Wholesome Words Home
Missionary Biographies

David Livingstone

by Harry C. Howard

David LivingstoneOut of the Scottish Highlands there came a lad who through the high and heroic endeavor of his life has moved the world to a deeper devotion to Christ and stirred it to an intenser zeal for the cause of Christian missions.

That lad was David Livingstone, born at Blantyre, on the Clyde, March 19, 1813. He came into the home of "poor and pious parents," as he himself insisted on saying on the tombstone erected to their memory; and both their poverty and their piety conferred their blessings on this their chosen child.

He had the benefit of such schools as the village could furnish until at the still tender age of ten he was put to work in the cotton mills. In the mills he mingled study with his toils, snatching such brief intervals of time for application to the book which he spread before him on the machinery as might be secured from the heavy demands of his task. In the evenings at home, and in a night school which he attended for a while, his books were still his pursuit. Often at midnight, and later, his mother would be obliged to force his books from his hands, and send him off to bed; for she could not forget that again at six in the morning a boyish shadow must fall across the threshold of the factory door.

The hard and monotonous toil of the mills Livingstone never regretted. He reckoned it rather as a valued part of his education. At the height of his greatness he was still a simpleminded man, and rejoiced in his fellowship with the common people.

Thou dost look back on what hath been,
  As some divinely gifted man,
  Whose life in low estate began,
And on a simple village green.

"Open a Path ... or Perish"

When Livingstone's life began to broaden, it broadened in the missionary direction. As a child he had earnest thoughts on religion. But he was not converted until about his twentieth year, when, on reading Dick's Philosophy of a Future State, he saw "the duty and the inestimable privilege immediately to accept salvation by Christ." In this, as in all the other great affairs of his life, he acted with promptness and decision. He had not yet thought of being a missionary himself; but had resolved to give to the support of missions all he could earn above his necessary subsistence. Then there fell into his hands a German missionary's appeal for China, and he laid his life on the altar, not for China's redemption, as he thought, but for Africa's. There now began that struggle for an education and for the necessary missionary preparation which only poverty can impose, and which only those who have fought with poverty over every step of the ground know how to estimate. First at Glasgow, seven miles away, whence he returned on Saturday evenings to the family at Blantyre, and then in London, he pursued his studies, mainly medical, until the London Missionary Society, which had accepted him for service, judged him to be ready to go out.

In 1839 Robert Moffat, himself a Scotchman of the straitest sect, came to England from heroic missionary service in Africa, and he and Livingstone met, their spirits never afterwards to be severed. England's opium war was on with China, and Livingstone, through Moffat's influence, was turned aside from China to Africa.

Acting under the direction of the Society that sent him out, he sailed from England on the eighth day of December, 1840. He was to proceed to Kuruman, the home of the Moffats in South Africa, and there await further orders. He could wait for orders, but he could not wait for work. He arrived at Kuruman, after the journey up from the south coast, on July 31, 1841, having before him an almost wholly undetermined sphere of labor. He was to have a station somewhere to the north. Not even the angels of God knew whither his course should lie. At that time the red lines now seen on the maps of Africa indicating his journeys could be traced only by that Eye which sees the end from the beginning.

Two wasted years pass away, and he is still waiting for instructions from the Directors in London as to his permanent quarters. But the hesitation and delay are theirs, not his. He has put himself at their disposal "to go anywhere -- provided it be forward." And yet the years are not wasted, for he labors about Kuruman. And before the end of his first year on the field, a journey of seven hundred miles, taken on his own responsibility, was performed, leading to a fuller knowledge of the country, a better knowledge of the natives, and to the selection of what he hoped would be the site for a station. Early the next year he goes again among these natives of the interior, in fulfillment of a promise he had made them on his first journey. On a third journey he traveled more than four hundred miles on oxback. Coming again to Kuruman, he found a letter from the Directors of the Society authorizing the formation of a settlement in the regions beyond. And those very terms, "regions beyond," had the sound of a trumpet in Livingstone's ears. Give him that commission, and he will go.

Mabotsa became his first station. Here he had the memorable encounter with the lion which came near to ending his career, and which gave him a limp and weakened arm for the rest of his life. And yet it was the marks of this encounter which led to the indisputable identification of his body when his last journey out of Africa ended in England. He had gone out with the natives to chase a lion which had that morning been destroying their sheep. The lion had been wounded, and sprang furiously upon him out of a thicket, throwing him to the ground and breaking a bone in his shoulder. When in a moment more a blow from the lion's paw, which was already on his head, must have left him dead, a shot from the rifle of Livingstone's native attendant drew the lion away to an attack upon this native himself, and then upon another, until, the previous shots having taken effect, he fell down dead.

Another event of his Mabotsa life was to him of more deeply surpassing interest than even his encounter with the lion. Thither in the sweet autumn days of 1844 [1845] he brought Mary Moffat, a blushing bride. It was a romance in the forest, and as sweet a love story as ever was told.

Amid all these experiences, grave and merry, perilous and felicitous, his work engaged his diligent and unremitting effort. Mabotsa, however, he felt obliged to leave, at a great sacrifice to himself, because of a disagreeable and unreasonable associate in the work.

He settled next at Chonuane, about forty miles from Mabotsa, where his stay was of short continuance because the want of rain made both agriculture and the mission impossible.

His third station was Kolobeng, situated on a river of the same name, where again he failed in making a permanent settlement because of the lack of rain. This time the river itself dried up. At Kolobeng they left their first dead in a lonely African grave, a little blue-eyed baby girl who had been seized by a dread disease and carried away at the age of six weeks. It was the first grave in all the dark country around them on which there shone the light of a confessed hope in the resurrection of the dead.

Livingstone now set out for the country of Sebituane, an influential chief of whom he had heard, toward the north. On this journey he discovered the large lake 'Ngami and the river Zouga, and his fame as an explorer began to be secure. Already his success as an explorer was attributed to his influence as a missionary; for this very journey had baffled the best-equipped travelers before him. He failed at this time, however, to accomplish the direct object of his journey.

Holding Kolobeng still as his base, he made his third attempt, and reached the country of Sebituane in 1851. He and Oswell, an English hunter and traveler, who proved in many ways a most valued friend of Livingstone's, proceeded still farther northward, passed through the town of Linyanti, and on the third of August discovered the Zambesi River. This great river was of course known at the coast where it emptied into the sea; but its existence in this locality was not known, and its discovery by Livingstone was one of the greatest geographical feats with which his name is connected.

Still no suitable locality for a station was found. There must be further journeying; and he turned back again toward the south, though not to rest there. The interior of Africa had lifted up her voice in his ears, and it never died out. "Providence," said he, "seems to call me to the regions beyond." There is in Jack London's "Call of the Wild" the story of the great dog, Buck. This noble dog had many adventures with his master until at last they came to the edge of the great and lonely forests where the wolves have their habitat. With these wild creatures of the wilderness the dog became more and more familiar, and his aboriginal kinship to them more and more asserted itself. For days at a time his master would miss him. At last the clear and overmastering call of the wild asserted itself, and the great dog galloped away with the wolves into the wilderness. Out of the far-away darkness of Africa David Livingstone heard calling him the deep voice of the aboriginal kinsmanship of mankind, and he went to help his enslaved and benighted brother. He had resolved to "open a path through the country, or perish."

At this time the slave trade in its unspeakable horrors had begun to take a relentless grasp on his soul. Through these deep forests he met gangs of slaves being driven like beasts to the coasts. He traveled through great valleys strewn with their bones. Their skulls, all the more for the want of eyes, stared upon him from the hillsides. Their dead bodies floated past him in the rivers. When they anchored their boats overnight in the streams, they had to disengage their oars from the dead before they could proceed on their way in the morning. Nineteen thousand slaves from the Nyassa region alone passed under the customs in Zanzibar in a single year. He would rather see the "Nyassa" -- intended for the navigation of the lake of the same name, but which he could never bring to the place -- "go down to the depths of the Indian Ocean," than sell her for a slaver, much as he needed the money. Well might there have been preserved in memorial marble in Westminster Abbey his words to the New York Herald: "All I can say in my solitude is, May heaven's richest blessing come down on every one -- American, English, Turk -- who will help to heal this open sore of the world!"

"In Journeyings Often"

In the spring of 1852, Livingstone came down to Cape Town and sent Mrs. Livingstone and the children, now numbering four, for the better care of all of them, and especially for the education of the children, to England. A year later Livingstone had returned far into the interior; and having searched in vain for a suitable location for permanent work, he began to prepare for his famous journey from Linyanti, in the central portion of the country he had been traveling, to Loanda on the west coast. This journey occupied him from November 11, 1853, to May 31, 1854, and afforded the characteristic accompaniments and incidents of his African traveling. He was accompanied by none but natives. Oxen were his means of travel. They must ford many rivers, these often swollen to a flood, and wade innumerable marshes. Their food supply, and other equipment for comfort and safety, was pitifully insufficient. They must pass through savage tribes and encounter many a hostile frown when they came to where white traders had been before them. The temperature was above ninety degrees in the shade; Livingstone was often ill with a burning fever; and there were scenes of savagery, slavery, and death on every hand. He brought his twenty-seven followers to Loanda and rested on an English bed after six months on the fever-breeding ground, but found not what he most longed for -- letters from the loved ones beyond the seas.

They wanted him to go to England. An English ship was in the harbor. Beyond the waves that washed these shores were wife and children, and the greetings of the nation that folded in her flag his devoted life. How often he had been ill! What tongueless sufferings he had borne! But the men who had come with him had to return, and they could not make the journey alone. Without knowing it, he sets them the example that shall bring his own body down to the sea on the other side of the continent when he is dead. He goes with these black men back to Linyanti. He left Loanda in September of the year he had reached it, having tarried beyond his time, as he said in a letter to his wife, "in longing expectation of a letter from you."

He was not satisfied with the results this journey had yielded in prospective trade routes, and otherwise; and he resolves, on his return to Linyanti, which he does not reach until nearly a year after leaving Loanda, that he will try the direction toward the east coast. He sets out and reaches Quilimane, not far from the mouth of the Zambesi, May 20, 1856. On this journey he discovered the famous falls of the Zambesi River, and named them after England's great Queen, Victoria. This is one of the grandest waterfalls in the world.

From Quilimane he returned to England, after an absence of sixteen years. There his renown, grown up unostentatiously and in simple fidelity in Africa, rose up with a universal voice to greet him. But no éclat could spoil his simplicity. Great dinners he despised. He got through them with more difficulty than he found in some of his African journeys. On the details of his multiplied welcome we cannot dwell. He wrote and published his Missionary Travels, which had a great sale. He went up to the University of Glasgow to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. On these occasions the undergraduates had their sport at the expense of the great. Our own Lowell and Holmes had to run this gantlet when they received the University's honors. The boys tried their raillery on Livingstone. They brought in their popguns and pea shooters. But the Doctor came down the aisle wasted and gaunt. He stood before them, his brow burned black by scorching African suns, his veins carrying the torture of twenty-seven African fevers, and the shoulder torn by the lion dropping a limp arm by his side. One or two jokes were cracked, but they "flashed in the pan"; and the pea shooters went away into the depths of the boys' pockets. The man before them was to speak; his lips parted and gave him utterance. He should soon go back to Africa, he said; and in going he should have three objects: "to open fresh fields for British commerce, to suppress the slave trade, and to propagate the gospel of Christ." That great climax fell like the peal of a trumpet on the audience. The meanest boy in the galleries appreciated the relative values expressed, and "caught the contagion of the manly missionary's earnestness." And then he asked: "Shall I tell you what sustained me in my exiled life, among strangers whose language I could not understand?" In the moment's pause that followed the question, there was a deathlike silence, and every heart lifted itself in high expectancy. And then there came, with an effect which could scarcely have been surpassed since they were first uttered in Galilee, the unexpected words of Jesus: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

A Grave Beside the Zambesi

Livingstone now severed his connection with the Missionary Society, and went back to Africa with a government appointment and a moderate government aid. The Directors had some doubt about supporting as a missionary a man who was doing Livingstone's kind of work. As for himself, he would eat no doubtful bread. Besides, the government was interested in many ways in his labors and would profit in all the outcome of his effort. He was made consul at Quilimane, and commander of an expedition for exploring Eastern and Central Africa. This brought him into the country of the Zambesi and Shiré rivers, and led to the discovery of the great Lake Nyassa, around which many of his aims afterwards clung. He beat up and down the rivers and traversed the unknown country for five years with infinite patience and courage. He had no end of trouble with his boats, which had been built for use on the lakes; and early in 1862 he came down the Zambesi to receive the "Lady Nyassa," built in England and shipped out in sections, for use on Lake Nyassa, and to meet Mrs. Livingstone, coming up by sea from the south, whither she had gone when she came back with him from England, to be with the Moffats at Kuruman. Just beyond the shore line in the river those at sea saw in the early morning a little cloud of smoke rising, and very soon, approaching in the smaller boat, they recognized Dr. Livingstone, and the famous gold-laced cap of his African travels. When he landed, a baby girl, who had been in the world almost a year before he learned by letter of her existence, was laid in his arms.

Before three short months could come and go, Mrs. Livingstone was dead at the age of forty-one. But the blight of the African climate had fallen heavily upon her and had sapped away her life thus early. And the loneliness of her separated life in England had been heavier than the vicissitudes of any climate. She went to her grave by the great Zambesi, and forever it sings its mighty requiem of peace to her ashes. That deathbed consisted of only rough boxes covered with a soft mattress -- that deathbed scene it were sacrilege to describe. More than four years afterwards in his journal, and, as if the tenderness of his thoughts carried him back to his childhood home among the Scottish hills, in the Scottish dialect he wrote: "Poor Mary lies on Shupanga brae, 'and beeks fornent the sun."'

He hears that the expedition is to be recalled, and wonders if he is to go on the shelf. "If I do," he says, "I make Africa the shelf." The expedition was recalled, and it was a time of terrible discouragement, bereft as he was now of the aid both of the government and the Society. But he will not go back to England until his going can be connected with the prospect of a return to Africa.

Dark and Bloody Manyuema

But England lies once more in the path of his journeying. He made a trip in the Lady Nyassa across the Indian Ocean to Bombay, which was such an unparalleled performance that it might almost have justified the remark of Charles Francis Adams, that "Livingstone eclipsed Columbus."

In England again, all his plans looked back to Africa. The proposition that he should return to do geographical work brings the answer that he would only go "as a missionary, and do geography by the way." "The end of the geographical feat is only the beginning of the missionary enterprise," he had said long before. And he had not wavered. He wanted to make Africa known and "to bring it into the circuit of commerce and Christianity." He wrote and published his books with this end in view. On this visit to England he wrote and published The Zambesi and Its Tributaries.

On August 8, 1866, he was again at Lake Nyassa. His object in this, his third and last great African journey, was in its comprehensive aspects the same that he had had all along. He would make "another attempt to open Africa to civilizing influences." At the same time, accepting a suggestion made by Sir Roderick Murchison, who had been to him such a steadfast friend, he was taken captive by the idea that he might discover the sources of the Nile in the very country where he was going. The government again affords him aid; so does the Royal Geographical Society. And there were also considerable private gifts.

He left Nyassa and pressed on toward Tanganyika, a larger and more interior lake. Some of his men left him and went to Zanzibar and told a most circumstantial story that he was dead. Meanwhile Livingstone, entirely ignorant of this report and of the commotion it was about to raise in the world, was pushing on, half-starved, into the deeper distance and darkness of the interior. He lost the few goats he had for milk and was reduced to a diet of African maize, as poor and insufficient a means of subsistence as well could be imagined. "His food often consisted of bird seed, manioc roots, and meal." To complete his miseries, he lost his medicine chest, and felt that the sentence of death had been pronounced against him.

Toward the end of the year -- it is now 1867 -- he discovers Lake Moero, and hears of Lake Bangweolo, on the southern shores of which he was to die. On the eighteenth of July, in the next year, he quietly records the discovery of this lake.

From Bangweolo he at last reached Ujiji, far up on Tanganyika, but only to be met there by the bitter disappointment that the goods he expected had been stolen and wasted, and that his medicines and other indispensable supplies were thirteen days distant at Unyanyembe. At this period the extreme dreg of the bitter cup he was obliged to drain was the loss of his letters. Nearly all of them were lost. Difficulties and darkness seemed only to thicken around him.

Nevertheless, he turns his face again toward the wilderness -- a wilderness not for the want of inhabitants and a rich and prodigal output of nature, but a wilderness for the want of civilization. He went now into the dark and troubled Manyuema country, and thought his work might be finished in four or five months. But here he met the most unexampled hardships and difficulties of his life. In making his arrangements for the journey, and in the matter of keeping up any remote sort of connection with civilization, "he was dependent on men who were not only knaves of the first magnitude, but who had a special animosity against him, and a special motive to deceive, rob, and obstruct him in every possible way." The slave traders of Ujiji were the most abominable of that abominable craft. Livingstone said he quite agreed with the sailor who on seeing them said: "If the devil doesn't catch these fellows, we might as well have no devil at all."

In February, 1870, he was obliged to go into winter quarters in the woods about one hundred and fifty miles northwest of Ujiji; and when he set out again on the twenty-sixth of June, there were with him only the three faithful attendants, Susi, Chuma, and Gardner. The difficulties of the way were terrible. His feet, though often bruised and sore, were now in a worse condition than ever before; and he was at last compelled to desist, and to limp back to Bambarré, the village of the chief of the Manyuema. country, which he did not leave until February, 1871. How tediously, and yet how quickly, a year had gone by!

"Probably no human being," says Dr. Blaikie in his noble biography, "was ever in circumstances parallel to those in which Livingstone now stood." Years had passed while his letters from home had been scattered as so much waste in the wilderness. His mother tongue came to his lonely ears only in the broken speech of the humble natives who attended him. Or again perchance it reached him in the sound of his own voice as some irrepressible cry of homesickness burst from his aching heart. He was in hunger, in sickness, in pain, in weariness; in journeyings often; in perils of rivers; in perils of robbers; in perils among the heathen; in perils among false brethren; in perils in the wilderness; in watchings often, in cold and nakedness, in deaths often; baffled beyond description in his immediate effort; and in grave anxiety as to the fruit of his past labors. What could have sustained him through it all? A year afterwards we find this backward-glancing line in his journal: "I read the whole Bible through four times whilst I was in Manyuema."

He tries once more, and reaches his farthest point westward, Nyangwe, on the Lualaba River. This river he earnestly desires to explore, for he thinks it may leave the continent through the Nile, and not through the Congo, as we now know to be the case. He would fain go farther, and makes his plans; but he witnesses a horrible massacre in a village by the river, and in the slaughter he sees his own plans struck down. This scene of slaughter gave him a feeling "as if he had been in hell."

A wretched journey, marked by three deliverances from impending death in a single day, brought him back to Ujiji, "a mere ruckle of bones, to find himself destitute." A scoundrelly Mohammedan to whom they had been consigned, coveting the goods, had divined on the Koran and had obtained the result, to which he had of course conspired, that Livingstone was dead; and so once more, having struggled to Ujiji, he met dire want instead of the expected abundance of supplies.

The Coming of Stanley

Could any man's situation have been more desperate? If ever "man's extremity" proved to be "God's opportunity," surely it was here. As Livingstone came up from the west another white man was approaching from the east. Five days after he had dragged himself, half-dead, into Ujiji, a large caravan appeared, and the sight of it created an extraordinary excitement. One of Livingstone's men ran to him and shouted that an Englishman was coming, and looking out he saw an American flag borne at the head of the approaching company. Then going out himself, the stranger walked deliberately toward him and said: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume."

Two years before, James Gordon Bennett, proprietor of the New York Herald, had telegraphed Henry M. Stanley, a trusted traveling correspondent of the paper, then in Madrid, to "come to Paris on important business." "Where do you think Livingstone is?" said Bennett. Stanley did not know; did not even know whether he was alive, as indeed the world did not know. "I think he is alive," said Bennett, "and I am going to send you to find him." "Take what you want, but find Livingstone," were the simple, ample terms of his commission.

And now this trained traveler and correspondent, just up out of the great capitals of the world, sat down to talk to this simple man out of the forest. There were many things to tell. Livingstone had been two full years without any tidings from Europe. Stanley was the only white man with whom he had talked for six years. These were the things that Stanley had to tell Livingstone: Queen Victoria's government had voted him $5,000 for supplies; his constant friend, Lord Clarendon, was dead; General Grant had been elected President of the United States; the Atlantic cables had been successfully laid; the French Empire had gone down before the genius of Bismarck at Sedan. And more wonderful still were the things that Livingstone had to tell Stanley. "His lips gave me the details; lips that never lie," said Stanley. But Stanley confessed he could not tell it. All the while he talked to Livingstone his notebook was in his pocket. Trained to his work as he was, frequenter of the world's capitals as he was, this man out of his loneliness, and out of as deep solitudes as the human spirit ever knew, mastered him, and he forgot to be a reporter, and sat down for once to the high employment of "just being a man." I think it is the highest of all the unconscious tributes ever paid to Livingstone.

What would Livingstone do now? One thing was fixed and certain from the beginning: he would not go home with Stanley. Stanley stayed for four months, and they traveled together as far as Unyanyembe, and there was a pathetic parting. Stanley was to arrange at the coast for another trip into the interior, and Livingstone waited some time on these arrangements.

A Hut in Ilala

In January, 1873, he was again far away in the west, near Lake Bangweolo, drenched with the incessant rains, numbed by the unnatural cold of the climate, hunger gnawing his vitals away, and sickness, insatiate, preying upon his wasted frame. It did not take long, in such a situation, for the strength gained on Stanley's supplies to become but a distant memory. His path lay across flooded rivers, the old dangers and difficulties encompassed him on every side, and his sufferings were beyond all previous example. His last birthday found him in much the same circumstances. In the beginning of April the bleeding from the bowels, from which he had so seriously suffered, grew worse, and his weakness was pitiful. Still he longs for strength to finish his work; and still the Sunday services are held. He becomes too weak even to ride, and a kitanda, a rude kind of stretcher, has to be made for carrying him.

The twenty-ninth of April was the last day of his travels. He directed Susi to take down the side of the hut that the kitanda, which could not enter by the door, might be brought to his bed; for he could not walk. They came to the crossing of a river, and moved on through swamps and marshes -- Livingstone begging them when they came to a good piece of ground to lay him down to rest -- until at last they reached Chitambo's village in Ilala. Here they sheltered him under the eaves of a house from the drizzling rain while they built a hut. He was laid on a rough bed for the night, and lay undisturbed the next day. His people were in awe and very anxious. The earlier and middle part of the next night passed quietly, save for a call or two from the sufferer; but at four in the morning the boy who lay inside his door to keep watch called in alarm for Susi. By the candle still burning, fit light for the humble hut, they saw him kneeling at the side of his bed, his face buried in his hands on the pillow. They were hushed and reverent, lest they should disturb him at his prayers. While they waited it was as if the silence of the mighty shadow had taken a tongue to tell them that he was dead. Did ever prayer have a better right to go up from this earth into the ears of God than that which those pitying lips, touched already by the chill of death, poured out amidst heathen darkness by the rude bedside in Ilala? If angels had built the altar, and if archangels had stood as priests to minister beside it, there could not have been a nobler sacrifice than this. "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering," but this is "a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." In that deep and solitary interior where he died, David Livingstone erected an altar devoted to Africa's redemption, and gave himself a willing victim into the hands of God. He was touched with the feeling of Africa's infirmities; and he was obedient unto death.

"He had passed away on the farthest of all his journeys, and without a single attendant." There were about him only the few black people whom he had gathered out of the wilderness. They carried his body down to the sea, fifteen hundred miles distant -- Susi and Chuma, his old attendants, at their head. It was a task of tremendous difficulty. The very body was an occasion of superstitious dread and offense to the tribes about them and on the way whither their steps would tend. And yet, though they could but dimly have known him, the God of Livingstone girded them for the undertaking. Fourteen days the body was dried in the sun, the delicate inward parts having been removed, and preparations were made for the long and tedious march to Zanzibar. The heart was buried under a great tree in Ilala -- a quiet and peaceful place in which to rest in the bosom of the continent for which it had so often ached. Once they had to pretend to turn back upon their journey as if to bury the body, in order to get through a hostile village. Nine months after Livingstone's death they reached the coast and delivered their charge into English hands. In England the body was identified by the arm the lion had broken. Sir William Fergusson, the noted surgeon, was "as positive as to the identification of these remains as that there has been among us in modem times one of the greatest men of the human race."

A Home in the Abbey

On Saturday, April 18, 1874, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Probably he would not have wished to have it so. Once in a deep African forest he had come upon a lonely grave, and said he would wish such a last resting place for himself. But the Abbey and fellowship with the great dead of the earth were his due.

Open the Abbey doors and bear him in
  To sleep with king and statesman, chief and sage,
The missionary, come of weaver kin,
  But great by work that brooks no lower wage.

Dr. John Henry Jowett, the great preacher whose spirit follows so hard after the spirit of Livingstone, tells us that when he went as a special guest to attend the coronation of King George in Westminster Abbey, his mind, amid all the pomp and glitter of royal circumstance, "left all the impressive splendor about him and traveled to that quiet spot where lie the ashes of David Livingstone."

His Priestlike Task

His body was taken to England, but redeemed Africa shall yet be his monument. That lonely death in the hut in Ilala made its appeal to the world. That wasted body brought back out of the heart of Africa, in which African fevers had kindled their torturing fires, upon which African suns had poured their pitiless heat, which African rivers had laved with their swelling floods, upon which African rains had poured out their drenching torrents, and through which African horrors and darkness had sent a thousand chills -- that worn-out body, victim at last to the terrors which had long threatened it, made its mute appeal to the world. It was that mystery of muteness which speaks with more eloquence than any voice. We may well say with Dr. Blaikie that the statesman heard that appeal, and statecraft began to acknowledge a brotherhood as broad as mankind. The merchant heard it, and the currents of commerce heaved with a purer tide, as though the moving waters were

At their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores.

The explorer heard it, and the opening up of a new country to the sympathies of Christendom was raised to the rank of a noble and a proper missionary task. The missionary heard it, and girt his loins about him for a plunge into the deeper darkness and depravity of the heathenism of the world. The Christian world heard it, and there were deep resolves -- as though in a silent parliament of man -- that Livingstone's work should not die.

To lift the somber fringes of the night,
To open lands long darkened to the light,
To heal grim wounds, to give the blind new sight,
Right mightily he wrought.

Such a life is a hostage God gives to his Church that Christianity cannot fail in the earth. The dust to which his heart has withered away, in the midst of the aboriginal dust of the African continent, shall not hear the judgment trumpet till redemption's work is done.

He climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
  Through peril, toil, and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given
  To follow in his train.

From Princes of the Christian Pulpit and Pastorate by Harry C. Howard. Nashville, Tenn.: Cokesbury Press, ©1927. Reprinted from Methodist Quarterly Review, April, 1913.

>> More David Livingstone

about | contact us | terms of use | store

©1996-2024 WholesomeWords.org
"...to the glory of God."