David Livingstone

John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Precious Seed

2013 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of David Livingstone and the 140th anniversary of his death.

What was crammed into those sixty years of his life is astounding!


Livingstone was a man who received the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, was a Fellow of the Society, met members of, and led an expedition on behalf of, the British Government. He was lauded by ambassadors, governors, politicians, and academics. After his death, his remains were carried by native bearers over a thousand miles during a period of eight months before being shipped to London and buried in Westminster Abbey. It would be an understatement to say that his contribution to the development of Africa was massive. 


David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland, the second eldest of seven children. His father, Neil Livingstone and his mother, Agnes Hunter, were committed Christians, his father being a Sunday School teacher who handed out Christian tracts while travelling as a door to door tea salesman. He was also an avid reader of books on theology and missionary work, a habit that was influential in his son David’s early life.


Along with many of the Livingstones, at the age of ten David started work at the cotton mill, working twelve-hour days as a ‘piecer’, tying broken cotton threads on the spinning machines. Following gruelling days in the factory, he spent two hours at school, followed by his own private study. He taught himself Latin and developed a love of natural history. Although his father had a fear of science books, feeling that they undermined Christianity, David’s interest in nature and science persisted. One of the earliest influences upon him was the book Philosophy of a Future State by the science teacher, and church minister Thomas Dick. It was this book that helped him to reconcile faith and science.


At the age of nineteen Livingstone was promoted from a ‘piecer’ to become a spinner and it was around this time that David became exercised in relation to his service for the Lord. David, and his father, had left the Church of Scotland on doctrinal grounds and gathered instead with a local Congregational Church. His subsequent reading of the missionary Karl Gützlaff’s Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of China led him to consider medical study as a means of advancing the spread of the gospel. With his increased wages he began to save and by 1836 he had enough money to enter Anderson’s University, Glasgow to study medicine. In 1840 he moved to London to complete his medical studies and, at the end of the year, he qualified as a Licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.


With Gützlaff’s appeal still in his mind, Livingstone hoped to go to China as a missionary. However, in 1839 the First Opium War made this impossible. Then, while in London, Livingstone met Robert Moffat, who was on leave from Kuruman, a missionary outpost in South Africa. Moffat’s vision of expanding missionary work northwards, and T. F. Buxton’s views that the African slave trade might be destroyed by ‘legitimate trade’ and the spread of Christianity, influenced Livingstone to focus on Southern Africa. 


Livingstone spent his early years in Africa with the Bakwain (now in Botswana). From there he undertook a number of short expeditions which enabled him to see at first-hand the damage caused by the slave trade. This confirmed his belief that Christianity and legitimate trade should be brought to these areas. But these expeditions also developed Livingstone as a skilled navigator, linguist, and natural historian. 


One point that distinguished Livingstone, apart from his fascination for Africa, was his respect for the peoples he met there. Livingstone was one of the first medical missionaries in central Africa; he was often the first European to meet local tribes. As such he won their trust as a healer and medicine man. The local villagers sought his skills in obstetrics, for the surgical removal of tumours, and ophthalmology. His accurate observations and extensive writings also provided invaluable information on African diseases. He was one of the first to administer quinine and, unlike previous expeditions in Africa, his parties of explorers suffered a comparatively low death rate. 


However, Livingstone will always be remembered for his exploration of Africa. He spent thirty years there and, by the time of his death in 1873, it is estimated he had travelled over 46,000 kilometres, mostly on foot. In 1842, he began a four year expedition to find a route from the upper Zambezi to the coast, filling huge gaps in our knowledge of central and southern Africa. In 1849 and 1851, he travelled across the Kalahari, on the second trip sighting the upper Zambezi River. In 1855, Livingstone discovered a waterfall which he named ‘Victoria Falls’. He reached the mouth of the Zambezi on the Indian Ocean in May 1856, becoming the first European to cross the width of southern Africa. 


But what of Livingstone’s legacy? Was he merely the man who enabled British colonial rule to be established in Africa? Rather, he will be remembered as the man who:

  • made significant geographical discoveries and opened up Central Africa to missionaries. 
  • inspired abolitionists of the slave trade, and initiated education and health care for Africans. 
  • was held in esteem by many African chiefs and local people that enabled the later spread of the gospel to these people.

AUTHOR PROFILE: JOHN BENNETT is a member of the Precious Seed committee.

There are 26 articles in
ISSUE (2013, Volume 68 Issue 4)

Ards Evangelical Bookshop, Newtownards, Northern Ireland

Bits & Bobs - Brilliant Butterfly Feature Challenges Darwinian Selection

The Canon of Scripture. How was it arrived at?

The Case for a Literal One Thousand Year Kingdom

Daniel's Prophecy of The Seventy Weeks - Part 2

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Depression a Biblical Case Study - Elijah

The Desire of All Nations B. R. Mikhael

Editorial - ‘Abstain from all appearance of evil’, 1 Thess. 5. 22.

Front Cover Illustration

The Glory of God and the Church - Part 5

Hezekiah - The Devoted King

The Parables: Truth Illuminated Donald Norbie

Philippians: The Joy and Suffering of the Furtherance of the Gospel - Part 16

The Principles and Practices of the New Testament Church, William McCormack

Question Time - Are there scriptural grounds to justify leaving one assembly to join another in the

Realising a Vision through Faith Colleen Redit with Peggy Loh

The Recognition and Reward of Elders


The Servant Songs of Isaiah - Part 1

The Sovereignty of God in relation to Prayer

Spreading The Word ‘Scotland Needs the Gospel’

Studies in the life of Elijah - Part 4

The The Song of Zechariah Timothy Cross

Views from the News

A Word for Today: Vine, Grapevine (Heb. Gephen)

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The Central Role of the King

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Hezekiah’s Revival

Day by Day Bible Promises

Light & Life Literature

Editorial - ‘We be brethren’, Gen. 13. 8.

Hezekiah’s Revival

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995


The Precious Seed Web Site

Day by Day Divine Titles

God and the Nations

Eternal Security

Editorial - ‘Who is Apollos?’ 1 Cor. 3. 6.

Editorial - ‘Abstain from all appearance of evil’, 1 Thess. 5. 22.

The Chuch in Smyrna

Eternal Security

Day by Day - Bible Commands

The King in Psalm 45

Man’s Attitude to Christ

All Things

The Fear of the Lord


Could you ever love me again? Bob Cretney

Day by Day - Pictures and Parables




Book Reviews

Prayer Moves Mountains John Williams


R. B. Jones – Gospel Ministry in Turbulent Times N. Gibbard

Bible and Church Conference 2009 Peter Williams, Dirk Jongkind, Simon Gathercole

Christian Devotedness Anthony Norris Groves


A Practical Theology of Missions: Dispelling the Mystery; Recovering the Passion

Psalm 119 For Life: Living Today In The Light Of The Word

Empty Arms Keren Baker

The Church the Body of Christ

On wings of prayer

Editorial - Do I seek to please men?

Laridian Bible Software

King Asa

King Jehoshaphat

Baptism Jack Hay

The Heavenly Physician Rommel Ghossain

Editorial - ‘For if ye do these things ye shall never fall’

Editorial - ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love’, Gal. 5. 22


The Tabernacle and the Offerings Albert Leckie

Roses, Marys & Others Betty Holt

Editorial - ‘Many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them’, Mark 2.

“Thank You, King James” – the tough life of Robert Hicks James Hastings

Editorial - ‘Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’, Matt. 28. 20.

Editorial - ‘Apollos . . . mighty in the scriptures’, Acts 18. 24.

Amaziah – ‘thine heart hath lifted thee up’



Working with Senior Citizens - Part 2

Editorial - ‘Touched with the feeling of our infirmities’, Heb 4. 15.

David Livingstone

Editorial - ‘In whom we have . . . the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace’, E

Voice in the Darkness - Della Letkeman

The Messiah in the Temple - Roger Liebi

Show & Tell Colin D. Jones

Life in the Big Story – Your Place in God’s Unfolding Plan - Heidi Johnston

Led by His Hand - Malcolm Coombes, ex- R.N.

The Saviour God and His Servant King - Malcolm C. Davis.

Frederick Stanley Arnot: 1858-1914

Editorial - ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others’, Phil

Making Disciples – The Thessalonian Way Tim Mather

Biblical Principles of Leadership - Dr. Alexander Kurian

Possessing the Inheritance – a Concise Commentary on the Book of Joshua Malcolm C. Davis

Replacement Theology David Dunlap


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The Prophet Gad

William Trotter 1818-1865

The Epistle to Philemon - Part 1

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Henry Craik 1805-1866


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John R. Caldwell

Chairman’s Notes

At His Feet - Part 1

The Gospel of Mark

First Samuel

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Second Samuel

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At His Feet - Part 3: John 12 - Worshipping at His Feet

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The Gospel of Mark - Part 3

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The Gospel of Mark - Part 4

Their Finest Hour - Mary Magdalene

Chairman’s Notes

The Gospel of Mark - Part 5

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The Gospel of Mark - Part 7

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The Gospel of Mark - Part 8

The Gospel of Mark - Part 9

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The Gospel of Mark - Part 10

Chairman’s Notes