McCheyne’s brother David was 8 or 9 years older and was the light of Christ in the McCheyne household. It was said of him that he was a man of “sensitive truthfulness”. Just a grieved look from his godly brother often led McCheyne to inner shame and subsequent repentance.
The months leading up to David’s death were difficult for McCheyne. His brother had a severe bout of melancholy (i.e. depression—modern use), which ate away at his body, leaving him susceptible to physical illness. Before he died, the clouds of depression lifted, but David’s suffering had great impact on McCheyne, who often spoke of his brother’s death during his brief 29 years.
He wrote, “This morning five years ago, my dear brother David died, and my heart for the first time knew true bereavement. Truly it was all well. Let me be dumb, for Thou didst it; and it was good for me that I was afflicted. I know not that any providence was ever more abused by man that was by me; and yet, Lord, what mountains Thou comest over! None was ever more blessed than me!”
A couple statements are noteworthy in the above quote. First, Let me be dumb, for Thou didst it, and it was good for me. It is obvious that McCheyne grew up with godly Christian influences. To have the goodness of God this engrained in his thinking comes only through the Holy Spirit pricking the heart of a young, impressionable boy.
Parents, never doubt the eternal impressions placed on your children during the time under your care. Children watch. They take mental notes. The promises of God can be embedded within their hearts but it takes effort and a consistent visual example (Eph. 6:4). Furthermore, fight the discouragement of seemingly barren tree. Your child’s tree may look barren to you, but as with most trees, one evening it has its Winter deadness, but then the morning of Spring arrives and the tree now looks alive. In other words, trust in God and the power of His word. The Holy Spirit will blow where He chooses to blow (John 3:8-9) and when He chooses to blow. This humbling truth should bring us to our knees in prayer, to a God who is merciful and good (Eph. 2:4).
The second statement is my heart for the first time knew true bereavement. McCheyne was 18 when his brother died, but apparently this was the first time he truly grappled with the eternal reality of death. Suddenly, life seemed brief. Suddenly, the cares of this world seem empty, pointless, foolish, a bad joke. Through his devastated loss, McCheyne realized two life-changing truths: 1) Christ is sweet because only He can take away the sting of death and 2) the souls of men are the only fields worth reaping in this life.
Many of you readers may begin to wonder why death is a regular occurrence in my blog. This is not purposeful. Yet this is the reality when you focus (primarily) on the men of old and in their time of human history, people died on a regular basis. Here is a quote from McCheyne’s biographer about the reality of death:
“It is worthy of notice how often the Lord has done much work by a few years of holy labour. In our church, G. Gillespie and J. Durham died at 36; Hugh Binning at 26; Andrew Gray when scarcely 22. Of our witnesses, Patrick Hamilton was cut off at 24, and Hugh McKall at 26. In other churches we might mention many, such as John Janeway at 23, David Brainerd at 30, and Henry Martyn at 32. Theirs was a short life, filled up with usefulness, and crowned with glory. Oh to be as they!”
How old are you? How much have you done for the Savior? Is your youthfulness an excuse? I am 35 years old, an old man in light of the company above, but sadly I doubt I have accomplished an ounce of what many of these men sowed for the King.
Death is real. It will come for everyone. Often it comes without warning. The men of old thought about it often because it reminded them about the joys of eternity. We revel in the medical advances of our day and its abilities to extend our earthly life. The Devil uses these advances to lull the Christian to sleep. The “Enchanted Ground”, spoken of in the Pilgrim’s Progress, is now longer and more beautiful…..and more enticing.
Don’t stop Christians, keep running. If you do, your life will have meant something and death will bring you infinite joy.