Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Life of James Stewart

Vixit, vivit, nec unquam moriturus est' (He lived, he lives, and he will never die).—Inscription on a Monument.

Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds. ‘—Socrates.

WHEN Dr. Stewart died, some hundreds of messages of sympathy were sent to Mrs. Stewart by telegram or letter from men of wellnigh every colour, creed, clime, and condition, Notices of him appeared in, it is believed, all the South African papers, and in very many in Great Britain and in other lands, while most of the religious publications contained a biographical notice and an appreciation. ‘Reduplicated expressions of reverential grief came rolling in like the varied and successive echoes of thunder among the hills.’ We offer a few specimens. Mr. J. Tengo Jabavu, a pupil of Lovedale, proprietor and editor of Irnvo, a Native paper, devoted a leading article to his tribute to Dr. Stewart, whom he describes in a letter as his ‘dear friend and benefactor.’ In his article he says:— ‘Dr. Stewart of Lovedale passed away on Thursday evening, December 21, 1905, and with the event a figure that has loomed large in the firmament of South Africa particularly, and of the world generally, has disappeared. Of his life-work in the mission-field Lovedale it has been well observed, is his monument, and no more suitable and enduring monument could be desired. In this connection one is reminded of the Latin phrase which has been applied to Sir Christopher Wren, which, with equal propriety, may be quoted with respect to Dr. Stewart and his work—" Si monumentum requiris circzimspice!" It is a truly pathetic thought to us as Natives that a man of the great and transcendent abilities of Dr. Stewart—abilities that would have merited the highest rewards in any and every sphere of life, were wholly and absolutely devoted to the building up and perfecting a remarkable agency like the Missionary Institution of Lovedale for the dissemination’ of Christianity and its concomitant, civilisation, for enlightening and blessing the savage millions of Africa. Natives must be truly thankful to Almighty God for giving them such a large-hearted missionary statesman as Dr. Stewart, who has laid the foundations of the good cause broad and deep, for those who come after him to rear a magnificent edifice on them.

‘As a national possession Dr. Stewart’s demise is mourned no less by South Africa and the Natives than by his family, and in the circumstances it is difficult to distinguish which is to be condoled with most. He has, however, for the lasting consolation of both left the priceless heritage of stupendous and unselfish labours for Christ and humanity that will bless Africa for all time.’

We add an extract from a letter sent to Mrs. Stewart from the native people of the Tyumie Valley, in which Lovedale stands: ‘We wish to express to you our deep sympathy, and our great sorrow for the loss of our father, Dr. Stewart. In sympathising with you and your children we can only say, Lady, you know whose hand has taken away the head of your home, you know that his time of work was done. You know that that time was filled in with good work and pure, you know that he has gone to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" and so we, in sympathising, say to you, Lady, and your children, be of good cheer, Dr. Stewart’s God is not dead. He has His son in safe keeping, and He will keep him there and keep you there, till the time when He brings you all together again. And we might also say Dr. Stewart’s trees which he planted in Africa need watering and care: will it not comfort you to see that they are tended, and to watch for the fruits which will appear in the years to come?

‘And now our own sorrow and loss comes before us. From one end of Africa to another, to-day we are cast down and fearful. The friend of the natives is gone. To-day we are orphans, to-day we have no present help. The wings which were stretched over us are folded, the hands that were stretched out in aid of the Native are resting. The eye which watched all danger is sleeping to-day, the voice that was raised in our behalf is still, and we are left sorrowful, amazed, troubled, but in our sorry we say, "God is not dead." God will be your helper and ours, and Lady, let it never be said that Dr. Stewart’s work was a failure. From the four corners of Africa comes the voice of God-fearing men and women in eager protest, and Native Africa is a country to-day through Dr. Stewart. God be with you and your children, Lady.’ Then follow the names of fifteen prominent natives.

The Rev. J. Knox Bokwe travelled fully three hundred miles to bid farewell to his chief. He thus describes the interview which took place six days before the end. ‘Well, Knox,’ he said, ‘you see what it has come to. It is good of you to have come to see me. How different the state you find me in to-day from what you have known me in the past. Here stretched in feeble helplessness on this bed, a prisoner within four walls of a room, only to lie and think how comparatively little one can accomplish in a lifetime, and even then how imperfectly. I wish I could have done more for your people and for Africa, but the opportunity seems at an end. The task is now for others to take up, and such of you as have been shown the way ought to know what to do, ought to help all you can. Do not expect that you will get all you desire the moment you ask for it, or even in the way you consider best suited for you. These things come bit by bit. Wise and discreet leaders will ever be watchful not to disappoint or distrust the friends who are trying to do the best for them. They will stand by them. I am too tired to say more, even though I should have liked to speak to you about the proposed Inter-State College. Try, you, to do the best you can for it, for your people, for Africa. God bless you all. Remember me to your wife and children. God be with you. Farewell.’

Mr. Bokwe adds: ‘I cry like the prophet to-day, "Oh my Father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof."

A native pupil of Lovedale wrote:—

‘Mrs. Dr. STEWART:

‘DEAR MOTHER, - It caused us great sorry to learn this morning of the passing away of our father, Dr. Stewart. It is a loss to our people which will never be forgotten and to our Native Church at large. He possessed a gift that we seldom find among other people; intellectually and spiritually he was the pillar of our Church. Favoured with uniform good health and a sound Constitution, he (Dr.) worked hard in many directions for the good of the Church and for the good of our people, intellectually and spiritually. Though gone, his work remains, and shall ever speak and tell us of Dr. Stewart. It is out of place, mother, for me to enter into details. Dr. Stewart, our father, after he had served his generation, has been called to his rest and reward. We therefore pray that our Father may sustain and support you and the family in your great loss. Accept the above as an expression from one of your sons.’

Another coloured pupil wrote: ‘The Doctor was indeed a great friend to me in my childhood. It was he who gave me a start in life.’

The following is from the Archbishop of Cape Town: ‘Dr. Stewart’s death is a heavy loss to the whole Colony, and indeed to all South Africa, and the cause of missions generally. One must, however, hope with much confidence that the good seed he has sown may bear abundant fruit, and that his staff and his students may have been so penetrated with his teaching and his example, that by God’s blessing the cause of missions and of Native Education may not materially suffer by his loss. And yet one cannot help feeling that the moving spring, so far as human agency is concerned, has been taken away.’

Dr. Armstrong Black of Toronto writes: ‘Whatever men may say in admiration or praise of Dr. Stewart to-day, I venture to state that they will be saying far greater things in fifty years. . . In my opinion, a man worthier of Westminster Abbey has not been among us for many a day.’

Robert Beith, for five years his confidential clerk, wrote: ‘Late at night I would often beg him to go to bed. He would quietly smile and say: "I am an old man and there are some things I wish to see done." He was a father and friend to me rather than my chief, and all the years up to the last he was my most valued friend and revered correspondent. If we had more Lovedales and more missionaries like Dr. Stewart, I am certain that many of the most difficult problems of the Native question would disappear.’

The Rev. F. W. King of Alice writes: ‘His departure is a loss not only to our own community, but to the whole Church of God. . . . We all drew inspiration from his consecrated life.’

Dr. M’Clure of Cape Town says: ‘In his company I always felt that I was in touch with one of the world’s great spirits. This was the view of men like General Gordon, Edmund Garrett, Sir Bartle Frere, Cecil Rhodes, and Lord Milner. No one who knew him in his work could fail to come under the spell of his imagination.’

Mr. Edmund Garrett, formerly editor of the Cafte Times, and member of the Legislative Assembly, describes Dr. Stewart as ‘our grand old man of Lovedale and of the Empire. What a fine warrior goes down in him—but down in arms, and undaunted, as such a true knight should. I shall never forget his wise, quiet counsel and help; his grave, kind self-forgetfulness and courtesy; his infinite patience under the discouragements of seeming ingratitude on the part of those to whom he had devoted his life-work. He never masked or glossed over any failure in Native Education, and seemed a little weary in the long fray, but without a shadow of repining or a moment’s hesitation about his duty to press ever forward and hold steadfast. In a word, his whole splendid chieftainship made on me an indelible impression. . . . There is no other Dr. Stewart.’

Captain Robinson of the Union-Castle Line thus describes Stewart as a passenger: ‘It was in the year 1877 that I first made the acquaintance of Dr. Stewart. He then took passage with me to South Africa. Since then we have made many journeys in many ships, each one cementing more firmly the friendship that sprang up between us in those early days. It is no figure of speech to say that his company on every occasion was regarded as a special privilege to be made the most of. I loved him with a great and enduring affection. To me Dr. Stewart and General Gordon were the two greatest heroes of the age—the saintly servants of God and of Queen Victoria—the Elijah and Joshua of modern times. I know some little of Dr. Stewart’s great work in South Africa by its practical results under my own observation.

‘In our coasting business of former days, the splendid Kafirs who worked the cargoes in and out at all the ports used to vie with one another in helping the officers to keep their tallies. Turn and turn about they came along with their packages and called out mark, number, and description of each in crisp, cheery tones, which it was a pleasure to listen to. When asked where they picked up their education, the answer was almost sure to be "Lovedale, Baas, Dr. Schtoot." It is astonishing how common this was, and what fine, intelligent fellows they were: many of them, but for their colour and environment, might justly have been hail-marked as nature’s gentlemen.

‘Dr. Stewart was a most interesting conversationalist: his experiences were so vast and so uncommon. It was grand sometimes to listen to friendly controversies that arose at table between him and some other men of science or letters. We often had animated discussions which were both profitable and amusing.

‘I was not long in finding out that his charity was as broad as the ship, to say the least of it. He, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, always conducted our Church of England service on board, when we sailed together. He rendered the beautiful liturgy of cur Church so reverently and impressively that worship in form became worship in fact. He had a novel and altogether beautiful habit in reading the Scriptures. He used to preface the lesson with a short and fascinating commentary on the passage to be read. It was both charming and effective, and gave us an intelligent grasp of the subject, and a keen appreciation of its spiritual significance. It was very interesting to hear people discussing the innovation after church, and expressing their satisfaction with it. Busy as he was during the voyage in connection with his many missionary enterprises, he still found time to visit the crew in their own quarters of an evening once or twice a week, and to have a Gospel meeting among them. He also often took part in open-air services on deck during fine weather. All this was done so kindly and simply, with such genuine consideration for discipline and authority, that the tenderest susceptibilities were never wounded. There remained a gracious and refreshing memory, like dew upon the grass, which could not fail to have a beneficent effect.

‘Dr. Stewart was my St. Paul of the latter days; it was a benediction to know him and to love him.’

The Honourable Colonel Stanford of the Native Affairs Department, a pupil of Lovedale, writes:

‘He was a great missionary and a great South African: a man with a far-sighted and statesmanlike perception of the problems which European civilisation in South Africa has to face. He lived strong in the belief that duty called him to devote his energies to the enlightenment of the Native races, and the greatest public effort put forth upon his last bed of sickness was his appeal on behalf of an Inter-Colonial Native College.

‘There may be different views on the question of Native Education, but there is no room for two opinions as to the noble life of the man who devoted himself to the cause in which he believed.’

Return to Book Contents Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus