"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."
So wrote Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-1843), minister of St. Peter's, Dundee. It is a long time since I have picked up Andrew Bonar's deeply affectionate Memoir of M'Cheyne's life. It is a work full of impressive insistence on godliness and grace. Spurgeon said that "This is one of the best and most profitable volumes ever published...The memoir of such a man ought surely to be in the hands of every Christian and certainly every preacher of the Gospel."
Here's a thought provoking comment from his diary:
"We may be too engrossed with the shell even of heavenly things."
How true that is, even for ministers of the Word.
In an age of surface, superficial, spirituality Bonar's account of M'Cheyne offers a way to find a deeper, greater, more self-effacing godliness of character founded upon the experiential reality of the gospel of free grace in Christ.
Bonar wrote of young M'Cheyne's journey toward the truth of the gospel:
...it was the reading of The Sum of Saving Knowledge, generally appended to our Confession of Faith, that brought him to a clear understanding of the way of acceptance with God...I find him some years afterwards recording: "March 11, 1834.--Read in the Sum of Saving Knowledge, the work which I think first of all wrought a saving change in me."
It will be observed that he never reckoned his soul saved, notwithstanding all his convictions and views of sin, until he really went into the Holiest of all on the warrant of the Redeemer's work; for assuredly a sinner is still under wrath, until he has actually availed himself of the way to the Father opened up by Jesus. All his knowledge of his sinfulness, and all his sad feeling of his own need and danger, cannot place him one step farther off from the lake of fire. It is "he that comes to Christ" that is saved.