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“Do not take up your time so much with studying your own heart as with studying Christ’s heart” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“March 20, 1840

MY DEAR FRIEND,

I do not even know your name, but I think I know something of the state of your soul. Your friend has been with me, and told me a little of your mind; and I write a few lines just to bid you look to Jesus and live.

Look at Num. 21:9, and you will see your disease and your remedy. You have been bitten by the great serpent. The poison of sin is through and through your whole heart, but Christ has been lifted up on the cross that you may look and live.

Now, do not look so long and so harassingly at your own heart and feelings. What will you find there but the bite of the serpent? You were shapen in iniquity, and the whole of your natural life has been spent in sin.

The more God opens your eyes, the more you will feel that you are lost in yourself. This is your disease.

Now for the remedy. Look to Christ; for the glorious Son of God so loved lost souls, that He took on Him a body and died for us—bore our curse, and obeyed the law in our place. Look to Him and live.

You need no preparation, you need no endeavours, you need no duties, you need no strivings, you only need to look and live. Look at John 17:3. The way to be saved is to know God’s heart and the heart of Jesus.

To be awakened, you need to know your own heart. Look in at your own heart, if you wish to know your lost condition. See the pollution that is there—forgetfulness of God, deadness, insensibility to his love. If you are judged as you are in yourself, you will be lost.

To be saved, you need to know the heart of God and of Christ. The four Gospels are a narrative of the heart of Christ. They show his compassion to sinners, and his glorious work in their stead. If you only knew that heart as it is, you would lay your weary head with John on his bosom.

Do not take up your time so much with studying your own heart as with studying Christ’s heart. For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ!

Look at Rom. 15:13. That is my prayer for you. You are looking for peace in striving, or peace in duties, or peace in reforming your mind; but ah! look at His word. ‘The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.

All your peace is to be found in believing God’s word about His Son. If for a moment you forget your own case altogether, and meditate on the glorious way of salvation by Christ for us, does your bosom never glow with a ray of peace?

Keep that peace; it is joy in believing. Look as straight to Christ as you sometimes do at the rising or setting sun. Look direct to Christ.

You fear that your convictions of sin have not been deep enough. This is no reason for keeping away from Christ. You will never get a truly broken heart till you are really in Christ.—See Ezek. 36:25–31.

Observe the order: First, God sprinkles clean water on the soul. This represents our being washed in the blood of Christ. Then He gives ‘a new heart also.’ Thirdly, He gives a piercing remembrance of past sins. Now, may the Lord give you all these!

May you be brought as you are to the blood of the Lamb! Washed and justified, may He change your heart—give you a tender heart, and his Holy Spirit within your heart; and thus may He give you a broken heart for your past sins.

Look at Rom. 5:19. By the sin of Adam, many were made sinners. We had no hand in Adam’s sin, and yet the guilt of it comes upon us. We did not put out our hand to the apple, and yet the sin and misery have been laid at our door.

In the same way, ‘by the obedience of Christ, many are made righteous.’ Christ is the glorious One who stood for many. His perfect garment is sufficient to cover you.

You had no hand in His obedience. You were not alive when He came into the world and lived and died; and yet, in the perfect obedience, you may stand before God righteous. This is all my covering in the sight of a holy God.

I feel infinitely ungodly in myself: in God’s eye, like a serpent or a toad; and yet, when I stand in Christ alone, I feel that God sees no sin in me, and loves me freely.

The same righteousness is free to you. It will be as white and clean on your soul as on mine. Oh, do not sleep another night without it! Only consent to stand in Christ, not in your poor self.

I must not weary you. One word more. Look at Rev. 22:17. Sweet, sweet words! ‘Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.’

The last invitation in the Bible, and the freest,—Christ’s parting word to a world of sinners! Any one that pleases may take this glorious way of salvation.

Can you refuse it? I am sure you cannot.

Dear friend, be persuaded by a fellow-worm not to put off another moment. Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.

You are sitting, like Hagar, within reach of the well. May the Lord open your eyes, and show you all that is in Christ!

I pray for you, that you may spiritually see Jesus and be glad—that you may go to Him and find rest.

Farewell.

—Yours in the Lord,

Robert Murray M’Cheyne”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 278-280.

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“Your own soul is your first and greatest care” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power; much more a healthy soul.

Keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb.

Keep up close communion with God.

Study likeness to Him in all things.

Read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people.

Expound much; it is through the truth that souls are to be sanctified, not through essays upon the truth.

Be easy of access, apt to teach, and the Lord teach you and bless you in all you do and say. You will not find many companions. Be the more with God.

My dear people are anxiously waiting for you. The prayerful are praying for you.

Be of good courage; there remaineth much of the land to be possessed.

Be not dismayed, for Christ shall be with thee to deliver thee.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 216-217.

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“It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Dundee, October 2, 1840

My Dear Friend,

I trust you will have a pleasant and profitable time in Germany. I know you will apply hard to German; but do not forget the culture of the inner man,—I mean of the heart.

How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care.

Remember you are God’s sword,—His instrument,—I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name.

In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success.

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

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 282.

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“When the Bible runs dry, then I shall” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“He spoke from the pulpit as one earnestly occupied with the souls before him. He made them feel sympathy with what he spoke, for his own eye and heart were on them.

And while his style was singularly clear, this clearness itself was so much the consequence of his being able thoroughly to analyse and explain his subject, that all his hearers alike reaped the benefit.

He went about his public work with awful reverence. So evident was this, that I remember a countryman in my parish observed to me: ‘Before he opened his lips, as he came along the passage, there was something about him that sorely affected me.’

In the vestry there was never any idle conversation; all was preparation of heart in approaching God; and a short prayer preceded his entering the pulpit. Surely in going forth to speak for God, a man may well be overawed.

Surely in putting forth his hand to sow the seed of the kingdom, a man may even tremble! And surely we should aim at nothing less than to pour forth the truth upon our people through the channel of our own living and deeply affected souls.

After announcing the subject of his discourse, he used generally to show the position it occupied in the context, and then proceed to bring out the doctrines of the text, in the manner of our old divines. This done, he divided his subject; and herein he was eminently skilful.

‘The heads of his sermons,’ said a friend, ‘were not the mile-stones that tell you how near you are to your journey’s end, but they were nails which fixed and fastened all he said. Divisions are often dry; but not so his divisions,—they were so textual and so feeling, and they brought out the spirit of a passage so surprisingly.’

It was his wish to arrive nearer at the primitive mode of expounding Scripture in his sermons.

Hence when one asked him, If he was never afraid of running short of sermons some day? he replied, ‘No; I am just an interpreter of Scripture in my sermons; and when the Bible runs dry, then I shall.’

And in the same spirit he carefully avoided the too common mode of accommodating texts,—fastening a doctrine on the words, not drawing it from the obvious connection of the passage.

He endeavoured at all times to preach the mind of the Spirit in a passage; for he feared that to do otherwise would be to grieve the Spirit who had written it.

Interpretation was thus a solemn matter to him. And yet, adhering scrupulously to this sure principle, he felt himself in no way restrained from using, for every day’s necessities, all parts of the Old Testament as much as the New.

His manner was first to ascertain the primary sense and application, and so proceed to handle it for present use. He regarded the prophecies as history yet to be, and drew lessons from them accordingly as he would have done from the past.

Every spiritual gift being in the hands of Jesus, if he found Moses or Paul in the possession of precious things, he forthwith was led to follow them into the presence of that same Lord who gave them all their grace.

There is a wide difference between preaching doctrine and preaching Christ. Mr M‘Cheyne preached all the doctrines of Scripture as understood by our Confession of Faith, dwelling upon ruin by the Fall, and recovery by the Mediator.

‘The things of the human heart, and the things of the Divine Mind,’ were in substance his constant theme. From personal experience of deep temptation, he could lay open the secrets of the heart, so that he once said, ‘He supposed the reason why some of the worst sinners in Dundee had come to hear him was, because his heart exhibited so much likeness to theirs.’

Still it was not doctrine alone that he preached; it was Christ, from whom all doctrine shoots forth as rays from a centre.”

–Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 71-73.

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“Why am I such a stranger to the poor of my native town?” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“March 3.—Accompanied A. B. in one of his rounds through some of the most miserable habitations I ever beheld. Such scenes I never before dreamed of.

Ah! Why am I such a stranger to the poor of my native town? I have passed their doors thousands of times. I have admired the huge black piles of building, with their lofty chimneys breaking the sun’s rays.

Why have I never ventured within? How dwelleth the love of God in me? How cordial is the welcome even of the poorest and most loathsome to the voice of Christian sympathy!

What imbedded masses of human beings are huddled together, unvisited by friend or minister! ‘No man careth for our souls’ is written over every forehead.

Awake, my soul! Why should I give hours and days any longer to the vain world, when there is such a world of misery at my very door?

Lord, put Thine own strength in me. Confirm every good resolution. Forgive my past long life of uselessness and folly.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 34.

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“For eternity” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Like many others I owe an incalculable debt to William Still for the way in which he invested himself in me from my earliest encounter with him in my teenage years until his death in 1997. Particular conversations with him return to the front of my memory as I think of him now—and with respect to the work of the pastor none more clearly than the occasion on which he said to me, quietly:

‘I never preach now without believing that something will be done that will last for eternity.’

With some sense of the extent to which his ministry had that kind of effect on my own life, I recall thinking ‘That is the measure of faith I too need to have.’ The words have lingered with me now for four decades and been a constant reminder to me of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s wise comment that it is not ‘many words’ but ‘words spoken in faith’ that God blesses.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, “Foreword,” in William Still, The Work of the Pastor (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, IV20 1TW, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1984/2010), 9.

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“A calm look into the eternal world” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“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.”

–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1844/1966), 85.

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