of James Stewart
The Closing Years, 1899 - 1905
The Welcome HomeThe Crisis
in the Free Church of ScotlandA Visit to LovedaleHis Home-goingThe
FuneralJames Stewart and Cecil RhodesThe Meeting of Native Delegates at
the GraveThe Native College The Fulfilment of the Dream of his Youth.
Let the night come before we praise
the day. Old Proverb.
Waiting as a soldier on parade, in
preparation for prompt obedience, feeling no desire to go, but ready.
Lord Salisbury on
So little done, so much to
do.Rhodess death-bed Commentary
on his Career.
(Let us die in our simplicity).The
Motto of the Maccabees.
his moderatorship, Stewart returned to
Lovedale in 1899, and came back to Scotland in 1900. In May of that year
he presided at the opening of the General Assembly. After another visit to
Lovedale in 1901, he returned to Edinburgh in 1902, to deliver the Duff
lectures on missions, which were published in 1903,
under the title of Dawn in
the Dark Continent.
he made a second visit to America, that he might examine all the new
methods in its Negro Colleges.
He had previously been examined by
two physicians in Edinburgh, who reported that his heart had been weakened
by overstrain, and urged him to give up all work except the general
superintendence of the mission. But the natural and becoming indolence of
age had no attractions for him. To him the want of occupation was not
rest. In this he was like Livingstone, who tells us in his Last
Journals that he was always ill when idle. With failing strength but
never-failing will, he kept to his post.
Returning to Lovedale in April
he received a right royal welcome from the staff, the
pupils, and the apprentices, who lined the long avenue leading to his
house. He had come back to stay, he said this from the Christian
Express. He seemed bright and well, his voice clear and strong, as he
stood up to address all those who gathered to welcome him back again to
his own kingdom. To the students his message was the same unchanging
themeRighteousness and hard work would lift them up as a race, and
nothing else would.
His first act on returning was
eminently characteristic of the man. Hearing that a Presbytery meeting was
being held that very afternoon at Macfarlan, within a couple of hours of
his arrival in Lovedale, he was driving as fast as good horses would take
him, along the Tyumie road. And so, at first sight, it seemed as if Dr.
Stewart had returned in the fulness of vigour and strength. After a time
it was evident that this was not so. The old fires still burned clear and
bright, lighting up his eyes with their glow and warmth; but the figure
was a little more bent, the step a little slower, his manner more gentle.
Now and again he was seen to rest by the wayside; he had even been found
sitting on a mound by one who told the tale. In Africa it is not a
wonderful sight to find one sitting waiting, but it was passing strange
for the ever active head of Lovedale to rest on any errand of his. And men
knew that his threescore years and ten, with all their fulness of service,
and wealth of devotion to duty, had not left him untouched in their
In July 1904 the First General
Missionary Conference in Africa was held at Johannesburg. All the
Protestant missions were represented. Dr. Stewart was unanimously chosen
President, and conducted the meetings to the entire satisfaction of all
the members. He had then several interviews with Lord Milner, and obtained
his support for the cause of the Higher Education of the Natives.
In November 1904 he gave his
evidence before the Native Affairs Commission in Cape Town. His mind then
seemed as active as ever, and he displayed very great ability in setting
forth his plans, and meeting all sorts of objections.
He also then interviewed the
Governor and the other ministers of State about the decision of the House
of Lords in the Scottish Church Case. He then received their promise that
they would not allow Lovedale to pass into the possession of the minority.
The final decision in such a case lay with the Cape Government. The
Governor communicated his decision to the Home Government.
In January 1905 he was again in Cape
Town in the interests of Education and the natives. That was his last
journey from home. His friends believed that it greatly weakened him. It
was then less than a year before his death, and the effort was a
remarkable triumph of the soul over the body.
It must be sorrowfully recorded that
his last years were darkened by three very sore disappointments -
Ethiopianism, the Mzimba Case, and the Church Crisis in Scotland. The
first and second of these trials have been described in Chapter xxvii.
Mzimba was one of the most promising, trusted, and favoured of the
Lovedale pupils. His secession and the accompanying circumstances gave
Stewart a keen sense of bereavement.
Wave pressed upon wave and the
billows went over his soul. Before the Mzimba trouble had passed away, a
fresh catastrophe faced him. The decision of the House of Lords in the
case of the Free Church versus the United Free Church of Scotland
fell upon Lovedale as a bolt out of the blue. [In May 1905 I addressed a
native congregation not far from Lovedale. At the close a stalwart Kafir
came striding up and asked me through the interpreter what I thought of
the Twenty-four. That was their name for the small minority in the General
Assembly who had voted against union. The native newspapers were then
rousing into activity the latent sympathies with Ethiopianism and all
other forces of insubordination, and fostering the hope that the natives
might gain possession of the properties and endowments at Lovedale and
elsewhere.] The Legal Free Church claimed everything belonging to Lovedale.
The surprising events in the Home Church created anxiety about the future
of the mission. A large sum had been collected for extensions, but an
arresting hand was at once laid upon all the cherished plans. Stewart had
to contemplate the possibility of the Legal Free Church appropriating all
the fruits of forty years unceasing efforts, though they had not one
missionary, and could not possibly carry on the mission. A friend writes:
The burden of this last sorrow hastened the end. Though he lived to have
the burden lightened, and to feel assured that the worst he anticipated
could not happen, Dr. Stewarts splendid physique had been overstrained,
and signs of heart-failure began to appear.
In 1905 I spent three days with him
at Lovedale, six months before his last call came to him. [I was soon
reminded of the extent of Lovedale. Towards evening I said to Mrs.
Stewart, I will take a walk round the buildings and grounds. You cannot
do that before dark, she replied, but I will get the horses inspanned
and drive you round. ] Dr. Stewart had then in his body the secret
token that the King was about to send for him. He knew that he must die
soon and that he might die any day. If it were the will of God, he would
have wished five years more, that he might set in order the things that
were wanting at Lovedale, and see the Native College established. About
this scheme he was hopeful, as several of the leaders in that movement had
privately intimated their intentions and wishes, but nothing must be said
about it in the meantime. For the sake of the natives he hoped that every
department of his work might be preserved. His spirit was saintly and
chastened, and he bore himself patiently and bravely. The bitter
experiences in recent years had left in him no trace of bitterness, but
his strenuous life had deepened the thought-lines on his strong face, and
his frame had lost a little of its palm-like uprightness. His convictions
about disputed matters were as strong as ever, but he did not say a hard
word against anybody. Student days and many of his experiences were very
genially recalled, but no word that could suggest self-praise escaped his
Like John Knox, be could interlace
merriness with earnest matters, for he believed in heart-easing mirth.
[He mentioned that a few weeks ago there had been a fire in one of the
buildings, and he had rushed out to help in extinguishing it. This did me
harm, he said, but I had a "nicht wi Burns"a Scottish phrase for an
evenings entertainment with the songs of Burns. Fun with him was the
holiday of the mind, and practically the only holiday he ever took since
his student days. He could laugh tears.] Often the fine smile of his
youthful days lighted up his face.
Though he had to keep in bed till
noon, several hours daily were spent in the office. Appeals from family
and friends could not avail: it was best, he said, that he should keep at
his post to the end. Though then always weary in the work, he was never
weary of it. He believed that the labour we delight in physics pain, and
his body, as a well-trained slave, had learned to obey at once the behests
of the masterful will. But the bow so long unslackened had almost lost its
He took a very humble view of his
work, but said emphatically that if he had life to begin over again, he
would not wish to spend his energies in another way or sphere. His tones
as well as his words showed how deeply he was touched by the pathos of
parting. The consolations of Jesus Christ were equal to all his needs.
Heedless of my many protests, he
must gather together all his staff in the evening, preside, and give words
of welcome to his fellow-student. His was the fine, self-sacrificing,
old-world courtesy of the Highland chieftain, who must rise from his
death-bed to show hospitality to his guest. He must stand up and speak,
although he had to lean hard on the back of his chair, while his pale face
and quick breathing revealed the great effort he was making. The occasion
had all the sacredness which belongs to last things. It was his last
address to a company.
After that evening, he left his
bedroom only twice, but he did not leave off his work till within a
fortnight of his home-going, when his hand refused to hold the pen.
His taper burnt clear to the close.
Surrounded by his wife and children, he departed this life on the evening
of December 21,1905, in his seventy-fifth year. Then was fulfilled
his favourite text It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall
The funeral was on Christmas Day.
All races and denominations in South Africa were represented in the
throng. The text was from 2 Samuel iii. 38, Know ye not there is a
prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
A vast procession of men and women
on foot, with a long line of vehicles and horsemen following the bier,
wended their way through the valley of the Tyumie, and up the slopes of
Sandilis Kop, a rocky height about a mile and a half east of Lovedale,
and facing the College. The far-extending buildings of Lovedale are
visible from the grave. The South African Scot thus describes the
burial: The scene at Sandilis Kop on Christmas Day was a fitting close
to the career of a great leader and missionary. The grave was carved out
of solid rock, and can be seen from any point of the valley where Lovedale
is situated. Round the grave were gathered representatives of the United
Free Church of Scotland, the South African Presbyterian Church, the Dutch
Reformed Church, the Church of England, the Wesleyan, the Congregational,
and the Baptist Churches. Though a Presbyterian by training and
Conviction, Dr. Stewart belonged to the Church Catholic, and all the
Churches claimed him as their own. The great gathering of black and white,
many different races and nationalities, stood in serried ranks around the
Kop. The Rev. J. Lennox, his senior missionary assistant, spoke briefly
and eloquently of his magnificent powers of mind and heart, and of his
complete devotion to the well-being of the natives of South Africa. The
hymn, "O Love that wilt not let me go," was sung. Then a Kafir hymn and a
prayer in Kafir, in which it was said that God had "dried up the fountain
from which they were accustomed to drink." When the grave was closed, it
was covered with flowers sent by representative men and women from all
parts of South Africa. With a feeling of deep sadness that the earthly
career of a great and good man had closed, and with a deep assurance that
the life he lived will tell on the history of the country for generations,
the crowd slowly dispersed.
At the close of the service, they
sang a hymn which Dr. Stewart often used Holy, holy, holy, Lord God
Almighty. It was thus that devout men carried him to his grave and made
great lamentation over him. The only inscription on the grave is James
There is a close parallel between
the burial of James Stewart and that of Cecil Rhodes. Both the tombs are
on a hill-top, both were blasted out of the solid rock, and both are near
the scene of great achievements. We find the explanation of this
similarity, not in the notion of imitation, but in the fact that these
men, or their friends, were in similar circumstances and swayed by similar
motives. [Dr. Stewart expressed no wish whatever about his grave.
Sandilis Kop was chosen by Mrs. Stewart with the approbation of the
Lovedale staff. Some suggested the Matoppo where Rhodes was buried, and
which he had set apart as a South African Waihalla, or open-air
Westminster Abbey, the resting-place of those who had served their country
nobly. Rhodes had a high appreciation of Stewarts aims. In his interview
with General Booth, he said: Ah, General, you are right, you have the
better of me after all. I am trying to make new countries, you are making
new men. That is my dreamall English, said Rhodes, sweeping with his
hand the map from the Cape to the Zambesi.] The traveller at Rhodess
grave, amid the fantastic castled crags of the Matoppo Hills, looks down
on the site of the historic meeting of Rhodes with the Matabele Indunas.
With supreme bravery he there took his life in his hand, went unarmed and
unescorted into the stronghold of his enemies, and brought to a close the
second Matabele war. As he returned he said that the scene of that day was
one of those things that make life worth living. It was natural that he
should desire to be buried near that spot. Lovedale was to James Stewart
at least all that the Matoppo Hills were to Cecil Rhodes. Both were great
dreamers and realisers of dreams, though with different ideals both
devoted their lives to the land of their adoption; both gratified the
natives by choosing a grave among them; both were far-seeing, imaginative,
and self-sacrificing imperialists who had a warm mutual regard; both were
mourned by natives and whites alike; and it is fitting that the dust of
each should repose near the scene of his noblest actions. The visitor at
either grave may remember the words, If you wish a monument, look
around. Surveying Lovedale from Sandilis Kop, the visitor may say, That
is Dr. Stewarts monument. His noblest monument is in the hearts and
careers of those to whom he devoted all his powers.
A coloured ex-pupil of Lovedale
wrote: It seems to me that the Doctor has honoured us coloured people by
choosing that spot in the veldt for his last resting-place, not among the
high and honoured, but far away, as if to have his rest more perfect, and
make his grave free for us all to visit.
On the 28th of December, exactly a
week after his death, one hundred and thirty-two delegates,
representatives of one hundred and fifty thousand natives, who owe all
they are to missionaries, held a memorial service at Dr. Stewarts grave,
in connection with the Lovedale Native Convention.' [On his death-bed
Stewart had made all the arrangements for the comfort of the delegates.]
They had come together to consider the establishment of an Inter-State
Colonial College for the higher education of the natives of South Africa.
Lovedale was the right trysting-place for them, for its success had
inspired the idea of a native central college. They unanimously resolved
to urge the States to establish such a college, and to establish it at
Lovedale, and they agreed to raise a sum of money for its support. [It has
since been stated that the natives are likely to raise $50,000 for this
object. When he began in 1866, the Christian education of the natives was
considered by many an enterprise of a dangerous and Utopian character.] To
live thus in the hearts of men is not to die. One of the resolutions
adopted at the Native Conference was: That your petitioners further
desire to express their strong conviction that it is essential to the
success of the proposed college that these missions, to whose efforts in
the past the natives owe all the education they are now receiving, should
be represented on the governing body of the college. This was a
remarkable climax to a remarkable career.
When the biography of your late
husband is written, writes Mr. E. B. Sargant, Resident Commissioner of
Basutoland, no one who reads it can fail to be struck with the wonderful
manner in which his work began, as it were, a new life, with the meeting
of that Convention, a few days after his death.
The grand vision of his youth and of
his whole life had not been a mocking mirage. For he was not permitted to
see death till he had almost seen the realisation of his boldest dreams.
He was thus felix opportunitate mortis, favoured in the moment and
manner of death. Very rarely in history has any great pioneer had such a
remarkable success. Like the runner in classic story, he had fallen, but
fallen with his outstretched hand on the goal. [His dreams were very bold,
for he had hoped that even Livingstonia would be in alliance with the
So far as the visible part of his
life is concerned, we have no need to raise over his grave the pagan
symbol of a broken, uncompleted pillar. The fitting monument for him is a
column carried up to its full height and crowned with its capital.
Enlarger of the Kingdom (Melirer
des Reiches) is a title of the highest honour, which the Germans give
only to a very few of their greatest warriors and statesmen. It can be
given to James Stewart, Missionary.
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