At the age of sixteen Robert Moffat, the African Missionary, had to leave home to fill a responsible situation in Cheshire as a gardener. When the day arrived when he should bid farewell to his parents and brothers and sisters, his mother proposed to accompany him to the boat which was to convey him across the Firth of Forth. When they came within sight of the spot where they were to part, perhaps never again to meet in this world, she said—
“Now, my Robert, let us stand here for a few minutes, for I wish to ask one favour of you before we part, and I know you will not refuse to do what your mother asks.”
“What is it, mother?” Robert inquired.
“Do promise me, first, that you will do what I am now going to ask, and I shall tell you,” said the mother.
“No, mother,” said the lad, “I cannot till you tell me what your wish is.”
“Oh, Robert,” exclaimed Mrs. Moffat, “can you think for a moment that I shall ask you, my son, to do anything that is not right ? Do not I love you?”
“Yes, mother, I know that you do,” responded Robert, “but I do not like to make promises which I may not be able to fulfil.”
The young man kept his eyes fixed on the ground. He was silent and endeavoured to resist the rising emotion of his heart. She sighed deeply as if grieved. When Robert Moffat lifted his eyes to look at his mother he saw the big tears rolling down her cheeks, and as soon as he could recover his speech he said—
“0, mother, ask what you will, and I will do it.”
“I only ask you,” said Mrs. Moffat calmly, “whether you will read a chapter in the Bible every morning and another every evening?”
“Mother,” interrupted the lad, “you know I read my Bible.”
“I know you do, but you do not read it regularly, or as a duty you owe to God, its Author; and,” she added, “now I shall return home with a happy heart, inasmuch as you have promised to read the Scriptures daily. 0, Robert, my son, read much in the New Testament, read much in the Gospels, the blessed Gospels. Then you cannot go astray. If you pray, the Lord Himself will teach you.”
In after days, when a noted missionary, Moffat, said his heart was changed by the Spirit of God through reading the Bible, and the Bible only.
Meet the author: Robert Moffat (21 December 1795 – 9 August 1883) was a Scottish Congregationalist missionary to Africa, and father-in-law of David Livingstone. Moffat was born of humble parentage in Ormiston, East Lothian. To find employment, he moved south to Cheshire in England as a gardener. In 1814, whilst employed at West Hall High Legh in Cheshire he experienced difficulties with his employer due to his Methodist sympathies. For a short period, after having applied successfully to the London Missionary Society (LMS) to become an overseas missionary, he took an interim post as a farmer, at Plantation Farm in Dukinfield (where he first met his future wife). In September 1816, he was formally commissioned at Surrey Chapel in London as a missionary of LMS (on the same day as John Williams) and was sent out to South Africa. His fiancée Mary Smith (1795–1870) was able to join him three years later, after he returned to Cape Town from Namaqualand (where he converted the chief Afrikaner to Christianity) and she actively assisted further missionary work.