Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–1843) was a minister in the Church of Scotland whose short tenure as a pastor was one completely devoted to God.
He was born to Adam and Lockhart M’Cheyne in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 21, 1813. When he was 4, he learned the Greek alphabet. At 8 years old, he began high school; at 14, he entered the University of Edinburgh and won honors in all his classes.
Although he excelled educationally, he had not experienced a spiritual transformation. He attended the Church of Scotland with his family, could recite Scripture and knew the Westminster Catechism. He later said of his early days that “he cherished a pure morality but lived in heart a Pharisee.”
His older brother, David, died in the summer of 1831. A devout Christian, David had pleaded with him to turn to Jesus. His brother’s death started his path to salvation. After reading the theology book “The Sum of Saving Knowledge” by David Dickson and James Durham, he accepted God’s grace and his life took a new focus.
M’Cheyne immediately began divinity school at the University of Edinburgh. He received his license to preach in July 1835, and his first year was spent as an assistant pastor.
Serving the church
In November 1836, he was called to preach as the first pastor of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee. He preached twice each Sunday to his congregation of 1,100 members. He worked enthusiastically, starting many initiatives. He began a Sabbath (Saturday) school for young children. His Tuesday night Bible study brought in 250 youth.
He commenced a Thursday night prayer meeting with 800 people attending. During the summer, he held weekly singing meetings. His hard work weakened him, and in 1838, he recuperated in Edinburgh.
Hoping the climate might help him, M’Cheyne traveled with a small team to Israel to investigate missionary possibilities in reaching Jews. The eight-month trip was successful in creating interest in Jewish missions in several countries.
When M’Cheyne returned to his church, a Dundee revival had broken out under the zealous preaching of William Chalmers Burns. M’Cheyne continued the revival in his church and on evangelistic tours.
His ministry was flourishing when he contracted typhus fever and died on March 25, 1843. An estimated 7,000 people attended his funeral.
His life was characterized by one of his many maxims: “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.”