On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols continues his examination of the life of Robert Murray M’Cheyne and all he accomplished in his brief 29 years.
The Life, Ministry and Death of Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Robert Murray M’Cheyne lived only twenty-nine years, but those twenty-nine years were filled with all sorts of interesting things. So we’re returning to this young minister from Dundee, Scotland.
As we saw before, M’Cheyne wrote a letter to his church in December 1842 regarding his intention to create a Bible reading plan. I tried to determine if this was the first “read through the Bible in a year” plan. I can’t say definitively that it was, but I can say that it is a very popular one. In his plan, you read about four chapters of the Bible a day, and you read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice in a year and the entire Old Testament once in a year. What’s interesting is that he never finished going through the plan himself because he died the very next year, 1843. He made it to March 25, twenty-seven days shy of his thirtieth birthday. In addition to this Bible reading plan and his best-selling book detailing the exciting and adventurous missionary journey to Israel, there were other things that Robert Murray M’Cheyne did as well.
M’Cheyne was very quotable. He had a penchant for poetry, and a number of his phrases have come down through the generations and have stuck with us. One of those is, “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” This quote goes hand in hand with another of his quotes: “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” What he is saying is that as a pastor, he must be prepared both through prayer and his own Bible reading as he steps into the pulpit and leads his flock. That can be challenging and even daunting, but that’s not what M’Cheyne intended. He intended for us to understand that personal holiness involves, to a large degree, taking ten looks at Christ for every one look at oneself.
It’s also interesting to talk a little bit about the event that led up to M’Cheyne’s death. He was from an upper-middle-class family and was very well educated, with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh. His church was in Dundee, which, at the time, was a very industrial city. It had some areas that were experiencing difficult conditions. One day, he was visiting some parishioners in one of those areas. He made it a point to visit each of his parishioners every year, and this was a church of more than eleven hundred people. In fact, a great story is that while he was in Israel, a revival broke out in his own church, and he came back to find seven hundred new converts in his church. So, he made every effort not only to preach to the people in his congregation but to visit them as well. It was in one of these neighborhoods with difficult conditions that he contracted typhus, which would end up taking his life. Not only did he pour out his life for his people from his pulpit, but he literally poured out his life for his people in his pastorate at St. Peter’s in Dundee, Scotland. And that is Robert Murray M’Cheyne.
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