Posted by: alisonwalley | 23 March 2009

“We must be driven more to our Bibles”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (or McCheyne), was born in Edinburgh in 1813. He became a minister in the Church of Scotland, but died when he was only 29 during a typhus epidemic. Despite his short ministry, he left a lasting legacy to the whole Church in his Bible reading scheme. He called it “Daily Bread, being a calendar for reading through the Word of God in a year”. This he sent out in a letter to his congregation (St Peter’s, Dundee) on 30th December 1842 – three months before his death.

If you want to read the whole letter it’s here, but it’s worth quoting a bit for its relevance to today (although I admit to expanding on his quote from Jeremiah 12:5 and putting it a more modern version!).

What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and a looking for some strange work of judgment coming upon this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question- “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”

Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day.

So why go back to the mid nineteenth century? Because M’Cheyne’s scheme is the basis of so many today. He planned it so that all his congregation would be reading the same Bible passages each day, or, as he put it, “feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time”. It calls for four passages a day: two in the morning, which he called ‘Family’, and two ‘Secret’ (private) readings in the evening. The first of January begins by setting Genesis 1 and Matthew 1 for the Family readings and Ezra 1 and Acts 1 for the Secret ones.

That’s a lot of reading to get through! It’s worth it though – but that seems a topic for another blog.

If you want the whole plan to print off, you can find it in pdf format on the Wholesome Words website. This is one of four Bible reading plans on the site, which seem to be variations on M’Cheyne’s.

Another way to use M’Cheyne’s scheme is to read the ‘Family’ bit one year and the ‘private’ part the next. Don Carson produced a two-volume book For the Love of God that help you to do just that, which I can’t recommend highly enough. He has a one-page reflection for each day and somehow usually manages to combine both passages in it. If you can get hold of a copy, do so! It’s a tremendous help in making sense of what you read and not just feeling you’re being overwhelmed with the amount of text.


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