Chalmers Mad?

One group of auditors, Mr. Robert Tennent, jun., and four other Glasgow citizens, took a peculiar interest in the services of this Sabbath day. They came to Bendochy, as members of the Town-Council of Glasgow, to hear Mr. Chalmers as one who had been named as a candidate for the Tron Church in that city, vacant at this time in consequence of its former minister, Dr. Macgill, having been appointed to the Chair of Theology. The canvass for this vacancy was at this time at its height, and a singular and unprecedented interest had been attached to it. Early in September Mr. John Tennent had written to his friend, Mr. David Pitcairn of Leith :—" As I know you are a lover of the truth, and wish its influence extended among your fellow-creatures, I have to request that you will aid in a plan which my friends and I have formed of bringing Mr. Chalmers of Kilmany to Glasgow. What I wish is, that you would get Mr. Bonar to write a strong letter to Mr. More in favour of Mr. Chalmers, stating what his character is, which has been much abused, and also requesting him to use his influence among his brother councillors to recommend him to the vacancy.
* * * Write us as soon as you have done anything, and have laid the matter before your father and friends."

* * *The cry to-day is that Chalmers is mad!" Mr. Pitcairn's father wrote instantly himself to Mr. More. "I have shown your father's letter", Mr. Tennent replied, "to several of our leading people, who are very much satisfied with it. Were a similar letter sent from Dr. Jones and Dr. Fleming, it would be useful. It would be desirable that Mr. Chalmers should preach some day soon for Dr. Balfour, which might be managed by their exchanging pulpits. I hope that your father or you will write me soon what Mr. Chalmer's own sentiments are as to coming here." Dr. Balfour, who at this time was on a visit to a family in the neighbourhood of St. Andrews, had gone to Kilmany to hear Mr. Chalmers preach, and having made his acquaintance, had already written to Mr. Parker, an influential member of the Town-Council :-" I am told, too, that Mr. Chalmers of Kilmany is talked of. I would not presume to give my opinion were he not more a stranger than the rest, and, as I am informed, spoken against by many. I never saw nor heard him till I came here, but report made him great and good. I went therefore to his parish-church with very high expectations indeed. They were not disappointed:

The above passage included the expression of an opinion that Chalmers was mad! This could indeed be said of anyone newly converted, but it allows the inclusion of a humerous anecdote related to Dr. Hanna.

"Edinburgh, November 14, 1849.
"Mv Dear Sir,
I shall now put in writing to you what I consider a the most interesting anecdote I ever heard regarding Dr. Chalmers. I first in heard it narrated upwards of thirty years ago, when it was not uncommon for our moderate clergy to say, ‘Oh, as for Chalmers, he is mad !‘ "A gentleman and his wife, one Sabbath, going to church in Glasgow, met a friend who spoke to them, and inquired where they were going. They said, ‘To hear Dr. Chalmers. He said, ‘What! to hear that madman? They said, if he would agree to go with them, and hear Dr. Chalmers for once, and if, after that, he persisted in talking in such a manner of him, they would never dispute the matter with him again. He accompanied them; and, singular to relate, it happened that, when Dr. Chalmers entered the pulpit that day, he gave out as his text, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of soberness and truth ; and the gentleman, who I rather think was a medical man, became from that day a changed man,- a convert to evangelical Christianity. I had often heard and related this story without being able to authenticate it, till, on happening to mention it to my friend Dr. Welsh, he told me that he knew it to be perfectly authentic, and knew who the party was. I was delighted with this confirmation of the story, as I think it one of the most interesting anecdotes in modern biography.-I am, yours ever, "
To Dr. Hanna. John Anderson"

Memoirs - Vol.1

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