Andrew A. Bonar.

The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

. (page 12 of 17)
Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 12 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

prayer," and sought daily to prepare himself for a more efficient
discharge of his office, should the Lord restore him to it again. He
sends home this message to a fellow-laborer: "Do not forget to carry
on the work in hearts brought to a Saviour. I feel this was one of my
faults in the ministry. Nourish babes; comfort downcast believers;
counsel those perplexed; perfect that which is lacking in their faith.
Prepare them for sore trials. I fear most Christians are quite unready
for days of darkness." - (_Mr. Moody Stuart_.)

Our journey led us through Moldavia, Wallachia, and Austria, - lands
of darkness and of the shadow of death. Profound strangers to the
truth as it is in Jesus, the people of these lands, nevertheless,
profess to be Christians. Superstition and its idolatries veil the
glorious object of faith from every eye. In these regions, as well as
in those already traversed. Mr. M'Cheyne's anxiety for souls appeared
in the efforts he made to leave at least a few words of Scripture with
the Jews whom we met, however short the time of our interview. His
spirit was stirred in him; and, with his Hebrew Bible in his hand, he
would walk up thoughtfully and solemnly to the first Jew he could get
access to, and begin by calling the man's attention to some statement
of God's word. In Palestine, if the Jew did not understand Italian, he
would repeat to him such texts in Hebrew as, "In that day there shall
be a fountain opened to the house of David," etc. (Zech. 13:1.) And
one evening, at the well of Doulis, when the Arab population were all
clustered round the water troughs, he looked on very wistfully, and
said, "If only we had Arabic, we might sow beside all waters!"

At Jassy, after a deeply interesting day, spent in conversation with
Jews who came to the inn, he said, "I will remember the faces of those
men at the judgment-seat." When he came among the more educated Jews
of Europe, he rejoiced to find that they could converse with him in
Latin. His heart was bent on doing what he could (Mark 14:8), in
season and out of season. "One thing," he writes, "I am deeply
convinced of, that God can make the simplest statement of the gospel
effectual to save souls. If only it be the true gospel, the good
tidings, the message that God loved the world, and provided a ransom
free to all, then God is able to make it wound the heart, and heal it
too. There is deep meaning in the words of Paul, 'I am not ashamed of
the gospel of Christ.'"

The abominations of Popery witnessed in Austrian Poland, called forth
many a prayer for the destruction of the Man of Sin. "The images and
idols by the wayside are actually frightful, stamping the whole land
as a kingdom of darkness. I do believe that a journey through Austria
would go far to cure some of the Popery-admirers of our beloved land."
He adds: "These are the marks of the beast upon this land." And in
like manner our privileges in Scotland used to appear to him the more
precious, when, as at Brody, we heard of Protestants who were supplied
with sermon only once a year. "I must tell this to my people," said
he, "when I return, to make them prize their many seasons of grace."

He estimated the importance of a town or country by its relation to
the house of Israel; and his yearnings over these lost sheep resembled
his bowels of compassion for his flock at home. At Tarnapol, in
Galicia, he wrote home: "We are in Tarnapol, a very nice clean town,
prettily situated on a winding stream, with wooded hills around. I
suppose you never heard its name before; neither did I till we were
there among Jews. I know not whether it has been the birth-place of
warriors, or poets, or orators; its flowers have hitherto been born to
blush unseen, at least by us barbarians of the north; but if God
revive the dry bones of Israel that are scattered over the world,
there will arise from this place an exceeding great army."

Our friend and brother in the faith, Erasmus Calman, lightened the
tediousness of a long day's journey by repeating to us some Hebrew
poetry. One piece was on Israel's present state of degradation; it
began -

tsuri goali
maheir v'chish p'dut ]

As the vehicle drove along, we translated it line by line, and soon
after Mr. M'Cheyne put it into verse. The following lines are a
part: -

Rock and Refuge of my soul,
Swiftly let the season roll,
When thine Israel shall arise
Lovely in the nations' eyes!

Lord of glory, Lord of might,
As our ransomed fathers tell;
Once more for thy people fight,
Plead for thy loved Israel.
Give our spoilers' towers to be
Waste and desolate as we.

Hasten, Lord, the joyful year,
When thy Zion, tempest-tossed,
Shall the silver trumpet hear:
Bring glad tidings to the lost!
Captive, cast thy cords from thee,
Loose thy neck - be free - be free!

Why dost Thou behold our sadness?
See the proud have torn away
All our years of solemn gladness,
When thy flock kept holy-day!
Lord, thy fruitful vine is bare,
Not one gleaning grape is there!

Rock and Refuge of my soul,
Swiftly let the season roll,
When thine Israel shall be,
Once again, beloved and free.

In his notes, he has one or two subjects marked for hymns. One of
these is - Isaiah 2:3 - "Come ye," etc., _a loving call to the Jews_.
Another is to the same effect - Isaiah 1:15 - "Come, let us reason
together." But these he never completed. In Cracow, having heard of
the death of a friend, the wife of an English clergyman, in the midst
of her days and in the full promise of usefulness, he began to pen a
few sweet lines of comfort:

Oft as she taught the little maids of France
To leave the garland, castanet, and dance,
And listen to the words which she would say
About the crowns that never fade away,
A new expression kindled in her eye,
A holy brightness, borrowed from the sky.
And when returning to her native land,
She bowed beneath a Father's chast'ning hand,
When the quick pulse and flush upon the cheek,
A touching warning to her friends would speak,
A holy cheerfulness yet filled her eye,
Willing she was to live, willing to die.
As the good Shunammite (the Scriptures tell),
When her son died, said meekly, "It is well,"
So when Sophia lost her infant boy,
And felt how dear-bought is a mother's joy,
When with green turf the little grave she spread,
"Not lost, but gone before," she meekly said.
And now they sleep together 'neath the willow
The same dew drops upon their silent pillow.
Return, O mourner, from this double grave,
And praise the God who all her graces gave.
Follow her faith, and let her mantle be
A cloak of holy zeal to cover thee.

The danger which he incurred from the shepherds in this region, and
other similar perils to which he was exposed in company with others,
have been recorded in the _Narrative_. Out of them all the Lord
delivered him; and not from these perils only did He save him, but
from many severe trials to his health, to which variety of climate and
discomforts of accommodation subjected him. And now we were
traversing Prussia, drawing nearer our own land. It was about five
months since we had received letters from Scotland, our route having
led us away from places which we had anticipated visiting, and where
communications had been left for us. We pressed homeward somewhat
anxiously, yet wondering often at past mercies. In a letter from
Berlin, Mr. M'Cheyne remarked, "Our heavenly Father has brought us
through so many trials and dangers that I feel persuaded He will yet
carry us to the end. Like John, we shall fulfil our course. 'Are there
not twelve hours in the day?' Are we not all immortal till our work is
done?" His strength was rapidly increasing; the journey had answered
the ends anticipated to a great extent, in his restoration to health.
He was able to preach at Hamburgh to the English congregation of Mr.
Rheder, from whom it was that the first hint of a Revival in Dundee
reached his ears. He heard just so much both of Kilsyth and Dundee as
to make him long to hear more. A few days after, on board the vessel
that conveyed us to England, he thus expressed his feelings: -

"Sailing up the Thames, _Nov. 6, 1839._

"MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER, - You will be glad to see by the date
that we are once more in sight of the shores of happy England. I
only wish I knew how you all are. I have not heard of you since I
was in Smyrna. In vain did I inquire for letters from you at
Cracow, Berlin, and Hamburgh. You must have written to Warsaw,
and the Resident there has not returned them to Berlin, as we
desired. Andrew and I and Mr. Calman are all quite well, and
thankful to God, who has brought us through every danger in so
many countries. I trust our course has not been altogether
fruitless, and that we may now resign our commission with some
hope of good issuing from it to the church and to Israel. I
preached last Sabbath in Hamburgh, for the first time since
leaving England, and felt nothing the worse of it; so that I do
hope it is my heavenly Father's will to restore me to usefulness
again among my beloved flock. We have heard something of a
reviving work at Kilsyth. We saw it noticed in one of the
newspapers. I also saw the name of Dundee associated with it; so
that I earnestly hope good has been doing in our church, and the
dew from on high watering our parishes, and that the flocks
whose pastors have been wandering may also have shared in the
blessing. We are quite ignorant of the facts, and you may believe
we are anxious to hear.... We are now passing Woolwich, and in an
hour will be in London. We are anxious to be home, but I suppose
will not get away till next week. I never thought to have seen
you again in this world, but now I hope to meet you once more in
peace. - Believe me, your affectionate son," etc.

The day we arrived on the shores of our own land was indeed a singular
day. We were intensely anxious to hear of events that had occurred at
home a few months before, - the outpouring of the Spirit from on
high, - while our friends were intensely interested in hearing tidings
of the land of Israel and the scattered tribes. The reception of
deputation on their return, and the fruits of their mission, are well
known, and have been elsewhere recorded.

Mr. M'Cheyne listened with deepest interest to the accounts given of
what had taken place in Dundee during the month of August, when he lay
at the gates of death in Bouja. The Lord had indeed fulfilled his
hopes, and answered his prayers. His assistant, Mr. Burns, had been
honored of God to open the floodgate at Dundee as well as at Kilsyth.
For some time before, Mr. Burns had seen symptoms of deeper attention
than usual, and of real anxiety in some that had hitherto been
careless. But it was after his return from Kilsyth that the people
began to melt before the Lord. On Thursday, the second day after his
return, at the close of the usual evening prayer-meeting in St.
Peter's, and when the minds of many were deeply solemnized by the
tidings which had reached them, he spoke a few words about what had
for some days detained him from them, and invited those to remain who
felt the need of an outpouring of the Spirit to convert them. About a
hundred remained; and at the conclusion of a solemn address to these
anxious souls, suddenly the power of God seemed to descend, and all
were bathed in tears. At a similar meeting next evening, in the
church, there was much melting of heart and intense desire after the
Beloved of the Father; and on adjourning to the vestry, the arm of the
Lord was revealed. No sooner was the vestry-door opened to admit those
who might feel anxious to converse, than a vast number pressed in with
awful eagerness. It was like a pent-up flood breaking forth; tears
were streaming from the eyes of many, and some fell on the ground
groaning, and weeping, and crying for mercy. Onward from that evening,
meetings were held every day for many weeks, and the extraordinary
nature of the work justified and called for extraordinary services.
The whole town was moved. Many believers doubted; the ungodly raged;
but the word of God grew mightily and prevailed. Instances occured
where whole families were affected at once, and each could be found
mourning apart, affording a specimen of the times spoken of by
Zechariah (12:12). Mr. Baxter of Hilltown, Mr. Hamilton, then
assistant at Abernyte, and other men of God in the vicinity, hastened
to aid in the work. Mr. Roxburgh of St. John's, and Mr. Lewis of St.
David's, examined the work impartially and judiciously, and testified
it to be of God. Dr. M'Donald of Ferintosh, a man of God well
experienced in Revivals, came to the spot and put to his seal also,
and continued in town, preaching in St. David's Church to the anxious
multitudes, during ten days. How many of those who were thus awfully
awakened were really brought to the truth, it was impossible to
ascertain. When Mr. M'Cheyne arrived, drop after drop was still
failing from the clouds.

Such in substance were the accounts he heard before he reached Dundee.
They were such as made his heart rejoice. He had no envy at another
instrument having been so honored in the place where he himself had
labored with many tears and temptations. In true Christian
magnanimity, he rejoiced that the work of the Lord was done, by
whatever hand. Full of praise and wonder, he set his foot once more on
the shore of Dundee.



"_They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the
water-courses_" - Isaiah 44:4

His people, who had never ceased to pray for him, welcomed his arrival
among them with the greatest joy. He reached Dundee on a Thursday
afternoon; and in the evening of the same day, - being the usual time
for prayer in St. Peter's, - after a short meditation, he hastened to
the church, there to render thanks to the Lord, and to speak once more
to his flock. The appearance of the church that evening, and the
aspect of the people, he never could forget. Many of his brethren were
present to welcome him, and to hear the first words of his opened
lips. There was not a seat in the church unoccupied, the passages were
completely filled, and the stairs up to the pulpit were crowded, on
the one side with the aged, on the other with eagerly-listening
children. Many a face was seen anxiously gazing on their restored
pastor; many were weeping under the unhealed wounds of conviction; all
were still and calm, intensely earnest to hear. He gave out Psalm 66;
and the manner of singing, which had been remarked since the Revival
began, appeared to him peculiarly sweet, - "so tender and affecting, as
if the people felt that they were praising a present God." After
solemn prayer with them, he was able to preach for above an hour. Not
knowing how long he might be permitted to proclaim the glad tidings,
he seized that opportunity, not to tell of his journeyings, but to
show the way of life to sinners. His subject was I Cor. 2. 1-4, - the
matter, the manner, and the accompaniments of Paul's preaching. It was
a night to be remembered.

On coming out of the church, he found the road to his house crowded
with old and young, who were waiting to welcome him back. He had to
shake hands with many at the same time; and before this happy
multitude would disperse, had to speak some words of life to them
again, and pray with them where they stood. "To thy name. O Lord,"
said he that night, when he returned to his home, "To thy name, O
Lord, be all the glory!" A month afterwards, he was visited by one who
had hitherto stood out against all the singular influence of the
Revival, but who that night was deeply awakened under his words, so
that the arrow festered in her soul, till she came crying, "Oh my
hard, hard heart!"

On the Sabbath he preached to his flock in the afternoon. He chose II
Chron. 5:13, 14, as his subject; and in the close, his hearers
remember well how affectionately and solemnly he said: "Dearly beloved
and longed for, I now begin another year of my ministry among you; and
I am resolved, if God give me health and strength, that I will not let
a man, woman, or child among you alone, until you have at least heard
the testimony of God concerning his Son, either to your condemnation
or salvation. And I will pray, as I have done before, that if the Lord
will indeed give us a great outpouring of his Spirit, He will do it in
such a way that it will be evident to the weakest child among you that
it is the Lord's work, and not man's. I think I may say to you, as
Rutherford said to his people, 'Your heaven would be two heavens to
me.' And if the Lord be pleased to give me a crown from among you, I
do here promise in his sight, that I will cast it at his feet, saying,
'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! Blessing, and honor, and glory,
and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb
forever and ever.'"

It was much feared for a time that a jealous spirit would prevail
among the people of St. Peter's, some saying, "I am of Paul; and
others, I of Cephas." Those recently converted were apt to regard
their spiritual father in a light in which they could regard none
besides. But Mr. M'Cheyne had received from the Lord a holy
disinterestedness that suppressed every feeling of envy. Many wondered
at the single-heartedness he was enabled to exhibit. He could
sincerely say, "I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by
whatever instrument."

Never, perhaps, was there one placed in better circumstances for
testing the Revival impartially, and seldom has any Revival been more
fully tested. He came among a people whose previous character he knew;
he found a work wrought among them during his absence, in which he had
not had any direct share; he returned home to go out and in among
them, and to be a close observer of all that had taken place; and
after a faithful and prayerful examination, he did most unhesitatingly
say, that the Lord had wrought great things, whereof he was glad; and
in the case of many of those whose souls were saved in that Revival,
he discovered remarkable answers to the prayers of himself, and of
those who had come to the truth, before he left them. He wrote to me
his impressions of the work, when he had been a few weeks among his
people: -

_Dec. 2, 1839._

"Rev. And. A. Bonar, Collace.

"My Dear A., - I begin upon note-paper, because I have no other on
hand but our thin travelling paper. I have much to tell you, and
to praise the Lord for. I am grieved to hear that there are no
marks of the Spirit's work about Collace during your absence; but
if Satan drive you to your knees, he will soon find cause to
repent it. Remember how fathers do to their children when they
ask bread. How much more shall our heavenly Father give ([Greek:
hagatha]) all good things to them that ask Him. Remember the
rebuke which I once got from old Mr. Dempster of Denny, after
preaching to his people: 'I was highly pleased with your
discourse, but in prayer it struck me that you thought God
_unwilling to give_.' Remember Daniel: 'At the beginning of thy
supplications the commandment came forth.' And do not think you
are forgotten by me as long as I have health and grace to pray.

"Everything here I have found in a state better than I expected.
The night I arrived I preached to such a congregation as I never
saw before. I do not think another person could have got into the
church, and there was every sign of the deepest and tenderest
emotion. R. Macdonald was with me, and prayed. Affliction and
success in the ministry have taught and quickened him. I preached
on I Cor. 2:1-4, and felt what I have often heard, that it is
easy to preach where the Spirit of God is. On the Friday night
Mr. Burns preached. On the Sabbath I preached on that wonderful
passage, II Chron. 5:13, 14; Mr. Burns preached twice, morning
and evening. His views of divine truth are clear and commanding.
There is a great deal of substance in what he preaches, and his
manner is very powerful, - so much so, that he sometimes made me
tremble. In private he is deeply prayerful, and seems to feel his
danger of falling into pride.

"I have seen many of the awakened, and many of the saved; indeed,
this is a pleasant place compared with what it was once. Some of
the awakened are still in the deepest anxiety and distress. Their
great error is exactly what your brother Horace told me. They
think that coming to Christ is some strange act of their mind,
different from believing what God has said of his Son; so much
so, that they will, tell you with one breath, I believe all that.
God has said, and yet with the next complain that they cannot
come to Christ, or close with Christ. It is very hard to deal
with this delusion.

"I find some old people deeply shaken; they feel insecure. One
confirmed drunkard has come to me, and is, I believe, now a saved
man. Some little children are evidently saved. All that I have
yet seen are related to converts of my own. One, eleven years
old, is a singular instance of divine grace. When I asked if she
desired to be made holy, she said, 'Indeed, I often wish I was
awa, that I might sin nae mair.' A.L., of fifteen, is a fine
tender-hearted believer. W.S., ten, is also a happy boy.

"Many of my own dear children in the Lord are much advanced; much
more full of joy, - their hearts lifted up in the ways of the
Lord. I have found many more savingly impressed under my own
ministry than I knew of. Some have come to tell me. In one case a
whole family saved. I have hardly met with anything to grieve me.
Surely the Lord hath dealt bountifully with me. I fear, however,
that the great Spirit has in some measure passed by, - I hope soon
to return in greater power than ever. The week meetings are
thinner now. I will turn two of them into my classes soon, and so
give solid, regular instruction, of which they stand greatly in
need. I have not met with one case of extravagance or false fire,
although doubtless there may be many. At first they used to
follow in a body to our house, and expected many an address and
prayer by the road. They have given up this now. I preached last
Sabbath twice, first on Isaiah 28:14-18, and then on Rev. 12:11,
'Overcame by the blood of the Lamb.' It was a very solemn day.
The people willingly sat till it was dark. Many make it a place
of Bochim. Still there is nothing of the power which has been. I
have tried to persuade Mr. Burns to stay with us, and I think he
will remain in Dundee. I feel fully stronger in body than when I
left you. Instead of exciting me, there is everything to
solemnize and still my feelings. Eternity sometimes seems very

"I would like your advice about prayer-meetings; how to
consolidate them; what rules should be followed, if any; whether
there should be mere reading of the word and prayer, or free
converse also on the passage? We began to-day a ministerial
prayer-meeting, to be held every Monday at eleven, for an hour
and a half. This is a great comfort, and may be a great blessing.
Of course we do not invite the colder ministers; that would only
damp our meeting. Tell me if you think this right.

"And now, dear A., I must be done, for it is very late. May your
people share in the quickening that has come over Dundee! I feel
it a very powerful argument with many: 'Will you be left dry when
others are getting drops of heavenly dew?' Try this with your

"I think it probable we shall have another communion again before
the regular one. It seems very desirable. You will come and help
us; and perhaps Horace too.

"I thought of coming back by Collace from Errol, if our Glasgow
meeting had not come in the way.

"Will you set agoing your Wednesday meeting again, immediately?

"Farewell, dear A. 'Oh man, greatly beloved, fear not; peace be
to thee; be strong; yea, be strong.' Yours ever," etc.

To Mr. Burns he thus expresses himself on _December 19_: "My dear
Brother, - I shall never be able to thank you for all your labors among

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 12 of 17)