Robert Murray M'Cheyne on Church Discipline

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a 19th century Scottish minister who died at age 29, but not before seeing a great revival in his church located in Dundee. Of his Memoir and Remains, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “This is one of the best and most profitable volumes ever published. Every minister should read it often.”

With all of the new and healthy discussion about church discipline we must take care that we do not regard it as a mere academic subject or mechanical procedure. It involves the eternal welfare of souls, the strength and health of the church, and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not think that you will find any who have witnessed the proper exercise of correction discipline to its final step willing to joke about it or dismiss it with a cavalier attitude as some have done in their comments elsewhere on this blog. May the Lord deliver us from treating lightly His intructions in this area.

M’Cheyne’s words express my own emotions and experience and are worth pondering.

“When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline. I thought that my great and almost only work was to pray and preach. I saw your souls to be so precious, and the time so short, that I devoted all my time, and care, and strength, to labour in word and doctrine. When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence. It was a duty I shrank from; and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether. But it pleased God, who teaches his servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care; and from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline. I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God–that two keys are committed to us by Christ, the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible, the other the key of discipline, by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith. Both are Christ’s gift, and neither is to be resigned without sin.”

From Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar, pp. 104-5.