Andrew A. Bonar.

The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

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grace, and full purpose of heart. Mal. 3:3 - 'He shall purify the
sons of Levi.' Ministers are probably laid aside for a time for
this very purpose.

"1. _Personal Reformation._

"I am persuaded that I shall obtain the highest amount of
present happiness, I shall do most for God's glory and the good
of man, and I shall have the fullest reward in eternity, by
maintaining a conscience always washed in Christ's blood, by
being filled with the Holy Spirit at all times, and by attaining
the most entire likeness to Christ in mind, will, and heart,
that is possible for a redeemed sinner to attain to in this

"I am persuaded that whenever any one from without, or my own
heart from within, at any moment, or in any circumstances,
contradicts this, - if any one shall insinuate that it is not for
my present and eternal happiness, and for God's glory and my
usefulness, to maintain a blood-washed conscience, to be
entirely filled with the Spirit, and to be fully conformed to
the image of Christ in all things, - that is the voice of the
devil, God's enemy, the enemy of my soul and of all good - the
most foolish, wicked, and miserable of all the creatures. See
Prov. 9:17 - 'Stolen waters are sweet.'

"1. _To maintain a conscience void of offence_, I am persuaded
that I ought to confess my sins more. I think I ought to confess
sin the moment I see it to be sin; whether I am in company, or
in study, or even preaching, the soul ought to cast a glance of
abhorrence at the sin. If I go on with the duty, leaving the sin
unconfessed, I go on with a burdened conscience, and add sin to
sin. I think I ought at certain times of the day - my best
times, - say, after breakfast and after tea, - to confess solemnly
the sins of the previous hours, and to seek their complete

"I find that the devil often makes use of the confession of sin
to stir up again the very sin confessed into new exercise, so
that I am afraid to dwell upon the confession. I must ask
experienced Christians about this. For the present, I think I
should strive against this awful abuse of confession, whereby
the devil seeks to frighten me away from confessing. I ought to
take all methods for seeing the vileness of my sins. I ought to
regard myself as a condemned branch of Adam, - as partaker of a
nature opposite to God from the womb (Ps. 51.), - as having a
heart full of all wickedness, which pollutes every thought,
word, and action, during my whole life, from birth to death. I
ought to confess often the sins of my youth, like David and
Paul, - my sins before conversion, my sins since
conversion, - sins against light and knowledge, against love and
grace, against each person of the Godhead. I ought to look at my
sins in the light of the holy law, in the light of God's
countenance, in the light of the cross, in the light of the
judgment-seat, in the light of hell, in the light of eternity. I
ought to examine my dreams - my floating thoughts - my
predilections - my often recurring actions - my habits of thought,
feeling, speech, and action - the slanders of my enemies and the
reproofs, and even banterings, of my friends - to find out traces
of my prevailing sin, matter for confession. I ought to have a
stated day of confession, with fasting - say, once a month. I
ought to have a number of scriptures marked, to bring sin to
remembrance. I ought to make use of all bodily affliction,
domestic trial, frowns of providence on myself, house, parish,
church, or country, as calls from God to confess sin. The sins
and afflictions of other men should call me to the same. I
ought, on Sabbath evenings, and on Communion Sabbath evenings,
to be especially careful to confess the sins of holy things. I
ought to confess the sins of my confessions, - their imperfections,
sinful aims, self-righteous tendency, etc., - and to look to
Christ as having confessed my sins perfectly over his own

"I ought to go to Christ for the forgiveness of each sin. In
washing my body, I go over every spot, and wash it out. Should I
be less careful in washing my soul? I ought to see the stripe
that was made on the back of Jesus by each of my sins. I ought
to see the infinite pang thrill through the soul of Jesus equal
to an eternity of my hell for my sins, and for all of them. I
ought to see that in Christ's bloodshedding there is an infinite
over-payment for all my sins. Although Christ did not suffer
more than infinite justice demanded, yet He could not suffer at
all without laying down an infinite ransom.

"I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to
Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do no good to
go, - as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go
straight from the swine-trough to the best robe, - and a thousand
other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from
hell. John argues the opposite way: 'If any man sin, we have an
advocate with the Father;' Jer. 3:1 and a thousand other
scriptures are against it. I am sure there is neither peace nor
safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus
Christ. This is God's way of peace and holiness. It is folly to
the world and the beclouded heart, but it is _the way_.

"I must never think a sin too small to need immediate
application to the blood of Christ. If I put away a good
conscience, concerning faith I make shipwreck. I must never
think my sins too great, too aggravated, too presumptuous, - as
when done on my knees, or in preaching, or by a dying bed, or
during dangerous illness, - to hinder me from fleeing to Christ.
The weight of my sins should act like the weight of a clock: the
heavier it is, it makes it go the faster.

"I must not only wash in Christ's blood, but clothe me in
Christ's obedience. For every sin of omission in self, I may
find a divinely perfect obedience ready for me in Christ. For
every sin of commission in self, I may find not only a stripe or
a wound in Christ, but also a perfect rendering of the opposite
obedience in my place, so that the law is magnified, its curse
more than carried, its demand more than answered.

"Often the doctrine of _Christ for me_ appears common, well
known, having nothing new in it; and I am tempted to pass it by
and go to some scripture more taking. This is the devil
again, - a red-hot lie. _Christ for us_ is ever new, ever
glorious. 'Unsearchable riches of Christ,' - an infinite object,
and the only one for a guilty soul. I ought to have a number of
scriptures ready, which lead my blind soul directly to Christ,
such as Isaiah 45, Rom. 3.

"2. _To be filled with the Holy Spirit_, I am persuaded that I
ought to study more my own weakness. I ought to have a number of
scriptures ready to be meditated on, such as Rom. 7, John 15, to
convince me that I am a helpless worm.

"I am tempted to think that I am now an established
Christian, - that I have overcome this or that lust so
long, - that I have got into the habit of the opposite grace, - so
that there is no fear; I may venture very near the
temptation - nearer than other men. This is a lie of Satan. I
might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit a power of
resisting fire, so as not to catch the spark. As long as powder
is wet, it resists the spark; but when it becomes dry, it is
ready to explode at the first touch. As long as the Spirit
dwells in my heart He deadens me to sin, so that, if lawfully
called through temptation, I may reckon upon God carrying me
through. But when the Spirit leaves me, I am like dry gunpowder.
Oh for a sense of this!

"I am tempted to think that there are some sins for which I have
no natural taste, such as strong drink, profane language, etc.,
so that I need not fear temptation to such sins. This is a
lie, - a proud, presumptuous lie. The seeds of all sins, are in
my heart, and perhaps all the more dangerously that I do not see

"I ought to pray and labor for the deepest sense of my utter
weakness and helplessness that ever a sinner was brought to
feel. I am helpless in respect of every lust that ever was, or
ever will be, in the human heart. I am a worm - a beast - before
God. I often tremble to think that this is true. I feel as if it
would not be safe for me to renounce all indwelling strength, as
if it would be dangerous for me to feel (what is the truth) that
there is nothing in me keeping me back from the grossest and
vilest sin. This is a delusion of the devil. My only safety is
to know, feel, and confess my helplessness, that I may hang upon
the arm of Omnipotence ... I daily wish that sin had been rooted
out of my heart. I say, 'Why did God leave the root of
lasciviousness, pride, anger, etc., in my bosom? He hates sin,
and I hate it; why did He not take it clean away?' I know many
answers to this which completely satisfy my judgment, but still
I do not _feel_ satisfied. This is wrong. It is right to be
weary of the being of sin, but not right to quarrel with my
present 'good fight of faith.' ... The falls of professors into
sin make me tremble. I have been driven away from prayer, and
burdened in a fearful manner by hearing or seeing their sin.
This is wrong. It is right to tremble, and to make every sin of
every professor a lesson of my own helplessness; but it should
lead me the more to Christ ... If I were more deeply convinced
of my utter helplessness, I think I would not be so alarmed when
I hear of the falls of other men ... I should study those sins
in which I am most helpless, in which passion becomes like a
whirlwind and I like a straw. No figure of speech can represent
my utter want of power to resist the torrent of sin ... I ought
to study Christ's omnipotence more: Heb. 7:25, I Thess. 5:23,
Rom. 6:14, Rom. 5:9, 10, and such scriptures, should be ever
before me ... Paul's thorn, II Cor. 12, is the experience of the
greater part of my life. It should be ever before me ... There
are many subsidiary methods of seeking deliverance from sins,
which must not be neglected, - thus, marriage, I Cor. 7:2;
fleeing, I Tim. 6:11, I Cor. 6:18; watch and pray, Matt. 26:41;
the word, 'It is written, It is written.' So Christ defended
himself; Matt. 4. ... But the main defence is casting myself
into the arms of Christ like a helpless child, and beseeching
Him to fill me with the Holy Spirit. 'This is the victory that
overcometh the world, even our faith,' I John 5:4, 5, - a
wonderful passage.

"I ought to study Christ as a living Saviour more, - as a
Shepherd, carrying the sheep He finds, - as a King, reigning in
and over the souls He has redeemed, - as a Captain, fighting with
those who fight with me, Ps. 35., - as one who has engaged to
bring me through all temptations and trials, however impossible
to flesh and blood.

"I am often tempted to say, How can this Man save us? How can
Christ in heaven deliver me from lusts which I feel raging in
me, and nets I feel enclosing me? This is the father of lies
again! 'He is able to save unto the uttermost.'

"I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for
Peter, who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I
could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not
fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference;
He is praying for me.

"I ought to study the Comforter more, - his Godhead, his love,
his almightiness. I have found by experience that nothing
sanctifies me so much as meditating on the Comforter, as John
14:16. And yet how seldom I do this! Satan keeps me from it. I
am often like those men who said, They knew not if there be any
Holy Ghost ... I ought never to forget that my body is dwelt in
by the third Person of the Godhead. The very thought of this
should make me tremble to sin; I Cor. 6 ... I ought never to
forget that sin grieves the Holy Spirit, - vexes and quenches Him
... If I would be filled with the Spirit, I feel I must read the
Bible more, pray more, and watch more.

"3. _To gain entire likeness to Christ_, I ought to get a high
esteem of the happiness of it. I am persuaded that God's
happiness is inseparably linked in with his holiness. Holiness
and happiness are like light and heat. God never tasted one of
the pleasures of sin.

"Christ had a body such as I have, yet He never tasted one of
the pleasures of sin. The redeemed, through all eternity, will
never taste one of the pleasures of sin; yet their happiness is
complete. It would be my greatest happiness to be from this
moment entirely like them. Every sin is something away from my
greatest enjoyment ... The devil strives night and day to make
me forget this or disbelieve it. He says, Why should you not
enjoy this pleasure as much as Solomon or David? You may go to
heaven also. I am persuaded that this is a lie, - that my true
happiness is to go and sin no more.

"I ought not to delay parting with sins. Now is God's time. 'I
made haste and delayed not.' ... I ought not to spare sins
because I have long allowed them as infirmities, and others
would think it odd if I were to change all at once. What a
wretched delusion of Satan that is!

"Whatever I see to be sin, I ought from this hour to set my
whole soul against it, using all scriptural methods to mortify
it, as the Scriptures, special prayer for the Spirit, fasting,

"I ought to mark strictly the occasions when I have fallen, and
avoid the occasion as much as the sin itself.

"Satan often tempts me to go as near to temptations as possible
without committing the sin. This is fearful, - tempting God and
grieving the Holy Ghost. It is a deep-laid plot of Satan.

"I ought to flee all temptation, according to Prov. 4:15 - Avoid
it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.' ... I ought
constantly to pour out my heart to God, praying for entire
conformity to Christ - for the whole law to be written on my
heart ... I ought statedly and solemnly to give my heart to
God - to surrender my all into his everlasting arms, according to
the prayer, Ps. 31., 'Into thine hand I commit my
spirit,' - beseeching Him not to let any iniquity, secret or
presumptuous, have dominion over me, and to fill me with every
grace that is in Christ, in the highest degree that it is
possible for redeemed sinner to receive it, and at all times,
till death.

"I ought to meditate often on heaven as a world of
holiness, - where all are holy, where the joy is holy joy, the
work holy work; so that, without personal holiness, I never can
be there ... I ought to avoid the appearance of evil. God
commands me; and I find that Satan has a singular art in linking
the appearance and reality together.

"I find that speaking of some sins defiles my mind and leads me
into temptation; and I find that God forbids even saints to
speak of the things that are done of them in secret. I ought to
avoid this.

"Eve, Achan, David, all fell through the lust of the eye. I
should make a covenant with mine, and pray, 'Turn away mine eyes
from viewing vanity.' ... Satan makes unconverted men like the
deaf adder to the sound of the gospel. I should pray to be made
deaf by the Holy Spirit to all that would tempt me to sin.

"One of my most frequent occasions of being led into temptation
is this, - I say it is needful to my office that I listen to
this, or look into this, or speak of this. So far this is true;
yet I am sure Satan has his part in this argument. I should seek
divine direction to settle how far it will be good for my
ministry, and how far evil for my soul, that I may avoid the

"I am persuaded that nothing is thriving in my soul unless it is
growing. 'Grow in grace.' 'Lord, increase our faith.'
'Forgetting the things that are behind.' ... I am persuaded that
I ought to be inquiring at God and man what grace I want, and
how I may become more like Christ ... I ought to strive for more
purity, humility, meekness, patience under suffering, love.
'Make me Christ-like in all things,' should be my constant
prayer. 'Fill me with the Holy Spirit.'

"2. _Reformation in Secret Prayer._

"I ought not to omit any of the parts of prayer - confession,
adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.

"There is a fearful tendency to omit _confession_, proceeding
from low views of God and his law, slight views of my heart and
the sins of my past life. This must be resisted. There is a
constant tendency to omit _adoration_, when I forget to whom I
am speaking - when I rush heedlessly into the presence of
Jehovah, without remembering his awful name and character - when
I have little eyesight for his glory, and little admiration of
his wonders. 'Where are the wise?' I have the native tendency of
the heart to omit _giving thanks_. And yet it is specially
commanded, Phil. 4:6. Often when the heart is selfish, dead to
the salvation of others, I omit _intercession_. And yet it
especially is the spirit of the great Advocate, who has the name
of Israel always on his heart.

"Perhaps every prayer need not have all these; but surely a day
should not pass without some space being devoted to each.

"I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long,
or meet with others early, and then have family prayer, and
breakfast, and forenoon callers, often it is eleven or twelve
o'clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system.
It is unscriptural. Christ rose before day, and went into a
solitary place. David says, 'Early will I seek Thee; Thou shalt
early hear my voice.' Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre while
it was yet dark. Family prayer loses much of its power and
sweetness; and I can do no good to those who come to seek from
me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not
trimmed. Then, when secret prayer comes, the soul is often out
of tune. I feel it is far better to begin with God - to see his
face first - to get my soul near Him before it is near another.
'When I awake I am still with Thee.'

"If I have slept too long, or am going an early journey, or my
time is any way shortened, it is best to dress hurriedly, and
have a few minutes alone with God, than to give it up for lost.

"But in general, it is best to have at least one hour _alone
with God_, before engaging in anything else. At the same time, I
must be careful not to reckon communion with God by minutes or
hours, or by solitude. I have pored over my Bible, and on my
knees for hours, with little or no communion; and my times of
solitude have been often times of greatest temptation.

"As to _intercession_, I ought daily to intercede for my own
family, connections, relatives, and friends; also for my
flock, - the believers, the awakened, the careless; the sick, the
bereaved; the poor, the rich; my elders, Sabbath-school
teachers, day-school teachers, children, tract-distributors,
that all means may be blessed - Sabbath-day preaching and
teaching; visiting of the sick, visiting from house to house;
providences, sacraments. I ought daily to intercede briefly for
the whole town, the Church of Scotland, all faithful ministers;
for vacant congregations, students of divinity, etc.; for dear
brethren by name; for missionaries to Jews and Gentiles, and for
this end I must read missionary intelligence regularly, and get
acquainted with all that is doing throughout the world. It would
stir me up to pray with the map before me. I must have a scheme
of prayer, also the names of missionaries marked on the map. I
ought to intercede at large for the above on Saturday morning
and evening from seven to eight. Perhaps also I might take
different parts for different days; only I ought daily to plead
for my family and flock. I ought to pray in everything. 'Be
careful for nothing, but in _everything_ ... by prayer and
supplication, make your requests known unto God.' Often I
receive a letter asking to preach, or some such request. I find
myself answering before having asked counsel of God. Still
oftener a person calls and asks me something, and I do not ask
direction. Often I go out to visit a sick person in a hurry,
without asking his blessing, which alone can make the visit of
any use. I am persuaded that I ought never to do anything
without prayer, and, if possible, special, secret prayer.

"In reading the history of the Church of Scotland, I see how
much her troubles and trials have been connected with the
salvation of souls and the glory of Christ. I ought to pray far
more for our church, for our leading ministers by name, and for
my own clear guidance in the right way, that I may not be led
aside, or driven aside, from following Christ. Many difficult
questions may be forced on us for which I am not fully prepared,
such as the lawfulness of covenants. I should pray much more in
peaceful days, that I may be guided rightly when days of trial

"I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with
God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not
to be thrust into any corner. The morning hours, from six to
eight, are the most uninterrupted, and should be thus employed,
if I can prevent drowsiness. A little time after breakfast might
be given to intercession. After tea is my best hour, and that
should be solemnly dedicated to God, if possible.

"I ought not to give up the good old habit of prayer before
going to bed; but guard must be kept against sleep: planning
what things I am to ask is the best remedy. When I awake in the
night, I ought to rise and pray, as David and as John Welsh did.

"I ought to read three chapters of the Bible in secret every
day, at least.

"I ought on Sabbath morning to look over all the chapters read
through the week, and especially the verses marked. I ought to
read in three different places; I ought also to read according
to subjects, lives," etc.

He has evidently left this unfinished, and now he knows even as he is

Toward the end of his ministry, he became peculiarly jealous of
becoming an idol to his people; for he was loved and revered by many
who gave no evidence of love to Christ. This often pained him much. It
is indeed right in a people to regard their pastor with no common love
(II Cor. 9:14), but there is ever a danger ready to arise. He used to
say, "Ministers are but the pole; it is to the brazen serpent you are
to look."

The state of his health would not permit him to be laborious in going
from house to house, whereas preaching and evangelistic work in
general was less exhausting; but of course, while he was thus engaged,
many concerns of the parish would be unattended to; accordingly his
Session offered him a stated assistant to help him in his parochial
duty. With this proposal he at once concurred. Mr. Gatherer, then at
Caraldstone, was chosen, and continued to labor faithfully with him
during the remaining days of his ministry.

In the beginning of the year he published his _Daily Bread_, an
arrangement of Scripture, that the Bible might be read through in the
course of a year. He sought to induce his people to meditate much on the
written word in all its breadth. His last publication was, _Another Lily
Gathered_, or the account of James Laing, a little boy in his flock,
brought to Christ early, and carried soon to glory.

In the middle of January 1843, he visited Collace, and preached on I
Cor. 9:27: "A Castaway" - a sermon so solemn that one said it was like
a blast of the trumpet that would awaken the dead. Next day he rode on
to Lintrathen, where the people were willing to give up their work
at mid-day, if he would come and preach to them. All this month he was
breathing after glory. In his letters there are such expressions as

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Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 16 of 17)