South Africa’s Forgotten Revival: the Story of the Cape’s Great Awakening in 1860

Although the Great Awakening at the Cape in 1860 was as powerful as its precursors in America, Ireland and Wales, its story has never been fully told until now. Dr. Olea Nel has succeeded in filling a much needed gap in the literature by describing these events through the lives of three key players: Andrew Murray, Nicolaas Hofmeyr and Gottlieb van der Lingen.


This story tells of the frigid church conditions prior to revival, when there was a dire shortage of pastors and teachers, and semi-literate Afrikaners clung to their home-spun religion based on the Old Covenant. It describes how God prepared the ground by setting the precursors in place and raising up key leaders to help promote and direct the revival. They were Andrew Murray (Worcester & Wellington), Nicolaas Hofmeyr (Calvinia & Stellenbosch) and Gottlieb van der Lingen (Paarl).

While the tide of the Holy Spirit swelled gently in some towns, in others – like Worcester – it broke without warning. It swept through vast areas of farmland throughout the Cape and beyond, convicting Afrikaners, Coloureds and Africans. Overnight, awakened Christians became prayer warriors and mission enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, overzealousness led to disagreements regarding the boycott of Sunday trains, while a backlash from liberal pastors led to Andrew Murray having to defend the Dutch Reformed Church in legal battles in the Cape High Court and Privy Council in London.

Our story, concludes in 1875 with the victory of the Church over liberal influences, the establishment of educational centres in Stellenbosch and Wellington, and the vision for a Bible translation in Afrikaans emanating from Paarl.


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Dr. Olea Nel was born in Cape Town, South Africa. After completing her training as a teacher in Andrew Murray’s heartland of Wellington, she relocated to Australia to further her studies. Besides attaining a PhD in Linguistics, she also has qualifications in Information Studies and Theology. Having now retired from her position as a senior librarian at the National Library of Australia, she is able to pursue her passion for research, especially within the fields of church history and biography. Her aim is to share her findings with fellow Christians.