“I am a debtor” — On the two-hundredth birthday of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

May 21, 2013

Today would have been the two-hundredth birthday of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), who was a faithful pastor in a small church in Dundee, Scotland for six years, until his early death at age 29. A life so short, and in many ways very ordinary, yet so powerfully used.

M’Cheyne is perhaps best known today for his widely used Bible reading plan, which goes through the Old Testament once every year, and the Psalms and New Testament twice (see this post for more info and suggestions).  He followed this plan much of his short life, and it was from this deep well that he ministered so powerfully.

M’Cheyne left few writings behind, but he was a memorable poet.  He wrote the following poem, titled “I am a debtor”, around 1837: Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Web Watch 3 February 2013

February 3, 2013

In this WWW: Desiring God (Machen style); McGrath on his new biography on CS Lewis; John Donne’s “A hymn to God the Father”; Proclamation Trust audio archives free to download; John Lennox in Cape Town; How much do I need to know to be saved?; three dangers of social media; why churches should disciple college-age students; why the Psalms start as they do; and William Lane Craig and Alex Rosenberg debate whether faith in God is reasonable.

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’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home: At the start of 2013

January 1, 2013

Did you know that John Newton‘s best-known, beloved hymn Amazing Grace! was written as an illustration for his sermon preached on 1 January 1773?  Newton wrote it to convey to his congregation at Olney, Buckinghamshire some of the marvellous, enduring truths in his text for that day, which was 1 Chronicles 17:16-17 — the start of one of my favourite prayers in the Bible:

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O Lord God! (ESV)

Speaking of God’s providence and promises to David and of David’s grateful, humble praise to God, Newton said, “I would accommodate them to our own use as a proper subject for our meditations on the entrance of a new year. They lead us to a consideration of past mercies and future hopes and intimate the frame of mind which becomes us when we contemplate what the Lord has done for us.”

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Looking at the Cross: Newton’s autobiographical hymn

June 12, 2010

This hymn by John Newton (1725-1807) must be one of the greatest autobiographical hymns ever to be penned, yet sadly it is not well known.  It speaks both subjectively and objectively of the amazing grace Newton found in Christ.

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt, and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did;
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.

A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I died, that thou may’st live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
(Such is the mystery of grace)
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I killed.

(Public domain.  Reproduced from Classic Christian Hymn-writers by Elsie Houghton, 1982.  Fort Washington, Penn.: Christian Literature Crusade)