My travail is that both princes and subjects obey God
Church and society in Scotland
(Note - the copious and very useful footnotes have been
omitted in the interests of brevity. You will have to buy the book - still
available from "Rutherford House Publications" 17 Claremont Park,
In the 1830s cries of spiritual independence and non-intrusion were a stand on principle against government and court interference in the heart matters of the Church. Behind them lay an unexamined question concerning not the role of the State in the Church, but the role of the Church in the State whether the historic Calvinist standpoint that the Christian Church.. .could so impress itself upon the surrounding community that the standards of the Gospel became the rule of life for society at large was consistent with the New Testament and practicable or even realistic in a nineteenth century industrial situation
In fact Scotland remains a place where it is not necessary to apologize for the social dimensions of the Christian gospel. However it is natural to question whether revival of the personal is likely to mean loss of commitment to the social. Chalmers life is testimony to the complexity and interwovenness of these dimensions. It is true that some of the energy of mission in this period owed more than it should have to conflicts of party and class rather than convictions of faith, but overall the depth and scope of commitment was real enough. Although church and state drew the boundaries of their autonomy in different places, and the authority of the Church of Scotland was not to be what it once was, Christian concern for society remained wide and generally accepted. What is significant about Chalmers is not so much that this vision existed (though he certainly gave it fresh life and direction) but the energy and persistence with which it was worked out.
Convictions about the role of the church in society are deeply rooted. The Reformation was brought about against the wishes of the monarchy, rather than at its bidding, and reformers needed political influence to implement their ideals. The church as Gods new People of Israel provided a rationale and a model. John Knox gave many instances of being true to his remark quoted above. The First Book of Discipline spelt out that Christian rulers had a duty to support true religion and to bring the laws of the land into conformity with the standards of the Bible. In the eyes of some ministers, even monarchs were subject to the discipline of the church.
The Covenants of the 17th century were also a binding together of the nation and its faith. Rejection of episcopacy was coloured by feelings towards the English, but it was also related to a strong sense of the autonomy of the church in the full breadth of its concerns. The Westminster Confession noted the duties and obligations of the civil magistrate, and further reflected and reinforced the conviction that the whole of life in society ought to be ordered according to the will of God. At the end of the 17th century the failed Darien colonial scheme was a mission overseas of both church and state.
The union of 1707 left the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as the nations only forum for debate, and its meetings took on some of the functions and concerns of the parliament that moved to Westminster. Well into the 19th century members of parliament, leaders in the legal profession and numbers of the landed gentry were prominent in the lay membership of the Assembly. Not surprisingly it represented these interests better than others, yet on occasion it was capable of condemning commercial injustice and the grinding of the faces of the poor by landlords.
In the 18th century there began a breakdown of the unity of the church. Social change made it difficult to keep up with population shifts, rises in new social groupings, the complexities of cities and of industrial and commercial life. Revolutions of mind, agriculture, and industry and the rapid growth of population in urban areas, could not leave the church unaffected.
For much of the century the General Assembly was dominated by the Moderate party who advised the government on church patronage and ceased to protest at infringements on the autonomy of the church. Intellectually Moderates reflected the spirit of the age more than their Evangelical opponents Differences between these parties lay in the failings they were prepared to tolerate, in emphases on the rights of people over against rights of patrons, and in orthodoxy as relating to an experience of faith and a particular understanding of the Bible, more than a symbol of loyalty to the government as much as to Christ. That the gospel itself and the role of the church were concerned for the whole of life and for all the people was not in doubt and neither was the value placed on education as a means of salvation both social and religious.
A cohesive role in society was well demonstrated under the threat of the ideas flowing from the French Revolution. When faced with invasion, the pulpits of Scotland were not slow in rallying the national spirit. However changes in government and society soon tested Moderate ability to relate to one and adjust to the other and while a comprehensive vision remained, its outworking could not be the same. Those whose intellectual heritage included a clear sense of the rights of the people in religious matters at least, were, once the threat of France had passed, more likely to understand and adapt to an Age of Reform.
Seceders had steadily increased in number for over half a century and in the first decade of the 19th century, Congregationalists, Baptists and Roman Catholics also began to take on significant proportions. Population increase and urban migration taxed facilities for worship and blunted concerns about the growth of dissent at the same time as it made it difficult for the Church of Scotland to maintain its provision and control of education and poor relief.
The 1832 Reform Acts extended the franchise to sections of Scottish society which had the economic basis for supporting their own churches. It became impossible for governments politically dependent on dissenters to assist with the building or endowment of churches for what was now one group among several. The Church of Scotland might still be established, but government patronage now served its own ends best by offending as few as possible.
Even before the Disruption the time had gone when the Church of Scotland could be regarded more or less as the nation in its spiritual aspect The loss of a third of its membership in 1843 for a time reduced it to one denomination alongside others. The lay membership of the Assembly had been declining in status, and it was no longer acceptable that an unrepresentative body should control major social functions. The fate of the Church of Scotland was not indicative of a decline in Christianity, but it contributed to the secularization of important parts of national life.
The post-Disruption Church of Scotland was shorn of functions it had carried out from before the Reformation, but all was not lost. In the late l820s it launched a new mission in the Highlands, and in 1830 its first overseas missionary began work in India. By 1843 it had added a mission tothe Jews and another in aid of colonial churches. Led by Chalmers, its programme of church building at home increased its charges by about 20% in less than a decade. In developing this machinery the Church equipped itself out of its own resources to engage in new dimensions of mission at home and overseas. Only if the 18th century church had exercised its relationship with the government and society in a more critical way could this be described as a reduction in mission to functions which were narrowly religious. Fragmentation of commitment obviously made a difference, but the churches of Scotland still had a concern for the salvation of society. The threat of dis-establishment was also strongly felt. Chalmers was not alone in believing that this was a challenge to its religious mission, not just to its position in society. What was changing was less the fact of the involvement of Christians in the life of society than the way in which that involvement was structured.
The Church of Scotland had traditionally looked to the government and to wealthy patrons for its finance, but now money for new ventures had to be found by church members themselves. Financial involvement increased lay participation in congregations and the many-sided auxiliary associations which developed during this period. It was Chalmers ability to mobilize these resources which financed church extension at home and overseas, and in due course the setting up of a new denomination.
In these processes, Chalmers played a prominent and frequently a leading part. He preached a personal experience of salvation and related it to the communal vision of his childhood and first parish which was never far away from his thinking. In Glasgow he fought to demonstrate the viability of rural Christian values in a growing industrial city. In his convenership of the Church Extension Committee and leadership of the Free Church of Scotland, he presented a comprehensive vision of a church taking shape around a mission to all the people.
A more beneficial member of society than a schoolmaster?
Chalmers at Anstruther and St Andrews, 1780-1799
Chalmers was born on March 17, 1780, in the small fishing and
shipbuilding town of Anstruther Easter on the south-east coast of Fife. The
family had been in the area since his great-grandfather became minister at
Elie, six miles to the west, at the beginning of the century. One son succeeded
to the parish whilst his grandfather settled in Anstruther as a ship-owner,
merchant, dyer and threadmaker. His father remained in the business and was
provost on a number of occasions.
Thomas was the sixth child and the only one to find a career in the church, although one sister married a minister. Of the nine brothers, James was in business in Liverpool and then London. One died in infancy, three went to sea, one became a distiller inWishaw, one a surgeon in Kirkcaldy, and Charles redeemed an unsettled youth by founding Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. Three of the five sisters never married. The youngest, Jean, married the factor on an estate in Somerset.
Anstruther Easter and its neighbouring burgh of Anstruther Wester were of declining economy but rich in story and tradition. A few hundred yards from Chalmers home was the church where John Knox had preached and the crowd tore down the altar screen. James Melvjlle was later minister and the solid manse he built still contains timbers from the Spanish Armada. In 1679 Archbishop James Sharp spent his last night there before he was murdered. Anstruther supported the Covenants and many lost their lives at the battle of Kilsyth in 1645. Nearby St Andrews was the cradle of the Scottish Reformation where George Wishart had been martyred and Cardinal Beaton killed in revenge. In Beatons castle Knox had joined the reformers and was captured by the French.
From his youth Chalmers imbibed these traditions and the manifold associations of story and place. At an early age he play-acted as a preacher, and the story told of many indicated his career. Both parents were devout, particularly his father, though this took a long time to be reflected in the son. With no special religious commitment beyond a vague desire to enter the ministry he went to St Andrews university at the age of 11. It was a less precocious age than it appears now, but even so it was unusually young.
From 1791-2 until 1794-5 he attended arts and philosophy and in November 1795 began divinity, though his main interest was mathematics and issues such as free-will and determinism. He joined the Theological Society in December 1795, and took part in its weekly meetings. On each occasion there was a debate and a paper for discussion. Topics ranged widely and included mission overseas, the eternity of hell- torments and the immortality of the soul.
Chalmers debated church establishments, and at the end of his first session as a divinity student supported the proposition that a minister is a more beneficial member of society than a schoolmaster The manuscript survives, and reveals more of a dislike for authoritarian schoolteachers than ideas about the ministry. Nevertheless the minister dealt with matters of eternity, visited the sick and administered charity. In contrast to the schoolteacher, "the exaction of unlimited obedience from his parishioners is entirely beyond the power of the minister and (he) is therefore not so liable to acquire exalted ideas of his own superiority."
It was an age of intellectual excitement stirred by the Scottish Enlightenment and ideas from France. Many subjects arose out of the students Calvinist heritage. At this point they could debate with relative freedom, but once they became licentiates of the Church of Scotland, formal adherence to the Westminster Confession inhibited open speculation. It was taken for granted that those who could get churches would carry on the longstanding traditions of preaching, catechizing, baptizing, marrying and burying common to every other parish minister.
Scotland had seen political disturbances, but the revolt of the 45 had been in the Highlands and it already seemed a long time ago. Whatever the threats from France or the state of the economy, the stability of Moderate rule appeared assured. It was in keeping with their values of urbane learning rather than fervid faith that a number would have had ambitions for a university position, probably in conjunction with a nearby parish.
Chalmers was not alone in coveting such a career, nor entirely unique in having the professors chair of his dreams not one in some field more obviously related to the ministry, but in mathematics. In his theology course it is probable he attended George Hills lectures on church government. Hills main concern was the credentials of presbyterianism relative to episcopacy, independency and quakerism. As later with Chalmers, there was little treatment of the nature and purpose of the church, although he acknowledged Christianity made universal claims. However gradual, he looked to its eventual world-wide propagation. Church government was "one branch of the provision which is made in the gospel for propagating and maintaining the truth, for restraining vice, for assisting Christians in the discharge of their duty and for promoting the universal practice of virtue"
Hills lectures became a standard theological text and are still notable for their clarity and measured analysis. At the time Hill seemed to Chalmers to be chiefly interested in moral theology. In the Moderate tradition it was not difficult to conceive the mission of the church as first of all that of trying to make people good. With such an understanding Chalmers began work in his first parish.
"The malignant touch of ordination"
Minister at Kilmany, 1803-1809
Chalmers first charge was the parish of Kilmany, about nine miles
west of St Andrews, where he was ordained on 18 May 1803. A distant cousin had
held the position briefly in the 18th century. The chief attraction was
proximity to the university and the prospects for advancement which might be
there. The parish was triangular, six miles long and four miles across at the
widest point. During Chalmers time the population remained at about 780
including about 150 families. Ministers before and after Chalmers took a keen
interest in farming which was the main source of employment. His predecessor
emphasized the need to plant trees and lamented the effects of improving
agriculture. The substitution of unmarried men for families as farm labourers
meant the healthiest and purest nursery of the most vigorous and innocent
class of our countrymen has. . . been much depopulated Religion will
be found here to be much more than mere speculation; it has great influence on
the conduct; it concurs, with unseducing situation, to preserve the manners
simple, and to make the morals pure; and it yields support in the hour of
distress, which the stoutest hearts might wish to have.
The school and the church provided some community focus and the nearest market-town was five miles away at Cupar. It is not clear whether there was a public house in Chalmers time; by 1838 there was now only one. Those who looked to the Kirk Session for poor relief were few and were said to be reluctant to compromise their pride and independence. "They very seldom and with much hesitation ask; their wants must be noticed and supplied. These two happy consequences. . . arise from hence. The rich are roused to that care of their brethren which anticipates the wishes of the needy, which is mans best acquisition and a source of pure enjoyment while the poor lose not that withdrawing declining modesty to which it is so pleasant to afford assistance.... The reluctance not merely to solicit, but often even to receive aid, shows that delicate sense of dignity which poverty may so keenly feel; of which nothing can divest a man but the meanness of his own soul; and which is much desiderated amongst the lazy, importunate beggars of large cities"
This was not Chalmers writing, but it could easily have been and the romantic picture was one he never lost. It had a certain dignity, but it concealed both need and causation. Neither was the lack of seduction complete, although the 3.5% of baptisms entered in the parish register in Chalmers time as natural was not bad by the standards of rural Scotland. If the figures given in the New Statistical Account are to be believed, in the l830s about 17% of births were illegitimate.
The only ecclesiastical competition was a congregation of Seceders which dated to 1762 and met a mile and a half away at Rathillet. In 1797 several worshipped there, but it must have taken more than that to support the minister, James Johnston (l759~18l2). After 1815 his successor benefited from Chalmers move to Glasgow, owing to distaste for the Moderatism of Chalmers replacement.The three hundred reported as attending the Secession that year were over a third of the population.
Most people were connected with the land. There was no nobility and of the ten proprietors five were resident farmers on their own estates. In 1838 there were 12 tenant farmers and about a hundred cottars, ten weavers, 23 wrights and smiths and six millers. There were three teachers and a beadle. Chalmers had been licensed by the Presbytery of St Andrews in July 179920 and preached his first sermons while visiting England a month later. His brother James reported he leaned to the practical rather than the doctrinal and did not take much care of his appearance for the pulpit despite the best efforts of his friends. He was more interested in mathematics than religion.
The winters of 1799-1800 and 1800-1801 had been spent in Edinburgh attending lectures in chemistry, moral philosophy and natural philosophy. The summer of 1801 brought the prospect of an assistantship at Cavers near Hawick and a few months later news of the vacancy near St Andrews. In November 1801 he went to Cavers and remained there until September 1802. He entered into his duties with energy, enjoying the hospitality of the local farmers and the annual parish visitation which involved dividing it into districts and staying overnight with farmers in each area.
He preached regularly and assisted with the sacrament in neighbouring parishes. Nevertheless his main interests lay elsewhere. The chance arose of becoming assistant to the Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews, and with the vacancy at Kilmany also looking hopeful, his future seemed assured. In April 1802 he was successful in both applications and the summer at Cavers was spent preparing lectures. At Cavers Chalmers was left to his own devices, and little mention is made of the minister Thomas Elliot (c.1732-1808)25 who possessed considerable attainments as a mathematician and astronomer. Of more significance was his relationship with Samuel Charters of Wilton (1742- 1 825).
Returning to Fife in September Chalmers took up his mathematical appointment at the beginning of the winter session. However, having criticized his professor in public, at the end of the session he found himself relieved of the post. As this situation developed, parental disquiet over his attitude to the ministry expressed itself in the suggestion he spend some time in a spiritual retreat prior to his ordination. It drew a sharp reply. I hope that my principles. ..are already established, and that they do not require any extraordinary exercises of reflection at present.... It is my decided opinion that the charge of a congregation is of the first importance.. .it is vain to think that the extraordinary effort of a few days will very essentially contribute to preparation or to improvement.
Asking to be spared a painful and unmeaning solemnity Chalmers replied that suspicions about indifference to parochial duties might be better founded after he had been in the position for a while as indeed they were. Chalmers entered his first parish at the age of 23 with his self-assurance seemingly scarcely rippled by the fiasco over the mathematics lectureship and with views of Christian commitment radically different from those of his father.
In the summer of 1803 he visited the 150 families of the parish and settled into the routine of services, baptisms, marriages and burials. At the same time he decided to return to St Andrews and lecture during the winter whether he held the position or not. He wrote home that it would mean being non-resident for six months of the year. My chief anxiety is to reconcile you to the idea of not confining my whole attention to my ministerial employment. The fact is that no minister finds that necessary.
His lectures began on the first of November and his teaching gifts and audacity attracted students. The university was unimpressed and fought back by switching lecture times. In December he began chemistry which did not compete with anything official and this gradually won acceptance. For the winter of 1803-4 Chalmers lived at St Andrews, returning to Kilmany for little more than the Sunday service. Parishioners had to be content with this brief appearance to deliver sermons prepared that morning. These lacked content, but he was capable of being inspiring on occasion. His heart lay in mathematics and chemistry where he showed something of the eloquence and social concern that was later to characterize his ministry.
Philosophy is never more usefully and never more honourably directed than when multiplying the stores of human comfort and subsistence than when enlightening the humblest departments of industry than when she leaves the school of declamation and descends to the walks of business, to the dark and dismal receptacles of misery, to the hospitals of disease, to the putrid houses of our great cities, where poverty sits in lonely and ragged wretchedness, agonized with pain, faint with hunger, and shivering in a frail and unsheltered tenement
A minister holding a second job in some form of pluralism was hardly unprecedented. It was the manner as much as the fact of it which drew comment at Presbytery meetings in May and September 18O4. Chalmers replied that after the punctual discharge of his professional duties his time was his own.
Only in the narrowest sense could Chalmers remotely claim that he was covering what was required. In 1804 he conducted his first sacrament of communion and continued every summer as was normal. In 1804 the church was without sermon for three Sundays and that year he carried out 16 baptisms and attended to 3 marriages and 10 burials. He challenged the Presbytery to send somebody to investigate. Let the gentleman traverse the boundaries of my parish; let him begin with the houses of my wealthy proprietors and descend to the lowest tenements of poverty and disease. I will defy him to find a single individual who can substantiate the charge of culpable negligence against me. I will defy him to find a single individual who will say that I have been outstepped by any of my predecessors in the regularity of my ministerial attentions.
The following winter he reduced his lecturing to chemistry and his absence from Kilmany to two days a week. However in November 1804 the Professor of Natural Philosophy died and Chalmers was quick to declare himself a contestant for the position. What mattered was not academic knowledge. It was said that mathematics, for example, could readily be picked up by a man of decent abilities. What was important was loyalty to the government and the superiority of the Moderates. Chalmers theological sympathies were Moderate, but in behaviour he was far from being part of the establishment. His scientific ability was as irrelevant as his general attitudes were a liability, and he was dismissed as an eccentric mathematician who comes in from his parish.. .to read lectures in chemistry in our town hall.
It was only a month before a similar vacancy occurred in Edinburgh. He was no more successful, but in the Leslie controversy which developed over the appointment it was said that mathematics and the ministry were incompatible. To Chalmers this was a cruel and illiberal insinuation, an attempt to deny ministers the pride and consolation of.. .the hope of literary preferment In his first publication he wrote: The author. ..can assert from what to him is the highest of all authority, the authority of his own experience, that after the satisfactory discharge of his parish duties, a minister may enjoy five days in the week of uninterrupted leisure for the prosecution of any science in which his taste may engage
A parish minister had more free time for mathematics than a professor. The two days that had to be spent on clerical duties were only such as to make the intellectual exercise of mathematics a refreshing change. There is almost no consumption of intellectual effort in the peculiar employment of a minister. The great doctrines of revelation, though sublime are simple.... A ministers duty is the duty of the heart. It is his to impress the simple and home-bred lessons of humanity and justice and the exercises of a sober and enlightened piety. It is his to enlighten the sick-bed of age and infirmity; to rejoice in the administrations of comfort; to maintain a friendly intercourse with his people, and to secure their affections by what no art and no hypocrisy can accomplish the smile of a benevolent countenance, the frank and open air of an undissembled honesty.
Chalmers regarded the ministry as little challenge for a man of his talents. Without the hope of a university chair he wasone of those ill-fated beings whom the malignant touch of ordination has condemned to a life of ignorance and obscurity; a being who must bid adieu, it seems, to every flattering anticipation and drivel out the rest of his days in insignificance. Insignificance was to be avoided at all costs. No doubt speaking autobiographically, he wrote of ministers that the choice of their profession often depends on the most accidental circumstances, a whim of infancy, or the capricious destination of parents.
If it did not realise his academic ambitions, nevertheless 1805 did provide other interests. Before the battle of Trafalgar in October, the threat of French invasion was real. Chalmers enrolled in a corps raised in St Andrews and held commissions as lieutenant and chaplain. When he resigned he gave his uniform and sword to a former student and according to the son-in-law of the recipient, the coat and breeches once fitted a very portly gentleman
That year he was still lecturing in chemistry and gave demonstrations round the district in Cupar, Kirkcaldy and Kilmany. Sometimes people got apologetics as well as science. He revered Christianity because it is built on the solid foundations of impregnable argument because it has improved the world by the lessons of an ennobling morality, and because by the animating prospects which it holds out, it alleviates the sorrows of our final departure hence, and cheers the gloomy desolation of the grave.
By 1806 his absenteeism from the parish was again increasing. He had given up chemistry lectures at St Andrews, but now the state of the manse made him live elsewhere during the winter. In October he reported an Interest in botany and the garden displayed a wide range of plants, which testified to his mathematical interests by their geometrical layout.
In April 1807 he went on an extended visit to London and did not return until July. While he claimed he returned more of the country parson than I ever was in my life before, quite devoted to the sober work of visiting and examining his mind was well away from the religious state of either himself or his parishioners.
In November 1806 Napoleon had placed an embargo on trade with Britain. It was not clear what the effects would be, but people were worried. By September 1807 he half-completed a book on the subject. "An inquiry into the extent and stability of national resources" appeared at the end of March, 1808. It did not sell well despite the efforts of his friend David Wilkie (1785-1841), then in London establishing his reputation as a painter.
The Inquiry was a venture into a subject he would later teach and was not without relevance to his later success as a preacher. Whatever might be said for the reasoning, he was grappling with a current topic. A writer in the Dundee paper complained the press was teeming with productions on national wealth, internal resources, foreign commerce Chalmers Inquiry sought to reassure people like his own parishioners that they hal nothing to fear.
By the winter of 1808 the condition of the manse could no longer be ignored and in December the heritors agreed to build a new one. Chalmers took lodgings, and when the manse was demolished in March, moved to a farm outside the parish, but not very far from the church. After five years Chalmers burning ambition to find significance in life no longer drove him to behaviour which was quite so reckless. His decision to pursue the replacement of the manse showed he had come to accept that, for the present at least, his future lay within the parish and not somewhere else. It also meant that if he was to succeed in getting the heritors to pay for it, it would be necessary for him to be more diligent in carrying out his duties. Whatever energies had been diverted to the inquiry, the number of Sunday the pulpit was vacant in 1808 suggests greater commitment, and the weekly collections for the poor were consistent with improving attendanee.
Chalmers also realized that within a few years he would be able to apply for an increase in his stipend. He took a close interest in an act of parliament to regulate the augmentation of stipends. He noted that the period between augmentations, set as 20 years, was in practice dated from the last decision. If the court took several years to reach a verdict, the period between augmentations was increased accordingly.
The Presbytery did not think Chalmers had much chance of getting the General Assembly .to ask parliament to amend the bill, but they were willing to let him try. On 25 May 1809 he presented an overture from the Presbytery of Cupar as his maiden speech to the Assembly. As predicted he was unsuccessful, but the effort served to introduce him to a young Evangelical, Andrew Thomson. Chalmers agreed to the suggestion that the speech be published, particularly as there was competition to pay for the privilege.
Chalmers arguments were shaped by the matter in hand, but showed he was still grappling with the significance of parish ministry. Whereas in 1805 the lack of the prospect of a university chair threatened any hope of a "meaningful life", now it was the lack of an adequate stipend. Ministers were entitled to maintain their rank in the country, and be rescued from that insignificance in which they would otherwise be infallibly left by the progress of every other order in society.
They had to fight to reach that genteel independence.. .which should be the inheritance of every public instructor Politicians should recognize the church was a most essential part of the political fabric; a powerful instrument of security against the disaffection of the people, in so far as it propitiates the attachment of an enlightened order, whose business it is to nurse a numerous population in the solid principles of virtue and patriotism.
This could not be maintained without status, and that meant stipend. It is quite ridiculous to say that the worth of the clergy will suffice to keep them up in the estimation of society. This worth must be combined with importance. Now, it is the part of the Court of Teinds to supply the element of importance. Give both worth and importance to the same individual and what are the terms employed in describing him? a distinguished member of society the ornament of a most respectable profession the virtuous companion of the great and a generous consolation to all the sickness and poverty around him.
Chalmers was disappointed that his motion was not put to the vote an indication whose interests the Assembly represented but his concern was minuted. The speech is further evidence that he now saw his future within the church. The role of the ministry was to help people accept society as it was and the sufferings they experienced. When he returned to Kilmany in June 1809 he was sick for over a year and left in a fragile state of health for long after. He feared for his life and began to ask whether the comfort he offered to others was all there was to Christian faith?
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