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Saturday, 11 January 2014

Not a Waste: the Short Life of Robert Murray McCheyne

At times I’ve heard people say, “What a waste,” when a person of great promise dies young.  When a life is cut short by a preventable tragedy, there is a particular sadness that seizes the mourners.  On the other hand, I have been intrigued in the past by remarkable Christian workers who died at a relatively young age.  This is the first in a series of posts exploring some of these short lives that were not wasted.

Image taken from the website cited below
   Robert Murray McCheyne was born in Scotland in the year 1813.  He was a prodigy in his ability to learn the Greek alphabet at age four, and he entered university at age 14.  Following the death of his elder brother, Robert began to take faith seriously and entered seminary at the age of eighteen.
   He became a pastor who was known for the presence of the Holy Spirit in his preaching and way of living.  He spent time each day personally reading the Scriptures, singing hymns and praying.  His sermons were based on his careful study of God’s Word.  Although they were considered long in his day, he was frequently invited to preach in other towns besides his home base of Dundee.
   McCheyne was modest, delighting when a revival broke out in his church under the leadership of an interim pastor, while he was away in the Middle East.  In his journal he wrote of a time when someone came to faith under his ministry, saying “I was but an adoring spectator rather than an instrument.”[1]
   In 1839 he was in the Middle East to explore the possibilities of mission work to the Jewish people living in Eastern Europe and the Turkish Empire.  During this time, pilgrimages to the Holy Land were rare due to dangers from the Turkish rulers.  It is thought that he and his delegation were the first members of the church of Scotland to visit Jerusalem.  It made a deep impression on McCheyne to see what the Psalmist saw and to walk where Jesus walked.[2]
   Just two months shy of his thirtieth birthday, Robert Murray McCheyne died at home, after a two-week illness that may have been typhus.  Even when feverish he continued to pray and quote Scripture.
   One of his friends, Andrew Bonar gathered together McCheyne’s writings into The Memoirs and Remnants of Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne.  I would be pleased to find a copy of the 1966 edition of this volume, so I could hear his words for myself.

“A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”
-attributed to McCheyne

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, 50 People every Christian should know (2009), page 83.

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