Let My People Go: The Life of Robert A. Jaffray

Let My People Go: The Life of Robert A. Jaffray

by A. W. Tozer
Let My People Go: The Life of Robert A. Jaffray

Let My People Go: The Life of Robert A. Jaffray

by A. W. Tozer

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How God can use one person—limitations and all—to bring thousands to Himself

Robert A. Jaffray was a giant among the pioneer missionary statesmen of the early 20th century. Heir to the Toronto Globe, one of Canada's leading newspapers, he turned his back on wealth and power to serve in China. Responsible for an ever-growing work there, he simultaneously opened French Indochina to The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Later he orchestrated the missionary effort in Indonesia, today the largest Alliance field overseas. Jaffray was a missionary general. His keen administration, extensive writing, and incessant strategizing made him a natural leader.

Aided by his wife, Minnie, he never let poor health—diabetes and a heart condition—deter him from his work for the Lord. Committed to missions and the people of Southeast Asia to the end, Jaffray died a Martyr in a Japanese prison camp during World War 2. His story serves as an example of how God can use one person—limitations and all—to bring thousands to Himself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781600663451
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 08/02/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 144
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

A. W. TOZER began his lifelong pursuit of God at the age of seventeen after hearing a street preacher. He never attended high school or seminary—his spiritual understanding came from the power of the Word and the power of the Spirit. While serving as a pastor and magazine editor, he wrote prolifically about basic spiritual disciplines and their relationship to contemporary life. His powerful use of words continues to grip the intellect and stir the soul of today's reader.

Read an Excerpt

Let My People Go

The Life of Robert A. Jaffray

By A. W. Tozer

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 1990 Zur Ltd.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60066-345-1



When the returns are in, it may be discovered that, for its size, no country has given to the world such a galaxy of spiritual giants as has Scotland. Whatever the reason, the fact is there for all to see. Out of Scotland have come preachers, missionaries, Bible expositors and Christian educators in numbers far out of proportion to its total population. Wherever its people have ranged over the earth, they have usually carried with them Scotland's plain Protestant faith and severe religious code. While there have been many individual exceptions, I think it will be found that they have stayed, for the most part, on the side of the angels, and the blessing of God has followed them down to the third and fourth generations.

It is no wonder, then, that one of the greatest missionaries of modern times should have been a Scot just one generation removed. He still had all his Highland courage and all his inherited love for hardships. Lust for action was strong upon him.

His grandfather, William Jaffray, was born in Thomasland, Scotland, in 1790 and was married only after he was well on in middle life. He and his wife, Margaret Heugh, had been married just a year when the first baby arrived at the Skeoch Farm home. Every two years thereafter came another, until there were nine in all—two daughters and seven sons. Some were given good, approved and solid names such as Janet and William and Margaret. Others had plainer ones—John and James and Alexander. George and Thomas were thrown in to finish out the nine. They were all baptized, the records say, by Mr. Raeburn or Mr. Logan or Mr. Robert Frew, and their names were duly entered in the Sessions Book of the kirk.

Those were the days when large families were born and small families were reared, the infant mortality rate being what it was. But the nine Jaffrays survived and lived, at least some of them, to a very advanced age. They were farmers, mostly, as native to the soil as the heather that grew beneath their feet. With one exception, they stayed close to the familiar old places with musical names: Thomasland near Airth, Skeoch near Bannonckburn, Throsk, and Stirling on the River Forth that flows from Loch Lomond to the sea.

The exception was Robert, the father of the missionary R. A. Jaffray. A strain of adventure led him while still quite a lad to break home ties and cross the ocean to Canada. He was, to stay by the figures, 20 years old when he arrived in Toronto in 1852. The Canada of that day was still young and relatively undeveloped, but to young Jaffray this was all in its favor. It did not offer too much ready-made comfort, but it did present a challenge—it afforded a young fellow a chance to begin at the bottom and grow up with the country. Jaffray decided to stay and spent the next years getting used to the new world, measuring the task and learning the ways of business and finance. That he learned these things well many Canadians know even today.

Jaffray married late, as his father had done before him, but the marriage, when it finally came, was a success from a social standpoint. His bride was Sarah Bugg, daughter of Alderman Bugg of the city of Toronto. This afforded a bit of a social boost, but it did not aid in the struggle for financial independence. So Jaffray entered the business world, becoming junior partner in a grocery concern with a Mr. Smith, the house being known as Smith and Jaffray.

Five children were born to the Jaffrays over the next years, three girls and two boys, and the sturdy family names appeared again—William, Robert and Margaret as well as Annie and Elizabeth. Things looked bright for the Jaffray family. The children were growing and so was the business. Then one day Jaffray woke to find out that he still had the family, but the business had disappeared. A fire had swept away everything, leaving him not just destitute but $10,000 in debt.

Here for the first time the true mettle of the man was proved. Of Mr. Smith we hear nothing more, but of Mr. Jaffray we hear much more indeed. It took disaster to wake the Scot in him and bring out his fighting spirit. A few years of sharp struggle followed, but he soon got on his feet again and gained an interest in a number of business enterprises. Before long he was able to pay off his debts, and from there he went on to make a fortune in real estate.

When past middle life, Mr. Jaffray became interested in the Toronto Globe, one of the great dailies in the Dominion, bought a controlling interest and proceeded to take over the paper—lock, stock and barrel. At a time in life when many men are planning to retire, he was entering the most influential phase of his career. Soon he was one of the best-known figures in Canada. The Globe, a liberal newspaper, prospered under the vigorous leadership of its new owner. Jaffray was its animating spirit. It is not too much to say that for a great many years Jaffray was the Globe.

Shortly after he had taken over the Globe, his lumber interests—through which he had made his fortune—were caught in a business slump. For the second time Jaffray had everything swept from under him. Nothing remained but the Globe and a heavy, insistent debt.

His reputation was such that he managed to survive without relinquishing his hold upon the newspaper. Though no longer young, he fought like a man in his twenties. The Globe paid out. His debts were paid off and when he died at 82 he was able to leave behind a sizable amount to be divided among his heirs.

During the last years of his life he became so well and favorably known throughout the business and political world that he was, at the age of 74, appointed to the Senate by order of the Council of the Canadian Government. He was still Senator Jaffray at the time of his death.

It may help in some measure to explain R.A. Jaffray—as far as any merely human factors can explain him—to see how the elder Jaffray met one after another of the difficult situations that confronted him during his long and active life. He could make and lose a fortune as if it were merely one more item in the month's work. Inexperience, lack of education, age, debt—nothing seemed to stop him as long as his health remained. The casual manner of dealing with impossibilities reveals a trait that appears to have descended from father to son without losing anything in the process. In another field of action the son showed the same courage, the same dogged cheerfulness under opposition, the same inability to know when he was beaten.


Early Life

Robert Alexander Jaffray was born December 16, 1873. The home in which he grew up was one where the solid virtues were rated above all else and practiced by every member of the family. But it was not a home united spiritually. Sarah Jaffray, the wife and mother, was an ardent Christian and a faithful member of the church, but her husband could not see the light. He possessed the hardy moral nature of his Scottish forbears, but of personal faith he appears to have had little. To the claims of Christ he could not or would not respond.

At one time, it must be admitted, he even leaned far to the left in matters of belief. For a short while he attended the gatherings of a little band of "atheists" that met in the city of Toronto to discuss the mysteries of unbelief and warm their hands at the chill fires of their religious doubts. Mr. Jaffray appeared once in a while at these meetings, but the Protestant tradition was too strong in him to allow him to become enthusiastic over mere negations. He was rather apologetic about his association with these people and occasionally spoke very critically of them. Even if he did not have enough faith to become a Christian, he had too much to be a successful unbeliever. The proddings of conscience that must have come often to a person of his religious heritage he escaped by hard work and absorption in business affairs.

While her husband attended to his worldly interests, Sarah cared for her growing family, giving them the best religious training of which she was capable and taking them to the house of God on Sundays. If the father would not, then the mother would, and did—this happened in many other families besides the Jaffrays.

The childhood of Rob Jaffray—the name by which he was known to his family to the end of his life—could not have been a happy one. He was an overly stout boy, suffering from heart disease and diabetes. His disabilities excluded him from all sports and every form of play that required physical effort. When his friends started to have a game on some vacant lot, if Rob went with them he would be seen trudging heavily along behind. And when the game was at its height and the rest were running and shouting in their fun, he could only stand by pensively watching.

To those who knew Jaffray only after he had become a world missionary, it may come as a surprise to learn that he never recovered from this dual affliction. To the end of his life he was plagued by a weak heart, and while his excessive heaviness disappeared after he entered manhood, he was never entirely free from diabetes. While he did receive some relief at times, he was always on a restricted diet. What this must have meant to him during the course of his life only he could know. The vital need for a careful diet would seem to make extensive travel impossible. Yet R.A. Jaffray traveled hundreds of thousands of miles under every possible condition—from longboats to luxury liners—and his food was prepared by a wide assortment of kitchens from world-famous hotels to dirty huts on the banks of the swift-flowing Sesajap or Boelongan.

The Jaffrays were members of the Gould Street Presbyterian Church, and there each week they listened to the inspired preaching of the saintly Dr. Kellogg, one of the greatest preachers of Toronto in his day. When Rob was still a boy, the Gould Street Church consolidated with another located on St. James Square and the larger group that resulted became known as the St. James Square Presbyterian Church.

In this fellowship Rob was reared and here, when he was about 16 years old, he was soundly converted. His conversion to Christ came about through the efforts of a Sunday school teacher, Miss Annie Gowan, who had come under the spell of the preaching of Dr. A.B. Simpson during his many visits to Toronto.

A few years after his conversion, Rob went to hear Dr. Simpson in person, and from that time on his future was assured. After listening to one of Simpson's impassioned addresses, he threw himself at the feet of Christ and surrendered his entire life to Him and His cause.

He immediately became active in his home church, but the vision of a whole world lost would not let him rest content with church work. The call of the masses was upon his heart now and the urge of the Spirit was within him. He was not too sure yet, but vaguely he sensed that the voice of the Lord was saying to him, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people and I have come down to rescue them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh, and you shall say to him, 'Let my people go.'"


The Call

Young Jaffray was educated in the public schools of Toronto and upon graduation from high school entered the Preparation School of Upper Canada College. After finishing there he decided against further studies for the time being and took a position with the Canadian Life Insurance Company. He was then 20 years old, and at this time the important encounter with A.B. Simpson took place.

The call to Christian service grew upon him with the passing of time, becoming more insistent until at last he could resist it no more. He must become a missionary! However he reasoned within himself, however he sought to excuse himself before God, however earnestly he pleaded his few gifts and lack of preparation, the way of peace for him lay in obedience to his vision, and he knew it.

In New York City some years prior, A.B. Simpson had founded a school to train workers for his rapidly growing missionary society. It was not a pretentious school. It offered no degrees and its prestige was precisely zero. But it did have low entrance requirements and the tuition was small. Besides these advantages, it had an excellent faculty composed of learned and deeply devout men brought together by some kind of miracle from several evangelical denominations. Rob did not ponder for long. He decided to enter the New York Missionary Training Institute as his first real step toward the mission field.

Now came the hardest part of the job. He must inform his father and secure his consent to the plan. Robert Jaffray senior was no longer a young man. He had come up the hard way, had tasted power and had become accustomed to command. And he had his own plans for his sons. Will, the elder, he had slated to succeed him as editor and publisher of the powerful Toronto Globe, and Rob would continue in the highly lucrative insurance business. He just had to close his eyes to see Rob as one of Canada's richest men and to see Will and the Globe as a mighty molding force in the political future of the country. That was the man's dream, and up to that point he had an uncanny way of making his dreams come true.

Then young Rob walked in and quietly announced that he had decided to become a missionary to China. The expected happened. There was a stormy scene as the two Jaffrays met in a contest of will. It was an unequal battle with the advantage lying altogether on the side of the older man. Age, paternal authority and the strong leverage of economic pressure—all were on his side, while Rob had only his vision, his crusader's zeal and his dogged determination to obey God rather than man.

There is a story to the effect that the elder Jaffray, after threatening young Rob with disinheritance if he persisted in his plan, finally had a will drawn up cutting his son off altogether from the family fortune. Will Jaffray, Rob's elder brother, who was familiar with the whole thing from the beginning, staunchly denies this story, and the correspondence that I have examined is of such a nature as to make it seem very improbable. Admittedly, this removes the flavor of martyrdom—a flavor we enjoy when someone else is serving as the martyr. Knowing the slashing downright nature of the elder Jaffray, though, we find it easy to believe that in the urgency of the debate, he may have been led by the heat of his spirit to at least hint at the possibility of disinheritance if his son refused to abandon his senseless and fanatical plan.

One fact that may have given rise to the disinheritance story was the elder Jaffray's flat refusal to finance Rob's schooling at the Missionary Training Institute. If he would consent to a compromise and enter the regular Presbyterian ministry in Canada, all would be well and good. His needs would be met from the family exchequer. But Simpson! China!

Never! And that was that.

By the time September rolled around things had quieted down somewhat. Rob would go to New York and work his way through school. His father was somewhat reconciled, but certainly not convinced. No one could do anything with Rob in his present state of mind—that was evident. But things might change. He would wait and see, "If the Alliance sends you to China," he told his son, "they'll pay every penny of the expense. Not a dime will you get from me." Then softening a little, "But if you decide the whole thing was a mistake and want to come home, just let me know. I'll send you the money."

Now followed three years of hard study. The curriculum of that early missionary school boasted no fancy subjects. Those who entered its doors cared little about the liberal arts, nor were they much interested in technical subjects except as they had practical bearing upon the work of world missionaries. The minds of those first students were focused. They were there to gain the essential training that would enable them to preach the gospel in places where Christ had not yet been named and where they burned to go at the earliest possible moment.


The Missionary Imperative

About this time a missionary revival had begun to make itself felt here and there in the United States and Canada. A.B. Simpson was one of its leaders, partly the cause and partly the result of it. Under his inspiration the school—indeed the entire Alliance movement—flamed with missionary zeal. All human learning, all theology was directed to this one channel. The hope of Christ's return, which had spread among the churches with something like prairie-fire rapidity, gave added urgency to the missionary passion. This was especially true of the doctrine as Simpson interpreted it.

According to his view, the second coming was contingent upon world evangelization. Christ could not return until the gospel had been preached among all nations for a witness. The conclusion was plain. The Lord's return could actually be hastened by zealous missionary activity. One had a direct bearing upon the other. One theme ran through the preaching and writings of Simpson: Bring back the King, "Why say ye not a word about bringing back the King?" was the reproachful text often used in those days to arouse slumbering interest and to incite zeal for world evangelization.


Excerpted from Let My People Go by A. W. Tozer. Copyright © 1990 Zur Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 Heritage,
2 Early Life,
3 The Call,
4 The Missionary Imperative,
5 Labors More Abundant,
6 The Man Jaffray,
7 The Chair Presides,
8 In Peril of Robbers,
9 Toward the South,
10 Stopped by War,
11 The Jaffray Pattern,
12 The Conquest of Indochina,
13 The Hong Kong Incident,
14 The Cloud Is Taken Up,
15 The Call of the Islands,
16 Debts and Bloodstains,
17 What Is of First Importance?,
18 The Sound of Marching,
19 Good-bye to Wuchow,
20 The Vision Fulfilled,
21 The Storm Breaks,
22 Labor Ended,

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