The name of Robert Moffat is a household word [written in 1885]. Who has not heard it? Who, as a child, has not sat at evenings, and listened to tales of his daring courage, devotion, and resolute fearlessness? How as a stripling he faced the terrible Africaner and tamed him; how he conciliated the warlike Moselikatze; how he made the wilderness of Kuruman to blossom as the rose, materially, morally and spiritually. How, while he preached and taught, he worked with his own hands, providing for all his wants; built the house and thatched it: dug the dry arid soil and made it yield him food so abundantly that he could store it; and then, far from the sight of a white face, made journeys to and fro; everywhere by the might of his physical strength and Christian faith drew love from native hearts; and how, having thus thoroughly learned the language and the ways of the people, he translated the scriptures and other good books into their tongue, and laid the foundations of a literature.
And to many this was supplemented by visions of his patriarchal figure, his mild, loving features and long white hair and beard, as in his later years he appeared at home on platforms or in the pulpit, to speak for the cause dear to his heart and to awaken others to its interest and its claims. The outlines of his life, long familiar as his face and form to many of our readers, never lost their freshness and attraction; and it will be a delight to not a few to have the story told in its completeness, from the hands of a loving son and faithful biographer as we now have it.
To trace the development of Moffat's character from youth to age; to see how his achievements sprang naturally out of the depth of his spiritual convictions; to learn how happy was his choice of a partner in Mary Moffat, who inspired and comforted as well as aided him in the work; all this has now been fully made possible to us, for their biographer has wisely endeavoured to let them tell their own tale by means of letters and documents. While not neglecting the inner life of faith and hope as the source of all their strength and success, he has not failed in the presentation of striking incident and of activity so varied as to be almost unprecedented, alike on the part of husband and wife. It will be beyond our power to do more than indicate a few of the salient characteristics of this new biography. [i.e., The Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat by their son, John S. Moffat. With portraits and maps. (London, T. Fisher Unwin.)]
The first thing that will strike many readers more forcibly than before, is the manner in which both Mr. and Mrs. Moffat were from earliest days prepared for their great work. Robert Moffat was the son of respectable Scotch parents, thrifty, God-fearing, able to put their hands to many things; and it is evident that their distinguished son drew not a few trails from them. He often recalled their sayings and habits, and the letters from them in the early part of this volume only whet the appetite and make us wish "for more?' They are written with rare simplicity and correctness, and exhibit great good sense, piety and discernment. When, on that solemn leave-taking from his mother, described in the first chapter, with tears in her eyes, she gained that promise from him daily to read the Bible, she had sown the grain of mustard-seed, which at the proper time sprang up and grew. And when, as a boy at her knee, to keep him out of mischief, she had taught him to knit, sew and darn, she also sowed a seed that afterwards yielded fruit. "When I would tell her I meant to be a man, she would say, 'Lad, ye dinna ken whaur your lot may be cast.' She was right," says Moffat, "for I have often had occasion to use the needle since." The mixture of zeal for God with the utmost tact and practicality in the means used to secure the end in view, was very marked in Moffat; and it is evident that, humble though their position was, it was marked in his parents also. If you look at Robert Moffat's portrait, what will most probably strike you at first is the mixture of firmness, shrewdness and kindly tact that predominates in it. He was a born manager of men; right apt and handy at whatever he wished to do. He would no doubt have been a very good man of business if he had gone into that. And the grace of God does not kill a man's natural faculties, but only consecrates them, and diverts them into other channels. He soon gained the esteem and love of his employers when a young gardener at High Leigh. They were very willing to encourage him in literary and scientific studies, but they did not like his Methodism, as they called it, and at length he was forced to leave. Then at Dukinfield nursery, where he next went, he speedily gained the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and found them ready to aid him in his studies, but happily also to forward his desire to become a missionary. Once he had resolved on this work, nothing seemed to stand in his way; and when, on the last day of October 1876, he set sail for the Cape of Good Hope, he was only twenty years of ago—a mere youth. His first battles, however, were not with the heathen, but with the British Governor, who was loath to give his sanction to missionaries proceeding outside the Cape Colony, as it was feared that through want of discretion, they would get the tribes of the interior into broils and misunderstandings.
The Governor little knew the spirit of the man he had now to do with. Moffat only used the delay the better to prepare himself for the work. He got lessons in Dutch from a pious Hollander, with whom he had taken up his abode, so that he might be able to preach to the Boers and their servants, which he did to some purpose when the time came. And when, probably vexed by his importunity and awed by his firmness, the authorities yielded and offered to meet him halfway by giving him the post of Resident, he resolutely refused to mix up political duties with his preaching of the Gospel, and would either go untrammeled or not at all. When at last he did reach Namaqualand, his work was done wholly in this spirit. He was undeterred by difficulties, calm, unflinching, equal to all emergencies. He was utterly alone.
"I have many difficulties to encounter," he writes, "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, tailor, shoemaker, miller, baker and housekeeper—the last is the most burdensome of any. Indeed, none is burdensome but it. An old Namaqua woman milks my cows and 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 dried flesh. 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, cabbage, 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 the milk is rich. I wish many times my mother saw me. My house is always pretty clean; but oh! what a confusion there is among my linen. I have no patience."
In this way he went on in Namaqualand, his progress marked by many interesting incidents, more or less well known, till the extension of the work of the Wesleyans into that region and their very marked success, led the directors of the London Missionary Society to leave that section of the work entirely to their Wesleyan brethren, and to press on to more important fields. Moffat had served a good apprenticeship; he was now to do the work of a master-missionary in a still more trying and more distant field, which proved to be a doorway to much beyond. His destination was to be Latakoo, or, as it was later called, Kuruman, to the eastward of the great Kalahari Desert
And now, too, his life begins a new phase in a domestic sense. Mary Smith, whose pious training by her parents at Dukinfield, and her education at the Moravian School at Fairfield, where she spent some happy years, had fitted her to appreciate aright the merits of her father's young Scotch assistant, and to sympathize with him thoroughly in his mission thoughts and projects, as few young women could have done, was, after a long discipline of nearly three years' waiting, allowed to join him in Africa. Her father had said he could not part with her; her mother, who was now aged and ailing, declared that she could not live without her company and comforting attendance. But at last, like an answer to many prayers, both consented to her going; and she had now the desire of her heart. Her discipline had taught her much which all missionaries' wives should know. She reached the Cape about the middle of December 1819, and was married there on the 27th of the month, Moffat having gone there to meet her. She wrote to her brother John, a few days later, a letter, in which her whole character is expressed:—
"There was an expression in my father's letter that rather grieved me; it was that in one sense I was dead to them. Now I think they ought not to consider me so. Surely it ought to afford consolation that I am now united to a devoted servant of God, one who counts not his life dear to himself. They can hear of me, and I trust that they will hear that I am of some little use in the world. Is not this better, to be a succourer of those who are labouring, than to lie down in the grave without having done anything towards the building of the temple? I trust you will endeavour to remove this impression. Cheer their hearts, and never indulge melancholy fears respecting me. I can assure you every provision is made for my comfort which is possible, and the Deputation afford Moffat every facility. At the same time, I wish ever to be reasonable in my expectations and cheerfully to take up the cross. I find missionaries are greatly despised here, and, indeed, it is not to be wondered at after the conduct of some; but I think I can say—
'All hail reproach! and welcome shame!
If Thou remember me.'"
The journey to Latakoo was safely accomplished, but anon arose difficulties as regards Government permission, which, however, rendered necessary several sojourns at Griqna-town. The time was well employed by both husband and wife, who studied the ways of the people and prepared themselves for final settlement in many ways. Moffat, to whom the Sechwana language was new, and in which he was soon to become so great an expert, was busy mastering its first difficulties. Before they had really settled at Kuruman, Mary, their first child, afterwards the wife of Livingstone, was born.
No success whatever had been secured by those who had before attempted to Christianize the Bechwanas. They turned a deaf ear to all appeals. They stole shamelessly. When the missionaries' corn ripened, a great part of it was openly carried away. The sheep were taken out of the fold by night, and the missionaries were fain to kill the rest and salt the mutton lest they should be without any. No tool or household utensil could be left for a moment. Nor did any marked change at once cheer the Moffats! They had their own battles to fight. Mrs. Moffat says, "We have no prosperity in the work, not the least sign of good being done. The people seem more careless than ever ... Their indifference appears to increase, and instead of rejoicing we have continually to mourn over them. Our consolation is derived from the promises of the immutable Jehovah. We walk by faith, and not by sight. Five years have rolled on since the missionaries came, and not one soul yet converted, nor does any one seem to lend an ear." The first sign of change, long waited for and prayed for, was that the barbarous system of commandos for stealing cattle ceased, and the services of the "rainmaker," who was a sad obstacle to the reception of Christianity, were dispensed with. Good often seemed to come out of evil in the career of the Moffats, or rather, perhaps, it was that their devotion enabled them to triumph over all obstacles. At any rate there came a terrible Mantatee invasion, in which many were cruelly murdered and great destruction done to property. Robert Moffat showed himself not only able to look after the safety of his own house, but to lead and to help the people. He saved many lives and was influential in so scaring the enemy that they never appeared there again. Moffat had abandoned the station for a time and retired to Griqua-town. What property could be carried away was taken, and the rest was buried. But Moffat, when he had seen his wife and family safely bestowed, returned to Latakoo alone, and dealt with the dangerous position vigorously and well. Savages can always respect power and capacity to rule, however little they may be disposed to honour self-denials even on their behalf, and the brave part played by Moffat against their enemies was something they could realize and appreciate. His personal influence with them from that moment was secure. What all his patient toil and teaching had failed to do his energy and skill in outwitting and driving back Mantatee warriors abundantly did; and the acceptance of his doctrine was more or less a matter of time. We are not surprised to find Mrs. Moffat thus writing home to her parents shortly after this trouble:—
"Were these people idolaters, I should be afraid of them deifying Robert now—they are so convinced of the interest he takes in their welfare, from what has lately transpired. They say it would have been easy for us to decamp, with all belonging to us; but are surprised at the promptitude and activity which Robert used in warning the Griquas of the approaching danger, and thereby preserving them from enduring those horrors which have come upon their neighbours. Last year, we had the pleasure of informing you of the downfall of the rain-making superstition, and now another obstacle is broken through; indeed, they now seem to fear denying Robert anything ... We are persuaded that the surrounding tribes will desire to have teachers after seeing the advantage Moteebe's people have derived from their connection with them."
No sooner was the station set in order again and the ordinary work in progress than Moffat set out to Makaba, the chief of the Bangwaketsi, and whilst he was absent the station was threatened by a horde of runaways of mixed blood, who had turned marauders, and being armed with guns, for a time carried all before them. Mrs. Moffat's position was most lonely and critical; but she was equal to the trial in every respect, writing thus:—
"Trying as it is, I feel a satisfaction in sacrificing my dear husband's company when I reflect that it is for the cause of Christ, and I feel persuaded that these journeys into the interior are of enormous importance to the kingdom of our Lord, as they prepare the way for the spread of the Gospel. Poor Mr. Hamilton is heavily afflicted. Whilst he was away at Griqua-town last October, his whole premises were burnt to ashes. The Bechwanas were, however, active in endeavouring to save his property, and succeeded pretty well, but it may easily be conceived that his loss was considerable."
Family troubles followed on the back of wars and invasions. Hardly had the missionaries once more got the station laid out and work begun, than the young chief suddenly died, and this led to a migration of a large proportion of their population, which was in many ways to be regretted. And then the Moffats had to mourn the death of a little boy, and to receive news of the departure of Mrs. Moffat's mother after some years of declining health.
"With regard to my dear mother," writes Mrs. Moffat, "I was long before I could in any degree feel reconciled to her approaching dissolution, though for more than two years l have opened every letter with a palpitating heart, expecting the painful intelligence that would at once blast the feeble hope which was sometimes cherished of again beholding her in the flesh. I never felt anything like resignation till I heard how repeatedly and heavily she was afflicted, and how happily she was prepared for the last remove. I felt that it was cruelly selfish to wish her to live; when I say selfish, you must not suppose that I did not consider you, my dear father, for my heart does testify that this was the last struggle in my feelings, a consideration of your desolate condition when she would be called to leave you in this vale of tears, knowing how uncommonly happily you have lived together, and sensible that the widowed life would be comparatively dreary. May the God of all grace grant you consolations equal to the loss you have sustained, and enable you to pursue your earthly course with Christian cheerfulness."
Moffat had now so far mastered the elements of the language that he had begun to prepare a spelling-book, which was by and by printed at the Cape. And this, notwithstanding that they were to a great extent left without service, and building and finishing of the station-houses were still going on. We have this record from Mrs. Moffat's pen:—
"Our Bethelsdorp Hottentots have left us, and it falls very heavily on Hamilton and Moffat, as our house has been building. It is, however, now within a few days of being finished, when he intends leaving the public work entirely—the smith's excepted, because nobody else can do it and applying closely to study. We have at present only one effective man, a Hottentot, all the rest being Bechwanas, with whom it may easily be conceived that it is difficult, to get on ... You may form some idea of what missionaries have to put their hands to, when I tell you that Robert was a fortnight every day up to the middle in water cutting thatch for the house."
And Moffat himself, in a letter shortly afterward, tells that a few weeks before he had commenced a school in the Sechwana language.
"Notwithstanding the unpleasant circumstances of the station," he says, "the number attending exceeded our expectations. There are already four Bechwanas who can read in their own language the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and I trust soon to put six or eight more into that class. I have also begun an evening school which promises well." ... Attending school twice in the day, with the different services in the church, and other cares connected with the welfare of the station, will for some time keep me very busy, and prevent me from devoting all that time to study which I could wish. It is my object now to get something translated to put into the hands of those who learn to read."
And now there began to come rays of daylight at last. Converts increased. The schools were filled with pupils, and a zeal developed itself that had to be moderated and controlled—a task in which Moffat showed himself as much the master as in anything. The only results that Moffat cared for were practical; he was chary of noisy professions. And the Bechwanas, slow to move, moved surely; and expressed their faith by works and sacrifices. "Three of the men came forward and offered to take upon themselves the work of building a brick schoolhouse, which should at the same time serve as a temporary place of worship until the great stone church, of which the foundations had even then been laid, should be finished. All that they asked for was that the carpenter's work might be done for them; they would provide all the material, and would build and roof. They were as good as their word; and a schoolhouse was raised without a sixpence of expense to the Society."
The first-fruits long waited for had come at last, and were welcomed with due humility and thankfulness to God.
Even in savage countries news travels fast and far. The story of the work at Kuruman now spread on all sides, and messengers and inquirers came from distant parts. Amongst others were two commissioners from the Matabele chief Mozelikatze, who wished to know more of the work of the white men. He ruled a large portion of the territory now known as the Transvaal Republic. He was a great warrior, and his name a terror to surrounding tribes. Moffat received these ambassadors with great kindness, and showed them all that he could. Owing to the risks they ran from the tribes through whose territory they must pass on their return home, he himself accompanied them on their way. Having gone so far with them they urged him to go on and see their master. At last he agreed to do so. Mozelikatze took kindly to the missionary and was very gracious to him. Placing his hand on Moffat's shoulder one day, he addressed him by the title of "Father," saying, "you have made my heart as white as milk. I cease not to wonder at the love of a stranger. You never saw me before, but you love me more than my own people." "I took an early opportunity," says Moffat, "of telling him of my object as a missionary among the Bechwanas, and that I had not come to hunt or trade. I wished to return at once, having gained the object of my journey. I told him I was a teacher from God, the Creator of all things and Governor among the nations, and in visiting him I had also in view the time when his people also might receive messengers from God, to tell them of another and better world." Moffat did not leave till he had got the chiefs consent to send a missionary there, and he revisited Mozelikatze at a future time with good results in the planting of a mission.
In 1832 Moffat completed his translation into the Sechwana tongue of the Gospel of Luke. Be went to the Cape, and got liberty to use the official press; but who was to supply him with compositors? He had simply to set to work himself, under the direction of the official printer. He "set up" the matter with his own hands, and was soon able to return in triumph with copies of Luke's Gospel and his own hymns, together with the printing-press which Dr. Philip had presented to him and some other gifts. By 1840 the translation of the New Testament was completed, and before 1843 thousands of copies had been distributed, Moffat having superintended the printing in London during a visit to England.
From the first therefore Moffat put into practice the principles of mission work which have more recently been so systematically exemplified at institutions like Lovedale and Livingstonia. He made the mission-station a center of industry and civilization as well as of Christian teaching; and the first in his hands became an effective means towards the second. Nothing was in his view to be despised that would enable him to attract and impress the people, and we can easily realize the feelings of satisfaction with which he had received his printing-press and other materials. The natives, we are told, would watch the sheets go into the press white, and come out a moment after covered with black characters, to their unspeakable wonder.
He taught the Bechwanas the principles of agriculture, of irrigation, of building, and of the domestic arts. It has been well said that "instances of Dr. Moffat's attainments as a true 'captain of industry ' would fill a volume." The difficulty of raising a high roof on a newly-built chapel, in a country where there were, neither blocks nor tackle for the purpose, is perhaps only known to those who have tried it. At Now Lattakoo, Dr. Moffat and his helpers found it a herculean and dangerous task. Few would trust themselves on naked walls whilst engaged in the work. The feat, however, was successfully achieved. Whilst it was proceeding, the natives often remarked that the missionaries must have been brought up in the baboon country, and so have become accustomed to precipices and walls. The natural resources of the country and their capacity for development did not escape Dr. Moffat's observation during journeys of the most hazardous kind. Even when famine or death by wild beasts stared him in the face, his trained eye was involuntarily noting the plants, the minerals, and the geological structure of the tract through which he was passing.
Yet on nothing was he more firm than on the principle that civilization without evangelisation was of none effect. He held that to make the fruit good the tree must first be made good. Nothing less than the power of Divine grace can reform the hearts of savages, after which the mind is susceptible of those instructions which teach them to adorn the Gospel they profess.
It is impossible for us to follow Moffat in his many journeys into the interior and elsewhere; in his studies and industrial labours. He was literally unresting. He worked in season and out of season. When urged by physicians to go to the coast or to England once more for health's sake, he simply took change of air and scene in a new quarter, where he could be alone to master the mysteries of a new dialect. His work of translation went on without pause, alongside of other calls in many departments—the work connected with any one of which would have been enough for any ordinary man. His energy was equal to his caution, his method and his endurance. "No evidence," writes the learned Seiler, "can be produced that the whole of the Scriptures was, by any one person, rendered into Saxon. Even Wickliffe had the help of many persons; much more Coverdale. Bede was translating the Gospel of John at the time of his decease. But Robert Moffat, who began with the Gospel of Luke, lived to translate the whole Bible into the dialect of South Africa, and lived to see it circulating among the natives, who both speak, and in many instances, through his own school instruction, can read it."
In addition, it should be remembered that he had to reduce the language to written form, had to compare and collate dialects, and from these to deduce a grammar. Compared with the task of any other translator, Moffat's work was like that of a man who not only had to build a house, but had first to fashion each one of the tools employed in the work. Moffat's relations widened; new centers of missionary and civilizing activity sprang into existence. Livingstone was stationed some 250 miles distant, and had married Moffat's daughter Mary, and one of the most interesting sections of the new biography is devoted to the relations of Moffat and Livingstone.
With regard to Mrs. Moffat, we have seen how completely she identified herself with all her husband's plans and aspirations; ever at his side inspiring and sustaining. And from the first she showed such aptitude, resolution, and self-help as have been but rarely exhibited even by the wives of missionaries and travellers. She was early involved in the cares of a young family, but, instead of weakening her powers for work, this seemed only to endow her with fresh stimulus and energy. Not seldom the necessities laid upon her by the claims of her children enabled her to do services for the cause which else she could hardly have undertaken. She rose buoyant from depressing difficulties which would have swamped most women. Some of the lines of Wordsworth's "Happy Warrior" rise to our minds as we read of her courage and capability, fed and sustained by Christian faith and hope:—
"Who, doomed to go in company with pain
And fear, and bloodshed-miserable train!
Turn their necessity to glorious gain:
Whoso high endeavours are an inward light,
That make the path before them always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, are diligent to learn;
Abide by their resolve, and stop not there,
But make their moral being their prime care."
Every step she took seemed to be directed by a higher prudence, and fitted her for the next task that should be laid upon her. She made long journeys through untravelled deserts alone. She was often in peril of storms and robbers and of wild beasts. In ill-health, when she had to go to the Cape, she declined to withdraw Moffat for a moment from his work to attend to her.
In earlier days, before the claims of a young family came, she had made it a habit to accompany him wherever he went. "We think it essential to health," she then writes, "to take a trip now and then, and it is a rule of mine that when my husband goes with the waggon for more than two days, I go with him, unless circumstances render it very improper. If he goes alone, he does not take care of himself, and will not be at the trouble to make himself comfortable, and I think he had enough of that sort of life in Namaqualand. Our waggons are very comfortable, and in them we carry all necessary comforts. If there are children they play on the bed or lie asleep. The length of our day stages is about eight or twelve hours on an average, riding about three and a half miles an hour; we are guided chiefly by the water, riding from one fountain to another, that our oxen may be refreshed as well as ourselves." When Moffat was absent, as he often was, on journeys into the interior, for the purpose frequently of making himself more perfectly familiar with the Sechwana tongue, Mrs. Moffat never faltered in solitude, nor found it irksome; she only added certain of her husband's duties to her own; and in the midst of the most distracting disturbances went forward calmly and unfalteringly. In 1833 she journeyed alone to the Cape, with the double purpose of seeing her two girls, who were there at school, and of bringing up from the coast a large quantity of printing material, which otherwise might have lain there many months, and performed the feat with perfect success and satisfaction to all. But this journey, dreary as it was, pales in interest before her experiences when, in 1836, she was overcome by ill-health, and ordered by the doctor to the Cape, and when she would not accept the sacrifice of her husband's company.
"We left Kuruman on the 19th of November. Robert accompanied us to the Vaal River, over which we walked dry-shod. Finding it so low, we never dreamed of getting the Orange Rim in flood; but so it was, and I was compelled to be on the banks of that mighty stream for one round month. Being in such a delicate state of health, I could not but suffer much from the extreme heat and exposed situation, and was severely tried often hesitating whether to return. Frequently we were tantalized with the prospect of being able to ride through 'to-morrow;' but as sure as to-morrow came, the river rose again, till all hope was gone, and we came at last to the conclusion to cross on a raft. With hard labour we got everything over that frightful river in less than three days without a single accident. How much have we to be thankful for! And it "was gratifying to find that for all I had endured I was no worse, but rather better. Perhaps being obliged to take it easily was in my favour, for it was impossible to be active through the day for want of shade, and by the time the sun was down my strength was gone, so that I could not walk, except to the water's edge and back."
During one of Moffat's frequent lengthy absences—for, as we have seen, he preferred, when advised to go home for health, to seek change of scene in the interior—she had to set forth to the Cape with her waggon-teams, to meet one of her children returning from England; and in writing to Moffat from Port Elizabeth, she says
"I now begin to fear that I shall not be home to receive you, which grieves me much ... Well, patience must have its perfect work. We commenced this sort of suffering in Dukinfield nursery, and it looks as if we should continue much in such feelings to the end of our lives. The last six months have been very trying in this respect—all things dark and obscure—my mind has been like a bow at full stretch, you and Livingstone at one end, Mary and Betsy at the other. I felt sometimes as if the string were too tight, but was wonderfully sustained."
All this shows the spirit of the woman—the calmly heroic temper in which she worked—sustained in all danger and difficulty by a deep sense of the divine countenance and support. Many grievous disappointments and desolating trials she had to bear, but she never complained, or lost her hold on God's fatherly character and help. Thus, on one occasion, we find her writing to her husband, when both he and Livingstone were on long and perilous journeys, and she herself much troubled and perplexed:—
"My heart has been especially drawn out for the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, as the result of the journeys of you both. God can of the stones raise up seed to Abraham, and if you are only able to leave the impression on some minds that they are immortal beings and accountable creatures, you will have been instrumental in doing a great work. You will have heard that your worthy and beloved mother has done with all sorrow and pain, and got to her rest. Now, my dear Robert, you will think my mind poorly prepared for trial, taking as I do the most cheerful view of things. Well, I have the promise, 'As thy day, so shall thy strength be.'"
The biographer, though he has made fully apparent the "secret source" of Moffat's great strength at once to labour and to endure, does not obtrude it unnecessarily. It runs through the whole life like a soft undernote, mellowing, harmonizing, and giving unity. The natural simplicity and single-mindedness of the man finds consecration in his unwavering faith in Jesus as a constant presence and support. Men have suffered much—faced frightful perils, and endured racking pains, sleepless nights, and days of agony and torturing suspense, for the sake of fame, of wealth, and the far higher object of improving the political and social condition of their fellow men. These are heroes after the natural order. But there is no case in which a man has voluntarily sought solitude and isolation, exposed himself to danger in all forms, wandered over barren deserts, and threaded a way through jungles, and persevered in such a course for a whole lifetime, sacrificing all social comforts and enjoyments, as well as the hope of reward, without once uttering a regret, or even an impatient word, save of those who have acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and Master. Moffat may claim to be placed in the very first rank of those. Nothing depressed, nothing unnerved him. He over and over again literally confronted death. He seemed to disarm those who threatened him by his indifference to it. On his return from one of his most perilous journeys, during the first period of his stay in Namaqualand, he wrote:
"I may say with Paul, when I saw our friends, I thanked God and took courage; and when I reflected on the difficulties which I had undergone, I adored the Hand which had preserved me in them, and I more than ever estimated the value of Providential blessings; but, above all, I was cheered with this one recollection, that it is for Jesus' sake, and the sake of the heathen. In the midst of these hardships I felt, as I do at this moment, that I desire to suffer anything, even death itself, if but Christ is glorified in the salvation of the poor heathen!"
This is the keynote to his activity; the groundwork of his character and life. And as it was in the earlier years of his noble service, so it was in the last, while in feebleness he waited. The disappearance of old friends from his side prompts meditation, but it is far from regretful, it is rather buoyant and full of the hope of meeting them after.
In spite of tokens of failing health, which for years proclaimed themselves, these two valiant souls, one in purpose as in hope, continued to labour at their loved Kuruman, till their own son had taken an important place at their side. But at last, infirmities would be silenced no longer, and Moffat was forced to acknowledge that he was getting old—a conviction he was slow to receive. In 1870 he returned home, to be welcomed by all sections of the Christian Church as a true master in grace and in power. His heroic wife died some years before he did, and we are told that in her last hours, when her mind wandered, she was once more in the midst of her loved Bechwanas in far South Africa.
From The Sunday at Home: Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading. London: Religious Tract Society, 1885.
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