Family and Friends


The biography by Alexander Smellie is the most informative regarding M‘Cheyne’s family and upbringing. 
The Dutch biography by Leen J. van Valen [now available in English] also has some very useful information.
I am indebted to Mr Alfred McCheyne in Australia for a correction and some additional details regarding dates.
The following brief information barely touches on this subject.

Robert Murray M‘Cheyne (b. 21.5.1813, d. 25.3.1843) never married. He had two brothers and one sister.  He was born at 14 Dublin Street, Edinburgh.

There was also a sister who died in infancy before Robert was born:  Isabella (b. 21.10.1811) who died aged only nine months.

His elder brother David Thomas M‘Cheyne (b. 14.8.1803, d. 8.7.1831) died when Robert was 18 years old. In his diary July 8, 1842 he recorded, “This day eleven years ago I lost my loved and loving brother, and began seeking a Brother Who cannot die.”  It is clear from the biographies that David M‘Cheyne was a true believer, whose example and desire for his brother’s salvation had a profound influence on Robert. On another occasion, just a year after David died, M‘Cheyne wrote, “On this morning last year came the first overwhelming blow to my worldliness; how blessed to me, Thou, O God, only knowest, who hast made it so.”  Every year he marked this day as one to be remembered. David was over nine years his senior.

The other brother was William Oswald Hunter M‘Cheyne (b. 19.10.1809, d. 24.10.1892), who trained in medicine, and received an appointment from the East India Company as doctor of the 54th Regiment of the Native Infantry, and left in April 1831 for Bombay and Nasirabad.  He married Sarah Lockie on 15.6.1830. They had a daughter called Jane who has descendents living today.

His sister Elizabeth Mary M‘Cheyne (1806 – 1888) outlived Robert. Throughout her life she was known as Eliza.  She acted as his housekeeper at the Manse of St Peter’s Church in Dundee. She lived to the age of 82, carrying many treasured memories of her brother’s life & ministry.  Her death was four and a half years before that of her brother William, so she was born circa 1806.  She never married.

Their father was Adam M‘Cheyne (b. 17.1.1781, d. 24.2.1854). He was a lawyer in Edinburgh, but came originally from Thornhill, Dumfriesshire. He was a man of quite some social standing in Edinburgh; he originally wanted Robert also to study Law. After Robert’s death he edited and published Robert’s “Familiar Letters” in 1848.  There is a stone obelisk in St.Cuthbert’s Parish Churchyard, Edinburgh which records the deaths of all the members of Adam’s family.

Before her marriage to Adam M‘Cheyne in 1802, their mother was Lockhart Murray Dickson (b.1772, d. 15.5.1854), the daughter of David Dickson of Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire.  When I visited the Savings Banks Museum in Ruthwell in September 2001, the curator showed me a family tree of the Dickson family.  Lockhart was the sixth out of eight siblings born between 1757 and 1777.

The M‘Cheyne family moved to 56 Queen Street, Edinburgh, when Robert was only six, and moved again to 20 Hill Street, Edinburgh in 1835.

In the “Personal Reminiscences of Rev James Dodds“, there is a description of how meeting Robert M‘Cheyne in Ruthwell led to the spiritual awakening and new birth of three young ladies who were his cousins.

Throughout his life Robert kept in close contact with his beloved parents by means of letters, many of which are preserved in the M‘Cheyne archive at New College.

M‘Cheyne’s fiancée ?

The question may arise as to whether Robert M‘Cheyne ever contemplated marriage.   Although M‘Cheyne never married, he was engaged twice.
At the time of his death in 1843, there is evidence that he was engaged to Miss Jessie Thain.  Extracts from her diary are published in the modern edition of the “Biography of R.M.McCheyne” by Alexander Smellie, published by Christian Focus Publications.  For further information refer also to 
Marcus LoaneSons of the Covenant 1963.  See the M‘Cheyne Books  page for publication details.

Living relatives

On 26th August 2001, I received a short email message from the daughter (in Colo., USA) of one of  M‘Cheyne’s great-nieces.  Her own mother had just died a few days earlier, yet she added that the two other great-nieces were then still alive, one living in Forfar, Scotland, and the other in Michigan, USA.


This page lists some of Robert Murray M‘Cheyne’s companions in the ministry of the Church of Scotland during the nineteenth century, many of whom witnessed the remarkable Revival of Religion which took place in Scotland during 1839 and the years afterwards.

Dr. Alexander Black   (d. 1864)

One of the three Church of Scotland ministers who accompanied M‘Cheyne on the Mission of Inquiry to Palestine. In 1831 he was appointed Professor of Divinity in Marischal College, Aberdeen.  Pior to this, he was the minister at Tarves.

Andrew A. Bonar  (1810 – 1892)

M‘Cheyne’s closest friend and companion; his biographer who outlived him by 53 years. He accompanied M‘Cheyne, Black & Keith to Palestine.
Minister of the Church in Collace 1838-1856, and subsequently in Finnieston 1857-1864 and Glasgow 1864-1875.
The above-linked website was posted in 2001 by Jane Newble.  Pages are available in Dutch as well as English.  

The Banner of Truth Trust   publish “Diary and Life of Andrew Bonar” (hb £10.95)   ISBN 0-85151-432-4.
Andrew Bonar’s commentary on Leviticus is also published by The Banner of Truth (544pp. £11.95)  ISBN 0-85151-086-8.
Also “The Life and Labours of Asahel Nettleton” by Bennet Tyler and Andrew Bonar (pb 5.95)  ISBN 0-85151-701-3.
Andrew Bonar held to a premillenial view.  His book The Development of the Antichrist, first published in 1853, has recently been reprinted by the Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony.  (128 pp. £3.75). 

Horatius Bonar  (1808 – 1889) Andrew’s brother. Minister at Kelso. Known for many psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and author of several books. The above-linked biographical article about him is posted by Heath Christian Bookshop in Cardiff. Wales.

The Cyber Hymnal contains several of Horatius Bonar’s Hymns online along with MIDI files for the tunes.

The Banner of Truth Trust  publish his “The Everlasting Righteousness” (pb 240pp. £3.95)  ISBN 0-85151-655-6.
The  “Words Old And New” is another of Horatius Bonar’s books that has been republished by The Banner of Truth Trust.

First published in 1866, Words Old And New is an anthology of quotations from some of the most significant figures in the Christian centuries. A labor of love on the part of it’s compiler, Horatius Bonar, one of its special attractions is its chronological order. Readers are led from the passionate words of the early martyr Ignatius of Antioch (“Let all the malice of the devil come upon me; only may I enjoy Jesus Christ”), through reformers like John Bradford (“Faith must go before, and then feeling will follow”), to Bonar’s friend Robert Murray M‘Cheyne (“You will be incomplete Christians if you do not look for the coming again of the Lord Jesus”).  Words Old And New is a treasure trove for personal or family meditation and devotion, an attractive introduction to many of the men and women of faith in past centuries. it is also ideal for anyone charged with the responsibility of preparing sermon or homily, Sunday School lesson plan or personal study in Christian philosophy. John Bonar The senior minister at Larbert and Dunipace, the parish where M‘Cheyne served as assistant minister for eleven months from November 1835.

William Chalmers Burns (1815 – 1868)

He was the minister who was in charge at St Peter’s Dundee while M‘Cheyne was on the Mission of Inquiry in Palestine & Europe. It was under his preaching during 1838 that Revival began in both Kilsyth and Dundee.   An earlier biography was published: BURNS, ISLAY, “Memoirs of the Reverend William C. Burns” (Sixth Edition), 1871.

His father William H Burns became the minister in Kilsyth in 1821.”God’s Polished Arrow:W.C. Burns – Revival Preacher” has at last been published (April 2001) by Christian Focus Publications.

The book is a new biography of William Chalmers Burns, containing edited extracts from his Journals, together with unpublished letters between him and M‘Cheyne and others plus unpublished sermons too from Burns.  (hb, 352pp., £12.99)  ISBN 1-85792-395-2.William Chalmers Burns was surrounded by revival in Britain.  Not only was he used by God in Scotland, England, Ireland and Canada, he was also a pioneer missionary in China –  there he persuaded a young man called Hudson Taylor to dress in Chinese clothes.  His journals are important and valuable as a first hand account of revival and as a record of a man’s life singularly used by God.  They give us an insight into the life of a spiritual man with an adventurous spirit – a man whose favourite books as a boy were ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ and ‘The Life of Sir William Wallace’ (Braveheart).

Burns took over from Robert Murray M‘Cheyne at St. Peter’s, Dundee whilst M‘Cheyne was away on the Church of Scotland `Mission of Inquiry’ to the Jewish peoples (see Mission of Discovery by Bonar and M‘Cheyne). Under his ministry he saw an amazing revival. Later Burns went to China where he heavily influenced a young missionary called Hudson Taylor. Burns kept extensive notes of these, and other events, in his journal. These edited extracts give us an intriguing insight into his life and times.  Edited by Dr Michael D.McMullen,  Professor of Church History at Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary.The Banner of Truth Trust   publish his “Revival Sermons” which records some of the messages he preached in the days of revival when he was still in his twenties.  (pb 208pp. £3.95)  ISBN 0-85151-316-6.    See also the biographical sketch written by James Alexander Stewart, published by Revival Literature of Asheville, NC.  More details are on the books page.  See also BARBOUR, M.F., “Notes of Addresses by the Reverend William C. Burns”, 1869.

Five Pioneer Missionaries” by various authors, also published by Banner of Truth, tells the stories of David Brainerd,  William C. Burns, John Eliot, Henry Martyn and John G. Paton.  These men left home, family and love for the sake of Christ and to spread his good news. Robert S. Candlish Minister of St George’s in Edinburgh. He it was who proposed that M‘Cheyne & Bonar should form part of the deputation to go to Palestine.

Of  M‘Cheyne he later said, “Assuredly he had more of the mind of his Master than almost any one I ever knew, and realized to me more of the likeness of the beloved disciple.”  

The above-linked website was posted in 2001 by Alan Newble. Thomas Chalmers Thomas Chalmers was inducted to Kilmany, Fife in 1803. He spent most of his time lecturing mathematics at St. Andrew’s University. After his evangelical experience in 1811, Chalmers rejected his previous Moderatism and later became the acknowledged leader of the evangelical party in the Church of Scotland. In 1831, when M‘Cheyne went to study at the Divinity Hall in Edinburgh, he found in Chalmers the main mould for his theological thought and a pattern for his subsequent ministry.  The above-linked website was posted in 2001 by Alan Newble. 

The Banner of Truth Trust   publish “The St. Andrews Seven” by Stuart Piggin and John Roxburgh, which contains the narrative of a movement of God’s Spirit in the 19th century.  Its chief characters are the great Thomas Chalmers, and six of his students at the University of St. Andrews.  (large pb 144pp. £4.95)  ISBN 0-85151-428-6.

Alexander Cumming (1804 – 1880)

Minister of Dumbarney Parish, Bridge of Earn from 1834.  Witnessed the Revival which took place in Perth, Dundee and other parts of Scotland. His notes on these times are included in the edition of the biography by A.Smellie published by Christian Focus Publications.

Dr. Alexander Duff, D.D., LL.D (1806 – 1878)

The first Church of Scotland missionary who, during his return from India in 1835, began to stir up enthusiasm for missions in his homeland.  A biography by G. Smith was published in two volumes in 1879.

Duff’s life affords an interesting link with another of my heroes from the same century, Anthony Norris Groves, the author of “Christian Devotedness”.   During one of his return sea voyages from India, Duff was carefully nursed back to health by Groves, and as a mark of this kindness, Duff named his son Alexander Groves Duff after him.  Earlier it had been Groves¹s devotedness that impressed Robert Nesbit and Alexander Duff into the missionary vocation.  For further reading, try “The St. Andrews Seven” by Stuart Piggin and John Roxborogh, 1985, Banner of Truth, ISBN 0-85151-428-6.

John (‘Rabbi’) Duncan (1796 – 1870)

Served as a missionary to the Jews in Pesth (Budapest), Hungary.

The Banner of Truth Trust   publish “The Life of John Duncan” by A. Moody-Stuart.    (c/b 256pp. £7.95)  ISBN 0-85151-608-4.
Also “‘Just A Talker’ – Sayings of John (‘Rabbi’) Duncan” by John M. Brentnall.  (p/b 317pp. £795)  ISBN 0-85151-726-9.

Rev. James Grierson (1791 – 1875)

The minister of Errol, who often assisted M‘Cheyne in Communion seasons at St Peter’s, along with Andrew Bonar and Robert MacDonald. He also was a native of Ruthwell, Dumfriessshire.  Licensed by presb. of Stirling 1816. Ordained in Errol 1819. In 1843 (the year of the Disruption) he became minister of Free Church, Errol. He became Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly 18 May 1854. DD Edinburgh, 25 March 1854.  His published works include the following:

Believers reminded of the Increasing Nearness of their Salvation“: a sermon [on Rom. xiii. 11] preached in the Old Church of Errol, on March 10th, 1833; being the Sabbath when divine worship was observed in it for the last time. Edinburgh, Perth, 1833.

A doctrinal and practical treatise on the Lord’s Supper“, Edinburgh, 1839.

“Speech … on proposing Resolutions regarding the Marnoch case and the independence of the Church … at the Presbytery of Perth.”, Perth, 1840.

Voices from the cross: or, The words uttered by our Lord during the hours of his crucifixion“, Edinburgh, 1855.
Second edition,. revised and much enlarged. Edinburgh, London, 1867.

Heaven on Earth: or, Interviews with the risen Saviour, including his Ascension“, Edinburgh, 1856.

Earthly and heavenly things … or, The truths unfolded by Our Lord in his interview with Nicodemus“, Edinburgh, 1859.

The Lord’s Supper; its significance, … A new edition. With numerous additions and improvements“, Edinburgh, 1865.

The divine suppliant and intercessor; or, Our Lord’s intercessory prayer“, Edinburgh, 1867.

Scenes and interviews with the risen Saviour: including his ascension. Being a sequel to the ‘Voices from the cross’“, Edinburgh, 1869 (2nd ed.).

Rev. Thomas Guthrie

The minister of Arbirlot, and later Edinburgh.  M‘Cheyne worked with him briefly in 1838 during the period he was the Secretary of the Association for Church Extension in the county of Forfar, which sought the creation of new parishes and the erection of additional places of worship.
The above-linked website was posted in 2001 by Alan Newble.

Rev. James Hamilton (1814 – 1867)

Assistant minister at St. George’s Edinburgh and in Abernyte, ordained 21 January 1841, and appointed as the minister of the National Scottish Church, Regent Square London on 22 July 1841.  Hamilton was a student at Glasgow and in Edinburgh, during which time he became one of M‘Cheyne’s friends.  After M‘Cheyne’s death, Hamilton published some recollections about him. M‘Cheyne visited the Church in Regent Square in November 1842. 

In 1982, the Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society [Great Britain] published an article by R. Buick Knox, with the title, “James Hamilton and English Presbyterianism“. (Issue 1982 2(9): p286-307).

Rev. Irving Hetherington (1809 – 1875)

Missionary to Australia.   Yet another native of Ruthwell, born 23 July 1809.   Though he was four years the senior of Robert M‘Cheyne, they were great friends, and were much in each other’s company while little boys.  Licensed to preach at Lochmaben 1835, and ordained 1837.  Called to Australia in December 1836.  Just before Hetherington and his wife set out for Australia in response to the call from Dr Lang, they went to St Peter’s to hear M‘Cheyne preach.  He preached from a text which Mr & Mrs Hetherington felt to be very appropriate to them. It seemed as if God had directed them there to hear the Saviour’s last command: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’.  They boarded a ship bound for Australia at Portobello on 24 March 1837.  He died in Melbourne 10 July 1875.  His biography, “Memoir – The Rev Irving Hetherington – Scots Church Melbourne“, by the Rev F.R.M. Wilson was published in 1876.

  I am grateful to the curator of the Savings Bank Museum in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, for the above information.

Dr. Alexander Keith, D.D., the elder (1791 – 1880)

Minister of St Cyrus. One of the three Church of Scotland ministers who in 1839 accompanied M‘Cheyne on the Mission of Inquiry to Palestine. In 1844 he revisited Palestine with his son, Dr George Skene Keith (1819-1910), who was the first person to photograph the land.  He wrote various books on the subject of Prophecy (see below).  Presbyterian minister of the Free Church of Scotland.  He began his ministry in the Established Church in 1816 and in 1843 joined in the formation of the Free Church. Prior to the Disruption he corresponded with Lord Bexley on “the collision between the civil and the church courts in Scotland” (1841).  He suffered from ill health, and devoted himself to study and writing when unable to perform parochial duties. “As one of the deputation of the Scottish Church to Palestine, he visited many scenes of Scripture prophecy…” – M’Clintock & Strong. “The multiplied editions which have been required within a very few years sufficiently attest the high estimation in which Mr. Keith’s work is deservedly held.” – Horne. “A very useful work on the plan of Bishop Newton’s Dissertations, with farther proofs of the fulfilment of the Prophecies from modern and even infidel travellers.” – Rev. Edward Bickersteth. “Few more satisfactory works in confirmation of the inspiration of Scripture have appeared within our own time than that of Dr. Keith.” – Rev. Dr. Shuttleworth.  His published works include the following:

Sketch of the Evidence from Prophecy; containing an account of those prophecies which were distinctly foretold, and which have been clearly or literally fulfilled. With an appendix, extracted from Sir Isaac Newton’s Observations on the Prophecies, Edinburgh, 1823.

Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion derived from the Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy; particularly as illustrated by the History of the Jews, and by the Discoveries of Recent Travellers“,  Edinburgh: Waugh & Innes, 1826 (2nd ed.) and many later editions.  American edition – Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, circa 1850 (395 pp). Keith was one of the nineteenth century’s most industrious proponents of the truth of Biblical prophecies, and this was his first important work on the subject.  Some of the later editions contained additional material.  I also found references to a French translation of 1838, a Persian translation of 1846 (tr. J.L. Merrick), an Italian translation of 1847, a Danish translation of 1850, and even a Welsh translation of 1871.  I expect that there were other translations in addition to those noted here.  There are also derived works such as, “Infidel testimony concerning the truth if the Bible … selected from…” with arguments and remarks by H.L. Hastings (1882).

Signs of the Times, as Denoted by the Fulfilment of Historical Predictions, Traced Down from the Babylonish Captivity to the Present Time“, Edinburgh: William Whyte & Co. 1832.  (383 pp).  Republished 1837, 1842, 1847…..

The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, With Isaac, and With Jacob“, Edinburgh: William Whyte & Co. 1844.

Isaiah as it is: or, Judah and Jerusalem the subjects of Isaiah’s Prophesying“, Edinburgh, 1850.

The Harmony of Prophecy; or Scriptural Illustrations of the Apocalypse“, Edinburgh, 1851.

Coming Events, or, Glimpses of the future; being an explanation of the prophecies relating to the destruction of Turkey and Egypt, the downfall of Rome, the war of Armageddon, and the invasion by Russia, etc.“, Dublin, 1853.

The History and Destiny of the World and of the Church according to Scripture“, London, 1861.

Robert MacDonald

The minister of Blairgowrie in Perthshire, a close friend of M‘Cheyne.

Duncan Matheson (1824 – 1869)

The famous Scottish evangelist, an eye-witness of M‘Cheyne, wrote, “He preached with eternity stamped upon his brow.  I think I yet can see his seraphic countenance, and hear his sweet and tender voice.  I was spell-bound, and would not keep my eyes off him for a moment. He announced his text – Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  What a sermon!  I trembled, and never felt God so near.  His appeals went to my heart,and he spoke of the last great day in the darkening twilight, for once I began to pray.”  [ p210 from “Five Great Evangelists” by John H. Armstrong, Christian Focus Publications.]

Patrick Leslie Miller (d. 16 April, 1866)

Minister at the Quoad Sacra Chapel in Wallacetown, Dundee as from 16 December, 1840.   Miller was a an old school comrade of Robert M‘Cheyne.  M‘Cheyne preached at his ordination service, (SERMON IX in “Memoir and Remains”).  Two of the letters in the book are addressed to Miller.

John Milne

Minister at St Leonard’s Parish, Perth. A close friend of M‘Cheyne.  A biography was published: BONAR, HORATIUS, “Life of the Reverend John Milne of Perth” (Fourth Edition), 1868.

Alexander Moody-Stuart (1809 – 1898)

A like-minded minister who was called to start a new congregation at St. Luke’s in Edinburgh. Of M‘Cheyne he wrote, “It was to me a golden day when I first became acquainted with a young man so full of Christ.”.  A biography was published:STUART, KENNETH MOODY, “Alexander Moody Stuart: A Memoir” (Second Edition), 1900.  He himself wrote a biography of ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, “The Life of John Duncan“, first published in 1872, as well as “The three Marys“, originally published at Edinburgh in 1862, which was issued as a modern reprint from the Banner of Truth in 1984.

Alexander Neil Somerville (1813 – 1889)

Somerville was a close friend of M‘Cheyne from High School days. He was converted at about the same time, and he studied with him at the Divinity Hall at Edinburgh in 1831. Together with the Bonar brothers (Andrew and Horatius), they met together in Societies and in prayer times and evangelistic endeavours in the poorer areas of Edinburgh. Minister of Anderston Church in Glasgow.  He travelled all over the world preaching the gospel in such far distant lands as Spain, India, Australasia, Russia and among the Jews of Eastern Europe.  Towards the end of his life, he served as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1886-87.  A biography was published: SMITH, GEORGE, “A Modern Apostle: Alexander N. Somerville” (Second Edition), 1891.   COPAC search found the following: “Precious seed sown in many lands” : sermons / by the late Rev. A. N. Somerville ; with biographical sketch ; London : Hodder and Stoughton, 1890. Holding Library: Glasgow.

A useful article on that site is THE EVANGELICAL SCHOOL AND VICTORIAN ORTHODOXY, which contains several references to M‘Cheyne and his contemporaries. See too the excellent Scottish Preachers Hall of Fame.
Articles and sermons by others in the list are now appearing in a number of Christian web-sites.