CHALMERS, THOMAS: The leader of the Free Church of Scotland; b. in East Anstruther, Fifeshire, Mar. 17, 1780; d. in Edinburgh May 30, 1847. The family to which he belonged was composed of middle-class people of the strictest type of Calvinism; and hence in his opening years, he received thorough indoctrination. He entered St. Andrews University when only eleven years old, and confined his attention almost exclusively to mathematics, but did not give up his original intention of becoming a preacher, and accordingly was licensed by the presbytery of St. Andrews Jan., 1799. His character early developed into maturity. Instead of beginning his professional work, he continued the study of mathematics and natural science; and during the winter of 1802-03 he acted as assistant to the professor of mathematics at St. Andrews. He showed an extraordinary power to awaken enthusiasm in almost any topic he took up; although it was this very fact which at that time cost him his place, the authorities disliking the novelty of his methods.

Ministry at Kilmeny.

He settled as minister of Kilmeny, nine miles from St. Andrews, May, 1803, and in the following winter, while preaching regularly, opened voluntary and independent classes in mathematics at the university, which were largely attended, although vigorously discouraged by the authorities. He was a faithful pastor at Kilmeny, and his preaching attracted wide attention, but his heart was not in his work. He was trammeled by the prevailing moderatism, which put culture above piety, and state support above independence. In 1808 evidence of the trend of his thinking appeared in his Inquiry into the Extent and Stability of National Resources. The supply of man's physical and social needs was uppermost in his mind. In the midst of such work he was visited with severe domestic afflictions, and a serious illness brought him to death's door; but he recovered after a year. David Brewster asked him to contribute to his Edinburgh Encyclopedia. He at first chose "Trigonometry," but at length took "Christianity" (separately published, 1813). And as he examined the doctrines of this religion, and went deeper into its mysteries, he realized its importance, and by studying about Christianity he became a Christian. The parishioners quickly became aware that he had really not so much resumed his work among them as begun it. His whole soul was on fire, and his culture was now used to make the saving truth of saving power. He cut loose from the moorings of moderatism, and became a decided Evangelical. His eloquence was expended in new channels, and with great results.

In Glasgow.

In July, 1815, he was formally admitted as minister of the Tron Church, Glasgow. In 1816 he delivered on weekdays the famous series of seven Discourses on the Christian Revelation, Viewed in Connection with Modern Astronomy. In Sept., 1819, he removed from the Tron parish to that of


St. John's, in order that he might, in a newly constituted parish, have an opportunity of testing the practicability in a large city of the old Scottish scheme of providing for the poor. In the parish there were two thousand families. These he distributed into twenty-five divisions; and over each such district he put an elder and a deacon—the former to attend to their spiritual, the latter to their temporal needs. Two commodious school-houses were built; four competent teachers were employed, and by school-fees of two and three shillings each a quarter, seven hundred children were educated; while on Sunday the forty or fifty local schools supplied religious instruction. Dr. Chalmers not only presided over all this system of work, but made himself familiar with all the details, even visiting personally every two years each family of the parish, and holding evening meetings. He also assumed complete charge of the poor; and by thorough system, and consequent weeding-out of unworthy cases, he reduced the cost of maintaining them from fourteen hundred to two hundred and eighty pounds per annum. This efficient system, however, in 1837 was given up; and the "English" plan of compulsory assessments, which requires much less trouble, and probably does much less good, was substituted. In Nov., 1823, Dr. Chalmers became professor of moral philosophy in St. Andrews University, and in Nov., 1828, professor of theology in Edinburgh. In 1833 he issued his Bridgewater Treatise, On the Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man. This work made a great sensation; and his biographer, Rev. William Hanna, says that, in consequence, he received "literary honors such as were never united previously in the person of any Scottish ecclesiastic." In 1834 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and soon after one of its vice-presidents, in the same year a corresponding member of the Institute of France; and in 1835 the University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of D.C.L.

The Organization of the Free Church.

Up to this time he had taken little part in church government; from then on he was destined to have more to do with it than any other man of the century. The friction between Church and State in Scotland was rapidly producing trouble. The attempt to settle ministers who were obnoxious to the congregations was the commonest complaint. 1 The historic case is that of Marnoch. Here only one person in the parish signed the call; and yet the presbytery of Strathbogie decided, by a vote of seven to three, to proceed with the ordination, and did, although these seven were suspended. In so doing they were upheld by the civil authority, which annulled their suspension. But this case was only an aggravation of a common ill. Matters became so serious in all parts of Scotland that a convocation was held in Nov., 1842, to consider the matter; and a large number of ministers resolved that, if relief was not afforded, they would withdraw from the Establishment. No help came; and accordingly, on May 18, 1843, four hundred and seventy clergymen withdrew from the General Assembly, and constituted themselves into the Free Church of Scotland, electing Dr. Chalmers as their first moderator. He had foreseen the separation, and drawn up a scheme for the support of the outgoing ministers. But, after he had safely piloted the new church through the stormy waters, he gave himself up more exclusively to professional work, especially in connection with the New College, Edinburgh, of which he was principal, and to the composition of his Institutes of Theology. He died suddenly.

Dr. Chalmers is to-day a molding influence. All the churches of Scotland unite to do him reverence. He was a greater worker than writer, and a greater man than either. It was surely enough honor for one life to inspire spiritual life throughout an entire land; and as the tireless and practical reformer, as the Christian philanthropist, and, above all, as the founder of the Free Church of Scotland, he will live.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The principal Life is by his son-in-law, W. Hanna, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Thomas Chalmers, 4 vols., Edinburgh, 1849-52. Consult also: A. J. S[ymington], Thomas Chalmers, the Man, his Times, and his Work, Ardrossan, 1878; D. Fraser, Thomas Chalmers, London, 1881; J. L. Watson, The Life of Thomas Chalmers, Edinburgh, 1881; J. Dodds, Thomas Chalmers, ib. 1892; W. G. Blaikie, Thomas Chalmers, ib. 1896 (in Famous Scots Series); Mrs. Oliphant, Thomas Chalmers, Preacher, Philosopher, and Statesman, London, 1896; DNB, ix. 449-454.

1 The point at issue was lay patronage. British law having conferred upon landowners the right to nominate to pastorates in their possessions.—A. H. N.


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