Memorable Sayings - from "Thomas Chalmers" by Adam Philip

WE have lost much of him, as Duncan said, for want of a Boswell. Many of his best sayings are gone for ever. But here are some - specimens only.

In speaking to his students, Chalmers was wont to give this counsel: "Do not wait for the aftlatus." It is always a matter of wonder how Chalmers put through so much work as he did. He was a tense worker, but he did not work long at a spell. According to Masson, two or three hours a day sufficed for his literary labours, instead of the six or seven required by most professional men of letters. But he taught with earnestness, just as he was careful to practise it, not to wait for the afflatus. The temptation is common to say, "I am not in the mood." "Ideas won't come to-day," "I cannot tackle a sermon or address." So we wait till the wind fills our sail, till we feel in the mood. "Do not wait," this big man of genius said, "for the afflatus."

Principal Whyte put it once in this way when speaking to a gathering of brother ministers: "As a rule and even when I was most tempted to procrastinate, as Dr. Johnson taught me, I "sat down doggedly" to my desk." WHYTE'S Life, p. 287. * * *

Speaking of the sermons of the Moderates, Chalmers once said that they were like a winter's day, short, clear, and cold. "The brevity," he said, "is good, and the clarity is better, but the coldness is fatal. Moonlight preaching ripens no harvest." * * *

"A house-going minister makes a church-going people." * * *

"To fill the Church well, we must fill the pulpit well." * * *

"Help the poor to help themselves."

"The remedies against the extension of pauperism do not lie in the liberalities of the rich, they lie in the hearts and habits of the poor. Plant in their bosom a principle of independence. We want no other asylum for our aged parents than that of their pious and affectionate families."

Chalmers believed in the benevolence of love, and had little belief in the benevolence or the effectiveness of legal charity. In his judgment, it had spelt disaster in England; and weakened thrift and the sense of duty both amongst rich and poor. * * *

A favourite expression of Chalmers was: "I do like these literalities" ; another was "the portable evidence of Christianity."

Talking to Carlyle of a scheme he had for proving Christianity by its visible fitness for human nature, Chalmers spoke of it, according to Carlyle, as "all Written in us already, as in sympathetic ink: Bible awakens it and you can read." * * *

Sandy Buchan, an old Chartist in Dundee, once greeted Dr. Morrison of St. John's thus: "I hae heard, Mr. Morrison, that Dr. Chalmers used to say that the great thing in a preacher is rummel-gumption. Weel, sir, ye hae a the gumption, an hed ye but a wee mair o the rummel, they would flock like the doves to their windows." When next the new minister called on the old man, the greeting was: "Ye mind, Mr. Morrison, what Dr. Chalmers said about rummel-gumption. Well, I'm thinkin now that ye've rummel as well as gumption." * * *

A person starting from Glasgow for Canada put the question to Dr. Chalmers: "What are we to do for ministers in these colonies ? " Chalmers answer was; "You should become ministers yourselves." That is the ultimate solution of world evangelisation. Those whose candle has been lighted are to spread their light. Were every Scot abroad a burning and a shining light, how quickly the world would be won for Christ.

When Sunday School work was in danger in England, through the cost of hiring teachers, a zealous Wesleyan said at a meeting of office-bearers: "Let us do the work ourselves." This is believed to be the origin of voluntary teaching in Sunday Schools which has been such a blessing both to the teachers and to the Church. * * *

I do think that without disparagement to human authorship, which, in many instances, is in the highest degree helpful to the inquirer, still the main road to light and comfort, and a solid establishment in the way that leadeth to life everlasting, is the reading of the Scriptures with prayer. * * *

When driving on a stage-coach, Chalmers attention was caught by the driver, at a sharp turn, giving one of the horses a whip. Asking the reason the driver told him that the horse had once shied at the spot, and he wanted to give him something else to think of. The incident suggested to Chalmers the subject of, perhaps, his most famous sermon on "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection." "We shall never be able to arrest any of its leading pursuits, by a naked demonstration of their vanity. It is quite in vain to think of stopping one of these pursuits in any way else, but by stimulating to another. "The best way to casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good to expel the love of what is evil. Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, and the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again. * * *

"I have no veneration for the Church of Scotland quasi an establishment, but I have the utmost veneration for it quasi an instrument of Christian good." Chalmers said this at St. Andrews before the days of the Establishment or Voluntary Controversy. * * *

"It is not by irregular efforts, however gigantic, that any great practical achievement is overtaken. It is by the constant recurrence and repetition of small efforts directed to a given object, and resolutely sustained and persevered in." * * *

"Circulars always remind me of those grotesque figures which one sees in potato fields to scare those gentlemen in black - the crows." * * *

Chalmers had a happy knack of saying simple things memorably. Mrs. Morison-Duncan of Naughton remembered as a child hearing him say: "Be kind to the Dyke," upon which Mackay's comment is "The few fragments of the Danes Dyke still left show that this saying was needed then and should not be forgotten now. * * *

Chalmers could not abide students or ministers daring to give God what cost them nothing, standing up without a particle of preparation and "abandoning themselves to miscellaneous impulses," and producing what he said of a famous pamphlet - - a mighty maze but quite without a plan. That is worth remembering. And it may be associated with the remark of John Allen, that meetings hang on three - P - s : Preparation, Prayer and Punctuality. Preparation first, but never forgetting Prayer.

In the dynamics of human affairs, Chalmers used to say that two qualities were essential to greatness - Power and Promptitude. When any one of public mark was mentioned, he would say "Has he wecht ?" he has promptitude - has he power ? - he has power - has he promptitude ? and moreover has he a discerning spirit ? Punctuality was with him a cardinal virtue. * * *

Relevancy was both a word he used and a quality he sought in mind and in thought. One of his most distinguished students, Principal Rainy, was fond of praising the relevant mind. And, perhaps, the severest thing said by a distinguished critic of a well-known layman was that he had not a relevant mind. Chalmers had other similar expressions. He was fond of the word "cardinal" ; of the phrase terminus ad quem, as when he declared that Evangelical religion could never afford to neglect its terminus ad quem, which was the regeneration and elevation of the individual and of society. * * *

"Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world, there is no cant to me more hateful than the cant of an ostentatious and affected liberality." This is a somewhat unusual style of speech in Chalmers, and the angry denunciation of cant is a moment in a clashing of ideals which is such a feature in Carlyle - cant moral - cant religious, cant political. "Above all," Carlyle writes in 1823 in his life of Scliiler, "Schiller has no cant; in any of its thousand branches, ridiculous or hateful, none," etc. Of which in Carlyle, a recent biographer says : " Fear of cant, suspicion of cant, the habit of seeing cant everywhere, the self-consciousness about it which Carlyle did so much to disseminate, are almost as bad as cant itself." * * *

"I look on Catechisms and Confessions as mere landmarks against heresy. . . . It s putting them out of their place to look on them as magazines of truth. There s some of your stour orthodox folk just over ready to stretch the Bible to square with their Catechism; all very well, all very needful as a landmark, but (kindling up) what I say is, do not let that wretched mutilated thing be thrown between me and the Bible."
"Bacon," said his daughter, "compares the Bible to the wellspring, and says he were a huge fool that would not drink but from a tank." "Ha! ha !" he cried, "where does Bacon say that ? It's nasty in the tank, too, whiles."
Again, "Let me not be the slave of human authority, but clear my way through all creeds and confessions to Thine own original revelation." * * *

A favourite quotation with Chalmers was the following:
"The man that could surround the sum of things, and spy
The heart of God and secrets of His empire
Would speak but love. With love the bright result
Would change the hue of intermediate things,
And make one thing of all theology."

Home | Biography | Literature | Letters | Interests | Links | Quotes | Photo-Wallet