Robert Murray McCheyne

📅 April 19, 2020

Robert Murray McCheyne was born in Edinburgh in May 1813. At fourteen he entered Edinburgh University, and graduated four years later in 1831. When his older brother Robert died after a sudden illness in the summer of 1831, McCheyne turned to the Bible for comfort and was saved.

Soon after his conversion in 1831, McCheyne began to prepare for the ministry. He quickly mastered Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but his learning was solely for the purpose of advancing his understanding of scripture. It was when he was a student, he wrote, “A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man.”

He also studied Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd and longed for the power of the Holy Spirit so evident in their lives. It was because of their influence he started evangelistic work in the poorer districts of Edinburgh with his fellow students early in 1834.

Towards the end of 1835, McCheyne became the assistant minister of a parish near Stirling which included an industrial town of ironworks and coal mines, and a country village surrounded by farmland. Each Sunday he expounded the gospel and each weekday he visited house by house, sharing the scriptures.

McCheyne’s achievements were all the more remarkable because he had a severe heart condition which often compelled him to rest. This was especially so in the matter of missionary outreach which had occupied his thoughts from his earliest days as a Christian. He was deeply moved by the sacrificial devotion shown by pioneer missionaries such as Brainerd.

On April 12th, 1839, McCheyne went with three other men to the Holy Land. McCheyne could not contain his delight as he got his first glimpse of the city. After visiting Jewish settlements, the four friends separated at Beirut. McCheyne paid another brief visit to Jerusalem before embarking for Asia Minor.

The weeks of travelling had severely strained McCheyne’s health and by the time they set sail he had developed a fever. The fever so weakened McCheyne that he needed to be carried ashore at Smyrna and for two weeks he was nursed back to health by an English family who lived nearby. Despite this illness, he spent a further two months travelling.

On their return to Scotland in November 1839, their report created such an impact that the General Assembly unanimously decided to begin missionary outreach to the Jews of Eastern Europe and in 1841 missionaries were sent.

Two years later, a typhus epidemic struck and McCheyne fell ill. He died on March 25, 1843, not yet 30 years old.

Here are a few verses from one of McCheyne’s best known writings:

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.


  1. Rebecca

    I love stories of unknown people who gave their all! What a great quote: “A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man.” He was a deep writer too. Love his verses.
    Thanks for this!

    • Holly Bebernitz

      Thanks, Rebecca. He is a favorite of mine. That lovely poem is several verses long. His biography is well worth reading. Also: you can sing this poem to the tune of the hymn, “Go to Dark Gethsemane.”


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association