David Livingstone (1813–1873): “He lived and died for good.” - page 3

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From the Fall 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  


David Livingstone (1813 -  1873)
"He lived and died for good."

by David B. Calhoun
Professor Emeritus of Church History Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

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  This bicentennial year of Livingstone’s birth has produced not only new books about his life and work, but also a much-needed book about Mary—Looking for Mrs. Livingstone.14 Alexander McCall Smith writes in the introduction that Julie Davidson “has created in this remarkable work of historical and geographical reflection a fascinating picture of a remarkable life.” 15


  The years took their toll on David Livingstone, but he carried on, determined to fight slavery and track down the elusive Nile, thereby providing a route for commerce and Christianity into the heart of Africa. He hoped, he said, that “when the day of trial comes” he would “not be found a more sorry soldier than those who serve an earthly sovereign.”16
  For months no one heard from Livingstone until the Welsh-American journalist Henry Morton Stanley, on behalf of the New York Herald, found him in the heart of Tanzania on November 10, 1871. Stanley greeted him with the famous handshake and words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Livingstone refused to go home to Britain with Stanley.  He wanted to continue his work in his beloved Africa.
  At the age of sixty, David Livingstone died in what is now Zambia, on May 1, 1873, at four in the morning, kneeling in prayer beside his cot. His African friends, former slaves he had freed, buried his heart under a tree, read the funeral service from the Book of Common Prayer, and then sat down “and cried a great deal.” They wrapped his body in calico and dried it in the sun to preserve it for the long trip back home. They trekked fifteen hundred miles to the coast, a journey of more than eight months. David Livingstone’s body was brought back to England and buried at Westminster Abbey on April 18, 1874.  The great congregation sang, thundering forth the “Old One Hundredth” tune of the doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host: praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
  Livingstone’s tomb in the center of the nave of Westminster Abbey bears the inscription: “Brought by faithful hands over land and sea, David Livingstone: Missionary, Traveler, Philanthropist. For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the [Africans], to explore the undiscovered secrets and abolish the slave trade. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”
  A British magazine paid tribute to the famous missionary-explorer with these words:

He needs no epitaph to guard a name
Which men shall prize while worthy work is known;
He lived and died for good—be that his fame:
Let marble crumble: this is

His Legacy

  There are more than one hundred biographies of David Livingstone. The earliest books picture him as a servant of God who became a great missionary and courageous champion of Africans, giving his last years and ebbing strength to fighting the slave trade. Florence Nightingale spoke for many when she called him “the greatest man of his generation.”18 Anglican bishop and missiologist Stephen Neill wrote, “I have not found it necessary to revise my opinion, formed many years ago, that the two great men of the nineteenth century were Abraham Lincoln and David Livingstone.” 19

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