The Sainted McCheyne. The 21st May 1913 marked the centenary of the birth of Robert Murray McCheyne, the famous pastor of St Peter’s Church, Dundee. On the 25th March 1843 he died.
His tomb is in the north-west corner of St Peter’s Church Burial Ground.
The centenary of Robert Murray McCheyne was celebrated by special services in many Scottish churches on Sunday, 18th May. The principle service of the day was held in St. Peter’s U.F. Church, Perth Road Dundee. The Magistrates and members of the Town Council attended in their official capacity. On the tombstone beside the church was placed a beautiful floral cross by the office bearers of St Peter’s and McCheyne Memorial Churches. Professor Stalker preached from the text “Holiness, without no man shall see the Lord.”
Professor Stalker said that the career of Robert Murray McCheyne would be reckoned by a church historian as an incident of the evangelical revival. The man in Scotland in whom this movement found its principle spokesman was Thomas Chalmers; but what Chalmers had done for Glasgow, McCheyne had done for Dundee. In some respects the evangelism of McCheyne might be called purer than even that of Chalmers, because the evangel , which, through the centre to Chalmers, had for him a wide circumference of other interests, was to McCheyne both centre and circumference. The decisive event in McCheyne’s experience was his conversion , which took place at the dawn of manhood, and was due to domestic affliction, the loss of a beloved brother causing him to abandon all earthly pursuits as vanities and occupy his mind entirely with the things of eternity. His conversion was accompanied with a passionate love for Christ, which became more and more absorbing, and with this was associated a passionate zeal for bringing men to Christ. At college he was influenced by Chalmers and Welsh, but still more by his fellow students, who, when they became young ministers, formed along with himself what might be styled the McCheyne School. Of these the one most like himself was Andrew Bonar, who had done to him as well as to the Church the invaluable service of writing his biography in a style which had made it one of the religious classics of the world. McCheyne’s first professional labour was as an assistant at Larbert, but he was soon transferred to Dundee, to be minister of St. Peters, with which his named would be forever entwined.
His brief career was however like to be rendered still briefer by ill-health; but his health was re-established by a prolonged visit to the Holy Land, to which he and other deputies were sent by the General Assembly with the view of establishing a Jewish Mission in that quarter. During his absence in the east his pulpit was occupied by the Rev William C. Burns, subsequently famous as a missionary in China, and under his powerful preaching a revival broke out, for which the pastor had long preayed, but had not been permitted to see. It went on, however, after his labours in Dundee were resumed, and it continued without interruption till the end of his life. St Peter’s thus became a centre towards which many eyes were wistfully turned, and its pastor became so famous, that his services were solicited for Ireland and England, as well as for distant parts of his own land. During his absence on a preaching tour in Aberdeenshire an epidemic of typhus fever broke out in the town, and on his return he grappled with it, visiting the dying and burying the dead, he fell a victim to the disease, expiring after a few days of suffering. Through the City and the country there went a pang of sympathetic regret, and by an instant and unanimous popular vote he was canonised as a saint, his friend James Hamilton, subsequently Dr Hamilton of Regent Square, London, giving true expression to the universal sentiment when he said: - “I question if, since the days of Samuel Rutherford, the Church of Scotland has contained a more seraphic mind, one that was in such a constant flame of love towards Him that liveth and was dead.”
In the afternoon a special service for the children attending the St. Peter’s and McCheyne Memorial Churches was held, the pulpit being occupied by Rev. A. N. Sutherland. At the evening service in St Peter’s, Rev Alex White, minister of the congregation, delivered an address on the centenary. He said there was a peculiar charm in St. Peter’s. Men had made a pilgrimage to it from all lands, as if it were a shrine, and he valued the opportunity of publicly offering the tribute of the congregation’s devotion to the memory of their first minister, the godly McCheyne.
They were not met there to crown him, and they were not there to add any glory to his life. McCheyne won recognition from the first, and in his short life was greatly used by God. Rather did they observe that centenary for the enrichment it could bring themselves. The doors of McCheyne’s soul were very wide open, and the main passion of his life was Jesus Christ and personal holiness. Men were struck by his manner of preaching, but if his manner was striking, not less striking was his matter. He preached the great saving truths, the primary and fundamental truths. He said he scarcely ever spoke from his place there without some soul being saved. He (Mr White) said they were not met to crown him, but if some were led to grace through his life, then they might exalt him and add new lustre to his crown.
Inscription on the Tombstone
Walking closely with God an example of the believer
Former St Peter's Church, Perth Road, Dundee