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Robert Murray M'Cheyne, 1813-1843

by Duncan Campbell

Robert McCheyneThirty years ago, if one had been asked to make out a list of Scottish
"Aids to the Devout Life," they would undoubtedly have put high in the list Andrew Bonar's Memoirs of M'Cheyne. There are few more impressive pictures of spiritual intensity; few more inspiring records of ministerial devotion. As illustrating his passion for service, this little
sentence about a Scottish manse is full of significance. "The manse is altogether too sweet; men could hardly live there without saying: 'This is my rest,' I don't think ministers' manses should ever be so beautiful." He was ordained to the ministry in 1836, his first and only charge being that of St. Peter's, Dundee. In 1839 he was one of a deputation sent to the Holy Land by the Church of Scotland to investigate the condition of the Jews, an investigation which led to the establishment of Jewish Missions by the Church of Scotland and by the Free Church.

On his return to Scotland, St, Peter's, Dundee, became the center of an evangelical revival which profoundly influenced the religious history of the east of Scotland. M'Cheyne, as a preacher, excelled in exposition. Once asked if he was not afraid of running short of sermons, he replied: "No, I am just an interpreter of Scripture in my sermons; and when the Bible runs dry, then I shall." It is told that a curate of the Church of England, having had a copy of M'Cheyne's sermons sent him, began to read them to his congregation, when he was amazed to find his people coming to ask questions they had never asked before.

Of the several hymns he wrote, When this passing world is done is in most frequent use, though formerly a still greater favorite was, I once was a stranger to grace and to God, which had as title, Jehovah Tsidkenu (the Lord our Righteousness)—the watchword of the Reformers. It does not, however, appear in any of the hymnals annotated.

From Hymns and Hymn Makers by Duncan Campbell. London: A & C Black, 1898.


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