Andrew A. Bonar.

The Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne online

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come to a king when you were full dressed; so come to God, and abide
in his presence as long as you can."

Sometimes he would send away souls, of whom he entertained good hope,
with a text suited to their state. "If ye live after the flesh, ye
shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the
body, ye shall live." Or he would say, "I hear of you that God has
opened your heart; but remember not to trust to man's opinion.
Remember an all-seeing Christ will be the judge at the great day." To
another he said, "I have long hoped you were really under the wings of
the Saviour; if it be so, abide there; do not be like Demas."

To a prayer-meeting, consisting of a few young men that had been
awakened to flee from wrath, he gave this advice: "Guard against all
ambition to excel one another in expression. Remember the most
spiritual prayer is 'a groan which cannot be uttered,' Rom. 8:26; or a
cry of 'Abba, Father,' Gal. 4:6."

There is very little recorded in his diary during these years, but
what does exist will be read with deepest interest.

"_March 28, 1838_, Thursday. - I think of making this more a journal of
my people, and the success or otherwise of my ministry. The first
success among my people was at the time of my first Sacrament: then it
appeared. My first sermon, on Isa. 61:1, was blessed to - - and some
others. That on Ezek. 22:14, 'Can thine heart endure,' etc., was
blessed to awaken M.L. That on Song 5:2, 'Open to me,' etc., the
Sabbath after the Sacrament, was blessed to another. These were happy
days. M.D. was awakened by coming to the communicants' class. Another
by the action sermon. At the words, 'I know thee, Judas,' she
trembled, and would have risen from the table. These were glad days
when one and another were awakened. The people looked very stirred and
anxious, every day coming to hear the words of eternal life, - some
inquiring in private every week. Now there is little of this. About
fifteen cases came to my knowledge the first Sacrament, and two
awakened who seem to have gone back. About eleven last Sacrament, - four
of these young men. Several Christians seemed quickened to greater
joy, and greater love one to another. Now it appears to me there is
much falling off, - few seem awakened; few weep as they used to do."

"_April 1_, Sacrament day. - Sweet season we have had. Never was more
straitened and unfurnished in myself, and yet much helped. Kept in
perfect peace, my mind being stayed on Thee. Preached on 'My God, my
God,' etc., Psalm 22:1. Not fully prepared, yet found some peace in
it. Fenced the tables from 'Christ's eyes of flame.' Little helped in
serving the tables. Much peace in communion. Happy to be one with
Christ! _I_, a vile worm; _He_, the Lord my righteousness. Mr. Cumming
of Dumbarney served some tables; Mr. Somerville of Anderston served
three, and preached in the evening on 'Thou art all fair, my love.'
Very full and refreshing. All sweet, sweet services. Come, thou north
wind, and blow, thou south, upon this garden! May this time be greatly
blessed! It is my third communion; it may be my last. My Lord may
come, or I may be sitting at another table soon. Moody, Candlish, and
Mellis, were a good preparation for this day; and the sweet word from
Cumming yesterday, 'When the poor and needy seek water,' etc. Lord,
grant some wakening this day, - to some bringing peace - comfort to
mourners, - fulness to believers, - an advance in holiness in me and my
children! III John 4. Lord, wean me from my sins, from my cares, and
from this passing world. May Christ be all in all to me."

"Admitted about twenty-five young communicants; kept two back, and one
or two stayed back. Some of them evidently brought to Christ. May the
Lord be their God, their comforter, their all! May the morrow bring
still richer things to us, that we may say as of to-night, 'Thou hast
kept the good wine until now.'"

Toward the close of this same year some of his notices are as
follows: -

"_Oct. 7_, Evening. - In the Gaelic Chapel, on 'I know that my Redeemer
liveth,' with more seeming power on the people than for a while. I
never remember of compelling souls to come in to Christ so much as in
that discourse."

"_Oct. 8._ - A person of the name of - - came; I hope really awakened
by last night's work; rather, by _Thee_. I do not know, however,
whether _grace_ is begun or not."

"_Oct. 14._ - Preached on 'Forgiving injuries.' Afternoon - on the
Second Coming: 'Let your loins be girded about,' etc. Felt its power
myself more than ever before, how the sudden coming of the Saviour
constrains to a holy walk, separate from sin. Evening - Preached it
over in the Ferry."

"_Oct. 21._ - Met young communicants in the evening. Good hope of all
but one."

"_Oct. 22._ - A Jew preached in my church, Mr. Frey, to a crowded
house. Felt much moved in hearing an Israelite after the flesh."

"Oct. 23. - Preached to sailors aboard the 'Dr. Carey,' in the docks.
About 200, very attentive and impressed like. On 'I know that my
Redeemer liveth.' May the seed sown on the waters be found after many

"_Nov. 1_, Fast-day. - Afternoon - Mr. C. on 'The thief on the Cross.' A
most awakening and engaging sermon, enough to make sinners fly like a
cloud, and as doves to their windows. The offers of Christ were let
down very low so that those low of stature may take hold."

"_Nov. 5._ - Mr. - - died this morning at seven o'clock. Oh that I may
take warning, lest, after preaching to others, I myself be a castaway!
Love of popularity is said to have been his besetting sin."

"_Dec. 2._ - Errol Communion. Heard Mr. Grierson preach on Christ's
entry into Jerusalem. Served two tables. Evening - Preached to a large
congregation, on 'Unto you, O men, I call,' etc. The free invitation
of the Saviour. May some find Him this day!"

In addition to the other blessings which the Lord sent by his means to
the place where he labored, it was obvious to all that the tone of
Christians was raised as much by his holy walk as by his heavenly
ministry. Yet during these pleasant days he had much reproach to bear.
He was the object of supercilious contempt to formal cold-hearted
ministers, and of bitter hatred to many of the ungodly. At this day
there are both ministers and professing Christians of whom Jesus would
say, "The world cannot hate you" (John 7:7), for the world cannot hate
itself; but it was not so with Mr. M'Cheyne. Very deep was the enmity
borne to him by some, - all the deeper, because the only cause of it
was his likeness to his Master. But nothing turned him aside. He was
full of ardor, yet ever gentle, and meek, and generous; full of zeal,
yet never ruffled by his zeal; and not only his strength of "first
love" (Rev. 2:4), but even its warm glow, seemed in him to suffer no

Thus he spent the first years of his ministry in Dundee. The town
began to feel that they had a peculiar man of God in the midst of
them, for he lived as a true son of Levi. "My covenant was with him of
life and peace, and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he
feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his
mouth, and iniquity was not found on his lips; he walked with me in
peace and equity; and did turn many away from iniquity." Mal. 2:5, 6.



"_Here am I; send me_" - Isaiah 6:8.

Though engaged night and day with his flock in St. Peter's, Mr.
M'Cheyne ever cherished a missionary spirit. "This place hardens me
for a foreign land," was his remark on one occasion. This spirit he
sought to kindle yet more by reading missionary intelligence for his
own use, and often to his people at his weekly prayer-meeting. The
necessities both of his own parish, and of the world at large, lay
heavy on his soul; and when an opportunity of evangelizing occurred,
there was none in Scotland more ready to embrace it. He seemed one who
stood with his loins girt: "Here am I; send me."

Another motive to incessant activity, was the decided impression on
his mind that his career would be short. From the very first days of
his ministry he had a strong feeling of this nature; and his friends
remember how his letters used to be sealed with this seal, "_The night
cometh_" At a time when he was apparently in his usual health, we were
talking together on the subject of the Pre-millennial Advent. We had
begun to speak of the practical influence which the belief of that
doctrine might have. At length he said, "That he saw no force in the
arguments generally urged against it, though he had difficulties of
his own in regard to it. And perhaps (he added) it is well for you,
who enjoy constant health, to be so firmly persuaded that Christ is
thus to come; but my sickly frame makes me feel every day that my time
may be very short."

He was therefore in some measure prepared, when, in the midst of his
laborious duties, he was compelled to stand still and see what the
Lord would do.

In the close of 1838, some symptoms appeared that alarmed his friends.
His constitution, never robust, began to feel the effects of
unremitting labor; for occasionally he would spend six hours in
visiting, and then the same evening preach in some room to all the
families whom he had that day visited. Very generally, too, on
Sabbath, after preaching twice to his own flock, he was engaged in
ministering somewhere else in the evening. But now, after any great
exertion, he was attacked by violent palpitation of heart. It soon
increased, affecting him in his hours of study; and at last it became
almost constant. Upon this, his medical advisers insisted on a total
cessation of his public work; for though as yet there was no organic
change on his lungs, there was every reason to apprehend that that
might be the result. Accordingly, with deep regret, he left Dundee to
seek rest and change of occupation, hoping it would be only for a week
or two.

A few days after leaving Dundee, he writes from Edinburgh, in reply to
the anxious inquiries of his friend Mr. Grierson: "The beating of the
heart is not now so constant as it was before. The pitcher draws more
quietly at the cistern; so that, by the kind providence of our
heavenly Father, I may be spared a little longer before the silver
cord be loosed, and the golden bowl be broken."

It was found that his complaints were such as would be likely to give
way under careful treatment, and a temporary cessation from all
exertion. Under his father's roof, therefore, in Edinburgh, he
resigned himself to the will of his Father in heaven. But deeply did
he feel the trial of being laid aside from his loved employment,
though he learned of Him who was meek and lowly, to make the burden
light in his own way, by saying, "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth
good in thy sight." He wrote to Mr. Grierson again, _January 5, 1839_:
"I hope this affliction will be blessed to me. I always feel much need
of God's afflicting hand. In the whirl of active labor there is so
little time for watching, and for bewailing, and seeking grace to
oppose the sins of our ministry, that I always feel it a blessed thing
when the Saviour takes me aside from the crowd, as He took the blind
man out of the town, and removes the veil, and clears away obscuring
mists, and by his word and Spirit leads to deeper peace and a holier
walk. Ah! there is nothing like a calm look into the eternal world to
teach us the emptiness of human praise, the sinfulness of
self-seeking and vainglory, to teach us the preciousness of Christ,
who is called 'The Tried Stone.' I have been able to be twice at
college to hear a lecture from Dr. Chalmers. I have also been
privileged to smooth down the dying pillow of an old school-companion,
leading him to a fuller joy and peace in believing. A poor heavy-laden
soul, too, from Larbert, I have had the joy of leading toward the
Saviour. So that even when absent from my work, and when exiled, as it
were, God allows me to do some little things for his name."

He was led to look more carefully into this trying dispensation, and
began to anticipate blessed results from it to his flock. He was well
aware how easily the flock begin to idolize the shepherd, and how
prone the shepherd is to feel somewhat pleased with this sinful
partiality of his people, and to be uplifted by his success. "I
sometimes think," is his remark in a letter, dated _January 18_, "that
a great blessing may come to my people in my absence. Often God does
not bless us when we are in the midst of our labors, lest we shall
say, 'My hand and my eloquence have done it.' He removes us into
silence, and then pours 'down a blessing so that there is no room to
receive it;' so that all that see it cry out, 'It is the Lord!' This
was the way in the South Sea Islands. May it really be so with my dear
people!" Nor did he err in this view of the dispensation. All these
ends, and more also, were to be accomplished by it.

An anticipation like that which is expressed in this and other
letters, especially in his Pastoral Letter of _March 20_, may justly
be regarded as a proof from experience that the Lord teaches his
people to expect and pray for what He means soon to work. And here the
Lord accomplished his designs in the kindest of all ways; for He
removed his servant for a season from the flock to which he had been
so blessed, lest even his own children should begin to glory in man;
but yet He took that servant to another sphere of labor in the
meantime, and then, when the blessing was safely bestowed, brought him
back to rejoice over it.

He was still hoping for, and submissively asking from the Lord, speedy
restoration to his people in Dundee, and occasionally sending to them
an epistle that breathed the true pastor's soul; when one day, as he
was walking with Dr. Candlish, conversing on the Mission to Israel
which had lately been resolved on, an idea seemed suddenly suggested
to Dr. Candlish. He asked Mr. M'Cheyne what he would think of "being
useful to the Jewish cause, during his cessation from labor, by going
abroad to make personal inquiries into the state of Israel?" The idea
thus suddenly suggested led to all the after results of the Mission of
Inquiry. Mr. M'Cheyne found himself all at once called to carry
salvation to the Jew as he had hitherto done to the Gentile, and his
soul was filled with joy and wonder. His medical friends highly
approved of the proposal, as being likely to conduce very much to the
removal of his complaints, - the calm, steady excitement of such a
journey being likely to restore the tone of his whole constitution.

Dr. Black of Aberdeen readily consented to use his remarkable talents
as a scholar in this cause; and Dr. Keith intimated his expectation of
soon joining the deputation. I also had been chosen to go forth on
this mission of love to Israel; but some difficulties stood in the way
of my leaving my charge at Collace. In these circumstances Mr.
M'Cheyne wrote to me, _March 12_, from Edinburgh.

"MY DEAR _A._, - I have received so many tokens for good from God
in this matter, that it were a shame indeed if I did not trust
Him to perfect all which concerns me. I am glad you have
determined to trust all in the hands of Israel's God. I am quite
ready to go this week, or next week, but am deeply anxious to be
sure that you are sent with me. You know, dear A., I could not
labor in this cause, nor enjoy it, if you were not to be with me
in it. Would you be ready to give your Jewish lecture on the
evening of Sabbath week?... And now, pray for us, that we may be
sent of God; and, weak as we are, that we may be made
Boanerges, - that we may be blessed to win some souls, and to stir
up Christians to love Zion. Much interest is already excited, and
I do look for a blessing. Speak to your people as on the brink of
eternity.... As to books, I am quite at a loss. My Hebrew Bible,
Greek Testament, etc., and perhaps Bridge's _Christian Ministry_
for general purposes - I mean, for keeping us in mind of our
ministerial work. I do hope we shall go forth in the Spirit; and
though straitened in language, may we not be blessed, as Brainerd
was, through an interpreter? May we not be blessed also to save
some English, and to stir up missionaries? My health is only
tolerable; I would be better if we were once away. I am often so
troubled as to be made willing to go or stay, to die or to live.
Yet it is encouraging to be used in the Lord's service again, and
in so interesting a manner. What if we should see the heavenly
Jerusalem before the earthly? I am taking drawing materials, that
I may carry away remembrances of the Mount of Olives, Tabor, and
the Sea of Galilee."

The interest that this proposed journey excited in Scotland was very
great. Nor was it merely the somewhat romantic interest attached to
the land where the Lord had done most of his mighty works; there were
also in it the deeper feelings of a scriptural persuasion that Israel
was still "beloved for the fathers' sake." For some time previous,
Jerusalem had come into mind, and many godly pastors were alarming as
watchmen over its ruined walls (Isa. 62:6), stirring up the Lord's
remembrancers. Mr. M'Cheyne had been one of these. His views of the
importance of the Jews in the eye of God, and therefore of their
importance as a sphere of missionary labor, were very clear and
decided. He agreed in the expectation expressed in one of the Course
of Lectures delivered before the deputation set out, that we might
anticipate an _outpouring of the Spirit when our church should stretch
out its hands to the Jew as well as to the Gentile_. In one letter he
says, "To seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel is an object very
near to my heart, as my people know it has ever been. Such an
enterprise may probably draw down unspeakable blessings on the Church
of Scotland, according to the promise, 'They shall prosper who love
thee.'" In another, "I now see plainly that all our views about the
Jews being the chief object of missionary exertion are plain and sober
truths, according to the Scripture." Again, "I feel convinced that if
we pray that the world may be converted in God's way, we will seek the
good of the Jews; and the more we do so, the happier we will be in our
own soul. You should always keep up a knowledge of the prophecies
regarding Israel." In his preaching he not unfrequently said on this
subject, "We should be like God in his peculiar affections; and the
whole Bible shows that God has ever had, and still has, a peculiar
love to the Jews."

The news of his proposed absence alarmed his flock at Dundee. They
manifested their care for him more than ever; and not a few wrote
expostulatory letters. To one of these well-meant remonstrances he
replied, "I rejoice exceedingly in the interest you take in me, not so
much for my own sake as that I hope it is a sign you know and love the
Lord Jesus. Unless God had himself shut up the door of return to my
people, and opened this new door to me, I never could have consented
to go. I am not at all unwilling to spend and be spent in God's
service, though I have often found that the more abundantly I love
you, the less I am loved. But God has very plainly shown me that I may
perform a deeply important work for his ancient people, and at the
same time be in the best way of seeking a return of health." - "A
minister will make a poor saviour in the day of wrath. It is not
knowing a minister, or loving one, or hearing one, or having a name to
live, that will save. You need to have your hand on the head of the
Lamb for yourselves, Lev. 1:4. You need to have your eye on the brazen
serpent for yourselves, John 3:14, 15. I fear I will need to be a
swift witness against many of my people in the day of the Lord, that
they looked to me, and not to Christ, when I preached to them. I
always feared that some of you loved to hear the word, who do not love
to do it. I always feared there were many of you who loved the Sabbath
meetings, and the class, and the Thursday evenings, who yet were not
careful to walk with God, to be meek, chaste, holy, loving, harmless,
Christ-like, God-like. Now, God wants you to think that the only end
of a gospel ministry is that you may be holy. Believe me, God himself
could not make you happy except you be holy."

At this crisis in his people's history, he sought from the Lord one to
supply his place, - one who would feed the flock and gather in
wanderers during their own pastor's absence. The Lord granted him his
desire by sending Mr. William C. Burns, son of the minister of
Kilsyth. In a letter to him, dated _March 12_, the following
remarkable words occur: "You are given in answer to prayer; and these
gifts are, I believe, always without exception blessed. I hope you may
be a thousand times more blessed among them than ever I was. Perhaps
there are many souls that would never have been saved under my
ministry, who may be touched under yours; and God has taken this
method of bringing you into my place. _His name is Wonderful._"

This done, and being already disengaged from his flock, he set out
for London to make arrangements for the rest of the deputation, who
soon after were all sent forth by the brethren with many prayers. None
had more prayers offered in their behalf than he, and they were not
offered in vain. During all his journeyings the Lord strengthened him,
and saved him out of all distresses.

It was a singular event, - often still it looks like a dream, - that
four ministers should be so suddenly called away from their quiet
labors in the towns and villages of Scotland, and be found in a few
weeks traversing the land of Israel, with their Bibles in their hand,
eye-witnesses of prophecy fulfilled, and spies of the nakedness of
Israel's worship and leanness of soul. The details of that journey
need not be given here. They have been already recorded in the
_Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of
Scotland in 1839_. But there are some incidents worthy to be preserved
which could find a place only in such a record of private life and
feelings as we are now engaged in.

When Mr. M'Cheyne was on board the vessel that carried him to London,
he at once discovered an interesting young Jew, who seemed, however,
unwilling to be recognized as belonging to the seed of Abraham. He
made several attempts to draw this young Israelite into close
conversation; and before parting, read with him the 1st Psalm in
Hebrew, and pressed home the duty of meditating on the word of the
Lord. In visiting Bethnal Green, he has noted down that it was very
sweet to hear Jewish children sing a hymn to Jesus, the burden of
which was [Hebrew: tavuach aleinu], "Slain for us!"

The awful profanation of the holy Sabbath which we witnessed on the
streets of Paris, called forth the following appeal, in a letter to
Mr. Macdonald of Blairgowrie. His spirit had been stirred in him when
he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. "Stand in the breach, dear
friend, and lift up your voice like a trumpet, lest Scotland become
another France. You know how many in our own parishes trample on the
holy day. They do not know how sweet it is to walk with God all that
holy day. Isaiah 58:11-14 is a sweet text to preach from. Exodus 31:13
is also very precious, showing that the real sanctifying of the
Sabbath is one of God's signs or marks which He puts upon his people.
It is one of the letters of the new name, which no one knoweth but
they who receive it."

In his brief notes during the first part of the journey, he has
seldom failed to mark our seasons of united prayer, such as those in
the cabin of the vessel on the passage to Genoa; for these were times
of refreshing to his spirit. And his feelings, as he stood in that
city and surveyed its palaces, are expressed in a few lines, which he
sent homeward from the spot. "A foreign land draws us nearer God. He
is the only one whom we know here. We go to Him as to one we know; all
else is strange. Every step I take, and every new country I see, makes
me feel more that there is nothing real, nothing true, but what is
everlasting. The whole world lieth in wickedness! its judgments are
fast hastening. The marble palaces, among which I have been wandering
to-night, shall soon sink like a millstone in the waters of God's
righteous anger; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."

At Valetta, in the island of Malta, he wrote: "My heart beats a little
to-day, but another sail will do me good. One thing I know, that I am
in the hands of my Father in heaven, who is all love to me, - not for

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Online LibraryAndrew A. BonarThe Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne → online text (page 9 of 17)