A Holy and Passionate Preacher
“It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” These words were written in 1840, by Robert Murray McCheyne, pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Dundee, Scotland. Such words seemed to typify McCheyne who emphasized Christ-like holiness above all else in both his preaching and actions. Although many other characteristics and descriptions are often given about Christian leaders today, very few would ever have Christ-like holiness as the main characteristic of their ministry. Perhaps this is the aspect of McCheyne’s legacy from which modern Christianity can learn most.
McCheyne was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1813. Only thirty short years of life were given to this man of God, and yet these years were filled with more productivity and spiritual fruit than many who live twice or three times the number of years given to McCheyne. He believed that “it is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.”
Several lessons can be gleaned from McCheyne’s life:
- The importance of proper influences – David Brainerd was a major influence on McCheyne. On June 27, 1832, McCheyne notes in his journals that he had just finished reading the diary of David Brainerd and subsequently was even more committed to missions after reading excerpts from the man’s journals. Two other major individuals to whom McCheyne makes repeated reference in both his journals and sermons are Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Rutherford. The reader is struck with the understanding that all three of these Christian luminaries died earlier than expected and yet accomplished more than could have been hoped in their abbreviated lives. In this respect, McCheyne follows closely upon the same track as these great men.
- The importance of beauty – McCheyne’s love of rural scenery is instructive to the minister today. Most of his summer vacations were spent in Dumfriesshire. He appreciated a good walk and the beauty of the natural world. It is of great interest to note that many of the most significant Christians and preachers in history have had a significant appreciation for the beauty contained in the natural world. Although the Western culture of today can often hurry ministers on their way with a frantic pace, McCheyne offers a significant reason for pause. For if a believer appreciates the words of God in Holy Scripture, should he not also appreciate the works of God in Creation that were made by those same words?
- The importance of a proper view of sin – In another journal entry, McCheyne states: “Clear conviction of sin is the only true origin of dependence on another’s righteousness.” He did not shy away from making such statements as “There is only one thing you can claim from God as a right, and that is a place in hell.”
Even in these three brief lessons, the legacy and memory of McCheyne has much to teach us. The journals, writings and sermons of McCheyne were carefully collected and published by Andrew Bonar after McCheyne’s death. They are still well-worth reading today.
Bonar, Andrew. Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne. Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2005.
_____________Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne. Carlisle: Banner of
Truth Trust, 2009.
Larsen, David L. The Company of the Preachers: A History of Biblical Preaching from
the Old Testament to the Modern Era. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998.
Mc’Cheyne, Robert Murray. Sermons of Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne. Carlisle: Banner of
Truth Trust, 2000.
_______________________The Seven Churches of Asia. Denmark: Christian Focus
Wiersbe, Warren W. 50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning From Spiritual
Giants of the Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2009.
 Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 7.
 Bonar, 3.
 Bonar, 24.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 29.
 Ibid., 109.