Encouragement from Old Letters

This afternoon I had the opportunity to pick up and dust off my copy of “Memoir and Remains of R.M. M’Cheyne.”  M’Cheyne was a Scottish Presbyterian minister, who lived from 1813 to 1843.  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 1838. 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.  Were it not for his friendship with Horatius Bonar (who is also know for many of his hymns) M’Cheyne’s writings would have been lost.  Fortunately, for us today, the wonderful letters, sermons, and poems of this young pastor have been preserved for us today.  I love this book, it’s one of my favorite biographies, and I find great encouragement and guidance as a Pastor from these memoirs from long ago.

Today, I thought I’d share the following letter from M’Cheyne to one of his church members who had initially written, complaining of the “plagues of the heart.”  I think it shows great pastoral care and compassion, but also demonstrates a lost art of Pastoral Letter writing.  Still, I think his encouragement to “cleave close to Christ” is one that we need to hear again and again.  May your hearts be strengthened as you read.

Passing on to glory

ST PETER’S, March 8, 1843.

MY DEAR FRIEND,—I send a few lines to you in answer to yours. You complain of the plague of your own heart, and so you will till you die. You know little yet of its chambers of imagery. All that is ours is sin. Our wicked heart taints all we say and do; hence the need of continual atonement in the blood of Jesus. It is not one pardoning that will serve the need of our souls. We must have daily, hourly pardons. I believe you are in the furnace, but it is a short one. Soon the Bridegroom will come, and we shall be with Him, and like Him, and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. I burst through all the cobwebs of present things, and, his Spirit anointing my eyes, look at Jesus as one beside me. Blessed Elder Brother, with two natures—God and man—ever-living, never-dying, never-changing! I was preaching last Sabbath on Heb. 9:13, 14: “He through the Eternal Spirit offered himself. It was very sweet to myself. In the afternoon I preached on Rev. 2:4, 5: “I have this against thee, that thou hast left thy first love.” I fear many of my people have done so; therefore it was very suitable. Several I see have felt it very deeply. In the evening I preached on Ps. 78:41: “They turned back, and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel,”—on the sinfulness of limiting God. It was a very sweet and solemn day. Meantime, stay your soul on God. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” A few more trials, a few more tears, a few more days of darkness, and we shall be for ever with the Lord! “In this tabernacle we groan, being burdened.” All dark things shall yet be cleared up, all sufferings healed, all blanks supplied, and we shall find fulness of joy (not one drop wanting) in the smile and presence of our God. It is one of the laws of Christ’s kingdom, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” We must not reckon upon a smooth road to glory, but it will be a short one. How glad I am that you have “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost!” Cleave closely to Jesus, that you may not have to say in a little, “Oh that I had affliction back again to quicken me in prayer, and make me lie at his feet!”

Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.

This land will soon be strangely convulsed, if God prevent not. The plans now preparing for carrying the gospel into every corner of the land are sweet indeed. If I be spared and strengthened, I go to London towards the end of April. My stay must be very short. It is also intended to send me to the General Assembly in May. My poor flock, how I yearn over them! So many of them careless, and judgment at the door! Mr Burns comes to me to-morrow.
I must add no more, as I have work before me. May you experience more and more, that “when He giveth quietness, none can make trouble!”—even as you once experienced the other, “When He hideth his face, who then can behold Him?” Soon we shall see Him as He is; then our trials shall be done. We shall reign with Him, and be entirely like Him. The angels will know us by our very faces to be brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Remember Jesus for us is all our righteousness before a holy God, and Jesus in us is all our strength in an ungodly world. Persevere ever to death; eternal life will make up for all. I was reading to-day, “God hath granted repentance unto life.” Remember Barnabas’s advice, “Cleave to the Lord,”—not to man, but to the Lord. May He perfect all that concerneth you. Do not fear the face of man. Remember how small their anger will appear in eternity. Till then, believe me, your friend in gospel bauds, etc.

McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.

I Am Debtor

When I think of all the many ways I have been blessed by God, only then do I begin to see that to Him I owe all praise and thanks.  I am not talking about the worldly provisions that God has given – though by all comparisons, God has been good to me.  What strikes me most, is the richness of His grace and favor shown unto me through His complete and sufficient work to secure my salvation in Jesus Christ.

I was dead – not dying – in sin.  I was unlovable, recalcitrant, petulant, defiant.  And God proved His love in that while I was still a sinner, He sent His Son to die for me.  Christ bore the wrath I had earned, the cross I deserved, and exchanged it all for His righteousness, His peace, that I might be reconciled unto God.

As the hymn sings, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

As I’ve been reading the Memoir’s of R.M. M’Cheyne, I came across this poem of his that says so much better what I want to express.

R.M. M’Cheyne
May 1837

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk you glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When the praise of heaven I hear
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light:
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe

When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall, but still arise;
The Spirit comes – the tempter flies:
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.

Oft the nights of sorrow reign –
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain,
But a night thine anger burns –
Morning comes, and joy returns:
God of comforts! bid me show
To thy poor, how much I owe.

McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Print.