May 21: Birth of Robert Murray McCheyne

The Life of a Man Who Walked with God

Our title came from the pen of C.H. Spurgeon who recommended the reading of Andrew Bonar’s Memoir of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This author was given the Memoir to read in the beginning of his college years in preparation for the gospel ministry. I have returned to it frequently in some fifty years of ministry. It is that beneficial.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (sometimes spelled McCheyne) lived between May 21, 1813 and March 25, 1843. If you count those years, you immediately realize that he lived on this earth for only thirty years. And only seven of those years were spent in pastoral ministry. Yet the shortness of his life and ministry were abundantly fruitful in many respects, not the least of which was evangelistic at home and abroad. Countless Scottish people acknowledged him as their spiritual father in the faith.

He was born on May 21, 1813 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the youngest child of Adam M’Cheyne. He studied at the University of Edinburgh in 1827, distinguishing himself in all of his classes. His lifestyle was however given over to the pursuits of pleasure rather than the pursuit of holiness. The death of his older brother, David M’Cheyne, brought him to a sense of personal spiritual need.  David had often prayed for his conversion. Robert resolved to “seek a Brother who cannot die.” Reading the Bible and various books were  eventually used of the Lord to bring that spiritual change in his soul. His diary records evidences of a spiritual change.

Licensed to preach the Word by the Presbytery of Annan in 1835, after a brief stint as an assistant pastor, he was ordained  on November 24, 1836 and called by a new congregation in Dundee, Scotland. Soon crowds were attending the preached Word.  However, the labors of the pastoral ministry brought physical problems, which required him to desist for a season during the winter at Edinburgh.

Later, to a fellow laborer in the Lord’s work, he wrote, “Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity.”

Pastor M’Cheyne always felt that his time on earth would be short. Whether this was revealed to him by God’s Spirit in some way, or it was simply a recognition of his own bodily weakness, this author doesn’t know. But he always had a sense of his own mortality. And indeed, after a church-sanctioned trip with Andrew Bonar and other ministers to Palestine, to determine opportunities for the conversion of Jews in 1839, he returned to Scotland. It was but four years later in 1843, that he was seized with typhus fever and went to be with the Lord on March 25, 1843.

Words to Live By: It was his closest friend Andrew Bonar who wrote his Memoirs in 1844. In less than three years, seventeen editions were sold. Banner of Truth first reprinted it in 1960. Moody Press also came out with an edition of it. If you, dear reader, have never opened its pages, buy and read the book. If it has been some time since you have perused its pages, read it again, and feast upon the Spirit’s work in the life and ministry of this young man. It will repay your time and effort.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – (Ps. 90:12, KJV)

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