Andrew A. Bonar.

The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

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defensible; but when it is to raise up teachers, it is more than
defensible. I am now made willing, if God shall open the way, to go to
India. Here am I; send me!"

The missionary feeling in his soul continued all his life. The Lord
had really made him willing; and this preparedness to go anywhere
completed his preparation for unselfish, self-denied work at home.
Must there not be somewhat of this missionary tendency in all true
ministers? Is any one truly the Lord's messenger who is not quite
willing to go when and where the Lord calls? Is it justifiable in any
to put aside a call from the north, on the ground that he _wishes_ one
from the south? We must be found in the position of Isaiah, if we are
to be really sent of God.

"_April 24._ - Oh that this day's labor may be blessed! and not mine
alone, but all thy faithful servants all over the world, till _thy
Sabbath_ come."

"_April 26._ - Visiting in Carron-shore. Well received everywhere.
Truly a pleasant labor. Cheered me much. Preached to them afterwards
from Proverbs 1."

"_May 8._ - Communion in Larbert. Served as an elder and help to the
faithful. Partook with some glimpses of faith and joy. Served by a
faithful old minister (Mr. Dempster of Denny), one taught of God.
This morning stood by the dying - evening, stood by the dead, poor J.F.
having died last night. I laid my hand on her cold forehead, and tried
to shut her eyes. Lord, give me strength for living to Thee! - strength
also for a dying hour."

"_May 15._ - This day an annular eclipse of the sun. Kept both the
services together in order to be in time. Truly a beautiful sight to
see the shining edge of the sun all round the dark disc of the moon.
Lord, one day thy hand shall put out those candles; for there shall be
no need of the sun to lighten the happy land: the Lamb is the light
thereof; a sun that cannot be eclipsed - that cannot go down."

"_May 17._ - Visited thirteen families, and addressed them all in the
evening in the school, on Jeremiah 1:4, 'Going and weeping.'
Experienced some enlargement of soul; said some plain things; and had
some desire for their salvation, that God might be praised."

"_May 21._ - Preparation for the Sabbath. My birth-day. I have lived
twenty-three years. Blessed be my Rock. Though I am a child in
knowledge of my Bible and of Thee, yet use me for what a child can do,
or a child can suffer. How few sufferings I have had in the year that
is past, except in my own body. Oh that as my day is my strength may
be! Give me strength for a suffering and for a dying hour!"

"_May 22._ - O Lord, when Thou workest, all discouragements vanish;
when Thou art away, anything is a discouragement. Blessed be God for
such a day - one of a thousand! Oh! why not always this? Watch and

Being in Edinburgh this month, during the sitting of the General
Assembly, he used the opportunity of revisiting some of his former
charge in the Canongate. "J.S., a far-off inquirer, but surely God is
leading. His hand draws out these tears. Interesting visits to L.,
near death, and still in the same mind. I cannot but hope that some
faith is here. Saw Mrs. M.; many tears: felt much, though I am still
doubtful, and in the dark. Thou knowest, Lord!"

"_June 11._ - Yesterday up in Dunipace. It would seem as if I were
afraid to name the name of Christ. Saw many worldly people greatly
needing a word in season, yet could not get up my heart to speak.
What I did failed almost completely. I am not worthy, Lord! To-day
sought to prepare my heart for the coming Sabbath. After the example
of Boston, whose life I have been reading, examined my heart with
prayer and fasting. 1. Does my heart really close with the offer of
salvation by Jesus? Is it my choice to be saved in the way which gives
Him all the praise, and me none? Do I not only see it to be the Bible
way of salvation, but does it cordially approve itself to my heart as
delightful? Lord search me and try me, for I cannot but answer, Yes,
yes. 2. Is it the desire of my heart to be made altogether holy? Is
there any sin I wish to retain? Is sin a grief to me, the sudden
risings and overcomings thereof especially? Lord, Thou knowest all
things - Thou knowest that I hate all sin, and desire to be made
altogether _like Thee_. It is the sweetest word in the Bible: 'Sin
_shall not_ have dominion over you.' Oh, then, that I might lie low in
the dust, - the lower the better, - that Jesus' righteousness and Jesus'
strength alone be admired! Felt much deadness, and much grief that I
cannot grieve for this deadness. Towards evening revived. Got a calm
spirit through psalmody and prayer."

"_June 12_, Sabbath. - To-day a sinner preached Jesus, the same Jesus
who has done all things for him and that so lately! A day of much
help, of some earnest looking-up of the heart to that alone quickening
power, of much temptation to flattery and pride. Oh for breathing
gales of spiritual life! Evening - Somewhat helped to lay Jesus before
little children in his beauty and excellency. Much fatigue, yet some
peace. Surely a day in thy courts is better than a thousand."

"_June 15._ - Day of visiting (rather a happy one) in Carron-shore.
Large meeting in the evening. Felt very happy after it, though
mourning for _bitter speaking of the gospel_. Surely it is a gentle
message, and should be spoken with angelic tenderness, especially by
such a needy sinner."

Of this bitterness in preaching, he had little indeed in after days;
yet so sensible was he of its being quite natural to all of us, that
oftentimes he made it the subject of conversation, and used to grieve
over himself if he had spoken with anything less than solemn
compassion. I remember on one occasion, when we met, he asked what my
last Sabbath's subject had been. It had been, "The wicked shall be
turned into hell." On hearing this awful test, he asked, "Were you
able to preach it _with tenderness_?" Certain it is that the tone of
reproach and upbraiding is widely different from the voice of solemn
warning. It is not saying hard things that pierces the consciences of
our people; it is the voice of divine love heard amid the thunder. The
sharpest point of the two-edged sword is not _death_, but _life_; and
against self-righteous souls this latter ought to be more used than
the former. For such souls can hear us tell of the open gates of hell
and the unquenchable fire far more unconcernedly than of the gates of
heaven wide open for their immediate return. When we preach that the
glad tidings _were intended to impart immediate assurance of eternal
life to every sinner that believes them_, we strike deeper upon the
proud enmity of the world to God, then when we show the eternal curse
and the second death.

"_June 19_, Sabbath. - Wet morning. Preached at Dunipace to a small
audience, on Parable of the Tares. I thank God for that blessed
parable. - In both discourses I can look back on many hateful thoughts
of pride, and self-admiration, and love of praise, stealing the heart
out of the service."

"_June 22._ - Carron-shore. My last. Some tears; yet I fear some like
the messenger, not the message; and I fear I am so vain as to love
that love. Lord, let it not be so. Perish _my_ honor, but let _thine_
be exalted forever."

"_June 26._ - True Sabbath-day. Golden sky. Full church, and more
liveliness than sometimes. Shall I call the liveliness of this day a
gale of the Spirit, or was all natural? I know that all was not of
grace; the self-admiration, the vanity, the desire of honor, the
bitterness - these were all breaths of earth or hell. But was there no
grace? Lord, Thou knowest. I dare not wrong Thee by saying - No!
Larbert Sabbath school with the same liveliness and joy. Domestic work
with the same. Praised be God! Oh that the savor of it may last
through the week! By this may I test if it be all of nature, or much
of grace. Alas! how I tremble for my Monday mornings - those seasons of
lifelessness. Lord, bless the seeds sown this day in the hearts of my
friends, by the hand of my friends, and all over the world - hasten the

"July 3. - After a week of working and hurried preparation, a Sabbath
of mingled peace and pain. Called, morning before preaching, to see
Mrs. E., dying. Preached on the Jailor - discomposedly - with some
glimpses of the genuine truth as it is in Jesus. Felt there was much
mingling of experience. At times the congregation was lightened up
from their dull flatness, and then they sunk again into lethargy. O
Lord, make me hang on Thee to open their hearts, Thou opener of
Lydia's heart. I fear Thou wilt not bless my preaching, until I am
brought thus to hang on Thee. Oh keep not back a blessing for my sin!
Afternoon - On the Highway of the Redeemed, with more ease and comfort.
Felt the truth sometimes boiling up from my heart into my words. Some
glimpses of tenderness, yet much less of that spirit than the last two
Sabbaths. Again saw the dying woman. Oh when will I plead, with my
tears and inward yearnings, over sinners! Oh, compassionate Lord, give
me to know what manner of spirit I am of! give me thy gentle Spirit,
that neither strives nor cries. Much weariness, want of prayerfulness,
and want of cleaving to Christ." Tuesday the 5th being the anniversary
of his licence to preach the gospel, he writes: "Eventful week; one
year I have preached _Jesus_, have I? or myself? I have often preached
myself also, but Jesus I have preached."

About this time he again felt the hand of affliction, though it did
not continue long. Yet it was plain to him now that personal trouble
was to be one of the ingredients of that experience which helped to
give a peculiar tone to his ministry.

"_July 8._ - Since Tuesday have been laid up with illness. Set by once
more for a season to feel my unprofitableness and cure my pride. When
shall this self-choosing temper be healed? 'Lord, I will preach, run,
visit, wrestle,' said I. 'No, thou shalt lie in thy bed and suffer,'
said the Lord. To-day missed some fine opportunities of speaking a
word for Christ. The Lord saw I would have spoken as much for my own
honor as his, and therefore shut my mouth. _I see a man cannot be a
faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ's sake_ - until
he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and seeks only to
attract them to Christ. Lord, give me this! To-night some glimpses of
humbling, and therefore some wrestling in social prayer. But my
prayers are scarcely to be called prayer." Then, in the evening: "This
day my brother has been five years absent from the body and present
with the Lord, and knows more and loves more than all earthly saints
together. Till the day break and the shadows flee away, turn, my

"_July 10._ - I fear I am growing more earthly in some things. To-day I
felt a difficulty in bringing in spiritual conversation immediately
after preaching, when my bosom should be burning. Excused myself from
dining out from other than the grand reason; though checked and
corrected myself. Evening - Insensibly slid into worldly conversation.
Let these things be corrected in me, O Lord, by the heart being more
filled with love to Jesus, and more ejaculatory prayer."

"_July 17_, Sabbath. - Oh that I may remember my own word this day:
that the hour of communion is the hour for the foxes - the little
foxes - to spoil the wine. Two things that defile this day in looking
back, are love of praise running through all, and consenting to listen
to worldly talk at all. Oh that these may keep me humble and be my
burden, leading me to the cross. Then, Satan, thou wilt be outwitted!"

"_July 19._ - Died, this day, W. M'Cheyne, my cousin-german, Relief
minister, Kelso. Oh how I repent of our vain controversies on
Establishments when we last met, and that we spoke so little of Jesus!
Oh that we had spoken more one to another! Lord, teach me to be always
speaking as dying to dying."

"_July 24._ - Dunipace Communion - Heard Mr. Purves of Jedburgh preach,
'Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of
salvation.' The only way to come to ordinances, and to draw from the
well, is to come with the matter of acceptance settled, believing
God's anger to be turned away. Truly a precious view of the freeness
of the gospel very refreshing. My soul needs to be roused much to
apprehend this truth."

Above (_July 3_) he spoke of "mingling experience with the genuine
truth as it is in Jesus." It is to this that he refers again in the
last paragraph. His deep acquaintance with the human heart and
passions often lead him to dwell at greater length, not only on those
topics whereby the sinner might be brought to discover his guilt, but
also on marks that would evidence a change, that on "the glad
tidings." And yet he ever felt that these blessed tidings, addressed
to souls in the very gall of bitterness, were the true theme of the
minister of Christ; and never did he preach other than a full
salvation ready for the chief of sinners. From the very first, also,
he carefully avoided the error of those who rather speculate or
doctrinize about the gospel, than preach the gospel itself. Is not the
true idea of preaching that of one, like Ahimaaz, coming with
all-important tidings, and intent on making these tidings known?
Occupied with the facts he has to tell, he has no heart to speculate
on mere abstractions; nay, he is apt to forget what language he
employs, excepting so far as the very grandeur of the tidings gives a
glow of eloquence to his words. The glorious fact, "_By this man is
preached unto you the forgiveness of sins_," is the burden of every
sermon. The crier is sent to the openings of the gate by his Lord, to
herald forth this one infinitely important truth through the whole
creation under heaven.

He seems invariably to have applied for his personal benefit what he
gave out to his people. We have already noticed how he used to feed on
the word, not in order to prepare himself for his people, but for
personal edification. To do so was a fundamental rule with him; and
all pastors will feel that, if they are to prosper in their own souls,
they must so use the word, - sternly refusing to admit the idea of
feeding others, until satiated themselves. And for similar ends it is
needful that we let the truth we hear preached sink down into our own
souls. We, as well as our people, must drink in the falling shower.
Mr. M'Cheyne did so. It is common to find him speaking thus: "_July
31_, Sabbath. - Afternoon, on Judas betraying Christ; much more
tenderness than ever I felt before. Oh that I might abide in the bosom
of Him who washed Judas' feet, and dipped his hand in the same dish
with him, and warned him, and grieved over him - that I might catch the
infection of his love, of his tenderness, so wonderful, so

Coming home on a Sabbath evening (Aug. 7th) from Torwood Sabbath
school, a person met him who suggested an opportunity of usefulness.
There were two families of gypsies encamped at Torwood, within his
reach. He was weary with a long day's labor; but instantly, as was his
custom on such a call, set off to find them. By the side of their
wood-fire, he opened out the parable of the Lost Sheep, and pressed
it on their souls in simple terms. He then knelt down in prayer for
them, and left them somewhat impressed, and very grateful.

At this time a youthful parishioner, for whose soul he felt much
anxiety, left his father's roof. Ever watchful for souls, he seized
this opportunity of laying before him more fully the things belonging
to his peace.

"Larbert, _August 8, 1836_

"MY DEAR G. - - . You will be surprised to hear from me. I have
often wished to be better acquainted with you; but in these sad
parishes we cannot manage to know and be intimate with every one
we would desire. And now you have left your father's roof and
our charge; still my desires go after you, as well as the kind
thoughts of many others; and since I cannot now speak to you, I
take this way of expressing my thoughts to you. I do not know in
what light you look upon me, whether as a grave and morose
minister, or as one who might be a companion and friend; but
really, it is so short a while since I was just like you, when I
enjoyed the games which you now enjoy, and read the books which
you now read, that I never can think of myself as anything more
than a boy. This is one great reason why I write to you. The
same youthful blood flows in my veins that flows in yours, the
same fancies and buoyant passions dance in my bosom as in yours;
so that when I would persuade you to come with me to the same
Saviour, and to walk the rest of your life 'led by the Spirit of
God,' I am not persuading you to anything beyond your years. I
am not like a grey-headed grandfather, - then you might answer
all I say by telling me that you are a boy. No; I am almost as
much a boy as you are; as fond of happiness and of life as you
are; as fond of scampering over the hills, and seeing all that
is to be seen, as you are.

"Another thing that persuades me to write you, my dear boy, is,
that I have felt in my own experience the want of having a
friend to direct and counsel me. I had a kind brother as you
have, who taught me many things. He gave me a Bible, and
persuaded me to read it; he tried to train me as a gardener
trains the apple-tree upon the wall; but all in vain. I thought
myself far wiser than he, and would always take my own way; and
many a time, I well remember, I have seen him reading his
Bible, or shutting his closet door to pray, when I have been
dressing to go to some frolic, or some dance of folly. Well,
this dear friend and brother died; and though his death made a
greater impression upon me than ever his life had done, still I
found the misery of being _friendless_. I do not mean that I had
no relations and worldly friends, for I had many; but I had no
friend _who cared for my soul_. I had none to direct me to the
Saviour - none to awaken my slumbering conscience - none to tell
me about the blood of Jesus washing away all sin - none to tell
me of the Spirit who is so willing to change the heart, and give
the victory over passions. I had no minister to take me by the
hand, and say, 'Come with me, and we will do thee good.' Yes, I
had one friend and minister, but that was Jesus himself, and He
led me in a way that makes me give Him, and Him only, all the
praise. Now, though Jesus may do this again, yet the more common
way with Him is to use earthly guides. Now, if I could supply
the place of such a guide to you, I should be happy. To be a
finger-post is all that I want to be - pointing out the way. This
is what I so much wanted myself; this is what you need not want,
unless you wish.

"Tell me, dear G., would you work less pleasantly through the
day - would you walk the streets with a more doleful step - would
you eat your meat with less gladness of heart - would you sleep
less tranquilly at night - if you had _the forgiveness of sins_,
that is, if all your wicked thoughts and deeds - lies, thefts,
and Sabbath-breakings - were all blotted out of God's book of
remembrance? Would this make you less happy, do you think? You
dare not say it would. But would the forgiveness of sins not
make you more happy than you are? Perhaps you will tell me that
you are very happy as you are. I quite believe you. I know that
I was very happy when I was unforgiven. I know that I had great
pleasure in many sins - in Sabbath-breaking, for instance. Many a
delightful walk I have had, - speaking my own words, thinking my
own thoughts, and seeking my own pleasure on God's holy day. I
fancy few boys were ever happier in an unconverted state than I
was. No sorrow clouded my brow - no tears filled my eyes, unless
over some nice story-book; so that I know that you say quite
true, when you say that you are happy as you are. But ah! is not
this just the saddest thing of all, that you should be happy
whilst you are a child of wrath, - that you should smile, and
eat, and drink, and be merry, and sleep sound, when this very
night you may be in _hell_? Happy while unforgiven! - a terrible
happiness. It is like the Hindoo widow who sits upon the funeral
pile with her dead husband, and sings songs of joy when they are
setting fire to the wood with which she is to be burned. Yes,
you may be quite happy in this way, till you die, my boy; but
when you look back from hell, you will say, it was a miserable
kind of happiness. Now, do you think it would not give you more
happiness to be forgiven, - to be able to put on Jesus, and say,
'God's anger is turned away?' Would not you be happier at work,
and happier in the house, and happier in your bed? I can assure
you from all that ever I have felt of it, the pleasures of being
forgiven are as superior to the pleasures of an unforgiven man,
as heaven is higher than hell. The peace of being forgiven
reminds me of the calm, blue sky, which no earthly clamors can
disturb. It lightens all labor, sweetens every morsel of bread,
and makes a sick-bed all soft and downy; yea, it takes away the
scowl of death. Now, forgiveness may be yours _now_. It is not
given to those who are good. It is not given to any because they
are less wicked than others. It is given _only_ to those who,
feeling that their sins have brought a curse on them which they
cannot lift off, 'look unto Jesus,' as bearing all away.

"Now, my dear boy, I have no wish to weary you. If you are
anything like what I was, you will have yawned many a time
already over this letter. However, if the Lord deal graciously
with you, and touch your young heart, as I pray He may, with a
desire to be forgiven, and to be made a child of God, perhaps
you will not take ill what I have written to you in much haste.
As this is the first time you have been away from home, perhaps
you have not learned to write letters yet; but if you have, I
would like to hear from you, how you come on - what convictions
you feel, if you feel any - what difficulties, what parts of the
Bible puzzle you, and then I would do my best to unravel them.
You read your Bible regularly, of course; but do try and
understand it, and still more, to _feel it_. Read more parts
than one at a time. For example, if you are reading Genesis,
read a psalm also; or, if you are reading Matthew, read a small
bit of an epistle also. _Turn the Bible into prayer._ Thus, if
you were reading the 1st Psalm, spread the Bible on the chair
before you, and kneel, and pray, 'O Lord, give me the
blessedness of the man,' etc. 'Let me not stand in the counsel
of the ungodly,' etc. This is the best way of knowing the
meaning of the Bible, and of learning to pray. In prayer confess
your sins by name - going over those of the past day, one by one.
Pray for your friends by name - father, mother, etc. etc. If you
love them, surely you will pray for their souls. I know well
that there are prayers constantly ascending for you from your
own house; and will you not pray for them back again? Do this
regularly. If you pray sincerely for others, it will make you
pray for yourself.

"But I must be done. Good-bye, dear G. Remember me to your
brother kindly, and believe me your sincere friend,


It is the shepherd's duty (Ezek. 34:4), in visiting his flock, to
discriminate; "strengthening the diseased, healing that which was
sick, binding up that which was broken, bringing again that which was
driven away, seeking that which was lost." This Mr. M'Cheyne tried to
do. In an after-letter to Mr. Somerville of Anderston, in reference to
the people of these parishes, whom he had had means of knowing, he
wrote, "Take more heed to the saints than ever I did. Speak a word in
season to S.M. S.H. will drink in simple truth, but tell him to be
humble-minded. Cause L.H. to learn in silence; speak not of _religion_
to her, but speak to her case always. Teach A.M. to look simply at
Jesus. J.A. warn and teach. Get worldliness from the B.'s, if you can.
Mrs. G. awake or keep awake. Speak faithfully to the B.'s. Tell me of
M.C., if she is really a believer, and grows. A.K., has the light
visited her? M.T. I have had some doubts of. M.G. lies sore upon my
conscience; I did no good to that woman: she always managed to speak

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Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 5 of 17)