Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

objects of it, by the ill construction of the he turned his thoughts, for the department bill in its most important provisions. By of theology, to Mr. Chalmers, who underthe act it was stipulated, that the power of took the task, and began a course of study increasing a minister's stipend should be suited to the magnitude of the subject. vested in the court of Tiends, as commis- It will seem extraordinary to most persioners to decide between the incumbent sons, that a man of learning, regularly and the heritors or landholders, the former educated for the ministry, and holding a giving notice in a regular summons, and benefice in such a country as Scotland, the latter possessing the right of litigating should have the spirit of religion to acquire, the plea. The bill gave to the clergy so after exercising the teacher's office in a situated the privilege of advancing further large parish for some years. But remarkclaims, as they might find occasion for able as the fact may appear, it seems cerdoing so, in the improved circumstances of tain that Mr. Chalmers never rightly undertheir parishes. Unfortunately, however, stood the genius of Christianity till he this legislative measure was shackled by came under the obligation of investigating two clauses, which, in limiting the intervals its principles and evidences for general of augmentation, left the period of com- | instruction. After all, this is not a singumencement so ambiguous, that it was lar case, for we have known several inmuch to be apprehended the clergy who stances of ministers in other communions, stood in most need of the proposed assist who have gone through a long routine of ance, would not be able to prosecute their professional duty, with little satisfaction to claims without being at a great expense, | themselves, and scarcely any profit to their and suffering a considerable delay from hearers, till some apparently fortuitous the opposition of the wealthy proprietors incident has given a new impulse to their of the soil, and the intrigues of the lawyers. | minds, and an advantageous direction to

To prevent these embarrassments, and their labours. to give efficiency to a proposition that in While our author endeavoured to set in all other respects was not barely unobjec- a clear light the true character of the tionable, but essentially necessary, the Christian religion, he began to suspect the Presbytery of Cupar deputed Mr. Chal correctness of his former views of this submers to plead the common cause of him lime system. In following up this doubt, self and his brethren of that district in the he soon discovered the reason why his general assembly. This honourable ser preaching against vice had been so ineffivice called forth his latent powers with cacious. He now saw that, as the mere such effect, that all who beard him were assent to the divine origin of the gospel, astonished at the splendour of his elo does not constitute operative faith ; so quence, convinced by the force of his neither is the formal practice of certain argument, and delighted by the corusca. external duties, that righteousness which tions of his wit.

can alone render man acceptable in the The eclat which followed this display of sight of Heaven. He also perceived the his powers did not die away with the cir force of the awful declaration, “Whosoever cumstance out of which it arose.

shall keep the whole law, and yet offend Mr. Chalmers was now consulted, court in one point, he is guilty of all,” that is, ed, and employed on subjects of import he has broken the whole law, so far at ance, and the conductors of the Edinburgh least as to forfeit by his disobedience all Review soon had the address to engage claim to an admission into the realms of his pen for their critical journal. As yet, infinite purity. This change in his reli"however, the extraordinary talents of this gious views was productive of an imhighly gifted man may be said to have been portant alteration in the tenor of his public exerted wholly on secular objects. In the ministration; and instead of general declastrict line of his profession he had pro mation against the prevailing delinquencies, duced nothing for the edification of the he now assailed the citadel of sin, by public, nor was he at all followed as a | laying open the heart in all its moral preacher. But a great and effectual change deformity, that his people might be led was now at hand.

to feel what their pastor himself felt, their About the time when his memorable | total inability to turn from evil to good, speech was delivered in the general assem without divine grace. bly, Dr. Brewster was preparing materials, The article on Christianity, in the Encyand procuring assistance, for the composition clopedia, gave such satisfaction to the of his projected Encyclopedia. Anxious religious public, that the author was ear. to enrich his work with articles of the first nestly entreated to print it in a separate degree of excellence in their several kinds, form for more extensive circulation. With

581

Memoir of Thomas Chalmers, D.D.

582. ....................................................corcorocr...... this request he complied, and the volume footing of good will. The kindly influence entitled, “ The Evidence and Authority of of this is incalculable. It brings the poor the Christian Revelation," no sooner ap- | under the eye of their richer neighbours.. peared, than it was received with such | The visits and inquiries connected with avidity as quickly to reach a sixth edition. the objects of the Bible Society, bring The celebrity which he gained by this lumi- | them into contact with one another. The nous performance, spread his name far and rich come to be more skilled in the wants. wide, not only in Scotland, but in Eng and difficulties of the poor; and by enter land. In his own country he was honour- | ing their houses, and joining with them in ed with the degree of doctor in divinity, conversation, they not only acquire a beneand in England his work was strongly volence towards them, but they gather that recommended to candidates for orders, by I knowledge which is so essential to guide no less a man than bishop Tomline, in a and enlighten their benevolence.” new edition of his Elements of Christian It was now obvious that the labours of

Dr. Chalmers could not be long confined · Dr. Chalmers was now called forward to a remote and comparatively obscure frequently, to appear in public both as district. Talents so powerful, combined a preacher and a leading speaker at with the best principles and the most demeetings for philanthropic purposes. In termined energy, required an extensive 1813 he printed a “Sermon preached at sphere of action. Accordingly, in 1815, Edinburgh before the Society for the relief | he received an invitation to undertake the

Theology:

the following year he published an admi- | He accepted the call, and, on his removal rable tract, entitled, “The Influence of thither, published an affectionate address Bible Societies on the Temporal Neces- to his former parishioners, in which he sities of the Poor."

gave this account of the great change that · This argumentative performance does had occurred in his ministerial conduct not touch upon the positive claims of the while resident at Kilmany: institution whose cause it pleads, but is “Here I cannot but record the effect of wholly employed in repelling an objec an actual, though undesigned experiment, tion which is set up at the very outset of which I prosecuted for upwards of twelve every attempt to raise a subscription in its years among you. For the greater part of support; nothing being more common than that time I could expatiate on the meanto have the secular necessities of the poor ness of dishonesty, on the villany of falsebrought into competition with it, and every hood, on the despicable arts of calumny,shilling given to the Bible Society repre in a word, upon all those deformities of sented as an encroachment upon that fund character, which awaken the natural indigwhich was before allocated to the relief of nation of the human heart against the pesis poverty.

and the disturbers of human society. Now, The objection is met, combated, and could I, upon the strength of these warm overthrown, in a variety of ways; and the expostulations, have got the thief to give up conclusion is, “That the extension of Bible his stealing, and the evil speaker his cenSocieties, while it counteracts in various soriousness, and the liar his deviations from directions the mischief of poor rates, aug- | truth, I should have felt all the repose of ments that principle of individual bene. one who had gotten his ultimate object. It volence which is the best substitute for never occurred to me that all this might poor rates. You add to the stock of india have been done, and yet every soul of every vidual benevolence, by adding to the num hearer have remained in full alienation from ber of benevolent individuals; and this is God; and that even could I have established the genuine effect of a Bible Association. in the bosom of one who stole, such a prinOr, you add to the stock of individual ciple of abhorrence at the meanness of disbenevolence in a country, by adding to the honesty, that he was prevailed upon to steal intensity of the benevolent principle; and no more, he might still have retained a heart this is the undoubted tendency of a Bible | as completely unturned to God, and as toAssociation. And, what is of mighty im. tally unpossessed by a principle of love to portance in this argument, a Bible Asso- | Him, as before. In a word, though I might ciation not only awakens the benevolent have made him a more upright and honourprinciple, but enlivens it. It establishes able man, I might have left him as destitute an intercourse betwixt the various orders of of the essence of religious principle as ever. society; and on no former occasion in the But the interesting fact is, that during the history of this country, have the rich and whole of that period, in which I made no the poor come so often together upon a l attempt against the natural enmity of the

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

mind to God, while I was inattentive to 1 “You have, at least, taught me, that to the way in which this enmity is dissolved, preach Christ is the only effective way of even by the free offer on the one hand, and preaching morality in all its branches; and the believing acceptance on the other, of out of your humble cottages have I gathered the gospel salvation : while Christ, through a lesson, which I pray God I may be enwhose blood the sinner, who by nature abled to carry, with all its simplicity, into a stands afar off, is brought near to the hea- wider theatre; and to bring, with all the venly Lawgiver whom he has offended, was power of its subduing efficacy, upon the scarcely ever spoken of, or spoken of in vices of a more crowded population.” such a way as stripped him of all the im Soon after this, Dr. Chalmers added to portance of his character and offices,-even his celebrity as a preacher and a writer by at this time I certainly did press the refor “A Series of Discourses on the Christian mations of honour, and truth, and integrity Revelation, viewed in connection with the among my people; but I never once heard Modern Astronomy.” of any such reformations having been effected These Discourses, or, as they might peramongst them. If there ever was any thing haps have been more appropriately denoat all brought about in this way, it was more minated, Lectures, were chiefly delivered on than ever I got any account of. I am not the occasion of the week-day sermon preachsensible that all the vehemence with which ed in rotation by the ministers of Glasgow. I urged the virtues and proprieties of social | They are seven in number, and an idea of life, had the weight of a feather on the their merit, in point of argument, may be moral habits of my parishioners: and it formed from the following analysis given was not till I got impressed by the utter by the author in the introduction : alienation of the heart in all its desires and “The astronomical objection against the affections from God; it was not till recon- truth of the Gospel, does not occupy a very ciliation to Him became the distinct and prominent place in any of our Treatises of prominent object of my ministerial exer- Infidelity. It is often, however, met with tions; it was not till I took the scriptural in conversation-and we have known it to way of laying the method of reconciliation be the cause of serious perplexity and alarm before them; it was not till the free offer of in minds anxious for the solid establishment forgiveness through the blood of Christ was of their religious faith. urged upon their acceptance, and the Holy “There is an imposing splendour in the Spirit given through the channel of Christ's science of astronomy, and it is not to be mediatorship to all who ask him, was set wondered at, if the light it throws, or apbefore them as the unceasing object of their pears to throw, over other tracts of speculadependence and their prayers; it was not, tion than those which are properly its own, in one word, till the contemplations of my should at times dazzle and mislead an inpeople were turned to those great and essen- quirer. On this account, we think it were tial elements in the business of a soul pro- a service to what we deem a true and a viding for its interest with God and the righteous cause, could we succeed in dissiconcerns of its eternity—that I ever heard pating this illusion; and in stripping Infiof any of those subordinate reformations delity of those pretensions to enlargement, which I aforetime made the earnest and the and to a certain air of philosophical greatzealous, but I am afraid, at the same time, ness, by which it has often become so dethe ultimate object, of my earlier ministra structively alluring to the young, the ardent, tions.

and the ambitious. “Ye servants, whose scrupulous fidelity “In my first Discourse, I have attempted has now attracted the notice, and drawn a sketch of Modern Astronomy, nor have I forth, in my hearing, a delightful testimony wished to throw any disguise over that from your masters, what mischief you would comparative littleness which belongs to our have done, had your zeal for doctrines and planet, and which gives to the argument of sacraments been accompanied by the sloth Freethinkers all its plausibility. and the remissness, and what, in the prevail “This argument involves in it an assertion ing tone of moral relaxation, is counted the and an inference. The assertion is, that allowable purloining of your earlier days! | Christianity is a religion which professes to But a sense of your heavenly Master's eye be designed for the single benefit of our has brought another influence to bear upon world ; and the inference is, that God canyou; and while you are thus striving to adorn not be the author of this religion, for he the doctrine of God your Saviour in all would not lavish, on so insignificant a field, things, you may, poor as you are, reclaim such peculiar and such distinguishing attenthe great ones of the land to the acknow tions as are ascribed to him in the Old and ledgment of the faith.

| New Testament.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

IMG2016

“ Christianity makes no such profession. “In my subsequent discourses, I proceed That it is designed for the single benefit of to the informations of the record. The inour world, is altogether a presumption of fidel objection, drawn from astronomy, may the infidel himself. And feeling that this be considered as by this time disposed of; is not the only example of temerity which and if we have succeeded in clearing it can be charged on the enemies of our away, so as to deliver the Christian testifaith, I have allotted my second Discourse mony from all discredit upon this ground, to the attempt of demonstrating the utter then may we submit, on the strength of repugnance of such a spirit with the cau- other evidences, to be guided by its infortious and enlightened philosophy of modern mation. We shall thus learn, that Christimes.

| tianity has a far more extensive bearing on “In the course of this Sermon I have the other orders of creation, than the intidel offered a tribute of acknowledgment to the is disposed to allow; and whether he will theology of sir Isaac Newton; and in such own the authority of this information or not, terms as, if not further explained, may be he will at least be forced to admit that the liable to misconstruction. The grand cir- subject matter of the Bible itself is not cumstance of applause in the character of chargeable with that objection which he has this great man is, that, unseduced by all attempted to fasten upon it. the magnificence of his own discoveries, he “Thus, had my only object been the had a solidity of mind which could resist refutation of the infidel argument, I might their fascinations, and keep him in steady have spared the last discourses of the volume attachment to that book, whose general evi- altogether. But the tracks of scriptural indences stamped upon it the impress of a formation to which they directed me, I real communication from heaven. This considered as worthy prosecution on their was the sole attribute of his theology which own account-and I do think that much I had in my eye, when I presumed to may be gathered from these less observed eulogize it. I do not think, that, amid the portions of the field of revelation, to cheer, distraction and the engrossment of his other to elevate, and to guide the believer. pursuits, he has at all times succeeded in “But, in the management of such a dishis interpretation of the book; else he cussion as this, though, for a great degree of would never, in my apprehension, have this effect, it would require to be conducted abetted the leading doctrine of a sect or a in a far higher style than I am able to sussystem, which has now nearly dwindled tain, the taste of the human mind may be away from public observation."

regaled, and its understanding put into a “In my third Discourse I am silent as state of the most agreeable exercise. to the assertion, and attempt to combat the 1 “Now this is quite distinct from the inference that is founded upon it. I insist, conscience being made to feel the force of that upon all the analogies of nature and of a personal application; nor could I either providence, we can lay no limit on the cone bring this argument to its close in the puldescension of God, or on the multiplicitypit, or offer it to the general notice of the of his regards, even to the very humblest world, without adverting, in the last Disdepartments of creation; and that it is not course, to a delusion which, I fear, is carfor us, who see the evidences of divine wis- rying forward thousands, and tens of thoudom and care spread in such exhaustless sands, to an undone eternity. profusion around us, to say, that the Deity “I have closed the volume with an would not lavish all the wealth of his won- | Appendix of Scriptural Authorities. I drous attributes on the salvation even of our found that I could not easily interweave solitary species.

them in the texture of the work, and have “At this point of the argument, I trust therefore thought fit to present them in that the intelligent reader may be enabled a separate form. I look for a twofold to perceive in the adversaries of the gospel benefit from this exhibition—first to those a two-fold dereliction from the maxims of more general readers, who are ignorant of the Baconian philosophy: that, in the the Scriptures, and of the richness and first instance, the assertion which forms variety which abound in them,--and, sethe groundwork of their argument is condly, to those narrow and intolerant progratuitously fetched out of an unknown fessors, who take an alarm at the very sound region, where they are utterly abandoned and semblance of philosophy; and feel by the light of experience; and that, in the as if there was an utter irreconcileable second instance, the inference they urge antipathy between its lessons on the one from it is in the face of manifold and un- hand, and the soundness and piety of the deniable truths, all lying within the safe Bible on the other. It were well, I conand accessible field of hunan observation. I ceive, for our cause, that the latter for

« PreviousContinue »