What is it?
In line with his desire to foster serious Bible reading, M’Cheyne prepared a scheme for daily reading that would take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice each year, and through the rest of the Bible once.
(1) Originally, M’Cheyne listed two columns labeled “Family” and two labeled “Secret.” He intended that, with some exceptions, the Scripture listings in the “Family” columns be read in family devotions, and those in the “Secret” columns be read privately, in personal devotions. The choice of the word “secret” was drawn from Matthew 6:6, and was in common use in M’Cheyne’s day.
(2) For those using the chart for purely private devotions, the headings are of little significance. In the last century and a half, many Christians have used this chart in just this way—as a guide and a schedule for their Bible reading.
(3) That there are two columns for “Family” readings and two columns for “Private” readings reflects M’Cheyne’s view that Christians should read from more than one part of the Bible at a time. Not only will this help you link various passages in your mind, but it will help carry you through some of the parts of the Bible that are on first inspection somewhat leaner than others (e.g., 1 Chron. 1–12).
(4) If you read through the four passages listed for each date, in the course of a year you will, as I have indicated, read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice, and the rest of the Bible once. But if for any reason you find this too fast a pace, then read the passages listed in the first two columns in the first year, and the passages listed in the last two columns in the second year.
Who was he?
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was born in Edinburgh on May 21, 1813. He died in Dundee on March 25, 1843—not yet 30 years of age. He had been serving as minister of St. Peter’s, Dundee, since 1836. Though so young, he was known throughout Scotland as “the saintly M’Cheyne”; nor was his remarkable influence limited to the borders of Scotland.
Reading the Bible
One of M’Cheyne’s abiding concerns was to encourage his people, and himself, to read the Bible. To one young man, he wrote:
You read your Bible regularly, of course; but do try and understand it, and still more to feel it. Read more parts than one at a time. For example, if you are reading Genesis, read a Psalm also; or if you are reading Matthew, read a small bit of an Epistle also. Turn the Bible into prayer. Thus, if you were reading the First Psalm, spread the Bible on the chair before you, and kneel and pray, “O Lord, give me the blessedness of the man”; “let me not stand in the counsel of the ungodly.” This is the best way of knowing the meaning of the Bible, and of learning to pray.
This was not some quaint or escapist pietism, for at the same time, M’Cheyne was himself diligent in the study of Hebrew and Greek. While a theological student, he met regularly for prayer, study, and Hebrew and Greek exercises with Andrew Bonar, Horatius Bonar, and a handful of other earnest ministers in training.
They took the Bible so seriously in their living and preaching that when the eminent Thomas Chalmers, then professor of divinity, heard of the way they approached the Bible, he is reported to have said, “I like these literalities.”
For the last several years I have read through the Bible at least once. Each time I use a different translation. For 2022 I read the ESV using M’Chyene’s plan.
Though I understand the theory behind it:
Read more parts than one at a time. For example, if you are reading Genesis, read a Psalm also; or if you are reading Matthew, read a small bit of an Epistle also. Turn the Bible into prayer.
… I doubt that I will employ this plan in the future. I find it jarring to read one chapter from four different books. I would rather read four chapters from the same book.
NOTE: I typically use an audio Bible when reading larger blocks of scripture.
I have attached a PDF of the plan HERE
Have you ever used the M’Chyene reading plan? How would you compare it to other one-year reading plans?