Sugestions and advice from Robert Murray M'Cheyne:-|
My Dear Flock, -
The approach of another year stirs up
within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth
of those of you who are saved. “ God is my record how
greatly I long after you all in the love of Jesus Christ.”
What the coming year is to bring forth who can tell ? There
is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and
a looking for some strange work of judgment coming upon
this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question:
“ If in the land of peace wherein thou trust, they wearied
thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan ?”
Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence
upon self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness.
We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the
mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall
be able to say, like David—“ The proud have had me greatly
in derision, yet have I not declined from Thy law.” “ Princes
have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in
awe of Thy word.”
It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture
reading, in which as many as were made willing by God
might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by
you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion
of the green pasture at the same time.
I am quite aware that such a plan is accompanied with many
(1.) Formality. - We are such weak creatures that any
regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless
form. The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed rule
may, in some minds, be to create this skeleton religion. This
is to be the peculiar sin of the last days—“ Having the form
of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Guard against
this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up
(2.) Self-righteousness. - Some, when they have devoted their
set time to reading the Word, and accomplished their prescribed
portion, may be tempted to look at themselves with
self-complacency. Many, I am persuaded, are living without
any Divine work on their soul—unpardoned and unsanctified,
and ready to perish—who spend their appointed times in
secret and family devotion. This is going to hell with a lie
in the right hand.
(3.) Careless reading. - Few tremble at the Word of God.
Few, in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is lull of
majesty. Some, by having so large a p'ortion, may be tempted
to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying
“Our soul loatheth this light bread;” and to read it in a
slight and careless maimer. This would be fearfully provoking
to God. Take heed lest that word be true of you—“Ye
said, also, Behold what a weariness is it ! and ye have snuffed
at it, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
(4.) A yoke too heavy to hear. Some may engage in reading
with alacrity for a time, and afterwards feel it a burden,
grievous to be borne. They may find conscience dragging
them through the appointed task without any relish of the
heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the
fetter, and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My
desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of
If there be so many dangers, why propose such a scheme at
all? To this I answer, that the best things are accompanied
with danger, as the fairest flowers are often gathered in the
clefts of some dangerous precipice. Let us weigh
(1.) The whole Bible will he read through in an orderly manner
in the course of a year. - The Old Testament once, the New
Testament and Psalms twice. I fear many of you never read
the whole Bible ; and yet it is all equally Divine, “ All Scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be perfect.” If we pass over some
parts of Scripture, we shall be incomplete Christians.
(2.) Time will not he wasted in choosing what portions to read. - Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which
part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps.
Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple
(3.) Parents will have a regular subject upon which to examine
their children and servants. - It is much to be desired that family
worship were made more instructive than it generally is.
The mere reading of the chapter is often too like water spilt
on the ground. Let it be read by every member of the family
before-hand, and then the meaning and application drawn out
by simple question and answer. The calendar will be helpful
in this. Friends, also, when they meet, will have a Bubject
for profitable conversation in the portions read that day. The
meaning of difficult passages may be inquired from the more
judicious and ripe Christians, and the fragrance of simpler
Scriptures spread abroad.
(4.) The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock
are feeding. - He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably
to them on the Sabbath ; and both pastor and elders will be
able to drop a word of light and comfort in visiting from house
to house, which will be more readily responded to.
(5.) The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened,
We shall be often led to think of those dear brothers
and sisters in the Lord, here and elsewhere, who agree to join
with us in reading these portions. We shall oftener be led to
agree on earth, touching something we shall ask of God. We
shall pray over the sanjc promises, mourn over the same confessions,
praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by
the same words of eternal life.
1. The head of the family should previously read over the
chapter for family worship, and mark two or three of the most
prominent verses, upon which he may dwell, asking a few
2. Frequently the chapter named in the calendar for family
reading might be read more suitably in secret ; in which case
the head of the family should intimate that it be read in
private, and the chapter for secret reading may be used in the
3. The metrical version of the Psalms should be read or
sung through at least once in the year. It is truly an admirable
translation from the Hebrew, and is frequently more
correct than the prose version. If three verses be sung at
each diet of family worship, the whole Psalms will be sung
through in the year.
4. Let the conversation at family meals often turn upon the
chapter read and the psalm sung. Thus every meal will be a Sacrament,
being sanctified by the Word and prayer.
5. Let our secret reading prevent the dawning of the day.
Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning. Mark
two or three of the richest verses, and pray over every line
and word of them. Let the marks be neatly done, never
as to abuse a copy of the Bible.
6. In meeting believers on the street or elsewhere, when
an easy opportunity offers, recur to the chapters read that
morning. This will be a blessed exchange for those idle words
which waste the soul and grieve the Holy Spirit of God. In
writing letters to those at a distance, make use of the provision
that day gathered
7. Above all, use the word as a lamp to your feet and a
light to your path—your guide in perplexity—your armour in
temptation—your food in times ol faintness. Hear the constant
cry of the great Intercessor,
"SANCTIFY THEM THROUGH THY TRUTH : THY WORD IS TRUTH."
Reference: "Memoirs and Remains of R.M. M'Cheyne" by Andrew Bonar, pages 618 to 622.
Brief Biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne (from Wikipedia):
He was born at 14 Dublin Street in Edinburgh on 21 May 1813, the son of Adam McCheyne (d.1854).
He was educated at the University of Edinburgh and at the Divinity Hall of his native city, where he was taught by Thomas Chalmers. He first served as an assistant to John Bonar in the parish of Larbert and Dunipace,
near Falkirk, from 1835 to 1836. After this he served as minister of St. Peter's Church (in Dundee) until his early death at the age of 29 during an epidemic of typhus.
Not long after his death, his friend Andrew Alexander Bonar edited his biography which was published with some of his manuscripts as The Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M'Cheyne. The book went into
many editions. It has had a lasting influence on Evangelical Christianity worldwide.
In 1839, M'Cheyne and Bonar, together with two older ministers, Dr. Alexander Black and Dr. Alexander Keith, were sent to Palestine on a mission of inquiry to the condition of the Jews. Upon their return, their official
report for the Board of Mission of the Church of Scotland was published as Narrative of a Visit to the Holy Land and Mission of Inquiry to the Jews. This led subsequently to the establishment of missions to the Jews by
the Church of Scotland and by the Free Church of Scotland. During M'Cheyne's absence, his place was filled by the appointment of William Chalmers Burns to preach at St. Peter's as his assistant.
M'Cheyne was a preacher, a pastor, a poet, and wrote many letters. He was also a man of deep piety and a man of prayer.
M'Cheyne died exactly two months before the Disruption of 1843. This being so, his name was subsequently held in high honour by all the various branches of Scottish Presbyterianism, though he himself held a strong opinion
against the Erastianism which led to the Disruption. Bonar records, "And when, on 7 March of the following year (i.e. 1843), the cause of the Church was finally to be pleaded at the bar of the House of Commons, I find him
writing: 'Eventful night this in the British Parliament! Once more King Jesus stands at an earthly tribunal, and they know Him not!'" —Memoir (1892), p. 147).
M'Cheyne designed a widely used system for reading through the Bible in one year. The plan entails reading the New Testament and the Psalms through twice a year, and the Old Testament through once. This program was included
(in a slightly modified form) in For the Love of God by D. A. Carson (ISBN 0-85111589-6) and is recommended by several Bible publishers, such as the English Standard Version and the New English Translation.
He died of typhus in Dundee following a short illness on 25 March 1843. His parents agreed to the wish of his congregation that McCheyne be buried in the graveyard beside St Peter's Church in Dundee, rather than in
the family's own burial-ground in Edinburgh. He was buried on Thursday 30 March, with an estimated 7000 people attending the funeral.