A burning and shining light which flamed for God.
After the death of McCheyne a visitor went to see the great church which was shown to him by the sexton. Some of McCheyne’s books were still there. “Sit down here” said the canny sexton leading the young visitor to the chair where McCheyne used to sit. “Now put your elbows on the table.” The visitor obeyed. “Now put your face in your hands.” The visitor again obeyed. “Now let the tears flow. That was the way Mr. McCheyne used to do it!” Then the visitor was led into the very pulpit where the impassioned McCheyne had once poured out his soul to God and poured out God’s message to the people. “Put your elbows on the pulpit,” instructed the old sexton. “Put your face in your hands.” The young man obeyed. “Now let the tears flow. That was the way Mr. McCheyne used to do it!” The absence of these commodities could well be the reason of barrenness! He used to say, “A holy man is a fearful weapon in the hands of a holy God.”
This man will forever be remembered as a man of prayer! The town of Dundee will never forget Robert Murray McCheyne. When he first went there, he said, “Under every chimney-pot people lived in every kind of wickedness; gambling, immorality, cursing, and poverty were the norm.” Before he left he said, “Almost, under every chimney-pot there were found redeemed souls, reading their Bibles, praying, and singing psalms and hymns.”
He was fragile in body and was finally advised to take a trip to the Holy Land. After much exercise he set out with a group of fellow-companions to go the Middle East and recuperate. If one has never had the privilege to visit the land of Israel, McCheyne’s vivid description of the land is most inspiring, as he recalls Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the sea of Galilee, Gethsemane, where once the feet of His Master trod. While there he preached the gospel to the Jews and the results of those times are in heaven’s record; enough to say that Dr. Edershiem and Dr. Adolph Saphir were both reached through his instrumentality. While he was in the land of Israel a great revival broke out in his homeland and swept through Scotland and his parish was greatly blessed under the powerful preaching of Mr. William Burns. When Robert Murray McCheyne returned to his native land, he could rejoice in an another man’s work done in his absence. He had a lovely attitude, the mark of a great man. We could all learn lessons from the godliness and grace of this beloved brother.
Lessons from this hero of faith can be of eternal value as we see in such a young man spiritual maturity, manliness, and meekness. He once said, “Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made.” Again he remarked, “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 vain-glory, to teach us the preciousness of Christ.” He lived on the brink of eternity and preached to those who were on the brink; this gave weight and power to his preaching. He said to another, “You must be awakened in time, or you will be awakened in everlasting torment, to your eternal confusion.” Words like these were spoken from the compassion of Christ that resided in his heart.
Toward the last days of his ministry he wrote to his beloved friend Horatius Bonar, “O that my soul were new-molded and made a vessel full of the Holy Spirit, to tell only of Jesus and His love. O for Whitefield’s week in London, when a thousand letters came! The same Spirit is able. Why is He restrained? Is the sin ours? Are we the bottle-stoppers of these heavenly dews?” What a challenge! He often quoted, “Live so as to be missed.”
In his closing moments he lifted up his hands Jacob-like in priestly blessing. His frail body was laid to rest at the North-West corner of St. Peter’s burying-ground. He has gone to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense, till the day break and the shadows flee away. The Savior whom he loved and served was waiting to welcome one of Scotland’s most Christ-like sons. On the day of his burial, business was suspended. The streets and every window from the house to the grave were crowded with those who felt that a Prince in Israel had fallen; and many a careless man felt the secret awe creep over his hardened soul as he cast his eye on the solemn spectacle. It was like the weeping for King Josiah as from their midst was taken this young compassionate, tender, devoted, and faithful servant. Who will follow his example of faith? Thousands will rise to call him blessed. He wrote another well-known hymn, “When this passing world is done,” and for Robert M. McCheyne it was done, as now he bathes in the brighter, brighter world above. Farewell we say to one of Scotland’s brightest warriors, until the day dawns and the shadows flee away.