In the Fires with M'Cheyne
(Taken from Memoir of the Life of Robert Murray M'Cheyne by A. A. Bonar)
"Aug. 4. 1842— Often, often, would I have been glad to depart, and be with Christ. I am now much better in body and mind, having a little of the presence of my beloved, whose absence is death to me." The same month: "I have been carried through deep waters, bodily and spiritual, since last we met." It was his own persuasion that few had more to struggle with in the inner man. Who can tell what wars go on within?
During this season of trial, he was invited to form one of a number of ministers from Scotland, who were to visit the north of England, with no other purpose than to preach the glad tidings. The scheme was planned by a Christian gentleman, who has done much for Christ in his generation. When the invitation reached him, he was in the heat of his furnace. He mentioned this to the brother who corresponded with him on the subject, Mr. Purves of Jedburgh, whose reply was balm to his spirit ... "I have a fellow-feeling with you in your present infirmity, and you know for your consolation that another has, who is a brother indeed. In all our afflictions, He is afflicted. He is, we may say, the common heart of his people, for they are one body; and an infirmity in the very remotest and meanest member is felt there and borne there. Let us console, solace, yea, satiate ourselves in Him, as, amid afflictions especially, brother does in brother. It is blessed to be like Him in everything, even in suffering. There is a great want about all Christians who have not suffered. Some flowers must be broken or bruised before they emit any fragrance. All the wounds of Christ send out sweetness; all the sorrows of Christians do the same. Commend me to a bruised brother,—a broken reed,—one like the Son of man. The Man of Sorrows is never far from him. To me there is something sacred and sweet in all suffering; it is so much akin to the Man of Sorrows." It was thus he suffered, and thus that he was comforted. He wrote back, agreeing to go, and added. "Remember me especially, who am heavy laden oftentimes. My heart is all of sin; but Jesus lives."
They set out for England. Mr. Purves, Mr. Somerville of Anderston, Mr. Cumming of Dumbarney, and Mr. Bonar of Kelso, formed the company. Their chief station was Newcastle, where Mr. Burns had been recently laboring with some success, and where he had seen "a town giving itself up to utter ungodliness, a town where Satan's trenches were deep and wide, his wall strong and high, his garrison great and fearless, and where all that man could do seemed but as arrows shot against a tower of brass." But those who went knew that the Spirit of God was omnipotent, and that He could take the prey from the mighty.
They preached both in the open air, and in the places of worship belonging to the Presbyterians and to the Wesleyan Methodists. The defenders of the Sabbath cause were specially prepared to welcome Mr. M'Cheyne, whose tract on the Lord's Day has been widely circulated and blessed. Many were attracted to hear; interesting congregations assembled in the market-place, and there is reason to believe many were impressed. A person in the town describes Mr. M'Cheyne's last address as being peculiarly awakening. He preached in the open air, in a space of ground between the Cloth Market and St. Nicholas' Church. Above a thousand souls were present, and the service continued till ten, without one person moving from the ground. The moon shone brightly, and the sky was spangled with stars. His subject was, "The Great White Throne" (Rev. 20:11). In concluding his address, he told them "that they would never meet again till they all met at the judgment-seat of Christ; but the glorious heavens over their heads, and the bright moon that shone upon them, and the old venerable church behind them, were his witnesses that he had set before them life and death." Some will have cause to remember that night through eternity.