Andrew A. Bonar.

The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

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grace of God that bringeth salvation appeared.

The Holy Spirit carried on his work in the subject of this Memoir, by
continuing to deepen in him the conviction of his ungodliness, and the
pollution of his whole nature. And all his life long, he viewed
_original sin_, not as an excuse for his actual sins, but as an
aggravation of them all. In this view he was of the mind of David,
taught by the unerring Spirit of Truth. See Psalm 51:4, 5.

At first light dawned slowly; so slowly, that for a considerable time
he still relished an occasional plunge into scenes of gaiety. Even
after entering the Divinity Hall, he could be persuaded to indulge in
lighter pursuits, at least during the two first years of his
attendance; but it was with growing alarm. When hurried away by such
worldly joys, I find him writing thus: - "_Sept. 14._ - May there be few
such records as this in my biography." Then, "_Dec. 9._ - A thorn in my
side - much torment." As the unholiness of his pleasures became more
apparent, he writes: - "_March 10, 1832._ - I hope never to play cards
again." "_March 25._ - Never visit on a Sunday evening again." "_April
10._ - Absented myself from the dance; upbraidings ill to bear. But I
must try to bear the cross." It seems to be in reference to the
receding tide, which thus for a season repeatedly drew him back to the
world, that on July 8, 1836, he records: "This morning five years ago,
my dear brother David died, and my heart for the first time knew true
bereavement. Truly it was all well. Let me be dumb, for Thou didst it:
and it was good for me that I was afflicted. I know not that any
providence was ever more abused by man than that was by me; and yet,
Lord, what mountains Thou comest over! none was ever more blessed to
me." To us who can look at the results, it appears probable that the
Lord permitted him thus to try many broken cisterns, and to taste the
wormwood of many earthly streams, in order that in after days, by the
side of the fountain of living waters, he might point to the world he
had forever left, and testify the surpassing preciousness of what he
had now found.

Mr. Alexander Somerville (afterwards minister of Anderston Church,
Glasgow) was his familiar friend and companion in the gay scenes of
his youth. And he, too, about this time, having been brought to taste
the powers of the world to come, they united their efforts for each
other's welfare. They met together for the study of the Bible, and
used to exercise themselves in the Septuagint Greek and the Hebrew
original. But oftener still they met for prayer and solemn converse;
and carrying on all their studies in the same spirit, watched each
other's steps in the narrow way.

He thought himself much profited, at this period, by investigating the
subject of Election and the Free Grace of God. But it was the reading
of _The Sum of Saving Knowledge_, generally appended to our Confession
of Faith, that brought him to a clear understanding of the way of
acceptance with God. Those who are acquainted with its admirable
statements of truth, will see how well fitted it was to direct an
inquiring soul. I find him some years afterwards recording: - "_March
11, 1834._ - Read in the _Sum of Saving Knowledge_, the work which I
think first of all wrought a saving change in me. How gladly would I
renew the reading of it, if that change might be carried on to
perfection!" It will be observed that he never reckoned his soul
saved, notwithstanding all his convictions and views of sins, until
he really went into the Holiest of all on the warrant of the
Redeemer's work; for assuredly a sinner is still under wrath, until he
has actually availed himself of the way to the Father opened up by
Jesus. All his knowledge of his sinfulness, and all his sad feeling of
his own need and danger, cannot place him one step farther off from
the lake of fire. It is "he that comes to Christ" that is saved.

Before this period he had received a bias towards the ministry from
his brother David, who used to speak of the ministry as the most
blessed work on earth, and often expressed the greatest delight in the
hope that his younger brother might one day become a minister of
Christ. And now, with altered views, - with an eye that could gaze on
heaven and hell, and a heart that felt the love of a reconciled
God, - he sought to become a herald of salvation.

He had begun to keep a register of his studies, and the manner in
which his time slipped away, some months before his brother's death.
For a considerable time this register contains almost nothing but the
bare incidents of the diary, and on Sabbaths the texts of the sermons
he had heard. There is one gleam of serious thought - but it is the
only one - during that period. On occasion of Dr. Andrew Thomson's
funeral, he records the deep and universal grief that pervaded the
town, and then subjoins: "Pleasing to see so much public feeling
excited on the decease of so worthy a man. How much are the times
changed within these eighteen centuries, since the time when Joseph
besought _the body_ in secret, and when he and Nicodemus were the only
ones found to bear the body to the tomb!"

It is in the end of the year that evidences of a change appear. From
that period and ever onward his dry register of every-day incidents is
varied with such passages as the following: -

"_Nov. 12._ - Reading H. Martyn's Memoirs. Would I could imitate him,
giving up father, mother, country, house, health, life, all - for
Christ. And yet, what hinders? Lord, purify me, and give me strength
to dedicate myself, my all, to Thee!"

"_Dec. 4._ - Reading Legh Richmond's Life. Poetentia profunda, non
sine lacrymis. Nunquam me ipsum, tam vilem, tam inutilem, tam
pauperim, et præcipue tam ingratum, adhuc vidi. Sint lacrymæ
dedicationis meæ pignora!'" ["Deep penitence, not unmixed with
tears. I never before saw myself so vile, so useless, so poor, and,
above all, so ungrateful. May these tears be the pledges of my
self-dedication!"] There is frequently at this period a sentence in
Latin occurring like the above in the midst of other matter,
apparently with the view of giving freer expression to his feelings
regarding himself.

"_Dec. 9._ - Heard a street-preacher: foreign voice. Seems really in
earnest. He quoted the striking passage, 'The Spirit and the bride
say, Come, _and let him that heareth say, Come!'_ From this he seems
to derive his authority. Let me learn from this man to be in earnest
for the truth, and to despise the scoffing of the world."

_Dec. 18._ - After spending an evening too lightly, he writes: "My
heart must break off from all these things. What right have I to steal
and abuse my Master's time? 'Redeem it,' He is crying to me."

"_Dec. 25._ - My mind not yet calmly fixed on the Rock of Ages."

"_Jan._ 12, 1832. - Cor non pacem habet. Quare? Peccatum apud fores
manet." ["My heart has not peace. Why? Sin lieth at my door."]

"_Jan. 25._ - A lovely day. Eighty-four cases of cholera at
Musselburgh, How it creeps nearer and nearer like a snake! Who will be
the first victim here? Let thine everlasting arms be around us, and we
shall be safe."

"_Jan. 29_, Sabbath. - Afternoon heard Mr. Bruce (then minister of the
New North Church, Edinburgh) on Malachi 1:1-6. It constitutes the very
gravamen of the charge against the unrenewed man, that he has
affection for his earthly parent, and reverence for his earthly
master, but none for God! Most noble discourse."

"_Feb. 2_. - Not a trait worth remembering! And yet these
four-and-twenty hours must be accounted for."

_Feb. 5_, Sabbath. - In the afternoon, having heard the late Mr. Martin
of St. George's,[1] he writes, on returning home: "O quam humilem, sed
quam diligentissimum; quam dejectum, sed quam vigilem, quam die
noctuque precantem, decet me esse quum tales viros aspicio. Juva,
Pater, Fili, et Spiritus!" ["Oh! how humble, yet how diligent, how
lowly, yet how watchful, how prayerful night and day it becomes me to
be, when I see such men. Help, Father, Son, and Spirit!"]

[1] He says of him on another occasion, _June 8, 1834_: "A man
greatly beloved of whom the world was not worthy." "An apostolic
man." His own calm deep holiness, resembled in many respects Mr.
Martin's daily walk.

From this date he seems to have sat, along with his friend Mr.
Somerville, almost entirely under Mr. Bruce's ministry. He took
copious notes of his lectures and sermons, which still remain among
his papers.

"_Feb. 28._ - Sober conversation. Fain would I turn to the most
interesting of all subjects. Cowardly backwardness: 'For whosoever is
ashamed of me and my words,'" etc.

At this time, hearing, concerning a friend of the family, that she had
said, "_That she was determined to keep by the world,_" he penned the
following lines on her melancholy decision: -

She has chosen the world,
And its paltry crowd;
She has chosen the world,
And an endless shroud!
She has chosen the world
With its misnamed pleasures;
She has chosen the world,
Before heaven's own treasures.

She hath launched her boat
On life's giddy sea,
And her all is afloat
For eternity.
But Bethlehem's star
Is not in her view;
And her aim is far
From the harbor true.

When the storm descends
From an angry sky,
Ah! where from the winds
Shall the vessel fly?
[Away, then - oh, fly
From the joys of earth!
Her smile is a lie -
There's a sting in her mirth.]*

When stars are concealed,
And rudder gone,
And heaven is sealed
To the wandering one

The whirlpool opes
For the gallant prize;
And, with all her hopes,
To the deep she hies!
But who may tell
Of the place of woe,
Where the wicked dwell,
Where the worldlings go?

For the human heart
Can ne'er conceive
What joys are the part
Of them who believe;
Nor can justly think
Of the cup of death,
Which all must drink
Who despise the faith.

*Come, leave the dreams
Of this transient night,
And bask in the beams
Of an endless light.

*TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: In the original "Memoirs and Remains of
the Reverend Robert Murray McCheyne", the passage in brackets
was the first half of the last, eight-line stanza, and the
following quartet was part of the eight-line stanza beginning
"When the storm descends".

"_March 6._ - Wild wind and rain all day long. Hebrew class - Psalms.
New beauty in the original every time I read. Dr. Welsh - lecture on
Pliny's letter about the Christians of Bithynia. Professor Jameson on
quartz. Dr. Chalmers grappling with Hume's arguments. Evening - Notes,
and little else. Mind and body dull." This is a specimen of his
register of daily study.

_March 20._ - After a few sentences in Latin, concluding with "In meam
animam veni, Domine Deus omnipotens," he writes, "Leaning on a staff
of my own devising, it betrayed me, and broke under me. It was not thy
staff. Resolving to be a god, Thou showedst me that I was but a man.
But my own staff being broken, why may I not lay hold of thine? - Read
part of the Life of Jonathan Edwards. How feeble does my spark of
Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed
light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me."

"_April 8._ - Have found much rest in Him who bore all our burdens for

"April 26. - To-night I ventured to break the ice of unchristian
silence. Why should not selfishness be buried beneath the Atlantic in
matters so sacred?"

_May 6_, Saturday evening. - This was the evening previous to the
Communion; and in prospect of again declaring himself the Lord's at
his table, he enters into a brief review of his state. He had partaken
of the ordinance in May of the year before for the first time; but he
was then living at ease, and saw not the solemn nature of the step he
took. He now sits down and reviews the past: -

"What a mass of corruption have I been! How great a portion of my life
have I spent wholly without God in the world, given up to sense and
the perishing things around me! Naturally of a feeling and sentimental
disposition, how much of my religion has been, and to this day is,
tinged with these colors of earth! Restrained from open vice by
educational views and the fear of man, how much ungodliness has
reigned within me! How often has it broken through all restraints, and
come out in the shape of lust and anger, mad ambitions, and unhallowed
words! Though my vice was always refined, yet how subtile and how
awfully prevalent it was! How complete a test was the Sabbath - spent
in weariness, as much of it as was given to God's service! How I
polluted it by my hypocrisies, my self-conceits, my worldly thoughts,
and worldly friends! How formally and unheedingly the Bible was
read, - how little was read, - so little that even now I have not read
it all! How unboundedly was the wild impulse of the heart obeyed! How
much more was the creature loved than the Creator! - O great God, that
didst suffer me to live whilst I so dishonored Thee, Thou knowest the
whole; and it was thy hand alone that could awaken me from the death
in which I was, and was contented to be. Gladly would I have escaped
from the Shepherd that sought me as I strayed; but He took me up in
his arms and carried me back; and yet He took me not for anything that
was in me. I was no more fit for his service than the Australian, and
no more worthy to be called and chosen. Yet why should I doubt? not
that God is unwilling, not that He is unable - of both I am assured.
But perhaps my old sins are too fearful, and my unbelief too glaring?
Nay; I come to Christ, not _although_ I am a sinner, but just
_because_ I am a sinner, even the chief." He then adds, "And though
sentiment and constitutional enthusiasm may have a great effect on
me, still I believe that my soul is in sincerity desirous and earnest
about having all its concerns at rest with God and Christ, - that his
kingdom occupies the most part of all my thoughts, and even of my
long-polluted affections. Not unto me, not unto me, be the shadow of
praise or of merit ascribed, but let all glory be given to thy most
holy name! As surely as Thou didst make the mouth with which I pray,
so surely dost Thou prompt every prayer of faith which I utter. Thou
hast made me all that I am, and given me all that I have."

Next day, after communicating, he writes: "I well remember when I was
an enemy, and especially abhorred this ordinance as binding me down;
but if I be bound to Christ in heart, I shall not dread any bands that
can draw me close to Him." Evening - "Much peace. Look back, my soul,
and view the mind that belonged to thee but twelve months ago. My
soul, thy place is in the dust!"

"_May 19._ - Thought with more comfort than usual of being a witness
for Jesus in a foreign land."

"June 4. - Walking with A. Somerville by Craigleith. Conversing on
missions. If I am to go to the heathen to speak of the unsearchable
riches of Christ, this one thing must be given me, to be out of the
reach of the baneful influence of esteem or contempt. If worldly
motives go with me, I shall never convert a soul, and shall lose my
own in the labor."

"_June 22._ - Variety of studies. Septuagint translation of Exodus and
Vulgate. Bought Edwards' works. Drawing - Truly there was nothing in me
that should have induced Him to choose me. I was but as the other
brands upon whom the fire is already kindled, which shall burn for
evermore! And as soon could the billet leap from the hearth and become
a green tree, as my soul could have sprung to newness of life."

_June 25._ - In reference to the office of the holy ministry; "How apt
are we to lose our hours in the vainest babblings, as do the world!
How can this be with those chosen for the mighty office?
fellow-workers with God? heralds of His Son? evangelists? men set
apart to the work, chosen out of the chosen, as it were the very pick
of the flocks, who are to shine as the stars forever and ever? Alas,
alas! my soul, where shall thou appear? O Lord God, I am a little
child! But Thou wilt send an angel with a live coal from off the
altar, and touch my unclean lips, and put a tongue within my dry
mouth, so that I shall say with Isaiah, 'Here am I, send me.'" Then,
after reading a little of Edwards' works: "Oh that heart and
understanding may grow together, like brother and sister, leaning on
one another!"

"_June 27._ - Life of David Brainerd. Most wonderful man! What
conflicts, what depressions, desertions, strength, advancement,
victories, within thy torn bosom! I cannot express what I think when I
think of thee. To-night, more set upon missionary enterprise than

"_June 28._ - Oh for Brainerd's humility and sin-loathing

"_June 30._ - Much carelessness, sin, and sorrow. 'Oh wretched man than
I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?' Enter
thou, my soul, into the rock, and hide thee in the dust for fear of
the Lord and the glory of his majesty." And then he writes a few
verses, of which the following are some stanzas: -

I will arise and seek my God,
And, bowed down beneath my load,
Lay all my sins before Him;
Then He will wash my soul from sin,
And put a new heart me within,
And teach me to adore Him.

O ye that fain would find the joy -
The only one that wants alloy -
Which never is deceiving;
Come to the Well of Life with me,
And drink, as it is proffered, free,
The gospel draught receiving.

I come to Christ, because I know
The very worst are called to go;
And when in faith I find Him,
I'll walk in Him, and lean on Him,
Because I cannot move a limb
Until He say, "Unbind him."

"_July 3._ - This last bitter root of worldliness that has so often
betrayed me has this night so grossly, that I cannot but regard it as
God's chosen way to make me loathe and forsake it forever. I would
vow; but it is much more like a weakly worm to pray. Sit in the dust,
O my soul!" I believe he was enabled to keep his resolution. Once
only, in the end of this year, was he again led back to gaiety; but it
was the last time.

"_July 7_, Saturday. - After finishing my usual studies, tried to fast
a little, with much prayer and earnest seeking of God's face,
remembering what occurred this night last year." (Alluding to his
brother's death.)

"_July 22._ - Had this evening a more complete understanding of that
self-emptying and abasement with which it is necessary to come to
Christ, - a denying of self, trampling it under foot, - a recognizing of
the complete righteousness and justice of God, that could do nothing
else with us but condemn us utterly, and thrust us down to lowest
hell, - a feeling that, even in hell, we _should_ rejoice in his
sovereignty, and say that all was rightly done."

"_Aug. 15._ - Little done, and as little suffered. Awfully important
question, Am I redeeming the time?"

"_Aug. 18._ - Heard of the death of James Somerville[2] by fever,
induced by cholera. O God, thy ways and thoughts are not as ours! He
had preached his first sermon. I saw him last on Friday, 27th July, at
the College gate; shook hands, and little thought I was to see him no
more on earth."

[2] Son of the minister of Drumelzier, - very promising and very

"_Sept. 2_, Sabbath evening. - Reading. Too much engrossed, and too
little devotional. Preparation for a fall. Warning. We may be too
engrossed with the shell even of heavenly things."

"_Sept. 9._ - Oh for true, unfeigned humility! I know I have cause to
be humble; and yet I do not know one-half of that cause. I know I am
proud; and yet I do not know the half of that pride."

"_Sept. 30._ - Somewhat straitened by loose Sabbath observance. Best
way is to be explicit and manly."

"_Nov. 1._ - More abundant longings for the work of the ministry. Oh
that Christ would but count me faithful, that a dispensation of the
gospel might be committed to me!" And then he adds, "Much peace.
_Peaceful, because believing_."

_Dec. 2._ - Hitherto he used to spend much of the Sabbath evening in
extending his notes of Mr. Bruce's sermons, but now, "Determined to be
brief with these, for the sake of a more practical, meditative,
resting, sabbatical evening."

"_Dec. 11._ - Mind quite unfitted for devotion. Prayerless prayer."

"_Dec. 31._ - God has in this past year introduced me to the
preparation of the ministry, - I bless Him for that. He has helped me
to give up much of my shame to name his name, and be on his side,
especially before particular friends, - I bless Him for that. He has
taken conclusively away friends that might have been a snare, - must
have been a stumbling-block, - I bless Him for that. He has introduced
me to one Christian friend, and sealed more and more my amity with
another, - I bless Him for that."

_Jan. 27_, 1833. - On this day it had been the custom of his brother
David to write a "Carmen Natale" on their father's birth-day. Robert
took up the domestic song this year; and in doing so, makes some
beautiful and tender allusions.

Ah! where is the harp that was strung to thy praise,
So oft and so sweetly in happier days?
When the tears that we shed were the tears of our joy,
And the pleasures of home were unmixed with alloy?
The harp is now mute - its last breathings are spoken -
And the cord, though 'twas threefold, is now, alas, broken!
Yet why should we murmur, short-sighted and vain,
Since death to that loved one was undying gain?
Ah, fools! shall we grieve that he left this poor scene,
To dwell in the realms that are ever serene?
Through he sparkled the gem in our circle of love,
He is even more prized in the circles above.
And though sweetly he sung of his father on earth,
When this day would inspire him with tenderest mirth,
Yet a holier tone to his harp is now given,
_As he sings to his unborn Father in heaven_.

Feb. 3. - Writing to a medical friend of his brother William's, he
says, "I remember long ago a remark you once made to William, which
has somehow or other stuck in my head, viz. that medical men ought to
make a distinct study of the Bible, purely for the sake of
administering conviction and consolation to their patients. I think
you also said that you had actually begun with that view. Such a
determination, though formed in youth, is one which I trust riper
years will not make you blush to own."

"_Feb. 11._ - Somewhat overcome. Let me see: there is a creeping defect
here. Humble purpose-like reading of the word omitted. What plant can
be unwatered and not wither?"

"_Feb. 16._ - Walk to Corstorphine Hill. Exquisite clear view, - blue
water, and brown fields, and green firs. Many thoughts on the follies
of my youth. How many, O Lord, may they be? Summed up in
one - ungodliness!"

"_Feb. 21._ - Am I as willing as ever to preach to the lost heathen?"

"_March 8._ - Biblical criticism. This must not supersede heart-work.
How apt it is!"

"_March 12._ - Oh for activity, activity, activity!"

"_March 29._ - To-day my second session (at the Divinity Hall) ends. I
am now in the middle of my career. God hold me on with a steady pace!"

"_March 31._ - The bull tosses in the net! How should the Christian
imitate the anxieties of the worldling!"

_April 17._ - He heard of the death of one whom many friends had
esteemed much and lamented deeply. This led him to touch the strings
of his harp again, in a measure somewhat irregular, yet sad and sweet.



So dying-like and frail,
That every bitter gale
Of winter seemed to blow
Only to lay her low!
She lived to show how He,
Who stills the stormy sea,
Can overrule the winter's power,
And keep alive the tiniest flower -
Can bear the young lamb in his arms
And shelter it from death's alarms.


When spring, with brightest flowers,
Was fresh'ning all the bowers.
The linnet sung her choicest lay,
When her sweet voice was hush'd for aye
The snowdrop rose above the ground
When she beneath her pillow found,
Both cold, and white, and fair, -
She, fairest of the fair,

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Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 2 of 17)