Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne Part 2 SEE PART 1 HERE
His Mission to Palestine and the Jews
Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8
Though engaged night and day with his flock in St. Peter’s, Mr. McCheyne ever cherished a missionary spirit. “This place hardens me for a foreign land,” was his remark on one occasion. This spirit he sought to kindle yet more by reading missionary literature for his own use, and often to his people at his weekly prayer meeting. The necessities both of his own parish, and of the world at large, lay heavy on his soul; and when an opportunity of evangelizing occurred, there was none in Scotland more ready to embrace it. He seemed one who stood with his loins girded: “Here am I; send me.”
Another motive to incessant activity was the decided impression on his mind that his career would be short. From the first days of his ministry he had a strong feeling of this nature; and his friends remember how his letters used to be sealed with this seal, “The night cometh.” At a time when he was apparently in his usual health, we were talking together on the subject of the premillennial advent. We had begun to speak of the practical influence which the belief of that doctrine might have. At length he said, “That he saw no force in the arguments generally urged against it, though he had difficulties of his own in regard to it. And perhaps (he added) it is well for you, who enjoy constant health, to be so firmly persuaded that Christ is thus to come; but my sickly frame makes me feel every day that my time may be very short.”
He was therefore in some measure prepared, when, in the midst of his laborious duties, he was compelled to stand still and see what the Lord would do.
At the close of 1838, some symptoms appeared that alarmed his friends. His constitution, never robust, began to feel the effects of unremitting labor; for occasionally he would spend six hours in visiting, and then the same evening preach in some room to all the families whom he had that day visited. Generally, too, on the Sabbath, after preaching twice to his own flock, he was engaged in ministering somewhere else in the evening. But now, after any great exertion, he was attacked by violent palpitation of heart. It soon increased, affecting him in his hours of study; and at last it became almost constant. Because of this, his medical advisers insisted on a total cessation of his public work; for though as yet there was no organic change on his lungs, there was every reason to believe that that might be the result. Accordingly, with deep regret, he left Dundee to seek rest and change of occupation, hoping it would be only for a week or two.
A few days after leaving Dundee, he writes from Edinburgh, in reply to the anxious inquiries of his friend Mr. Grierson: “The beating of the heart is not now so constant as it was before. The pitcher draws more quietly at the cistern; so that, by the kind providence of our heavenly Father, I may be spared a little longer before the silver cord be loosed, and the golden bowl be broken.”
It was found that his complaints were such as would be likely to give way under careful treatment, and a temporary cessation from all exertion. Under his father’s roof, therefore, in Edinburgh, he resigned himself to the will of his Father in heaven. But deeply did he feel the trial of being laid aside from his loved employment, though he learned of Him who was meek and lowly, to make the burden light in his own way, by saying, “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.” He wrote to Mr. Grierson again, January 5, 1839: “I hope this affliction will be blessed to me. I always feel much need of God’s afflicting hand. In the whirl of active labor there is so little time for watching, and for bewailing, and seeking grace to oppose the sins of our ministry, that I always feel it a blessed thing when the Saviour takes me aside from the crowd, as He took the blind man out of the town, and removes the veil, and clears away obscuring mists, and by His word and Spirit leads to deeper peace and a holier walk. Ah! there is nothing like a calm look into the eternal world to teach us the emptiness of human praise, the sinfulness of self-seeking and vainglory, to teach us the preciousness of Christ, who is called ‘The Tried Stone.’ I have been able to be twice at college to hear a lecture from Dr. Chalmers. I have also been privileged to smooth down the dying pillow of an old school-companion, leading him to a fuller joy and peace in believing. A poor heavy-laden soul, too, from Larbert, I have had the joy of leading toward the Saviour. So that even when absent from my work, and when exiled, as it were, God allows me to do some little things for His name.”
He was led to look more carefully into this trying dispensation, and began to anticipate blessed results from it to his flock. He was well aware how easily the flock begins to idolize the shepherd, and how prone the shepherd is to feel somewhat pleased with this sinful partiality of his people, and to be uplifted by his success. “I sometimes think,” is his remark in a letter, dated January 18, “that a great blessing may come to my people in my absence. Often God does not bless us when we are in the midst of our labors, lest we shall say, `My hand and my eloquence have done it.’ He removes us into silence, and then pours `down a blessing so that there is no room to receive it;’ so that all that see it cry out, `It is the Lord!’ This was the way in the South Sea Islands. May it really be so with my dear people!” Nor did he err in this view of the dispensation. All these ends, and more also, were to be accomplished by it.
An anticipation like that which is expressed in this and other letters, especially in his Pastoral Letter of March 20, may justly be regarded as a proof from experience that the Lord teaches His people to expect and pray for what He means soon to work. And here the Lord accomplished His designs in the kindest of all ways; for He removed His servant for a season from the flock to which he had been so blessed, lest even His own children should begin to glory in man; but yet He took that servant to another sphere of labor in the meantime, and then, when the blessing was safely bestowed, brought him back to rejoice over it.
He was still hoping for, and submissively asking from the Lord, speedy restoration to his people in Dundee, and occasionally sending to them an epistle that breathed the true pastor’s soul; when one day, as he was walking with Dr. Candlish, conversing on the Mission to Israel which had lately been decided on, an idea suddenly came to Dr. Candlish. He asked Mr. McCheyne what he would think of “being useful to the Jewish cause, during his cessation from labor, by going abroad to make personal inquiries into the state of Israel?” The idea suddenly suggested led to all the later results of the Mission of Inquiry. Mr. McCheyne found himself all at once called to carry salvation to the Jew as he had before done to the Gentile, and his soul was filled with joy and wonder. His medical friends highly approved of the proposal, as it would likely aid very much in the removal of his complaints-the calm, steady excitement of such a journey being likely to restore the tone of his whole constitution.
Dr. Black of Aberdeen readily consented to use his remarkable talents as a scholar in this cause; and Dr. Keith intimated his expectation of soon joining the deputation. I also had been chosen to go forth on this mission of love to Israel; but some difficulties stood in the way of my leaving my charge at Collace. In these circumstances Mr. McCheyne wrote to me, March 12, from Edinburgh.
“My Dear A.-I have received so many tokens for good from God in this matter, that it were a shame indeed if I did not trust Him to perfect all which concerns me. I am glad you have determined to trust all in the hands of Israel’s God. I am quite ready to go this week, or next week, but am deeply anxious to be sure that you are sent with me. You know, dear A., I could not labor in this cause, nor enjoy it, if you were not to be with me in it. Would you be ready to give your Jewish lecture on the evening of Sabbath week? … And now, pray for us, that we may be sent of God; and, weak as we are, that we may be made Boanerges,-that we may be blessed to win some
souls, and to stir up Christians to love Zion. Much interest is already excited, and I do look for a blessing. Speak to your people as on the brink of eternity. . . . As to books, I am quite at a loss. My Hebrew Bible, Greek Testament,
etc., and perhaps Bridge’s Christian Ministry for general purposes-I mean, for keeping us in mind of our ministerial work. I do hope we shall go forth in the Spirit; and though hindered in language, may we not be blessed, as Brainerd was, through an interpreter? May we not be blessed also to save some English, and to stir up missionaries? My health is only tolerable; I would be better if we were once away. I am often so troubled as to be made willing to go or stay, to die or to live. Yet it is encouraging to be used in the Lord’s service again, and in so interesting a manner. What if we should see the heavenly Jerusalem before the earthly? I am taking drawing materials, that I may carry away remembrances of the Mount of Olives, Tabor, and the Sea of Galilee.”
The interest that this proposed journey excited in Scotland was very great. Nor was it merely the somewhat romantic interest attached to the land where the Lord had done most of His mighty works; there were also in it the deeper feelings of a scriptural persuasion that Israel was still “beloved for the fathers’ sake.” For some time previous, Jerusalem had come into mind, and many godly pastors were standing as watchmen over its ruined walls (Isa. 62:6), stirring up the Lord’s reminders. Mr. McCheyne had been one of these. His views of the importance of the Jews in the eye of God, and therefore of their importance as an area of missionary labor, were very clear and decided. He agreed in the expectation expressed in one of the Course of Lectures delivered before the deputation set out, that we might anticipate an outpouring of the Spirit when our church should stretch out its hands to the Jew as well as to the Gentile. In one letter he says, “To seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel is an object very near to my heart, as my people know it has ever been. Such an enterprise may probably draw down unspeakable blessings on the Church of Scotland, according to the promise, ‘They shall prosper who love thee.’ ” In another, “I now see plainly that all our views about the Jews being the chief object of missionary exertion are plain and sober truths, according to the Scripture.” Again, “I feel convinced that if we pray that the world may be converted in God’s way, we will seek the good of the Jews; and the more we do so, the happier we will be in our own soul. You should always keep up a knowledge of the prophecies regarding Israel.” In his preaching he not infrequently said on this subject, “We should be like God in His peculiar affections; and the whole Bible shows that God has ever had, and still has, a peculiar love to the Jews.”
The news of his proposed absence alarmed his flock at Dundee. They manifested their care for him more than ever; and not a few wrote expostulatory letters. To one of these wellmeant remonstrances he replied, “I rejoice exceedingly in the interest you take in me, not so much for my own sake as that I hope it is a sign you know and love the Lord Jesus. Unless God had Himself shut up the door of return to my people, and opened this new door to me, I never could have consented to go. I am not at all unwilling to spend and be spent in God’s service, though I have often found that the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. But God has very plainly shown me that I may perform a deeply important work for His ancient people, and at the same time be in the best way of seeking a return of health. “-“A minister will make a poor saviour in the day of wrath. It is not knowing a minister, or loving one, or hearing one, or having a name to live, that will save. You need to have your hand on the head of the Lamb for yourselves, Lev. 1:4. You need to have your eye on the brazen serpent for yourselves, John 3:14, 15. I fear I will need to be a swift witness against many of my people in the day of the Lord, that they looked to me, and not to Christ, when I preached to them. I always feared that some of you loved to hear the word, who do not love to do it. I always feared there were many of you who loved the Sabbath meetings, and the class, and the Thursday evenings, who yet were not careful to walk with God, to be meek, chaste, holy, loving, harmless, Christ-like, God-like. Now, God wants you to think that the only end of a gospel ministry is that you may be holy. Believe me, God Himself could not make you happy except you be holy.”
At this crisis in his people’s history, he sought from the Lord one to supply his place-one who would feed the flock and gather in wanderers during their own pastor’s absence. The Lord granted him his desire by sending Mr. William C. Burns, son of the minister of Kilsyth. In a letter to him, dated March 12, the following remarkable words occur: “You are given in answer to prayer; and these gifts are, I believe, always without exception blessed. I hope you may be a thousand times more blessed among them than ever I was. Perhaps there are many souls that would never have been saved under my ministry, who may be touched under yours; and God has taken this method of bringing you into my place. His name is Wonderful.”
This done, and being already disengaged from his flock, he set out for London to make arrangements for the rest of the deputation, who soon after were all sent forth by the brethren with many prayers. None had more prayers offered in their behalf than he, and they were not offered in vain. During all his journeyings the Lord strengthened him, and saved him out of all distresses.
It was a singular event-often still it looks like a dream that four ministers should be so suddenly called away from their quiet labors in the towns and villages of Scotland, and be found in a few weeks traversing the land of Israel, with their Bibles in their hand, eyewitnesses of prophecy fulfilled, and spies of the nakedness of Israel’s worship and leanness of soul. The details of that journey need not be given here. They have been already recorded in the Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839. But there are some incidents worthy to be preserved which could find a place only in such a record of private life and feelings as we are now engaged in.
When Mr. McCheyne was on board the vessel that carried him to London, he at once discovered an interesting young Jew, who seemed, however, unwilling to be recognized as belonging to the seed of Abraham. He made several attempts to draw this young Israelite into close conversation; and before parting, read with him the first psalm in Hebrew, and pressed home the duty of meditating on the Word of the Lord. In visiting Bethnal Green, he has noted down that it was very sweet to hear Jewish children sing a hymn to Jesus, the burden of which was “Slain for us!”
The awful profanation of the holy Sabbath which we witnessed on the streets of Paris, called forth the following appeal, in a letter to Mr. Macdonald of Blairgowrie. His spirit had been stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. “Stand in the breach, dear friend, and lift up your voice like a trumpet, lest Scotland become another France. You know how many in our own parishes trample on the holy day. They do not know how sweet it is to walk with God all that holy day. Isaiah 58:11-14 is a sweet text to preach from. Exodus 31:13 is also very precious, showing that the real sanctifying of the Sabbath is one of God’s signs or marks which He puts upon His people. It is one of the letters of the new name, which no one knoweth but they who receive it.”
In his brief notes during the first part of the journey, he has seldom failed to mark our seasons of united prayer, such as those in the cabin of the vessel on the passage to Genoa; for these were times of refreshing to his spirit. And his feelings, as he stood in that city and surveyed its palaces, are expressed in a few lines, which he sent homeward from the spot. “A foreign land draws us nearer God. He is the only one whom we know here. We go to Him as to one we know; all else is strange. Every step I take, and every new country I see, makes me feel more that there is nothing real, nothing true, but what is everlasting. The whole world lieth in wickedness! its judgments are fast hastening. The marble palaces, among which I have been wandering tonight, shall soon sink like a millstone in the waters of God’s righteous anger; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
At Valetta, in the island of Malta, he wrote: “My heart beats a little today, but another sail will do me good. One thing I know, that I am in the hands of my Father in heaven, who is all love to me-not for what I am in myself, but for the beauty He sees in Immanuel.”
The classic shores of Italy and Greece are invested with a peculiar interest, such as may raise deep emotions even in a sanctified soul. “We tried to recollect many of the studies of our boyhood. But what is classic learning to us now? I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. And yet these recollections tinged every object, and afforded us a most lawful pleasure.”
During our voyage, it was his delight to search into the Scriptures, just as at home. And so much did he calculate on an unceasing study of the Word during all our journey, that he took with him some notes I had written on each chapter of the book of Leviticus, observing it would be suitable meditation for us while busy with Jewish minds. At home and abroad he had an insatiable appetite for all the Word-both for the types of the Old Testament and the plain text of the New. On one occasion, before leaving home, in studying Numbers 4., he fixed the different duties assigned to the priests on his memory, by means of the following lines:
The Kohathites upon their shoulder bear
The holy vessels, covered with all care,
The Gershonites receive an easier charge,
Two wagons full of cords and curtains large;
Merari’s sons four ponderous wagons load
With boards and pillars of the house of God.
He acted on the principle that whatever God has revealed must deserve our study and prayerful investigation.
Arrived at Alexandria in Egypt, and from there proceeding onward to Palestine by the way of the desert, we found ourselves in a new stage of experience. Mr. McCheyne observed on the silence of the desert places: “It is a remarkable feeling to be quite alone in a desert place; it gives similar feelings to fasting; it brings God near. Living in tents, and moving among such lonely scenes for many days, awake many new ideas. It is a strange life we lead in the wilderness. Round and round there is a complete circle of sand and wilderness shrubs; above, a blue sky without a cloud, and a scorching sun which often made the thermometer stand at 96° in our tents. When evening came, the sun went down as it does in the ocean, and the stars came riding forth in their glory; and we used to pitch all alone, with none but our poor ignorant Bedouins, and their camels, and our all-knowing, all-loving God beside us. When morning began to dawn, our habitations were taken down. Often we have found ourselves shelterless before being fully dressed. What a type of the tent of our body! Ah! how often taken down before the soul is made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” To Mr. Bonar of Larbert he writes: “I had no idea that travelling in the wilderness was so dreadful a thing as it is. The loneliness I often felt quite solemnized me. The burning sun overhead-round and round a circle of barren sand, chequered only by a few prickly shrubs (‘the heat of the wilderness,’ of which Jeremiah speaks)-no rain, not a cloud, the wells often like that of Marah, and far between. I now understand well the murmurings of Israel. I feel that our journey proved and tried my own heart very much.” When we look back, and remember that he who thus stands on the sandy desert road between Egypt and Palestine, and looks on its singular scenery, is one who but lately was to be found busy night and day in dealing with the souls of men in the densely peopled streets of a town teeming with population, we are led to wonder at the ways of the Lord. But is it not a moment that may remind us that the God who sent Elijah to the brook at Cherith is the same God still? And that the wise, considerate, loving Master, who said, “Come into a desert place and rest awhile,” is as loving, considerate, and wise as He was then?
At Balteen, a small village in Egypt, I well remember the indignation that fired his countenance, when our Arab attendants insisted on traveling ahead on the Sabbath day, rather than continue sitting under a few palm trees, breathing a sultry, furnace-like atmosphere, with nothing more than just such supply of food as sufficed. He could not bear the thought of being deprived of the Sabbath rest; it was needful for our souls as much in the wilderness as in the crowded city; and if few glorify God in that desolate land, so much the more were we called on to fill these solitude’s with our songs of praise. It was in this light he viewed our position; and when we had prevailed, and were seated under the palms, he was excited to deep emotion, though before quite unnerved by the heat, at the sight of a row of poor wretched Egyptians who gathered round us. “Oh that I could speak their language, and tell them of salvation!” was his impassioned wish.
An event occurred at that time in which the hand of God afterward appeared very plain, though it then seemed very dark to us. Dr. Black fell from his camel in the midst of the sandy desert, and none of all our company could conjecture what bearing on the object of our Mission this sad occurrence could have. Is it a frown on our undertaking? Or can it really be a movement of His kind, guiding hand? We often spoke of it: in our visit to Galilee we thought that we saw some purposes evolving; but there was still something unexplained. Now, however, the reason appears: even that event was of the Lord, in wise and kind design. But for that fall, our fathers in the deputation would not have sailed up the Danube on their way to Vienna, and Pesth would not have been visited. This accident, which mainly disabled Dr. Black from undertaking the later fatigue of exploring Galilee, was the occasion of directing the steps of our two fathers to that station, where a severe stroke of sickness was made the means of detaining Dr. Keith till they had learned that there was an open door among the Jews. And there, accordingly it has been that the Lord has poured down His Spirit on the Jews that have come to our missionaries so remarkably, that no Jewish Mission seems ever to have been blessed with deeper conversions. There is nothing but truth in the remark made by one of our number: “Dr. Black’s fall from the camel was the first step towards Pesth.” “Who so is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the LORD” (Ps. 107:43). Indeed, whether it was that we were prepared to expect, and therefore were peculiarly ready to observe, or whether it was really the case that the watchful eye of our Lord especially guided us, it is certain that we thought we could perceive the whole course we took signally marked by Providence. There were many prayers in Scotland ascending up in our behalf, and the High Priest gave the answer by shining upon our path. Mr. McCheyne has stated: “For much of our safety I feel indebted to the prayers of my people, I mean the Christians among them, who do not forget us. If the veil of the world’s machinery were lifted off, how much we would find is done in answer to the prayers of God’s children.”
Many things lost some of their importance in our view, when examined amid the undistracted reflections of the long desert journey, where for many days we had quiet, like the quiet of death, around us all night long, and even during the bright day. It is more interesting on this account to know his feelings there on the subject of the ministry. As his camel slowly bore him over the soft sandy soil, much did he ruminate on the happy days when he was permitted to use all his strength in preaching Jesus to dying men. “Use your health while you have it, my dear friend and brother. Do not cast away peculiar opportunities that may never come again. You know not when your last Sabbath with your people may come. Speak for eternity. Above all things, cultivate your own spirit. A word spoken by you when your conscience is clear, and your heart full of God’s Spirit, is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin. This was my great fault in the ministry. Remember it is God, and not man, that must have the glory. It is not much speaking, but much faith, that is needed. Do not forget us. Do not forget the Saturday night meeting, nor the Monday morning thanksgiving.” Thus he wrote to a fellow-laborer in Scotland on his way.
On our first Sabbath in the Holy Land, our tent had been pitched in the vicinity of a colony of ants. It was in the tribe of Simeon we were encamped; it was the scenery of the Promised Land we had around us; and one of the similitudes of the blessed word was illustrated within our view. He opened his Bible at Proverbs 6:6-8, and, as he read, noted”I. Consider her ways. Most souls are lost for want of consideration. II. The ant has no guide, overseer, or ruler; no officer, no one to command or encourage her. How differently situated is the child of God! III. Provideth her meat in the summer, etc. Some have thought that this teaches us to heap up money; but quite the reverse. The ant lays up no store for the future. It is all for present use. She is always busy summer and winter. The lesson is one of constant diligence in the Lord’s work.”
Many a time in these days, when our attendants in the evening were driving in the stakes of our tent and stretching its cords, he would lie down on the ground under some tree that sheltered him from the dew. Completely exhausted by the long day’s ride, he would lie almost speechless for half an hour; and then, when the palpitation of his heart had a little abated, would propose that we two should pray together. Often, too, did he say to me, when thus stretched on the ground not impatiently, but very earnestly-“Shall I ever preach to my people again?” I was often reproved by his unabated attention to personal holiness; for this care was never absent from his mind, whether he was at home in his quiet chamber, or on the sea, or in the desert. Holiness in him was manifested, not by efforts to perform duty, but in a way so natural, that you recognized therein the easy outflowing of the indwelling Spirit. The fountain springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14) in his soul, welled forth its living waters alike in the familiar scenes of his native Scotland, and under the olive tree of Palestine. Prayer and meditation on the Word were never forgotten; and a peace that the world could not give kept his heart and mind. When we were detained a day at Gaza, in very tantalizing circumstances, his remark was, “Jehovah Jireh; we are at that mount again.” It was sweet at any time to be with him, for both nature and grace in him drew the very heart; but there were moments of enjoyment in these regions of Palestine that drew every cord still closer, and created unknown sympathies. Such was that evening when we climbed Samson’s Hill together. Sitting there, we read over the references to the place in the Word of God; and then he took out his pencil and sketched the scene, as the sun was sinking in the west. This done, we sang some verses of a psalm, appropriate to the spot, offered up prayer, and, slowly descending, conversed of all we saw, and of all that was brought to mind by the scenery around us, till we reached our tent.
In approaching Jerusalem, we came up the Pass of Latroon. He writes: “The last day’s journey to Jerusalem was the finest I ever had in all my life. For four hours we were ascending the rocky pass upon our patient camels. It was like the finest of our Highland scenes, only the trees and flowers, and the voice of the turtle, told us that it was Immanuel’s land.” Riding along, he remarked, that to have seen the plain of Judea and this mountain pass, was enough to reward us for all our fatigue; and then began to call up passages of the Old Testament Scriptures that might seem to refer to such scenery as that before us.
During our ten days at Jerusalem, there were few objects within reach that we did not eagerly seek to visit. “We stood at the turning of the road where Jesus came near and beheld the city and wept over it. And if we had had more of the mind that was in Jesus, I think we should have wept also.” This was his remark in a letter homeward; and to Mr. Bonar of Larbert he expressed his feelings in regard to the Mount of Olives and its vicinity: “I remember the day when I saw you last, you said that there were other discoveries to be made than those in the physical world-that there were sights to be seen in the spiritual world, and depths to be penetrated of far greater importance. I have often thought of the truth of your remark. But if there is a place on earth where physical scenery can help us to discover divine things, I think it is Mount Olivet. Gethsemane at your feet leads your soul to meditate on Christ’s love and determination to undergo divine wrath for us. The cup was set before Him there, and there He said, ‘Shall I not drink it?’ The spot where He wept makes you think of His divine compassion, mingling with His human tenderness-His awful justice, that would not spare the city-His superhuman love, that wept over its coming misery! Turning the other way, and looking to the southeast, you see Bethany, reminding you of His love to His own-that His name is love-that in all our afflictions He is afflicted-that those who are in their graves shall one day come forth at His command. A little farther down you see the Dead Sea, stretching far among the mountains its still and sullen waters. This deepens and solemnizes all, and makes you go away, saying, ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?'”
He wrote to another friend in Scotland, from Mount Zion, where we were then dwelling:
Mount Zion, June 12, 1839. “MY DEAR FRIEND-Now that we are in the most wonderful spot in all this world-where Jesus lived and walked, and prayed and died, and will come again-I doubt not you will be anxious to hear how we come on. I am thankful that ever He privileged us to come to this land. I heard of my flock yesterday by a letter from home the first I have received, dated 8th May … We are living in one of the missionaries’ houses on Mount Zion. My window looks out upon where the Temple was, the beautiful Mount of Olives rising behind. The Lord that made heaven and earth, bless thee out of Zion.-Yours.”
One evening, after our visit to Sychar, he referred to the Bible that I had dropped into Jacob’s Well. We were
then resting from our journey in our tents. Soon after that he penned on a leaf of his notebook the following fragment:
My own loved Bible, must I part from thee, Companion of my toils by land and sea; Man of my counsels, soother of distress, Guide of my steps through this world’s wilderness In darkest nights, a lantern to my feet; In gladsome days, as dropping honey sweet. When first I parted from my quiet home, At thy command, for Israel’s good to roam. Thy gentle voice said, “For Jerusalem pray, So shall Jehovah prosper all thy way.” When through the lonely wilderness we strayed, Sighing in vain for palm-trees’ cooling shade, Thy words of comfort hushed each rising fear, “The shadow of thy mighty Rock is near.” And when we pitched our tents on Judah’s hills, Or thoughtful mused beside Siloa’s rills; Whene’er we climbed Mount Olivet, to gaze Upon the sea, where stood in ancient days The heaven-struck Sodom Sweet record of the past, to faith’s glad eyes, Sweet promiser of glories yet to rise.’
(‘It is a somewhat curious occurrence, that the remnants of this Bible were found and drawn up from the bottom of the well, in July 1843, by Dr. Wilson and his fellow traveler, who employed a Samaritan from Sychar to descend and examine the well.)
At the foot of Carmel, during the seven days we were in quarantine under the brow of the hill, we had time to
recall my former scenes; and in these circumstances he wrote the hymn, “The Fountain of Siloam.”
Here, too, he had leisure to write home; and most graphically does he describe our journey from Alexandria onward.
CARMEL, June 26, 1839
“MY DEAR FATHER, MOTHER, etc. -It is a long time since I have been able to write to you-this being the first time since leaving Egypt that any one has appeared to carry letters for us. I must therefore begin by telling you that, by the good hand of our God upon me, I am in excellent health, and have been ever since I wrote you last. Fatigues we have had many, and much greater than I anticipated; hardships and dangers we have also encountered, but God has brought us all safely through, and in fully better condition than when we began. You must not imagine that I have altogether lost the palpitation of my heart, for it often visits me to humble and prove me; still I believe it is a good deal better than it was, and its visits are not nearly so frequent. I hope very much, that in a cold bracing climate, and with less fatigue, I may perhaps not feel it at all. I was very thankful to receive your letter, dated 8th May-the first since leaving home. I was delighted to hear of your health and safety, and of the peaceful communion at St. Peter’s. The public news was alarming and humbling. (He alludes here to the decision of the House of Lords in the Auchterarder case.) I suppose I had better begin at the beginning, and go over all our journeyings from the land of Egypt through the howling wilderness to this sweet land of promise. I would have written journal-wise (as my mother would say) from time to time, so that I might have had an interesting budget of news ready; but you must remember it is a more fatiguing thing to ride twelve or fourteen hours on a camel’s back, in a sandy wilderness, than in our home excursions; and I could often do nothing more than lie down on my rug and fall asleep. “We left Alexandria on 16th May, 1839, parting from many kind friends in that strange city. We and our baggage were mounted on seventeen donkeys, like the sons of Jacob, when they carried corn out of Egypt. Our saddle was our bedding, viz. a rug to lie on, a pillow for the head, and a quilt to wrap ourselves in. We afterwards added a straw mat to put below all. We had procured two tents one large, and a smaller one which Andrew and I occupy. The donkeys are nice nimble little animals, going about five miles an hour; a wild Arab accompanies each donkey. We have our two Arab servants, to whom I now introduce you-Ibrahim, a handsome small-made Egyptian, and Achmet the cook, a dark good-natured fellow, with a white turban and bare black legs. Ibrahim speaks a little English and Italian, and Achmet Italian, in addition to their native Arabic. I soon made friends with our Arab donkey men, learning Arabic words and phrases from them, which pleased them greatly. We journeyed by the Bay of Aboukir, close by the sea, which tempered the air of the desert. At night we reached Rosetta, a curious half-inhabited eastern town. We saw an eastern marriage, which highly pleased us, illustrating the parables. It was by torchlight. We slept in the convent. 17.-Spent morning in Rosetta; gave the monk a New Testament. Saw some of Egyptian misery in the bazaar. Saw the people praying in the mosque, Friday being the Moslem’s day of devotion. In the evening we crossed the Nile in small boats. It is a fine river; and its water, when filtered, is sweet and pleasant. We often thought upon it in the desert. We slept that night on the sand in our tents, by the sea-shore. 18.-In six hours we came to Bourlos (you will see it in the map of the Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge): were ferried across. Watched the fishermen casting their nets into the sea: hot-hot. In two hours more through a palmy wilderness, we came to Balteen-‘the Vale of Figs’-an Arab village of mud huts. You little know what an Arab house is. In general, in Egypt, it is an exact square box made of mud, with a low hole for a door. The furniture is a mat and cooking things; an oven made of mud. 19.Spent our Sabbath unoccupied in midst of the village; the poor Arabs have no Sabbath. The thermometer 84° in tent. The governor called in the evening, and drank a cup of tea with great relish. The heat we felt much all day; still it was sweet to rest and remember you all in the wilderness. 20.-At twelve at night, left Balteen by beautiful moonlight. Proceeding through a pleasant African wild of palms and brushwood, we reached the sea in two hours, and rode along, its waves washing our feet: very sleepy. We got a rest at mid-day, if rest it could be called, under that scorching sun, which I never will forget. Proceeding onward, at three o’clock we left the sea-shore, and perceived the minarets of Damietta. Before us the mirage cheated us often when we were very thirsty. We crossed the Nile again, a much smaller branch-the only remaining one-and soon found ourselves comfortably reclining on the divan of the British Consul, an Egyptian gentleman of some fortune and manners. He entertained us at supper in true Egyptian style; provided a room for us, where we spread our mats in peace. We spent the whole of the next day here, having sent off a Bedouin to have camels ready for us at San. The Consul entertained us in the same Egyptian style of hospitality, and sent us away the next day on board of a barge upon Lake Menzaleh. 22.-Even E-would not have been afraid to sail upon the lake. It is nowhere more than ten feet deep, and in general only four or five. We made an awning with our mats, and spent a very happy day. At evening we entered a canal among immense reeds. In moonlight the scene was truly romantic; we slept moored to the shore all night. Next morning (23) we reached San about ten. This evening and next morning we spent in exploring the ruins of the ancient Zoan, for this we find is the very spot.
“Wandering alone, we were quite surprised to find great mounds of brick, and pottery, and vitrified stones. Andrew at last came upon beautiful obelisks. Next morning we examined all carefully, and found two sphinxes and many Egyptian obelisks. How wonderful to be treading over the ruins of the ancient capital of Egypt! Isaiah 19:12. ‘Where are the princes of Zoan?’ Ezek. 30:14, ‘God has set fire in Zoan.’ This is the very place where Joseph was sold as a slave, and where Moses did his wonders, Psalm 78:43. This was almost the only place where we have been in danger from the inhabitants. They are a wild race; and our Arabs were afraid of them. You would have been afraid too, if you had seen, out of the door of our tent, our Bedouins keeping watch all night with their naked sabres gleaming in the moonlight, firing off their guns now and then, and keeping up a low chant to keep one another awake. No evil happened to us, and we feel that many pray for us, and that God is with us.
24.-This day our journeyings on camels commenced and continued till we came to Jerusalem. It is a strange mode of conveyance. You have seen a camel kneeling; it is in this condition that you mount; suddenly it rises first on its fore feet, and then on its hind feet. It requires great skill to hold yourself on during this operation; one time I was thrown fair over its head, but quite unhurt. When you find yourself exalted on the hunch of a camel, it is somewhat of the feeling of an aeronaut, as if you were bidding farewell to sublunary things; but when he begins to move, with solemn pace and slow, you are reminded of your terrestrial origin, and that a wrong balance or turn to the side will soon bring you down from your giddy height. You have no stirrup, and generally only your bed for your saddle; you may either sit as on horseback, or as on a sidesaddle-the latter is the pleasanter, though not the safer of the two. The camel goes about three miles an hour, and the step is so long that the motion is quite peculiar. You bend your head towards your knees every step. With a vertical sun above and a burning sand below, you may believe it is a very fatiguing mode of journeying. However, we thought of Rebecca and Abraham’s servant (Gen. 24. ), and listened with delight to the wild Bedouin’s plaintive song. That night (24) we slept at Menagie, a Bedouin mud village: palm-trees and three wells, and an ocean of sand, formed the only objects of interest.
25.-Up by sunrise, and proceeded as before. The only event this day was Dr. Black’s fall from his camel, which greatly alarmed us. He had fallen asleep, which you are very apt to do. We encamped and used every restorative, so that we were able to proceed the same evening to Gonatre, a miserable Arab post, having a governor. Not a tree.
26.-The Sabbath dawned sweetly; thermometer 92° in tent; could only lie on the mat and read psalms. Evening. -Gathered governor and Bedouins to hear some words of eternal life, Ibrahim interpreting.
27.-Two very long stages brought us to Katieh; thankful to God for His goodness, while we pitched by the date-trees.
28.-Spent the day at Katieh; interesting interviews with governor, a kind Arab; thermometer 96° in tent. Same evening, proceeded through a greener desert, among flocks of goats and sheep, and encamped by a well, Bir-el-Abd.
29.-Another hot day in the desert; came in sight of the sea, which gave us a refreshing breeze; bathed in the salt lake, as hot as a warm bath. Evening.-Encampment at Abugilbany.
30.This was our last day in the Egyptian wilderness. We entered on a much more mountainous region. The heat very great; we literally panted for a breath of wind. The Bedouins begged handkerchiefs to cover their heads, and often cast themselves under a bush for shade. Towards sunset, we came down on the old ruins of Rhinoculura, now buried in the sand; and soon after our camels kneeled down at the gates of El Arish, the last town on the Egyptian frontier.
31.-We spent in El Arish, being unable to get fresh camels. We bought a sheep for five shillings; drank freely of their delightful water-what a blessing after the desert! Found out the river of Egypt, the boundary of Judah mentioned in the Bible, quite dry. June 1. Visited the school-a curiosity: all the children sit crosslegged on the floor, rocking to and fro, repeating something in Arabic. We had a curious interview with the governor, sitting in the gate in the ancient manner. We are quite expert now at taking off our shoes and sitting in the Eastern mode. Smoking, and coffee in very small cups, are the constant accompaniments of these visits. Left the same evening, and did not reach Sheikh Juidhe, in the land of the Philistines, till the sun was nearly bursting into view.
2.-Spent a happy Sabbath here; sung ‘In Judah’s land God is well known.’ Singing praises in our tents is very sweet, they are so frail, like our mortal bodies; they rise easily into the ears of our present Father. Our journey through the land of the Philistines was truly pleasant.
3.-We went through a fine pasture country; immense straths; flocks of sheep and goats, and asses and camels, often came in sight. This is the very way up out of Egypt, little changed from the day that the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing, and Joseph and Mary carried down the babe from the anger of Herod. Little changed, did I say? it is all changed; no more is there one brook of water. Every river of Egypt-Wady Gaza, Eshcol, Sorek-every brook we crossed, was dried up; not a drop of water. The land is changed; no more is it the rich land of Philistia. The sand struggles with the grass for mastery. The cities are changed-where are they? The people are changed: no more the bold Philistines-no more the children of Simeon-no more Isaac and his herdsmen-no more David and his horsemen; but miserable Arab shepherds-simple people, without ideas poor degraded, fearful. Khanounes was the first town we entered: Scripture name unknown. The burying-ground outside the town. The well, and people coming to draw, were objects of great interest to us. The people were highly entertained with us in return. We sat down in the bazaar, and were a spectacle to all. How much we longed to have the Arabic tongue, that we might preach the unsearchable riches of Christ in God’s own land! Same evening we heard the cry of the wolf, and encamped two miles from Gaza. The plague was raging, so we did not enter, but spent a delightful day in comparing its condition with God’s word concerning it: ‘Baldness is come upon Gaza.’ The old city is buried under sand-hills, without a blade of grass, so that it is bald indeed. The herds and flocks are innumerable, fulfilling Zeph. 2; Andrew and I climbed the hill up which Samson carried the gates.
5.-Passed through a fine olive grove for many miles, and entered the vale of Eshcol. The people were all in the fields cutting and bringing in their barley. They reap with the hook as we do. They seem to carry in at the same time upon camels. No vines in Eshcol now, no pomegranates, but some green fig-trees. Crossed the brook Sorek dry. Spent the mid-day under the embowering shade of a fig-tree; tasted the apricots of the good land. Same evening we came to Doulis, which we take to be Eshtaol, where Samson was born.
6.-We went due east, and, after a mountain pass, saw the hills of Judah-an immense plain intervening, all studded with little towns. From their names, we found out many Bible spots. This valley or plain is the very vale Zephatha, of which you read in II Chron. 14., ‘In the plain of Sephela.’ Before night we entered among the hills of Judah-very like our own Highlands-and slept all night among the mountains, at a deserted village called Latroon.
7.-One of the most privileged days of our life. We broke up our tents by moonlight; soon the sun was up; we entered a defile of the most romantic character; wild rocks and verdant hills; wildflowers of every color and fragrance scented our path. Sometimes we came upon a clump of beautiful olive-trees, then wild again. The turtle’s voice was heard in the land, and singing birds of sweetest note. Our camels carried us up this pass for four hours; and our turbaned Bedouins added by their strange figures to the scene. The terracing of all the hills is the most remarkable feature of Judean scenery. Every foot of the rockiest mountains may in this way be covered with vines. We thought of Isaiah wandering here, and David and Solomon. Still all was wilderness. The hand of man had been actively employed upon every mountain, but where were these laborers now? Judah is gone into captivity before the enemy. There are few men left in the land; not a vine is there. ‘The vine languisheth.’ We came down upon Garieh, a village embosomed in figs and pomegranates. Ascending again, we came down into the valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath. Another long and steep ascent of a most rugged hill brought us into a strange scene-a desert of sunburnt rocks. I had read of this, and knew that Jerusalem was near. I left my camel and went before, hurrying over the burning rocks. In about half an hour Jerusalem came in sight. ‘How doth
the city sit solitary that was full of people!’ Is this the perfection of beauty? ‘How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger!’ It is, indeed, very desolate. Read the two first chapters of Lamentations, and you have a vivid picture of our first sight of Jerusalem. We lighted off our camels within the Jaffa gate. Among those that crowded round us, we observed several Jews. I think I had better not attempt to tell you about Jerusalem. There is so much to describe, and I know not where to begin. The Consul, Mr. Young, received us most kindly, provided us a house where we might spread our mats, and helped us in every way. Mr. Nicolayson called the same evening, and insisted on our occupying one of the mission-houses on Mount Zion. The plague is still in Jerusalem, so that we must keep ourselves in quarantine. The plague only communicates by contact, so that we are not allowed to touch any one, or let any one touch us. Every night we heard the mourners going #about the streets with their dismal wailings for the dead. On Sabbath Mr. Nicolayson read the prayers, and Dr. Black preached from Isaiah 2:2. Dr. Keith in the evening. Three converted Jews were among the hearers. On Monday
(10) we visited the sepulchre, and a painful sight, where we can find no traces of Calvary. Same evening rode up to the Mount of Olives: past Gethsemane, a most touching spot. Visited Sir Moses Montefiore, a Jew of London, encamped on Mount Olivet; very kind to us.
11.-Went round the most of the places to .be visited near Jerusalem; Rephaim, Gihon, Siloa’s brook, ‘that flowed fast by the oracle of God;’ the Pool of Siloam; the place where Jesus wept over the city; Bethany-of all places my favorite; the tombs of the kings. Such a day we never spent in this world before. The climate is truly delightful-hot at mid-day, but delightful breezes at morn and even.
12.-A business day, getting information about Jews. In the evening, walked to Aceldama, a dreadful spot. Zion is ploughed like a field. I gathered some barley, and noticed cauliflowers planted in rows. See Micah 3:12. Jerusalem is indeed heaps. The quantities of rubbish would amaze you-in one place higher than the walls.
13.-We went to Hebron, twenty miles south; Mr. Nicolayson, his son, the Consul and ladies accompanying us, all on mules and horses. Judah’s cities are all waste. Except Bethlehem, we saw none but ruins till we reached Hebron. The vines are beautifully cultivated here, and make it a paradise. The hills all terraced to the top. We spent a delightful evening and all next day. We met the Jews, and had an interesting interview with them. We read Genesis 18, and many other Bible passages, with great joy. Saw the mosque where the tomb of Abraham and Sarah is.
14.-Returned by Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Bethlehem is a sweet village, placed on the top of a rocky hill-very white and dazzling. You see it on both sides of the hill. At Rachel’s sepulchre you see Jerusalem on one hand and Bethlehem on the other-an interesting sight six miles apart. On Sabbath we enjoyed the Lord’s Supper in an upper chamber in Jerusalem. It was a time much to be remembered. Andrew preached in the evening from John 14:2, 3. 17.-The plague has been increasing so that we think it better to depart. Last visit to Gethsemane, and Bethany, and Siloam. Evening.-Took farewell of all our friends at Jerusalem, with much sorrow you may believe. Went due north to Ramah, by Gibeon, and slept at Beer, again in our tent, in Benjamin.
19.-Passed Bethel, where Jacob slept. Passed through the rich and rocky defile of Ephraim, by Lebonah, to Sychar. You cannot believe what a delightsome land it is. We sought anxiously for the well where Jesus sat. Andrew alone found it, and lost his Bible in it.
20.-Had a most interesting morning with the Jews of Sychar. Saw many of them; also the Samaritans in their synagogue. Same evening visited Samaria a wonderful place-and encamped at Sanor.
21.-Arrived at Carmel, where we now are, encamped within two yards of the sea. We have been in quarantine here seven days, as there is no plague north of this. Several English are encamped here-Lord R., Lord H., etc. We have daily conversations sitting on the sand. We are not allowed to touch even the rope of a tent.
Acre is in sight across the bay. We have delightful bathing. To-morrow Lord H. leaves, and kindly offers to take this. Carmel’s rocky brow is over us. We are all well and happy. On Monday we propose leaving for Tiberias and Saphet. Soon we shall be in Beyrout, and on our way to Smyrna. Do not be anxious for me. Trust us to God, who goes with us where we go. I only pray that our mission may be blessed to Israel. Sir Moses M. has arrived, and pitched his tent within fifty yards of us. Kindest regards to all that inquire after me, not forgetting dear W -Your affectionate son.”
When the two elder brethren of the deputation left us for Europe, we turned southward again from Beyrout, to visit the regions of Phoenicia and Galilee. Never did Mr. McCheyne seem more happy than in gazing on these regions.
At Tyre, he remembered the request of an elder in the parish of Larbert, who had written to him before his departure, stating what he considered to be a difficulty in the ordinary expositions of the prophecies which speak of that renowned city. With great delight he examined the difficulty on the spot; and it is believed that his testimony on such points as these, when it reached some men of sceptical views in that scene of his early labors, was not unblessed.
From Saphet he writes: “I sat looking down upon the lake this morning for about an hour. It was just at our feet-the very water where Jesus walked, where He called His disciples, where He rebuked the storm, where He said, ‘Children, have ye any meat?’ after He rose from the dead. Jesus is the same still.” To his early and familiar friend, Mr. Somerville, he thus describes the same view: “Oh what a view of the Sea of Galilee is before you, at your feet! It is above three hours’ descent to the water’s edge, and yet it looks as if you could run down in as many minutes. The lake is much larger than I had imagined. It is hemmed in by mountains on every side, sleeping as calmly and softly as if it had been the sea of glass which John saw in heaven. We tried in vain to follow the course of the Jordan running through it. True, there were clear lines, such as you see in the wake of a vessel, but then these did
not go straight through the lake. The hills of Bashan are very high and steep, where they run into the lake. At one point, a man pointed out to us where the tombs in the rocks are where the demoniacs used to live; and near it the hills were exactly what the Scriptures describe, ‘a steep place,’ when the swine ran down into the sea. On the north-east of the sea Hermon rises very grand, intersected with many ravines of snow.”
The day we spent at the lake-at the very water-side was ever memorable; it was so peculiarly sweet! We left an indescribable interest even in lifting a shell from the shore of sea where Jesus had so often walked. It was here that two the beautiful hymns in The Songs of Zion were suggested him. The one was, “How Pleasant to Me”; the other, “To Yonder Side”; but the latter lay beside him unfinished until later.
His complaint was now considerably abated; his strength seemed returning; and often he longed to be among his people again, though quieting his soul on the Lord. Not a few pastor of another church have from time to time come to this land compelled by disease to seek for health in foreign regions; but how rarely do we find the pastor’s heart retained-how rarely do we discover that the shepherd yearns still over the flock h left! But so deep was Mr. McCheyne’s feelings toward the floc over which the Holy Ghost had made him overseer, that hi concern for them became a temptation to his soul. It was n in the mere desire to preach again that he manifested this concern; for this desire might have been selfish, as he said “No doubt there is pride in this anxiety to preach; a submissive soul would rejoice only in doing the present will of God. But his prayers for them went up daily to the throne. We ha precious seasons of united prayer also for that same end especially one morning at sunrise in Gethsemane, and other morning at Carmel, where we joined in supplication the silent shore at the foot of the hill as soon as day dawn and then again, at evening, on the top, where Elijah prayed Distance of place, of peculiarities, or of circumstance never altered his views of duty, nor changed his feelings as a min ister of Christ. In Galilee he meditated upon the aspect ecclesiastical affairs in our beloved Scotland; and the print pies he had maintained appeared to him as plainly accordant with the Word of God when tried there, apart from excitement, as they did when he reviewed them in connection with their effects at home. “I hope,” were his words to a brother in the ministry, “I hope the church has been well guided and blessed; and if times of difficulty are to come, I do believe there is no position so proper for her to be in as the attitude of a missionary church, giving freely to Jew and Gentile, as she has freely received-so may she be found when the Lord comes.”
At the foot of Lebanon, in the town of Beirut, he was able to expound a chapter (Acts 10) at a prayer meeting of the American brethren. This quite rejoiced his heart; for it seemed as if the Lord were restoring him, and meant again to use him in preaching the glad tidings. But shortly after, during the oppressive heat of the afternoon, he didn’t feel well. He had paid a visit to a young man from Glasgow in the town, who was ill of fever; and it is not unlikely that this visit, at a time when he was in a state of debility from previous fatigue, was the immediate occasion of his own illness. He was soon prostrated under the fever. But his medical attendant felt he was in no danger, and advised him to proceed to Smyrna, in the belief that the cool air of the sea would be much more in his favor than the sultry heat of Beirut. Accordingly, in company with our faithful Hebrew friend Erasmus Calman, we embarked; but as we lay off Cyprus, the fever increased to such a height, that he lost his memory for some hours, and was racked with excessive pain in his head. When the vessel sailed, he revived considerably, but during three days no medical aid could be obtained. He scarcely ever spoke; and only once did he for a moment, on a Saturday night, lift his languid eye, as he lay on deck enjoying the breeze, to catch a distant sight of Patmos. We watched him with agonizing anxiety until we reached Smyrna and the village of Bouja. Though three miles off, yet, for the sake of medical aid, he rode to this village on a mule after sunset, ready to drop every moment with pain and burning fever. But here the Lord had prepared for him the best and kindest help. The tender and parental care of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, in whose house he found a home, was never mentioned by him except with deepest gratitude; 0
and the sight of the flowering jasmine, or the mention of the deep-green cypress, would invariably call up in his mind associations of Bouja and its residents. He used to say it was his second birthplace.
During that time, like most of God’s people who have been in sickness, he felt that a single passage of the Word of God was more truly food to his fainting soul than anything besides. One day his spirit revived, and his eye glistened, when I spoke of the Savior’s sympathy, adducing as the very words of Jesus, Psalm 41:1; “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” It seemed so applicable to his own case, as a minister of the glad tidings; for often had he “considered the poor,” carrying a cup of cold water to a disciple. Another passage, written for the children of God in their distress, was spoken to him when he seemed nearly insensible: “Call upon me in the day of trouble.” This word of God was as the drop of honey to Jonathan.
He thus spoke of his illness to his friends at home: “I left the foot of Lebanon when I could hardly see, or hear, or speak, or remember; I felt my faculties going, one by one, and I had every reason to expect that I would soon be with my God. It is a sore trial to be alone and dying in a foreign land, and it has made me feel, in a way that I never knew before, the necessity of having unfeigned faith in Jesus and in God. Sentiments, natural feelings, glowing fancies of divine things, will not support the soul in such an hour. There is much self-delusion in our estimation of ourselves when we are untried, and in the midst of Christian friends, whose warm feelings give a glow to ours, which they do not possess in themselves.” Even then he had his people in his heart. “When I got better, I used to creep out in the evenings about sunset. I often remembered you all then. I could not write, as my eyes and head were much affected; I could read but very little; I could speak very little, for I had hardly any voice; and so I had all my time to lay my people before God, and pray for a blessing on them. About the last evening I was there, we all went to the vintage, and I joined in gathering the grapes.” To Mr. Somerville he wrote: “My mind was very weak when I was at the worst, and therefore the things of eternity were often dim. I had no fear to die, for Christ had died. Still I prayed for recovery, if it was the Lord’s will. You remember you told me to be humble among your last advices. You see God is teaching me the same thing. I fear I am not thoroughly humbled. I feel the pride of my heart, and bewail it.” To his kind medical friend, Dr. Gibson, in Dundee, he wrote: “I really believed that my Master had called me home, and that I would sleep beneath the dark green cypresses of Bouja till the Lord shall come, and they that sleep in Jesus come with Him; and my most earnest prayer was for my dear flock, that God would give them a pastor after his own heart.”
When we met, after an eight days’ separation, on board the vessel at Constantinople, he mentioned as one of the most interesting incidents of the week, that one evening, while walking with Mr. Lewis, they met a young Greek and his wife, both of whom were believed to be really converted souls. It created a thrill in his bosom to meet with these almost solitary representatives of the once faithful and much tried native church of Smyrna.
Meanwhile there were movements at home that proved the Lord to be He who “alone doeth wondrous things.” The cry of His servant in Asia was not forgotten; the eye of the Lord turned toward His people. It was during the time of Mr. McCheyne’s sore sickness that his flock in Dundee were receiving blessing from the opened windows of heaven. Their pastor was lying at the gate of death, in utter helplessness. But the Lord had done this on purpose; for He meant to show that He did not need the help of any person: He could send forth new laborers, and work by new instruments, when it pleased Him. We little knew that during the days when we were waiting at the foot of Lebanon for a vessel to carry us to Smyrna, the arm of the Lord had begun to be revealed in Scotland. On the 23d of July the great Revival at Kilsyth took place.
Mr. W C. Burns, the man who was supplying Mr. McCheyne’s place in his absence, was on that day preaching to his father’s flock; and while pressing upon them immediate acceptance of Christ with deep solemnity, the whole of the vast assembly was overpowered. The Holy Spirit seemed to come down as a rushing mighty wind, and to fill the place. Many were that day struck to the heart; the sanctuary was filled with distressed and inquiring souls. All Scotland heard the glad news that the sky was no longer as brass-that the rain had begun to fall. The Spirit in mighty power began to work from that day forward in many places of the land.
Mr. Burns returned to Mr. McCheyne’s flock on August 8th one of the days when Mr. McCheyne was stretched on his bed, praying for his people under all his own suffering. The news of the work at Kilsyth had produced a deep impression in Dundee; and two days later, the Spirit began to work in St. Peter’s, at the time of the prayer meeting in the church, in a way similar to Kilsyth. Day after day the people met for prayer and hearing the word; and the times of the apostles seemed returned, when “the Lord added to the church daily of such as should be saved.” All this time, Mr. McCheyne did not know how gracious the Lord had been in giving him his heart’s desire. It was not until we were within sight of home that the glad news of these revivals reached our ears. But he continued, like Epaphras, “laboring fervently in prayer,” and sought daily to prepare himself for a more efficient discharge of his office, should the Lord restore him to it again. He sent home this message to a fellow-laborer: “Do not forget to carry on the work in hearts brought to a Saviour. I feel this was one of my faults in the ministry. Nourish babes; comfort downcast believers; counsel those perplexed; perfect that which is lacking in their faith. Prepare them for sore trials. I fear most Christians are quite unready for days of darkness.”-(Mr. Moody Start)
Our journey led us through Moldavia, Wallachia, and Austria-lands of darkness and of the shadow of death. Profound strangers to the truth as it is in Jesus, the people of these lands, nevertheless, profess to be Christians. Superstition and its idolatries veil the glorious object of faith from every eye. In these regions, as well as in those already traversed. Mr. McCheyne’s anxiety for souls appeared in the efforts he made to leave at least a few words of Scripture with the Jews whom we met, however short the time of our interview. His spirit was stirred in him; and, with his Hebrew Bible in his hand, he would walk up thoughtfully and solemnly to the first Jew he could get access to, and begin by calling the man’s attention to some statement of God’s Word. In Palestine, if the Jew did not understand Italian, he would repeat to him such texts in Hebrew as, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David” (Zech. 13:1). And one evening, at the well of Doulis, when the Arab population were all clustered around the water troughs, he looked on wistfully, and said, “If only we had Arabic, we might sow beside all waters!”
At Jassy, after a deeply interesting day, spent in conversation with Jews who came to the inn, he said, “I will remember the faces of those men at the judgment seat. ” When he came among the more educated Jews of Europe, he rejoiced to find that they could converse with him in Latin. His heart was bent on doing what he could (Mark 14:8), in season and out of season. “One thing,” he writes, “I am deeply convinced of, that God can make the simplest statement of the gospel effectual to save souls. If only it be the true gospel, the good tidings, the message that God loved the world, and provided a ransom free to all, then God is able to make it wound the heart, and heal it too. There is deep meaning in the words of Paul, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.’ ”
The abominations of popery witnessed in Austrian Poland, called forth many a prayer for the destruction of the Man of Sin. “The images and idols by the wayside are actually frightful, stamping the whole land as a kingdom of darkness. I do believe that a journey through Austria would go far to cure some of the Popery-admirers of our beloved land.” He adds: “These are the marks of the beast upon this land.” And in like manner our privileges in Scotland used to appear to him the more precious, when, as at Brody, we heard of Protestants who were supplied with a sermon only once a year. “I must tell this to my people,” he said, “when I return, to make them prize their many seasons of grace.”
He estimated the importance of a town or country by its relation to the house of Israel; and his yearnings over these lost sheep resembled his bowels of compassion for his flock at home. At Tarnapol, in Galitia, he wrote home: “We are in Tarnapol, a very nice clean town, prettily situated on a wind ing stream, with wooded hills around. I suppose you never heard its name before; neither did I till we were there among Jews. I know not whether it has been the birth-place of warriors, or poets, or orators; its flowers have hitherto been born to blush unseen, at least by us barbarians of the north; but if God revive the dry bones of Israel that are scattered over the world, there will arise from this place an exceeding great army.”
Our friend and brother in the faith, Erasmus Calman, lightened the tediousness of a long day’s journey by repeating to us some Hebrew poetry. One piece was on Israel’s present state of degradation; it began
As the vehicle drove along, we translated it line by line, and soon after that Mr. McCheyne put it into verse. The following lines are a part:
Rock and Refuge of my soul,
Swiftly let the season roll,
When thine Israel shall arise
Lovely in the nations’ eyes!
Lord of glory, Lord of might,
As our ransomed fathers tell;
Once more for thy people fight,
Plead for thy loved Israel.
Give our spoilers’ towers to be
Waste and desolate as we.
Hasten, Lord, the joyful year,
When thy Zion, tempest-tossed,
Shall the silver trumpet hear:
Bring glad tidings to the lost!
Captive, cast thy cords from thee,
Loose thy neck-be free-be free!
Why dost Thou behold our sadness?
See the proud have torn away
All our years of solemn gladness,
When thy flock kept holy-day!
Lord, thy fruitful vine is bare,
Not one gleaning grape is there!
Rock and Refuge of my soul,
Swiftly let the season roll,
When thine Israel shall be,
Once again, beloved and free.
In his notes, he has one or two subjects marked for hymns. One of these is Isaiah 2:3: “Come ye,” a loving call to the Jews. Another is to the same effect, Isaiah 1:15: “Come, let us reason together.” But these he never completed. In Cracow, having heard of the death of a friend, the wife of an English clergyman, in the midst of her days and in the full promise of usefulness, he began to pen a few sweet lines of comfort:
Oft as she taught the little maids of France
To leave the garland, castanet, and dance,
And listen to the words which she would say
About the crowns that never fade away,
A new expression kindled in her eye,
A holy brightness, borrowed from the sky.
And when returning to her native land,
She bowed beneath a Father’s chastening hand,
When the quick pulse and flush upon the cheek,
A touching warning to her friends would speak,
A holy cheerfulness yet filled her eye,
Willing she was to live, willing to die.
As the good Shunammite (the Scriptures tell),
When her son died, said meekly, “It is well,”
So when Sophia lost her infant boy,
And felt how dear-bought is a mother’s joy,
When with green turf the little grave she spread,
“Not lost, but gone before,” she meekly said.
And now they sleep together beneath the willow
The same dew drops upon their silent pillow.
Return, 0 mourner, from this double grave,
And praise the God who all her graces gave.
Follow her faith, and let her mantle be
A cloak of holy zeal to cover thee.
The danger that he incurred from the shepherds in this region, and other similar perils to which he was exposed in
company with others, have been recorded in the Narrative. Out of them all the Lord delivered him; and not from these perils only did He save him, but from many severe trials to his health, to which the variation of climate and discomforts of accommodation subjected him. And now we were traversing Prussia, drawing nearer our own land. It was about five months since we had received letters from Scotland, our route having led us away from places that we had anticipated visiting, and where communications had been left for us. We pressed homeward somewhat anxiously, yet wondering often at past mercies. In a letter from Berlin, Mr. McCheyne remarked, “Our heavenly Father has brought us through so many trials and dangers that I feel persuaded He will yet carry us to the end. Like John, we shall fulfil our course. ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?’ Are we not all immortal till our work is done?” His strength was rapidly increasing; the journey had answered the ends anticipated to a great extent, in his restoration to health. He was able to preach at Hamburg to the English congregation of Mr. Rheder, from whom it was that the first hint of a Revival in Dundee reached his ears. He heard just so much both of Kilsyth and Dundee as to make him long to hear more. A few days later, on board the vessel that conveyed us to England, he thus expressed his feelings:
“Sailing up the Thames, Nov. 6, 1839
“MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER-YOU will be glad to see by the date that we are once more in sight of the shores of happy England. I only wish I knew how you all are. I have not heard of you since I was in Smyrna. In vain did I inquire for letters from you at Cracow, Berlin, and Hamburg. You must have written to Warsaw, and the Resident there has not returned them to Berlin, as we desired. Andrew and I and Mr. Calman are all quite well, and thankful to God, who has brought us through every danger in so many countries. I trust our course has not been altogether fruitless, and that we may now resign our commission with some hope of good issuing from it to the church and to Israel. I preached last Sabbath in Hamburg, for the first time since leaving England, and felt nothing the worse of it; so that I do hope it is my heavenly Father’s will to restore me to usefulness again among my beloved flock. We have heard something of a reviving work at Kilsyth. We saw it noticed in one of the newspapers. I also was the name of Dundee associated with it; so that I earnestly hope good has been doing in our church, and the dew from on high watering our parishes, and that the flocks whose pastors have been wandering may also have shared in the blessing. We are quite ignorant of the facts, and you may believe we are anxious to hear … We are now passing Woolwich, and in an hour will be in London. We are anxious to be home, but I suppose will not get away till next week. I never thought to have seen you again in this world, but now I hope to meet you once more in peace.-Believe me, your affectionate son.”
The day we arrived on the shores of our own land was indeed a singular day. We were intensely anxious to hear of events that had occurred at home a few months before-the outpouring of the Spirit from on high-while our friends were intensely interested in hearing tidings of the land of Israel and the scattered tribes. The reception of deputation on their return, and the fruits of their mission, are well known, and have been elsewhere recorded.
Mr. McCheyne listened with deepest interest to the accounts given of what had taken place in Dundee during the month of August, when he lay at the gates of death in Bouja. The Lord had indeed fulfilled his hopes, and answered his prayers. His assistant, Mr. Burns, had been honored of God to open the floodgate at Dundee as well as at Kilsyth. For some time before, Mr. Burns had seen symptoms of deeper attention than usual, and of real anxiety in some that had up to now been careless. But it was after his return from Kilsyth that the people began to melt before the Lord. On Thursday, the second day after his return, at the close of the usual evening prayer meeting in St. Peter’s, and when the minds of many were solemn by the tidings that had reached them, he spoke
a few words about what had for some days detained him from them, and invited those to remain who felt the need of an outpouring of the Spirit to convert them. About a hundred remained; and at the conclusion of a solemn address to these anxious souls, suddenly the power of God seemed to descend, and all were bathed in tears. At a similar meeting, the next evening, in the church, there was much melting of heart and intense desire after the Beloved of the Father; and on adjourning to the vestry, the arm of the Lord was revealed. No sooner was the vestry door opened to admit those who might feel anxious to converse, than a vast number pressed in with great eagerness. It was like a pent-up flood breaking forth; tears were streaming from the eyes of many, and some fell on the ground groaning, and weeping, and crying for mercy. Onward from that evening, meetings were held every day for many weeks, and the extraordinary nature of the work justified and called for extraordinary services. The whole town was moved. Many believers doubted; the ungodly raged; but the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed. Instances occured where whole families were affected at once, and each could be found mourning apart, affording a specimen of the times spoken of by Zechariah (12:12). Mr. Baxter of Hilltown, Mr. Hamilton, then assistant at Abernyte, and other men of God in the vicinity, hastened to aid in the work. Mr. Roxburgh of St. John’s, and Mr. Lewis of St. David’s, examined the work impartially and judiciously, and testified it to be of God. Dr. M’Donald of Ferintosh, a man of God well experienced in revivals, came and put his seal on it also, and continued in town, preaching in St. David’s Church to the anxious multitudes, for ten days. How many of those who were thus awakened were really brought to the truth, it was impossible to ascertain. When Mr. McCheyne arrived, drop after drop was still falling from the clouds.
Such, in substance, were the accounts he heard before he reached Dundee. They were such as made his heart rejoice. He had no envy at another instrument having been so honored in the place where he himself had labored with many tears and temptations. In true Christian magnanimity, he rejoiced that the work of the Lord was done, by whatever hand. Full of praise and wonder, he set his foot once more on the shore of Dundee.
Days of Revival
They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. Isaiah 44:4
His people, who had never ceased to pray for him, welcomed his arrival among them with the greatest joy. He reached Dundee on a Thursday afternoon; and in the evening of the same day, being the usual time for prayer in St. Peter’s, after a short meditation, he hastened to the church, there to give thanks to the Lord, and to speak once more to his flock. The appearance of the church that evening, and the aspect of the people, he never could forget. Many of his brethren were present to welcome him, and to hear the first words of his opened lips. There was not a seat in the church unoccupied, the aisles were completely filled, and the stairs up to the pulpit were crowded, on the one side with the aged, on the other with eagerly listening children. Many faces were seen anxiously gazing on their restored pastor; many were weeping under the unhealed wounds of conviction; all were still and calm, intensely earnest to hear. He read Psalm 66; and the manner of singing, which had been extraordinary since the revival began, appeared to him peculiarly sweet-“so tender and affecting, as if the people felt that they were praising a present God.” After solemn prayer with them, he was able to preach for above an hour. Not knowing how long he might be permitted to proclaim the glad tidings, he seized that opportunity, not to tell of his journeyings, but to show the way of life to sinners. His text was 1 Corinthians 2:1-4-the matter, the manner, and the accompaniments of Paul’s preaching. It was a night to be remembered.
On coming out of the church, he found the road to his house crowded with old and young, who were waiting to welcome him back. He had to shake hands with many at the same time; and before this happy multitude would disperse, had to speak some words of life to them again, and pray with them where they stood. “To thy name, 0 Lord,” he said that night, when he returned to his home, “To thy name, 0 Lord, be all the glory!” A month later, he was visited by one who had up to this time stood out against all the singular influence of the revival, but who that night was deeply awakened under his words, so that the arrow festered in her soul, until she came crying, “Oh my hard, hard heart!”
On the Sabbath he preached to his flock in the afternoon. He chose 2 Chronicles 5:13, 14, as his text, and at the close, his hearers remember well how affectionately and solemnly he said: “Dearly beloved and longed for, I now begin another year of my ministry among you; and I am resolved, if God give me health and strength, that I will not let a man, woman, or child among you alone, until you have at least heard the testimony of God concerning His Son, either to your condemnation or salvation. And I will pray, as I have done before, that if the Lord will indeed give us a great outpouring of His Spirit, He will do it in such a way that it will be evident to the weakest child among you that it is the Lord’s work, and not man’s. I think I may say to you, as Rutherford said to his people, `Your heaven would be two heavens to me.’ And if the Lord be pleased to give me a crown from among you, I do here promise in His sight, that I will cast it at His feet, saying ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.'”
It was much feared for a time that a jealous spirit would prevail among the people of St. Peter’s, some saying, “I am of Paul; and others, I of Cephas.” Those recently converted were apt to regard their spiritual father in a light in which they could regard none besides. But Mr. McCheyne had received from the Lord a holy disinterestedness that suppressed every feeling of envy. Many wondered at the single-heartedness he was able to exhibit. He could sincerely say, “I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by whatever instrument.”
Never, perhaps, was there one placed in better circumstances for testing the revival impartially, and seldom has any revival been more fully tested. He came among a people whose previous character he knew; he found a work wrought among them during his absence, in which he had not had any direct part; he returned home to go out and in among them, and to be a close observer of all that had taken place; and after a faithful and prayerful examination, he did most unhesitatingly say that the Lord had wrought great things, whereof he was glad; and in the case of many of those whose souls were saved in that revival, he discovered remarkable answers to his prayers, and of those who had come to the truth before he left them. He wrote to me his impressions of the work, when he had been among his people a few weeks:
Dec. 2, 1839
“Rev. And. A. Bonar, Collace.
“MY DEAR A. -I begin upon note-paper, because I have no other on hand but our thin travelling paper. I have much to tell you, and to praise the Lord for. I am grieved to hear that there are no marks of the Spirit’s work about Collace during your absence; but if Satan drive you to your knees, he will soon find cause to repent it. Remember how fathers do to their children when they ask bread. How much more shall our heavenly Father give all good things to them that ask Him. Remember the rebuke which I once got from old Mr. Dempster of Denny, after preaching to his people: ‘I was highly pleased with your discourse, but in prayer it struck me that you thought
God unwilling to give.’ Remember Daniel: ‘At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth.’ And do not think you are forgotten by me as long as I have health and grace to pray.
“Everything here I have found in a state better than I expected. The night I arrived I preached to such a congregation as I never saw before. I do not think another person could have got into the church, and there was every sign of the deepest and tenderest emotion. R. Macdonald was with me, and prayed. Affliction and success in the ministry have taught and quickened him. I preached on I Cor. 2:1-4, and felt what I have often heard, that it is easy to preach where the Spirit of God is. On the Friday night Mr. Burns preached. On the Sabbath I preached on that wonderful passage, II Chron. 5:13, 14; Mr. Burns preached twice, morning and evening. His views of divine truth are clear and commanding. There is a great deal of substance in what he preaches, and his manner is very powerful-so much so, that he sometimes made me tremble. In private he is deeply prayerful, and seems to feel his danger of falling into pride.
“I have seen many of the awakened, and many of the saved; indeed, this is a pleasant place compared with what it was once. Some of the awakened are still in the deepest anxiety and distress. Their great error is exactly what your brother Horace told me. They think that coming to Christ is some strange act of their mind, different from believing what God has said of His Son; so much so, that they will tell you with one breath, I believe all that God has said, and yet with the next complain that they cannot come to Christ, or close with Christ. It is very hard to deal with this delusion.
“I find some old people deeply shaken; they feel insecure. One confirmed drunkard has come to me, and is, I believe, now a saved man. Some little children are evidently saved. All that I have yet seen are related to converts of my own. One, eleven years old, is a singular instance of divine grace. When I asked if she desired to be made holy, she said, ‘Indeed, I often wish I was away, that I might sin nae mair.’ A. L., of fifteen, is a fine tenderhearted believer. W .S., ten, is also a happy boy.
“Many of my own dear children in the Lord are much advanced; much more full of joy-their hearts lifted up in the ways of the Lord. I have found many more savingly impressed under my own ministry than I knew of. Some
have come to tell me. In one case a whole family saved. I have hardly met with anything to grieve me. Surely the Lord hath dealt bountifully with me. I fear, however, that the great Spirit has in some measure passed by-I hope soon to return in greater power than ever. The week meetings are thinner now. I will turn two of them into my classes soon, and so give solid, regular instruction, of which they stand greatly in need. I have not met with one case of extravagance or false fire, although doubtless there may be many. At first they used to follow in a body to our house, and expected many an address and prayer by the road. They have given up this now. I preached last Sabbath twice, first on Isaiah 28:14-18, and then on Rev. 12:11, ‘Overcame by the blood of the Lamb.’ It was a very solemn day. The people willingly sat till it was dark. Many make it a place of Bochim. Still there is nothing of the power which has been. I have tried to persuade Mr. Burns to stay with us, and I think he will remain in Dundee. I feel fully stronger in body than when I left you. Instead of exciting me, there is everything to solemnize and still my feelings. Eternity sometimes seems very near.
“I would like your advice about prayer meetings; how to consolidate them; what rules should be followed, if any; whether there should be mere reading of the word and prayer, or free converse also on the passage? We began today a ministerial prayer meeting, to be held every Monday at eleven, for an hour and a half. This is a great comfort, and may be a great blessing. Of course we do not invite the colder ministers; that would only damp our meeting. Tell me if you think this right.
“And now, dear A., I must be done, for it is very late. May your people share in the quickening that has come over Dundee! I feel it a very powerful argument with many: `Will you be left dry when others are getting drops of heavenly dew?’ My this with your people.
“I think it probable we shall have another communion again before the regular one. It seems very desirable. You will come and help us; and perhaps Horace too.
“I thought of coming back by Collace from Errol, if our
Glasgow meeting had not come in the way.
“Will you set agoing your Wednesday meeting again,
“Farewell, dear A. ‘Oh man, greatly beloved, fear not; peace be to thee; be strong; yea, be strong.’ Yours ever.”
To Mr. Burns he thus expresses himself on December 19: “MY DEAR BROTHER-I shall never be able to thank you for all your labors among the precious souls committed to me; and what is worse, I can never thank God fully for His kindness and grace, which every day appear to me more remarkable. He has answered prayer to me in all that has happened in a way which I have never told any one.” Again, on the 31st: “Stay where you are, dear brother, as long as the Lord has any work for you to do.(Mr. Burns was at the time in Perth, and there had begun to be some movement among the dry bones.)
‘ If I know my own heart, its only desire is that Christ may be glorified, by souls flocking to Him, and abiding in Him, and reflecting His image; and whether it be in Perth or Dundee, should signify little to us. You know I told you my mind plainly, that I thought the Lord had so blessed you in Dundee, that you were called to a fuller and deeper work there; but if the Lord accompanies you to other places, I have nothing to object. The Lord strengthened my body and soul last Sabbath, and my spirit also was glad. The people were much alive in the Lord’s service. But oh! dear brother, the most are Christless still. The rich are almost untroubled. ”
His evidence for this is given fully in his answers to the queries put by a Committee of the Aberdeen Presbytery; and in a note to a friend, he incidentally mentions a pleasing result of this widespread awakening: “I find many souls saved under my own ministry, whom I never knew of before. They are not afraid to come out now, it has become so common a thing to be concerned about the soul.” At that time, also, many came from a distance; one came from the north, who had been in deep distress of soul a year, to seek Christ in Dundee.
In his brief diary he records, on December 3, that twenty anxious souls had that night been conversing with him; “many of them very deeply interesting.” He occasionally set an evening for the purpose of meeting with those who were awakened; and in one of his notebooks there are a least four hundred visits recorded, made to him by inquiring souls, in the course of that and the following years. He observed that those who had been believers formerly had got their hearts enlarged, and were greatly established in the faith; and some seemed able to feed upon the truth in a new manner-as when one related to him how there had for some time appeared a blessing in the reading of the Word in public, quite different from reading it alone.
At the same time he saw backsliding, both among those whom believers had considered really converted, and among those who had been deeply convicted, though never considered among the really saved. He notes in his book: “Called to see-. Poor lad, he seems to have gone back from Christ, led away by evil company. And yet I felt sure of him at one time. What blind creatures ministers are! man looketh at the outward appearance.” One morning he was visited by one of his flock, proposing “a concert for prayer on the following Monday, in behalf of those who had fallen back, that God’s Spirit might re-awaken them,”-so observant were the believers as well as their pastor of declensions. Among those who were awakened, but never truly converted, he mentions one case. “Jan. 9, 1840-Met with the case of one who had been frightened during the late work, so that her bodily health was injured. She seems to have no care now about her soul. It has only filled her mouth with evil-speaking.”
That many, who promised much, drew back and walked no more with Jesus, is true. Out of about 800 souls who, during the months of the revival, conversed with different ministers in apparent anxiety, it is no wonder that many proved to have been impressed only for a time. President Edwards considered it likely that, in such cases, the proportion of real conversions might resemble the proportion of blossoms in spring, and fruit in autumn. Nor can anything be more unreasonable than to doubt the truth of all, because of the deceit of some. The world itself does not so act in judging of its own. The world considers the possibility of being mistaken in many cases, and yet does not cease to believe that there is honesty and truth to be found. One of themselves a poet of their own, has said with no less justice than beauty Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell; And though foul things put on the brows of grace, Yet grace muss still look so.
But, above all, we have the authority of the Word of God, declaring that such backslidings are the very tests of the true church: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). It is not meant, however, that any who had really believed went back to perdition. On the contrary, it is the creed of every sound evangelical church, that those who do go back to perdition were persons who never really believed in Jesus. Their eyes may have been opened to see the dread realities of sin and of the wrath to come; but if they did not see righteousness for their guilty souls in the Savior, there is nothing in all Scripture to make us expect that they will continue awake. “Awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ will give thee light, ” is the call-inviting sinners to a point far beyond mere conviction. One who, for a whole year, went back to folly, said: “Your sermon on the corruption of the heart made me despair, and so I gave myself up to my old ways-attending dances, learning songs, etc.” A knowledge of our guilt, and a sense of danger, will not of themselves keep us from falling; nay, these, if alone, may (as in the above case) thrust us down the slippery places. We are truly secure only when our eye is on Jesus, and our hand locked in His hand. So that the history of backslidings, instead of leading us to doubt the reality of grace in believers, will only be found to teach us two great lessons, viz. the vast importance of pressing immediate salvation on awakened souls, and the reasonableness of standing in doubt of all, however deep their convictions, who have not truly fled to the hope set before them.
There was another ground of prejudice against the whole work, arising from the circumstance that the Lord had em
ployed in it young men not long engaged in the work of the ministry, rather than the fathers in Israel. But it was in this that sovereign grace shone forth more conspicuously. Do such objectors suppose that God ever intends the honor of man in a work of revival? Is it not the honor of His own name that He seeks? Had it been His wish to give the glory to man at all, then indeed it might have been asked, “Why does He pass by the older pastors, and call for the inexperienced youth?” But when sovereign grace was coming to bless a region in the way that would redound most to the glory of the Lord, can we conceive a wiser plan than to use the sling of David in bringing down the Philistine? If, however, there are some whose prejudice is from the root of envy, let such hear the remonstrance of Richard Baxter to the jealous ministers of his day. “What! malign Christ in gifts for which He should have the glory, and all because they seem to hinder our glory! Does not every man owe thanks to God for his brethren’s gifts, not only as having himself part in them, as the foot has the benefit of the guidance of the eye, but also because his own ends may be attained by his brethren’s gifts as well as by his own? … A fearful thing that any man, that hath the least of the fear of God, should so envy at God’s gifts, that he would rather his carnal hearers were unconverted, and the drowsy not awakened, than that it should be done by another who may be preferred before them. ”
The work of the Spirit went on, the stream flowing gently; for the heavy showers had fallen, and the overflowing of the waters had passed by. Mr. McCheyne became more than ever vigilant and discriminating in dealing with souls. Observing, also, that some were influenced more by feelings of strong attachment to their pastor personally, than by the power of the truths he preached, he became more reserved in his dealings with them, so that some thought there was a little coldness or repulsiveness in his manner. If there did appear anything of this nature to some, certainly it was no indication of diminished compassion; but, on the contrary, proceeded from a scrupulous anxiety to guard others against the deceitful feelings of their own souls. A few notes of his work occur at this period.
“Nov. 27, 1839-A pleasant meeting in the Cross Church on Wednesday last, for the seamen. All that spoke seemed to honor the Saviour. I had to move thanksgiving to God for his mercies. This has been a real blessing to Dundee. It should not be forgotten in our prayers and thanksgivings. ”
“Nov. 28, Thursday evening-Much comfort in speaking. There was often an awful stillness. Spoke on Jer. 6:14: ‘They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly.’ ”
“Dec. 1-This evening came a tender Christian, so far as I can see; an exposition of that text, ‘I will go softly,’ or of that other, ‘Thou shalt not open thy mouth any more.’ A child of shame made one of honor. Her sister was awakened under Mr. Baxter’s words in St. Peter’s, of whom he asked, ‘Would you like to be holy?’ She replied, ‘Indeed, I often wish I were dead that I might sin no more.’ ”
“Dec. 3-Preached six times within these two days.”
“Dec. 8-Saw J. T. in fever. She seems really in Christ now; tells me how deeply my words sank into her soul when I was away. A. M. stayed to tell me her joy. J. B. walked home with me, telling me what God had done for his soul, when one day I had stopped at the quarry on account of a shower of rain, and took shelter with my pony in the engine-house.” He had simply pointed to the fire of the furnace, and said, “What does that remind you of?” and the words had remained deep in the man’s soul.
“Dec. 11-A woman awakened that night I preached in J. D.’s green, about two years ago, on Ezek. 20:43. For twenty years she had been out of church privileges, and now, for the first time, came trembling to ask restoration. Surely Immanuel is in this place, and even old sinners are flocking to Him. I have got an account of about twenty prayer meetings connected with my flock. Many open ones; many fellowship meetings; only one or two have anything like exhortation super-added to the word. These, I think, it must be our care to change, if possible, lest error and pride creep in. The only other difficulty is this. In two of the female meetings, origi
nally fellowship meetings, anxious female inquirers have been admitted. They do not pray, but only hear. In one, M. and J. had felt the rising of pride to a great degree; in the other, M. could not be persuaded that there was any danger of pride. This case will require prayerful deliberation. My mind at present is, that there is great danger from it, the praying members feeling themselves on a different level from the others, and anything like female teaching, as a public teacher, seems clearly condemned in the Word of God.”
“Dec. 12-Felt very feeble all day, and as if I could not do any more work in the vineyard. Evening-Felt more of the reality of Immanuel’s intercession. The people also were evidently subdued by more than a human testimony. One soul waited, sobbing most piteously. She could give no more account of herself than that she was a sinner, and did not believe that God would be merciful to her. When I showed how I found mercy, her only answer was, ‘But you were not sic a sinner as me.'”
“Dec. 18-Went to Glasgow along with A. B. Preached in St. George’s to a full audience, in the cause of the Jews. Felt real help in time of need.” This was one of his many journeys from place to place in behalf of Israel, relating the things seen and heard among the Jews of Palestine and other lands.
“Dec. 22-Preached in Anderston Church, with a good deal of inward peace and comfort.”
“Dec. 23-Interesting meeting with the Jewish Committee. In the evening met a number of God’s people. The horror of some good people in Glasgow at the millenarian views is very great, while at the same time their objections appear very weak. ”
“Dec. 31-Young communicants. Two have made application to be admitted under eleven years of age; four that are only fourteen; three who are fifteen or sixteen.”
“Jan. 1, 1840-Awoke early by the kind providence of God, and had uncommon freedom and fervency in keeping the concert for prayer this morning before light. Very touching interview with M. P, who still refuses to be comforted. Was enabled to cry after a glorious Immanuel along with her. How I wish I had her bitter convictions of sin! Another called this evening, who says she was awakened and brought to Christ during the sermon on the morning of December 1st, on the ‘Covenant with death.’ Gave clear answers, but seems too unmoved for one really changed.”
“Jan. 2-Visited six families. Was refreshed and solemnized at each of them. Spoke of the Word made flesh, and of all the paths of the Lord being mercy and truth. Visited in the evening by some interesting souls: one a believing little boy; another complaining she cannot come to Christ for the hardness of her heart; another once awakened under my ministry, again thoroughly awakened and brought to Christ under Horace Bonar’s sermon at the Communion. She is the only saved one in her family-awfully persecuted by father and mother. Lord, stand up for Thine own! Make known, by their constancy under suffering, the power and beauty of Thy grace! Evening-Mr. Miller preached delightfully on ‘The love of Christ constraineth us.’ His account of the Protestants of France was very interesting: the work of God at Nismes, where it is said they are no more fishing with line, but dragging with the nets. Read a letter from Mr. Cumming, describing the work at Perth, and entreating the prayers of God’s children.”
This last reference is to the awakening that took place in St. Leonard’s Church, Perth, on the last night of the year, when Mr. Burns, along with their pastor, Mr. Milne, was preaching. Mr. B. had intended to return to Dundee for the Sabbath, but was detained by the plain indications of the Lord’s’ presence. At one meeting the work was so glorious, that one night about 150 persons at one time seemed bowed down under a sense of their guilt, and above 200 came next day to the church in the forenoon to converse about their souls. This awakening was the commencement of a solid work of grace, both in that town and its neighborhood, much fruit of which is to be found there at this day in souls that are walking in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Ghost. And it was in the spring of this same year that in Collace, at our weekly prayer meeting, when two brethren were ministering, we received a blessed shower from the Lord.
His Journal proceeds:
“Jan. 3-An inquirer came, awakened under my ministry two years and a half ago. ”
“Jan. 5-Two came; M. B. sorely wounded with the forenoon’s discourse.”
“Jan. 12-Intimated a concert for prayer, that unworthy communicants might be kept back, the Lord’s children prepared for the feast, and ministers furnished from on high.”
“Jan. 13-Kept concert of prayer this morning with my dear people. Did not find the same enlargement as usual.”
“March 5, Thursday evening-Preached on Zech. (3.) Joshua. Was led to speak searchingly about making Christ the minister of sin. One young woman cried aloud very bitterly. M. B. came to tell me that poor M. is like to have her life taken away by her parents. A young woman also, who is still concerned and persecuted by her father. A young man came to tell me that he had found Christ. Roll on, thou river of life! visit every dwelling! save a multitude of souls. Come, Holy Spirit! come quickly!”
“March 25-Last night at Forfar speaking for Israel to a small band of friends of the Jews. Fearfully wicked place; the cry of it ascends up before God like that of Sodom.”
“March 31-Met with young communicants on Wednesday and Friday. On the latter night especially, very deep feeling, manifested in sobbings. Visits of several. One dear child nine years old. Sick-bed.”
“April 1-Presbytery day. Passed the constitution of two new churches-blessed be God! may He raise up faithful pastors for them both Dudhope and Wallace-Feus. Proposal also for the Mariner’s Church. A fast day fixed for the present state of the church.”
“April 5, Sabbath evening-Spoke to twenty-four young persons, one by one; almost all affected about their souls.”
“April 6-Lovely ride and meditation in a retired grove.”
“April 7-Impressed tonight with the complete necessity of preaching to my people in their own lanes and closes; in no other way will God’s Word ever reach them. Tonight spoke in St. Andrew’s Church to a very crowded assembly in behalf of Israel. Was helped to speak plainly to their own consciences. Lord, bless it! Shake this town.!”
“April 13-Spoke in private to nearly thirty young communicants, all in one room, going round each, and advising for the benefit of all.”
“April 22-Rode to Colossi (Fife) and Kirkcaldy. Sweet time alone in Colossi woods.”
“July 30-One lad came to me in great distress, wishing to know if he should confess his little dishonesties to his master.” About this time, he has noted down, “I was visiting the other day, and came to a locked door. What did this mean? ‘Torment me not, torment me not!’ Ah, Satan is mighty still!”referring to Mark 5:7.
A few of his Communion seasons are recorded. We could have desired a record of them all. The first of which he has detailed any particulars, is the one he enjoyed soon after returning home.
“Jan. 19, 1840-Stormy morning, with gushing torrents of rain, but cleared up in answer to prayer. Sweet union in prayer with Mr. Cumming, and afterwards with A. Bonar. Found God in secret. Asked especially that the very sight of the broken bread and poured-out wine might be blessed to some souls, then pride will be hidden from man. Church well filled-many standing. Preached the action sermon on John 17:24, ‘Father, I will,’ etc. Had considerable nearness to God in prayer-more than usual-and also freedom in preaching, although I was ashamed of such poor views of Christ’s glory. The people were in a very desirable frame of attention-hanging on the Word. Felt great help in fencing the tables from Acts 5:3, ‘Lying to the Holy Ghost.’ Came down and served the first table with much more calmness and collectedness than ever I remember to have enjoyed. Enjoyed a sweet season while A. B. served the next table. He dwelt chiefly on believing the words of Christ about His fulness, and the promise of the Father. There were six tables altogether. The people more and more moved to the end. At the last table, every head seemed bent like a bulrush while A. B. spoke of the ascension of Christ. Helped a little in the address, ‘Now to Him who is able to keep you,’ etc., and in the concluding prayer. (3) One little boy, in
retiring, said. ‘This has been another bonnie day.’ Many of the little ones seemed deeply attentive. Mr. Cumming and Mr. Burns preached in the school the most of the day. In the evening Mr. C. preached on the Pillar Cloud on every dwelling, Isaiah 4:5, some very sweet powerful words. Mr. Burns preached in the schoolroom. When the church emptied, a congregation formed in the lower school, and began to sing. Sang several psalms with them, and spoke on ‘Behold I stand at the door.’ Going home, A. L. said, ‘Pray for me; I am quite happy, and so is H.’ Altogether a day of the revelation of Christ-a sweet day to myself, and, I am persuaded, to many souls. Lord, make us meet for the table above.”
Another of these Communion seasons recorded, is April 1840. “Sabbath 19-Sweet and precious day. Preached action sermon on Zech. 12:10, 13:1. A good deal assisted. Also in fencing the tables, on Ps. 139, ‘Search me, 0 God.’ Less at serving the tables, on ‘I will betroth thee,’ and ‘To him that overcometh;’ though the thanksgiving was sweet. Communicated with calm joy. Old Mr. Burns served two tables; H. Bonar five. There was a very melting frame visible among the people. Helped a good deal in the address on ‘My sheep hear my voice.’ After seven before all was over. Met before eight. Old Mr. Burns preached on ‘A word in season.’ Gave three parting texts, and so concluded this blessed day. Many were filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
“Monday, 20-Mr. Grierson preached on ‘Ye are come to Mount Zion’-an instructive word. Pleasant walk with H. B. Evening sermon from him to the little children on the ‘new heart’-truly delightful. Prayer meeting after. I began; then old Mr. Burns, then Horace, in a very lively manner, on the `woman of Samurai.’ The people were brought into a very tender frame. After the blessing, a multitude remained. One (A. N.) was like a person struck through with a dart, she could neither stand nor go. Many were looking on her with faces of horror. Others were comforting her in a very kind manner, bidding her look to Jesus. Mr. Burns went to the desk, and told them of Kilsyth. Still they would not go away. Spoke a few words more to those around me, telling them of the loveliness of Christ, and the hardness of their hearts, that they could be so unmoved when one was so deeply wounded. The sobbing soon spread, till many heads were bent down, and the church was filled with sobbing. Many whom I did not know were now affected. After prayer, we dismissed, near midnight. Many followed us. One, in great agony, prayed that she might find Christ that very night. So ends this blessed season.”
The prayer meeting on the Monday evening following the Communion was generally enjoyed by all the Lord’s people, and by the ministers who assisted, in an unusual manner. Often all felt the last day of the feast to be the great day. Souls that had been enjoying the feast were then, at its conclusion, taking hold on the arm of the Beloved in the prospect of going up through the wilderness.
The only notice of his last Communion, January 1, 1943, is the following: “Sabbath-A happy communion season. Mr. W. Burns preached on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings-the first and last very solemn. Mr. Baxter (of Hilltown Church) on the Friday. A. Bonar on Saturday, on Rom. 8:-The spirit of adoption. I fainted on the Sabbath morning, but revived, and got grace and strength to preach on I Tim. 1:16-Paul’s conversion a pattern. There were five tables. Many godly strangers, and a very desirable frame observable in the people. ‘While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth out the smell thereof.’ Much sin was covered. He restoreth my soul. Monday, 2.- Mr. Milne (of Perth) preached on ‘Hold fast that thou hast;’ and in the evening, to the children, on Josh. 24.-‘Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.’ Andrew and I concluded with Rev. 5-Thou hast redeemed us,’ etc., and I Cor. 15.-`Be steadfast,’ etc.”
He dispensed the Lord’s Supper to his flock every quarter; and though on this account his calls upon his brethren for help were frequent, yet never did a brother consider it anything else than a blessed privilege to be with him. His first invitation to his friend Mr. Hamilton (then at Abernyte) will show the nature of the intercourse that existed between him and his brethren who gave their services on these occasions:-“My dear Friend-Will you excuse lack of ceremony, and come down tomorrow and preach to us the unsearchable
riches of Christ? We have the communion on Sabbath. We have no fast-day, but only a meeting in the evening at a quarter past seven. Come, my dear sir, if you can, and refresh us with your company. Bring the fragrance of `the bundle of myrrh’ along with you, and may grace be poured into your lips. Yours ever.” (Jan. 15, 1840.)
Soon after his return from his mission to the Jews, a ministerial prayer meeting was formed among some of the brethren in Dundee. Mr. McCheyne took part in it, along with Mr. Lewis of St. David’s, Mr. Baxter of Hilltown, Mr. P. L. Miller, afterwards of Wallacetown, and others. Feeling deep concern for the salvation of the souls under their care, they met every Monday forenoon, to pray together for their flocks and their own souls. The time of the meeting was limited to an hour and a half, so that all who attended might take care of their pastoral arrangements for the day, without fear of being hindered; and, in addition to prayer, those present conversed on some selected topic vitally connected with their duties as ministers of Christ. Mr. McCheyne was never absent from this prayer meeting unless through absolute necessity, and the brethren scarcely remember any occasion on which some important remark did not drop from his lips. He himself reaped great profit from it. He notes, Dec. 8; “This has been a deeply interesting week. On Monday our ministerial prayer meeting was set agoing in St. David’s vestry. The hearts of all seem really in earnest in it. The Lord answers prayer; may it be a great blessing to our souls and to our flocks.” Another time: “Meeting in St. David’s vestry. The subject of fasting was spoken upon. Felt exceedingly in my own spirit how little we feel real grief on account of sin before God, or we would often lose our appetite for food. When parents lose a child, they often do not taste a bit from morning to night, out of pure grief. Should we not mourn as for an only child? How little of the spirit of grace and supplication we have then!” On Dec. 30: “Pleasant meeting of ministers. Many delightful texts on ‘Arguments to be used with God in prayer.’ How little I have used these! Should we not study prayer more?”
Full as he was of affection and Christian kindness to all believers, he was especially so to the faithful brethren in the gospel of Christ. Perhaps there never was one who more carefully watched against the danger of undervaluing precious men, and detracting from a brother’s character. Although naturally ambitious, grace so wrought en hem that he never sought to bring himself into view; and most cheerfully would he observe and take notice of the graces and gifts of others. Who is there of us that should ever feel otherwise? “For the body is not one member, but many.” And “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor, again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
All with whom he was intimate still remember with gratitude how faithfully and anxiously he used to warn his friends of whatever he apprehended they were en danger from. To Mr. W C. Burns he wrote, Dec. 31, 1839: “Now, the Lord be your strength, teacher, and guide. I charge you, be clothed with humility, or you well yet be a wandering star, for which is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Let Christ encrease; let man decrease. This is my constant prayer for myself and you. If you lead sinners to yourself and not to Christ, Immanuel well cast the star out of His right hand into utter darkness. Remember what I said of preaching out of the Scriptures: honor the Word both en the matter and manner. Do not cease to pray for me.” At another time (November 3, 1841), he thus wrote to the same friend: “Now remember Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone. Looking at our own shining face is the bane of the spiritual life and of the ministry. Oh for closest communion with God, tell soul and body-head, face, and heart-shine with divine brilliancy! but oh for a holy ignorance of our shining! Pray for this; for you need et as well as I.”
To another friend en the ministry who had written to hem despondingly about his people and the times, his reply was, “I am sure there never was a time when the Spirit of God was more present in Scotland, and et does not become you to murmur en your tents, but rather to give thanks. Remember, we may grieve the Spirit as truly by not joyfully acknowledging His wonders as by not praying for Him. There is the clearest evidence that God is saving souls en Kilsyth, Dundee, Perth, Collace, Blairgowrie, Strathbogie, Ross-shire, Breadalbane,
Kelso, Jedburgh, Ancrum; and surely et becomes us to say, ‘I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.’ Forgive my presumption; but I fear lest you hurt your own peace and usefulness en not praising God enough for the operation of his hands. ” To another; “I have told you that you needed trial, and now et is come. May you be exercised thereby, and come to that happy ‘afterwards’ of which the apostle speaks.” To the same again “Remember the necessity of your own soul, and do not grow slack or lean en feeding others. ‘Mine own vineyard have I not kept.’ Ah, take heed of that!” And en a similar tone of faithfulness en a later period: “Remember the case of your own soul. ‘What well et profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ Remember how often Paul appeals to his holy, just, unblameable life. Oh that we may be able always to do the same!” “Remember the pruning-knife,” he says to another, “and do not let your vine run to wood.” And after a visit to Mr. Thornton of Milnathort, en whose parish there had been an awakening, he asks a brother, “Mr. Thornton is willing that others be blessed more than himself; do you think that you have that grace? I fend that I am never so successful as when I can lee at Christ’s feet, willing to be used or not as seemeth good en His sight. Do you remember David? ‘If the Lord say, I have no delight en thee; behold, here am I; let Hem do to me as seemeth good unto Hem. ”
In his familiar letters, as en his life, there was the manifestation of a bright, cheerful soul, without the least tendency to levity. When his medical attendant had, on one occasion, declined any remuneration, Mr. McCheyne peremptorily opposed his purpose; and to overcome his reluctance, returned the enclosure en a letter, en which he used his poetical gifts with most pleasant humor.
To many it was a subject of wonder that he found time to write letters that always breathed the name of Jesus, amid his innumerable engagements. But the truth was, his letters cost him no expenditure of time; they were ever the fresh thoughts and feelings of his soul at the moment he took up the pen; his habitual frame of soul is what appears en them all; the calm, holy, tenderly affectionate style of his letters reminds us of Samuel Rutherford, whose works he delighted to read-excepting only that his joy never seems to have risen to ecstasies. The selection of his letters which I have made for publication, may exhibit somewhat of his holy skill in dropping a word for his Master on all occasions. But what impressed many yet more, was his manner of introducing the truth, most naturally and strikingly, even in the shortest note he penned; and there was something so elegant, as well as solemn, in his few words at the close of some of his letters, that these remained deep in the receiver’s heart. Writing to Mr. G. S., on July 28, 1841, he draws to a close: “Remember me to H. T. I pray he may be kept abiding in Christ. Kindest regards to his mother. Say to her from me, ‘Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear, for as much as ye know ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold’ (I Peter 1:17, 18). Keep your own heart, dear brother, ‘in the love of God’ (Jude 21)-in His love to you, and that will draw your love to Him. Kindest remembrances to your brother. Say to him, ‘Be sober and hope to the end’ (I Peter 1:13). To your own dear mother say, ‘He doth not afflict willingly.’ Write me soon. -Ever yours, till time shall be no more.” In a note to the members of his own family: “The Tay is before me now like a resplendent mirror, glistening in the morning sun. May the same sun shine sweetly on you, and may He that makes it shine, shine into your hearts to give you the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.-In haste, your affectionate son and brother.” There were often such last words as the following: “Oh for drops in the pastures of the wilderness! The smiles of Jesus be with you, and the breathings of the Holy Ghost. Ever Yours.” (To Rev. J. Milne.) “May we have gales passing from Perth to this, and from here to you, and from heaven to both. Ever yours.” (To the same.) “The time is short; eternity is near; yea, the coming of Christ the second time is at hand. Make sure of being one with the Lord Jesus, that you may be glad when you see Him. Commending you all to our Father in heaven.” (To his own brother.) “I have a host of letters before me, and therefore can add no more. I give you a parting text, ‘Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.’ ” Another: “Farewell! yours till the day dawn.” To the Rev. Hor.Bonar he says, at the close of a letter about some ministerial arrangements: “I am humbled and cheered by what you say of good done in Kelso. “Roll on, roll on, river of God, that art full of water! A woman came to me, awakened under your sermon to the children in the Cross Church, very bitterly convinced of sin. Glory to the Divine Archer, who bringeth down the people!” He closes a letter to a student thus: “Grace be with you, and much of the knowledge of Jesus-much of His likeness. I thirst for the knowledge of the Word, but most of all of Jesus Himself, the true Word. May He abide in you, and you in Him! The Fear of Isaac watch over you.” In concluding a letter to Mr. Bonar of Larbert, in February 1843, some weeks before his last illness, he writes: “My soul often goes out at the throne of grace in behalf of Larbert and Dunipace. May the disruption be more blessed to them than days of peace! How sweet to be in the ark when the deluge comes down! Ever yours in gospel bonds.”
The Jewish Mission continued near his heart, “the nearest,” said he to Mw. Edwards, who is now at Jassy, “of all missionary enterprises. Were it not for my own unfitness, and also the success the Lord has given me where I am, I would joyfully devote myself to it.” In connection with this cause, he was invited to visit Ireland, and be present at the meeting of the Synod of our Presbyterian brethren in the summer of 1840. When preparing to set out, he noticed the hand of his Master guiding him:-“July 2-Expected to have been in Ireland this day. Detained by not being able to get supply for Sabbath, in the good providence of God; for this evening there was a considerable awakening in the church while I was preaching upon Phil. 3:18, ‘Enemies of the cross of Christ.’ When that part was expounded, there was a loud and bitter weeping-probably thirty or forty seemed to share in it; the rest deeply impressed-many secretly praying.” On the Sabbath following, one person was so overcome as to be carried out of the church.
He set out for Ireland on the 7th, and on the 10th witnessed at Belfast the union between the Synod of Ulster and the Secession. He speaks of it as a most solemn scene-500 ministers and elders present. During his stay there, he pleaded the cause of the Jews in Mr. Mormon’s church, Mr. Wilson’s, and some others; and also visited Mr. Kirkpatrick at Dublin. He preached the way of salvation to the Gentiles in all his pleadings for Israel. His visit was blessed to awaken a deep interest in the cause of the Jews, and his words sank into the conscience of some. His sermon on Ezekiel 34:16 was felt by some to be indescribably impressive; and when he preached on Romans 1:16, 17, many ministers, as they came out, were heard saying, “How was it we never thought of the duty of remembering Israel before?” On another occasion, the people to whom he had preached entreated their minister to try and get him again, and if he could not preach to them, that at least he should pray once more with them.
He was not, however, long absent from home on this occasion. On the 25th I find him recording: “Reached home; entirely unprepared for the evening. Spoke on Psalm 51:12, 13, ‘Restore unto me the joy,’ etc. There seemed much of the presence of God,-first one crying out in extreme agony, then another. Many were deeply melted, and all solemnized. Felt a good deal of freedom in speaking of the glory of Christ’s salvation. Coming down, I spoke quietly to some whom I knew to be under deep concern. They were soon heard together weeping bitterly; many more joined them. Mr. Cumming spoke to them in a most touching strain, while I dealt privately with several in the vestry. Their cries were often very bitter and piercing, bitterest when the freeness of Christ was pressed upon them, and the lion’s nearness. Several were offended; but I felt no hesitation as to our duty to declare the simple truth impressively, and leave God to work in their hearts in His own way. If He saves souls in a quiet way, I shall be happy; if in the midst of cries and tears, still I will bless His name. One painful thing has occurred: a man who pretends to be a missionary for Israel, and who brings forward the apocryphal book of Enoch, has been among my people in my absence, and many have been led after him. How humbling is this to them and to me! Lord, what is man! This may be blessed, 1st, to discover chaff which we thought to be wheat; 2nd, to lead some to greater distrust of themselves, when their eyes are opened; 3rd, to teach me the need of solidly instructing those who seem to have grace in their hearts. ”
The work of God went on, so much so at this time, that he gave it as his belief, in a letter to Mr. Purves of Jedburgh, that for some months about this period no minister of Christ had preached in a lively manner, without being blessed to some soul among his flock.
In other places of Scotland also the Lord was then pouring out His Spirit. Perth has been already mentioned, and its vicinity. Throughout Ross-shire, whole congregations were frequently moved as one man, and the voice of the minister drowned in the cries of anxious souls. At Kelso, where Mr. Horace Bonar labored, and at Jedburgh, where Mr. Purves was pastor, a more silent but very solid work of conversion was advancing. At Ancrum (once the scene of John Livingston’s labors), the whole parish, but especially the men of the place, were awakened to the most solemn concern. On Lochtayside, where Mr. Burns was for a season laboring, there were marks of the Spirit everywhere; and the people crossing the lake in hundreds, to listen to the words of life on the hillside, called to mind the people of Galilee in the days when the gospel began to be preached. At Lawers, Mr. Campbell, their pastor (who has now fallen asleep in Jesus), spoke of the awakening as “like a resurrection,” so great and sudden was the change from deadness to intense concern. On several occasions, the Spirit seemed to sweep over the congregations like wind over the fields, which bends the heavy corn to the earth. It was evident to discerning minds that the Lord was preparing Scotland for some crisis not far distant.
Several districts of Strathbogie had shared to some extent in a similar blessing. Faithful ministers were now everywhere on the watch for the shower, and were greatly strengthened to go forward boldly in seeking to cleanse the sanctuary. It was their fond hope that the Established Church of Scotland would soon become an example and pattern to the nations of a pure church of Christ, acknowledged and upheld by the State without being trammelled in any degree, far less controlled by civil interference. But Satan was stirring up adversaries on every side.
The Court of Session had adopted a line of procedure that was at once arbitrary and unconstitutional. And now that Court interdicted, under the penalty of fine or imprisonment, all the ministers of the Church of Scotland from administering ordinances or preaching the Word in any of the seven parishes of Strathbogie, whose former incumbents had been suspended from office by the General Assembly for ecclesiastical offenses. The church saw it to be her duty to refuse obedience to an interdict that hindered the preaching of Jesus, and attempted to crush her constitutional liberties. Accordingly, ministers were sent to these districts, fearless of the result; and under their preaching the gross darkness of the region began to give way to the light of truth.
In the month of August, Mr. McCheyne was appointed, along with Mr. Cumming of Dumbarney, to visit Huntly, and dispense the Lord’s Supper there. As he set out, he expressed the hope that “the dews of the Spirit there might be turned into the pouring rain.” His own visit was blessed to many. Mr. Cumming preached the action sermon in the open air at the Meadow Well; but the tables were served within the building where the congregation usually met. Mr. McCheyne preached in the evening to a vast multitude at the well; and about a hundred waited after sermon for prayer, many of them in deep anxiety.
He came to Edinburgh on the 11th, to attend the meeting of ministers and elders who had come together to sign the Solemn Engagement in defense of the liberties of Christ’s church. He did not hesitate to put his hand to the Engagement. He then returned to Dundee; and scarcely had he returned, when he was laid aside by one of those attacks of illness with which he was so often tried. In this case, however, it soon passed away. “My health,” he remarked, “has taken a gracious turn, which should make me look up.” But again, on September 6, an attack of fever laid him down for six days. On this occasion, just before the sickness came on, three persons had visited him, to tell him how they were brought to Christ under his ministry some years before. “Why,” he noted in his journal, “Why has God brought these cases before me this week? Surely He is preparing me for some trial of
faith.” The result proved that his conjecture was correct. And while his Master prepared him beforehand for these trials, He had ends to accomplish in his servant by means of them. There were other trials, also, besides these, which were very heavy to him; but in all we could discern the Husbandman pruning the branch, that it might bear more fruit. As he himself said one day in the church of Abernyte, when he was assisting Mr. Manson, “If we only saw the whole, we should see that the Father is doing little else in the world but training his vines.”
His preaching became more and more to him a work of faith. Often I find him writing at the close or beginning of a sermon: “Master, help!” “Help, Lord, help!” “Send showers”; “Pardon, give the Spirit, and take the glory”; “May the opening of my lips be right things!” The piercing effects of the word preached on souls at this time may be judged by what one of the awakened, with whom he was conversing, said to him, “I think hell would be some relief from an angry God.”
His delight in preaching was very great. He himself used to say that he could scarcely resist an invitation to preach. And this did not arise from the natural excitement there is in commanding the attention of thousands; for he was equally ready to proclaim Christ to small country flocks. Nay, he was ready to travel far to visit and comfort even one soul. There was an occasion this year on which he rode far to give a cup of cold water to a disciple, and his remark was, “I observe how often Jesus went a long way for one soul, as for example the maniac, and the woman of Canaan.”
In February 1841, he visited Kelso and Jedburgh at the Communion season; and gladly complied with an invitation to Ancrum also, that he might witness the hand of the Lord. “Sweet are the spots,” he wrote, “where Immanuel has ever shown his glorious power in the conviction and conversion of sinners. The world loves to muse on the scenes where battles were fought and victories won. Should not we love the spots where our great Captain has won His amazing victories? Is not the conversion of a soul more worthy to be spoken of than the taking of Acre?” At Kelso, some will long remember his remarks in visiting a little girl, to whom he said, “Christ gives last knocks. When your heart becomes hard and careless, then fear lest Christ may have given a last knock.” At Jedburgh, the impression left was chiefly that there had been among them a man of unique holiness. Some felt, not so much his words, as his presence and holy solemnity, as if one spoke to them who was standing in the presence of God; and to others his prayers appeared like the breathings of one already within the veil.
I find him proposing to a minister who was going up to the General Assembly that year, “that the Assembly should draw out a Confession of Sin for all its ministers.” The state, also, of parishes under the direful influence of Moderatism, came deeply upon his spirit. In his diary he writes: “Have been laying much to hear the absolute necessity laid upon the church of sending the gospel to our dead parishes, during the life of the present incumbents. It is confessed that many of our ministers do not preach the gospel-alas! because they know it not. Yet they have complete control over their own pulpits, and may never suffer the truth to be heard there during their whole incumbency. And yet our church consigns these parishes to their tender mercies for perhaps fifty years, without a sigh! Should not certain men be ordained as evangelists, with full power to preach in every pulpit of their district-faithful, judicious, lively preachers, who may go from parish to parish, and thus carry life into many a dead corner?” This was a subject he often reverted to; and he eagerly held up the example of the Presbytery of Aberdeen, who made a proposal to this effect. From some of his later letters, it appears that he had sometimes seriously weighed the duty of giving up his fixed charge, if only the church would ordain him as an evangelist. So deep were his feelings on this matter, that a friend relates of him that, as they rode together through a parish where the pastor “clothed himself with the wool, but fed not the flock,” he knit his brow and raised his hand with vehemence as he spoke of the people left to perish under such a minister.
He was invited to visit Ireland again this year, his former visit having been much valued by the Presbyterian brethren there. He did so in July. Many were greatly stirred by his preaching, and by his details of God’s work in Scotland. His sermon on Song of Solomon 8:5, 6, is still spoken of by many. His prayerfulness and consistent holiness left enduring impressions on not a few; and it was during his visit that a memorial was presented to the Irish Assembly in behalf of a Jewish mission. His visit was in a great measure the means of setting that mission on its way.
Cordially entering into the proposal of a united effort for prayer, he took part, in September of this year, in the preliminary meetings in which Christians of all denominations joined. “How sweet are the smallest approximations to unity!” is his remark in his diary. Indeed, he so much longed for a scriptural unity, that some time later, when the General Assembly had repealed the statute of 1799, he embraced the opportunity of showing his sincere desire for unity, by inviting two dissenting brethren to his pulpit, and then writing in defense of his conduct when attacked. In reference to this matter, he observed, in a note to a friend: “I have been much delighted with the 25th and 26th chapters of the Confession of Faith. Oh for the grace of the Westminster divines to be poured out upon this generation of lesser men!”
As it was evident that his Master owned his labor abundantly, by giving him seals of his apostleship, attempts were made occasionally by zealous friends to induce him to move to other fields of service. In all these cases, he looked simply at the apparent indications of the Lord’s will. Worldly interest seemed scarcely ever to cross his mind in regard to such a matter, for he truly lived a disinterested life. His views may be judged by one instance-a letter to Mr. Heriot of Ramornie, in reference to a charge that many were anxious to offer him:
“Dundee, Dec. 24, 1841
“DEAR SIR-I have received a letter from my friend Mr. M’Farlane of Collessie, asking what I would do if the people of Kettle were to write desiring me to be their minister. He also desires me to send an answer to you. I have been asked to leave this place again and again, but have never seen my way clear to do so. I feel quite at the disposal of my Divine Master. I gave myself away to Him when I began my ministry, and He has guided me as by the Pillar Cloud from the first day till now. I think I would leave this place tomorrow if He were to bid me; but as to seeking removal, I dare not and could not. If my ministry were unsuccessful-if God frowned upon the place and made my message void-then I would willingly go, for I would rather beg my bread than preach without success; but I have never wanted success. I do not think I can speak a month in this parish without winning some souls. This very week, I think, has been a fruitful one-more so than many for a long time, which perhaps was intended graciously to free me from all hesitation in declining your kind offer. I mention these things not, I trust, boastfully, but only to show you the ground upon which I feel it to be my duty not for a moment to entertain the proposal. I have 4000 souls here hanging on me. I have as much of this world’s goods as I care for. I have full liberty to preach the gospel night and day; and the Spirit of God is often with us. What can I desire more? ‘I dwell among mine own people.’ Hundreds look to me as a father; and I fear I would be but a false shepherd if I were to leave them when the clouds of adversity are beginning to lower. I know the need of Kettle, and its importance; and also the dark prospect of your getting a godly minister. Still that is a future event in the hand of God. My duty is made plain and simple according to God’s word.
“Praying that the Lord Jesus may send you a star from
His own right hand, believe me to be….”
It was during this year that the Sabbath question began to interest him so much. His tract, I Love the Lord’s Day, was published December 18; but he had already exerted himself much in this cause, as convener of the Committee of Presbytery on Sabbath Observance, and had written his well known letter to one of the chief defenders of the Sabbath desecration. He continued unceasingly to use every effort in this holy cause. And is it not worth the prayers and self denying efforts of every believing man? Is not that day set apart as a season wherein the Lord desires the refreshing rest of His own love to be offered to a fallen world? Is it not designed to be a day on which every other voice and sound is to be hushed, in order that the silver trumpets may proclaim atonement for sinners? Nay, it is understood to be a day wherein God Himself stands before the altar and pleads with sinners to accept the Lamb slain, from morning to evening. Who is there who does not see the deep design of Satan in seeking to effect an inroad on this most merciful appointment of God our Savior?
Mr. McCheyne’s own conduct was in full accordance with his principles in regard to strict yet cheerful Sabbath observance. Considering it the summit of human privilege to be admitted to fellowship with God, his principle was, that the Lord’s Day was to be spent wholly in the enjoyment of that sweetest privilege. A letter, written at a later period, but bearing on this subject, will show how he felt this day to be better than a thousand. An individual, near Inverness, had consulted him on a point of sabbatical casuistry: the question was, Whether or not it was sinful to spend time in registering meteorological observations on the Sabbaths? His reply was the following, marked by a holy wisdom, and discovering the place that the Lord held in his inmost soul:
“Dec. 7, 1842
“DEAR FRIEND-You ask me a hard question. Had you asked me what I would do in the case, I could easily tell you. I love the Lord’s day too well to be marking down the height of the thermometer and barometer every hour. I have other work to do, higher and better, and more like that of angels above. The more entirely I can give my Sabbaths to God, and half forget that I am not before the throne of the Lamb, with my harp of gold, the happier am I, and I feel it my duty to be as happy as I can be, and as God intended me to be. The joy of the Lord is my strength. But whether another Christian can spend the Sabbath is His service, and mark down degrees of heat and atmospherical pressure, without letting down the warmth of his affections, or losing the atmosphere of
heaven, I cannot tell. My conscience is not the rule of another man. One thing we may learn from these men of science, namely, to be as careful in marking the changes and progress of our own spirit, as they are in marking the changes of the weather. An hour should never pass without our looking up to God for forgiveness and peace. This is the noblest science, to know how to live in hourly communion with God in Christ. May you and I know more of this, and thank God that we are not among the wise and prudent from whom these things are hid!-The grace of the Lord of the Sabbath be with you.”
Until this period, the Narrative of Our Mission to Israel had not been given to the public. Interruptions, arising from multiplicity of labors and constant calls of duty, had from time to time come in our way. Mr. McCheyne found it exceedingly difficult to spare a day or two at a time in order to take part. “I find it hard work to carry on the work of a diligent pastor and that of an author at the same time. How John Calvin would have smiled at my difficulties!” At length, however, in the month of March 1842, we resolved to gain time by exchanging each other’s pastoral duties for a month. Accordingly, during four or five weeks, he remained in Collace, my flock enjoying his Sabbath Day services and his occasional visits, while he was set free from what would have been the never-ceasing interruptions of his own town.
Many pleasant remembrances remain of these days, as sheet after sheet passed under the eyes of our mutual criticism. Though intent on accomplishing his work, he kept by his rule, “that he must first see the face of God before he could undertake any duty.” Often he would wander in the mornings among the pleasant woods of Dennison, until he had drunk in refreshment to his soul by meditation on the Word of God; and then he took up the pen. And to a brother in the ministry, who had one day broken in on his private occupation, he afterward wrote: “You know you stole away my day; yet I trust all was not lost. I think I have had more grace ever since that prayer among the fir-trees. Oh to be like Jesus, and with Him to all eternity!” Occasionally, during the same period, he wrote some pieces for the Christian’s Daily Companion. The Narrative was finished in May, and the Lord has made it acceptable to the brethren.
When this work was finished, the Lord had other employment ready for him in his own parish. His diary had this entry: “May 22-I have seen some very evident awakenings of late. J. G. awakened partly through the word preached, and partly through the faithful warnings of her fellow-servant A. R., who has been for about a year in the deepest distress, seeking rest, but finding none. B. M. converted last winter at the Tuesday meeting in Annfield. She was brought very rapidly to peace with God, and to a calm, sedate, prayerful state of mind. I was surprised at the quickness of the work in this case, and pleased with the clear tokens of grace; and now I see God’s gracious end in it. She was to be admitted at last communion, but caught fever before the Sabbath. On Tuesday last, she died in great peace and joy. When she felt death coming on, she said, ‘Oh death, death, come! let us sing!’ Many that knew her have been a good deal moved homeward by this solemn providence. This evening, I invited those to come who are leaving the parish at this term. About twenty came, to whom I gave tracts and words of warning. I feel persuaded that if I could follow the Lord more fully myself, my ministry would be used to make a deeper impression than it has yet done.”
In The Latter Days of f His Ministry
My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work. John 4:34
During the summer of 1842, he was exposed to several attacks of illness, experienced some severe personal trials, and felt the assaults of sore temptation. His own words will best express his state: “July 17-I am myself much tempted, and have no hope, but as a worm on the arm of Jesus.” “Aug. 4 Often, often, would I have been glad to depart, and be with Christ. I am now much better in body and mind, having a little of the presence of my beloved, whose absence is death to me.” The same month: “I have been carried through deep waters, bodily and spiritual, since last we met.” It was his own persuasion that few had more to struggle with in the inner man. Who can tell what wars go on within?
During this season of trial, he was invited to form one of a number of ministers from Scotland, who were to visit the north of England, with no other purpose than to preach the glad tidings. The scheme was planned by a Christian gentleman, who has done much for Christ in his generation. When the invitation reached him, he was in the heat of his furnace. He mentioned this to the brother who corresponded with him on the subject, Mr. Purves of Jedburgh, whose reply was balm to his spirit: “I have a fellow-feeling with you in your present infirmity, and you know for your consolation that another has, who is a brother indeed. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted. He is, we may say, the common heart of His people, for they are one body; and an infirmity in the very remotest and meanest member is felt there and borne there. Let us console, solace, yea, satiate ourselves in Him, as, amid afflic
tions especially, brother does in brother. It is blessed to be like Him in everything, even in suffering. There is a great want about all Christians who have not suffered. Some flowers must be broken or bruised before they emit any fragrance. All the wounds of Christ send out sweetness; all the sorrows of Christians do the same. Commend me to a bruised brother-a broken reed-one like the Son of man. The Man of Sorrows is never far from him. To me there is something sacred and sweet in all suffering; it is so much akin to the Man of Sorrows.” It was thus he suffered, and thus that he was comforted. He wrote back, agreeing to go, and added. “Remember me especially, who am heavy laden oftentimes. My heart is all of sin; but Jesus lives.”
They set out for England. Mr. Purves, Mr. Somerville of Anderston, Mr. Cumming of Dumbarney, and Mr. Bonar of Kelso, formed the company. Their chief station was Newcastle, where Mr. Burns had recently been laboring with some success, and where he had seen “a town giving itself up to utter ungodli-ness a town where Satan’s trenches were deep and wide, his wall strong and high, his garrison great and fearless, and where all that man could do seemed but as arrows shot against a tower of brass.” But those who went knew that the Spirit of God was omnipotent, and that He could take the prey from the mighty.
They preached both in the open air, and in the places of worship belonging to the Presbyterians and to the Wesleyan Methodists. The defenders of the Sabbath cause were especially prepared to welcome Mr. McCheyne, whose tract on the Lord’s Day has been widely circulated and blessed. Many were attracted to hear; interesting congregations assembled in the marketplace, and there is reason to believe many were impressed. A person in the town describes Mr. McCheyne’s last address as being peculiarly awakening. He preached in the open air, in a space of ground between the Cloth Market and St. Nicholas’ Church. Above a thousand souls were present, and the service continued until ten, without one person moving from the ground. The moon shone brightly, and the sky was spangled with stars. His subject was, “The Great White Throne” (Rev. 20:11). In concluding his address, he told them “that they would never meet again till they all met at the judgment seat of Christ; but the glorious heavens over their heads, and the bright moon that shone upon them, and the old venerable church behind them, were his witnesses that he had set before them life and death.” Some will have cause to remember that night through eternity. (He later preached the same subject with equal impressiveness in the Meadows at Dundee. It was in the open air and the rain fell heavy, yet the dense crowd stood still to the end.)
His preaching at Gilsland also was not without effect; and he had good cause to bless the Lord for bringing him through Dumfriesshire on his way homeward. He returned to his people in the beginning of September, full of peace and joy. “I have returned much stronger, indeed quite well. I think I have got some precious souls for my hire on my way home. I earnestly long for more grace and personal holiness, and more usefulness.”
The sunsets during that autumn were peculiarly beautiful. Scarcely a day passed but he gazed on the glowing west after dinner; and as he gazed he would speak of the Sun of Righteousness, or the joy of angels in His presence, or the blessedness of those whose sun can go no more down, until his face shone with gladness as he spoke. And during the winter he was observed to be particularly joyful, being strong in body, and feeling the near presence of Jesus in his soul. He lived in the blessed consciousness that he was a child of God, humble and meek, just because he was fully assured that Jehovah was his God and Father. Many often felt that in prayer the name “Holy Father” was breathed with special tenderness and solemnity from his lips.
His flock in St. Peter’s began to murmur at his absence, when again he left them for ten days in November, to assist Mr. Hamilton of Regent Square, London, at his communion. But it was his desire for souls that thus led him from place to place, combined with a growing feeling that the Lord was calling him to evangelistic more than to pastoral labors. This visit was a blessed one; and the growth of his soul in holiness was visible to many. During the days of his visit to Mr. Hamilton, he read through the Song of Solomon at the time of family worship, commenting briefly on it with rare gracefulness and poetic taste, and yet rarer manifestation of soul-filling love to the Savior’s person. The sanctified affections of his soul, and his insight into the mind of Jesus, seemed to have deeply affected his friends on these occasions.
Receiving, while here, an invitation to return by the way of Kelso, he replied:
“London, Nov. 5, 1842
“MY DEAR HORATIUS Our friends here will not let me away till the Friday morning, so that it will require all my diligence to reach Dundee before the Sabbath. I will thus be disappointed of the joy of seeing you, and ministering a word to your dear flock. Oh that my soul were new moulded, and I were effectually called a second time, and made a vessel full of the Spirit, to tell only of Jesus and his love! I fear I shall never be in this world what I desire. I have preached three times here; a few tears also have been shed. Oh for Whitfield’s week in London, when a thousand letters came! The same Jesus reigns; the same Spirit is able. Why is He restrained? Is the sin ours? Are we the bottle-stoppers of these heavenly dews? Ever yours till glory.
“PS.-We shall meet, God willing, at the Convocation.”
The memorable Convocation met at Edinburgh on November 17. There were five hundred ministers present from all parts of Scotland. The encroachment of the civil courts upon the prerogatives of Christ, the only Head acknowledged by our church, and the negligent treatment hereto given by the legislature of the country to every remonstrance on the part of the church, had brought on a crisis. The Church of Scotland had maintained, from the days of the Reformation, that her connection with the State was understood to imply no surrender whatsoever of complete independence in regulating all spiritual matters; and to have allowed any civil authority to control her in doctrine, discipline, or any spiritual act, would have been a daring and flagrant act of treachery to her Lord and King. The deliberations of the Convocation continued during eight days, and the momentous results are well known in this land.
Mr. McCheyne was never absent from any of the diets of this solemn assembly. He felt the deepest interest in every matter that came before them, got much light as to the path of duty in the course of the consultations, and put his name to all the resolutions, heartily sympathizing in the decided determination that, as a church of Christ, we must abandon our connection with the State, if our “Claim of Rights” were rejected. These eight days were times of remarkable union and prayerfulness. The proceedings, from time to time, were suspended until the brethren again asked counsel of the Lord by prayer; and none present will forget the affecting solemnity with which, on one occasion, Mr. McCheyne poured out our wants before the Lord.
He had a decided abhorrence of Erastianism. When the question was put to him, “Is it our duty to refuse ordination to any one who holds the views of Erastianism?” he replied: “Certainly, whatever be his other qualifications.” He was ever a thorough Presbyterian, and used to maintain the necessity of abolishing lay patronage, because first, it was not to be found in the word of God; second, it destroyed the duty of “trying the spirits”; third, it meddled with the headship of Christ, coming in between Him and his people, saying, “I will place the stars.” But still more decided was he in regard to the spiritual independence of the church. This he considered a vital question; and in prospect of the disruption of the Church of Scotland, If it were denied, he stated at a public meeting, first, that it was to be deplored in some respects, viz., because of the sufferings of God’s faithful servants, the degradation of those who remained behind, the alienation of the aristocracy, the perdition of the ungodly, and the sin of the nation. But, second, it was to be hailed for other reasons, viz., Christ’s kingly offices would be better known, the truth would be spread into desolate parishes, and faithful ministers would be refined. And when, on March 7th of the following year, 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!”
An interesting anecdote is related of him by a co-presbyter, who returned with him to Dundee after the Convocation. This co-presbyter, Mr. Stewart, was conversing with him as to what it might be their duty to do in the event of the disruption, and where they might be scattered. Mr. Stewart said he could preach Gaelic, and might go to the Highlanders in Canada, if it were needful. Mr. McCheyne said, “I think of going to the many thousand convicts that are transported beyond seas, for no man careth for their souls.”
We do not have many records of his public work after this date. Almost the last note in his diary is dated December 25: “This day ordained four elders, and admitted a fifth, who will all, I trust, be a blessing in this place when I am gone. Was graciously awakened a great while before day, and had two hours alone with God. Preached with much comfort on I Tim. 5:17, ‘Let the elders that rule well,’ etc. At the end of the sermon and prayer, proposed the regular questions; then made the congregation sing standing; during which time I came down from the pulpit and stood over the four men, then prayed, and all the elders gave the right hand of fellowship, during which I returned to the pulpit, and addressed them and the congregation on their relative duties. Altogether a solemn scene.”
The last recorded cases of awakening, and the last entry in his diary, is dated January 6, 1843: “Heard of an awakened soul finding rest-true rest, I trust. Two new cases of awakening; both very deep and touching. At the very time when I was beginning to give up in despair, God gives me tokens of His presence returning.”
He here speaks of discouragement, when God for a few months or weeks seemed to be withholding His hand from saving souls. If he was not right in thus hastily forgetting the past for a little, still this feature of his ministry is to be well considered. He entertained so full a persuasion that a faithful minister has every reason to expect to see souls converted under him, that when this was withheld, he began to fear that some hidden evil was provoking the Lord and grieving the Spirit. And ought it not to be so with all of us? Ought we not to suspect, either that we are not living near to God, or that our message is not a true transcript of the glad tidings, in both matter and manner, when we see no souls brought to Jesus? God may certainly hide from our knowledge much of what He accomplishes by our means, but as certainly will He bring to our view some seals of our ministry, in order that our persuasion of being thus sent by Him may solemnize and overawe us, as well as lead us on to unwearied labor. Ought it not be the inscription over the doors of our Assembly and College halls: “Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His Knowledge by us in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14)?
About this time, in one of his manuscripts, there occurs this sentence: “As I was walking in the fields, the thought came over me with almost overwhelming power, that every one of my flock must soon be in heaven or hell. Oh, how I wished that I had a tongue like thunder, that I might make all hear; or that I had a frame like iron, that I might visit every one, and say, ‘Escape for thy life!’ Ah, sinners! you little know how I fear that you will lay the blame of your damnation at my door.”
He was never satisfied with his own attainments in holiness; he was always ready to learn, and quick to apply, any suggestion that might tend to his greater usefulness. About this time he used to sing a psalm or hymn every day after dinner. It was often, “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” etc.; or, “Oh May We Stand Before the Lamb!” etc. Sometimes it was that hymn, “Oh for a Closer Walk With God!” and sometimes the psalm, “Oh That I Like a Dove Had Wings!” A friend said of him. “I have sometimes compared him to the silver and graceful ash, with its pensile branches, and leaves of gentle green, reflecting gleams of happy sunshine. The fall of its leaf, too, is like the fall of his-it is green tonight and gone tomorrow, it does not sere nor wither.”
An experienced servant of God has said, that, while popularity is a snare that few are not caught by, a more subtle and dangerous snare is to be famed for holiness. The fame of being a godly man is as great a snare as the fame of being learned or eloquent. It is possible to attend with scrupulous anxiety even to secret habits of devotion, in order to get a name for holiness .2 If any were exposed to this snare in his day, Mr. McCheyne was the person. Yet nothing is more certain than that, to the very last, he was ever discovering, and successfully resisting, the deceitful tendencies of his own heart and a tempting devil. Two things he seems never to have ceased from-the cultivation of personal holiness, and the most anxious efforts to save souls.
About this time he wrote down, for his own use, an examination into things that ought to be amended and changed. I subjoin it entirely. How singularly close and impartial are these researches into his soul! How acute is he in discovering his variations from the holy law of God! Oh that we all were taught by the same spirit thus to try our reins! It is only when we are thus thoroughly experiencing our helplessness, and discovering the thousand forms of indwelling sin, that we really sit as disciples at Christ’s feet, and gladly receive Him as all in all! And at each such moment we feel in the spirit of Ignatius, “It is only now that I begin to be a disciple.”
Mr. McCheyne entitles the examination of his heart and life “Reformation,” and it begins with:
“It is the duty of ministers in this day to begin the reformation of religion and manners with themselves, families, etc., with confession of past sin, earnest prayer for direction, grace, and full purpose of heart. Mal. 3:3= He shall purify the sons of Levi.’ Ministers are probably laid aside for a time for this very purpose.
“1. Personal Reformation.
“I am persuaded that I shall obtain the highest amount of present happiness, I shall do most for God’s glory and
the good of man, and I shall have the fullest reward in eternity, by maintaining a conscience always washed in Christ’s blood, by being filled with the Holy Spirit at all times, and by attaining the most entire likeness to Christ in mind, will, and heart, that is possible for a redeemed sinner to attain to in this world.
“I am persuaded that whenever any one from without, or my own heart from within, at any moment, or in any circumstances, contradicts this-if any one shall insinuate that it is not for my present and eternal happiness, and for God’s glory and my usefulness, to maintain a blood-washed conscience, to be entirely filled with the Spirit, and to be fully conformed to the image of Christ in all things-that is the voice of the devil, God’s enemy, the enemy of my soul and of all good-the most foolish, wicked, and miserable of all the creatures. See Prov. 9:17’Stolen waters are sweet.’
“1. To maintain a conscience void of offence, I am persuaded that I ought to confess my sins more. I think I ought to confess sin the moment I see it to be sin; whether I am in company, or in study, or even preaching, the soul ought to cast a glance of abhorrence at the sin. If I go on with the duty, leaving the sin unconfessed, I go on with a burdened conscience, and add sin to sin. I think I ought at certain times of the day-my best timessay, after breakfast and after tea-to confess solemnly the sins of the previous hours, and to seek their complete remission.
“I find that the devil often makes use of the confession of sin to stir up again the very sin confessed into new exercise, so that I am afraid to dwell upon the confession. I must ask experienced Christians about this. For the present, I think I should strive against this awful abuse of confession, whereby the devil seeks to frighten me away from confessing. I ought to take all methods for seeing the vileness of my sins. I ought to regard myself as a condemned branch of Adam-as partaker of a nature opposite to God from the womb (Ps. 51.)-as hawing a heart full of all wickedness, which pollutes every thought, word,
and action, during my whole life, from birth to death. I ought to confess often the sins of my youth, like David and Paul-my sins before conversion, my sins since conversion-sins against light and knowledge, against love and grace, against each person of the Godhead. I ought to look at my sins in the light of the holy law, in the light of God’s countenance, in the light of the cross, in the light of the judgment-seat, in the light of hell, in the light of eternity. I ought to examine my dreams-my floating thoughts-my predilections-my often recurring actions-my habits of thought, feeling, speech, and action-the slanders of my enemies and the reproofs, and even banterings, of my friends-to find out traces of my prevailing sin, matter for confession. I ought to have a stated day of confession, with fasting-say, once a month. I ought to have a number of scriptures marked, to bring sin to remembrance. I ought to make use of all bodily affliction, domestic trial, frowns of providence on myself, house, parish, church, or country, as calls from God to confess sin. The sins and afflictions of other men should call me to the same. I ought, on Sabbath evenings, and on Communion Sabbath evenings, to be especially careful to confess the sins of holy things. I ought to confess the sins of my confessions-their imperfections, sinful aims, self-righteous tendency, etc.-and to look to Christ as hawing confessed my sins perfectly over His own sacrifice.
“I ought to go to Christ for the forgiveness of each sin. In washing my body, I go over every spot, and wash it out. Should I be less careful in washing my soul? I ought to see the stripe that was made on the back of Jesus by each of my sins. I ought to see the infinite pang thrill through the soul of Jesus equal to an eternity of my hell for my sins, and for all of them. I ought to see that in Christ’s blood-shedding there is an infinite over-payment for all my sins. Although Christ did not suffer more than infinite justice demanded, yet He could not suffer at all without laying down an infinite ransom.
“I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do
no good to go-as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from hell. John argues the opposite way: `If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father;’ Jer. 3:1 and a thousand other scriptures are against it. I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but it is the way.
“I must never think a sin too small to need immediate application to the blood of Christ. If I put away a good conscience, concerning faith I make shipwreck. I must never think my sins too great, too aggravated, too presumptuous-as when done on my knees, or in preaching, or by a dying bed, or during dangerous illness-to hinder me from fleeing to Christ. The weight of my sins should act like the weight of a clock: the heavier it is, it makes it go the faster.
“I must not only wash in Christ’s blood, but clothe me in Christ’s obedience. For every sin of omission in self, I may find a divinely perfect obedience ready for me in Christ. For every sin of commission in self, I may find not only a stripe or a wound in Christ, but also a perfect rendering of the opposite obedience in my place, so that the law is magnified, its curse more than carried, its demand more than answered.
“Often the doctrine of Christ for me appears common, well known, having nothing new in it; and I am tempted to pass it by and go to some scripture more taking. This is the devil again-a red-hot lie. Christ for us is ever new, ever glorious. `Unsearchable riches of Christ’-an infinite object, and the only one for a guilty soul. I ought to have a number of scriptures ready, which lead my blind soul directly to Christ, such as Isaiah 45, Rom. 3.
“2. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, I am persuaded that I ought to study more my own weakness. I ought to have a number of scriptures ready to be meditated on, such as Rom. 7, John 15, to convince me that I am a helpless worm.
“I am tempted to think that I am now an established Christian-that I have overcome this or that lust so long that I have got into the habit of the opposite grace-so that there is no fear; I may venture very near the temptation-nearer than other men. This is a lie of Satan. I might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit a power of resisting fire, so as not to catch the spark. As long as powder is wet, it resists the spark; but when it becomes dry, it is ready to explode at the first touch. As long as the Spirit dwells in my heart He deadens me to sin, so that, if lawfully called through temptation, I may reckon upon God carrying me through. But when the Spirit leaves me, I am like dry gunpowder. Oh for a sense of this!
“I am tempted to think that there are some sins for which I have no natural taste, such as strong drink, profane language, etc., so that I need not fear temptation to such sins. This is a lie-a proud, presumptuous lie. The seeds of all sins, are in my heart, and perhaps all the more dangerously that I do not see them.
“I ought to pray and labor for the deepest sense of my utter weakness and helplessness that ever a sinner was brought to feel. I am helpless in respect of every lust that ever was, or ever will be, in the human heart. I am a worm-a beast-before God. I often tremble to think that this is true. I feel as if it would not be safe for me to renounce all indwelling strength, as if it would be dangerous for me to feel (what is the truth) that there is nothing in me keeping me back from the grossest and vilest sin. This is a delusion of the devil. My only safety is to know, feel, and confess my helplessness, that I may hang upon the arm of Omnipotence…. I daily wish that sin had been rooted out of my heart I say, ‘Why did God leave the root of lasciviousness, pride, anger, etc., in my bosom? He hates sin, and I hate it; why did He not take it clean away?’ I know many answers to this which completely satisfy my judgment, but still I do not feel satisfied. This is wrong. It is right to be weary of the being of sin, but not right to quarrel with my present ‘good fight of faith.’ . . . The falls of professors into sin make me tremble. I have been driven away from prayer, and burdened in a fearful manner by hearing or seeing their sin. This is wrong. It is right to tremble, and to make every sin of every professor a lesson of my own helplessness; but it should lead me the more to Christ … If I were more deeply convinced of my utter helplessness, I think I would not be so alarmed when I hear of the falls of other men … I should study those sins in which I am most helpless, in which passion becomes like a whirlwind and I like a straw. No figure of speech can represent my utter want of power to resist the torrent of sin … I ought to study Christ’s omnipotence more: Heb. 7:25, 1 Thess. 5:23, Rom. 6:14, Rom. 5:9, 10, and such scriptures, should be ever before me … Paul’s thorn, II Cor. 12, is the experience of the greater part of my life. It should be ever before me … There are many subsidiary methods of seeking deliverance from sins, which must not be neglected-thus, marriage, I Cor. 7:2; fleeing, I Tim. 6:11, I Cor. 6:18; watch and pray. Matt. 26:41; the word, ‘It is written, It is written.’ So Christ defended himself; Matt. 4. … But the main defence is casting myself into the arms of Christ like a helpless child, and beseeching Him to fill me with the Holy Spirit. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.’ I John 5:4, 5-a wonderful passage.
“I ought to study Christ as a living Saviour more-as a Shepherd, carrying the sheep He finds-as a King, reigning in and over the souls He has redeemed-as a Captain, fighting with those who fight with me, Ps. 35 as one who has engaged to bring me through all temptations and trials, however impossible to flesh and blood.
“I am often tempted to say, How can this Man save us? How can Christ in heaven deliver me from lusts which I feel raging in me, and nets I feel enclosing me? This is the father of lies again! ‘He is able to save unto the uttermost.’
“I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter, who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.
“I ought to study the Comforter more-his Godhead, his love, his almightiness. I have found by experience that nothing sanctifies me so much as meditating on the Comforter, as John 14:16. And yet how seldom I do this! Satan keeps me from it. I am often like those men who said, They knew not if there be any Holy Ghost … I ought never to forget that my body is dwelt in by the third Person of the Godhead. The very thought of this should make me tremble to sin; I Cor. 6 … I ought never to forget that sin grieves the Holy Spirit-vexes and quenches Him … If I would be filled with the Spirit, I feel I must read the Bible more, pray more, and watch more.
“3. To gain entire likeness to Christ, I ought to get a high esteem of the happiness of it. I am persuaded that God’s happiness is inseparably linked in with His holiness. Holiness and happiness are like light and heat. God never tasted one of the pleasures of sin.
“Christ had a body such as I have, yet He never tasted one of the pleasures of sin. The redeemed, through all eternity, will never taste one of the pleasures of sin; yet their happiness is complete. It would be my greatest happiness to be from this moment entirely like them. Every sin is something away from my greatest enjoyment .. . The devil strives night and day to make me forget this or disbelieve it. He says, Why should you not enjoy this pleasure as much as Solomon or David? You may go to heaven also. I am persuaded that this is a lie-that my true happiness is to go and sin no more.
“I ought not to delay parting with sins. Now is God’s time. ‘I made haste and delayed not.’. .. I ought not to spare sins because I have long allowed them as infirmities, and others would think it odd if I were to change all at once. What a wretched delusion of Satan that is! “Whatever I see to be sin, I ought from this hour to set my whole soul against it, using all scriptural methods to mortify it-as the Scriptures, special prayer for the Spirit, fasting, watching.
“I ought to mark strictly the occasions when I have fallen, and avoid the occasion as much as the sin itself.
“Satan often tempts me to go as near to temptations as possible without committing the sin. This is fearful, tempting God and grieving the Holy Ghost. It is a deep laid plot of Satan.
“I ought to flee all temptation, according to Prov. 4:15 Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.’ … I ought constantly to pour out my heart to God, praying for entire conformity to Christ-for the whole law to be written on my heart … I ought statedly and solemnly to give my heart to God-to surrender my all into His everlasting arms, according to the prayer, Ps. 31., ‘Into thine hand I commit my spirit’-beseeching Him not to let any iniquity, secret or presumptuous, have dominion over me, and to fill me with every grace that is in Christ, in the highest degree that it is possible for a redeemed sinner to receive it, and at all times, till death.
“I ought to meditate often on heaven as a world of holiness-where all are holy, where the joy is holy joy, the work holy work; so that, without personal holiness, I never can be there … I ought to avoid the appearance of evil. God commands me; and I find that Satan has a singular art in linking the appearance and reality together.
“I find that speaking of some sins defiles my mind and leads me into temptation; and I find that God forbids even saints to speak of the things that are done of them in secret. I ought to avoid this.
“Eve, Achan, David, all fell through the lust of the eye. I should make a covenant with mine, and pray, ‘Turn away mine eyes from viewing vanity.’ . . . Satan makes unconverted men like the deaf adder to the sound of the gospel. I should pray to be made deaf by the Holy Spirit to all that would tempt me to sin.
“One of my most frequent occasions of being led into temptation is this-I say it is needful to my office that I
listen to this, or look into this, or speak of this. So far this is true; yet I am sure Satan has his part in this argument. I should seek divine direction to settle how far it will be good for my ministry, and how far evil for my soul, that I may avoid the latter.
“I am persuaded that nothing is thriving in my soul unless it is growing. ‘Grow in grace.’ ‘Lord, increase our faith.’ ‘Forgetting the things that are behind.’ . . . I am persuaded that I ought to be inquiring at God and man what grace I want, and how I may become more like Christ … I ought to strive for more purity, humility, meekness, patience under suffering, love. ‘Make me Christ-like in all things,’ should be my constant prayer. ‘Fill me with the Holy Spirit.’
2. Reformation in Secret Prayer.
“I ought not to omit any of the parts of prayer-confession, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
“There is a fearful tendency to omit confession, proceeding from low views of God and his law, slight views of my heart and the sins of my past life. This must be resisted. There is a constant tendency to omit adoration, when I forget to whom I am speaking-when I rush heedlessly into the presence of Jehovah, without remembering His awful name and character-when I have little eyesight for His glory, and little admiration of His wonders. ‘Where are the wise?’ I have the native tendency of the heart to omit giving thanks. And yet it is specially commanded, Phil. 4:6. Often when the heart is selfish, dead to the salvation of others, I omit intercession. And yet it especially is the spirit of the great Advocate, who has the name of Israel always on His heart.
“Perhaps every prayer need not have all these; but surely a day should not pass without some space being devoted to each.
“I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, and then have family prayer, and breakfast, and forenoon callers, often it is eleven or twelve o’clock before I begin secret prayer. This
is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ rose before day, and went into a solitary place. David says, ‘Early will I seek Thee; Thou shalt early hear my voice.’ Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre while it was yet dark. Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness; and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then, when secret prayer comes, the soul is often out of tune. I feel it is far better to begin with God to see his face first-to get my soul near Him before it is near another. ‘When I awake I am still with Thee.’
“If I have slept too long, or am going an early journey, or my time is any way shortened, it is best to dress hurriedly, and have a few minutes alone with God, than to give it up for lost.
“But, in general, it is best to have at least one hour alone with God, before engaging in anything else. At the same time, I must be careful not to reckon communion with God by minutes or hours, or by solitude. I have pored over my Bible, and on my knees for hours, with little or no communion; and my times of solitude have been often times of greatest temptation.
“As to intercession, I ought daily to intercede for my own family, connections, relatives, and friends; also for my flock-the believers, the awakened, the careless; the sick, the bereaved; the poor, the rich; my elders, Sabbath school teachers, day-school teachers, children, tract-distributors-that all means may be blessed. Sabbath-day preaching and teaching; visiting of the sick, visiting from house to house; providences, sacraments. I ought daily to intercede briefly for the whole town, the Church of Scotland, all faithful ministers; for vacant congregations, students of divinity, etc.; for dear brethren by name; for missionaries to Jews and Gentiles-and for this end I must read missionary intelligence regularly, and get acquainted with all that is doing throughout the world. It would stir me up to pray with the map before me. I must have a scheme of prayer, also the names of missionaries marked on the map. I ought to intercede at large for the above on Saturday morning and evening from seven to eight. Perhaps also I might take different parts for different days; only I ought daily to plead for my family and flock. I ought to pray in everything. `Be careful for nothing, but in everything … by prayer and supplication, make your requests known unto God.’ Often I receive a letter asking to preach, or some such request. I find myself answering before having asked counsel of God. Still oftener a person calls and asks me something, and I do not ask direction. Often I go out to visit a sick person in a hurry, without asking his blessing, which alone can make the visit of any use. I am persuaded that I ought never to do anything without prayer, and, if possible, special, secret prayer.
“In reading the history of the Church of Scotland, I see how much her troubles and trials have been connected with the salvation of souls and the glory of Christ. I ought to pray far more for our church, for our leading ministers by name, and for my own clear guidance in the right way, that I may not be led aside, or driven aside, from following Christ. Many difficult questions may be forced on us for which I am not fully prepared, such as lawfulness of covenants. I should pray much more in peaceful days, that I may be guided rightly when days of trial come.
“I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into any corner. The morning hours, from six to eight, are the most uninterrupted, and should be thus employed, if I can prevent drowsiness. A little time after breakfast might be given to intercession. After tea is my best hour, and that should be solemnly dedicated to God, if possible.
“I ought not to give up the good old habit of prayer before going to bed; but guard must be kept against sleep: planning what things I am to ask is the best remedy. When I awake in the night, I ought to rise and pray, as David and as John Welsh did.
“I ought to read three chapters of the Bible in secret every day, at least.
“I ought on Sabbath morning to look over all the chapters read through the week, and especially the verses marked. I ought to read in three different places; I ought also to read according to subjects, lives,” etc.
He has evidently left this unfinished, and now he knows even as he is known. Toward the end of his ministry, he became peculiarly jealous of becoming an idol to his people; for he was loved and revered by many who gave no evidence of love to Christ. This often pained him much. It is indeed right in a people to regard their pastor with no common love (2 Cor. 9:14), but there is ever a danger ready to arise. He used to say, “Ministers are but the pole; it is to the brazen serpent you are to look.”
The state of his health would not permit him to be laborious in going from house to house, whereas preaching and evangelistic work in general was less exhausting; but of course, while he was thus engaged, many concerns of the parish would be unattended to; accordingly his Session offered him a stated assistant to help him in his parochial duty. With this proposal he at once concurred. Mr. Gatherer, then at Caraldstone, was chosen, and continued to labor faithfully with him during the remaining days of his ministry.
In the beginning of the year he published his Daily Bread, an arrangement of Scripture, that the Bible might be read through in the course of a year. He sought to encourage his people to meditate much on the written word in all its breadth. His last publication was, Another Lily Gathered, or the account of James Laing, a little boy in his flock, brought to Christ early, and carried soon to glory.
In the middle of January 1843, he visited Collace, and preached on 1 Corinthians 9:27: “A Castaway”-a sermon so solemn that one said it was like a blast of the trumpet that would awaken the dead. Next day he rode on to Lintrathen, where the people were willing to give up their work at midday, if he would come and preach to them. All this month he was breathing after glory. In his letters there are such expressions as these: “I often pray, Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made.” “Often, often I would like to depart and be with Christ-to mount to Pisgah top and take a farewell look of the church below, and leave my body and be present with the Lord. Ah, it is far better!” Again: “I do not expect to live long. I expect a sudden call some day-perhaps soon, and therefore I speak very plainly.” But, indeed, he had long been persuaded that his course would be brief. His hearers remember well how often he would speak in such language as that with which he one day closed his sermon: “Changes are coming; every eye before me shall soon be dim in death. Another pastor shall feed this flock; another singer lead the psalm; another flock shall fill this fold.”
In the beginning of February, by appointment of the Committee of the Convocation, he accompanied Mr. Alexander of Kirkcaldy to visit the districts of Deer and Ellon districts over which he yearned, for Moderatism had held undisputed sway over them for generations. It was to be his last evangelistic tour. He exemplified his own remark, “The oil of the lamp in the temple burnt away in giving light; so should we.”
He set out, says one who saw him leave town, as unclouded and happy as the sky that was above his head that bright morning. During the space of three weeks, he preached or spoke at meetings in twenty-four places, sometimes more than once in the same place. Great impression was made on the people of the district. One who tracked his footsteps a month after his death, states that sympathy with the principles of our suffering church was awakened in many places; but, above all, a thirst was excited for the pure word of life. His eminently holy walk and conversation, combined with the deep solemnity of his preachings, was especially felt. The people loved to speak of him. In one place, where a meeting had been intimated, the people assembled, resolving to cast stones at him as soon as he should begin to speak; but no sooner had he begun, than his manner, his look, his words, riveted them all, and they listened with intense earnestness; and before he left the place, the people gathered around him, entreating him to stay and preach to them. One man, who had cast mud at him, was afterward moved to tears on hearing of his death.
He wrote to Mr. Gatherer, February 14, “I had a nice opportunity of preaching in Aberdeen; and in Peterhead our
meeting was truly successful. The minister of St. Fergus I found to be what you described. We had a solemn meeting in his church. In Strichen, we had a meeting in the Independent Meeting-house. On Friday evening, we had two delightful meetings, in a mill at Crechie, and in the church of Clola. The people were evidently much impressed, some weeping. On Saturday evening we met in the Brucklay barn. I preached on Sabbath, at New Deer in the morning, and at Fraserburgh in the evening-both interesting meetings. Tonight we met in Pitsligo church. Tomorrow we trust to be in Aberdour; and then we leave for the Presbytery of Ellon. The weather has been delightful till now. Today the snow is beginning to drift. But God is with us, and He will carry us to the very end. I am quite well, though a little fatigued sometimes.” On the 24th, he writes to another friend, “Today is the first we have rested since leaving home, so that I am almost overcome with fatigue. Do not be idle; improve in all useful knowledge. You know what an enemy I am to idleness.”
Never was it more felt that God was with him than in this journey. The Lord seemed to show in him the meaning of the text, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Even when silent, the near intercourse he held with God left its impression on those around. His constant holiness touched the conscience of many.
Returning to his beloved flock on March 1, in good health, but much exhausted, he related the next evening at his prayer meeting, what things he had seen and heard. During the next twelve days he was to be found going out and in among his people, filling up, as his manner was, every inch of time. But he had been much weakened by his unceasing exertions when in the north, and so was more than ordinarily exposed to the typhus fever that was then prevailing in his parish, several cases of which he visited in his enfeebled state.
On March 5, the Sabbath he preached three times; and two days later, I find him writing to his father: “All domestic matters go on like a placid stream-I trust not without its fertilizing influence. Nothing is more improving than the domestic altar, when we come to it for a daily supply of soul nourishment.” To the last we get glances into his soul’s growth. His family devotions were full of life and full of gladness to the end. Indeed, his manner in reading the chapter reminded you of a man poring into the sands for pieces of fine gold, and from time to time holding up to you what he delighted to have found.
On the 12th he preached from Hebrews 9:15 in the forenoon, and Romans 9:22, 23, in the afternoon, with uncommon solemnity; and it was observed, both then and on other late occasions, he spoke with unusual strength on the sovereignty of God. These were his last discourses to his people in St. Peter’s. That same evening he went down to Broughty Ferry, and preached on Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine,” etc. It was the last time he was to be engaged directly in proclaiming Christ to sinners; and as he began his ministry with souls for his hire, so it appears that his last discourse had in it saving power to some, and that rather from the holiness it breathed than from the wisdom of its words. After his death, a note was found unopened, which had been sent to him in the course of the following week, when he lay in the fever. It ran thus: “I hope you will pardon a stranger for addressing to you a few lines. I heard you preach last Sabbath evening, and it pleased God to bless that sermon to my soul. It was not so much what you said, as your manner of speaking that struck me. I saw in you a beauty in holiness that I never saw before. You also said something in your prayer that struck me very much. It was ‘Thou knowest that we love Thee.’ Oh, sir, what would I give that I could say to my blessed Saviour, ‘Thou knowest that I love Thee!'”
Next evening he held a meeting in St. Peter’s, with the view of organizing his people for collecting in behalf of the Free Protesting Church-the disruption of the Establishment being now inevitable. He spoke very fervently; and after the meeting felt chilled and unwell. Next morning he felt that he was ill; but he went out in the afternoon to the marriage of two of his flock. He seemed, however, to anticipate a serious attack, for, on his way home, he made some arrangements connected with his ministerial work, and left a message at Dr. Gibson’s house, asking him to come and see him. He believed that he had taken the fever, and it was so. That night he lay down on the
bed from which he was never to rise. He spoke little, but intimated that he apprehended danger.
On Wednesday, he said he thought that he would never have seen the morning, he felt so sore broken, and had got no sleep; but afterward added, “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil also?” He seemed clouded in spirit, often repeating such passages as-“My moisture is turned into the drought of summer”; -“My bones wax old, through my roaring all day long.” It was with difficulty that he was able to speak a few words with his assistant, Mr. Gatherer. In the forenoon, Mr. Miller of Wallacetown found him oppressed with extreme pain in his head. Among other things they talked about on Psalm 126. On coming to the 6th verse, Mr. McCheyne said he would give him a division of it. 1. What is sowed-“Precious seed.” 2. The manner of sowing it – “Goeth forth and weepeth.” He dwelled upon “weepeth,” and then said, “Ministers should go forth at all times.” 3. The fruit – “Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing.” Mr. Miller pointed to the certainty of it; Mr. McCheyne assented, “Yes-doubtless.” After praying with him, Mr. Miller repeated Matthew 11:28, on which Mr. McCheyne clasped his hands with earnestness. As he became worse, his medical attendants forbade him to be visited. Once or twice he asked for me, and was heard to speak of “Smyrna,” as if the associations of his illness there were recalled by his burning fever now. I was not at that time aware of his danger, even the rumor of it had not reached us.
Next day, he continued very ill in body and mind, until about the time when his people met for their usual evening prayer meeting, when he requested to be left alone for half an hour. When his servant entered the room again, he exclaimed, with a joyful voice, “My soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and I am escaped.” His countenance, as he said this, bespoke inward peace. After that he was observed to be happy; and at supper time that evening, when taking a little refreshment, he gave thanks, “For strength in the time of weakness-for light in the time of darkness-for joy in the time of sorrow-for comforting us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those that are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
On the Sabbath, when someone expressed a wish that he be able to go forth as usual to preach, he replied, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, saith the Lord”; and added, “I am preaching the sermon that God would have me to do.”
On Tuesday (the 21st) his sister repeated to him several hymns. The last words he heard, and the last he seemed to understand, were those of Cowper’s hymn, “Sometimes the Light Surprises the, Christian as He Sings.” And then the delirium came on.
At one time, during the delirium, he said to his attendant, “Mind the text, I Cor. 15:58-‘Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,’ “dwelling with much emphasis on the last clause, “for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” At another time he seemed to feel himself among his brethren, and said, “I don’t think much of policy in church courts; no, I hate it; but I’ll tell you what I like, faithfulness to God, and a holy walk.” His voice, which had been weak before, became very strong now; and often he was heard speaking to or praying for his people. “You must be awakened in time, or you will be awakened in everlasting torment, to your eternal confusion.” “You may soon get me away, but that will not save your souls.” Then he prayed, “This parish, Lord, this people, this whole place!” At another time, “Do it Thyself, Lord, for Thy weak servant.” And again, as if praying for the saints, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given me.”
Thus he continued to be engaged, while the delirium lasted, either in prayer or in preaching to his people, and always apparently in happy frame, until the morning of Saturday the 25th. On that morning, while his kind medical attendant, Dr. Gibson, stood by, he lifted up his hands as if in the attitude of pronouncing the blessing, and then sank down. Not a groan or a sigh, but only a quiver of the lip, and his soul was at rest.
As he was subject to frequent sickness, it was not until within some days prior to his death that serious alarm was
generally felt, and hence the stroke came with awful suddeness on us all. That same afternoon, while preparing for Sabbath duties, the news reached me. I hastened down, though scarce knowing why I went. His people that evening met together in the church, and such a scene of sorrow has not often been witnessed in Scotland. It was like the weeping for King Josiah. Hundreds were there; the lower part of the church was full: and none among them seemed able to contain their sorrow. Every heart seemed bursting with grief, so that the weeping and the cries could be heard afar off. The Lord had most severely wounded the people whom He had before so unusually favored; and now, by this awful stroke of His hand, was fixing deeper in their souls all that his servant had spoken in the days of his powerful ministry.
Wherever the news of his departure came, every Christian countenance was darkened with sadness. Perhaps, never was the death of one, whose whole occupation had been preaching the everlasting gospel, more felt by all the saints of God in Scotland. Many of our Presbyterian brethren in Ireland also felt the blow to the very heart. He himself used to say, “Live so as to be missed”; and none that saw the tears that were shed over his death would have doubted that his own life had been what he recommended to others. He had not completed more than twenty-nine years when God took him.
On the day of his burial, business was almost suspended in the parish. The streets, and every window, from the house to the grave, were crowded with those who felt that a prince in Israel had fallen; and many a sinful man felt a secret awe creep over his hardened soul as he cast his eye on the solemn spectacle.
His tomb may be seen on the pathway at the northwest corner of St. Peter’s cemetery. He has gone to the “mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense, till the day break and the shadows flee away.” His work was finished! His heavenly Father did not have another plant for him to water, nor another vine for him to train; and the Savior who so loved him was waiting to greet him with His own welcome: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
But what is the voice to us? Has this been sent as the stroke of wrath, or the rebuke of love? “His way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known. Only this much we can clearly see, that nothing was more fitted to leave his character and example impressed on our remembrance forever than his early death. There might be envy while he lived; there is none now. There might have been some of the youthful attractiveness of his graces lost had he lived many years; this cannot be impaired now. It seems as if the Lord had struck the flower from its stem, before any of the colors had lost their bright hue, or any leaf of fragrance.
Well may the flock of St. Peter’s lay it to heart. They have had days of visitation. “Ye have seen the right hand of the Lord plucked out of his bosom? What shall the unsaved among you do in the day of the Lord’s anger?” “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace!”
It has been more than once the lot of Scotland (as was said in the days of Durham) to enjoy so much of the Lord’s kindness, as to have men to lose whose loss has been felt to the very heart-witnesses for Christ, who saw the King’s face and testified of His beauty. We cannot weep them back; but shall we not call on Him with whom is the residue of the Spirit, that before the Lord come, He would raise up men, like Enoch, or like Paul, who shall reach nearer the stature of the perfect man, and bear witness with more power to all nations? Are there not (as he who has left us used to hope) “better ministers in store for Scotland than any that have yet arisen”?
Ministers of Christ, does not the Lord call on us especially? Many of us are like the angel of the church of Ephesus: we have “works, and labor, and patience, and cannot bear them that are evil, and we have borne, and for his name’s sake we labor, and have not fainted”; but we want the fervor of “first love. ” Oh how seldom now do we hear of fresh supplies of holiness arriving from the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3)-new grace appearing among the saints, and in living ministers! We become contented with our old measure and kind, as if the windows of heaven were never to be opened. Few among us see the lower depths of the horrible pit; few ever enter the inner chambers of the house of David.
But there has been one among us who, before he had reached the age at which a priest in Israel would have been entering on his course, dwelt at the Mercy seat as if it were his home-preached the certainties of eternal life with an undoubting mind-and spent his nights and days in ceaseless breathings after holiness, and the salvation of sinners. Hundreds of souls were his reward from the Lord, before he left us; and in him have we been taught how much one man may do who will only press farther into the presence of his God, and handle more skillfully the unsearchable riches of Christ, and speak more boldly for his God. We speak much against unfaithful ministers, while we ourselves are very unfaithful! Are we never afraid that the cries of souls whom we have betrayed to perdition through our want of personal holiness, and our defective preaching of Christ crucified, may ring in our ears forever? Our Lord is at the door. In the twinkling of an eye our work will be done. “Awake, awake, 0 arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days,” until every one of Thy pastors be willing to impart to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made him overseer, not the gospel of God only, but also his own soul. And oh that each one were able, as he stands in the pastures feeding Thy sheep and lambs, to look up and appeal to Thee: “Lord, Thou knowest all things! Thou knowest that I love Thee!”