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The Life of James Stewart
Further on the Way


November 15, 1861, to February 1, 1862.

At Durban — Evil Reports — His Stock of Beads — Vexing Delays—Visions of Home—At Quilimane—With Livingstone—Satisfied.

The end of the geographical feat is only the beginning of the missionary enterprise. —Livingstone.

‘O Lord, send me to the darkest spot on earth. ‘—John Mackenzie, Missionary and Statesman.

‘Never.’—The reply of Mackay of Uganda when it was proposed to abandon the Mission.

ON November 15th Mrs. Livingstone and Mr. Stewart sailed from Cape Town in the Waldensian. Along with them were the Universities’ mission party, which consisted of one ordained missionary, four ladies, and the printer to the mission. These were under the direction of Mr. George Rae, the chief engineer of Livingstone’s Zambesi Expedition. They arrived in Durban on November 21st, and had to wait there for the Hetty Ellen, a brig which was bringing from Glasgow Dr. Livingstone’s Lady Nyasa (an iron steamer in sections), which he intended to launch on Lake Nyasa.

The Hetty Ellen arrived in Durban after a passage of ninety-nine days from Glasgow. The party had to spend nearly five weeks in Durban, which had then between a thousand and fifteen hundred whites, and its streets were only straggling paths over unenclosed fields.

Stewart was very active during this period; preaching often; visiting on horseback nearly all the Protestant missions within fifty miles of Durban; gathering and arranging, as his Journal shows, ample information about the natives, missionary methods, and the conditions of the country.

From Durban he writes: ‘It will be a great shame if I do not write a good book full of facts and graphic descriptions. If it be true that every man has his opportunity, I have mine. If I miss it, I shall not have another.’

This book was never written. The making of history during the coming years left him no time for writing it. There are not many Caesars who can do both.

All the trials that harassed him in Cape Town now came back upon him in an aggravated form. His clothes were threadbare, his funds were low, and he began to fear that ere long he should be without daily bread.

‘I am worried, wearied with anxiety, concerned about, not great pay, but mere bread. I have my character slandered, my motives misconstrued. How terrible will be the blow if I have to turn back and go home without having accomplished anything. 0 God, save me from this humiliation.’

Expected letters from home did not arrive: it Seemed as if his friends had forgotten him. He was Confounded by learning that the Portuguese Consul in Cape Town had persuaded many that he was a rogue and a vagabond. Shameful things had been imputed to him, as was well known among influential people in Durban. His situation was now more alarming than it had been in Cape Town, for he could sail in the Hetty Ellen only by favour of those who were determined to keep him back if they could.

‘Went on board the Hetty Ellen. Captain told me he would have some difficulty in taking me on, that he could not do so unless with the sanction of the "other party." . . . Both yesterday and to-day they (the other party) had been on board and did their utmost to get him to leave me behind. I asked him what charge they could bring against me. He gave no answer to this. He regretted that matters should be so, but did not wish to offend those who had chartered the vessel. Mr. —insisted I was not of their party, and that I had no right to go there. I told the Captain by whom I was commissioned, that I was a minister of the Free Church, what my object was, and to Dr. Livingstone I should go though I should walk all the way.... I came ashore and talked to Mr. —. The conversation was of the most extraordinary kind. He showed himself perfectly incompetent to understand my object or myself. . . . The conversation was thus brought to a close. He looked me full in the face and said: "Well, Mr. Stewart, you are not going into the country as a trader, tell me that." I gave him no answer but kept staring at him in astonishment and anger. He said: "I was warned against you at the Cape on the ground that you were going into the country in the pretended character of a missionary, but really as a trader, and that you had large quantities of beads."

"If you wish to see how large a quantity of beads I have, come over to this warehouse." We went in silence. From the bottom of a packing-case I fished up a small paper or pasteboard box about four inches square. I tore it open and displayed eleven small red and blue beads. I threw down the box and said: "There is the enormous quantity of beads about which the Portuguese Consul and yourself have held such grave and anxious deliberations. These are the goods with which I intend to monopolise the trade of the Portuguese on the Zambesi."

‘With that I came away and walked home by the beach—weak, weary, dispirited. I wondered at the position I had got myself into. I longed for the quiet and rest of home, for those peaceful days in a snug manse in some quiet glen in the north, or softer vale in the south or west. But here I am battling with obstinate and unprincipled men, hewing my way to a man who will perhaps receive me well or perhaps ill. In person and in purse I am suffering. I looked at my worn coat and saw how threadbare it was getting. I felt truly that the difficulties and temptations of independent acting for the Gospel’s sake, in the effort to strike out a new path, were not all realised at once, and that it is in detail we come to know what these difficulties and temptations are.

This evening, weary and dispirited, I feel the vastness and magnitude of the undertaking more than I have for some time past.’

All the missionaries he met wished to persuade him to abandon his plans in the meantime. They believed that he must fail, and would, in all probability, soon die. Several remonstrated with him. Regarding a zealous missionary he says: ‘He spoke of... the supreme folly of my journey—did not wince in the least when I told him that all his arguments against my position might have been equally used against himself twenty-five years ago.

Let me record my conviction to be examined some future day and found correct or false—that there is some work in store for me to do in that part of the world. All unworthy, all unfit as I am in many respects, yet I think I have the call to go and work there. O then, my faint heart, be courageous. Be strong in Another’s strength.

And as to final results, why should I be too anxious? My object was and is pure. It was not desire of wandering. It was not because I could not succeed at home. It was not for the love of notoriety or desire of fame. It was and is simply because there is fit occasion now for the opening up of the country, because it seems as if we may "take occasion by the hand, and make the bounds of freedom wider yet."

But somehow I have the impression that I have a work to do in this quarter of the world. If I am spared I will do it, though, alas, it is even now by many a privation, by much hardship, and by a weary wandering uncertain sort of life.’ He records his determination, should a passage be denied him, to reach Livingstone by walking all the way on foot, a distance of about nine hundred miles. Like a true Scot, he had determined ‘to do or dee.’ ‘The strong man and the waterfall channel their own path,’ as the proverb puts it.

Had those who were determined to turn Mr. Stewart back succeeded in winning Mrs. Living-stone to their side, all his hopes would have been crushed. But she did not forget that at her request, and for her convenience, he had changed all his plans. She remained thoroughly loyal to him, and as they could not leave her, they had to take both.

‘In the afternoon I went to Mrs. Livingstone. She said it had all been arranged. She repeated her determination not to leave without me. I thanked her with all sincerity, and I hope with due gratitude.’

The difficulties even then were not over. After a peculiarly harassing day he writes ‘Let me make an entry to solace my weary hours with thoughts of that better country, when I am weary and sick of the strife and struggle that my present life is leading me into.

And ! John saw the holy city New Jerusalem."
‘For thee, O dear dear country, mine eyes their vigils keep,
Thy happy name beholding, for very love they weep.
The mention of thy glory is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness and love and life and rest.
And now we fight the battle and then we wear the crown
Of full and everlasting and passionless renown.
O land that seest no sorrow! O state that know’st no strife!
O princely bowers! O land of flowers! O realm and home of life.’

He was haunted and tortured by doubts that his hero, as he had been told again and again, would not welcome or help him, and he had decided what he would do in that case. His Journals during these days reveal his inmost heart, the agonies he endured, a courage mounting with the occasion, and a resoluteness that could hardly be surpassed.

‘If it should turn out that Dr. Livingstone refuses to do anything for me, I must not on that account give up. It may be possible to enter Central Africa without him or in spite of him. His assistance would be most valuable, but it is not to be reckoned indispensable.’

On December 24th the Hetty Ellen [A small sailing-vessel of one hundred and eighty tons.] sailed. ‘I got up on the stern, behind the wheel, took off my hat and gave the three heartiest cheers I ever gave in my life. So we sailed out of Port Natal.’ He was in the best mood for cheering; he had won a long, doubtful and hard-fought battle; and after all he was to reach Livingstone and the Zambesi; and they had on board the Lady Nyasa, whose name inspired the hope that Central Africa was soon to be opened up.

‘December 25, 1862.

‘This is Christmas Day, and O strangest of all contrasts is this day to this day twelvemonth. About the same time in the evening that we were sitting together in my snug room in Grove Street... turning round to the fire to enjoy some pleasant chat, I was creeping, weak and weary, up from the hold of the Hetty Ellen (where I had lain in an uneasy slumber all day) to the deck for some fresh air. Last year, after a day’s hard work at the Card-ross office, I made my way home through the snowy streets, . . . the warm room, the curtains drawn close, the linen more snowy than the snow without.

O how my thoughts wander homewards. It seems to me as if it would be happiness to be at home. . . . I went forward to the bows of the ship and held a short meeting with the men. If some seeds of eternal truth are lodged in some hearts and if reflections be wakened on eternal realities, then I shall be satisfied and be content to do my work along the way, though it be to small and fugitive congregations.’

On the last day of the year he makes the following entry in his Journal:—‘ Make me patient under calumny whether it be at home or abroad. Give me patience to labour at details as much as if they were the highest work. Let me not get disappointed with the opposition that may be thrown in the way. If it shall prove not to be Thy call for me to labour here, help me to take the lesson Thou givest for my good. Help me to be content with Thy work in me if not me, and out of all the vexation and trial it has brought, only let my heart be brought nearer Thee.’

During the long days on the ship Mr. Stewart often reflected on his position :—‘ It would almost appear as if I were on as real a wild goose chase as ever mortal started on. Here I am careering over a whole continent in search of work I have marked out for myself. What I want or desire is more thorough conviction. And yet I must say I cannot well have more. All the circumstances attending my choice are such as to make it appear as my work to go and open directly the way for Christianity into Central Africa. Let me realise this idea more distinctly, and work at it. The work has yet to be done in part at least. It is not by the Zambesi that the way in will ever be found—at least I think so. What stronger call can I wish or expect than what I have had: concurrent circumstances, Continuous Conviction, the ways and means provided, and especially these two events in that most memorable year. All things concurred: why should I have refused?...

‘It seems to me I shall be getting old before I can effect anything up there. My life with a great aim is aimless Yet . . I have much to be thankful, yea, very grateful to God my Father for all His kindness and goodness to me. I possess excellent health, better than most men in the ship. I have been turning over in my own mind my singular position. Out of it comes my idea, large and distinct enough at times: the introduction of the Gospel into that part of Africa, if it shall be found practicable and advisable now. That is, if communication can be opened, if Dr. Livingstone’s co-operation can be secured, if men and money can be got at home. . . . It is perhaps beyond my strength. Still, let me work on, keeping before me the idea in its greatest breadth and simplicity—the introduction of the Gospel into a new field. This will hallow all labour and dignify every employment, even to the putting up of a small steamer.’

Again: ‘To-day, in thinking over the future, I confess I feel doubtful enough. It seems to me as if I must go home and work, taught, chastened, almost branded with the mark of ambition, with running where I was not sent, with seeking to do God’s work, while He refuses to have it done by such hands as mine. On the other hand, if I can make a beginning, and gain the confidence of the Church, why should I not try to take up Dr. Livingstone’s work, as far at least as its moral objects are concerned. . . . In the introduction of the Gospel into Central Africa, why may not the idea come from me as well as from any one else? I not only give the idea, but I give my life and hard work to the task. If it be said that I am young, let me simply answer, many men have lived three times the age, but have never conceived the idea, and many have conceived it who have not attempted it. Perhaps I may find Dr. Livingstone unwilling to have anything to do with me. Am I then to stop?’

Calumny still pursued him. On January 29th, at anchor off Quilimane, he writes:—‘For ten months has — been going about giving the impression that I am a rogue and impostor, thwarting me in every way and causing great additional expense. . . . I sat long on the poop, looking up at the stars, wondering if Zambesi expeditions harassed and worried any of these bright abodes. My view of life partook of sadness surely, though I confess that never before was heaven so precious, so much like home to me as since I set out on this journey. My heart has gone thither. Only there does there seem anything like rest for me. Whatever the future of my life may be, let my heart remain true to that final home of the redeemed; may it ever vibrate thither as the needle to the pole. . . . If Livingstone himself had got discouraged, we should have had nothing today of what we now know from the Missionary Travels. Patience and courage will yet solve the riddle, for this Zambesi is as yet a riddle. . . . O my Father, use me, all unworthy as I am, for Thy great purposes of love and mercy to our race on earth.’

It was scarcely possible that the future could bring him greater trials of uncertainty and opposition than those he had already conquered.

If in after years some were disposed to regard the founder of Livingstonia as too tenacious of his own opinions when they were not shared by his yoke-fellows, they should remember that without that marvellous tenacity of purpose he could never have reached the Zambesi, or become one of the greatest of modern missionary pioneers.

He acted as chaplain to the seamen and had a service for them every Sabbath, and a short service for them every evening, and was encouraged by their attention and appreciation.

On January 8, 1862, there was a cry from the mast-head, ‘Land Ho,’ but it was a mistaken signal. As they could get no news of Livingstone, they sailed to Mozambique.

He there met Captain Wilson, Commander of H.M.S. Gorgon, one of the squadron cruising on the coast for the suppression of slavery. They became attached friends, and Captain Wilson afterwards took a conspicuous part in the establishment of Livingstonia.

On the first day of February 1862, the Pioneer, with Livingstone on board, steamed alongside the Hetty Ellen. ‘All the troubles and worries of many years,’ says J. S., ‘seemed compensated in the romance of this morning. . . . Though I have never seen him before, I have no difficulty in identifying the man. In his white trousers, frock-coat, and naval cap, he looked uncommonly smart and had a commanding air. . . . I could not help remarking to Mrs. Livingstone that the Doctor seemed to be a great swell. She gives me a gratified slap for so speaking of the great pioneer, on whom I have just set my admiring eyes. . . . I am introduced to the Doctor, and shake hands. "I am glad to see you here, Mr. Stewart," he said. "Thank you, Doctor," was all my reply, except the hearty goodwill and admiration with which I look at the man.’

All the fears with which others had inspired him about Dr. Livingstone’s action were at an end. Concerning this matter he had had endless fears during the past seven months, none of which had been realised. Nine sweet words of welcome had broken the horrid spell, and he now walks at liberty, a new man in a new world.. 'I am satisfied,' he writes; 'I remain on board in a state of contented quiescence.'

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