Reflections: Dr Bert Cargill

Dr Bert Cargill of St Monans Gospel Hall
Dr Bert Cargill of St Monans Gospel Hall

EACH year has its centenaries of famous events.

In 2012, it was the loss of the ‘Titanic’ and also Robert Scott’s tragic expedition to the South Pole.

2013 will bring the bicentenary of the birth of one of Scotland’s most famous sons, David Livingstone, born in Blantyre on March 19, 200 years ago.

To raise awareness of this remarkable man, National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh has mounted a special exhibition entitled ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’

It’s well worth a visit.There is even more to see in the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre (the National Trust for Scotland), based on the old tenement in Shuttle Row, where his family lived.

His boyhood was shaped by hard work in the huge cotton mill on the nearby banks of the Clyde.

From the age of 10, he worked at the spinning frames from 6am to 8pm, then it was school for two hours after that to learn to read.

When he was 23, he had saved up enough to get him into the Andersonian University, Glasgow. Four years later, he qualified as a doctor.

He wanted to become a missionary. Before he was 20, he had made the life-changing decision to accept Jesus Christ as his Saviour.

In one of his memoirs he wrote: “The salvation of men ought to be the chief desire and aim of every Christian.”

In 1840, Livingstone set sail for South Africa.

His first journey was 600 miles by ox cart to Kuruman, where he married Mary Moffat, another Scottish missionary’s daughter.

Then another 350 miles to Kolobeng in present-day Botswana, to bring the gospel message to people who had never heard it.

He trekked thousands of miles across southern Africa, exploring, mapping and opening up that unknown country.

He was the first white man to behold the amazing Victoria Falls and find Lake Nyasa.

Back home, Livingstone became famous, describing Africa, its peoples, its resources and its needs, and especially the horrors of the nefarious slave trade.

He aided the abolition of “this open sore of the world”, as he called it.

His own hardships were many – frequent hunger, thirst, malaria, attacks by wild beasts and wild tribesmen.

Mauled by a lion, he just escaped with his life.

‘Lost’ for months, at last Stanley greeted him with the iconic words quoted above.

One morning in a small hut, after months of horrible dysentery, he was found by his friends kneeling at his bed, as if in prayer.

He had died alone, yet not alone, for his Father God had taken him to heaven.

His body was embalmed and carried by his men 1000 miles overland, then shipped to Southampton.

On April 18, 1874, nearly a year after his death, he was buried with great ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

Along the side of his tombstone are those words from the Bible which had motivated his courageous and eventful life: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring.” (John 10.16)

These were Christ’s own words.

That was why He came to earth and died on a cross, for we were far away from God.

That’s worth reflecting on as we remember this man who followed the example of his Master.