• Andrew Murray and the Freemason Issue

    When I first came across the unfounded accusation that Andrew Murray was a Freemason, I considered the thought so ridiculous that I didn’t give it any credence. But of late, this scurrilous allegation, which is obviously meant to debase his life and work, has reached new heights, and therefore needed to be challenged by putting it to bed once and for all with irrefutable facts.  


    Before I begin, I would like to offer a brief note about myself. Over several years now I have studied the life and works of Andrew Murray during which I having written several books on his life. If you would like a detailed account of his battle in the Cape Synod and Supreme Court against the liberals, I’d like to refer you to my fourth novel on his life titled: Andrew Murray: From Spark to Flame (May 2021).  In it I give a dramatized account of what  occurred.


    It is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats at: https://amzn.to/2QAMIOI and in e-pub and paperback formats from Christian Book Discounters in Cape Town at: https://bit.ly/2SeoDOb




    If you would prefer to read this paper as a PDF, please feel free to download it by clicking the link below.


    An overview of the battle between Andrew Murray and the liberal pastors in the Cape Dutch Reformed Church between 1862 and 1870

    Firstly, Andrew Murray was an evangelical Christian who believed in the triune God, namely, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three in one. He also believed in the inspiration of Scripture and the teachings based on Scripture in the Heidelberg Catechism. He was also Moderator of the Cape Dutch Reformed (DRC) Synod over 35 years, being elected no less than six times.


    As its leader and fervent believer in Christ his Savior and the indwelling Holy Spirit, he could not condone Freemasonry because they exclude Christ and the Holy Spirit from their oaths of office. In addition, their Society was (and still is) essentially a Deist one that believes in a Universal God that embraces the gods of all religions, but minus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Society is therefore non-Christian. So let us now look at a few historical facts.

    The Dutch-speaking Freemasons at the Cape 

    Among the Dutch-speaking Freemasons were liberal pastors who openly questioned and even negated the deity of Christ and the existence of Satan. They were Ds. Stephanus Naude of Queenstown, Ds. Thomas Francois Burgers of Hanover (who later became President of the Transvaal), Johannes Kotze of Darling (the ringleader of the liberal pastors), and Nicolaas Jacobus van Warmelo (who became a pastor of the Herformde Kerk in the Transvaal with its definite tilt towards liberalism.


    During the Synod of 1862, the liberals devised a plan to radically decrease the number of orthodox pastors in the Synod. They took the Synod to the Supreme Court where they argued that only pastors from the Cape should be allowed to sit in Synod. They argued further that it was therefore illegal for those from the Free State, Natal and the Transvaal to do so. Unfortunately, their strategy worked.


    The next phase of their plan was to introduce freedom of theological thought and expression into the church. This would enable them to teach their modernist theology that denied the Trinitarian Godhead.


    It was Johannes Kotze who fired the first shot over the orthodox bough by declaring that he couldn’t adhere to Question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Andrew Murray, who had been voted in as Moderator at the young age of thirty-four, took Kotze to task over this point. When the Synod decided to dismiss Kotze, the latter took Andrew Murray (as moderator of Synod) to court over the matter. Kotze won his case on a technicality.


    In the meantime, Frederik Watermeyer, who had been hired to be the Synod’s advocate, became seriously ill a few days before the court case was due to begin. This left Andrew Murray with no option but to present the Synod’s case himself. He also went on to present the case brought against the Synod by Thomas Francois Burgers of Hanover. Again the Synod lost the case on a technicality.


    This prompted the Synod to take the matter to the Privy Council in London. Andrew Murray again took part in court proceedings along with Lord Westbury, Sir James Colville, and Sir Edward Campbell. These distinguished British advocates were of the mind that the Cape Synod offered a strong case in support of its authority to dismiss Thomas Burgers on theological grounds. But again, the Privy Council upheld the judgement of the Cape Supreme Court.


    When Andrew Murray returned to the Cape, he heard that 527 liberals in the Groote Kerk  had conspired against his efforts to rid the Synod of liberal pastors. They had done so by signing a petition to have Ds. Johannes Kotze, the very liberal who had taken the Synod to court, to be declared the third pastor of the Groote Kerk. Fortunately, their efforts failed.


    But now a new, fully-blown liberal pastor entered the ring who would one day become grandmaster of the Freemasons. He was David Faure. One of his first acts was to take aim at Andrew Murray (now Actuarius of Synod) for his efforts to free the Synod of liberals.


    In a satirical piece, in which he gives Andrew Murray a back-handed compliment, he writes:

    First let me sketch the men of the ultra-orthodox party who pose as watchmen on the walls of Zion. Under this category I begin with Rev. A Murray—a worthy leader. Eloquent, quick and talented, he has an acute mind and clear judgment. He instantly divines the weak points in his opponent’s arguments and knows how to assail them. He carries the meeting with him. He is too clever for most of them. He understands the art of making ideas so attractive to the elders and small minds among the ministers (who all look up with reverence to the Actuarius) that they very seldom venture to contradict Demosthenes or, as another called him, Apollos.
    ‘It would be sacrilege to raise a voice against the Right Reverend Actuarius, Andrew Murray. There is no member of the assembly who possesses more influence than Andrew Murray, and certainly, there is no one among the conservatives who better deserves this influence. He is consistent, and consistency always demands respect.


    As soon as David Faure started to publish his heretical notions, it gave Andrew Murray the opportunity to rebut them point by point in a substantial book of 354 pages titled: Het Moderne Ongeloof (Modern Unbelief). Andrew Murray also gave lectures in Dutch on the topic in the Groote Kerk on Monday evenings, and at the Commercial Exchange in English. As a result, members of the public lost interest in Modern theology and Freemasonry during Andrew Murray’s lifetime.


    Several church historians have since posited the view that it was due to Murray’s oratorial skills and his deftness with the pen in expounding the Word of God that saved the Cape Dutch Reformed Church from liberal influences and, by extension, from Freemasonry at the time.


    Andrew Murray’s obelisk-type gravestone

    In addition to ignoring the facts of history, Andrew Murray’s present-day accusers have now tried to prove that he was a Freemason by pointing to his obelisk-type gravestone. (See photographs below). According to their conspiracy theory, it is a symbol of Freemasonry and therefore proves that he was a Freemason.


    This, however, begs the following question: If this obelisk-type gravestone is supposed to prove that Andrew Murray was a Freemason, what about the Anglo-Boer-War Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein where the obelisk towers 120 feet into the sky? (See photograph below.) Does that mean that those starving women and children in the British Concentration Camps, where over 26,370 women and children died, were also Freemasons? The mind boggles!


    And what about the obelisk on Execution Hill near uMgungundlovu that commemorates the slaughter of the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his entourage by the Zulus in 1838? By the same absurd argument, these men must also, then, be Freemasons.


     And what about the Afrikaans Language monument in Paarl which sports several obelisks of various sizes? Are they too connected with Freemasonry? How ridiculous! This is especially so when Afrikaans was one of the amazing fruits of the 1860s revival. It came about when those teaching the farm workers in Paarl and Wellington realized that the Word of God needed to be translated into Cape Dutch (Afrikaans), the language of both master and servant alike.





    Andrew Murray's gravestone

    The wording reads as follows:

    A truly

    incomparable pastor

    full of the Holy Spirit,

    who wholeheartedly served our church

    as powerful evangelical preacher,

    untiring seeker after souls and godly leader

    who through his devotional writings was an

    untold blessing to Christ’s church

    throughout the whole world



    Dates Andrew Murray served in Bloemfontein, Worcester, Cape Town, and Wellington


    Other well-known obelisks in South Africa spoken of above



    The Anglo-Boer War Women's monument in Bloemfontein


    (Andrew Murray opened the proceedings there in prayer.)


    Afrikaans language monument in Paarl




    Piet Retief obelisk on Execution Hill


    Why honour Andrew Murray with an obelisk memorial?

    Besides being voted in six times as Moderator of the DRC, he was a great visionary. At a time when only men were trained as teachers, he spearheaded women’s education by building the Huguenot Teachers Seminary in Wellington. This meant that Christian women could fill the vast number of vacant teaching positions in towns and farm schools.


    In 1877 he also built the Missions Training Institute that supplied men as teachers, catechists, and missionaries to many parts of Africa. Its graduates established mission stations in Bechuanaland (Botswana), Mashonaland (Zimbabwe), Nyasaland (Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and the Sudan.


    According to a census taken in 1927—just ten years after Murray’s death—1447 missions schools had been established with 96,309 students and 2699 teachers. In the churches that had been established, there were 19,440 baptized members, 15,282 confirmation candidates and 72,079 Africans who had been baptized.


    Without doubt, Andrew Murray has left a wonderful godly legacy that few can match. Unfortunately, many today are not aware of his achievements in Education and Missions. Thankfully his devotional books are still being avidly read around the world today.

    Alan Amos Cooper’s thesis on Freemasonry at the Cape

    The snippets below are taken from Alan Amos Cooper’s thesis for the degree of Master of Arts at the University of Cape Town (1980). It is titled: The Origins and Growth of Freemasonry in South Africa, 1772-1876.


    Needless to say, his findings regarding the Dutch Reformed Church’s opposition to liberalism and Freemasonry are identical to my own, although his discussion is in relation to the DRC as a whole. These snippets from the relevant section in his thesis can be found on page 177, following.

    Church Opposition: Dutch Reformed Church
    As Brand's empire spread in the 1850s and 1860s, it aroused bitter outspoken opposition from the orthodox sections of the D.R.C. which regarded Freemasonry as a secret society intent on replacing the church in the task of improving mankind. To them, the Craft was seen as a dangerous "liberalizing" influence.
    Freemasonry was condemned for having penetrated more widely to all circles of Cape activities: the administration, Parliament, military circles after 1850. It came under more critical survey by the orthodox church, particularly after the Wurttemberg incident in Germany in 1856 when 51 church leaders asked that church pastors should be prohibited from becoming Freemasons.
    This feeling spread to the Cape, and Freemasonry began to be seen as a greater threat to the church, and vocal opposition grew. Dutch masons bore the church’s fiercest attacks and many resigned as a result. Church dislike for Freemasonry had been expressed in the Cape since the start of De Goede Hoop lodge in 1772, and it helped to bring about its demise in 1781.
    It had, however, been muted to some extent until the 1860s when it assumed full voice, and particularly at the synod of the newly-formed Dutch Reformed Church which met at Cape Town in October 1862. The Rev. Andrew Murray was elected Moderator.
    Brand hoped the ministers would soon lose their prejudices against the Craft, alluding particularly to the Transvaal. But opposition by then had also solidified in other areas. At Harmony, Richmond, Natal, which had been provisionally warranted on 6 Sept. 1867, the master, S.V. Cloete, wrote to Brand that his lodge had met heavy obstacles "due to great antipathy and ignorance" ... "We are called Mother idolaters, liberals, workers with the Devil".

    Closing remarks

    It is clear from my own research as well as that of Alan Amos Cooper’s that the Dutch Reformed Church, particularly under the leadership of Andrew Murray as Moderator abhorred Liberalism, and by extension, Freemasonry. It is therefore unclear why Murray is being accused of being a Freemason by some, when there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.


    Although the allegations are ridiculous, they have been promulgated over several years now, and sometimes give rise to doubt because no one has bothered to counter them, probably thinking, like me, that they are too ludicrous to be called into question.


    Nevertheless, it is worthy of note that these conspiracy theorists become ever more vocal every time there is a renewed interest in Andrew Murray’s life or works. 


    What is particularly worrying is the fact that they have seemingly plucked their allegations from thin air with not a grain of evidence to back them up. Although purporting to be Christian, they glibly disobey one of the core commandments in the Bible: Thou shalt not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16). 


    May God have mercy on their souls!

    © Dr Olea Nel

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