over and over again, and, as he did so, the stories told by his mother of the Moravian missionaries in Greenland and Labrador, which had been forgotten for years, came vividly to mind. From that moment, his choice was made; earthly prospects vanished: his one thought was, "how to become a missionary?"
Many difficulties seemed to stand in the way between Robert and the accomplishment of his desire, but the same Divine power which had implanted the desire, prepared the way for its fulfilment. He visited Manchester, shortly after the event just related, to be present at a Wesleyan Conference; and while there, with much hesitancy and trepidation, ventured to knock at the door of Mr. Roby's house and request an interview with that gentleman. He was shown into the parlour, and the man whom he had been hoping, yet dreaded, to see, quickly made his appearance. "He received me with great kindness," said Moffat, "listened to my simple tale, took me by the hand, and told me to be of good courage."
The result of this interview was a promise on Mr. Roby's part to write to the Directors of the London Missionary Society concerning him, and to communicate their wishes to him as soon as they were received. In the meantime Robert returned to his ordinary occupation.
After waiting a few weeks a summons came from Mr. Roby for Moffat to visit Manchester again; and, with the view of his studying under the care and instruction of that reverend gentleman, it was arranged that he should accept a situation in a nursery garden belonging to Mr. Smith, at Dukinfield, that place being near at hand. Moffat continued here about a year, visiting Mr. Roby once or twice each week. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were a pious and worthy couple, and their house was a house of call for ministers. They were always ready for every good work whether at home or abroad.
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths," is one of the maxims of Holy Writ that should be engraven upon the heart and mind of every youth and maiden. Robert Moffat's desire was for the glory of God and the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and God was not only opening the way for His servant, but was preparing a faithful and devoted helpmate for him in his various spheres of labour through life.
Robert's employer had an only daughter, named Mary, beautiful of countenance, but more beautiful in heart. She had been educated at the Moravian school at Fairfield, and was distinguished for fervent piety and deep sympathy with the missionary cause. The two young folks were thrown together, mutual esteem deepened into love, and the maiden, possessed with so large a missionary spirit, was prepared to share the lot of the young herald of the Cross. For a time, however, it was ordained that Robert should pursue his course alone.
After being at Dukinfield nearly a year, the Directors resolved to accept the services of Robert Moffat. He left Mr. Smith's employment and removed to Manchester, so that he might be close to Mr. Roby, to receive such superintendence as was possible in his studies. This period extended to but a few months, so that of college training and opportunities Robert had little experience.
The time rapidly drew near for his departure abroad. A hurried visit was paid to the parents whom he never expected to see again, and then he awaited his call to the mission field.
On the 13th of September, 1816, after bidding farewell to Mr. Roby, whose "kindness, like that of a father," wrote Moffat, "will not be easily obliterated from my mind," he started for London. While in the Metropolis he visited the Museum at the Rooms of the London Missionary Society, and the following extract from a letter to his parents, in connection with this visit, shows the spirit which actuated the youthful missionary at this time:—
"I spent some time in viewing the Museum, which contains a great number of curiosities from China, Africa, the South Seas, and the West Indies. It would be foolish for me to give you a description. Suffice it to say that the sight is truly awful, the appearance of the wild beasts is very terrific, but I am unable to describe the sensations of my mind when gazing on the objects of Pagan worship. Alas! how fallen are my fellow-creatures, bowing down to forms enough to frighten a Roman soldier, enough to shake the hardest heart. Oh that I had a thousand lives, and a thousand bodies; all of them should be devoted to no other employment but to preach Christ to these degraded, despised, yet beloved mortals."
With such enthusiasm he prepared to enter upon the work that lay before him.
DEPARTURE FOR THE CAPE.
The valedictory service was held at Surrey Chapel on the 30th of September. Nine missionaries were set apart; four for the South Seas, one of whom was John Williams, the martyr of Erromanga, and five for South Africa. At first it had been intended that Robert Moffat should accompany John Williams, but this was subsequently altered.
The missionaries for Africa embarked at Gravesend on the 18th of October in the Alacrity, and after a prosperous voyage reached Cape Town on the 13th of January, 1817.
Two of the party were appointed to stations within the colony; Moffat and Kitchingman were destined for Namaqualand. Before they could proceed on their journey, however, permission had to be obtained from the Government, and this was at first refused.
While detained in the colony, Moffat lodged with a Dutch farmer, at a village thirty-six miles from Cape Town, named Stellenbosch. Here he learnt Dutch, an acquisition of great advantage to him in after life, as it enabled him to preach to the Boers, and to as many of their native servants as understood that language. He also accompanied the Rev. George Thorn, of the Dutch Reformed Church, on an evangelistic tour. It occupied six weeks, during which time they rode a distance of about seven hundred miles.
After a further sojourn at Stellenbosch, Moffat visited Cape Town, and busied himself in gaining such practical knowledge as came within his reach. He also visited the military hospital there. Many of the soldiers were Scotch, and he had a warm heart for soldiers, his brother Alexander having gone to India in the ranks some years before.
At last the requisite permission came, and Moffat and Kitchingman prepared for their journey. Waggons were bought, oxen hired, leave taken of friends, and on the 22nd of September, 1817, Mr. and Mrs. Kitchingman, Robert Moffat, and a missionary named Ebner, who, for a time, had been with Africaner, and who had come to Cape Town for supplies, set out on their way to Namaqualand.
The history of the Namaqualand Mission has been sketched in outline in our introductory chapter. Africaner, although an outlaw and a terror to the farmers of the colony, had a respect for the English. He visited the missionaries on one occasion, prior to their removal to Warm Bath, and said, "I love the English, for I have always heard that they are the friends of the poor black man." He also sent his children to them for instruction; yet subsequent events, as we have seen, enraged him, and led him to destroy the mission station at Warm Bath.
The Rev. J. Campbell, in his first visit to Africa, 1812-1814, crossed the interior of the continent to Namaqualand. During his journey, he found in every village through which he passed the terror of Africaner's name; and he afterwards said "that he and his retinue never were so afraid in their lives." From Pella, where the mission station then was, Mr. Campbell wrote a conciliatory letter to Africaner, in consequence of which that chieftain agreed to receive a missionary at his kraal. Mr. Ebner had been sent from Pella, and had been labouring for a short time previous to his visit to the Cape in 1817. Good had been accomplished, Africaner and his two brothers, David and Jacobus, had been baptised, but then the situation of the missionary became extremely trying, he lost influence with the people, and his property, and even his life, were in danger.
Soon after leaving Cape Town, Mr. Ebner parted company with the Kitchingmans and Moffat, and they pursued their way alone. The details of the journey illustrate the difficulties of travelling in South Africa in those days. "In perils oft," aptly expresses the condition of the missionary in his wanderings, as he travelled mile after mile, often over dreary wastes of burning sand, famished with hunger, parched with thirst, with the howl of the hyena and the roar of the lion disturbing his slumbers at night, and with Bushmen, more savage than either, hovering near, ever ready to attack the weak and defenceless.
The farmers, from whom the travellers received hospitality as they passed the boundaries of the colony, were very sceptical as to the conversion of Africaner, and gloomy indeed were their predictions as to the fate of the youthful missionary now venturing into the power of the outlaw chief. One said Africaner would set him up for his boys to shoot at, another that he would strip off his skin to make a drum with, and a third predicted he would make a drinking-cup of his skull. A kind motherly dame said, as she wiped the tear from her eye and bade him farewell, "Had you been an old man it would have been nothing, for you would soon have died, whether or no; but you are young, and going to become a prey to that monster."
On one occasion Moffat halted at a farm belonging to a Boer, a man of wealth and importance, who had many slaves. Hearing that he was a missionary, the farmer gave him a hearty welcome, and proposed in the evening that he should give them a service. To this he readily assented, and supper being ended, a clearance was made, the big Bible and the psalm-books were brought out, and the family was seated. Moffat inquired for the servants, "May none of your servants come in?" said he.
"Servants! what do you mean?"
"I mean the Hottentots, of whom I see so many on your farm."
"Hottentots!" roared the man, "are you come to preach to Hottentots? Go to the mountains and preach to the baboons; or, if you like, I'll fetch my dogs, and you may preach to them."
The missionary said no more but commenced the service. He had intended to challenge the "neglect of so great salvation," but with ready wit seizing upon the theme suggested by his rough entertainer, he read the story of the Syrophenician woman, and took for his text the words, "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." He had not proceeded far in his discourse when the farmer stopped him, saying, "Will Mynherr sit down and wait a little, he shall have the Hottentots."
He was as good as his word, the barn was crowded, the sermon was preached, and the astonished Hottentots dispersed. "Who," said the farmer, "hardened your hammer to deal my head such a blow? I'll never object to the preaching of the Gospel to Hottentots again."
After a toilsome march, during which Mr. Kitchingman and Moffat took it in turn to drive the cattle, losing some through the hyenas by the way, they reached Bysondermeid, to which station Mr. and Mrs. Kitchingman had been appointed. There Robert stayed one month, receiving much useful information from Mr. Schmelen, the missionary whom Mr. Kitchingman had come to replace, he having been ordered to Great Namaqualand, where he had laboured before.
At length, his oxen being rested, Robert Moffat bade adieu to Mr. and Mrs. Kitchingman, whose friendship he much valued, and with a guide and drivers for the oxen started onward. Their way led through a comparatively trackless desert, and they travelled nearly the whole night through deep sand. Those were not the days of railway trains, and travelling had to be undertaken in cumbrous, springless bullock-waggons, several spare oxen being taken to provide for losses and casualties. Towards morning the oxen were so exhausted that they began to lie down in the yoke from fatigue, compelling a halt before water had been reached. The journey was resumed the next day, but still no water could be found.
As it appeared probable that if they continued in the same direction, they would perish through thirst, they altered their course to the northward, but the experiences were as bad as before. At night they lay down exhausted and suffering extremely from thirst, and the next morning rose at an early hour to find the oxen incapable of moving the waggon a step farther. Taking them and a spade to a neighbouring mountain, a large hole was dug in the sand, and at last a scanty supply of water was obtained. This resembled the old bilge-water of a ship for foulness, but both men and oxen drank of it with avidity.
In the evening, when about to yoke the oxen to the waggon, it was found that most of them had run off towards Bysondermeid. No time was to be lost, so Moffat instantly sent off the remaining oxen with two men to solicit assistance from Mr. Bartlett at Pella, while he remained behind with his goods. "Three days," said he afterwards, "I remained with my waggon-driver on this burning plain, with scarcely a breath of wind, and what there was felt as if coming from the mouth of an oven. We had only tufts of dry grass to make a small fire or rather flame; and little was needed as we had scarcely any food to prepare. We saw no human being, not a single antelope or beast of prey made its appearance, but in the dead of night we sometimes heard the roar of the lion on the mountain. At last when we were beginning to fear that the men had either perished or wandered, Mr. Bartlett arrived on horseback, with two men having a quantity of mutton tied to their saddles. I cannot conceive of an epicure gazing on a table groaning under the weight of viands, with half the delight that I did on the mutton."
Fresh oxen, accustomed to deep sand, conveyed the weary travellers to Pella, where Moffat remained a few days, being greatly invigorated in mind and body by the Christian kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett and the friendly attentions of the heathen converts.
Starting again, he came to the Orange River, crossing which was generally a work of difficulty at that time. The native teacher from Warm Bath, who had come to Pella to conduct Moffat to his village, led the missionary to a ford opposite to that place. The waggon and its contents were swam over on a fragile raft of dry willow logs—a laborious and tedious operation, the raft having to be taken to pieces after each journey, and the separate logs conveyed back again by swimmers. All the goods being over, Robert was asked to place himself upon the raft. Not altogether liking its appearance, and also wishing to save the natives trouble, he took off his clothes and, leaving them to be conveyed across, plunged into the stream. The natives were afraid as they saw him approach the middle of the current, and some of their most expert swimmers sprang in to overtake him, but in vain. When he emerged on the northern bank, one of them came up out of breath and said, "Were you born in the great sea water?"
Robert Moffat reached Africaner's kraal on the 26th of January, 1818, and was kindly received by Mr. Ebner. The chief soon made his appearance, and inquired if the new missionary had been appointed by the Directors in London. Receiving an affirmative reply, he ordered a number of women to come. Then pointing to a spot of ground he said to the women, "There you must build a house for the missionary." In half an hour the structure was completed, in appearance something like a bee-hive. In this frail house, of sticks and native mats, Moffat lived for nearly six months, being scorched by the sun, drenched by the rain, exposed to the wind, and obliged often to decamp through the clouds of dust; in addition to which, any dog wishing for a night's lodging could force its way through the wall, sometimes to the loss of the missionary's dinner next day. A serpent was occasionally found coiled in a corner, or the indweller of the habitation had to spring up, in the middle of the night, to save himself and his house from being crushed to pieces during the nocturnal affrays of the cattle which roamed at large. He lived principally upon milk and dried meat, until, after a time, he was able to raise a little grain and garden stuff.
A few days after Moffat's arrival, Mr. Ebner departed, so that the young missionary was left entirely alone in a trying and most difficult position, a stranger in the midst of a strange people. "Here I was," said he, "left alone with a people suspicious in the extreme; jealous of their rights which they had obtained at the point of the sword; and the best of whom Mr. Ebner described as a sharp thorn. I had no friend and brother with whom I could participate in the communion of saints, none to whom I could look for counsel or advice. A barren and miserable country; a small salary, about twenty-five pounds per annum. No grain, and consequently no bread, and no prospect of getting any, from the want of water to cultivate the ground, and destitute of the means of sending to the Colony. These circumstances led to great searchings of heart, to see if I had hitherto aimed at doing and suffering the will of Him in whose service I had embarked. Satisfied that I had not run unsent, and having in the intricate, and sometimes obscure course I had come, heard the still small voice saying, 'This is the way, walk ye in it,' I was wont to pour out my soul among the granite rocks surrounding this station, now in sorrow, and then in joy; and more than once I have taken my violin, once belonging to Christian Albrecht, and, reclining upon one of the huge masses, have, in the stillness of the evening, played and sung the well-known hymn, a favourite of my mother's—
'Awake, my soul, in joyful lays, To sing the great Redeemer's praise.'"
Robert Moffat looked to his God for help and guidance, and his heart was strengthened.
At this period the chief, Christian Africaner, was in a doubtful state of mind; while Titus, his brother, a man of almost reckless courage, was a fearful example of ungodliness, and a terror to most of the inhabitants on the station. Soon after the commencement of his stated services—which were, according to the custom of the missionaries at that period, religious service morning and evening, and school for three or four hours during the day—the heart of the youthful missionary was much cheered by noticing the regular attendance of the chief. Although not a fluent reader, the New Testament became his constant companion, and a change passed over him apparent to all. The lion at whose name many trembled became a lamb, and the love of Jesus Christ filled his heart. He who was formerly like a fire-brand, spreading discord, enmity, and war among the neighbouring tribes, was now ready to make any sacrifice to avoid conflict, and besought parties at variance with each other to be at peace.
Even Titus was subdued, and although he never made a profession, yet he became a steady and unwavering friend to the missionary, and many times ministered to his wants. "I hear what you say," he would reply when the truth was pressed upon him, "and I think I sometimes understand, but my heart will not feel." Two other brothers of the chief, David and Jacobus, became believers and zealous assistants in the work of the mission.
The extreme heat endured in the native house, and the character of the food, milk and meat only, brought on a severe attack of bilious fever, which in the course of two days induced delirium. Opening his eyes as soon as consciousness returned, Moffat saw his attendant and Africaner sitting beside his couch, gazing upon him with eyes full of sympathy and tenderness. Taking some calomel he speedily recovered, and was soon at his post again.
The place where Africaner dwelt being quite unsuitable for a permanent mission-station, on account of the scarcity of water, it was determined to take a journey northward to examine a country on the border of Damaraland, where it was reported that fountains of water abounded. There was, however, only one waggon and that a cripple, and neither carpenters nor smiths were at the station to repair it. Without it they could not go, so after thinking the matter over Moffat undertook its repair. Before doing so he must needs have a forge, and a forge meant bellows; but here was a difficulty, the native bellows were of no use for the work in hand. He therefore contrived, by means of two goat-skins and a circular piece of board, to make a pair of bellows of sufficient power to fan the fire and heat the iron, and with a blue granite stone for an anvil, a pair of tongs indicative of Vulcan's first efforts, and a hammer, never intended for its present use, he successfully accomplished his task, and afterwards repaired some gun-locks, which were as essential for the comfort and success of the journey as the waggon.
The party that set out was a large one, including Africaner, three of his brothers, and Moffat. The country which they passed through was sterile in the extreme, and the expedition proved a failure. They therefore returned home again after an absence of a few weeks. The school and mission services were resumed, but, as David and Jacobus Africaner were now able assistants, Moffat undertook itinerating visits on a more extensive scale than he had done before. For this purpose Titus presented him with his only horse. Previously Moffat had ridden upon a bullock with horns, a dangerous practice, as, if the bullock stumbles, the rider may be thrown forward and transfixed upon them.
Privations and dangers frequently attended these itinerating journeys. Referring to one of them Robert Moffat states, "After tying my Bible and hymn-book in a blanket to the back of my saddle, and taking a good draught of milk, I started with my interpreter, who rode upon an ox. We had our guns, but nothing in our purse or scrip, save a pipe, some tobacco, and a tinder-box. After a hot day's ride to reach a village, the people would give us a draught of sweet milk, and then old and young, assembling in a nook of the fold, among the kine, would listen to my address on the great concerns of their soul's salvation. I exhorted those who could read to read to others and try to teach them to do the same, promising them a reward in heaven, for I had none to give on earth. When service was over, having taken another draught of milk, and renewed my conversation with the people, I lay down on a mat to repose for the night. Sometimes a kind housewife would hang a bamboos, a wooden vessel filled with milk, on a forked stick near my head, that I might, if necessary, drink during the night."
Once he slept on the ground near the hut in which the principal man of the village and his wife reposed. During the night a noise as of cattle broken loose was heard. In the morning he remarked upon this to his host, when that individual replied, "Oh, I was looking at the spoor this morning, it was the lion!" adding that a few nights previously a goat had been seized from the very spot on which Moffat had been sleeping. Upon Moffat asking him why he had put him to sleep there, the man replied, "Oh, the lion would not have the audacity to jump over on you."
Sometimes it happened that after travelling all day, hoping to reach a village at night, the travellers would find when they got to the place that all the people had gone. Then hungry and thirsty they had to pass the night. In the morning after searching for water, and partaking of a draught if they were successful in finding it, they would start off again with their hunger unsatisfied, and deem themselves fortunate if they overtook the migrating party that evening.
Of his ordinary manner of living at this time, he says, "My food was milk and meat, living for weeks together on one, and then for a while on the other, and again on both together. All was well so long as I had either, but sometimes they both failed, and there were no shops in the country where I could have purchased, and, had there been any, I must have bought on credit, for money I had none."
His wardrobe bore the same impress of poverty as his larder. The clothes received when in London soon went to pieces, and the knowledge of sewing and knitting, unwillingly learnt from his mother, often now stood him in good stead. She once showed him how a shirt might be smoothed by folding it properly and hammering it with a piece of wood. Resolving one day to have a nice one for the Sabbath, Moffat tried this plan. He folded the shirt carefully, laid it on a smooth block of stone—not a hearth-stone, but a block of fine granite—and hammered away. "What are you doing?" said Africaner. "Smoothing my shirt," replied his white friend. "That is one way," said he, and so it was, for on holding the shirt up to the light it was seen to be riddled with holes. "When I left the country," said Moffat, "I had not half-a-dozen shirts with two sleeves apiece."
Robert Moffat's stay in Namaqualand extended to a little over twelve months. Near its close he made on Africaner's account—with the view of ascertaining the suitability of a place for settlement—a journey to the Griqua country, and after a terrible experience, in which he suffered from hunger, thirst, heat, and drinking poisoned water, he reached Griqua Town, and entered the house of Mr. Anderson, the missionary there, speechless, haggard, emaciated, and covered with perspiration, making the inmates understand by signs that he needed water. Here he was most kindly entertained, and after a few days started back again. The return journey was almost as trying as the outward one, but he reached Vreede Berg (Africaner's village) in safety. The chief received Moffat's account of his researches with entire satisfaction, but the removal of himself and people was allowed to remain prospective for a season.
Missionary labours were resumed. The school flourished, and the attendance at the Sabbath services was most encouraging. The people were so strongly attached to their missionary, that although he was contemplating a visit to the Cape, he dared not mention the subject to them. In a letter written at this time, alluding to his every-day life, he says, "I have many difficulties to encounter, being alone. No one can do anything for me in my household affairs. I must attend to everything, which often confuses me, and, indeed, hinders me in my work, for I could wish to have almost nothing to do but to instruct the heathen, both spiritually and temporally. Daily I do a little in the garden, daily I am doing something for the people in mending guns. I am carpenter, smith, cooper, shoemaker, miller, baker, and housekeeper—the last is the most burdensome of any. An old Namaqua woman milks my cows, makes a fire, and washes. All other things I do myself, though I seldom prepare anything till impelled by hunger. I drink plenty of milk, and often eat a piece of dry meat. Lately I reaped nearly two bolls of wheat from two hatfuls which I sowed. This is of great help to me. I shall soon have plenty of Indian corn, cabbages, melons, and potatoes. Water is scarce. I have sown wheat a second time on trial. I live chiefly now on bread and milk. To-day I churned about three Scotch pints of milk, from which there were two pounds of butter, so you may conceive that the milk is rich. I wish many times that my mother saw me. My house is always clean, but oh what a confusion there is among my linen."
In November, 1818, letters reached Robert Moffat from England. One came from Miss Smith, in which that young lady stated that she had most reluctantly renounced hope of ever getting abroad, her father determining never to allow her to do so. This was a sore trial, but it only led the child closer to his Father, and that Father, who doeth all things well, in His own good time, brought to pass that which now seemed impossible.
Early in 1819, circumstances required Mr. Moffat to visit Cape Town. Conversing with Africaner on the state and prospects of missions, the idea flashed into Moffat's mind that it would be well for that chief to accompany him, and he suggested it to his coloured friend. Africaner was astonished. "I had thought you loved me," said he, "and do you advise me to go to the Government to be hung up as a spectacle of public justice?" Then, putting his hand to his head, he said, "Do you not know that I am an outlaw, and that one thousand rix-dollars have been offered for this poor head?" After a little while he replied to the missionary's arguments by saying, "I shall deliberate and roll (using the words of the Dutch Version of the Bible) my way upon the Lord. I know He will not leave me."
To get Africaner safely through the territories of the Dutch farmers to the Cape was a hazardous proceeding, as the atrocities he had committed were not forgotten, and hatred against him still rankled in many a breast. However, attired in one of the only two substantial shirts Moffat had left, a pair of leather trousers, a duffel jacket, much the worse for wear, and an old hat, neither white nor black, the attempt was made, the chief passing as one of the missionary's attendants. His master's costume was scarcely more refined than his own.
As a whole, the Dutch farmers were kind and hospitable to strangers, and as Moffat reached their farms, some of them congratulated him on returning alive, they having been assured that Africaner had long since murdered him. At one farm a novel and amusing instance occurred of the state of feeling concerning them both. As they drew near to this place, Moffat directed his men to take his waggon to the valley below while he walked towards the house, which was situated on an eminence. As he advanced the farmer came forward slowly to meet him. Stretching forth his hand with the customary salutation, the farmer put his hand behind him, and asked who the stranger was. The stranger replied that he was Moffat.
"Moffat!" exclaimed the sturdy Boer in a faltering voice, "it is your ghost!"
"I am no ghost," said the supposed phantom.
"Don't come near me," said the farmer, "you have been long since murdered by Africaner. Everybody says you were murdered, and a man told me he had seen your bones."
As the farmer feared the presence of the supposed ghost would alarm his wife, both wended their way to the waggon, Africaner being the subject of conversation as they walked along. Moffat declared his opinion that the chief was then a truly good man.
"I can believe almost anything you say," said the Boer, "but that I cannot credit."
Finally he closed the conversation by saying with much earnestness: "Well, if what you assert be true respecting that man, I have only one wish, and that is to see him before I die, and when you return, as sure as the sun is over our heads, I will go with you to see him, though he killed my own uncle."
The farmer was a good man, who had showed Moffat kindness on his way to Namaqualand. Knowing his sincerity and the goodness of his disposition, Moffat turned to the man sitting by the waggon, and addressing the farmer said, "This, then, is Africaner."
With a start, and a look as though the man might have dropped from the clouds, the worthy Boer exclaimed, "Are you Africaner?"
Africaner arose, doffed his old hat, and making a polite bow replied, "I am."
The farmer seemed thunderstruck, but on realising the fact, lifted up his eyes and said, "O God, what a miracle of Thy power! what cannot Thy grace accomplish!"
On reaching Cape Town, Robert Moffat waited upon Lord Charles Somerset, the Governor, and informed him that Africaner was in the town. The information was received with some amount of scepticism, but the following day was appointed for an interview with him.
The Governor received the chief with great affability and kindness, and expressed his pleasure at thus seeing before him, one who had formerly been the scourge of the country, and the terror of the border colonists. He was much struck with this palpable result of missionary enterprise, and presented Africaner with an excellent waggon, valued at eighty pounds.
Moffat visited the colony on this occasion with two objects; first, to secure supplies, and secondly, to introduce Africaner to the notice of the Colonial Government. Having accomplished these, he fully intended to return to his flock. Events were, however, ordered otherwise.
While Moffat was in Cape Town, a deputation from the London Missionary Society, consisting of the Rev. J. Campbell, and the Rev. Dr. Philip, was also there. It was the wish of these two gentleman that he should accompany them in their visits to the missionary stations, and eventually be appointed to the Bechwana mission.
The proposition was a startling one, but after careful thought, and with the entire concurrence of Africaner—who hoped to move with his tribe to the neighbourhood of the new mission—Moffat accepted it. Africaner therefore departed alone, generously offering to take in his waggon to Lattakoo, the new station, the missionary's books and a few articles of furniture that he had purchased.
Once more these two brethren in the faith met on this earth, and this was at Lattakoo. The proposed removal of the tribe, however, never took place, Africaner being called up higher before that plan could be carried out.
The closing scene in the life of this remarkable man was depicted by the Rev. J. Archbell, Wesleyan missionary, in a letter to Dr. Philip, dated the 14th of March, 1823:—"When he found his end approaching, he called all the people together, and gave them directions as to their future conduct. 'We are not,' said he, 'what we were,—savages, but men professing to be taught according to the Gospel. Let us then do accordingly. Live peaceably with all men, if possible; and if impossible, consult those who are placed over you before you engage in anything. Remain together, as you have done since I knew you. Then, when the Directors think fit to send you a missionary, you may be ready to receive him. Behave to any teacher you may have sent as one sent of God, as I have great hope that God will bless you in this respect when I am gone to heaven. I feel that I love God, and that He has done much for me, of which I am totally unworthy,'
"He also added, 'My former life is stained with blood; but Jesus Christ has pardoned me, and I am going to heaven. Oh! beware of falling into the same evils into which I have led you frequently; but seek God, and He will be found of you to direct you,'"
Shortly after this he died.
MARRIAGE, AND ARRIVAL AT LATTAKOO.
Up to this time, Robert Moffat had pursued his course alone. No loving helpmeet had cheered him in his efforts, or with womanly tenderness ministered to his wants. But though far away, he was fondly remembered and earnestly prayed for, especially by one noble Christian lady, over whose fair head scarce twenty-three summers had passed, and whose heart had been torn with the severe struggle, between filial love and regard for her parents on the one hand, and her sense of duty and affection for her missionary friend on the other, which for two and a-half years had been carried on therein.
At last, when hope seemed to have vanished, the parents of Mary Smith, to whom the idea of parting with their only daughter was painful in the extreme, saw so clearly that it was the Lord who was calling their child to the work which He had marked out for her, that they felt they dare not any longer withhold her from it, and therefore calmly resigned their daughter into His hands. Thus it came to pass that,—after a short stay in London, and at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, at which places she won all hearts by her unfeigned and exalted piety and zeal, and by her modest, affectionate manner,—we find her on board the sailing-ship British Colony, on her way to South Africa, in the care of the Rev. R. Beck, a minister of the Dutch Church, and his wife.
As arranged, the deputation, accompanied by Robert Moffat, left Cape Town on their tour of inspection of the stations in the eastern part of the Colony and in Kafirland. This journey necessitated an absence of twelve months, during which time Robert expected his bride to arrive. This was a trial of faith, as it seemed hard that she should be obliged to land in a strange country, and find none of her own to welcome her. But with Moffat even love followed after duty.
It so happened, however, that after visiting the line of stations through the eastern districts as far as Bethelsdorp, the party, at that place, found their progress effectually barred through war with the Kafirs. They were therefore obliged to return to Cape Town, thus giving Moffat the opportunity and great joy of receiving his affianced wife upon her landing from the vessel. She reached Cape Town in safety, and on the 27th of December, 1819, the happy couple were united. They received each other as from the Lord, and for more than fifty years, during cloud and sunshine, their union was a true and blessed one.
Robert Moffat had been appointed to the Bechwana station at Lattakoo, or Kuruman, as it was afterwards called; and for that place the missionary party, which consisted of the Rev. John Campbell and the Moffats, set out early in the year 1820.
A feeble attempt to establish a mission to the Bechwanas had been made, by the Dutch Missionary Society in Cape Town, as early as A.D. 1800, and two missionaries, named Edwards and Kok, had been despatched. They were directed by the chief to settle on the banks of the Kuruman River, at a distance from the natives, and the effort degenerated into a mere trading concern. In 1805, the Bechwanas were visited by the celebrated traveller Dr. Lichtenstein, and, in 1812, by Dr. Burchell, but it was not until the visit of the Rev. J. Campbell, a little later, that any real negotiations were entertained for the settlement of missionaries with this people. The chief, Mothibi, then said to Mr. Campbell, "send missionaries, and I will be a father to them."
In response to this invitation Messrs. Evans and Hamilton left England in 1815, and, full of hope, reached Lattakoo on the 17th of February in the following year. Instead of being received as they anticipated, they were repulsed, and directed to settle at the Kuruman River, thirty miles distant. Disappointed and despondent they returned to Griqua Town. Mr. Evans relinquished the mission, but a further attempt was made afterwards by Messrs. Read and Hamilton, and this time permission was obtained for them to dwell with the chief and his people. Thus the Bechwana Mission obtained its first real footing.
In June, 1817, the tribe, under Mothibi, removed from the position where the missionaries first found it, and settled by the Kuruman River. When the Rev. J. Campbell returned, to the Colony, Mr. Read accompanied him; thus, pending the arrival of Robert Moffat, Mr. Hamilton was left alone in charge of the mission.
The journey as far as Griqua Town was accomplished without any special incident. At first the route lay through fertile valleys and lovely mountain scenery, but soon this changed, and for hundreds of miles the travellers had to pass through the desolate region of the Karroo desert. When about half-way through this sterile district, they came to the site upon which was to be built the village of Beaufort West, where they were most kindly entertained by a Scotchman named Mr. Baird, the newly appointed magistrate.
The Orange River, so frequently an insurmountable obstacle to progress, was passed in safety, the water being very low, and two or three days later Griqua Town was reached. Here a halt was made. Lattakoo lay one hundred miles beyond.
At this time some uncertainty existed as to whether the Moffats would be allowed by the Colonial Government to settle at Lattakoo; thus far consent had been withheld. They had advanced trusting that the way would be opened, and after a short rest at Griqua Town, the party continued their journey, and reached Lattakoo five days after leaving the Griqua station. It was intended that Robert Moffat should take the place of Mr. Read, as an associate with Mr. Hamilton in the work of the mission.
The new arrivals were introduced to Mothibi, and were soon visited by a retinue of chiefs. The manner, appearance, and dress of these natives much interested Mary Moffat. The whole missionary party stayed together for three weeks, settling the affairs of the mission; then the Rev. J. Campbell and Mr. Read started on a journey to visit the Bahurutsi, a tribe who dwelt nearly two hundred miles to the north-east of Lattakoo. Moffat and his wife remained with Mr. Hamilton, so that the new missionary might win the affections of the Bechwana chief and his people.
Upon the return of the Rev. J. Campbell and Mr. Read, after an absence of two months, and a short rest at Lattakoo, all the missionaries, excepting Mr. Hamilton, set off westward along the bed of the Kuruman River to visit several of the Bechwana tribes which were scattered about that region. The natives of these parts, never having seen white people before evinced much curiosity concerning their visitors; especially about Mrs. Moffat and her dress. To see the missionaries sitting at table dining and using knives and forks, plates, and different dishes, was wonderful to them, and for hours they would sit and gaze upon such scenes. The Word of Life was preached to these natives by either Mr. Campbell or Robert Moffat as the party journeyed along.
Their absence from Lattakoo extended to a little over a fortnight, and on their return, finding, by intelligence received from Dr. Philip, that permission had not as yet been obtained from the Governor for the Moffats to settle at that place, Robert and his partner had to return, much cast down, to Griqua Town, there to commit the matter into the hand of God, and patiently await the time when He should open the way for them to commence the work they had so much at heart. Mr. Hamilton was therefore again left alone with simply a Griqua assistant and a few Hottentots.
Just before leaving Lattakoo, Robert Moffat met Africaner, who had safely brought from Vreede Berg the cattle and property belonging to the missionary, and also the books and articles of furniture which had been intrusted to his care when leaving Cape Town. All were in good order, particular attention having been paid to the missionary's cattle and sheep during his long absence. This was the last meeting between Moffat and Africaner.
While on their journey, and when near Griqua Town, information reached the missionary party that permission had been granted for the Moffats to settle at Lattakoo. As, however, the affairs at Griqua Town at this time were altogether disorganised, it was arranged that they should stay there for a few months to set the affairs of that place in order.
During their stay at that station Mrs. Moffat had a severe illness, and her life was despaired of, but this precious life was preserved, and not only was his dear one restored, but a bonny wee lassie was given to them both, who was named Mary, and who, in after years, became the wife of Dr. Livingstone.
At Griqua Town they bade farewell to the Rev. J. Campbell. To them he had become much endeared, as they had been in his company as fellow-travellers for many months. He and Mr. Read returned to the Colony; twenty years later, however, the two friends met again, but that was upon the Moffats' return to their native land.
In May, 1821, Mr. and Mrs. Moffat again arrived at Lattakoo, and then commenced a continuation of missionary conflicts during which their faith was severely tried, but which ended, after many years, in triumphant rejoicing as they saw the people brought to Christ, and beheld the once ignorant and degraded heathen becoming humble servants of the Lord, reading His Word and obeying His precepts.
In looking at the Bechwanas as they were when the Moffats first settled among them, for up to that time the efforts of the missionaries had been unattended with success, we find a people who had neither an idea of a God, nor who performed any idolatrous rites; who failed to see that there was anything more agreeable to flesh and blood in our customs than in their own; but who allowed that the missionaries were a wiser and superior race of beings to themselves; who practised polygamy, and looked with a very jealous eye on any innovation that was likely to deprive them of the services of their wives, who built their houses, gathered firewood for their fires, tilled their fields, and reared their families; who were suspicious, and keenly scrutinised the actions of the missionaries; in fact, a people who were thoroughly sensual, and who could rob, lie, and murder without any compunctions of conscience, as long as success attended their efforts.
Among such a people did these servants of God labour for years without any sign of fruit, but with steadfast faith and persevering prayer, until at last the work of the Holy Spirit was seen, and the strong arm of the Lord, gathering many into His fold, became apparent.
The Bechwana tribe with whom Robert Moffat was located was called the Batlaping, or Batlapis.
The patience of the missionaries in these early days was sorely tried, and the petty annoyances, so irritating to many of us, were neither few nor infrequent. By dint of immense labour, leading the water to it, the ground which the chief had given the missionaries for a garden was made available; then the women, headed by the chief's wife, encroached upon it, and to save contention the point was conceded. The corn when it ripened was stolen, and the sheep either taken out of the fold at night or driven off when grazing in the day time. No tool or household utensil could be left about for a moment or it would disappear.
One day Mr. Hamilton, who at that time had no mill to grind corn, sat down and with much labour and perspiration, by means of two stones, ground sufficient meal in half-a-day to make a loaf that should serve him, being then alone, for about eight days. He kneaded and baked his gigantic loaf, put it on his shelf, and went to the chapel. He returned in the evening with a keen appetite and a pleasant anticipation of enjoying his coarse home-made bread, but on opening the door of his hut and casting his eye to the shelf he saw that the loaf had gone. Someone had forced open the little window of the hut, got in, and stolen the bread.
On another occasion Mrs. Moffat, with a babe in her arms, begged very humbly of a woman, just to be kind enough to move out of a temporary kitchen, that she might shut it as usual before going into the place of worship. The woman seized a piece of wood to hurl at Mrs. Moffat's head, who, therefore, escaped to the house of God, leaving the intruder in undisturbed possession of the kitchen, any of the contents of which she would not hesitate to appropriate to her own use.
A severe drought also set in, and a rain-maker, finding all his arts to bring rain useless, laid the blame upon the white strangers, who for a time were in expectation of being driven away. Probably, however, the greatest trial at this time was caused by the conduct of some of the Hottentots who had accompanied them from the Cape, and who being but new converts were weak to withstand the demands made upon them, and brought shame upon their leaders. Shortly after his arrival Moffat thoroughly purged his little community. The numbers that gathered round the Lord's table were much reduced, but the lesson was a salutary one and did good to the heathen around.
A callous indifference to the instruction of the missionaries, except it was followed by some temporal benefit, prevailed. In August, 1822, Mary Moffat wrote, "We have no prosperity in the work, not the least sign of good being done. The Bechwanas seem more careless than ever, and seldom enter the church." A little later Moffat himself stated in one of his letters, "They turn a deaf ear to the voice of love, and treat with scorn the glorious doctrines of salvation. It is, however, pleasing to reflect that affairs in general wear a more hopeful aspect than when we came here. Several instances have proved the people are determined to relinquish the barbarous system of commandoes for stealing cattle. They have also dispensed with a rain-maker this season."
The Bushmen had a most inhuman custom of abandoning the aged and helpless, leaving them to starve or be devoured by wild beasts; also if a mother died it was their practice to bury the infant or infants of that mother with her.
During one of his journeys, a few months prior to the date last mentioned, Moffat came upon a party of Bushmen digging a grave for the body of a woman who had left two children. Finding that they were about to bury the children with the corpse he begged for them. They were given him and for some years formed a part of his household. They were named Ann and Dicky.
The importance of acquiring the language of the Bechwanas soon became apparent to the earnest-hearted missionary. One day he was much cast down and said to his wife, "Mary, this is hard work." "It is hard work, my love," she replied, "but take courage, our lives shall be given us for a prey." "But think, my dear," he said, "how long we have been preaching to this people, and no fruit yet appears." The wise woman made answer, "The Gospel has not yet been preached to them in their own tongue in which they were born. They have heard it only through interpreters, and interpreters who have themselves no just understanding, no real love of the truth. We must not expect the blessing till you are able, from your own lips and in their language, to bring it through their ears into their hearts."
"From that hour," said Moffat, in relating the conversation, "I gave myself with untiring diligence to the acquisition of the language."
As an instance of the drawback of preaching by means of an interpreter, the sentence, "The salvation of the soul is a very important subject," was rendered by one of those individuals as follows: "The salvation of the soul is a very great sack." A rendering altogether unintelligible.
For the purpose of studying the language Moffat made journeys among the tribes, so that he might for a time be freed from speaking Dutch, the language spoken with his own people at Lattakoo. Itinerating visits were also made in turn every Sabbath to the surrounding villages, and occasionally further afield, but sometimes, after walking perhaps four to five miles to reach a village, not a single individual could be found to listen to the Gospel message.
The only service in which the missionaries took any real delight at this time, was the Sabbath evening service held in Dutch for the edification of themselves and the two or three Hottentots, with their families, who belonged to the mission.
In addition to sore privations, discouragements, false accusations, and the loss of their property, the missionaries found even their lives at times imperilled. The natives and all on the station were suffering greatly from a long continued drought. All the efforts of the professional rain-maker had been in vain, no cloud appeared in the sky, no rain fell to water the parched land. The doings of the missionaries were looked upon as being the cause of this misfortune. At one time it was a bag of salt, which Moffat had brought in his waggon, that frightened the rain away; at another the sound of the chapel bell. Their prospects became darker than ever. At last it appeared that the natives had fully decided to expel them from their midst. A chief man, and about a dozen of his attendants, came and seated themselves under the shadow of a large tree near to Moffat's house. He at that moment was engaged in repairing a waggon near at hand. The scene which ensued and its result we give in his own words:—
"Being informed that something of importance was to be communicated, Mr. Hamilton was called. We stood patiently to hear the message, always ready to face the worst. The principal speaker informed us, that it was the determination of the chiefs of the people that we should leave the country; and referring to our disregard of threatenings, added what was tantamount to the assurance that measures of a violent character would be resorted to, to carry their resolutions into effect, in case of our disobeying the order.
"While the chief was speaking, he stood quivering his spear in his right hand. Mrs. Moffat was at the door of our cottage, with the babe in her arms, watching the crisis, for such it was. We replied:—
"'We have indeed felt most reluctant to leave, and are now more than ever resolved to abide by our post. We pity you, for you know not what you do; we have suffered, it is true; and He whose servants we are has directed us in His Word, "When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another," but although we have suffered, we do not consider all that has been done to us by the people amounts to persecution; we are prepared to expect it from such as know no better. If you are resolved to rid yourselves of us, you must resort to stronger measures, for our hearts are with you. You may shed blood or burn us out. We know you will not touch our wives and children.'"
Then throwing open his waistcoat Moffat stood erect and fearless. "Now then," said he, "if you will, drive your spears to my heart; and when you have slain me, my companions will know that the hour has come for them to depart."
At these words the chief man looked at his companions, remarking, with a significant shake of the head, "These men must have ten lives, when they are so fearless of death; there must be something in immortality."
Moffat pithily observes, "The meeting broke up, and they left us, no doubt fully impressed with the idea that we were impracticable men."
THE MANTATEE INVASION.
In March, 1823, a second daughter was born to the Moffats, who was named Ann. At that time the Batlaping were thoroughly indifferent to the Gospel, but their hostile spirit to the missionaries had passed away.
Robert Moffat had heard of a powerful Bechwana tribe, named the Bangwaketsi, whose chief was Makaba, dwelling about two hundred miles to the north-east. To this chief and people he now contemplated paying a visit.
Rumours had also been current at intervals, for more than a year past, of strange and terrible doings by a fierce and numerous people, called the Mantatees, who were advancing from the eastward. To gain definite intelligence concerning this people, and also with the view of paying his contemplated visit to Makaba, Moffat resolved upon undertaking a journey to that chief. He was also influenced by the desire to open up a friendly intercourse with so powerful, and it might be dangerous, a potentate as Makaba; and likewise by the wish of gaining opportunities of more fully studying the language and becoming acquainted with the localities of the tribes; the ultimate design of all being the introduction of the Gospel among them.
An invitation arrived from Makaba, and the way seemed open. Mothibi, however, the Bechwana chief, was greatly averse to the undertaking, and threw all possible obstacles in its path, short of actual armed resistance. His people were forbidden to accompany the missionary, who was obliged therefore to start with only the few men he had.
As he journeyed forward the reports concerning the Mantatees were again heard, and on reaching Nokaneng, about twenty miles distant from Lattakoo, he learned that the invaders had attacked a Bechwana tribe, the Barolongs, at Kunuana, about one hundred miles off. Spies were sent out but returned without any definite tidings, and the journey was resumed.
For four days the party travelled across a dry and trackless country, when they came to a fine valley, in which were some pools and plenty of game. Here they remained two days, and then prepared to continue their journey to the Bangwaketsi. Just as they were about to start, however, they ascertained from two natives that the Mantatees had attacked the Barolongs, and were in possession of a village somewhat in the rear of the missionary's party.
No time was to be lost. The distance was retraced with all speed, and the alarming news told at Lattakoo. A public meeting was convened, and Moffat gave a circumstantial account of the information he had gathered. The enemy were a numerous and powerful body, they had destroyed many towns of the Bakone tribes, slaughtered immense numbers of people, laid Kurrechane in ruins, scattered the Barolongs, and, in addition, were said to be cannibals.
The alarming tidings produced at first, a gloom on every countenance, and silence reigned for a few minutes. Then Mothibi, in the name of the assembly, said he was exceedingly thankful that their missionary had been "hard-headed" and pursued his journey, thus discovering to them their danger.
Moffat counselled that as the Bechwanas were quite unable to resist so savage a force as the Mantatees, they had better either flee to the Colony or call in the aid of the Griquas, volunteering to proceed to Griqua Town to give information and procure assistance. The chief at that place was one Andries Waterboer, who had been educated by the missionaries, and who, before his election as chief, had been set apart for a native teacher. Mr. Melville, the Government agent, also resided in the town.
Moffat reached Griqua Town safely, and Waterboer promised to come to the assistance of the Bechwanas as soon as he could muster his forces. Moffat then returned to his station.
Eleven anxious days were passed at Lattakoo, waiting the arrival of the Griquas. By the time they arrived, the enemy had reached Letakong, only thirty-six miles away. The Griqua force consisted of about one hundred horsemen, armed with guns, and it being reported that there were white men among the invaders, Moffat was asked to accompany the force, as, having some knowledge of the language, he might be able to bring about a treaty with them. He agreed to go, and Mr. Melville started with him.
Before leaving, all met to pray for Divine counsel and help. A blessing on the means of preventing a further effusion of blood was asked, and if recourse to violent measures became necessary, it was prayed that the heads of those engaged might be shielded in the day of battle.
The small force pressed forward as far as the Matlaurin River, about half way, where all bivouacked. Leaving the main body, Waterboer, Moffat, and a few others, rode onward for about four hours, and then halted for the night among some trees. At day-light they proceeded until they came in sight of the enemy. These were divided into two parties, one holding a town, out of which they had driven the inhabitants, and the other lying on the hills to the left of the town. As the horsemen drew near, they could perceive that they were discovered, and among the masses of the invaders could be seen the war-axes and brass ornaments as they glittered in the sun.
Riding forward, Moffat and Waterboer found a young woman belonging to the Mantatees, whose whole appearance denoted direful want. Food was given her, and some tobacco, and she was sent with a message to her people that the strangers wanted to speak with them and not to fight. An old man and a lad were also found dying of starvation, these were helped and talked to in full sight of the enemy. All possible means were tried to bring them to a parley, but in vain, they only responded by making furious rushes, showing their intention to attack.
The whole day was spent in this manner, and at evening Moffat left Waterboer and the scouts, and rode back to confer with Mr. Melville and the other Griqua chiefs, to see if some means could be devised of preventing the dreadful consequences of battle. One of the Griqua chiefs, named Cornelius Kok, nobly insisted on Moffat taking his best horse, one of the strongest present. To this generous act the missionary afterwards owed his life.
All the party were in motion the next morning before day-light. The whole of the horsemen advanced to within about one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy, thinking to intimidate them and bring them to a conference. The Mantatees rushed forward with a terrible howl, throwing their war clubs and javelins. The rushes becoming dangerous, Waterboer and his party commenced firing, and the battle became general. The Mantatees obstinately held their ground, seeming determined rather to perish than flee, which they might easily have done.
After the combat had lasted two hours and a-half, the Griquas, finding their ammunition rapidly diminishing, advanced to take the enemy's position. The latter gave way and fled, at first westward, but being intercepted, they turned towards the town. Here a desperate struggle took place. At last, seized with despair, the enemy fled precipitately, and were pursued by the Griquas for about eight miles.
Soon after the battle commenced, the Bechwanas who accompanied the Griqua force came up, and began discharging their poisoned arrows into the midst of the Mantatees. Half-a-dozen of these fierce warriors, however, turned upon them, and the whole body scampered off in wild disorder. But as soon as these cowards saw that the Mantatees had retired, they rushed like hungry wolves to the spot where they had been encamped, and began to plunder and kill the wounded, also murdering the women and children with their spears and battle-axes.
Fighting not being within the missionary's province, he refrained from firing a shot, though for safety he kept with the Griqua force. Seeing now the savage ferocity of the Bechwanas in killing the inoffensive women and children, he turned his attention to these objects of pity, who were fleeing in all directions. Galloping in among them, many of the Bechwanas were deterred from their barbarous purpose, and the women, seeing that mercy was shown them, sat down, and baring their breasts, exclaimed, "I am a woman; I am a woman." The men seemed as though it was impossible to yield, and although often sorely wounded, they continued to throw their spears and war-axes at any one who approached.
It was while carrying on his work of mercy among the wounded that Moffat nearly lost his life. He had got hemmed in between a rocky height and a body of the enemy. A narrow passage remained, through which he could escape at full gallop. Right in the middle of this passage there rose up before him a man who had been shot, but who had collected his strength, and, weapon in hand, was awaiting him. Just at that moment one of the Griquas, seeing the situation, fired. The ball whizzed past, close to Moffat. The aim had been a true one, and the way of escape was clear.
This battle saved the mission. It did more than that—it saved the Mantatees themselves from terrible destruction. As a devastating host they would in all probability have advanced to the borders of the Colony, and being driven back, would have perished miserably, men, women, and children, either of starvation, or at the hands of those tribes whom they would have overcome in their advance, and through whose territories they must have passed in their retreat.
After the battle was over, Mr. Melville and Robert Moffat collected many of the Mantatee women and children, who were taken to the missionary station. Alarm prevailed there for some days, it being feared that the Mantatees might make a descent upon the place after the Griquas had left. At one time the prospect was so ominous that the missionary band, with their wives and children, after burying their property, left Lattakoo for a short time, and sought shelter at Griqua Town. The threatened attack not being made, and as it was found that the Mantatees had left the neighbourhood, the station was again occupied.
The Bechwanas were deeply sensible of the interest the missionaries had shown in their welfare, at a time when they might with ease and little loss of property have retired in safety to the Colony, leaving them to be destroyed by the fierce invaders.
For a long time past, it had been evident to Moffat that the site upon which they dwelt at Lattakoo was altogether unsuitable for missionary purposes. The great scarcity of water, especially in dry seasons, rendered any attempt at raising crops most difficult, and even water for drinking purposes could only be obtained in small quantity. Advantage was therefore taken of the present favourable impression, made upon the minds of Mothibi and his people, to obtain a site for a new station. A place eight miles distant, about three miles below the Kuruman fountain, where the river of that name had its source, was examined and found to offer better advantages for a missionary station than any other for hundreds of miles round. Arrangements were made with the Bechwana chiefs so that about two miles of the Kuruman valley should henceforth be the property of the London Missionary Society, proper remuneration being given as soon as Moffat returned from Cape Town, to which place he contemplated paying a visit shortly.
This new station will be known in the further chronicle of events, by the name of Kuruman.
At the beginning of 1824, the Moffats were in Cape Town. They had gone there to obtain supplies, to seek medical aid for Mrs. Moffat, who had suffered in health considerably, and to confer personally with Dr. Philip about the removal of the station. Mothibi having been anxious that his son, Peclu, should see the country of the white people, had sent him, accompanied by Taisho, one of the principal chiefs, to Cape Town with the missionaries.
The young prince and his companion were astonished at what they saw. With difficulty they were persuaded to go along with Robert Moffat on board one of the ships in the bay. The enormous size of the hull, the height of the masts, the splendid cabin and the deep hold, were each and all objects of wonder; and when they saw a boy mount the rigging and ascend to the masthead, their astonishment was complete. Turning to the young prince, Taisho whispered, "Ah ga si khatla?" (Is it not an ape?) "Do these water-houses (ships) unyoke like waggon-oxen every night?" they inquired; and also; "Do they graze in the sea to keep them alive?" Being asked what they thought of a ship in full sail, which was then entering the harbour, they replied, "We have no thoughts here, we hope to think again when we get on shore."