Andrew Murray’s Successful Marriage Proposal

Sometime early in 1856 (probably February) he wrote to ask her forgiveness for past offenses and to learn if he might have some hope of winning her as his wife in the future.

 “He is very romantic in his disposition. All sorts of things that in reading German poetry and plays I had put down to German mystery and romance, I find he fully sympathizes in. I thought no one in this matter-of-fact age did, that it was only the philosophy of poets.…”


Here’s the second of a two-part feature on how Andrew Murray successfully recovered after failing in his initial proposal of marriage to Emma Rutherfoord. (If you haven’t already done so, you can read about Murray’s initial failed attempt in my March 1, 2019 Perspective.) Murray learned from his mistakes on that occasion, and committed Christians today can learn a thing or two from his example about exercising sensitivity and prudence in working through the complexities of romance and courtship.

In 1854, at age twenty-six, Murray was one of two delegates sent to England to represent to the British Government the interests of the British and Dutch settlers he ministered to in the frontier region of South Africa. After returning to South Africa from Britain in May, 1855, Murray was introduced to Howson Rutherfoord, a prosperous Christian merchant and philanthropist in Cape Town. While staying as a temporary guest in the Rutherfoords’ home, Murray met and was attracted to their twenty-year-old daughter Emma. She was attractive, well-educated, a capable homemaker and an active Christian who had interest in serving as a missionary should such an opportunity present itself.

Murray needed to return soon to Bloemfontein, the frontier town where his ministry was headquartered. Though he had known Emma less than a month, he concluded he would like to marry her. Before leaving Cape Town he decided to ask for her hand in marriage, assuming she would be receptive to his proposal. Apparently his proposal was quite businesslike and not at all romantic in nature. She was shocked and dismayed that Murray, a godly and capable young minister who had already gained a degree of prominence, would propose marriage when they did not know each other well. And he did not appear to take into account the sacrifices she would have to make if she were to accept his proposal. As a result, she flatly refused his proposal and stated her wish to decline further acquaintance with him.

Emma wrote her sister Mary about the situation the first week of July. The correspondence reveals that, despite her strong front, Emma was having difficulty putting the unsettling developments with Andrew Murray out of her mind: “Mr Murray has left Cape Town today. He called on Papa on Saturday, and said that he felt that his conduct had been very wrong, did not seek to extenuate [excuse] it, under any circumstances it had been wrong, but that his mind had been very harassed and pressed, his people constantly urging his return [to Bloemfontein]. He had only left them for ten months and had been absent twenty.

“He felt at the same time the disadvantage and pain of his entirely lonely condition, no one he could associate with or make a companion, and that he had acted hastily without due consideration for me. He expressed extreme regret. Papa said he was evidently agitated and his mind overpressed, and also said he felt how entirely proper and just my conduct had been, that it had only heightened his esteem, and begged to be allowed to send  me his very best regards. …

“I don’t feel quite happy in a variety of ways, but however I am trying to think of nothing but the present day and its duties. For to myself I seem moving in the midst of clouds, though I daresay to others all looks bright around me.”

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