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Awakening: The Life and Ministry of Robert Murray McCheyne Paperback – 20 Jan 2010
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"The freshest presentation of McCheyne available"(Ligon Duncan)
"...a fine and fresh account of a great and godly minister of the gospel. David Robertson gives us new insight into McCheyne's personal life, and his preparation for preaching, his deep social concern and his absolute devotion to the glory of God as the ultimate motive of everything he did."(Eric Alexander)
"Recommended for anyone who wants to know how youthful enthusiasm grounded in the Bible and faith can overcome in the most adverse circumstances, and how conservatism and prejudices can then destroy what God has created. Powerful lessons for us all in fact."(Christian Marketplace)
"Having used Robert Murray McCheyne's 1842 Bible Reading Calendar for many years, and having admired his hunger for holiness, I am very glad that David Robertson has written this new biography."(John Stott)
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Robert had an early gift for learning, Robertson indicates that he memorized the Greek alphabet by age four. Beginning at Edinburgh University at age 14, McCheyne began to love Latin, which would serve him well as he went to Divinity school. One interesting point in chapter two is Robertson's succinct discussion of the role of education in the university. He notes that education was 'truly comprehensive' at the university level, not deemed to provide a specific vocational training. Considering this fact, graduation was not wholly encouraged as much as providing an overall training in logic, languages, arts and humanities (28-29).
The death of his elder brother David was earth shattering for Robert. David's death was a turning point in the life and religious outlook for Robert. David, being an earnest evangelical bore witness to his faith to Robert through letters. Robertson writes, "It had required a catylclysmic event to shake the 18 year old McCheyne out of his comfort zone and show him his need" (40). McCheyne's conversion was not showy and overly dramatic but it was real to him. No longer did McCheyne marvel at just the duties and system of religion but looked upon Christ as his Savior.
Having been licensed to preach in 1835, Robert began ministering at Larbert. In Larbert, McCheyne began to do pastoral visitiation, open study classes, and preaching. He decidedly preached for an average of 35 minutes 'because he thought the people could not stand much more' (61). McCheyne focuse his preaching efforts at opening up the Word of God and applying the message to their lives. In 1836, Robert moved to St. Peter's in Dundee as their primary minister. Through the growth of prayer meetings, youth studies and activites, and parish visitiations, McCheyne left an indelible mark on his people. Yet, McCheyne's style was not pompous and over the top, but his preach was simple and yet profound. He even began to teach the people to sing well in the summer (104-106). The people received the message and teaching well, many devoting their lives in the service of Christ. Many cariacture Scottish Calvinists 'as dry as dust, lifeless and cold legalistic theology' but 'for McCheyne his love for Jesus was his lifeline - he needed to know the presence of Christ and he often did' (128). His hope in Jesus and the consequent faith that he had provided him a wellspring of joy, a strength even in those great times of depression and melancholy that he went through.
This book is a great look at the life and ministry of Robert Murray McCheyne. Robertson goes on to plot the ministry of McCheyne at Dundee, the uprising in the Church of Scotland and the split that caused the Free Church to form. Overall, the book was an encouraging and edifying of a portrait won over by Christ and devoted to ministering the gospel to all people. Many people will just know McCheyne for his daily Bible reading plan, but Robertson has openend up his life to readers, from the haunting depression that followed him to the souls that were changed through his messages. This is a great resource for pastors, leaders, lay people, and those interested in the church's witness to the gospel in lives of its ministers.
Thanks to Christian Focus Publications for the review copy.