Did M'Cheyne really say...?

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Stephen Steele | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:18 AM

Robert Murray M'Cheyne's most famous quote is some variation of:

"My people's greatest need is my personal holiness"

(J. I. Packer, Ajith Fernando, Robert E. Coleman, Don Carson)

“The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.”

(Jason Helopoulos, mcheyne.info)

"The greatest need of my people is my own holiness"

(John Piper)

The only problem is - did he actually say it? None of those listed above actually reference it - and I can't find anyone on google that does.

I have M'Cheyne's works in Logos (including his biography by Bonnar) and can't find it. He writes to W. C. Burns about personal holiness in ministers and says things like:

"I feel there are two things it is impossible to desire with sufficient ardor—personal holiness, and the honour of Christ in the salvation of souls."

"Are we never afraid that the cries of souls whom we have betrayed to perdition through our want of personal holiness, and our defective preaching of Christ crucified, may ring in our ears for ever?"

But nowhere does he even use the phrase "greatest need" (or great need, chiefest need etc)

I've also searched Smellie's biography of him which is on archive.org.

Anyone have any ideas? It seems that the quote is too famous for M'Cheyne not to actually have said it - but I'm beginning to have my doubts.

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:32 AM

Stephen Steele:
The only problem is - did he actually say it? None of those listed above actually reference it - and I can't find anyone on google that does.

I hate when that happens. Tongue Tied

Stephen Steele:
It seems that the quote is too famous for M'Cheyne not to actually have said it - but I'm beginning to have my doubts.

Quotes are often attributed to people who never said them, and the internet has expedited the process. 

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Rick | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:59 AM

EDIT: I doubt if this really helps but will keep it here just in case.

I know that this probably doesn't answer your question fully but I have found one resource that gives a reference.

Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960); quoted in Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994),

The resource that gives the above reference is:

Olford, S. F., & Olford, D. L. (1998). Anointed Expository Preaching (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:59 AM

Stephen Steele:

Robert Murray M'Cheyne's most famous quote is some variation of:

"My people's greatest need is my personal holiness"

Personal holiness was a significant theme is his writings. For instance, in the book Memoir and Remains of the Reverend Robert Murray McCheyne "personal holiness" is mentioned a dozen times but never the wording but never exactly like this quote.

Examples:

"I earnestly long for more grace and personal holiness, and more usefulness.”

"Two things he seems never to have ceased from,—the cultivation of personal holiness, and the most anxious efforts to save souls."

"I feel there are two things it is impossible to desire with sufficient ardour,—personal holiness, and the honour of Christ in the salvation of souls."

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Stephen Steele | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 9:31 AM

Rick:

Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960); quoted in Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994),

The resource that gives the above reference is:

Olford, S. F., & Olford, D. L. (1998). Anointed Expository Preaching (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

I 'looked inside' Sargent's book via Amazon. Bonar's biography is included in the Logos resources I searched. Interestingly Sargent doesn't specify a page (he does for his other footnotes) - it's as if he thinks it's in the book somewhere but can't find it!

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Robert M. Warren | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 10:56 AM

"Practice personal holiness always. If necessary, use words."

Nah, probably not that one, either.

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_ | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 11:28 AM

Stephen Steele:

Rick:

Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960); quoted in Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994),

The resource that gives the above reference is:

Olford, S. F., & Olford, D. L. (1998). Anointed Expository Preaching (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

I 'looked inside' Sargent's book via Amazon. Bonar's biography is included in the Logos resources I searched. Interestingly Sargent doesn't specify a page (he does for his other footnotes) - it's as if he thinks it's in the book somewhere but can't find it!

I tried to track down this quote a few months ago and came up empty as well. 

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David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 11:37 AM

I don't know if he actually said it and I don't know your use of the quote (sermon? academic paper? etc.) But one option may be to say "a quote attributed to M'Cheyne is.." then cite your sources.

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_ | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 11:53 AM

David Thomas:

I don't know if he actually said it and I don't know your use of the quote (sermon? academic paper? etc.) But one option may be to say "a quote attributed to M'Cheyne is.." then cite your sources.

True, but I am hesitant to quote something in that manner when my research can't find the actual quote. It would be different if I didn't have access to his writings. I would have to trust those who quote him, because I couldn't verify its veracity. In this case, I am left to assume an erroneous attribution is being perpetrated. I think it is an unintentional error on the part of those who quote him, but it wouldn't be for me since I have done the research. In this regard, it wouldn't matter what context one utilized the quote. However, one could say, "It has been said...." But that wouldn't work very well in academic writings. 

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Doc B | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 11:57 AM

Stephen Steele:
The only problem is - did he actually say it? None of those listed above actually reference it - and I can't find anyone on google that does.

I love it when folks hold to a correspondence view of truth, then actually practice it in their lives.

I can't answer your question, but I greatly respect that you've asked it.

Paraphrasing one of my mentors...if you can't find a citation, then even if (he) said it, (he) didn't say it.

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Posts 973
Lew Worthington | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 12:00 PM

Like the late Yogi Berra said, "Did I really say all the things that I said?"

[...looking for a citation...]

Or maybe he didn't say that, either. Big Smile

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 12:06 PM

NO HE DIDN'T SAY THAT, THEY JUST THOUGHT, "MAYBE THAT'S WHAT HE WAS TRYING TO SAY..." IF YOU CANNOT PROVIDE A REFERENCE, THEN DON'T QUOTE IT!

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William Gabriel | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 2:21 PM

Doc B:

Paraphrasing one of my mentors...if you can't find a citation, then even if (he) said it, (he) didn't say it.

I think you're just making that up.

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 2:30 PM

I am really glad to hear y'all saying this, because it drives me crazy when I come across this issue in books, papers, and especially in sermons. Tongue Tied

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JAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:17 PM

Quoted here For the Church: Theological Education, the SBC & the ... (once again without citation)

As Robert Murray McCheyne, noted, a minister is “a chosen vessel unto him to bear his name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” McCheyne therefore concluded, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” - See more at: http://jasonkallen.com/2014/07/for-the-church-vi-the-proof-is-in-the-graduates/#sthash.f6WOljMo.dpuf

I can't pursue this further at the moment but thought the larger quote might be of help if it is indeed part of an original source including the quote originally asked about.

"The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action." - Harry Blamires, 1963

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JAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:32 PM

OK, I had a little more time than I thought and found a citation for the abovementioned larger quote.

http://holyjoes.svbtle.com/robert-murray-mcheyne

"My favourite example is a letter he wrote, containing holy wisdom that I have treasured all my ordained ministry. It was addressed to Revd. Dan Edwards, a missionary friend about to travel to Germany, in the year 1840 (just as my vicarage was being built, as it happens, where now I sit & copy out these words) :

“My dear friend, I trust you will have a pleasant and profitable time in Germany. I know you will apply hard to German; but do not forget the culture of the inner man - I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword - His instrument - I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”"

Sadly still no source for the quote originally inquired about - which is also quoted in the text linked to at the top of this post.

"The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action." - Harry Blamires, 1963

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JAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Oct 22 2015 8:50 PM

Maybe another rabbit trail - here is another longer version of the quote in question.

http://www.gracegems.org/2012/03/quotes.html

"The greatest need of my people — is my personal holiness. Take heed to yourself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things."

EDIT: Once again I found a citation for the addition only (beginning with Take heed ...)

http://thecripplegate.com/preachers-on-preaching-2/

"3. Faithfulness in the pulpit begins with the pursuit of personal holiness.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power; much more a healthy soul. Keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things. Read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people. Expound much; it is through the truth that souls are to be sanctified, not through essays upon the truth.

Source: Robert Murray M’Cheyne, letter dated March 22, 1839, to Rev W.C. Burns, who had been named to take M’Cheyne’s pulpit during the latter’s trip to Palestine. Andrew Bonar, ed,Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Banner of Truth, 1966), 273-74."

"The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action." - Harry Blamires, 1963

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Robert Harner | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 23 2015 3:25 AM

https://www.logos.com/product/6435/the-works-of-robert-murray-mccheyne#004 

logosres:memmccheyne;ref=Page.p_180;off=819 

TO THE REV. W. C. BURNS

On his agreeing to undertake the charge of St Peter’s, during Mr M‘C.’s absence in Palestine

EDINBURGH Hill Street, March 22, 1839.

MR DEAR FRIEND,—For I trust I may now reckon you among the number in the truest sense,—I haste to send you a line in answer to your last. I am glad you have made up your mind to begin your spiritual charge over my flock on the first week of April. The Committee have resolved that I leave this on Wednesday next, so that you will not hear from me again till I am away. Take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power; much more a healthy soul. Keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things. Read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people. Expound much; it is through the truth that souls are to be sanctified, not through essays upon the truth. Be easy of access, apt to teach, and the Lord teach you and bless you in all you do and say. You will not find many companions. Be the more with God. My dear people are anxiously waiting for you. The prayerful are praying for you. Be of good courage; there remaineth much of the land to be possessed. Be not dismayed, for Christ shall be with thee to deliver thee. Study Isaiah 6, and Jer. 1, and the sending of Moses, and Ps. 51:12, 13, and John 15:26, 27, and the connection in Luke 1:15, 16.
I shall hope to hear from you when I am away. Your accounts of my people will be a good word to make my heart glad. I am often sore cast down; but the eternal God is my refuge. Now farewell; the Lord make you a faithful steward.—Ever yours, etc.


McCheyne, R. M., & Bonar, A. A. (1894). Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (pp. 180–181). Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier.

Posts 679
Stephen Steele | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 23 2015 4:15 AM

Alvin Low uses the quote in a footnote here, immediately followed by words M'Cheyne did actually say.

I contacted mccheyne.info and they don't have a source for the quote.

Next task is to try and work out when it first appeared. It appears in the 2nd edition of Packer's Rediscovering Holiness (2009) - the first edition was 1992 (and may or may not have featured the quote)

It's also quoted by Boice (without a reference) in Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World: Learning to Think and Act Biblically (1993).

Tony Sargent's book cited above was from 1994.

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Colin | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Oct 23 2015 4:38 AM

Hi Stephen,

This is a great question! At least for me it has had me searching through McCheyne's sermons and finding much blessing along the way. One of the most helpful things I've read is an ordination sermon and it seems to me that that is the kind of place most likely to bear fruit for your quotation, if indeed he said it.

'4. Lead a holy life. — I believe, brother, that you are born from above, and, therefore, I have confidence in God touching you, that you will be kept from the evil. But, oh ! study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on this. Your sermon on Sabbath lasts but an hour or two ; your life preaches all the week. Remember, ministers are standard-bearers. Satan aims his fiery darts at them. If he can only make you a covetous minister, or a lover of pleasure, or a lover of praise, or a lover of good eating, then he has ruined your ministry for ever. Ah ! let him preach on fifty years, he will never do me any harm. Dear brother, cast yourself at the feet of Christ, implore his Spirit to make you a holy man. Take heed to thyself and to thy doctrine.'

This is found in:

SERMON XI. ORDINATION SERMON. At the Ordination of the Rev. P. L. Miller, Wallacetown, Dundee, 1840 on 2 Tim. 4: 1, 2 in his works, Vol. 2 pages 60-70.  

The Works of the Late Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, Vol. II. Sermons, (New York: Robert Carter, 1847).

By the way I had a similar situation when I wanted to quote something often attributed to Luther:  “I preach as though Christ were crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is coming back to earth again tomorrow!” I couldn't locate it anywhere in his writings, even after finding it cited in German and searching for it in his native tongue.

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