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The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

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the precious souls committed to me; and what is worse, I can never
thank God fully for his kindness and grace, which every day appear to
me more remarkable. He has answered prayer to me in all that has
happened, in a way which I have never told any one." Again, on the
_31st_: "Stay where you are, dear brother, as long as the Lord has any
work for you to do.[16] If I know my own heart, its only desire is
that Christ may be glorified, by souls flocking to Him, and abiding in
Him, and reflecting his image; and whether it be in Perth or Dundee,
should signify little to us. You know I told you my mind plainly, that
I thought the Lord had so blessed you in Dundee, that you were called
to a fuller and deeper work there; but if the Lord accompanies you to
other places, I have nothing to object. The Lord strengthened my body
and soul last Sabbath, and my spirit also was glad. The people were
much alive in the Lord's service. But oh! dear brother, the most are
Christless still. The rich are almost untroubled."

[16] Mr Burns was at that time in Perth, and there had begun to be
some movement among the dry bones.

His evidence on this subject is given fully in his answers to the
queries put by a Committee of the Aberdeen Presbytery; and in a note
to a friend, he incidentally mentions a pleasing result of this
wide-spread awakening: "I find many souls saved under my own ministry,
whom I never knew of before. They are not afraid to come out now, it
has become so common a thing to be concerned about the soul." At that
time, also, many came from a distance; one came from the north, who
had been a year in deep distress of soul, to seek Christ in Dundee.

In his brief diary he records, on December 3, that twenty anxious
souls had that night been conversing with him; "many of them very
deeply interesting." He occasionally fixed an evening for the purpose
of meeting with those who were awakened; and in one of his note-books
there are at least _four hundred_ visits recorded, made to him by
inquiring souls, in the course of that and the following years. He
observed, that those who had been believers formerly had got their
hearts enlarged, and were greatly established; and some seemed able to
feed upon the truth in a new manner, - as when one related to him how
there had for some time appeared a glory in the reading of the word in
public, quite different from reading it alone.

At the same time he saw backslidings, both among those whom believers
had considered really converted, and among those who had been deeply
convicted, though never reckoned among the really saved. He notes in
his book: "Called to see - - . Poor lad, he seems to have gone back
from Christ, led away by evil company. And yet I felt sure of him at
one time. What blind creatures ministers are! man looketh at the
outward appearance." One morning he was visited by one of his flock,
proposing "a concert for prayer on the following Monday, in behalf of
those who had fallen back, that God's Spirit might re-awaken
them," - so observant were the believers as well as their pastor of
declensions. Among those who were awakened, but never truly converted,
he mentions one case. "_Jan. 9, 1840._ - Met with the case of one who
had been frightened during the late work, so that her bodily health
was injured. She seems to have no care now about her soul. It has only
filled her mouth with evil-speaking."

That many, who promised fair, drew back and walked no more with Jesus,
is true. Out of about 800 souls who, during the months of the Revival,
conversed with different ministers in apparent anxiety, no wonder
surely if many proved to have been impressed only for a time.
President Edwards considered it likely that, in such cases, the
proportion of real conversions might resemble the proportion of
blossoms in spring, and fruit in autumn. Nor can anything be more
unreasonable than to doubt the truth of all, because of the deceit of
some. The world itself does not so act in judging of its own. The
world reckons upon the possibility of being mistaken in many cases,
and yet does not cease to believe that there is honesty and truth to
be found. One of themselves, a poet of their own, has said with no
less justice than beauty -

"Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
And though foul things put on the brows of grace,
Yet grace must still look so."

But, above all, we have the authority of the word of God, declaring
that such backslidings are the very tests of the true church: "For
there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved
may be made manifest among you," I Cor. 11:19. It is not, however,
meant that any who had really believed went back to perdition. On the
contrary, it is the creed of every sound evangelical church, that
those who do go back to perdition were persons who never really
believed in Jesus. Their eyes may have been opened to see the dread
realities of sin and of the wrath to come; but if they saw not
righteousness for their guilty souls in the Saviour, there is nothing
in all Scripture to make us expect that they will continue awake.
"Awake, them that sleepest, and _Christ will give thee light_," is the
call - inviting sinners to a point far beyond mere conviction. One who,
for a whole year, went back to folly, said: "'Your sermon on the
corruption of the heart made me despair, and so I gave myself up to my
old ways - attending dances, learning songs," etc. A knowledge of our
guilt, and a sense of danger, will not of themselves keep us from
falling; nay, these, if alone, may (as in the above case) thrust us
down the slippery places. We are truly secure only when our eye is on
Jesus, and our hand locked in his hand. So that the history of
backslidings, instead of leading us to doubt the reality of grace in
believers, will only be found to teach us two great lessons, viz. the
vast importance of pressing immediate salvation on awakened souls, and
the reasonableness of standing in doubt of all, however deep their
convictions, who have not truly fled to the hope set before them.

There was another ground of prejudice against the whole work, arising
from the circumstance that the Lord had employed in it young men not
long engaged in the work of the ministry, rather than the fathers in
Israel. But herein it was that sovereign grace shone forth the more
conspicuously. Do such objectors suppose that God ever intends the
honor of man in a work of Revival? Is it not the honor of his own
name that He seeks? Had it been his wish to give the glory to man at
all, then indeed it might have been asked, "Why does He pass by the
older pastors, and call for the inexperienced youth?" But when
sovereign grace was coming to bless a region in the way that would
redound most to the glory of the Lord, can we conceive a wiser plan
than to use the sling of David in bringing down the Philistine? If,
however, there be some whose prejudice is from the root of envy, let
such hear the remonstrance of Richard Baxter to the jealous ministers
of his day. "What! malign Christ in gifts for which He should have the
glory, and all because they seem to hinder our glory! Does not every
man owe thanks to God for his brethren's gifts, not only as having
himself part in them, as the foot has the benefit of the guidance of
the eye, but also because his own ends may be attained by his
brethren's gifts as well as by his own?... A fearful thing that any
man, that hath the least of the fear of God, should so envy at God's
gifts, that he would rather his carnal hearers were unconverted, and
the drowsy not awakened, than that it should be done by another who
may be preferred before them."[17]

[17] _Reformed Pastor_, 4:2.

The work of the Spirit went on, the stream flowing gently; for the
heavy showers had fallen, and the overflowing of the waters had passed
by. Mr. M'Cheyne became more than ever vigilant and discriminating in
dealing with souls. Observing, also, that some were influenced more by
feelings of strong attachment to their pastor personally, than by the
power of the truths he preached, he became more reserved in his
dealings with them, so that some thought there was a little coldness
or repulsiveness in his manner. If there did appear anything of this
nature to some, certainly it was no indication of diminished
compassion; but, on the contrary, proceeded from a scrupulous anxiety
to guard others against the deceitful feelings of their own souls. A
few notes of his work occur at this period.

"_Nov. 27, 1839._ - A pleasant meeting in the Cross Church on Wednesday
last, for the seamen. All that spoke seemed to honor the Saviour. I
had to move thanksgiving to God for his mercies. This has been a real
blessing to Dundee. It should not be forgotten in our prayers and

"_Nov. 28_, Thursday evening. - Much comfort in speaking. There was
often an awful stillness. Spoke on Jer. 6:14: 'They have healed also
the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly.'" etc.

"_Dec. 1._ - This evening came a tender Christian, so far as I can see;
an exposition of that text, '_I will go softly_,' or of that other,
'_Thou shall not open thy mouth any more_.' A child of shame made one
of honor. Her sister was awakened under Mr. Baxter's words in St.
Peter's, of whom he asked, 'Would you like to be holy?' She replied,
'Indeed, I often wish I were dead that I might sin no more.'"

"_Dec. 3._ - Preached six times within these two days."

"_Dec. 8._ - Saw J.T. in fever. She seems really in Christ now; tells
me how deeply my words sank into her soul when I was away. A.M. stayed
to tell me her joy. J.B. walked home with me, telling me what God had
done for his soul, when one day I had stopped at the quarry on
account of a shower of rain, and took shelter with my pony in the
engine-house." He had simply pointed to the fire of the furnace, and
said, "What does that remind you of?" and the words had remained deep
in the man's soul.

"_Dec. 11._ - A woman awakened that night I preached in J.D.'s green,
about two years ago, on Ezek. 20:43. For twenty years she had been out
of church privileges, and now, for the first time, came trembling to
ask restoration. Surely Immanuel is in this place, and even old
sinners are flocking to Him. I have got an account of about twenty
prayer-meetings connected with my flock. Many open ones; many
fellowship meetings; only one or two have anything like exhortation
superadded to the word. These, I think, it must be our care to change,
if possible, lest error and pride creep in. The only other difficulty
is this. In two of the female meetings, originally fellowship
meetings, anxious female inquirers have been admitted. They do not
pray, but only hear. In one, M. and J. had felt the rising of pride to
a great degree; in the other, M. could not be persuaded that there was
any danger of pride. This case will require prayerful deliberation. My
mind at present is, that there is great danger from it, the praying
members feeling themselves on a different level from the others, and
anything like female teaching, as a public teacher, seems clearly
condemned in the word of God."

"_Dec. 12._ - Felt very feeble all day, and as if I could not do any
more work in the vineyard. Evening. - Felt more of the reality of
Immanuel's intercession. The people also were evidently subdued by
more than a human testimony. One soul waited, sobbing most piteously.
She could give no more account of herself than that she was a sinner,
and did not believe that God would be merciful to her. When I showed
how I found mercy, her only answer was, 'But you were not sic a sinner
as me.'"

"_Dec. 18._ - Went to Glasgow along with A.B. Preached in St. George's
to a full audience, in the cause of the Jews. Felt real help in time
of need." This was one of his many journeys from place to place in
behalf of Israel, relating the things seen and heard among the Jews of
Palestine and other lands.

"_Dec. 22._ - Preached in Anderston Church, with a good deal of inward
peace and comfort."

"_Dec. 23._ - Interesting meeting with the Jewish Committee. In the
evening met a number of God's people. The horror of some good people
in Glasgow at the millenarian views is very great, while at the same
time their objections appear very weak."

"_Dec. 31._ - Young communicants. Two have made application to be
admitted under eleven years of age; four that are only fourteen; three
who are fifteen or sixteen."

"_Jan. 1, 1840._ - Awoke early by the kind providence of God, and had
uncommon freedom and fervency in keeping the concert for prayer this
morning before light. Very touching interview with M.P., who still
refuses to be comforted. Was enabled to cry after a glorious Immanuel
along with her. How I wish I had her bitter convictions of sin!
Another called this evening, who says she was awakened and brought to
Christ during the sermon on the morning of December 1st, on the
'Covenant with death.' Gave clear answers, but seems too unmoved for
one really changed."

"_Jan. 2._ - Visited six families. Was refreshed and solemnized at each
of them. Spoke of the Word made flesh, and of all the paths of the
Lord being mercy and truth. Visited in the evening by some interesting
souls: one a believing little boy; another complaining she cannot come
to Christ for the hardness of her heart; another once awakened under
my ministry, again thoroughly awakened and brought to Christ under
Horace Bonar's sermon at the Communion. She is the only saved one in
her family, - awfully persecuted by father and mother. Lord, stand up
for thine own! Make known, by their constancy under suffering, the
power and beauty of thy grace! Evening. - Mr. Miller preached
delightfully on 'The love of Christ constraineth us.' His account of
the Protestants of France was very interesting: the work of God at
Nismes, where it is said they are no more fishing with line, but
dragging with the nets. Read a letter from Mr. Cumming, describing the
work at Perth, and entreating the prayers of God's children."

This last reference is to the awakening which took place in St.
Leonard's Church, Perth, on the last night of the year, when Mr.
Burns, along with their pastor, Mr. Milne, was preaching. Mr. B. had
intended to return to Dundee for the Sabbath, but was detained by the
plain indications of the Lord's presence. At one meeting the work was
so glorious, that one night about 150 persons at one time seemed bowed
down under a sense of their guilt, and above 200 came next day to the
church in the forenoon to converse about their souls. This awakening
was the commencement of a solid work of grace, both in that town and
its neighborhood, much fruit of which is to be found there at this day
in souls that are walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of
the Holy Ghost. And it was in the spring of this same year that in
Collace, at our weekly prayer-meeting, when two brethren were
ministering, we received a blessed shower from the Lord.

His Journal proceeds: -

"_Jan. 3._ - An inquirer came, awakened under my ministry two years and
a half ago."

"_Jan. 5._ - Two came; M.B. sorely wounded with the forenoon's

"_Jan. 12._ - Intimated a concert for prayer, that unworthy
communicants might be kept back, the Lord's children prepared for the
feast, and ministers furnished from on high."

"_Jan. 13._ - Kept concert of prayer this morning with my dear people.
Did not find the same enlargement as usual."

"_March 5._ Thursday evening. - Preached on Zech. 3. - Joshua. Was led
to speak searchingly about making Christ the minister of sin. One
young woman cried aloud very bitterly. M.B. came to tell me that poor
M. is like to have her life taken away by her parents. A young woman
also, who is still concerned and persecuted by her father. A young man
came to tell me that he had found Christ. Roll on, thou river of life!
visit every dwelling! save a multitude of souls. Come, Holy Spirit!
come quickly!"

"March 25. - Last night at Forfar speaking for Israel to a small band
of friends of the Jews. Fearfully wicked place; the cry of it ascends
up before God like that of Sodom."

"_March 31._ - Met with young communicants on Wednesday and Friday. On
the latter night especially, very deep feeling, manifested in
sobbings. Visits of several. One clear child nine years old.

"_April 1._ - Presbytery day. Passed the constitution of two new
churches, - blessed be God! may He raise up faithful pastors for them
both, - Dudhope and Wallace-Feus. Proposal also for the Mariner's
Church. A fast-day fixed for the present state of the church."

"_April 5_, Sabbath evening. - Spoke to twenty-four young persons, one
by one; almost all affected about their souls."

"_April 6._ - Lovely ride and meditation in a retired grove."

"_April 7._ - Impressed to-night with the complete necessity of
preaching to my people in their own lanes and closes; in no other way
will God's word ever reach them. To-night spoke in St. Andrew's Church
to a very crowded assembly in behalf of Israel. Was helped to speak
plainly to their own consciences. Lord, bless it! Shake this town!"

"_April 13._ - Spoke in private to nearly thirty young communicants,
all in one room, going round each, and advising for the benefit of

"_April 22._ - Rode to Collessie (Fife) and Kirkcaldy. Sweet time alone
in Collessie woods."

"_July 30._ - One lad came to me in great distress, wishing to know if
he should confess his little dishonesties to his master." About this
time, he has noted down, "I was visiting the other day, and came to a
locked door. What did this mean? 'Torment me not, torment me not!' Ah,
Satan is mighty still!" - referring to Mark 5:7.

A few of his Communion seasons are recorded. We could have desired a
record of them all. The first of which he has detailed any
particulars, is the one he enjoyed soon after returning home.

"_Jan. 19, 1840._ - Stormy morning, with gushing torrents of rain, but
cleared up in answer to prayer. Sweet union in prayer with Mr.
Cumming, and afterwards with A. Bonar, Found God in secret. Asked
especially that the very sight of the broken bread and poured-out wine
might be blessed to some souls, then pride will be hidden from man.
Church well filled - many standing. Preached the action sermon on John
17:24, 'Father, I will,' etc. Had considerable nearness to God in
prayer - more than usual, - and also freedom in preaching, although I
was ashamed of such poor views of Christ's glory. The people were in a
very desirable frame of attention - hanging on the word. Felt great
help in fencing the tables from Acts 5:3, 'Lying to the Holy Ghost.'
Came down and served the first table with much more calmness and
collectedness than ever I remember to have enjoyed. Enjoyed a sweet
season while A.B. served the next table. He dwelt chiefly on believing
the words of Christ about his fulness, and the promise of the Father.
There were six tables altogether. The people more and more moved to
the end. At the last table, every head seemed bent like a bulrush
while A.B. spoke of the ascension of Christ. Helped a little in the
address. 'Now to Him who is able to keep you,' etc., and in the
concluding prayer.[18] One little boy, in retiring, said, 'This has
been another bonnie day.' Many of the little ones seemed deeply
attentive. Mr. Cumming and Mr. Burns preached in the school the most
of the day. In the evening Mr. C. preached on the Pillar Cloud on
every dwelling, Isaiah 4:5 some very sweet powerful words. Mr. Burns
preached in the schoolroom. When the church emptied a congregation
formed in the lower school, and began to sing. Sang several psalms
with them, and spoke on 'Behold I stand at the door.' Going home, A.L.
said 'Pray for me; I am quite happy, and so is H.' Altogether a day of
the revelation of Christ, - a sweet day to myself, and, I am persuaded,
to many souls. Lord, make us meet for the table above."

[18] See the Remains, for some of that day's solemn words.

Another of these Communion seasons recorded, is _April 1840_. "Sabbath
19. - Sweet and precious day. Preached action sermon on Zech. 12:10,
13:1. A good deal assisted. Also in fencing the tables, on Ps. 139.,
'Search me, O God.' Less at serving the tables on 'I will betroth
thee,' and 'To him that overcometh;' though the thanksgiving was
sweet. Communicated with calm joy. Old Mr. Burns served two tables; H.
Bonar five. There was a very melting frame visible among the people.
Helped a good deal in the address on 'My sheep hear my voice.' After
seven before all was over. Met before eight. Old Mr. Burns preached on
'A word in season.' Gave three parting texts, and so concluded this
blessed day. Many were filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

"Monday, 20. - Mr. Grierson preached on 'Ye are come to Mount
Zion,' - an instructive word. Pleasant walk with H.B. Evening sermon
from him to the little children on the 'new heart,' - truly
delightful. Prayer-meeting after. I began; then old Mr. Burns, then
Horace, in a very lively manner, on the 'woman of Samaria.' The people
were brought into a very tender frame. After the blessing, a multitude
remained. One (A.N.) was like a person struck through with a dart, she
could neither stand nor go. Many were looking on her with faces of
horror. Others were comforting her in a very kind manner, bidding her
look to Jesus. Mr. Burns went to the desk, and told them of Kilsyth.
Still they would not go away. Spoke a few words more to those around
me, telling them of the loveliness of Christ, and the hardness of
their hearts, that they could be so unmoved when one was so deeply
wounded. The sobbing soon spread, till many heads were bent down, and
the church was filled with sobbing. Many whom I did not know were now
affected. After prayer, we dismissed, near midnight. Many followed us.
One, in great agony, prayed that she might find Christ that very
night. So ends this blessed season."

The prayer-meeting on the Monday evening following the Communion was
generally enjoyed by all the Lord's people, and by the ministers who
assisted, in a peculiar manner. Often all felt the last day of the
feast to be the great day. Souls that had been enjoying the feast were
then, at its conclusion, taking hold on the arm of the Beloved in the
prospect of going up through the wilderness.

The only notice of his last Communion, January 1, 1843, is the
following: - "Sabbath. - A happy communion season. Mr. W. Burns preached
on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings - the first and last very
solemn. Mr. Baxter (of Hilltown Church) on the Friday. A. Bonar on
Saturday, on Rom. 8: - The spirit of adoption. I fainted on the Sabbath
morning, but revived, and got grace and strength to preach on I Tim.
1:16 - Paul's conversion a pattern. There were five tables. Many godly
strangers, and a very desirable frame observable in the people. 'While
the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth out the smell
thereof.' Much sin was covered. He restoreth my soul. Monday, 2. - Mr.
Milne (of Perth) preached on 'Hold fast that thou hast;' and in the
evening, to the children, on Josh. 24. - 'Choose ye this day whom ye
will serve.' Andrew and I concluded with Rev. 5 - 'Thou hast redeemed
us,' etc., and I Cor. 15. - 'Be stedfast,' etc."

He dispensed the Lord's Supper to his flock every quarter; and though
on this account his calls upon his brethren for help were frequent,
yet never did a brother reckon it anything else than a blessed
privilege to be with him. His first invitation to his friend Mr.
Hamilton (then at Abernyte) will show the nature of the intercourse
that subsisted between him and his brethren who gave their services on
these occasions: - "My dear Friend. - Will you excuse lack of ceremony,
and come down to-morrow and preach to us the unsearchable riches of
Christ? We have the communion on Sabbath. We have no fast-day, but
only a meeting in the evening at a quarter past seven. Come, my dear
sir, if you can, and refresh us with your company. Bring the fragrance
of 'the bundle of myrrh' along with you, and may grace be poured into
your lips. Yours ever." (Jan. 15. 1840.)

Soon after his return from his mission to the Jews, a ministerial
prayer-meeting was formed among some of the brethren in Dundee. Mr.
M'Cheyne took part in it, along with Mr. Lewis of St. David's, Mr.
Baxter of Hilltown, Mr. P.L. Miller, afterwards of Wallacetown, and
others. Feeling deep concern for the salvation of the souls under
their care, they met every Monday forenoon, to pray together for their
flocks and their own souls. The time of the meeting was limited to an

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Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 13 of 17)