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A Bicentenary: Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-43)

Category Articles
Date October 25, 2013

Although Robert Murray M’Cheyne did not take his place among the founders of the Free Church of Scotland (he was taken to glory just before the Disruption) he fully sympathised with their rejection of state control of the Church of Christ in Scotland, and would have been among them when their Deed of Separation terminated their official relationship with the national church. As minister of St. Peter’s, Dundee, he was ‘honoured by his Lord to draw many wanderers out of darkness into the path of life’ (his epitaph). The holiness of his character and the faithfulness of his preaching combined to impress the most careless souls with the things of God. Awesomely solemn in his awakening addresses to the ungodly, and very tender in his gospel invitations and ministrations to the sick and bereaved, M’Cheyne was truly ‘a burning and shining light.’ Yet it was only ‘for a season.’ At the age of twenty-nine and after only seven years in the pastorate, he was taken to be with Christ, ‘which is far better.’

Perhaps the best way to commemorate his Spirit-anointed life and ministry is to remind ourselves of his humble sense of indebtedness to the Lord Jesus Christ for all his blessings, providential and redemptive, as expressed in one of the loveliest of his Songs of Zion, entitled ‘I am debtor’. Let us note first his review of all the way that the Lord had led him:

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much owe.

Then comes his awareness of the dreadful doom of the ungodly:

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much owe.

Next follows his believing prospect of being with Christ, loving him purely, gazing on his holy beauty and being acquitted through being clothed in his spotless righteousness:

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

After this comes his sense of being among the heavenly choir, praising Christ for ever:

When the praise of heaven I hear,
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

Later on in the poem, his awareness of Christ’s electing grace and effectual call, of union with him and sanctification by his Spirit, draw forth true gratitude, coupled with the practical desire to express his indebtedness by loving Christ and others in return:

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

* * * *

To this moving poem we add a few gems from M’Cheyne’s writings on the Lord Jesus Christ:

Surely, brethren, an eternity in hell will not be too much for those who despise the blood of Christ.

If we are Christ’s, He will make us preach Himself. What a lovely person Christ is!

I do not ask you, Are you following a godly minister? But, Are you following Christ?

Christ is the kindest of all teachers.

It is the death of Christ that is the joy of the New Jerusalem [Rev. 5:6-9, 12].

Are you Christ’s? Then you will never perish.

How happy are those of you who can say, Christ is my King.

How will you meet Christ in the Day of Judgment?

Finally, we recommend Andrew Bonar’s Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne,1 M’Cheyne’s New Testament Sermons2 and Old Testament Sermons,3, From The Preacher’s Heart, A Basket of Fragments, Mission of Discovery and The Seven Churches of Asia (Christian Focus).

Notes

    • Book cover for 'Memoir & Remains Of Robert Murray M'cheyne'
      price $31.50
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      Although Robert Murray M’Cheyne did not take his place among the founders of the Free Church of Scotland (he was taken to glory just before the Disruption) he fully sympathised with their rejection of state control of the Church of Christ in Scotland, and would have been among them when their Deed of Separation terminated […]

    • cover image for R.M. M'Chenye's New Testament Sermons
      price $22.50

      Description

      Although Robert Murray M’Cheyne did not take his place among the founders of the Free Church of Scotland (he was taken to glory just before the Disruption) he fully sympathised with their rejection of state control of the Church of Christ in Scotland, and would have been among them when their Deed of Separation terminated […]

    • Book cover for 'Old Testament Sermons'
      price $21.60

      Description

      Although Robert Murray M’Cheyne did not take his place among the founders of the Free Church of Scotland (he was taken to glory just before the Disruption) he fully sympathised with their rejection of state control of the Church of Christ in Scotland, and would have been among them when their Deed of Separation terminated […]

Reprinted with permission from Peace and Truth 2013:4, written by its editor.

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