Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The South African Revival and Awakening 1860

On December 31, 1855 Reverend Andrew Murray performed the wedding ceremony of my “Oupa Koen” who was my great, great grandfather on my grandmother’s side in Graaff Reinet, South Africa.

However, in my personal capacity as an evangelist, missionary and revivalist, my intrigue with Andrew Murray is his legacy of revival and great spiritual awakening. What happened in South Africa during his lifetime was connected to the mighty move of God that was happening simultaneously in the United States of America.

Andrew Murray was the son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister who settled in South Africa, learned Dutch, and devoted himself to God’s work there. Andrew followed in his father’s footsteps. One day Andrew concluded a worship service for the English-speaking congregation. He then went to the Dutch service, already in progress. On his way to the Dutch Reformed Church he realized that something wasn’t quite right. A loud noise came from the church. It sounded like a disorderly, confused conglomeration of voices.
History tells us he did “een drafstappje” (a fast paced walk) to the building to see what was happening. 

I can just imagine the dignified Rev. Murray speeding up to fix the problem! When he entered the building he found the place in apparent disorder. People were praying out loud at the same time. People were confessing their sin. Some were on the floor unable to deal with the strange conviction that had come upon them. A deep sense of guilt was upon many, and they were praying to God to forgive them and deliver them from that burden.
Rev. Murray tried to bring order to the place, but no one noticed him or cared to pay attention. He got a hold of JC de Vries, who had conducted the preliminaries. Outside he explained what had happened. Parishioners had been invited to suggest a song. One young lady in the back suggested one, and then asked if she could pray first. She then delivered a moving passionate prayer. Then it happened. 

First, someone began to sob. Then someone else began to ask for forgiveness, and the influence spread through the whole congregation until the combined voices formed a beautiful harmony of prayer and repentance.

Rev. Murray went back into the church. “People, I am your pastor. Listen to me, and be quiet,” he tried one more time. “God is a God of order, but here all is disorder!” With that he stomped out of the church.

But later on a stranger approached him. “Are you the pastor of this church?” he asked. Andrew affirmed that he was. The stranger continued, “Be careful what you do to these people today; for I have just returned from the United States, and the same things you are witnessing here are happening there also. The two don’t even know about each other.”
With that the convicting power of God also gripped Andrew Murray. He realized it was a work of God. For the next six weeks all Andrew could do was sit in the back of the church and weep. He would not preach. He just sat there and wept. Finally, after six weeks they carried him to the pulpit in his chair; and when he opened his mouth, it was as if words burning with divine fire proceeded from his lips.

The revival became a community-wide awakening as people became converted. The revival spread throughout the Eastern and Northern Cape to other towns such as Calvinia, Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Ceres, Robertson and Paarl, and as far north as the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek, in the town of Hartebeestfontein.

Some came to the services with the intent of mocking the strange behavior of the worshipers, only to find themselves also seized with the same conviction. A common manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s working in the meetings was that people fell out under His power, or “fainted” as they put it in those days.

An example of that is the report about a godly woman Ms. Hessie Bosman. An eye witness said, “She attended, and was the third to engage in prayer that evening. While she was pouring out her heart, the whole meeting broke forth into prayer while she fell unconscious to the ground. I carried her out to the parsonage, where they were some time in bringing her round. That night she had to remain the guest of the parsonage, and next day she was herself again.” She later married Rev. McKidd, who set up the first foreign missionary station for the Dutch Reformed Church.

Initially Murray very much opposed such manifestations, but came to the conclusion that God was at work.
Such manifestations were not a proof of the validity of the revival, but were very real manifestations that happened as the Spirit moved upon people. The validity of the revival was rather found in the complete commitment to Christ that came about in the lives of those touched by the revival. Andrew Murray wrote “To my mind the most striking proof that we truly had the Holy Spirit among us in the late movement is to be seen what He is doing in stirring up in the hearts of believers a desire after a more entire surrender to Himself and His service.” [1]

The following is part of an eyewitness account by JC de Vries of what happened in that revival:
“On a certain Sunday evening there were gathered in a little hall some sixty young people. I was leader of the meeting, which commenced with a hymn and a lesson from God’s Word, after which I engaged in prayer. After three or four others had (as was customary) given out a verse of a hymn and offered prayer, a Colored girl of about fifteen years of age, in service of a farmer from Hex River, rose at the back of the hall and asked if she might propose a hymn. At first I hesitated, not knowing what the meeting would think, but better thoughts prevailed and I replied, Yes.

“She gave out her hymn-verse and prayed in moving tones. While she was praying, we heard as it were a sound in the distance, which came nearer and neared, until the hall seemed to be shaken, and with one or two exception, the whole meeting began to pray – the majority in audible voice, but some in whispers. Nevertheless, the noise made by the concourse was deafening.

“A feeling which I cannot describe took possession of me. Even now, forty-three years after these occurrences, the events of that never-to-be-forgotten night pass before my mind’s eye like a soul-stirring panorama. I feel again as I then felt, and cannot refrain from pushing my chair backwards and thanking the Lord fervently for his mighty deeds.

At that time Rev. A. Murray was minister of Worcester. He had preached that evening in the English language. When the service was over, an elder passed the door of the hall, heard the noise, peeped in, and then hastened to call Mr. Murray, returning presently with him. Mr. Murray came forward to the table where I knelt praying, touched me, and made me understand that he wanted me to rise. He then asked me what had happened. I related everything to him. He then walked down the hall for some distance and called out, as loudly as he could, People, silence! But the praying continued.

“In the meantime I too kneeled down again. It seemed to me that if the Lord was coming to bless us, I should not be upon my feet but on my knees. Mr. Murray then called again aloud, People I am your minister sent from God, silence! But there was no stopping the noise. No one heard him, but all continued praying and calling on God for mercy and pardon. Mr. Murray then returned to me, and told me to start the hymn-verse commencing ‘Help de ziel die raadloos schreit’ (Aid the soul that helpless cries.) I did so, but the emotions were not quieted, and the meeting went on praying. Mr. Murray then prepared to depart, saying, ‘God is a God of order, and here everything is confusion.’ With that, he left the hall.

“After that the prayer meetings were held every evening. At the commencement, there was generally great silence, but after the second or third prayer the whole hall was moved as before, and everyone fell to praying. Sometimes the gathering continued to three in the morning. And even then, many wished to remain longer, or returning homewards, went singing through the streets. The little hall was soon quite too small, and we were compelled to move to the school building, which also was presently full to overflowing, as scores and hundreds of country-folk streamed into the village.

“On the first Saturday evening in the larger meeting-house, Mr. Murray was the leader. He read a portion of Scripture, made a few observations on it, engaged in prayer, and then gave others the opportunity to pray. During the prayer which followed on his, I heard again the sound in the distance. I drew nearer and nearer, and suddenly the whole gathering was praying.

“That evening a stranger had been standing at the door from the commencement, watching the proceedings. Mr. Murray descended from the platform and moved up and down among the people, trying to quiet them. The stranger then tiptoed forwards from his position at the door, touched Mr. Murray gently, and said in English: ‘I think you are the minister of this congregation. Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and this is precisely what I witnessed there’.” [2]

It was then that Andrew Murray became convicted by the Holy Spirit, and as we have already related – he then then became its most fervent supporter. Today Andrew Murray’s books are still read all over the world. I pray that this little book will serve to wet your appetite for another mighty move of God such as this.

[1] Olea Nell, South Africa's forgotten revival: The story of the Cape's Great Awakening in 1860, (Xulon Press)

[2] Olea Nell, South Africa's forgotten revival: The story of the Cape's Great Awakening in 1860, (Xulon Press)

For similar stories, and to purchase Joel Hitchcock's complete book on Revival and Great Awakening, (Young Fire - End Time Youth Revivalists for the Great Awakening) go to


  1. Praise God. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story depicting the glorious move of the Holy Spirit in the hungry hearts of this region of the world in 1860. You are blessed Pastor Joel, to have this as part of your spiritual heritage. You have contended for the faith and earnestly continue to bring forth God's word in spirit and in truth. You have received the 'mantel' and continue to honor God. I love these stories and believe strongly that a pouring out of God the Holy Spirit is going to 'cover the earth' once again. Our God Reigns.

  2. Amen and thank you for your uplifting comment! Much blessings for you...