Over this past weekend, I read David Robertson's brief but winsome introduction to the life of Robert Murray McCheyne, Awakening. In the compass of twenty brief chapters, which run about 160 pages, Robertson does a wonderful job of setting the context for McCheyne's ministry, overviewing the key points in his thought and life, and communicating McCheyne's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, in the penultimate chapter, he offers trenchant observations on the decline of the Church of Scotland and shares hopes for the renewal of biblical Christianity in that land.
This book would be very useful for church reading groups--each chapter begins with a McCheyne epigram that sets the theme for what follows and ends with discussion questions and a prayer of meditation and reflection. As a result, my own piety was strengthened and encouraged in reading this book.
But the most attractive feature of the book was Robertson's stated desire to view McCheyne as a man--a man whom God used, to be sure, but ultimately a man who had flaws and sins, who made mistakes, and who was far less a Protestant saint and far more one who points us to his faithful savior, Jesus Christ. As such, the book is a model of biographical writing for the way it situates the individual's story in the larger redemptive story of Jesus Christ--in which our Lord takes flawed human beings and uses them in such a way that the glory is all his own.
Perhaps no higher praise can be offered a short introduction that to say that it has encouraged me both in the Gospel and in the desire to find out more--to return to Bonar's unwieldy Memior and Remains of M'Cheyne as well as read other background material to understand that time and place. As a result, Awakening is a highly successful and useful gift to the church of Christ.