Constrained by His Love by L.J. Van Valen
Constrained by His Love is a biography of the life of 19th century Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne, originally written in Dutch and translated into English by Laurence R. Nicolson. McCheyne is best known for his godliness, his passion for Christ and his powerful preaching. McCheyne was also instrumental in the so-called Disruption in which the theologically conservative ministers and believers separated from the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church in 1843. Unfortunately, McCheyne did not live to see the actual Disruption, dying just two months prior at the age of 29 and having ministered for less than 7 years. That a man who did not live to see his 30th birthday could have such a lasting impact for Christ is astounding, but such is the case.
Van Valen’s biography has the feel of the old time biographies which emphasized the positive aspect of the subject—often to an abnormal degree—and ignored the negative. Even though this book approaches 500 pages, I was never able to really get a handle on McCheyne’s true personality, his interests or real struggles. As a matter of fact the details of McCheyne’s everyday and personal life are rather skimpy. Still we learn much about the times, McCheyne’s minister friends, his love for God’s people, his outreach to the Jews and his longing for revival.
The book is also full of pictures of people and places of the times and contains excerpts from many of McCheyne’s poems and letters.