Thomas Chalmers - by Adam Philip D.D.

The Man

OF all the famous Scots who have ever lived, I should like best to see Thomas Chalmers. "Bury me beside Chalmers," was the passionate prayer of John Mackintosh, whose story has been told so vividly by Norman Macleod in The Earnest Student. "What I thirst to read is Chalmers Life, one of the few men whom I love and reverence almost to idolatry. I cannot conceive of a wiser, greater or better man. Every part of his character was colossal; he had the heart of twenty men; the head of twenty men; the energy of a hundred. He has not left his equal in the world."

Few men have been spoken of like Chalmers. Carlyle once called him the last of the Christians. He stood alone, another says, and centuries may elapse ere the Church shall see - and when did she ever more need to see ? - another such spirit as he.

When Principal Rainy was asked who was the greatest man he had ever met, he instantly replied "Chalmers." I have met no human being in the world that I would call "greater" than Chalmers, Professor Masson wrote. In his paper on Chalmers, admired by Queen Victoria, Rab (Dr. John Brown) called him a "solar" man.

"He was several men in one," he writes. "He had a sedes on which he sat, and from which he spoke; he had an imperium to and from which he roamed as he listed; but a status was as little in his way as in that of a Mauritanian lion !"

He has been described as this Great-Heart, this incomparable Scot, the Moses of our country, and as the Moral Engineer of Scotland, always busy constructing works for the good of his fellows. Principal Denney said of him that he had a distinct impression that he was our greatest man since Knox, and that he was greater than all his works. "He had the greatness of the nation in him as well as that of the Church, and it is an immense gain to a Churchman when he has such an interest in the State as keeps his ethics from becoming ecclesiastically narrow in range." Statesmen like Mr. Gladstone and Lord Rosebery were conscious of his sway and have paid noble tributes to his greatness. "He does indeed seem to be an admirable man," Mr. Gladstone wrote; "one of nature's nobles." He speaks of his warrior grandeur, and he describes him as a man with the energy of a giant and the simplicity of a child. Lord Morley calls him the "mighty Chalmers," Dr. Stalker writes of his "mighty mind." Wherever he was, men gravitated towards him, and willing or unwilling, when they called him - mad, when they denounced him, they felt the might of his soul and his strange, compelling influence. No man of last century in the life of Scotland was quite like Chalmers, a landmark, a force. No one impressed himself so deeply on the mind and heart of his fellows; and, above everything, this capacious, chivalrous, Christian soul was identified with the cause of the Evangel. Though Chalmers moved on a wide front, the whole force of his being was concentrated on Evangelism.

Norman Macleod could only conceive of him in the future as asking reverently in the presence of Christ if there were no other worlds to evangelise. That any one should say such a thing seriously of another is praise indeed of the nobility of his aims and his Godward purpose. And it is the highest and the truest tribute that can be paid to Chalmers. He stands before his countrymen in many roles, Preacher, Orator, Professor, Reformer, Statesman, Economist, and Patriot. But his highest ambition was Evangelism - the Christian good of Scotland, his nearest and dearest for Christ - his comrades for Christ, Scotland for Christ - the world for Christ.

During the eighteenth century and onwards, there were stirrings of Evangelism in Scotland. We think of the Erskines, of George Whitefield and Wesley, Stewart of Moulin, The Haldanes, Dr. A. Thomson. But Chalmers brought gifts of his own to the work that make him tower above his fellows in purpose and range of service. He ranks with the greatest of Scottish churchmen and he was, undoubtedly, the most commanding spiritual force of the nineteenth century in Scotland. Even David Livingstone, whom Professor Watt has chosen as perhaps the most representative churchman of the century, a century of Foreign Missions, owed more than words can say to the impulse and atmosphere created by Chalmers.

In all directions Chalmers has left enduring results. He raised the standard of life and set himself to keep up the pitch, and flung out ideas that are fruitful still. Almost meteoric in splendour, he is a planetary man - one who abides and does not grow dim. Chalmers both made history and was moulded by it. He has given a character to Scotland's life and people. He was one of those men of whom with truth it is said that they need a great historic epoch to exhibit the full proportions of their noble manhood. None of his contemporaries - great as they were, - none of Scotland's sons back to the Reformation were on the scale of Chalmers. He was the greatest force since the time of Knox. His successor in New College, Dr. James Buchanan, spoke of him as recognised and honoured all the world over, as the greatest representative and noblest specimen of living, large-hearted, catholic- minded Christianity, and he has been justly described as the great Evangelical Moralist of the Scottish pulpit, a man who loved the sunlight of the Gospel and the fresh air of truth.

If the secret of his greatness be asked, the answer is that it lay in his personality. There was something greater in the man than anything he did. Like many another, Chalmers made no claim to greatness, nor did he lay himself out to attract the attention of his fellows. A big human, but unworldly withal, friend and foe alike were conscious of his power, a power that grows upon the mind the longer and the more closely men look at him. With a spacious mind and intellectually alert, he was simple, direct and real, and everything he touched he touched with life and force, and drove it home by the strength and vividness of his convictions. Chalmers works may pass into comparative oblivion, and the ideas that came glowing from his lips may be challenged, but, looking back, there he stands, one of the great men of history, with a contagious enthusiasm for his fellows, attracting us, speaking to us, dominating us, living though dead, and like an uncrowned king in our hearts.

We feel as we look at Chalmers as if we were in the presence of a Master-Mind, of one who thought nobly, who did greatly, and who lived grandly, always equal to his task and baptised with the spirit of service.

We close this chapter with two or three further appreciations of this quite exceptional man. They come from brilliant writers like Professor Masson and Lord Rosebery, Mrs. Grant of Laggan, Carlyle, etc.

In 1839, Masson went from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. He says: "My fascination to Edinburgh - why should I conceal it ? - was Dr. Chalmers. On one of his missionary perambulations of Scotland for the purpose of rousing us all in favour of his mighty national schemes, he had passed through our benighted parts; and thus I had actually seen his grand white head, and been subject as one of a vast assembly to the mass and rush of his living eloquence. . To me through circumstances, this was given in dear old Chalmers. Till he flashed casually before me in that perambulation of benevolence which led him into our bleakish parts, never had I felt such power, never had I conceived the possibility of such prodigiousness of energy in human form. He answered all one's young notions, and more,- of what greatness might be; and from that day the whole of that part of our island to which my vision was as yet pretty much bounded, seemed to me full of him, and almost of him only. Scotland was but a platform to and fro on which there walked a Chalmers. " . . . I have met no human being in the world that I would call greater than Chalmers."

Mrs. Grant, of Laggan, Writes thus:
"There is one high distinction Dr. Chalmers possesses - that is, making the genuine doctrine of the gospel respectable even in the eyes of worldly men by the masculine energy and simple dignity of his style which never stoops to blandishments or the meretricious embellishments of a studied and fashionable eloquence. "You ask me to tell you about Dr. Chalmers. I must tell you first, then, that of all men he is the most modest and speaks with undissembled gentleness and liberality of those who differ from him in opinion. Every word he says has the stamp of genius; yet the calmness, ease and simplicity of his conversation is such that to ordinary minds he might appear an ordinary man." Comparing him with Sir Walter Scott she says: I "There was a more chastened dignity and occasional elevation in the divine than in the poet; but many resembling features in their modes of thinking and manner of expression. Sir Walter, we know, was deeply moved when told of Chalmers admiration for him. They appeared if together once on a public platform in Edinburgh. "He was one of the greatest of our race; a commanding character, a superb orator, the most illustrious Scottish churchman since John Knox. It is a noble and blessed life, none more enviable.
If ever a halo surrounded a saint, it If encompassed Chalmers, a unique personality of prodigious powers all devoted to the sole purpose of service to God." LORD ROSEBERY, Miscellanies, Literary and Historical, Vol. I., p. 238.

"Dear old Chalmers," Norman Macleod calls him, "whose noble character, lofty enthusiasm and patriotic views will rear themselves before the eyes of a posterity like Alpine peaks, long after the narrow valleys which have for a brief period divided us are lost in the far distance of past history." - Life of Norman Macleod, I., 263.

"The greatest moral force of his age, simple, massive, and grand as some structure of the early world." DR. WALTER C. SMITH.
"Truly I consider him as raised up by God for a great and peculiar work. His depth of thought, originality in illustrating and strength in stating are unrivalled in the present day. "In another respect he is too sanguine. He does not sufficiently see that a Chalmers is necessary to carry into effect the plans of Chalmers." CHARLES SIMEON,

"His one, his great forte, as the leader of ingenuous youth, was his enthusiasm. He was the man of all others to kindle the torch. "It was his contagious enthusiasm for humanity that invested him in the eyes of students, as well as congregations, broad Scotland over, classes and masses alike, with an admiring reverence assigned to one of the old Prophets of Israel." J. R. MACDUFF.

"He was the pride both of the Church and the country, the greatest religious orator of the day, bringing, as Scotland loves, his fame to swell the national glory. Government and people alike recognised his moral predominance. Notwithstanding the Presbyterian parity, which is the rule of his Church, no Archbishop was ever more truly the Primate of the great province which he swayed." Mrs. OLIPHANT'S Thomas Chalmers, p. 225.

"Wherever Thomas Chalmers is, there is the Church of Scotland." J. DODDS, 266.

"It must do good to the world to revere such a character." W. ARNOT, Life, p. 222.
"Scotland never had a better patriot Churchman. . . . . Within the first quarter of the century arose two ministers of surpassing power (Dr. Andrew Thomson and
Chalmers) whose gifts and work made a glory to their generation . . RANKIN.

"His great name has been throughout both Scotland and England, as upon the Continent, the apology of the Free Church. Many were unable to study the whole details of the question; but Chalmers, one of the most philosophical minds, and one of the most Christian souls of our age, was upon that side; this was sufficient to make them say, - there lies the truth. " D AUBIGNE, p. 179.

"I am reading, I suppose for the dozenth time, Hanna's Chalmers. He was the first Principal of the New College. Oh! what a falling off is here! Be sure you read Chalmers carefully." DR. WHYTE to his son.

"Far and away the greatest man in the Scotland of that day." DR. WHYTE.

"And on the whole," Writes Mr. W. Law Mathieson, "whilst rendering homage to a personality so great and so varied in its manifestation as that of Chalmers, one cannot but concur in the judgment of Carlyle: - He was a man essentially of little culture, of narrow sphere, all his life," though we may justly allow for exaggeration in what follows: - Such an intellect professing to be educated, and yet so ill read, so ignorant in all that lay beyond the horizon in place or in time, I have almost nowhere met with." (W. L. MATHIESON, p. 303, Church Reform, 1797-1818.)
One is tempted to ask: Who is Mr. W. Law Mathieson that he should belittle the culture or the sphere in which this princely man moved? As for ourselves, we abide by the judgment of history which has put Chalmers in the front rank of Scots, and we appeal from Carlyle dyspeptic to Carlyle sound and true. "It is not often," Carlyle wrote to Dr. Hanna,the biographer of Chalmers, "that the world has seen men like Thomas Chalmers, nor can the world afford to forget them; or in its most careless mood be willing to do it. Probably the time is coming when it will be more apparent than it is now to every one that here intrinsically, was the chief Scottish man of his time - a man possessed of such a massive geniality of intellect and temper as belonged to no other man. What a grand simplicity, broad humour, blent so kindly with enthusiastic ardour and blazing thought - a man of such mild, noble valour, strength and piety - above all things, of such perfect veracity, I have not met with in these times. Honour to him. Honour belongs to him and to the essential work he did - an everlasting continuance among the possessions of this world."

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