Robert Murray McCheyne

R.M. McCheyne is one of my heroes! He lived and ministered in Edinburgh-Dundee, Scotland from 1813-1843; and was a contemporary of W.C. Burns and A.A. Bonar. His prayer life, fiery faith, apostolic preaching, written memoirs and missions passion have challenged and inspired me! The following notes and quotes were found in my devotional journal from 1993. May they bless and impart to you a vision and hunger for Biblical Christianity, real revival and godly leadership:

“It is not great talents God blesses as much as great likenesses to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”

1. “I see a man cannot be a faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ’s sake…total, utter dependence on the Lord and His Word…seeking only to attract people to Christ so as to bring Him glory.”

2. He had this “beauty of holiness”…a stranger said “I never saw the like before…”

3. He followed the godly counsel of Jeremy Taylor (17th Century Anglican), “If thou meanest to enlarge thy religion, do it rather by enlarging thy ordinary devotions than thy extraordinary.”

4. He and a sincere burden for souls. He once wrote W. L. Burns, “I feel there are 2 things it is impossible to desire with sufficient ardor—personal holiness, and the honor of Christ in the salvation of souls.”

5. He prepared his heart –heart of Father God – patience, faith, love, etc. Preach hell, sin with tenderness? Prayed, “Give me Thy gentle Spirit, that neither strives nor cries.”

6. He prepared messages and studied diligently. “Beaten oil,” he used to say, “beaten oil for the lamps of the sanctuary” –from Ex.27:20. He always brought fresh manna to the pulpit, preaching long sermons full of nutrition.

7. McCheyne drew spiritual help from the great saints of the the past. He read and studied Samuel Rutherford, Henry Martyn, Charles Bridges, David Brainerd, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, etc.)

“How much richer we would be if we would refuse the books of the hour and discover again the books of the ages.”-Warren Wiersbe, speaking from McCheyne's life

8. He rejoiced in God’s blessing to all (brethren & ministers) – no competition or jealousy. While McCheyne was on a missionary tour in 1839, revival broke out in his church under the ministry of W.C. Burns. On hearing the Good News, McCheyne wrote Burns: “You remember it was the prayer of my heart when we parted, that you might be a thousandfold more blessed to the people than ever my ministry had been.”

Later, while sick, he had several ministers of different denominations take his place…for this, he was publicly criticized, so…he published an open letter in the newspaper stating, “all who are true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, sound in the faith, called to the ministry, and owned of God therein, should love one another, pray for one another, bid one another God-seed, own one another as fellow-soldiers, fellow-servants, and fellow-laborers in the vineyard; and so far as God offereth opportunity, help one another in the work of the ministry.” --- He loved God’s people.

9. His favorite sayings (mottos): 1. “beaten oil…” 2) “Live so as to be missed!” 3) “I am persuaded that God’s happiness is inseparably linked with His holiness…May our happiness be in his holiness and in a growing likeness to Jesus Christ.” He died young – at 30 years (like 2 of his ministry models: Brainerd -30, Martyn 32).

10. “To know him was the best interpretation of many texts. At least, we have a clearer conception of what is meant by a ‘hidden life’ and a ‘living sacrifice’, and can better understand the sort of life which Enoch led…

11. He made “heart-deep and humbling confessions of sin”, privately and publicly—hidden plagues, atheism, carnality, hypocrisy, perverse motives, self righteousness, etc.—convinced of sin and destroyed confidence in the flesh.” -- Rev. Samuel Miller of Princeton

12. Prayer: “he held reverential and endearing communion with a reconciled God; -- he pressed near the throne…”Abba, Father…’ he put his petitions and praises into the golden censer; --so express, and urgent, and hopeful were his supplications, that it was awakening to hear…enough to make some Christians feel. ‘Hitherto we have asked nothing Jesus’ name; and enough to prick the heart of prayerless worldlings.”

13. Preaching: “His preaching was a continuation of his prayers. In both, he spoke from within the veil, his hand on the mercy seat, and his eye fixed on the things invisible…his hold of the truth gave him a hold of his hearers…he did not avail himself of his fine genius and happy power of language, to procure a name for eloquence…His eye was single; his aim was souls—souls for Jesus’ sake…all his anxiety was to find truth that would penetrate the conscience….His preaching had “unity of purpose, continuous earnestness, solemnity, pointed exhortations, solicitudes for the salvation of his hearers, momentary bitterness (with absurdity of sin, infatuation of sinners, etc.) habitual compassion (in yearning for souls), with entreating voice, expostulating attitude, as an ambassador of Christ…always with earnestness…commending the truth to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…His ministry was a constant awakening…a demonstration of the Spirit accompanied his presence—a prophet.

14. “His interior growth of eminent piety produced his eminent usefulness.”

“…the secret of Mr. McCheyne’s uncommon usefulness…in a season when so many…are inquiring by what means they may extend their personal efficiency, and become, in the hands of the Spirit, the agents in adding to the church of such as shall be saved…next to his habitual dependence on the Spirit of God, the occasion of his uncommon success was the consistency and conspicuousness of his Christian character. He lived in the eye of his people…He was everywhere ‘the man of God’. His preaching was impressive, for his life applied it. His everyday demeanor exemplified and adorned his doctrine—an example of true Christian character."

“The prevalence of vital piety cannot be expected to be found in any church in which the pure doctrines of the gospel are not held fast and faithfully preached; so, on the other hand…where a sound faith at present exists, it will assuredly not long continue to be maintained, after vital piety declines. As men are ‘sanctified by the truth,’ so, none but sanctified men will be disposed for any length of time together to ‘contend for the truth’ and to preach it with simplicity and clearness. In the early history of the Reformed churches…we find orthodoxy and vital piety maintaining a joint reign… ministers of questionable piety try to explain some articles of the confession of faith latitudinally, deviation follows deviation, bodies tolerate serious error, an evangelical spirit and truth decline; until, they cease to occupy the place and to maintain the character of “witnesses for the faith once delivered to the saint.”

“…With the growth of ‘Moderatism,’ orthodoxy and piety sunk together; until “the things which remained were ready to die…” then God moved/interposed (Ps.119:126)… “Faithful men were raised up; men ‘full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost,’ men who remembered the orthodoxy and piety of their fathers; men trained in the school of experience and of sound doctrine, and willing to give up all for Christ.”

It’s a sublime spectacle which these devoted men exhibit, in abandoning all the endowments and comforts of the established church, for the sake of the fidelity to their Master in Heaven…We cannot pray for a greater blessing to our beloved church, than that the mantle of this (these) holy man may rest upon all our Pastors and Elders, exciting them to the zeal, the unceasing diligence, and the entire consecration to their Master in Heaven…We need-greatly need large additions to the number of our ministers; but we still more urgently need a higher standard of piety amongst those that we have”… “Oh if all, or even some were as McCheyne”(earnest, transparent, pure and holy Christian character/Christ likeness).

“How much more elevated would be the eloquence of our pulpits!... An eloquence not growing out of the principles and rules of art, but governed and animated by that heart-felt sense of the infinite importance and preciousness of evangelical truth, which never fails to reach the heart…”- I consider lives and works like this…a pledge that the gracious King of Zion will revive us. Some of us (old, gray headed ministers of more than ½ century)…have done far, far less for the honor of our blessed Master, than this youthful servant in 1/5 the time,. Surely this contemplation ought to fill us with humiliation and shame.

O that the great Head of the Church would speedily raise up a race of ministers more holy, more zealous, more wise, more diligent, and more entirely devoted to their work than their Fathers have been. Blessed day! When the watchmen on the walls of Zion shall never hold their peace day nor night; when they that make mention of the Lord shall not keep silence, nor give Him any rest, until He establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth; until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Come, Lord Jesus, quickly to bless thy church and people; even so, come, Lord Jesus.” ---Rev. Samuel Miller, Princeton

It was about 1:30 pm on a winter night, 1993...the Spirit of Christ filled the room and invaded my heart as I devoured intently “The Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne.”

I was captivated by the reflections of this hero of mine as he recounted a late night study of his hero (Richard Baxter). Inspired by the testimony of Baxter’s life and ministry in Kidderminster, England, McCheyne penned these words:

“Though Baxter’s lips have long, in-silence hung, and death long-hushed that sinner awakening tongue; yet still, though dead he speaks aloud to all…and from his grave issues forth his call! Like some glad angel-voice from Zion hill, the mighty echo rolls and rumbles still…O grant that we when sleeping in the dust, may thus speak forth the wisdom of the just!”

That will be my mission statement…and I am utterly convinced that if our voice and prayers are of the Spirit, words and ways of Jesus Christ, they will not die with us, but ever continue on to the blessing of others and benefit of the everlasting Kingdom. Then, “we being dead will yet speak!!!”