Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Friday, November 30, 2012

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Ordination Sermon, December 16, 1840

(At the Ordination of the Rev. P. L. Miller, Wallacetown, Dundee, 1840) [1]

“ I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.” –2 Tim. 1v. 1,2.

I.  Where faithful ministers stand—“Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  There is not a more awfully affecting situation in the whole world than that in which a faithful minister stands.


(1.)  Before God.—This is true in two ways:

      1st, As a sinner saved by grace—He was once far off, but is now brought nigh by the blood of Jesus.  Having “boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say His flesh,” He draws near.  He stands within the vail—in the holiest of all—in the love of God.  He is justified before God.  A faithful minister is an example to his flock of a sinner saved, God says to him as He did to Abraham, “Walk before Me and be thou perfect.”  He can say with Paul, “I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy.”  A faithful minister is like Aaron’s rod that was laid up beside the ark of God and budded there.

      2nd, As a servant—In the East, servants always stand in the presence of their master, watching his hand.  The Queen of Sheba said to Solomon, “Happy are these servants which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.”  So it is said of the angels, that “They do always behold the face of My Father, which is in heaven.”  Even when most engaged in the service of His saints, they feel under His all-seeing, holy, living eye.  So ought faithful ministers to feel.  They should feel constantly His presence—under his soul-piercing, gentle guiding, holy, living eye.  “I will guide thee with Mine eye.” “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous.”  Ah! how often we feel we are before manThen all power withers, and we become weak, as other men; but oh! how sweet to feel in the presence of God, as if there were no eye on us but God’s.  In prayer, how sweet to feel before Him; to kneel at His footstool, and to put our hand upon the mercy-seat—no curtain, no veil, no cloud between the soul and God.  In preaching, how sweet to say, like Elijah, when he stood before Ahab, “I stand before the Lord God of Israel.”  To stand at His feet, in His family, in His pavilion, O believers, it is then we get above the billows. The applause of men, the rage and contempt of men, then pass by us like the idle wind which we regard not.  Thus is a minister like a rock in the ocean; the mountain-billows dash upon his brow, and ye it stands unshaken.

(2.)  Before Jesus Christ.—This also is true in two ways:

      1st,  The faithful minister has a present sight of Christ as his Righteousness.  He is like John the Baptist, “Seeing Jesus coming unto him, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!”  Or like Isaiah, he saw “His glory and spake of Him.”  His own soul is ever watching at Gethsemane and at Golgotha.  O brethren, it is thus only we can ever speak with feeling, or with power, or with truth, of the unsearchable riches of Christ.  We must have the taste of the manna in our mouth, “milk and honey under our tongue,” else we cannot tell of its sweetness.  We must be drinking of the living water from the smitten rock, or we cannot speak of its refreshing power.  We must be hiding our guilty souls in the wounds of Jesus, or we cannot, with joy, speak of the peace and rest to be found there.  This is the reason why unfaithful ministers are cold and barren in their labours.  They speak, like Balaam, of a Saviour whose grace they do not feel.  The speak like Caiaphas, of the blood of Christ, without having felt its power to speak peace to the troubled heart.  This is the reason why many good men have a barren ministry.  They speak from clear head-knowledge, or from past experience, but not from a present grasp of the truth—not from a present sight of the Lamb of God.  Hence their words fall like a shower of snow—fair and beautiful but cold and freezing.  The Lord give us to stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus.

      2d,  The faithful minister should feel the presence of a living Saviour.  A minister should be like the bride in the Song—“Leaning upon her beloved.”  This was Jeremiah’s strength (i.8), “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”   So it was with Paul (Acts xviii. 10), “For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.”  So Jesus told all the disciples, “Yet a little while and the world seeth Me not, but ye see Me.  Because I live, ye shall live also.”  And again He says expressly, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  Yes, brethren, Christ is as truly walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, as truly in this place to-day, as if you saw Him with your bodily eyes.  His humanity is at the right hand of God—appearing in the presence of God for us.  His Godhead fills all in all.  Thus He is with us—standing with our right hand, so that we cannot be moved.  It is sweet to know and feel this.  Thus only can we be sustained amid all the trials of the ministry.  Are we weary? we can lean, like John, upon His bosom.  Are we burdened with a sense of sin? we can hide in the cleft of that Rock of Ages.  Are we empty? we can look up to Him for immediate supply.  Are we hated of all men? we can hide under His wings.  Stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, and then you may smile at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world.  Learn here also the guilt of refusing a Gospel ministry, “He that refuseth you refuseth Me; and he that refuseth Me refuseth Him that sent Me.”

      (3.) Within the sight of judgment—“Who shall judge the quick and the dead.”—Ministers of their flocks shall meet together before the throne of the Lord Jesus.  That will be a solemn day.  They may have many solemn meetings on earth.  An Ordination day is a solemn day.  Their meetings from Sabbath to Sabbath are solemn meetings; and sacrament days are very solemn days.  But their meeting at the judgment-seat will be by far the most solemn of all.  Then,

      1st, The minister will give in his account, either with joy, or with grief.  He will no more meet to plead with the people, or to pray with them, but to bear witness how they received the Word.  Of some he will give account with a joyful countenance—they received the Word with all readiness of mind—that they were converted and became like little children—these will be his joy and crown.  Of most with grief—that he carried the message to them, but they would not come—they made light of it; or perhaps they listened for a while, but drew back into perdition.  He will be a swift witness against them in that day.  “Depart ye cursed.”

      2nd, Then the people will give in their account of the minister.  If he was faithful—if he made it his meat and drink to do the will of God—if he preached the whole truth wit seriousness, urgency, love—if he was holy in his life—if he preached publicly, and from house to house—then that minister shall shine like the stars.  If he was unfaithful—if he fed himself but not the flock—if he did not seek the conversion of souls—did not travail in birth—if he sought his own ease, his own wealth, his own praise, and not their souls—then shall the loud curses of the ruined souls fall on that wretched man, and God shall say, Take the unfaithful servant, and bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness.  O believers, it is the duty of ministers to preach with this solemn day in their eye.  We should stand, like Abraham, looking down on the smoke of Sodom; like John, listing to the new song and the golden harps of the New Jerusalem.  Would not this take away the fear of man?  Would not this make us urgent in our preaching?/  You must either get these souls into Christ, or you will yet see them lying down in everlasting burnings.  O brethren, did I not say truly that the place where a minister stand is the most solemn spot in all this world?

      II. The grand business of the faithful minister.—Described in two ways; First, Generally—Preach the Word.  Second, More in detail—Reprove, rebuke, exhort.

      (1.)  Preach the Word.  The grand work of the minister, in which he is to lay out his strength of body and mind, is preaching.  Weak and foolish as it may appear, this is the grand instrument which God has put into our hands, by which sinners are to be saved, and saints fitted for glory.  It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.  It was to this our blessed Lord devoted the years of His own ministry.  Oh! what an honour has He put upon this work, by preaching in the synagogues, in the temple, and by the blue waves of Galilee, under the canopy of heaven.  Has  he not consecrated this world as a preaching ground?  This was the grand work of Paul and all the apostles; for this was our Lord’s command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach this Gospel.”  O brethren, this is our great work.  It is well to visit the sick, and well to educate children, and clothe the naked.  It is well to attend Presbyteries.  It is well to write books or read them; but here is the main thing—Preach the Word.  The pulpit is, as George Herbert says, “Our joy and throne.”  This is our watch-tower.  He we must warn the people.  The silver trumpet is put into our hand.  Woe be unto us if we preach not the Gospel.

      The Matter—The Word.—It is in vain we preach, if we preach not the Word—the truth as it is in Jesus.

      1st.  Not other matters.—Ye are my witnesses.”  “The same came to bear witness of that light.”  We are to speak of nothing but what we have seen and heard from God.  It is not the work of the minister to open up schemes of human wisdom and learning, not to bring his own fancies, but to tell the facts and glories of the Gospel.  We must speak of what is within the Word of God.

      2nd  Preach the Word—the most essential parts especially.  If you were with a dying man, and knew he had but half an hour to live, what would you tell him?  Would you open up some of the curiosities of the Word, or enforce some of the moral commands of the Word?  Would you not tell him his undone condition by nature and by wicked works?  Would you not tell him of the love and dying of the Lord Jesus?  Would you not tell him of the power of the Holy Spirit?  These are the essential things which a man must receive or perish.  These are the great subject matter of preaching.  Should we not preach as Jesus did when He went to Emmaus, when He began at Moses and all the prophets, and expounded to them the things concerning Himself?  Let there be much of Christ in your ministry, says the excellent Eliot.  Rowland Hill used to say, “See there be no sermon without three R’s in it: Ruin, by the Fall, Righteousness by Christ, and Regeneration by the Spirit.  Preach Christ for comforting, Christ for sanctifying.  “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      3d  Preach the Word—I would humbly suggest for the consideration of all ministers, whether we should not preach more in the manner of God’s Word.  Is not the Word the sword of the Spirit?  Should not our great work be to take if from its scabbard, to cleanse it from all rust, and then to apply its sharp edge to the consciences of man?  It is certain the fathers used to preach in this manner.  Brown of Haddington used to preach as if he had read no other book than the Bible.  It is the truth of God in its naked simplicity that the Spirit will most honour and bless.  “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is Truth.”

      (2.)  Reprove, rebuke, exhort.—The first work of the Spirit on the natural heart is to reprove the world of sin.  Although He is the Spirit of love—although a dove is His emblem—although He be compared to the soft wind and gentle dew—still His first work is to convince of sin.  If ministers are filled with the same Spirit, they will begin in the same way.  It is God’s usual method to awaken them, and bring them to despair of salvation by their own righteousness, before He reveals Christ to them.  So it was with the jailor.  So it was with Paul; he was blind three days.  A faithful minister must lay himself out for this.  Plough up the fallow-ground, and sow not among thorns.  Men must be brought down by law work to see their guilt and misery or all our preaching is beating the air.  O brethren, is this our ministry?  Let us do this plainly.  The most, I fear, in all our congregations are sailing easily down the stream into an undone eternity, unconverted and unawakened.  Brethren, they will not thank us in eternity for speaking smooth things—for sewing pillows to their arm-holes, and crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.  No they may praise us now, but they will curse our flattery in eternity.  O for the bowels of Jesus Christ in every minister, that we might long after them all!   Exhort.—The original word means to comfort—to speak as the Comforter does.  This is the second part of the Spirit’s work, to lead to Christ, to speak good news to the soul.  This is the most difficult part of the Christian ministry.  Thus did John—“Behold the Lamb of God.”  Thus did Isaiah—“Comfort ye, comfort ye.”  Thus did our Lord command—“Go, preach the Gospel to every creature.”  It is true this makes the feet of the Gospel messenger beautiful on the mountains.  He has to tell of a full, free, Divine Saviour.

      And here I would observe what appears to me a fault in the preaching of our beloved ScotlandMost ministers are accustomed to set Christ before the people.  They lay down the Gospel clearly and beautifully, but they do not urge men to enter in.  Now God says, exhort—beseech men; not only point to the open door, but compel them to come in.  O to be more merciful to souls, that we would lay hands on men and draw them in to the Lord Jesus!

III. The manner.

(1).  With long suffering.—There is no grace more needed in Christian ministry than this.  This is the heart of God the Father towards sinners; “He is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish.”  This is the heart of the Lord Jesus.  How tenderly does He cry, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I,” etc.  This is the mind of the Holy Spirit in striving with men.  He will not always strive, but oh!  how long He does strive with men!  Dear believers, had He not striven long with us, we would this day have been like Lot’s wife, monuments of grace resisted.  Now, such ought ministers to be.  Above all men we need “love that suffers long and is kind.”  Sometimes, when sinners are obstinate and hard-hearted, we are tempted to give up in despair, or to lose temper and scold them—like the disciples calling down fire from heaven.  But brethren, we must be of another spirit.  The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.  Only be filled with the Spirit of Christ, and it will make us patient toward all.  It will make us cry, “How often would I,’ etc.

      (2).  With doctrine.—Some good men  cry, Flee, flee, without showing the sinner what he is to flee from; and again, they cry, Come, come, without showing plainly the way of pardon and peace.  These men act as one would do who should run through the streets crying, Fire, fire, without telling where.  In the preaching of the apostles you will observe the clear and simple statement of the truth preceding the warm and pathetic exhortation.  This has always been followed by the most judicious and successful divines.

      It behoves ministers to unite cherub and seraph in the ministry—the angel of knowledge and the angel of burning zeal.  If we would win souls, we must point clearly the way to heaven, while we cry, Flee from the wrath to come.  I believe we cannot lay down the guilt of man—his total depravity, and the glorious Gospel of Christ, too clearly; that we cannot urge men to embrace and flee too warmly.  O for a pastor who unites the deep knowledge of Edwards, the vast statements of Owen, and the vehement appeals of Richard Baxter.!

      (3). With urgency.—If  a neighbour’s house were on fire, would we not cry aloud and make every exertion?  If a friend were drowning, would we be ashamed to strain every nerve to save him?  But alas! the souls of our neighbours are even now on their way to everlasting burnings—they are ready to be drowned in the depths of perdition.  Oh! shall we be less earnest to save their never-dying souls, than we would be to save their bodies?  How anxious was the Lord Jesus in this—when He came near and beheld the city, He wept over it!  How earnest was Paul,—“Remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”  Such was George Whitfield; that great man scarcely ever preached without being melted into tears.  Brethren, there is need of urgency now.  Hell is as deep and burning as ever.  Unconverted souls are as surely rushing to it.  Christ is as free—pardon as sweet as ever!  Ah! how shall we be amazed at our coldness when we do get to heaven!

      (4). At all times.—Our Lord went about continually doing good; He made it His meat and drink.  “Daily in the temple.”  So should we.  Satan is busy at all times—he does not stand upon ceremony—he does not keep to himself Sabbath-days, or canonical hours.  Death is busy.  Men are dying while we are sleeping.  About fifty die every minute; nearly one every second entering into an unchangeable world!  The Spirit of God is busy.  Blessed be God He hath cast our lot in times when there is the moving of the Great Spirit among the dry bones.  Shall ministers then be idle, or stand upon ceremony?  O that God would baptise us this day with the Holy Ghost and with fire, that we might be all changed as into a flame of fire, preaching and building up Christ’s Church till our latest dying hour.


      MY DEAR BROTHER,—It is not many years ago since you and I played together as children, and now, by the wonderful providence of God, I have been appointed to preside at your ordination to the office of the holy ministry.  Truly, His way is in the sea, and His path in the deep waters.  Do not think then that I mean to assume an authority which I have not.  I cannot speak to you as a father, but as a brother beloved in the Lord let me address a few words of counsel to you.

      (1.)  Thank God for putting you into the ministry.—“I thank Christ Jesus my Lord for the He accounted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”  “To me who am the less than the least of all saints,” etc.  O brother, thank God for saving your soul—for sending His Spirit into your heart, and drawing you to Christ.  But this day you have a new cause of thankfulness in being put into the ministry.  It is the greatest honour in the world.  “Had I a thousand lives, I would willingly spend them in it.”  True it is an awfully responsible office: the eternity of thousands depends on your faithfulness—but ah! the grace is so full, and the reward is so glorious.  If, said the dying Payson,—“If ministers only saw the preciousness of Christ, they would not be able to refrain from clapping their hands with joy and exclaiming, I am a minister of Christ!  I am a minister of Christ!”  Do not forget, then, dear brother, amid the broken accents of confession from a broken heart, to pour out a song of thankfulness—Thanks be to God, for my own part, during the few years I have to be a minister, I can truly say that I desire no other honour upon earth than to be allowed to preach the everlasting Gospel.  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

      (2.) Seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit.—The more anointing of the Holy Spirit you have, the more will you be a happy, holy, and successful minister.  You remember that the two olive trees that stood close by the golden candlestick, and emptied the golden oil out of themselves.  These represent successful ministers, anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.  The Lord make you like one of them.  Remember John the Baptist, “He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, and many of the children of Israel shall He turn to the Lord their God.”  The Lord fill you in like manner, and then you will be a converting minister.  Remember that the apostles; before the day of Pentecost they were dry, sapless trees—they had little fruit; but when the Spirit came on them like a mighty rushing wind, then three thousand were pricked to the heart.

      Oh! brother, plead with God to fill you with the Spirit, that you may stand in His counsel, and cause the people to hear His words, and turn many from the evil of their ways.  You know that a heated iron, though blunt, can pierce its way even where a much sharper instrument, of cold, could not enter.  Pray that you may be filled with the fire of the Spirit, that you may pierce into the hard hearts of unconverted sinners.

       (3.)  Do not rest without success in your ministry.—Success is the rule under a living ministry. want of success is the exception.  “The want of ministerial success,” says Robinson, “is a tremendous circumstance, never to be contemplated without horror.”  Your people will be of two kinds:—

      1st, The Lord’s people.—Those who are already in Christ, seek for success among them.  He gave some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints.  Never forget Christ’s words, “Feed My sheep, feed My Lambs.”  Be like Barnabas, a son of consolation.  Exhort them to cleave to the Lord.  Do not say, “They are safe and I will let them alone.”  This is a great mistake.  See how Paul laid out his strength in confirming the disciples.  Be a helper of their joy. Do not rest till you get them to live under the pure, holy rules of the Gospel.

            2ndThe great mass you will find to be unconverted.—Go, brother, leaving the ninety-nine, go after the one sheep that was lost.  Leave your home, your comforts, your bed, your ease, your all, to feed lost souls.  The Lord of Glory left heaven for this; it is enough for the disciple to be as his Master.  It is said of Alleine, that, “he was infinitely and insatiably greedy of the conversion of souls.”  Rutherford wrote to his dear people, “My Witness is above, that your heaven would be two heavens to me, and the salvation of you all as two salvations to me.”  The Lord give you this heavenly compassion for this people.  You will often find that there is a shaking among the dry bones—a coming together bone to his bone—skin and flesh come upon them, but no breath in them.  Oh! brother, cry for the breath of heaven.  Remember a moral sinner will lie down in hell with the vilest.
            (5.)  Last of all, be a man of prayer.—Give yourself to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.  If you do not pray, God will probably lay you aside from your ministry, as He did me, to teach you to pray.  Remember Luther’s maxim, “bene orasse est bene studuisse.”[2]  Get your texts from God, your thoughts,  your words, from God.  Carry the names of the little flock upon your breast like the High Priest, wrestle for the unconverted.  Luther spent his three best hours in prayer.  John Welch prayed seven or eight hours a day.  He used to keep a plaid on his bed that he might wrap himself in it when he rose during the night.  Sometimes his wife found him on the ground lying weeping.  When she complained, he would say, “O woman! I have souls of three thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them”  Oh! that God would pour down this spirit of prayer on you and me, and all the ministers of our beloved Church, and then we shall see better days in Scotland.  I commend you to God, etc.


DEAR BRETHREN,—I trust this to be the beginning of many happy days to you in this place.  Gifts in answer to prayer are always the sweetest.  I believe your dear pastor has been given you in answer to prayer, for I do not think your wonderful unanimity can be accounted for in any other way.

            (1,)  Love your pastor.—So far as I know him he is worthy of your love.  I believe he is one to whom the Lord has been very merciful, that God has already owned his labours, and I trust, will a thousand times more.  Esteem him very highly in love for his work’s sake.  You little know the anxieties, temptations, pains and wrestlings, he will be called to bear for you.  Few people know the deep wells of anxiety in the bosom of a faithful pastor.  Love and reverence him much.  Do not make an idol of  him; that will destroy his usefulness.  It was said of the Erskines, that men could not see Christ over their heads. Remember, look beyond him and above him.  Those that would have worshipped Paul were the people who stoned him.  Do not stumble at his infirmities.  There are spots upon the sun, and infirmities in the best of men.  Cover them—do not stumble at them.  Would you refuse gold because it was brought you in a ragged purse?  Would you refuse pure water because it came in a chipped bowl? The treasure is in an earthen vessel.

            (2.)  Make use of your pastor.—He has come with good news form a far country.  Come and hear.

            1st, Wait patiently on his ministry.—He does not come in his own name.  The Lord is with him.  If you refuse him, you will refuse Christ; for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

            2nd, Welcome him into your houses.  He is coming like his Master, to seek that which was lost, and to bind up that which is broken; to strengthen that which was sick, and to bring again that which was driven away.  You all have need of him, whether converted or not.  Remember there is an awful curse against those who receive not the Gospel message.  He will shake the dust off his feet against you, and that dust will rise against you in judgment.

            3rd, Do not trouble him about worldly matters.—His grand concern is to get your soul saved.  He is not a man of business, but a man of prayer.  He has given himself to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word.

            4th, Go freely to him about your souls.—“The ministers house was more thronged than ever the tavern had wont to be.”  Those were happy days.  There is no trade I would like to see broken in this place but that of the taverners.  It is a soul-destroying trade.  I would like to see the taverns emptied, and the minister’s house thronged.  Do not hesitate to go to him.  It is your duty and your privilege.  It is your duty.  It will encourage him, and show him how to preach to your souls.  It is your privilege.   I have known many get more light from a short conversation than from many sermons.

            5th, Be brief.—Tell your case.  Hear his word and be gone.  Remember his body is weak, and his time precious.  Your are stealing his time from others or from God.  I cannot tell you what a blessing it will be if you will be very short in your calls.  The talk of the lips tendeth to penury.

            (3.)  God’s children pray for him.—Pray for his body, that he may be kept strong, and spared for many years.  Pray for his soul, that he may be kept humble and holy—a burning and a shining light—that he may grow.  Pray for his ministry, that it may be abundantly blessed—that he may be anointed to preach good tidings.  Let there be no secret prayer without naming him before Go, no family prayer without carrying your pastor in your hearts to God.  Hold up his hands, so Israel will prevail against Amalek.

            (4.)  Unconverted souls, prize this opportunity.—I look on this ordination as a smile from heaven upon you.  God might have taken away ministers from this town instead of giving us more.  I believe the Lord Jesus is saying, “I have much people in this city.”  The door is begun to be opened this day.  The Spirit is beginning to shine.  O that you would know the day of your visitation!  This is the market-day of grace beginning in this end of town, and you should all come and buy.  O that you knew the day of your visitation!  Some, I fear, will be the worse for this ministry, and not the better.  The election will be saved, and the rest be blinded.  Some will yet wish they had died before this church was opened.  Be sure, dear souls, that you will either be saved, or more lost, by this ministry.  Your pastor comes with a silver trumpet of mercy.  Why will ye turn it into the trumpet of judgment?  He comes with tidings of great joy.  Why, should you turn them into sad tidings of endless woe?  He come to preach the acceptable day of the Lord.  Why will ye turn it into the day of the vengeance of our God?
16th, Dec. 1840

[1] Rev. Andrew A. Bonar, The Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, (Edinburgh: William Oliphant and Co. MDCCCLXV), p. 357-369.
[2] To have prayed well is to have studied well.

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