Bible Reading Plan for the Podcast (Robert Murray M’Cheyne + Modernized Advice from Pastor M’Cheyne on Reading Your Bible in a Year!
This reading plan was written and released in tract form by a 29 year old Scottish pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyne in 1842. M’Cheyne’s (pronounced something like: Mc-shane) reading plan will take you through the entire Bible in one year’s time, and you will have read the Old Testament completely and the Psalms and New Testament TWICE. That might seem like a lot of reading, but spread out over 365 days, it is quite readily accomplished with a little bit of attention to habit-forming, and that is one of the primary goals of this website and this podcast: to help us all with the daily habit of Bible reading! As a veteran Bible reading plans in years past – with many failures, and some successes – I have some advice to offer for those that are undertaking this journey:
- Join with us anytime, and just pick up with the reading for the date you joined! It is no better to start a Bible reading plan on January 1 than it is on August 27. The point is to read and follow God’s Word, and there is no sooner time to begin that than RIGHT NOW!
- If you miss a day, make it up if you can, and don’t sweat if if you can’t. The number one cause of failure for people who start Bible reading plans the first time is that they get behind, and get snowed under by several days of reading. You do NOT have to catch up if you are unable to. Just go to the reading for the current day and do so with joy and not an ounce of guilt.
- Don’t just read to accomplish a goal – savor the sweet Word of God and live by it.
Pastor M’Cheyne was a mighty man of God, and a person who loved God and His people with wholehearted devotion. Tragically, he would die just a little over two months after writing this plan, and was not able to lead his congregation through their year of Bible reading. You might think Bible reading plans are for old people (Ok, Boomer!) but it is worth remembering that M’Cheyne would be a Millennial, were he alive today, and I am a Generation X’er, so there. 😉
Though he died young, M’Cheyne was beloved and admired, and over 7000 people attended his funeral. Further, his Bible reading plan has been used by thousands upon thousands of people for almost 200 years, and has had a tremendous impact on Christians around the world. When he released this Bible reading plan to his church, he also wrote some words of advice and counsel to them in tract form. Because the language he used is from the 1840s, I’ve taken the liberty of slightly modernizing his advice for the sake of clarity. Be encouraged and challenged by these words from Pastor M’Cheyne:
MY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. “God is my witness how greatly I long after you all in the compassion of Jesus Christ.” What the coming year is to bring, who can tell? There is plainly a weight lying on the spirits of all good men, and a watching for some strange work of judgment coming upon this land. There is need now to ask that solemn question—”If you have raced with runners and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a peaceful land, what will you do in the thickets of the Jordan River?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon theirselves or upon created beings, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy of God, if we are to stand in this evil day. Then we shall be able to say like King David—, “The proud have mocked me greatly, yet have I not turned away from thy law.” “Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of your Word.”
It has long been in my mind to prepare a plan of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in a year, and all of us might be feeding on the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.
I am quite aware that such a plan is accompanied with many Dangers, including:
1. Formality. We are such weak people that any regularly occurring duty is likely to degenerate into a lifeless ritual. The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed plan may, in some minds, be to create a dead kind of religion. Dead religion is to be the particular sin of the last days—”Having the appearance of godliness, but denying His power.” Guard against this. Let the Bible reading plan die rather than the rust of dead religion eat up your souls.
2. Self-righteousness. Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading the Word, and accomplished their daily readings, may be tempted to look at themselves with self assurance and accomplishment. Many, I am persuaded, are living without any Divine work on their soul—unforgiven, and unsanctified, and ready to perish — and yet they regularly have Bible study times in private and with their families. This going through the motions without being saved and transformed by Jesus is like going to hell with a lie in the right hand.
3. Careless reading. Few tremble at the Word of God. Few, in reading it, hear the voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large an amount of reading each day, may be tempted to get bored with it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying—, “We hate this light bread;” and to read it in an easygoing and careless manner. This would be fearfully provoking to God. Be careful so that this warning won’t be true of you— “You said, also, Behold, what a weariness this bread is! and ye have scoffed at it, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
4. A burden too heavy to bear. Some may engage in reading with passionate purpose at first, and then feel like it is a burden to heavy to lift after a little while. They may find their conscience dragging them through the task without any real desire of the heavenly food of God’s Word. If this becomes the case with you, then cast off the restraining parts of this reading plan and feast on God’s Word at liberty in the sweet garden of God. My desire is not to throw a heavy trap on you, but to be a helper of your joy.
If there are so many dangers of a regular Bible reading plan, why propose such an idea at all? My answer is simply that the best things are usually accompanied with danger, just like the fairest flowers are often gathered right next to some dangerous cliff.
Let us now consider: The Advantages of a Bible Reading Plan. (Because they outweigh the dangers!)
1. The whole Bible will be read through in an orderly manner in the course of a year. The Old Testament will be read once, and the New Testament and Psalms twice. I fear that many of you have never read the whole Bible; and yet it is all equally Godly. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect.” If we pass over some parts of Scripture, we will be incomplete Christians.
2. Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. Often believers are at a loss to determine towards which part of the mountains of spices they should bend their steps. (By this metaphor, M’Cheyne means that believers often don’t know what Bible passages to read, and they waste time deciding, rather than actually reading.) Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.
3. Parents will have a regular and scriptural topic upon which to examine their families and households. Family Bible study should be more teaching-focused than it normally is. The mere reading of a Bible chapter is often too much like water spilled on the ground. Instead, let the passages be read by every member of the family beforehand, and then the meaning and application will be drawn out by simple question and answer during family devotions. The reading plan will be helpful in this. Also, when friends from the church meet, they will have a topic for beneficial conversation from the Bible passages read that day. The meaning of difficult passages may be learned from the more wise and experienced Christians, and the sweet truths of simpler Scriptures shared with others.
4. The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock are feeding. (He will understand what Bible passages the people of the church are reading) He will thus be enabled to speak more suitably to them on the Sabbath; and both pastor and the other church leaders will be able to give a word of encouragement and comfort in visiting people, which will be more readily responded to.
5. The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened. We will often be led to think of those dear brothers and sisters in the Lord who agree to join with us in reading these passages. We will also be in greater agreement during prayer concerning something we ask of God. We will all be praying over the same promises, mourning over the same confessions, praising God in the same songs/Psalms, and being fed by the same words of eternal life.
One final bit of wisdom from M’Cheyne – perhaps the best morsel of all:
Above all, use the Word as a lamp to your feet and a light to your path—your guide in perplexity—your armor in temptation—your food in times of faintness. Hear the constant cry of the great Intercessor,