I’m currently in the middle of preparing to write up my chapter on the credal history of the free offer of the gospel in Reformed churches, with particular reference to the Westminster Standards. This involves a lot of fairly dry reading. So instead of posting on that I’m going to share a few gems from a minister who faithfully preached Christ and him crucified – Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843). M’Cheyne was one of the greatest of the Reformed preachers of the 19th century and is an example of the preaching which has been heard in the Scottish church in all her best times. May it please the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest field who are animated with the same Spirit!
When [Christ] wept over Jerusalem… there was much that was human in it. The feet were human that stood upon Mount Olivet. The eyes were human eyes that looked down upon the dazzling city. The tears were human tears that fell upon the ground. But oh, there was the tenderness of God beating beneath that mantle! Look and live, sinners. Look and live. Behold your God! He that has seen a weeping Christ has seen the Father. This is God manifest in the flesh. Some of you fear that the Father does not wish you to come to Christ and be saved. But see here, God is manifest in the flesh. He that has seen Christ has seen the Father. See here the heart of the Father and the heart of the Son laid bare. Oh, why should you doubt? Every one of these tears trickles from the heart of God.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoirs and Remains, Banner of Truth, p472
M’Cheyne’s point here is that we can’t simply write off Christ’s weeping over Jerusalem as pertaining only to his human nature. It tells us something about God. This is in line with Calvin who believes that in his lament over Jerusalem Christ is speaking as God. His thoughts are also echoed by Dabney who writes, “Christ [is] the manifestation to us of the divine nature…. It is our happiness to believe that when we see Jesus weeping over lost Jerusalem, we “have seen the Father;” we have received an insight into the divine benevolence and pity. And therefore this wondrous incident has been so dear to the hearts of God’s people in all ages.”
Oh for the… [tenderness/mercy] of Jesus Christ in every minister, that we might long after all! … And here I would observe what appears to me a fault in the preaching of [today]. Most 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 – persuade men; not only point to the open door, but compel them to come in. Oh, to be more merciful to souls, that we would lay hands on men and draw them in to the Lord Jesus… How anxious was Jesus Christ 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!’
I think M’Cheyne hits on something absolutely crucial to the true nature of biblical preaching here. What he is saying is that to declare facts is simply not enough. True preaching is patterned after the tears of Christ and Paul. There must be earnest beseeching and persuading to truly enter into the biblical concept of preaching.
Next week I’d like to post something on Rev 22:17 from James Durham and a member of the Westminster Assembly, William Greenhill.
PS These quotes originally came from David Gay’s book on the free offer: The Gospel Offer is Free, Biggleswade: Brachus, 2004.