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The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

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below, you may believe it is a very fatiguing mode of journeying.
However, we thought of Rebecca and Abraham's servant (Gen. 24.),
and listened with delight to the wild Bedouin's plaintive song.
That night (24) we slept at Menagie, a Bedouin mud village:
palm-trees and three wells, and an ocean of sand, formed the only
objects of interest. 25. - Up by sunrise, and proceeded as before.
The only event this day was Dr. Black's fall from his camel,
which greatly alarmed us. He had fallen asleep, which you are
very apt to do. We encamped and used every restorative, so that
we were able to proceed the same evening to Gonatre, a miserable
Arab post, having a governor. Not a tree. 26. - The Sabbath dawned
sweetly; thermometer 92° in tent; could only lie on the mat and
read psalms. Evening. - Gathered governor and Bedouins to hear
some words of eternal life, Ibrahim interpreting. 27. - Two very
long stages brought us to Katieh; thankful to God for his
goodness, while we pitched by the date-trees. 28. - Spent the day
at Katieh; interesting interviews with governor, a kind Arab;
thermometer 96° in tent. Same evening, proceeded through a
greener desert, among flocks of goats and sheep, and encamped by
a well, Bir-el-Abd. 29. - Another hot day in the desert; came in
sight of the sea, which gave us a refreshing breeze; bathed in
the salt lake, as hot as a warm bath. Evening. - Encampment at
Abugilbany. 30. - This was our last day in the Egyptian
wilderness. We entered on a much more mountainous region. The
heat very great; we literally panted for a breath of wind. The
Bedouins begged handkerchiefs to cover their heads, and often
cast themselves under a bush for shade. Towards sunset, we came
down on the old ruins of Rhinoculura, now buried in the sand; and
soon after our camels kneeled down at the gates of El Arish, the
last town on the Egyptian frontier. 31. - We spent in El Arish,
being unable to get fresh camels. We bought a sheep for five
shillings; drank freely of their delightful water, - what a
blessing after the desert! Found out the river of Egypt, the
boundary of Judah mentioned in the Bible, quite dry. _June
1._ - Visited the school, - a curiosity: all the children sit
cross-legged on the floor, rocking to and fro, repeating
something in Arabic. We had a curious interview with the
governor, sitting in the gate in the ancient manner. We are quite
expert now at taking off our shoes and sitting in the Eastern
mode. Smoking, and coffee in very small cups, are the constant
accompaniments of these visits. Left the same evening, and did
not reach Sheikh Juidhe, in the land of the Philistines, till the
sun was nearly bursting into view. 2. - Spent a happy Sabbath
here; sung 'In Judah's land God is well known.' Singing praises
in our tents is very sweet, they are so frail, like our mortal
bodies; they rise easily into the ears of our present Father. Our
journey through the land of the Philistines was truly pleasant.
3. - We went through a fine pasture country; immense straths;
flocks of sheep and goats, and asses and camels, often came in
sight. This is the very way up out of Egypt, little changed from
the day that the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing, and Joseph
and Mary carried down the babe from the anger of Herod. Little
changed, did I say? it is all changed; no more is there one brook
of water. Every river of Egypt, - Wady Gaza, Eshcol, Sorek, - every
brook we crossed, was dried up; not a drop of water. The land is
changed; no more is it the rich land of Philistia. The sand
struggles with the grass for mastery. The cities are
changed, - where are they? The people are changed: no more the
bold Philistines, - no more the children of Simeon, - no more Isaac
and his herdsmen, - no more David and his horsemen; but miserable
Arab shepherds, - simple people, without ideas, - poor degraded,
fearful. Khanounes was the first town we entered: Scripture name
unknown. The burying-ground outside the town. The well, and
people coming to draw, were objects of great interest to us. The
people were highly entertained with us in return. We sat down in
the bazaar, and were a spectacle to all. How much we longed to
have the Arabic tongue, that we might preach the unsearchable
riches of Christ in God's own land! Same evening we heard the cry
of the wolf, and encamped two miles from Gaza. The plague was
raging, so we did not enter, but spent a delightful day in
comparing its condition with God's word concerning it: 'Baldness
is come upon Gaza.' The old city is buried under sand-hills,
without a blade of grass, so that it is bald indeed. The herds
and flocks are innumerable, fulfilling Zeph. 2; Andrew and I
climbed the hill up which Samson carried the gates. 5. - Passed
through a fine olive grove for many miles, and entered the vale
of Eshcol. The people were all in the fields cutting and bringing
in their barley. They reap with the hook as we do. They seem to
carry in at the same time upon camels. No vines in Eshcol now, no
pomegranates, but some green fig-trees. Crossed the brook
Sorek - dry. Spent the mid-day under the embowering shade of a
fig-tree; tasted the apricots of the good land. Same evening we
came to Doulis, which we take to be Eshtaol, where Samson was
born. 6. - We went due east, and, after a mountain pass, saw the
hills of Judah, - an immense plain intervening, all studded with
little towns. From their names, we found out many Bible spots.
This valley or plain is the very vale Zephatha, of which you read
in II Chron. 14., 'In the plain of Sephela.' Before night we
entered among the hills of Judah, - very like our own
Highlands, - and slept all night among the mountains, at a
deserted village called Latroon. 7. - One of the most privileged
days of our life. We broke up our tents by moonlight; soon the
sun was up; we entered a defile of the most romantic character;
wild rocks and verdant hills; wild-flowers of every color and
fragrance scented our path. Sometimes we came upon a clump of
beautiful olive-trees, then wild again. The turtle's voice was
heard in the land, and singing birds of sweetest note. Our camels
carried us up this pass for four hours; and our turbaned Bedouins
added by their strange figures to the scene. The terracing of all
the hills is the most remarkable feature of Judean scenery. Every
foot of the rockiest mountains may in this way be covered with
vines. We thought of Isaiah wandering here, and David and
Solomon. Still all was wilderness. The hand of man had been
actively employed upon every mountain, but where were these
laborers now? Judah is gone into captivity before the enemy.
There are few men left in the land; not a vine is there. 'The
vine languisheth.' We came down upon Garieh, a village embosomed
in figs and pomegranates. Ascending again, we came down into the
valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath. Another long and steep
ascent of a most rugged hill brought us into a strange scene - a
desert of sunburnt rocks. I had read of this, and knew that
Jerusalem was near. I left my camel and went before, hurrying
over the burning rocks. In about half an hour Jerusalem came in
sight. 'How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people!'
Is this the perfection of beauty? 'How hath the Lord covered the
daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger!' It is, indeed, very
desolate. Read the two first chapters of Lamentations, and you
have a vivid picture of our first sight of Jerusalem. We lighted
off our camels within the Jaffa gate. Among those that crowded
round us, we observed several Jews. I think I had better not
attempt to tell you about Jerusalem. There is so much to
describe, and I know not where to begin. The Consul, Mr. Young,
received us most kindly, provided us a house where we might
spread our mats, and helped us in every way. Mr. Nicolayson
called the same evening, and insisted on our occupying one of the
mission-houses on Mount Zion. The plague is still in Jerusalem,
so that we must keep ourselves in quarantine. The plague only
communicates by contact, so that we are not allowed to touch any
one, or let any one touch us. Every night we heard the mourners
going about the streets with their dismal wailings for the dead.
On Sabbath Mr. Nicolayson read the prayers, and Dr. Black
preached from Isaiah 2:2. Dr. Keith in the evening. Three
converted Jews were among the hearers. On Monday (10) we visited
the sepulchre, and a painful sight, where we can find no traces
of Calvary. Same evening rode up to the Mount of Olives: past
Gethsemane, a most touching spot. Visited Sir Moses Montefiore, a
Jew of London, encamped on Mount Olivet; very kind to us.
11. - Went round the most of the places to be visited near
Jerusalem, - Rephaim, Gihon, Siloa's brook, 'that flowed fast by
the oracle of God;' the Pool of Siloam; the place where Jesus
wept over the city; Bethany, - of all places my favorite; the
tombs of the kings. Such a day we never spent in this world
before. The climate is truly delightful, - hot at mid-day, but
delightful breezes at morn and even. 12. - A business day, getting
information about Jews. In the evening, walked to Aceldama, - a
dreadful spot. Zion is ploughed like a field. I gathered some
barley, and noticed cauliflowers planted in rows. See Micah 3:12.
Jerusalem is indeed heaps. The quantities of rubbish would amaze
you, - in one place higher than the walls. 13. - We went to Hebron,
twenty miles south; Mr. Nicolayson, his son, the Consul and
ladies accompanying us, all on mules and horses, Judah's cities
are all waste. Except Bethlehem, we saw none but ruins till we
reached Hebron. The vines are beautifully cultivated here, and
make it a paradise; The hills all terraced to the top. We spent a
delightful evening and all next day. We met the Jews, and had an
interesting interview with them. We read Genesis 18, and many
other Bible passages, with great joy. Saw the mosque where the
tomb of Abraham and Sarah is. 14. - Returned by Bethlehem to
Jerusalem. Bethlehem is a sweet village, placed on the top of a
rocky hill, - very white and dazzling. You see it on both sides of
the hill. At Rachel's sepulchre you see Jerusalem on one hand and
Bethlehem on the other, - an interesting sight, - six miles apart.
On Sabbath we enjoyed the Lord's Supper in an upper chamber in
Jerusalem. It was a time much to be remembered. Andrew preached
in the evening from John 14:2, 3. 17. - The plague has been
increasing so that we think it better to depart. Last visit to
Gethsemane, and Bethany, and Siloam. Evening. - Took farewell of
all our friends at Jerusalem, with much sorrow you may believe.
Went due north to Ramah, by Gibeon, and slept at Beer, again in
our tent, in Benjamin. 19. - Passed Bethel, where Jacob slept.
Passed through the rich and rocky defile of Ephraim, by Lebonah,
to Sychar. You cannot believe what a delightsome land it is. We
sought anxiously for the well where Jesus sat. Andrew alone found
it, and lost his Bible in it. 20. - Had a most interesting morning
with the Jews of Sychar. Saw many of them; also the Samaritans in
their synagogue. Same evening visited Samaria, - a wonderful
place, - and encamped at Sanor. 21. - Arrived at Carmel, where we
now are, encamped within two yards of the sea. We have been in
quarantine here seven days, as there is no plague north of this.
Several English are encamped here - Lord R., Lord H., etc. We have
daily conversations sitting on the sand. We are not allowed to
touch even the rope of a tent. Acre is in sight across the bay.
We have delightful bathing. To-morrow Lord H. leaves, and kindly
offers to take this. Carmel's rocky brow is over us. We are all
well and happy. On Monday we propose leaving for Tiberias and
Saphet. Soon we shall be in Beyrout, and on our way to Smyrna. Do
not be anxious for me. Trust us to God, who goes with us where we
go. I only pray that our mission may be blessed to Israel. Sir
Moses M. has arrived, and pitched his tent within fifty yards of
us. Kindest regards to all that inquire after me, not forgetting
dear W. - Your affectionate son," etc.

When the two elder brethren of the deputation left us for Europe, we
turned southward again from Beyrout, to visit the regions of
Phoenicia and Galilee. Never did Mr. M'Cheyne seem more gladsome
than in gazing on these regions.

At Tyre, he remembered the request of an elder in the parish of
Larbert, who had written to him before his departure, stating what he
considered to be a difficulty in the ordinary expositions of the
prophecies which speak of that renowned city. With great delight he
examined the difficulty on the spot; and it is believed that his
testimony on such points as these, when it reached some men of
sceptical views in that scene of his early labors, was not unblest.

From Saphet he writes: "I sat looking down upon the lake this morning
for about an hour. It was just at our feet, - the very water where
Jesus walked, where He called his disciples, where He rebuked the
storm, where He said, 'Children, have ye any meat?' after He rose from
the dead. Jesus is the same still." To his early and familiar friend,
Mr. Somerville, he thus describes the same view: "Oh what a view of
the Sea of Galilee is before you, at your feet! It is above three
hours' descent to the water's edge, and yet it looks as if you could
run down in as many minutes. The lake is much larger than I had
imagined. It is hemmed in by mountains on every side, sleeping as
calmly and softly as if it had been the sea of glass which John saw in
heaven. We tried in vain to follow the course of the Jordan running
through it. True, there were clear lines, such as you see in the wake
of a vessel, but then these did not go straight through the lake. The
hills of Bashan are very high and steep, where they run into the lake.
At one point, a man pointed out to us where the tombs in the rocks
are, where the demoniacs used to live: and near it the hills were
exactly what the Scriptures describe, 'a steep place,' where the swine
ran down into the sea. On the north-east of the sea, Hermon rises very
grand, intersected with many ravines full of snow."

The day we spent at the lake - at the very water-side - was ever
memorable, it was so peculiarly sweet! We left an indescribable
interest even in lifting a shell from the shore of a sea where Jesus
had so often walked. It was here that two of the beautiful hymns in
_The Songs of Zion_ were suggested to him. The one was, _How pleasant
to me_, etc.; the other, _To yonder side_; but the latter lay beside
him unfinished till a later period.

His complaint was now considerably abated; his strength seemed
returning: and often did he long to be among his people again, though
quieting his soul upon the Lord. Not a few pastors of another church
have from time to time come forth to this land, compelled by disease
to seek for health in foreign regions; but how rarely do we find the
pastor's heart retained, - how rarely do we discover that the shepherd
yearns still over the flock he left! But so deep was Mr. M'Cheyne's
feelings toward the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made him
overseer, that his concern for them became a temptation to his soul.
It was not in the mere desire to preach again that he manifested this
concern; for this desire might have been selfish, as he said: "No
doubt there is pride in this anxiety to preach; a submissive soul
would rejoice only in doing the present will of God." But his prayers
for them went up daily to the throne. We had precious seasons of
united prayer also for that same end, - especially one morning at
sunrise in Gethsemane, and another morning at Carmel, where we joined
in supplication on the silent shore at the foot of the hill as soon as
day dawned, and then again, at evening, on the top, where Elijah

Distance of place of peculiarities of circumstance never altered his
views of duty, nor changed his feelings as a minister of Christ. In
Galilee he meditated upon the aspect of ecclesiastical affairs in our
beloved Scotland; and the principles he had maintained appeared to him
as plainly accordant with the word of God when tried there, apart from
excitement, as they did when he reviewed them in connection with their
effects at home. "I hope," were his words to a brother in the
ministry, "I hope the church has been well guided and blessed; and if
times of difficulty are to come, I do believe there is no position so
proper for her to be in as the attitude of a missionary church, giving
freely to Jew and Gentile, as she has freely received, - so may she be
found when the Lord comes."

At the foot of Lebanon, in the town of Beyrout, he was able to expound
a chapter (Acts 10.) at a prayer-meeting of the American brethren.
This quite rejoiced his heart; for it seemed as if the Lord were
restoring him, and meant again to use him in preaching the glad
tidings. But shortly after, during the oppressive heat of the
afternoon, he felt himself unwell. He had paid a visit to a young man
from Glasgow in the town, who was ill of fever; and it is not unlikely
that this visit, at a time when he was in a state of debility from
previous fatigue, was the immediate occasion of his own illness. He
was very soon prostrated under the fever. But his medical attendant
apprehended no danger, and advised him to proceed to Smyrna, in the
belief that the cool air of the sea would be much more in his favor
than the sultry heat of Beyrout. Accordingly, in company with our
faithful Hebrew friend Erasmus Calman, we embarked; but as we lay off
Cyprus, the fever increased to such a height, that he lost his memory
for some hours, and was racked with excessive pain in his head. When
the vessel sailed, he revived considerably, but during three days no
medical aid could be obtained. He scarcely ever spoke; and only once
did he for a moment, on a Saturday night, lift his languid eye, as he
lay on deck enjoying the breeze, to catch a distant sight of Patmos.
We watched him with agonizing anxiety till we reached Smyrna and the
village of Bouja. Though three miles off, yet, for the sake of medical
aid, he rode to this village upon a mule after sunset, ready to drop
every moment with pain and burning fever. But here the Lord had
prepared for him the best and kindest help. The tender and parental
care of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, in whose house he found a home, was never
mentioned by him but with deepest gratitude; and the sight of the
flowering jessamine, or the mention of the deep-green cypress, would
invariably call up in his mind associations of Bouja and its inmates.
He used to say it was his second birth-place.

During that time, like most of God's people who have been in sickness,
he felt that a single passage of the word of God was more truly food
to his fainting soul than anything besides. One day his spirit
revived, and his eye glistened, when I spoke of the Saviour's
sympathy, adducing as the very words of Jesus, Psalm 41:1: "_Blessed
is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of
trouble,_" etc. It seemed so applicable to his own case, as a minister
of the glad tidings; for often had he "considered the poor," carrying
a cup of cold water to a disciple. Another passage, written for the
children of God in their distress, was spoken to him when he seemed
nearly insensible: "_Call upon me in the day of trouble._" This word
of God was as the drop of honey to Jonathan.

He himself thus spoke of his illness to his friends at home: "I left
the foot of Lebanon when I could hardly see, or hear, or speak, or
remember; I felt my faculties going, one by one, and I had every
reason to expect that I would soon be with my God. It is a sore trial
to be alone and dying in a foreign land, and it has made me feel, in a
way that I never knew before, the necessity of having unfeigned faith
in Jesus and in God. Sentiments, natural feelings, glowing fancies of
divine things, will not support the soul in such an hour. There is
much self-delusion in our estimation of ourselves when we are untried,
and in the midst of Christian friends, whose warm feelings give a
glow to ours, which they do not possess in themselves." Even then he
had his people in his heart. "When I got better, I used to creep out
in the evenings about sunset. I often remembered you all then. I could
not write, as my eyes and head were much affected; I could read but
very little; I could speak very little, for I had hardly any voice;
and so I had all my time to lay my people before God, and pray for a
blessing on them. About the last evening I was there, we all went to
the vintage, and I joined in gathering the grapes." To Mr. Somerville
he wrote: "My mind was very weak when I was at the worst, and
therefore the things of eternity were often dim. _I had no fear to
die, for Christ had died._ Still I prayed for recovery, if it was the
Lord's will. You remember you told me to be humble among your last
advices. You see God is teaching me the same thing. I fear I am not
thoroughly humbled. I feel the pride of my heart, and bewail it." To
his kind medical friend, Dr. Gibson, in Dundee, he wrote: "I really
believed that my Master had called me home, and that I would sleep
beneath the dark-green cypresses of Bouja till the Lord shall come,
and they that sleep in Jesus come with Him; and my most earnest prayer
was for my dear flock, that God would give them a pastor after his own

When we met, after an eight days' separation, on board the vessel at
Constantinople, he mentioned as one of the most interesting incidents
of the week, that one evening, while walking with Mr. Lewis, they met
a young Greek and his wife, both of whom were believed to be really
converted souls. It created a thrill in his bosom to meet with these
almost solitary representatives of the once faithful and much tried
native church of Smyrna.

Meanwhile there were movements at home that proved the Lord to be He
who "alone doeth wondrous things." The cry of his servant in Asia was
not forgotten; the eye of the Lord turned towards his people. It was
during the time of Mr. M'Cheyne's sore sickness that his flock in
Dundee were receiving blessing from the opened windows of heaven.
Their pastor was lying at the gate of death, in utter helplessness.
But the Lord had done this on very purpose; for He meant to show that
He needed not the help of any: He could send forth new laborers, and
work by new instruments, when it pleased Him. We little knew that
during the days when we were waiting at the foot of Lebanon for a
vessel to carry us to Smyrna, the arm of the Lord had begun to be
revealed in Scotland. On the 23d of July the great Revival at Kilsyth
took place.

Mr. W.C. Burns, the same who was supplying Mr. M'Cheyne's place in his
absence, was on that day preaching to his father's flock; and while
pressing upon them immediate acceptance of Christ with deep solemnity,
the whole of the vast assembly were overpowered. The Holy Spirit
seemed to come down as a rushing mighty wind, and to fill the place.
Very many were that day struck to the heart; the sanctuary was filled
with distressed and inquiring souls. All Scotland heard the glad news
that the sky was no longer as brass, - that the rain had begun to fall.
The Spirit in mighty power began to work from that day forward in many
places of the land.

Mr. Burns returned to Mr. M'Cheyne's flock on August 8th, - one of the
days when Mr. M'Cheyne was stretched on his bed, praying for his
people under all his own suffering. The news of the work at Kilsyth
had produced a deep impression in Dundee; and two days after, the
Spirit began to work in St. Peter's, at the time of the prayer-meeting
in the church, in a way similar to Kilsyth. Day after day the people
met for prayer and hearing the word; and the times of the apostles
seemed returned, when "the Lord added to the church daily of such as
should be saved." All this time, Mr. M'Cheyne knew not how gracious
the Lord had been in giving him his heart's desire. It was not till we
were within sight of home that the glad news of these Revivals reached
our ears. But he continued, like Epaphras, "laboring fervently in

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Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 11 of 17)