A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Gary Steward
Robert Murray McCheyne died in 1843 from typhus at the age of twenty-nine. Even with the shortness of his life, his legacy of inspiring spirituality lives on. McCheyne is largely known through the biography and collection of writings published the year after his death by Andrew Bonar as the Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Since then, a number of other biographers have written the story of his life, and other collections of scattered writings have emerged since then as well.
A Basket of Fragments is one such collection of sermons, compiled after McCheyne’s death from sermon notes taken down by his congregation. This collection was first published five years after McCheyne’s death, and Christian Focus has published it a number of times, the first edition appearing over forty years ago. The current edition is published as a small hardcover, very attractive for gift-giving.
The sermons gathered in this volume were preached from 1841 to 1843, the year of McCheyne’s death. His congregation was greatly built up in these years, as a revival had recently broken out in his church in Dundee. The sermons gathered here do not all deal specifically with the subject of revival but were produced in the midst of a revival, hence the volume’s subtitle.
Given that these sermons were written down from congregants’ notes, they are briefer and more condensed than they were likely preached originally. In a few short pages, the meat of McCheyne’s sermonic teaching is presented. The spirit of his proclamation is preserved as well, with McCheyne’s passionate pleading and spiritual fervor maintained.
The topics covered in this volume are varied. A number of the sermons, such as “A Faithful Ministry,” “Ministers Ambassadors for Christ,” and “The Hireling and the True Shepard” have ministers of the gospel in view, charging them to “preach the truth of Christ” “from personal experience” (24-25). Other sermons such as “The Marks and Blessings of Christ’s Sheep,” “Believers Not Ashamed of the Cross of Christ,” and “Conversion” are all sermons that deal with the nature of true conversion. Some sermons are intended to be “awakening” sermons, with four addressing the eternal punishment and torment of the wicked (271-311). All thirty-seven of these sermons are devotionally rich, simple, and clear. McCheyne is always direct and practical, exhorting his hearers to a deep and all-consuming love for Christ.
William Mackenzie, the managing director of Christian Focus, writes in promoting this book that “As you read this, you will understand why my grandfather cherished three books: the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and A Basket of Fragments.” That one would classify this book with the other two speaks volumes about how so many have cherished McCheyne and his writings. For those looking for an introduction to Robert Murray McCheyne, this is an excellent volume to begin with.
Assistant Professor of History
Colorado Christian University
Buy the books
A BASKET OF FRAGMENTS: NOTES FOR REVIVAL, by Robert Murray McCheyne