Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Robert Murray M'Cheyne on "Daily Bread"

Robert Murray M'Cheyne, who was a godly pastor in Dundee, Scotland in the early 19th Century, provided his congregation with a Bible reading calendar and some timely words for its use:
My dear flock,--The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. "God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." 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 in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of 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. Then we shall be able to say, like David, "The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from Thy law." "Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of Thy word."

It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.
M'Cheyne listed some advantages to using a Bible reading plan:
  • "The whole Bible will be read through in an orderly manner in the course of a year. . . . If we pass over some parts of Scripture, we shall be incomplete Christians."
  • "Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read.--Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps."
  • "Parents will have a regular subject upon which to examine their children and servants. . . . Let [the day's chapter] be read by every member of the family beforehand, and then the meaning and application drawn out by simple question and answer."
  • "The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock are feeding.--He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably to them on the Sabbath; and both pastor and elders will be able to drop a word of light and comfort in visiting from house to house, which will be more readily responded to."
  • "The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened.--We shall be often led to think of those dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, here and elsewhere, who agree to join with us in reading these portions. We shall oftener be led to agree on earth, touching something we shall ask of God. We shall pray over the same promises, mourn over the same confessions, praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by the same words of eternal life."

M'Cheyne also cautions us concerning some dangers of using a Bible reading plan:
  • "Formality--We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to degenerate into a lifeless form. . . . Guard against this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up your souls."
  • "Self-righteousness--Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading the word, and accomplished their prescribed portion, may be tempted to look at themselves with self-complacency."
  • "Careless reading. . . . Some, by having so large a portion, may be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna saying, "Our soul loatheth this light bread!" and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking to God."
  • "A yoke too heavy to bear. . . . [Some] may find conscience dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If this be the case with any, throw aside the fetter, and feed at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy." (excerpted from Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of R.M. M'Cheyne; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987 reprint, pp. 618-628)
My church offers a pdf of M'Cheyne's calendar that can be printed on a single sheet of paper front and back, folded in half, and carried in your Bible.

If you would like a single sheet calendar for each month (larger print), you can download the files below.

For several different Bible reading plans see Justin Taylor's post from yesterday.

Happy New Year! May you enjoy feeding in the green pastures of God's Word in 2009!