March 19, 1813, David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland. "My own inclination would lead me to say as little as possible about myself." The world, however, has forced into print all that could be gathered about him. He records two items about his ancestors: "My great-grandfather fell at the battle of Colloden, fighting for the old line of kings, and my grandfather was a small farmer in Ulua, where my father was born." And this: "The only point of the family tradition that I feel proud of is this—one of these poor islanders, one of my ancestors, when he was on his deathbed, called his children around him and said: 'Now, lads, I have looked all through our history as far back as I can find it, and I have never found a dishonest man in all the line, and I want you to understand you inherit good blood. You have no excuse for wrongdoing. Be honest.'" When honors were finally laid in profusion at Livingstone's feet he wrote affectionately of "his own people, the honest poor."
Students of history will have no difficulty recalling the historical conditions existing in 1813. Six years earlier England had abolished the slave trade. Two years later Waterloo came. The "Consecrated Cobbler" had awakened the Churches of England to their missionary duty, and there were a dozen societies then in their youth eager to spread the Gospel in foreign lands. The charter of the American Board was a year old when Livingstone was born. The Wesleyan Missionary Society was organized in 1812, the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society in 1819. It was the day of exploration and inquiry, the day in which the modern missionary movement began. Into the kingdom at such a time and for such a time Livingstone came. At the age of ten he went to work in the cotton mills. Out of his first week's wages he saved enough to buy Ruddiman's Rudiments. The employers provided a schoolmaster to give evening instruction. When Livingstone could have the master's assistance he took it, when he could not get it he toiled on alone. Thus he mastered his Latin. He was not brighter than other boys. He was not precocious in anything save determination. Early his scientific tastes revealed themselves. While he had the passion for reading he had equally the passion for exploration and for such sports as swimming and fishing. "My reading in the factory," he says, "was carried on by placing the book on a portion of the spinning jenny, so that I could catch sentence after sentence as I passed at my work. I thus kept a pretty constant study, undisturbed by the roar of machinery. To this I owe the power of completely abstracting my mind, so as to read and write with perfect comfort amidst the play of children and song of savages." At nineteen he was promoted in the factory. At twenty he "lighted upon the admirable works of Dr. Thomas Dick, The Philosophy of Religion and The Philosophy of a Future State, and was gratified to find that he had enforced his own conviction that religion and science are friendly to one another." At about this time a missionary society was established in the village. He became acquainted with missionary biography. The Life of Henry Martyn stirred his blood. The story of Charles Gutzlaff, medical missionary to China, was as a trumpet call. Almost simultaneously came his conversion, bringing peace and power and this missionary influence. Young Epworth Leaguers will pause over the statement that at twenty he had resolved to devote to the missionary cause all he could earn and save. Then Gutzlaff appealed to the Churches of Great Britain and America for aid in behalf of China, and Livingstone offered not his earnings, but his life. "It is my desire," he said, "to show my attachment to the cause of Him who died for me by devoting my life to his service," and "from this time my efforts were constantly devoted toward this object without any fluctuation." This last sentence shows influence of a faithful Sunday school teacher who had said to him, "Now, lad, make religion the everyday business of your life, and not a thing of fits and starts." Livingstone did not propose to go as a missionary without preparation. He went on with his studies for six or seven years from the date of the resolution quoted above. When at last he went it was with the strength and training of a man. He was accepted by the London Missionary Society, whose object—"to send neither Episcopacy nor Presbyterianism nor Independency, but the Gospel of Christ to the heathen"—exactly agreed with his ideas. He wanted to go as a medical missionary to China, but the opium war shut him out. He grew weary of waiting, but never faltered in his purpose. One day Robert Moffat came home to plead for the South African Mission. He told Livingstone that he had "sometimes seen in the morning sun the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary had ever been." That settled the question for Livingstone. It was God's hand leading him into the Dark Continent. In 1840 he was ordained and received his medical diploma. Speaking of the latter, he said, "With unfeigned delight I became a member of a profession which with unwearied energy pursues from age to age its endeavors to lessen human woe." On the evening of November 16, 1840, he went home to visit for one night with his parents. He proposed to sit up all night. His father had the heart and soul of a missionary. He was the kind of man portrayed in "The Cotter's Saturday Night." Far into the night they talked of the prospects of Christian missions. They talked of the coming day when rich and great men would think it an honor to support whole stations of missionaries instead of spending their money on hounds and horses. At five the next morning they had breakfast, and then gathered around the family altar for prayers. David read the 121st and 135th Psalms and prayed. It is a scene for an artist. Father and son walked to Glasgow. "On the Broomiclaw they parted, and never met again on earth." The father set his face toward home, the great son resolutely starting toward the "smoke of the thousand villages."
December 8, 1840, he sailed for Cape Town, at the southern extremity of Africa. It is an historic date in the history of Africa and in the history of the Christian Church. When he arrived at the cape he found Dr. Philip, acting agent for the London Missionary Society, desirous of returning home for a vacation, and anxious to find some one willing to take his place as minister to the congregation at Cape Town. The place, with good compensation, was offered to Livingstone. Then he remembered that Moffat had said to him, "You will do for Africa if you do not go to an old station, but push on to the vast unoccupied districts to the north." He declined the easier position and pushed on toward Dr. Moffat's station at Kuruman, seven hundred miles to the north. These seven hundred miles formed the crust of heathenism as dense as night. On into it this fearless man went. He practiced medicine as he went. The people believed him to be a wizard. They thought him able to raise the dead. The sick and the curious crowded about his wagon, but not an article was stolen. One day the chief of a savage tribe said: "I wish you would change my heart. Give me medicine to change it, for it is proud, proud and angry, angry always." The physician and the scientist, the minister and the reformer, are all combined in this one man. He heals the sick; he notes the scenery, classifying the plants, birds, and beasts, noting that forty-three fruits and thirty-two edible roots grow wild in a certain district; he gathers specimens for a London college; he rescues a little girl about to be sold into slavery; he rejoices that God had conferred upon him the privilege and honor of being the first messenger of mercy that ever trod those regions. He writes home:
"This is the country for a medical man, but he must leave fees out of the question. These people are excellent patients, too. There is no wincing; everything prescribed is done instanter. Their only failing is that they get tired of a long course, but in any operation even the women sit unmoved. I have been astonished again and again at their calmness. In cutting out a tumor an inch in diameter they sit and talk as if they felt nothing. 'A man like me,' they say, 'never cries. It is children that cry.' And it is a fact that the men never cry; but when the Spirit of God works on their minds they cry most piteously, trying to hide their heads in their karosses, and when they find that won't do they rush out of church and run with all their might, crying as if the hand of death were behind them."
Meantime visions of planting colonies here float before him. He explores for Jesus Christ. He covers his letters with maps of the country. Every new tract is a new field for the Gospel. He studies the African fever, the tsetse fly, and dreams of the lake. The details of these years cannot be given here. Four years go by. During this time occurred the adventure with the lion, of which adventure he writes that "he meant to have kept it to tell his children in his old age." It was during his second missionary year. He says of it: "He rushed from the bushes and bit me on the arm, breaking the bone. I hope I shall never forget God's mercy. It will be well before this letter reaches you. Do not mention it to anyone. I do not like to be talked about." He never voluntarily referred to it. But of the wound then received Sir Bartle Frere writes in an obituary notice before the Royal Geographical Society: "For thirty years afterward all adventures and exposures and hardships were undertaken with an arm so maimed that it was painful to raise a fowling-piece to his shoulder." In putting up a new mission station he broke it over again, but barely mentioned the fact. Thirty years afterward—after his remains had been carried one thousand miles to the coast by faithful African followers, and thence to England, to be deposited in Westminster Abbey among the illustrious dead—a company of royal surgeons identified the body by the scar and compound fracture made by the lion's teeth.
Four years he toiled on alone, putting aside all thoughts of matrimony; but at last, in 1844, he writes: "After nearly four years of African life as a bachelor I screwed up courage to put a question beneath one of the fruit trees, the result of which is that I became united in marriage to Mr. Moffat's eldest daughter, Mary." The young couple spent their first year at Mabotsa; then on to Chonuane, forty miles north. "The chief, Sechele, here was his first convert, and in a few weeks was able to read the Bible, his favorite book being Isaiah. 'He was a fine man, that Isaiah; he knew how to speak.'" In his newborn zeal Sechele proposed summary methods of conversion. "Do you think you can make my people believe by talking to them?" he urged. "I can make them do nothing except by thrashing them, and if you like I shall call my headman, and with our whips of rhinoceros hide we will soon make them all believe together." This offer was declined, and Sechele soon began to understand Livingstone's spirit and to adopt his methods, though their apparent failure grieved him sorely. He began family worship in his house, and surprised Livingstone by the simple and beautiful style in which he conducted it; but except his own family no one attended. "In former times," he complained, " if a chief was fond of hunting, all his people got dogs and became fond of hunting, too. If he loved beer, they all rejoiced in strong drink. But now it is different. I love the word of God, but not one of my brethren will join me."
After a time they go still farther north, to Kolobeng. Livingstone is never idle. He gathers information, heals the sick, and tells the natives of Jesus, ending every article, every letter, and every prayer with the words, "Who will penetrate Africa?" He hears of a doctrinal controversy going on at home, and it makes him sick at heart to know that millions perish while well-fed brethren split theological hairs. He gains few converts, but only reports the actual number, saying that five good ones are better than fifty poor ones, though fifty sounds better in the statistics.
At this period his brother Charles came to America to secure an education that he might be a missionary. He had not money enough to get it in England. He landed in New York with ten dollars, where he bought a loaf of bread and a piece of cheese and started for Oberlin College.
In 1849 Livingstone discovered Lake N'gami, the first European to look upon its waters. But at once he declared that the discovery was a part of the enterprise for Christ's kingdom, and would open the way into the interior. He never forgot the "smoke of the thousand villages." Discovering lakes and exploring new tracts were only means to ends. In 1850 one of his children, a babe six weeks old, died. A little later Charles proposed to him to come to America and settle, which brought forth the famous declaration: "I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had an only Son and he was a missionary and a physician. I am a poor, poor imitation of him, or wish to be. In this service I hope to live, in it I wish to die." But this missionary physician had the plans and visions of a statesman. The slave trade fairly froze his blood. He set aside small plans for large ones. He saw the traffic in human beings intrenched from coast to coast. He felt that a path must be opened across the continent from east to west so that lawful commerce and Christian civilization could enter. Men at home, men who had never seen a mission field, the men who always know at a distance far more than the man on the ground—these men complained. They styled Livingstone's efforts as "wanderings." They wanted him to settle down, to teach, to train a few souls. He knew that to be a noble work, but not his at that time. He writes to his father: "The conversion of a few cannot be put into the scale against the truth spread over the whole country." The word "wandering," he said, contained a lie like a serpent coiled up on its bosom.
On April 23, 1852, Mrs. Livingstone and the four children started for England. It was a very great trial to them all, but it was necessary. The children could not be educated in that heathen land. But Livingstone spoke two or three sentences in connection with this event which ought to be written in letters of light before all managers of missions and missionaries. These are the sentences: "Missionaries expose their children to a contamination which they have had no hand in producing. We expose them and ourselves for a time in order to elevate those sad captives of sin and Satan who are the victims of the degradation of ages. None of those who complain about missionaries sending their children home ever descend to this. The mark of Cain is on your foreheads, your father is a missionary. Our children ought to have both the sympathies and prayers of those at whose bidding we become strangers for life."
David and Mary Livingstone consecrated themselves to the redemption of Africa, her consecration being as true and as willing as his. The separation was as painful for her as for him. She had no enjoyment in England with her noble husband in Africa. And yet they said, if merchants, explorers, and seamen could separate from their families for years for love of gain, could not they endure as much for Christ? There were those, most of them comfortable souls sitting at home, who said that this separation was for the mutual pleasure of this heroic pair; that Africa was more agreeable to David with Mary in England, and England more attractive for her with the doctor in Africa. Listen to one of his letters:
"MY DEAREST MARY: How I miss you now, and the children ! My heart yearns incessantly over you. How many thoughts of the past crowd into my mind! I feel as if I could treat you all much more tenderly and lovingly than ever. You have been a great blessing to me. You attended to my comfort in many, many ways. May God bless you for all your kindnesses! I see no face now to be compared with that sunburnt one which has so often greeted me with its kind looks. Let us do our duty to our Saviour, and we shall meet again. I wish that time were now. You may read the letters over again which I wrote at Mabotsa, the sweet time you know. As I told you before I tell you again, they are true, true; there is not a bit of hypocrisy in them. I never show all my feelings; but I can say truly, my dearest, that I loved you when I married you, and the longer I lived with you I loved you the better... Let us do our duty to Christ, and he will bring us through the world with honor and usefulness. He is our refuge and high tower; let us trust in him at all times and in all circumstances. Love him more and more, and diffuse his love among the children. Take them all around you and kiss them for me. Tell them I have left them for the love of Jesus, and they must love him too, and avoid sin, for that displeases Jesus. I shall be delighted to hear of you all safe in England..."
Being left thus alone, he turned his face toward the interior, visited numerous tribes, preached everywhere, went alone, carrying neither purse nor scrip; living on what he found or what was given to him, walking or sleeping in the midst of hostile tribes in absolute fearlessness. Part of the country was flooded, and the travelers had to wade all day, forcing their way through sharp-bladed reeds, with hands all raw and bloody, emerging with knees, hands, and face cut and bleeding. It required all his tact and power to prevent the guides and servants from deserting him. Every one but himself was attacked with a fever, and he writes: "I would like to devote a portion of my life to the discovery of a remedy for this terrible disease." At last he was smitten down, and we find in his journal: "Am I on my way to die in the Sebituanes country? Have I seen the end of my wife and children? O Jesus, fill me with thy love now, and I beseech thee accept me and use me a little for thy glory. I have done nothing for thee yet, and I would like to do something."
Then some of the missionaries in South Africa accused him of worldly ambition. They said that he was sinking the missionary in the explorer. But this is what he writes about it:
"The natives listen, but never suppose the truth must be embodied in actual life. ...A minister who had not seen so much pioneer service as I have done would have been shocked to see so little effect produced... We can afford to work in faith... When we view the state of the world and its advancing energies by childlike—or call it childish—faith we see the earth filling with the knowledge of the glory of God—aye, all nations seeing his glory and bowing before Him whose right it is to reign. We work toward another state of things. Future missionaries will be rewarded by conversions for every sermon. We are their pioneers. They will, doubtless, have more light than we, but we served our Master earnestly and proclaimed the same Gospel they will do."
And again he writes: "I place no value on anything I have or possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. It is not the encountering of difficulties and dangers in obedience to inward spiritual promptings which constitutes tempting Providence, but the acting without faith, proceeding on our own errands with no previous convictions of duty and no prayer for aid and direction. Help me, Thou who knowest my frame and pitiest me as a father!"
His whole mind was set to find a way to the west coast. He knew that the attempt was in the nature of a forlorn hope, but still it was worth trying. He wrote: "Can not the love of Christ carry the missionary where the slave trade carries the trader? I shall open up a path to the interior or perish." Now, it does not matter very much what the world says or thinks of a man with that spirit. For years he saw no white face. For years he lived alone in the heart of the Dark Continent; battled with polygamy, with cannibalism, incest, and slavery, and with every conceivable form of detestable sin. But the difficulties of this journey to the west coast did not discourage him. He calmly made up his mind that he was as like as not to die on that journey, so he made his will, and this is what he says :
"May Christ accept my children for his service, and sanctify them for it! My blessing on my wife. May God comfort her! If my watch comes back after I am cut off it belongs to Agnes ; if my sextant, it is Robert's; the Paris medal to Thomas, and the double-barreled gun to Zouza. Be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow, for Jesus' sake. The Boers, by taking possession of all my goods, have saved me the trouble of making a will."
On November 11, 1853, he left Linyanti, almost in the center of lower Africa, and seven months later arrived at St. Paul de Loanda, on the west coast. There is no way to describe this journey. It is full of incident. But the most impressive thing about it all was the horrors of the slave trade as witnessed on this long journey. Every day he saw families torn asunder, dead bodies along the way, gangs chained and yoked, skeletons grinning against the trees and by the roadside. As he rowed along on the river Shiré the paddles of his boat were clogged in the morning with the bodies of women and children who had died in the slave-chained gangs and been thrown into the river at night. The air was thick with vultures following them. He counted bodies in the stream by the score as they came floating down. He found the horrible system intrenched from the center of the continent to the coast. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that he felt that the exposure of this gigantic iniquity must be his principal work. So he writes to his father that he cannot settle down to teach and train and turn a few souls to Christ. The conversion of a few cannot be put into the scale against the truth spread over the whole country. This lonely missionary opening up a highway across the continent for commerce, for civilization, for the Gospel, rose to the stature of a statesman. Beautiful incidents occurred on this trip showing the devotion of his men. Listen: "Some of my men proposed to return home, and the prospect of being obliged to turn back from the threshold of the Portuguese settlements distressed me exceedingly. After using all my powers of persuasion I declared that if they now returned I should go on alone, and, returning into my little tent, I lifted up my heart to Him who hears the sighing of the soul. Presently the headman came in. 'Do not be disheartened,' he said; 'we will never leave you. Wherever you lead we will follow. Our remarks were only made on account of the injustice of these people.' Others followed, and with the most artless simplicity of manner told me to be comforted— 'they were all my children; they knew no one but Sekeletu and me, and would die for me; they had spoken in bitterness of spirit, feeling they could do nothing.'"
It was seven months before he finally reached the west coast. The hardships had been incredible. Thirty attacks of fever had so weakened him that he could scarcely mount his ox or hold an instrument for a simple calculation. Once more, near the end, the hearts of his men began to fail, and they hinted their doubts to him, and he said: "If you suspect me you can return, for I am as ignorant of Loanda as you. But nothing will happen to you but happens to me. We have stood by each other hitherto, and will do so until the last." When they reached Loanda Livingstone was poor and ragged, a skeleton, almost consumed with dysentery and famine. It seemed for weeks that he could see nothing but visions of naked men with spears and clubs, bodies of slaves dead and dying, pestilence walking at noonday, destruction wasting at midnight, a land covered with skeletons, preyed on by fever, looted by the slave driver, appealing hands everywhere, and no deliverer, no physician.
When he reached the coast a Portuguese gentleman gave him a suit of clothes, and Livingstone blessed him in the name of Him who said, "I was naked, and ye clothed me." Dr. Gabriel, the English commissioner for the suppression of the slave trade, received him with the utmost kindness, giving him his own bed, of which Livingstone said: "Never shall I forget the luxurious pleasure I enjoyed in feeling myself again on a good English bed after six months' sleeping on the ground." And yet great disappointment awaited him here. There were no letters from home, no tidings from family or friends. An English vessel lay in the harbor and a berth was offered him. No one would have complained if he had accepted the opportunity to go home. He prepared his journals, made reports and observations, put them aboard the Forerunner, turned his back on the ship and let it set sail. The ship was lost off Madeira, and all her passengers perished but one. Of course, all Livingstone's papers were lost. Upon hearing of it he stopped, reproduced his dispatches and maps. It was like Carlyle's rewriting his French Revolution after its destruction in Mill's household. Why did he not go home? He had promised the natives that he would see them home. He had pledged his word to Sekeletu. that he would return with the men, and his word to the black men of Africa was just as sacred as it would have been if pledged to the queen. He kept it as faithfully as an oath made to Almighty God. It involved a journey nearly two years in length, a line of march two thousand miles long, through jungles, swamps, and desert, through scenes of surpassing beauty. But it was two years from that day before he came out on the east coast at Quilimane, and from this time he was the best known, best loved, and most perfectly trusted man in Africa. Everywhere and every day he had preached. He had healed the sick of their diseases. He had discovered the Victoria Falls and the two magnificent ranges which were free from the fever and the fly. At the junction of the Loangwa and Zambezi rivers he thought that his end had come, and he writes in his diary, ''O Jesus, grant me reliance on thy powerful hand and resignation to thy will." Then, thinking of home and of what he might say if he could get back to England, he adds: "But wilt thou not permit me to plead for Africa? See, Lord, how the heathen rise up against me, as against thy Son. A guilty, weak, and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall." Then the Scotch pluck asserts itself, and he writes: "Should such a man as I flee! Nay, verily, I shall take observations of latitude and longitude to-night, though they be my last. I feel quite calm now, thank God. O Lord, remember me and thy cause in Africa." And from the perils of this day the Lord delivered him, and he was able to make his report, transmitting to the London societies a map of Central Africa, a map of the highest value.
At this very time Sir Roderick Murchison writes him of the honor paid him by the Royal Geographical Society for the greatest triumph in geographical research effected in our times, and tells him why the society has conferred its gold medal upon him. But the heart of the doctor is larger than the heart of the explorer, and his chief human joy was that he had discovered what he believed to be a remedy for the deadly fever.
It was now sixteen years since he had left England, and there was no reason why he should not return. So, on the 9th of December, 1856, he reached his home once more, and found himself almost the most famous man in London. Honors poured upon him enough to turn a man's head. The Royal Society held a special meeting of welcome. He was introduced as the man who had traveled over eleven thousand miles of African ground, had done incalculable service in the way of exploration, had opened a whole world of immortal souls to the Gospel, and had glorified the British name by faithfully keeping his word to the black men to whom he had given it. Mrs. Livingstone stood by his side, and Lord Shaftesbury paid her equal tribute with her husband, and all England said Amen. Livingstone was presented to the royal family, and honored with the freedom of London. Everywhere the most distinguished honors were paid him. He remained in England less than two years, working night and day upon his books, dedicating the profits immediately to the cause of opening Africa. But all the time he was thinking, not of England, but of the Dark Continent. He said of himself and his wife, "Whoever stays, we will go." He had further plans of exploration. "But always," as he writes, "the end of the exploration is the beginning of the enterprise." His own country—Scotland—honored him with the freedom of its cities. Its universities gave him their highest degrees. There were public receptions and a public testimonial. There were farewell meetings, attended by nobles and scholars, and at last, as he started away, Sir Roderick Murchison said ;" Notwithstanding months of laudation and a shower of all university honors, he is the same honest, true-hearted David Livingstone as when he came forth from the wilds of Africa." At Cambridge he delivered a memorable address, in which he said: "It is deplorable to think that one of the noblest of our missionary bodies, the Church Missionary Society, is compelled to send to Germany for missionaries. The sort of men who are wanted for missionaries are such as I see before me. I beg to direct your attention to Africa. I know that in a few years I shall be cut off in that country which is now open. Do not let it be shut again. I go back to Africa to try to open a path for commerce and Christianity. Do you carry out the work which I have begun. I leave it with you."
Sixteen months he remained at home, and went away with the net result of his visit, as was said at the farewell dinner, that he had found Africa the Dark Continent, and left it the most interesting part of the globe to Englishmen. He went back as the queen's consul, wearing the gold band about his cap, but he went once more for the same old enterprise. A public reception was given him at Cape Town, where six years before they had hated him. In 1858 he explored the Zambezi, in '59 the Shiré, in '60 he discovered Lake Nyassa, and in '61 he explored the river Rovuma. He established the sites of mission stations, preached constantly, and carried on a religious and scientific correspondence with the leading societies of England. His purpose, recorded away back at the beginning, grew stronger rather than weaker. In 1862 he preached to the tribes on the shores of Lake Nyassa. He found that twenty thousand slaves were dragged from that region alone and sold at Zanzibar, and he learned that as many more were cruelly murdered. His letters thrilled the civilized world as he exposed the iniquity of this horrid traffic.
Mrs. Livingstone returned to Scotland in 1859, placed the children in school, and in 1862 rejoined her husband in Africa. For the Dark Continent they intended to live and die together, but less than six months after her return her health gave way, and on the banks of the Shiré the daughter of Robert Moffat, the wife of David Livingstone, lay down to her everlasting rest. Then the man who had never feared the face of beast or foe, who had faced death countless times, cried out like a stricken child, "For the first time in my life I want to die." The body of Mary Livingstone was buried under a baobab tree at Shupanga. But Livingstone's work was not done. Even grief must not hinder him from doing it. He must penetrate to the fountains of the Nile, and he must break up the infamous slave trade. In 1864 he returned to London again, with two objects in view: the exposure of the slave trade, and the securing of means with which to open a new mission above the Portuguese lines. On the first of August, 1864, he was with his mother and children at Hamilton. Only his eldest boy, Robert, a boy of eighteen, was absent. The boy had gone to Natal in the hope of reaching his father. Failing in that, he had crossed to America, enlisted in the Federal army, had been badly wounded, taken prisoner, died at last in the hospital, and was buried in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. There is something very fitting in all that. The father was giving his life for the perfect liberty of the black man in the Dark Continent; the boy giving his for the liberty of the black man and the integrity of the nation, and was buried at last in the spot over which sounded Lincoln's immortal words.
Livingstone was everywhere received with the highest honors. He was with the Turkish ambassador when the crowd cheered, and Livingstone said, "These cheers are for you." And the ambassador replied, "No, I am only what my master made me; you are what you made yourself." Back again after a few months in 1866, he reached the African coast, ascended the Rovuma, disappeared for three years, visited Lakes Meroë and Tanganyika. Meantime he preached the Gospel to thousands and tens of thousands. He still found the villages of which Moffat had spoken to him years before, where the name of Jesus had never been spoken. And this was his faith: "It is a mistake to suppose that God is too exalted to notice our smallest affairs. A general attends to the smallest details of his army. A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without your Father. With his ever-loving eye upon me I may truly go to the front with the message of peace and good will." The Portuguese intercepted his letters and cut off his supplies. He writes that he is near the source of the Nile, and possibly in the wilderness where Moses once was.
In 1871 his strength utterly failed. His feet ulcerated, his teeth came out, he lay in his low hut for eighty days, and read his Bible four times through. He writes upon the fly leaf, "No letters for three years. I have a sore longing to finish and go home, if God wills." Relief, letters, and supplies had all been sent to him, but he never received them. Many of the letters that he wrote never reached their destination. But he had accomplished his purpose. He had exposed the slave trade. In 1871 he reached Ujiji, a worn, exhausted, skeleton of a man. The world had not heard from him for years, and the anxious question everywhere was, " Is he dead or alive?" The Royal Society sent out a search expedition.
One day Henry M. Stanley was sitting at a hotel in Madrid, when a telegram was handed to him which read: "Come to Paris on important business. Bennett." On his arrival Mr. Bennett said, "Where do you think Livingstone is?" The correspondent could not tell—could not tell whether he was alive, of course. "Well," said Mr. Bennett, "I think he is alive and that he may be found, and I am going to send you to find him." And this was the order: "Take what money you want, but find Livingstone." In January, 1871, Stanley reached Zanzibar, and began to organize his expedition. For eleven months this determined man went on through incredible hardships. He coaxed the weary, whipped the stubborn. The feet of some were bleeding from thorns; others fell by the way, but on they went. Once in his journey Stanley wrote: "No living man shall stop me. Only death can prevent me; but death—not even this. I shall not die; I will not die; I cannot die. Something tells me I shall find him. And write it larger, find him, FIND HIM! Even the words are inspiring. One day a caravan passed and reported that a white man had just reached Ujiji. Stanley's heart thumped as he asked them, "Was he young or old?" "He is old; he has white hair on his face; he is sick." So Stanley pushed on night and day until they came in sight of Ujiji. "Unfurl the flags and load the guns," said Stanley, his nerves quivering with excitement. And the flags floated out, and the guns thundered over the plain. And they were answered by hundreds of Africans with shouts. Suddenly Stanley heard a voice say, in good English, "Good morning, sir." He was startled, and asked abruptly, "Who the mischief are you?" "I am Susi, the servant of Dr. Livingstone." Then a thrill went through Stanley's soul, and all the fatigues and the perils of that year were forgotten. Let Stanley tell the story himself:
"First his two servants appeared; by and by the doctor. As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band around it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of gray tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward; would have embraced him, only did not know how he would receive me. So I did what cowardice and false pride suggested, walked deliberately to him, took off my hat and said, 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?' ''Yes,' said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap. I replaced my hat, he his cap, and we grasped hands. And I said, 'I thank God I am permitted to see you,' and he answered, 'I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.'"
Of course Stanley was supplied with all that the good man needed. He brought Livingstone letters for which he had patiently waited for years. He brought him news. It was two full years since Livingstone had heard anything from Europe. The coming of Stanley revived Livingstone's spirits.
Stanley remained with him for months. The correspondent of the New York Herald took his first lessons in exploration at the hands of the master. He grew into enthusiasm and hero worship. He wrote: "You may take any point in Dr. Livingstone's character and analyze it carefully, and I will challenge any man to find a fault in it." And he had discovered Livingstone's secret. "His religion," he writes, "is a constant, earnest, sincere practice. It is neither demonstrative nor loud, but manifests itself in a quiet, practical way, and is always at work. In him religion exhibits its loveliest features; it governs his conduct, not only toward his servants, but toward the natives, the bigoted Mohammedans, and all who come in contact with him. Without it Livingstone, with his ardent temperament, his enthusiasm, his high spirit and courage, must have been uncompanionable and a hard master. Religion has tamed him and made him a Christian gentleman, the most companionable of men and indulgent of masters." Stanley received and mastered a true lesson in the treatment of natives. He tried to induce the doctor to go home with him. But Livingstone's heart was resolute. The old explorer set his face as a flint. He did not feel that his work was done. Stanley started eastward, and the old man in the gray clothes, with bended head and slow steps, returned to his solitude. "I took one more look at him," said Stanley. "He was standing near the gate of Kwihaha, with his servants near him. I waved my handkerchief to him, and he responded by lifting his cap." This was Livingstone's last sight of a white man. The old world has borne on her surface few nobler or more pathetic figures since time began.
In 1872, March 19, he writes: "My birthday! My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All! I again dedicate my whole self to thee. Accept me. And grant, O gracious Father, that ere this year is gone I may finish my work. In Jesus's name I ask it. Amen."
May 1, he writes: "Finished a letter to the New York Herald to elicit American zeal to stop the east coast slave trade. I pray for a blessing upon it from the All-Gracious." The last sentence of this letter is the one finally inscribed on Livingstone's tomb. All I can add in my loneliness," it runs, "is, May Heaven's rich blessing come down on everyone—American, English, Turk—who will help to heal this open sore of the world!"
Weary months followed—months of plans, of travels, of toils, of hardships—and the last of April, 1873, a year after Stanley had left him, he had reached the village of Ilala, at the southern end of Lake Bangweolo. He had made his observations and written his journal carefully; had drawn maps and given his orders. The heroic spirit was still struggling to finish the heroic work. But on the morning of the first of May, 1873, at four o'clock, the boy who lay at his door called in alarm for Susi, fearing their master was dead. "By the candle still burning they saw him, not in bed, but kneeling at the bedside with his head buried in his hands upon the pillow. The sad yet not unexpected truth soon became evident; he had passed away without a single attendant on the farthest of all his journeys. But he had died in the act of prayer—prayer offered in that reverential attitude about which he was always so particular; commending his own spirit, with all his dear ones, as was his wont, into the hands of his Saviour; and commending Africa—his own dear Africa—with all her woes and sins and wrongs, to the Avenger of the oppressed and the Redeemer of the lost."
The behavior of his African servants after his death is beyond all praise. First, they removed and buried his heart. Then they dried his body in the sun, wrapped it in cloths, lashed it to a pole, and set out on their homeward march. It was a weary journey; exposures, sickness, oppositions, all combined to make it difficult. Nine weary months tested their steadfastness and devotion, and on Saturday, April 18, 1874, nearly a year after his death, the remains of the great missionary were committed to their resting place in Westminster Abbey. The black slab that marks the end of the pilgrimage bears this inscription:
Brought by Faithful Hands
Over Land and Sea,
Missionary, Traveler, Philanthropist,
Born March 19, 1813,
At Blantyre, Lanarkshire.
Died May 1, 1873,
At Chitambo's Village, Ilala.
For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, and abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa, and where, with his last words, he wrote:
"All I can add in my loneliness is, May Heaven's rich blessing come down on everyone—American, English, Turk—who will help to heal this open sore of the world."
The tributes are all of a kind. This from Sir Bartle Frere will answer as a specimen of all the rest:
"As a whole, the work of his life will surely be held up in ages to come as one of singular nobleness of design and of unflinching energy and self-sacrifice in execution. It will be long ere any one man will be able to open so large an extent of unknown land to civilized mankind; yet longer, perhaps, ere we find a brighter example of a life of such continued and useful self-devotion to a noble cause. I could hardly venture to describe my estimate of his character as a Christian, further than by saying that I never met a man who fulfilled more completely my idea of a perfect Christian gentleman, actuated in what he thought and said and did by the highest and most chivalrous spirit, modeled on the precepts of his great Master and Exemplar."
His heart lies buried under the tree in Ilala, his bones in Westminster Abbey; but "the end of the exploration is the beginning of the enterprise," and his life goes steadily on. Long ago Melville B. Cox wrote: "Though a thousand die, let not Africa be given up." And that word, with Livingstone's last prayer there, is as quick and powerful in the Church as it has ever been. Such men as Livingstone constitute Christianity's last answer to heathenism. Christianity makes such men as this. This is why it is worth while to send Christianity to all the world. But Christianity must go in the person of such men as this. It is said that the Protestant Church is liberal in its use of Bibles, and the Roman Catholic Church liberal in its use of men. The Church which shall redeem Africa must be liberal with both. We must send our men, living epistles, with the open book in their hands. The methods of Livingstone and the spirit of Livingstone have perpetual value for the evangelization of that Dark Continent. In Stanley's great address before the Methodist preachers of New York he used these words:
"Now, cast your eye at the south part of Africa. There the European has come, and he is spreading his beliefs and his creeds and his religion in like manner, and introducing his system of civilization; and they are advancing steadily and slowly toward the equatorial region, until by and by they are arrested in like manner as they come under the influence of the Zambezi. But one bold man, a missionary, left the ranks of those who were pressing on toward the north, and pushed on and on until he came to the Zambezi. He felt that influence, but, undaunted, he pressed on and crossed Africa to St. Paul de Loanda. He returned again with his native followers to Linyanti, and the chief of the Makololo gave him permission to take them to the seacoast. The faithful natives of inner Africa waited for the return of their master near the banks of the Zambezi, close to the sea. Livingstone went home, received due honor for what he had done, and returned to Africa. He took up his march back, and made journeys, and finally died in Ilala, at the southern end of Lake Bangweolo. But if you look at the illustration of his route you will see that it is the rude figure of the cross. And now you may be able to draw the moral point I have to tell you. You have asked me what have been the causes of missionaries being imperiled. Wherever that good man went he was received. A few rejected him, but the majority listened to him calmly and kindly, and some of them felt quite ready to be of his profession and. of his belief. But the words that he dropped were similar to those of the angels heard over Bethlehem, 'Peace on earth, good will to men.' On the other hand, in northern Africa it was an attempt to invade by violence, and it failed, and there was not one that had the courage to step out of the ranks and press on. They returned. But this lone missionary pressed on and on until he had drawn the rude figure of a cross on the southern continent of Africa, and then he said with his dying words: 'All I can add in my loneliness is, May Heaven's rich blessing come down on everyone—American, English, Turk—who will help to heal this open sore of the world.' And the 'cross turns not back.' The open sore will be healed. Africa will be redeemed."
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Picket Line of Missions by W. F McDowell...[et al.]. New York: Eaton & Mains, 1897.
More Information on David Livingstone
Missionary Biographies Index