David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland on March 19,
1813 and died in his beloved Africa in Africa in May 1873.
By Clifford G. Howell
alone will put a stop to my efforts!" was the
exclamation of the man who died upon his knees in the heart of
Africa, praying for "the open sore of the Lord." Such
determination in a life of such self-abnegation as that of David
Livingstone can only be understood in the light thrown upon
life's duties by the words of the Master, "I do always those
things that please Him." Certain it is that our Father in heaven
has a well-defined plan for each of His children, and just to
the extent that that plan is found and followed does any life
attain completeness or true greatness.
same year that God gave the Judsons a home in Burma, He gave
Livingstone to the world. His "poor and pious" parents were Neil
and Agnes Livingstone.
At nine David had received a prize
for repeating Psalm 119 "with only five hitches." At the same
age he had explored the country about his home, begun a
collection of curios, and carved his name in Bothwell Castle
higher than any other boy had climbed.
His parents were
so poor that he was taken from school at ten and put to work in
a cotton-mill, where he spent fourteen hours a day, with scant
time for meals. Thoughtful of his mother's needs more than his
own, his first week's wages were placed in her lap; but enough
was spared by her to secure for him a Latin grammar.
might have reasoned that he had no time for study with so much
work; but not so. His time was his life; he would make the most
of it. He had one quality, lacking which we would never have
heard of him. It was determination; he would not fail. How did
he manage? He would place a book upon the spinning-jenny, then
study "undisturbed by the roar of machinery." "To this," he
says, "I owe the power of completely abstracting my mind, so as
to read and write with perfect comfort amidst the play of
children and songs of savages." Thus he learned to be a master,
not a slave, of circumstances. Of all the books that found their
way to that jenny, not a novel was among them. Added to his long
day's work was attendance at night-school from eight to ten.
The influence of his parents and two of Dr. Dick's books led
him to yield his heart to Jesus. "Now, lad," said a friend,
"make religion the everyday business of your life." He read the
"Life of Henry Martyn," and the story of Gutzlaff; but it was
the latter's "Appeal" in behalf of China that led him to decide
to devote not only his earnings but his life to mission work.
After studying theology and medicine at Glasgow, he offered
himself to the London Society; but because of failure in his
first effort in the pulpit, he was refused. One member only
pleaded for him, at last successfully.
In 1840 he received
his medical diploma and was ordained. The opium war shut him out
of China where he had thought to go; but while waiting he met
Dr. Moffat, who said he had seen in Africa "the smoke of a
thousand villages where no missionary had ever been."
will go at once to Africa," said Livingstone. He returned, for
one night, to his old home. The next morning at the family
altar, David read Psalms 121 and 135, then prayed. Father and
son walked together to Glasgow, where they parted to meet no
more till earth gives up her dead.
December 8, 1840,
Livingstone sailed for Cape Town. Making friends with the
captain, he learned how to tell the location of the ship in
mid-ocean. This was very useful to him later in African jungles.
A pulpit was offered him at Cape Town; but no, his
appointment was farther on. He pressed on seven hundred miles,
to Kuruman, Dr. Moffat's station, the outmost post. For some
months he buried himself with the Backwain tribe of the
Bechuanas, and so endeared himself to them that their devotion
One day a young native girl crept into
camp and hid under Livingstone's wagon. Soon he heard her
sobbing violently. A man with a gun was after her. The doctor
hardly knew what to do; but a quick-witted native servant took
off her beads and gave them to the man, and he left. In another
journey he met the friendly chief Sekomi. "I wish you would
change my heart," he said to the doctor. "It is proud, proud and
angry, angry always." The missionary offered the effectual
remedy. "I lifted up the Testament and was about to tell him of
the only way in which the heart can be changed; but he
interrupted me by saying, 'Nay, I wish to have it changed by
medicine – to drink, and have it changed at once; for it is
always very proud and very uneasy, and continually angry with
some one.' Then he rose and went away."
medical skill was of great benefit. The people crowded about his
wagon for healing, some even believing he could raise the dead;
"but for permanent influence all would have been in vain if he
had not uniformly observed the rules of justice, good feeling,
and good manners. Often he would say that the true road to
influence was patient continuance in well-doing."
the doctor visited the chief Sechéle, whose child he treated
successfully. Some of the questions of this chief were difficult
to answer: "Since it is true that all who died unforgiven are
lost forever, why did your nation not come to tell us of it
before now! My ancestors are all gone, and none of them knew
anything of what you tell me. How is this?" Answer, you who can.
On returning to Kuruman in June, the doctor was delighted to
find a letter from the directors authorizing him to found a
settlement in the regions beyond. He also received one from Mrs.
M'Robert, with twelve pounds which he might use according to his
great desire, to employ native converts in gospel work. Mebalwe
Accompanied by a brother missionary, in
August, 1843, the doctor pressed on into the attractive valley
at the foot of the mountains called Mabotsa, which means
"marriage feast." Here they built a mission home and by means of
irrigation made a fine garden. The doctor hoped the directors
would approve of their location; if not, he was willing "to go
anywhere – provided it be forward."
It was about this
station the lion prowled that gained wider notoriety, probably,
than any other of its kind. He had just killed nine sheep; and
Livingstone went with the natives to encourage them to destroy
him. They wounded the lion, but he broke away. As Livingstone
passed by his place of concealment, the beast sprang upon him,
thrusting him to the ground, and with paw upon his head, began
crunching his arm, lacerating the flesh and splintering the
Seeing the loved missionary about to be devoured,
Mebalwe took up the fight. "In endeavoring to save my life,"
wrote the wounded man, "he nearly lost his own; for he was
caught and wounded severely." Then the lion sprang upon his
third victim, but soon fell dead from his wounds. Little did the
kind woman think, who sent the twelve pounds, that she would
thus help to save the life of the missionary.
The work on
his new house was for some time delayed; but as soon as his arm
was well enough, he went on.
Of his efforts for the
children, he writes: "I yesterday commenced school for the first
time at Mabotsa, and the poor little naked things came with fear
and trembling. ...The reason is, the women make us the
hobgoblins of their children, telling them 'these white men bite
In 1844 [Jan. 1845] Livingstone was married
to Miss Mary Moffat, and brought her to his new home, over two
hundred miles from her parents' mission.
arose in the new station, the other missionary accusing
Livingstone unjustly. Rather than live in an atmosphere of
strife, he went forth to build anew.
On to Chonuane,
forty miles farther inland, in 1846, these young pioneers pushed
their way. Here was the home of the chief Sechéle, for whom
Livingstone had been earnestly working and praying. He was a man
of much intelligence. He became a firm friend of Livingstone,
and finally a convert. He learned the alphabet in one day.
Reading and arithmetic quickly followed. The Bible became his
friend, the book of Isaiah his delight. "He was a fine man," he
would exclaim, "that Isaiah; he knew how to speak!" Little
wonder such a man was amazed that Christians had so long delayed
in coming with the good tidings.
Not without great
difficulties did he espouse the cause of Christ. Under him were
chiefs bound to him by wives he had taken. "If he abandons
polygamy, he offends the under-chiefs; he shakes the whole tribe
to its circumference. Two years and a half he battled with these
difficulties. ...At length the hour came. ...He sent home all
the wives except his first, and gave to her his heart anew in
Christian purity." Then Livingstone received him into Christian
Water was so scarce that the missionary
persuaded Sechéle and his people to move with him to Kolobeng,
still farther north. Here the Livingstones made their third and
last home. Droughts had distressed and pursued them. The rivers
depended on for irrigation, ran dry; crops failed; leaves dried
on the trees; the mercury stood at 134 degrees. Sechéle had been
a "rain-maker;" now he would bring rain no more, and
Livingstone's "preaching and praying" were blamed for all. "We
like you well," they would say to Livingstone, "as if you had
been born among us; but we wish you to give up that everlasting
preaching and praying. You see we never get rain; whilst those
tribes who never preach and pray have plenty." Yet through it
all the converted chief stood bravely by the missionary.
There were worse enemies of that noble work than drought. These
were the Boers. Of them there were two classes in South Africa,
– an honorable class and a class very much lacking in honor. The
latter were Livingstone's bitter enemies.
native men and women and made slaves of their children. If
Livingstone remained at Kolobeng their traffic in human blood
would be broken up. They must rid themselves of him. But where
our short vision often sees only calamities, God sees great
mercies. Livingstone had camped upon but the margin of a vast,
unexplored region, with its millions of perishing human beings
beyond, who were unsought and unknown, except by the slayers and
enslavers of men. That an avenue to these might be opened, and
efforts made for their redemption, God moved upon this man, who,
under Him, was wise enough and brave enough to bridge the
yawning chasm between darkest Africa and civilized nations. The
world's festering felon must be opened. God called a fit
physician to the task.
Kolobeng was for some years the
home of the Livingstones. Every beam was laid by the hands of
the missionary. Here several of their children were born, and it
was the busy father's lament that he had not more time to spend
with them. "I did not play with my little ones while I had them,
and they soon sprang up in my absences, and left me conscious
that I had none to play with."
Away to the north, 870
miles from Kuruman, lay an object of special interest – the
beautiful lake N'gami, upon whose waters the eyes of a white man
had never rested. Beyond it lived the great chief Sebituane, the
magnate of all that region. Livingstone much desired to see this
lake, but much more to visit this great chief, and gain his
influence in favor of Christianity. But between him and them lay
the heartless desert of Kalahari; and he had no means to fit out
an expedition to cross it.
Meanwhile messengers came from
a chief who lived near the lake, inviting Livingstone to visit
him. How could he go? God has His ways, His means, His men. At
the opportune moment, two men, Oswell and Murray, hunters and
travelers, lent their aid, with twenty men, as many horses, and
about eighty oxen; and the party started on a journey of
hundreds of miles across the desert.
Livingstone's joy when he reached the river Zouga, whose waters
flow from N'gami. The geography of central Africa had, up to
that time, been indeed a desert. The Great Sahara might almost
mingle its burning sands with those of the Kalahari so far as
the school-men knew; but here he heard of a "country full of
rivers." The news took such a hold upon him, "that the actual
discovery" of the lake he was seeking, seemed, as he said, "of
but little importance." On August 1, 1849, Livingstone and
Oswell, leaving the party in the rear, pressed quietly on to the
banks of the N'gami, the key to that region; and from that hour
a new interest in Africa was kindled and Livingstone was a noted
However, he was filled with neither pride
nor ambition other than to do the will of his Father in heaven.
The missionary had seen the lake, but not Sebituane, who
lived two hundred miles farther on; and the lake chief was
determined he should not see him. The doctor began to make a
raft to cross the Zouga; but Mr. Oswell suggested that they
delay the trip till the next season, and he would bring a boat
from the cape. Accordingly the party returned.
Kolobeng was the patient Mary. With her children, surrounded by
her dusky neighbors, she had waited, watched, and prayed, for
the return of her husband. When one's own hands have everything
to do, the romance of hardship is likely to lose some of its
halo, unless a high aim is kept in view. The oven in which Mrs.
Livingstone baked her bread was a hole scooped in the ground.
The explorer spent the winter with his family, busy with a
thousand things, from mending a shoe to ministering to the sick
and making a Bible.
The following season Mr. Oswell was
delayed in returning from the cape; and Livingstone started
again hundreds of miles across the desert to visit Sebituane,
this time accompanied by Sechéle, Mebalwe, Mrs. Livingstone, and
their three children. Purchasing the good-will of the lake chief
by the gift of a rifle, which had been a gift to himself, the
explorer was about to set forward, when fever fell upon two of
his children, and instead of advancing, he returned home once
more. "Without promising anything," he wrote to the directors,
"I mean to follow a useful motto in many circumstances, and try
The doctor's brother Charles, in America, wrote
him, urging him to come to that land of opportunity. This called
forth his famous reply: "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!"
A successful effort
to reach Sebituane was begun in April, 1851. Mrs. Livingstone,
the children, and Mr. Oswell were in the company.
Notwithstanding the latter's royal efforts to secure water,
going in advance and digging wells, the party was at one time,
through the carelessness of one of the servants, absolutely
without water for four days.
Of his children in that
awful time, the distressed father wrote: "The idea of their
perishing before our eyes was terrible; ... but not one syllable
of upbraiding was uttered by their mother, though the tearful
eye told the agony within.
In the afternoon of the fifth
day, to our inexpressible relief, some of the men returned with
a supply of that fluid of which we had never before felt the
On hearing of the missionary's third
approach, Sebituane sent forth men to meet him. They joyfully
conducted the worn travelers into the presence of their chief,
"unquestionably the greatest man in all that country." "As he
never allowed a party of strangers to go away without giving
every one of them – servants and all – a present, his praises
were sounded far and wide. 'He has a heart! He is wise!' were
the usual expressions Livingstone heard before he saw him."
One of the highest ambitious of this chief had been to
converse with white men. What a kind providence that the one
sent to him was a bearer of the gospel of salvation! Sebituane
received the missionary with great kindness and felt much
honored by his bringing wife and children. When services were
held, he was present; and it proved to be the only sermon he
ever heard. He fell sick of pneumonia, and grew steadily worse.
"Taking the hand of the dying chief in his, Livingstone
knelt by the couch of skins, and endeavored to speak comforting
words to tell him of the hope there is after death for all who
trust." But one of the native doctors, catching the word
"death," forbade the good man to speak of it to the chieftain.
Under the circumstances, he thought best to desist. But no
company of savage men could prevent a prayer to the missionary's
God in behalf of the dying man; and who will say that it was not
heard? Was it not for this hour the intrepid travelers had
pressed on through desert wastes, scorching sands, burning
thirst, and throngs of ferocious beasts?
The last words
of the dying chief were after the manner of a kind heart. Of
little Robert Livingstone, he said, "Take him to Maunku, and
tell her to give him some milk." The words of One in higher
authority are, "He that receiveth you receiveth Me. ...And
whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a
cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say
unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."
strange, sad circumstance served only to bind the heart of
Livingstone more firmly to the downtrodden race; and he went
forth from the new-made grave to find, if it might be, a
healthful place in that benighted land, for a home for himself
and loved ones.
The journey opened up to Livingstone
another of the master ideas of his life. He saw that the
slave-trade flourished because of the very great desire of the
natives to obtain guns and other articles of European make; and
the conviction fastened upon him that if legitimate lines of
traffic were opened up so the people might secure whatever they
wished for their ivory and other products, the fearful
death-dealing traffic would die. "The welfare of the whole
continent, both spiritual and temporal, was concerned" in his
plan. It was to find, if there were any, healthful tablelands
upon which missionaries could live and labor, and also a road to
He could not take his wife and children upon
such an expedition. What could he do with them? The One who
inspired the undertaking had a way. Their stanch and generous
friend, Mr. Oswell, offered to take them to England, himself
bearing the expense. It was with deep gratitude the offer was
accepted from "their best friend in Africa."
and wise as we now see his work to have been, his plans were not
carried into execution without opposition and accusation even
from his brethren. That which should decide the life-work of all
the Lord's soldiers, shaped this great man's course. "Providence
seems to call me to the regions beyond." "Nothing but a strong
conviction that the step will lead to the glory of Christ, would
make me orphanize my children. ...So powerfully convinced am I
that it is the will of the Lord I should, I will go, no matter
We are now well enough acquainted with
David Livingstone to know that the secret of the success of his
life mission was his commission, his confidence in his
Commander, and his unswerving obedience to His commands. And it
was from the depths of deep love to humanity that he said, "The
end of the geographical feat is only the beginning of the
Strange as it may seem, when Livingstone
arrived with his family at the Cape, prejudice was so strong
against him he could hardly transact business. But what truly
unselfish worker for God has not had a taste of the same bitter
April 23, 1852, the brave, self-sacrificing
missionaries separated at Cape Town, the wife and children to go
to England, the husband and father to return to the fever
jungles and savages of the dark land.
When the doctor
again reached Kuruman, a letter from Sechéle awaited him,
saying: "Friend of my heart's love, and of all the confidence of
my heart, I am Sechéle. I am undone by the Boers, who attacked
me, though I had no guilt with them. ...They killed sixty of my
people, and captured women and children and men. The house of
Livingstone they plundered, taking away all his goods."
Not only his goods were stolen, but his valuable journals, kept
with so much care, and his books were ruined. The Boers declared
he should never cross their country alive; but the threat failed
to turn him back. He and a trader went together to visit the
They left Kuruman in December, 1852.
Skirting the desert they wandered through flooded districts.
Some of the men deserted, two of the three remaining died; but
the leader, the trader, and the remaining servant pushed on,
tramping through swamps where trees, thorns, and sharp-edged
reeds offered strong resistance, till "with hands all raw and
bloody," and knees through their trousers, they emerged from the
swamps, reaching Linyanti in May, 1853.
Pausing here in
the land of moral midnight, a thousand miles from the frontiers
of civilization, the missionary gazed upon the solemn spectacle
of heathen savagery. The darkness and loneliness were indeed
depressing; but ever the buoyancy of mighty purposes throbbed in
the missionary's heart. "Can the love of Christ," he questioned,
"not carry the missionary where the slave-trade carries the
trader?" His decision was, "I shall open up a path into the
interior or perish."
But how could he, a lone man without
means, amid strange savages, accomplish a journey that needed a
troop of men with supplies for their sustenance and protection?
Again the hand that had led him thus far is seen. Means from
Christian lands was not at hand nor forthcoming, but God moved
upon the heart of a heathen chief to forward His good purposes
toward the dark land. The government of Sebituane had passed to
the charge of his son, Sekelétu. This young man treated
Livingstone with utmost kindness, finding in him, he declared,
"a new father;" and becoming convinced of the value of the
explorer's plans, he royally furnished men and means with which
the expedition was undertaken.
After nine weeks' vain
effort to find a healthful location beyond Linyanti, and a
little waiting to regain strength after severe struggles with
fever, the doctor prepared for his western march to the sea.
Early in November, 1853, the wonderful journey, plowing a
mighty furrow from center to circumference of the great
continent, was begun. Twenty-seven picked men, some Makololo and
some Barotse, lined up alongside their intrepid leader. "Nearly
seven thousand people assembled to see them off, and made the
ground fairly tremble with their shouts as the brave and sturdy
men went filing by." "May God in His mercy," was Livingstone's
parting prayer, "permit me to do something for the cause of
Christ in these dark places of the earth."
the scroll in the right hand of Him that sits upon the throne is
unfurled to the gaze of the wondering multitudes of earth, will
the world realize what she owes to her patient, toiling,
long-suffering heroes of the cross, who, pressing on in
loneliness and obscurity, have bravely fought the good fight of
faith against fearful odds, and have strewn their rugged path
with blessings for all who follow. Who but a Heaven-inspired
hero would, with wasted body and empty hands, have undertaken to
span the yawning chasm stretching westward or eastward, and
pierce the more formidable barrier of heathen ferocity?
The doctor was greatly reduced by fever, from which he suffered
thirty-one attacks on this journey. At times his progress was
strongly opposed by greedy and unreasonable chiefs. "The most
critical moments of peril," says Dr. Blaikie, "demanding the
utmost coolness and most dauntless courage, would sometimes
occur during the stage of depression after fever. It was then he
had to extricate himself from savage warriors, who vowed that he
must go back unless he gave them an ox, a gun, or a man. The ox
he could ill spare, the gun not at all, and as for giving the
last – a man – to make a slave of, he would sooner die." How
different was this campaign from that conducted by the so-called
great Napoleon, who said, "What are the lives of a million of
men to a man like me?"
In striking and pleasing contrast
to the selfishness of some of the chiefs, there were some bright
examples of generosity and benevolence, notably those of Manenko,
a female ruler; a relative of hers, Shinte, a chief who gave the
doctor a royal badge of beads and shells as a token of lasting
friendship; and Katema, who furnished him liberally with
provisions, and whose people were much moved by the story of the
cross, and wished their children could be taken to the Makololo
Manenko was a very tall young woman, about
twenty years of age, who, when her mother suggested that
Livingstone visit Shinte instead of going by a route he
intended, volunteered to go with him, guiding him through the
dark forests and flooded swamps. She also took charge of the
baggage, to which Livingstone objected; but, as he said, "when
she gave me a kind explanation, and, with her hand on my
shoulder, put on a motherly look, saying, 'Now, my little man,
just do as the rest have done' (just as she told them), my
feelings of annoyance of course vanished."
Those who rule
best know when to obey. For days this self-appointed guide and
guardian traveled on foot by the traveler's side at such a rate
the sick man on ox back could scarcely keep up. So difficult was
the way that he would have given up visiting the chief but for
her unswerving determination. "There never was such a woman
before!" exclaimed the Makololo men; "Manenko is a chief and a
soldier!" And truly she was. When far past her own dominion, the
tribes refused them food. The tender-hearted girl went and
begged food, which she prepared with her own hands for the
On arrival at Kabompo, Shinte's town, a
royal welcome was accorded the doctor. The chief became much
attached to him, gave him liberal supplies of food, and when he
departed, sent guides, whose services were indispensable. Who
can fail to see God's hand ordering such providences?
times, however, the expedition seemed doomed, it being utterly
impossible to satisfy some of the greedy chiefs, especially near
the coast, where the ban of the slave-trader was worst. At an
hour of dire extremity from foes without, the doctor's men
themselves became disheartened, and all resolved to return home.
"All I can say has no effect," he wrote at the time. "I can only
look up to God to influence their minds that the enterprise fail
not. ...O almighty God, help, help! and leave not this wretched
people to the slave-dealer and Satan!" Such cries to Him who
hears even the ravens, were not in vain; and shortly the storm
was calmed, and the explorer and his band passed on.
May 31, 1854, the traveler, worn and sick, arrived at Loanda
with his band of Makololos. The mighty task had been
accomplished. Nevermore would that vast interior be closed and
sealed. The explorer's path would be run by thousands of eager
feet. When the news of the great accomplishment reached England,
the Royal Geographical Society voted Livingstone a gold medal –
their highest honor; and the astronomer royal at the cape wrote
him, "You have accomplished more for the happiness of mankind
than has been done by all the African travelers hitherto put
A great disappointment came in not finding a
single letter at Loanda. Whether wife and children were well or
even alive, he knew not. This was partly atoned for by the
universal kindness of the Europeans, who with one consent
showered their blessings upon him. Mr. Gabriel, the only English
resident, received him into his home, so sick and wasted that he
put him immediately into his own bed. "Never shall I forget the
luxurious pleasure I enjoyed in feeling myself again on a good
English couch, after six months' sleeping on the ground."
Livingstone's men were profoundly impressed by the marvels
they saw at the coast. They looked upon the ocean with awe.
Afterward they thus described their feelings: "We marched along
with our father, believing that what the ancients had always
told us was true, that the world has no end; but all at once,
the world said to us, 'I am finished; there is no more of me!'"
Livingstone took his men to the Catholic cathedral,
wondering how the pomp and splendor of the services would
impress them in contrast with the simple Protestant services
such as he conducted. "I overheard them in talking to each other
remark that they 'had seen the white men charming their demons;'
a phrase identical with one they had used when seeing the
Balonda beating drums before their idols."
After all the
dangers, starvation, and sickness experienced on the exhausting
journey to the coast, Livingstone might quite honorably have
accepted some of the pressing invitations to return to England
in one of her majesty's cruisers. Was he not in great need of a
furlough? Sickness laid him so low that the physicians despaired
of his life. But what of his little band of followers, who,
after their crisis hour of discouragement had passed, not only
declared themselves his, but children of Jesus? He had promised
to return with them; and rather than sacrifice his word, he
would sacrifice himself.
Then, too, he decided to,
prospect further for good mission sites and a better road for
commerce. The bold idea was conceived of blazing another path,
this time eastward, to the sea.
letters, maps, and messages by the ship Forerunner, this man of
iron will turned his face once more toward the interior, taking
with him liberal donations of supplies, including presents of a
horse and uniform for Sekelétu, and other gifts for chiefs along
Unhappily, the Forerunner went down off Madeira;
and on learning of it, the patient man paused on his way and
went to the great labor of reproducing his lost papers.
Livingstone left Loanda September 24, 1854, and arrived at
Linyanti September 11, 1855. "The most joyous demonstration took
place when Linyanti was reached. Sekelétu affectionately threw
himself upon Livingstone's neck, and the brave Makololos could
hardly loose themselves from the embraces of their families."
Sekelétu was much pleased with the expedition that his
generosity had made possible. He was proud of his horse, but
more so of his uniform, in which on Sunday he attracted "more
attention than the sermon." A very remarkable part of the great
undertaking was that every one of the twenty-seven returned home
in good health. Livingstone led them to hold a day of
thanksgiving for God's protection.
Long had the wanderer
been lost to his friends and the world. The people of Linyanti
had supposed he and his men were dead. Only one brave heart in
England had not lost hope – his faithful Mary. She found solace
and comfort in the wonderful ninety-first Psalm, and by faith
threw its boundless protection around him. For two years, no
more tidings from him had reached his home than if the dark
continent had opened its mouth and swallowed him up.
the doctor told his plan to Sekelétu to go to the east coast,
the chief willingly furnished over one hundred men for the task.
Dr. Blaikie says, "If Livingstone had performed these journeys
with some long-pursed society or individual at his back, his
feat even then would have been wonderful; but it becomes quite
amazing when we think that he went without stores, and owed
everything to the influence he acquired with men like Sekelétu
and the natives generally." Livingstone attributed it, and
rightly, to the good hand of Providence.
A little to the
east the explorer came to that greatest natural wonder in
Africa, the falls in the Zambezi, 5,400 feet wide, 320 feet
deep, which he named, for his queen, Victoria Falls. In this
region he also found the healthful location for missions for
which he had so long been looking, and strongly recommended it
The many eventful journeys and
experiences of this remarkable man can not here be portrayed,
nor the blessed influences that flowed from them. But the secret
key that unlocked barred gateways and moved mountains of
difficulty, was the same that has been held by every faithful
hand that has helped humanity to travel toward heaven. His own
retrospect and prospect, given in "Missionary Travels," shows
the convictions of his mind, and reveals the experience needful
for the humblest life that would be a success – to be led by the
hand of God:
"If the reader remembers the way in which I
was led, while teaching the Backwains, to commence exploration,
he will, I think, recognize the hand of Providence. Anterior to
that, when Mr. Moffat began to give the Bible – the magna charta
of all the rights and privileges of modern civilization – to the
Bechuanas, Sebituane went north and spread the language into
which he was translating the sacred oracles, into a new region
larger than France. ...He opened up the way for me – let us hope
also, for the Bible. Then, again, while I was laboring at
Kolobeng, seeing only a small arc of the cycle of Providence, I
could not understand it, and felt inclined to ascribe our
successive and prolonged droughts to the wicked one. But when,
forced by these and the Boers to become explorer, and open a new
country in the north rather than set my face southward, ... the
gracious Spirit of God influenced the minds of the heathen to
regard me with favor, the divine hand is again perceived. Then I
turned away westward, rather than in the opposite direction.
...Had I gone at first in the eastern direction, ... I should
have come among the belligerents near Tete when the war was
raging at its height, instead of, as it happened, when all was
"And again, when enabled to reach Loanda, the
resolution to do my duty by going back to Linyanti probably
saved me from the fate of my papers in the Forerunner. And then,
last of all, this new country is practically opened to the
sympathies of Christendom, and I find that Sechéle himself has,
though unbidden by man, been teaching his own people. In fact,
he has been doing all that I was prevented from doing, and I
have been employed in exploring – a work which I had no previous
intention of performing.
"I think that I see the
operation of the unseen hand in all this, and I humbly hope that
it will still guide me to do good in my day and generation in
After repeated attacks of fever and unnumbered
dangers escaped, Livingstone at last reached Quilimane on the
east coast, in May, 1856.
Provision was made for his men
to remain while he should go to England and return. Narrowly
escaping shipwreck, he reached "dear old England" in December,
1856, four and one half years after parting with wife and babies
at Cape Town. During this sojourn in England Livingstone wrote
his book "Missionary Travels."
Not long was the
distinguished traveler left to domestic quietness. The nation,
including the queen, rejoiced to welcome its long-lost son.
Receptions and public demonstrations without stint were held in
his honor. A smaller head or an unrenewed heart would surely
have become lifted up.
By bringing to view vast fields
for harvest where it had been thought only great deserts
existed, Livingstone sought to lead the churches to take
possession of the land for the Master. Before the Faculty of
Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, who accorded to him the rare
honor of fellow, he dared to speak of Him whom he served. To the
spinners of cotton, such as he once was, he said, "My great
object was to be like Him – to imitate Him as far as He could be
imitated." Before graduates at Cambridge he said: "Education has
been given us from above for the purpose of bringing to the
benighted the knowledge of the Saviour. If you knew the
satisfaction of performing such a duty, as well as the gratitude
to God which the missionary must always feel in being chosen for
so noble, so sacred a calling, you would have no hesitation in
In order that Livingstone might go forward
with his special work of exploration, he was released by the
London Missionary Society, and engaged with the English
government to explore the Zambezi and its tributaries.
This time Livingstone was not to go alone. "My wife, who has
always been the main spoke in my wheel, will accompany me in
this expedition, and will be most useful to me. ...In the
country to which I am about to proceed, she knows that at the
missionary's station the wife must be the maid of all work
within, while the husband must be the Jack of all trades
In March, 1858, these trained workers, with
their exploring party, set out for Africa. They landed at Cape
Town, where her faithful parents, Dr. and Mrs Moffat, were
awaiting them. Here, at a grand banquet held in Livingstone's
honor, a present of a beautiful silver box containing eight
hundred guineas was given him. How marked the contrast to 1852!
Then, suspected, scarcely noticed, distrusted; "now, he returns
with the queen's gold band round his cap, and with brighter
decorations round his name than sovereigns can give, and all
Cape Town hasten to honor him. It was a great victory, as it was
also a striking illustration of the world's ways."
Livingstone fell sick, and went with her parents to Kuruman.
At the mouth of the Zambezi, the ship they had brought was
put together. The best outlet to the great river was known only
to the dealers in slaves, and was secretly guarded. It would
seem that Providence led to its discovery at the very beginning
of the expedition.
The party proceeded finally to Tete,
where the Makololos who had accompanied him to the coast were
stationed when he went to England. A number of these had died of
smallpox, and six others had been murdered. Those that survived
were "nearly beside themselves with joy at seeing their father
The new steamer, the Ma-Robert, proved unfit
for the service desired; and while waiting for a new one, the
doctor explored the river Shire, making three trips, and
discovering the important Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa.
country around Lake Nyassa was densely populated. ...Unlike many
of the African tribes, the people of this favored region seemed
imbued with a spirit of industry. They cultivated the soil
extensively, raised nearly everything it was practicable for
them to raise, besides working in iron and cotton, and at basket
making. Almost every village had its smelting-house,
charcoal-burners, and blacksmiths. The axes, spears,
arrow-heads, needles, bracelets, and anklets they turned out,
while not of the finest workmanship, were fashioned with much
skill. Crockery and pottery of various kinds were also
manufactured." Yet "these people had many strange, even
barbarous customs. Among others was the habit of wearing the
pelele, or lip-ring. ...To Livingstone's oft-repeated question
as to why they followed this custom, they invariably replied,
'O, because it is in the fashion!'" "We can hardly realize," as
one writer says, "that so familiar a speech applies so far from
home, but it does."
Not until May, 1860, was the way
clear for the return to Linyanti. On reaching Sekelétu's
territory, he was met with the stunning intelligence that the
missionaries he had helped to send to Linyanti while he was in
England had died of fever, and the mission had been broken up.
Sekelétu was stricken of leprosy, and had left his people. Tears
came to the doctor's eyes as he gazed upon the leprous chief,
while the sad joy of the latter at seeing once more his adopted
father was indeed pathetic. Dr. Livingstone and Dr. Kirk treated
the malady so successfully that the chief lived till 1864; but
his tribe was scattered to the four winds.
1862, the explorer was again at the mouth of the Zambezi, where
he met Mrs. Livingstone. But alas, how little he dreamed that
his joy would soon be turned to grief! At Shupanga, where he
undertook to put his new brig afloat, the fever laid hold upon
Mrs. Livingstone. For six days the unequal contest was waged. On
April 27, 1862, the strong enemy prevailed; and Mary Moffat
Livingstone, the daughter of missionaries, a missionary's wife,
herself a missionary, was laid to rest under the now noted
baobab-tree at Shupanga.
"O my Mary, my Mary!" moaned the
stricken survivor. "How often we have longed for a quiet home
since you and I were cast adrift at Kolobeng!" But no, not here,
not now! Hitherto homeless, now alone! Henceforth he must
wander, but in closer touch with Him who had not where to lay
His head. It is not strange that in the first outburst of grief
he should exclaim: "Now for the first time in my life I am
willing to die! Take me too, O God!"
Still, following the
footprints of Him who would not fail, the grief-torn man again
takes up his heavy task. On both sides of the strangled
continent the deadly Portuguese octopus was spreading its
poisonous arms. So firmly fastened were its fangs, that the
Zambezi expedition was compelled to be largely a contest against
the ghastly slave traffic. Horrible work was instigated by the
Portuguese slave agents. "Villages were set on fire, and the
inhabitants, fleeing for their lives, met a fate far more
dreadful than death by falling into the hands of the traders.
...The revolting picture that greeted Livingstone's eyes on his
ascent into the valley of the Shire is thus drawn by his hand:
'A little more than twelve months before, the valley of the
Shire was populous with peaceful and contented tribes; now the
country was all but a desert, the very air polluted by the
putrid carcasses of the slain, which lay rotting on the plains,
and floated in the waters of the river in such numbers as to
clog the paddles of the steamer. ...The sight of hundreds of
putrid dead bodies and bleached skeletons was not half so
painful as the groups of women and children who were seen
sitting amidst the ruins of their former dwellings, with their
ghastly, famine-stricken faces, and dull, dead eyes.'" Is it any
wonder that a man like Livingstone, with the weapons of the
Prince of peace, would fight this monster as long as his life
In 1863 the expedition was recalled, and the
following year Livingstone returned to England. Two great
purposes now throbbed in his bosom: one, to lay bare the
terrible traffic in human life; the other, to found a settlement
outside Portuguese territory. Later, at the urgent request of
Sir Murchison he added the purpose of finding the watersheds of
that region and the source of the Nile. The proposal was made
that he divorce himself from missionary effort; to which he
said, "I would not consent to go simply as a geographer, but as
a missionary, and do geography by the way, because I feel I am
in the way of duty when trying either to enlighten these poor
people, or open their land to lawful commerce."
his last farewell to his native land August 14, 1865, he once
more set foot on soil so familiar, reaching Lake Nyassa August
8, 1866. By this time most of the motley crew he had been able
to gather had deserted him, stealing a large part of his
supplies. The influence of the slave dealers prevented his
securing a boat to cross the lake and he resolved to walk around
to the other side. In September he reached Marenga, where all
his men but eight deserted him. With this little band
Livingstone must press his weary, dangerous way in search of the
lakes Bangweolo and Tanganyika.
The deserters, on
reaching Zanzibar, started a report that Livingstone had been
murdered. This report thrilled with sadness the civilized world.
Obituary notices appeared and letters of condolence poured in
upon the sorrowful family. But a few of Livingstone's friends
refused to believe the story. Mr. E. D. Young was one of these,
and he performed the gratifying feat of leading a search party
into the region of the supposed murder, and returned in eight
months with positive proof that the report was untrue.
Though the doctor had not been murdered, he had half starved.
"Woe is me," he wrote to his son Thomas. "The people have
nothing to sell but a little millet porridge and mushrooms. ...I
have become very thin." The year 1867, during which he caught
his first sight of Tanganyika and discovered Lake Moero, closed
with severe illness. God moved upon an Arab to minister to him
and supply him with nourishing food.
On July 18, 1868, he
trod the shores of Lake Bangweolo. New Year's day, 1869, found
him under the worst attack of illness he had had. He prayed that
he might hold out to Ujiji, where he expected to find medicine,
and stores so much needed.
March 14, he reached the
longed-for station, but found that most of his goods had been
stolen, and there were no letters for him. Three long years
without a letter from home! The promoters of the traffic in
blood not only endeavored to destroy his communications and
goods, but the doctor himself. Had not God raised up a few
friends, this brave man must have perished.
was leader of an unseen army whose battalions were yet to be
enlisted. He must survey the scene of conflict, taste its
bitterness, and set a pace for future feet to follow.
After resting for a time at Ujiji, he again set forth into the
strange, populous, productive wilderness – productive indeed,
but of what? – Slaves, idolaters, and murderers! Reverses,
losses, sickness, and desertion beset him, until in June, 1870,
he was reduced to three followers, – Susi, Chuma, and Gardner.
With these the man whose only fear was the fear of God, set
forth to examine the Lualaba River, thinking it might be a
feeder of the Nile. Fallen trees and swollen streams made
marching a constant struggle, and for the first time
Livingstone's feet gave out. Ugly ulcers fastened upon them, and
he had to limp back to Bambarra. Confined here for eighty days,
he gave much attention to the Book of God, reading it through
Under circumstances in which few would have
pressed on, he made his way at length to Nyangwe, on the banks
of the Lualaba, March 29, 1871, the farthest westward point
reached in his last expedition. But what was his disappointment
to find that the Lualaba flowed westward; so after all it might
be but the Kongo!
It was, however, on the banks of this
stream that an event of such overmastering horror took place
that, when heralded in the trumpet tones of this sentinel, it
sounded mightily in the death knell of the slave horror of
Africa. On the "bright summer morning of July 15, when fifteen
hundred people, chiefly women, were engaged peacefully in
marketing in the village, a murderous fire was opened on the
people, and a massacre ensued of such measureless atrocity that
he could describe it only by saying that it gave him the
impression of being in hell."
"The remembrance of this
awful scene was never effaced from Livingstone's heart. The
account of it published in the newspapers at home sent a thrill
of horror through the country." The British government at once
set to work, and other nations joined in to strike the
death-blow to African slavery.
Failing to arrange in that
terrible district for men to proceed, Livingstone was obliged to
return sick in body and sick at heart, over five hundred miles,
to Ujiji. The journey was a wretched one. Though the slavers did
not attempt his life, they could persuade the natives to do so.
"On the 8th of August, they came upon an ambushment all
prepared, but it had been abandoned for some unknown reason. By
and by, on the same day, a large spear flew past Livingstone,
grazing his neck. ...The hand of God alone saved his life.
Farther on, another spear was thrown, which missed him by a
foot. On the same day a large tree, to which fire had been
applied to fell it, came down within a yard of him. Thus on one
day he was delivered three times from impending death."
Finally, on October 23, 1871, a living skeleton, he reached
Ujiji, once more expecting to find an abundance of supplies,
once more to be grievously disappointed. The man to whom they
had been trusted, proving to be a knave, had sold all.
was the invisible Leader of this expedition, of which
Livingstone was only the executor, had been preparing for this
very hour. In October, 1869, James Gordon Bennett, Jr.,
proprietor of the New York Herald, sitting in a hotel in Europe,
sent a telegram to one of his correspondents, Mr. Henry M.
Stanley, summoning him to his side.
"Where do you think
Livingstone is?" was the proprietor's strange interrogation. Mr.
Stanley could not even tell whether Livingstone was alive.
"Well, I think he is alive," said Mr. Bennett, "and I am going
to send you to find him."
With all the money needed,
Stanley was to go; but he was to visit Palestine, Egypt, and
India on the way, and hence his delay till the supreme hour of
As the latter, in sore distress, had
drawn near Ujiji from the west, an almoner of God's bounties was
approaching from the east. On a "happy, glorious morning,"
November 10, 1871, the town of Ujiji was roused to intense
excitement. A large caravan was approaching. Let its leader, Mr.
Henry Stanley, tell the story:
"We are now about three
hundred yards from the village of Ujiji, and the crowds are
dense about me. Suddenly I hear a voice on my right say, 'Good
morning, sir.' Startled at hearing this greeting in the midst of
such a crowd of black people, I turn sharply around in search of
the man, and see him at my side, with the blackest of faces, but
animated and joyous, ... and I ask, 'Well, who is this?' 'I am
Susi, the servant of Dr. Livingstone.'"
Up to this time,
Stanley had not known where he would find the lost man. "What!"
he exclaimed; is Dr. Livingstone here?" "Yes, sir." "In this
village?" "Yes, sir." "Are you sure?" "Sure, sure, sir. Why, I
leave him just now."
"'Good morning, sir,' said another
voice. 'Halloo!' said I, 'Is this another one? Well, what is
your name?' 'My name is Chuma, sir.' 'And is the doctor well?'
'Not very well, sir.'"
Susi darted away to summon the
doctor, who came forth slowly from his little hut.
advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked
wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with faded gold
band around it. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in
the presence of such a mob would have embraced him, only he
being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so
I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best
thing – walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said,
'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?'
"'Yes,' said he with a kind
smile, lifting his cap and we both grasp hands, and then I say
'I thank God, doctor, I have been permitted to see
"He answered, 'I feel thankful that I am here to
Scarcely could the visit of an angel have
been more welcome to the wearied man. As the two tried travelers
sat down and talked together, the joy of the doctor's heart
would burst forth in the repeated exclamation; "You have brought
me new life! You have brought me new life!"
sprang up between these men, which in Stanley ripened not only
into love for Livingstone, but also for his Redeemer, and hence
for mankind, and he too became a friend and liberator of the
Four months they remained together; but
parting day came, and the first white face that Livingstone had
seen in five years, and the last he ever looked upon, was gone.
Turning from all that would seem to make life worth living,
the trained hand of this standard-bearer must once more mark a
path into the regions beyond. We draw near the close of this
world-drama. Comparatively brief is the last campaign. Aged not
with years, but with toil and suffering, the tired, tried
traveler journeyed on a little longer. Receiving in August, a
band which Stanley sent from the coast, he went forth on the
supposed errand of finding the source of the Nile. But sometimes
God's good purposes are not fully foreseen even by those He uses
best. The doctor however, ere the end came, caught glimpses of a
stream whose source is as much higher than the Nile as the
heavens are high above the earth.
"No one can estimate,"
he wrote to his daughter Agnes, "the amount of God-pleasing good
that will be done, if, by divine favor, this awful slave-trade,
into the midst of which I have come, be abolished. This will be
something to have lived for; and the conviction has grown in my
mind that it was for this end I have been detained so long." "I
have been led, unwittingly, into the slaving field of the
Banians and Arabs of central Africa. I have seen the woes
inflicted, and I must still work and do all I can to expose and
mitigate the evils.
April 29, the last mile of his
twenty-nine thousand in Africa was traveled. Borne by his men on
a kind of palanquin through flooded marshes, in most
excruciating pain, he reached at last Chitambo's village in
Ilala, at the southern end of Lake Bangweolo. Here a hut was
prepared for him, and the dying pilgrim was laid upon a couch of
branches and dried grass. Faithful were the vigils of his
devoted Susi and others of his men; but in vain were their
endeavors to prolong his life. Dismissing the tired Susi on the
last night, for a little rest, he was left with a single
watcher, who, ere the morning broke, called Susi in quiet alarm.
He and the other men drew near. The dim candle-light revealed
the motionless form of their master, not on the couch of grass,
as they expected, but beside it, his face bowed upon his clasped
hands on his pillow, where he had offered his last prayer for
the deliverance of Africa.
How fitting a close to such a
life! How fitting, too, was all that which followed! Bereft so
suddenly of their veteran leader, and in the midst of barbarous
and superstitious strangers, what should his followers do? A
council was held, and a decision was reached well worthy of
Stanley's or Livingstone's men. They would bear his body the
long and dangerous way, a thousand miles, to the sea, that it
might be taken to his own people! Over a region through which
Stanley, with nearly two hundred men, had to fight his way, this
little band, led by Susi and Chuma, resolved to go. Dr. Pierson
well records their act of devotion as one of the miracles of
modern missions, and places it alongside Mary's alabaster box of
perfume – a fragrant offering that speaks volumes in praise of
the gospel Livingstone lived in the presence of these men, and
in behalf of the race they represent.
The heart that had
been so sorely torn by the wretchedness it could not relieve,
together with the viscera, was buried beneath a mvula-tree, upon
which Wainwright carved the words, "Dr. Livingstone died on May
4, 1873." The body was dried in the sun, carefully wrapped in
coarse sail-cloth, and placed in a casket of bark. With solemn
reverence the pall-bearers took up their dead, and led out in
Livingstone's last march – a funeral march to the sea.
unreasonable were the superstitions of the tribes with reference
to dead bodies, so dangerous the way, that, after a good part of
their heavy task was performed, Lieutenant Cameron, whom they
met leading an expedition to find Livingstone, advised them to
bury him there. But no; they had trained too long under one who
would not know defeat. Sickness and death lessened their
company, but on they went. At one time they feigned sending the
body back for burial; then with that which was dearer than life
to them, bound up as a traveler's package, they threaded their
sorrowful way onward. At last they placed their strange burden,
together with the explorer's valuable journals, maps, and
personal belongings, at the feet of the English on the coast.
Thence it was borne to London for burial. Jacob Wainwright was
allowed to accompany, as a faithful guardian, the body of his
The physician who, with Mr. Moffat, identified
the body, said that he was "as positive as to the
identity of these remains as that there has been among us in
modern times one of the greatest of the human race – David
The remains were buried with the highest testimonies of
respect, in Westminster Abbey. One of the pall-bearers was his
old-time fellow traveler Mr. Oswell; another, his American
friend, Mr. Stanley, who now pledged his life to carry on
Livingstone's work; a third, Jacob Wainwright, had been
pall-bearer over the long, sad trail in Africa. A wreath of
flowers, bearing a card upon which was written, "A tribute of
respect and admiration from Queen Victoria," was placed upon the
The inscription upon the marble that marks his
resting-place closes with his own words: "All I can say in my
solitude is, May Heaven's rich blessing come down on every one –
American, English, Turk – who will help to heal this open sore
of the world."
From "The Advanced Guard of Missions" by
Clifford G. Howell. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press