Heroes of the Faith: Robert Murray McCheyne

One of the most renown of Scottish evangelists was R. M. McCheyne.

It has always been fascinating to explore some of heavens worthies and the following is a remembrance of one of Scotlands godliest believers. Some of Gods choicest saints have lived to a ripe old age, worn out in their devotion and service to the Lord. Some died from martyrdom; others were taken home to the glory in what we would term their best years and often we may question why? It was the godly martyr Wishart who said to the young John Knox before going to his death, Lord, take the ripe and spare the green. However, Gods ways are not ours. It is the great Refiner, who molds the vessel in the furnace of trial and affliction, who knows best when the vessel has fulfilled its purpose.

If this meditation affects the hearts of the young, gives a real burden for the lost and perishing even to the extent of yielding all to the claims of the Master, God would be glorified. We need young men, fashioned and furnished in the Divine Presence who will have an impact in the community and will carry the gospel by life and lip to the lost. Sanctuary-believers who feel the heartbeat of Christ will come forth with deep compassion to reach out to the perishing. We will present in this article a veritable giant in spiritual matters whom the Lord took home to the glory when he had barely reached the age of thirty. A renowned preacher of the past well said of Robert M. McCheyne: When the priest in the OT was entering into service in the sanctuary, at age 30, Robert Murray McCheyne had finished his service on earth, and entered the glory, called to higher service. After approximately nine years of living for Christ and Christ living in him, he left footprints on the sands of time. What a challenge in our age of materialism and apathy!

Robert Murray McCheyne was of Scottish blood, born into a very religious family on May 21, 1813, in the city of Edinburgh. God had great things in store for Robert. While it was obvious that this godly man was not strong physically, yet in the spiritual realm he surpassed his peers in Christ-likeness. It was he who said: It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. His conversion to God could be well summed up in that hymn he composed,

When free grace awoke me by from light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety, in self could I see,
Jehovah-Tsidkenu my Savior must be!

One verse of this lovely hymn tells it all:

My terrors all vanished before the sweet Name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free,
Jehovah-Tsidkenu, is all things to me.

And drink of that everlasting fountain he did. It was through the death of a beloved brother that arrows of conviction entered deep into his soul, and he felt the terrors of the law and of judgment. He had barely reached twenty when he was reached by the free grace of God. Few ever developed in spiritual stature like Robert Murray McCheyne. He was a poet, a hymn-writer, soul winner, and an expositor of the Word. He could handle Greek, Hebrew, and other languages with proficiency. My first reading of Robert Murray McCheyne left a deep imprint upon the heart that few others books did. It was read with tears. It still has a fascination and has been read and reread many times since. Young believers should read Robert Murray McCheyne by Andrew Bonar. Therein is contained the rich legacy of a devoted life to Christ. We will be convinced that God is not looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. This beloved Scottish hero of faith lived with God and visited men!

His convictions were deeply rooted in the Word of God which he loved. Arising at five in the morning for his devotions, his motto was Commence the day with a hymn then with reading and finally with prayer. He sought to utilize his time to eternal profit. He often cautioned lest he should slip into dead formalism. He visited his flock with a shepherd-heart, he prayed over the dying, and warned some, in their last hours, of the tragedy of neglecting salvation. In his first years of constant study, unknown to him, he was being prepared for an unanticipated visit to the Middle East, the land of Israel. His compassion for the souls of the lost is almost unmatched, probably beyond the flaming evangelist George Whitefield! He spoke with great earnestness and feeling on the text, He that goeth forth and weepeth bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him. He would pause to emphasize weeping. Would this be a timely voice to us all today? We can have the theological address, well-worn stories, and sermons by the hundreds. We can shoot them out from the computer in record time! BUT WHERE are THE TEARS? Or maybe put in another way, do our tears precede our preaching?

This Christ-like young man wrestled in prayer for the perishing! Baxter-like he preached as a dying man to dying men and women and he pleaded with unexcelled earnestness. One biographer stated that often he would lean over the pulpit and, with tears rolling down his cheeks, plead with the lost as if they were hanging over the precipice of Hell. In talking to one of the Bonar brothers he asked, What did you preach last Sunday? Bonar replied, I preached on Hell. Robert asked, Did you preach it with tears?