Robert M. M’Cheyne on Poverty

Recently I wrote about the encouragement of using an annual Bible reading plan set out by Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the 19th Century Scottish pastor who died before his 30th birthday. This morning as I was listening to the daily podcast of the plan, and came upon Acts 5 and the story of the generosity of the early Church who cared so well for each other in those early days. That generosity always moves me, but today I was struck by the deception of Ananias and Sapphira who wanted people to think they were so. How do we do that today?

At the same time, I am also reading a collection of M’Cheyne’s journal entries, letters, and sermons, and he wrote something that speaks directly to the generosity struggle in this material world:

March 8.–Accompanied A.B. in one of his rounds through some of the most miserable habitations I ever beheld. Such scenes I never before dreamed of. Ah, why am I such a stranger to the poor of my native town? I have passed their doors thousands of times; I have admired the huge black piles of building, with their lofty chimneys breaking the sun’s rays–why have I never ventured within? How dwelleth the love of God in me? How cordial is the welcome even of the poorest and most loathsome to the voice of Christian sympathy! What imbedded masses of human beings are huddled together, unvisited by friend or minister! ‘No man careth for our souls‘ is written over every forehead. Awake, my soul! Why should I give hours and days any longer to the vain world, when there is such a world of misery at my very door? Lord put thine own strength in me; confirm every good resolution; forgive my past long life of uselessness and folly.” (Aged 21)

Memoir and Remains of the Rev Robert Murray M’Cheyne, page 9

The remaining portion of M’Cheyne’s last decade saw him teach Sabbath schools, visit families, and advocate for justice for those living in poverty. His concern wasn’t simply for his own community, though. A trip to Israel and Egypt on behalf of the Scottish churches continued to augment his concern for people everywhere who did not know his Savior.

May the Lord stir in each of His children a growing understanding that we are His hands and His feet carrying His Word next door and around the world. May we be able to pray with M’Cheyne, “that I may be made holier and wiser–less like myself, and more like my heavenly Master” (Memoir, p.3).

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