CHALMERS, THOMAS, D.D., LL.D., a distinguished divine and theological writer, was born on
17th. March 1780, at Anstruther, a small seaport town on the east coast of Fife. His father was
a dyer, shipowner, and general merchant, descended from a a family long connected with that part
of the country. His great-grandfather Mr. James Chalmers, son of John Chalmers, laird of Pitmedden,
was ordained minister of Elie in 1701. In the year after his ordination he married the daughter
of an episcopal clergyman, who, by the savings of economy, purchased the estate of Radernie,
which is still held by her descendants. her eldest daughter was married to Mr. T. Kay, minister
of Kilrenny, and it was to Mrs. Kay's son-in-law, Dr. Adamson of St. Andrews, that Dr. Chalmers
was indebted to for the presentation to Kilmany parish. The eldest son (the eldest brother of Dr.
Chalmers' grandfather) married Barbara Anderson, Easter Anstruther, and settled in that town as a
merchant. He was succeeded in business by his second son, Mr John Chalmers (Dr. Chalmers' father),
who married Elizabeth Hall, daughter of a wine merchant at Crail. They had a numerous family - all of
whom, save one, reached manhood. Dr. Chalmers was the sixth child, and fourth son. When yet almost
an infant, he was committed to the care of a nurse, "whose cruelty and deceitfulness haunted his
memory through life." To escape this woman he went to school when only three years old, but here he
was tormented by a pedantic and irritable schoolmaster, name Bryce, "a sightless tyrant," who used to
steal behind upon his victims, like a tiger, guided by the sound of their voices. This man had an
assistant named Daniel Ramsay, who was as easy as his principal was severe, and both were equally
inefficient. In his old age Ramsay fell into a state of destitution, and was often relieved by his
old pupil, Dr. Chalmers, who gave him many a pound note.
The stories and precepts of the Bible, at a very early period, made an impression on his mind. When
only about three years of age, he was one evening found pacing up and down the nursery alone, in the
dark, excited and absorbed, repeating "O, my son, Absolom! O Absolom, my son, my son!" It would appear
that as soon as he could form or announce a wish, he declared that he would be a minister; and the sister of one
of his schoolfellows relates that breaking in one day on her brother and young Chalmers, she found
the future devine standing on a chair, and preaching vigorously to his single auditor on the text, "Let
brotherly love continue!"
In November 1791, whilst not yet twelve years of age, accompanied by his eldest brother William, he
entered as a student the united college of St. Andrews, and among his fellow students was John Campbell,
the son of the minister of Cupar, who afterwards became Lord Campbell, lord chief justice of the queen's
bench. At that time he could not at all write correctly; his letters were full of bad grammar and words
mis-spelled. As in the case of many other great men, his talents did not develop themselves early. He
was volatile and idle in his habits, and paid little attention to his classes during the first two years
of his college course. He excelled at football, but still more at handball, owing to his being left handed.
His third session at college was his intellectual birth-time. His physical powers had now been matured, and
science awoke the mental activity and force of will, which never afterward slumbered. Dr. James Brown,
the assistant mathematical professor, was the means of kindling young Chalmers' enthusiasm, and a friendship
commenced between the pupil and teacher, which lasted for many years. In November 1795, when fifteen years
old, he was enrolled a student of divinty. His attainments in theology did not at first attract much notice,
indeed his biographer tells us that theology occupied very little of his thoughts, but he early discovered
a predilection for mathematics and chemistry. Towards the close of the session, however, he turned his
attention to Edwards on Free Will, and studied that author so intensely that some were afraid his mind would
lose its balance. At that time the members of the university assembled daily in the public hall for prayer, which
was performed by the theological students in rotation. When it came to Chalmers to officiate for the first time,
his prayer was an amplification of the Lord's Prayer, so eloquently expressed as to excite wonder; and when the
people of St. Andrews knew it to be his turn to lead the devotions, they flocked to the hall, which was open
to the public.
For the cultivation of his talent in composition, he was largely indebted to debating societies formed among the
students. In session 1798-9, he took as a subject for the debating society connected with the college, "Is
man a free agent?" and defended the negative side. Even then, though but eighteen years of age, he was a
formidable antagonist in debate. It was about this time that he penned a college essay on religous enthusiasm,
which is said to have been the groundwork of the splendid speech delivered by him forty years afterwards, in
a solemn convocation of four hundred evangelical ministers, when in November 1842, they met to decide upon
separating from the Church of Scotland, and produced an effect as overwhelming as anything he ever uttered.
After his college course was finished, he became tutor in a family who treated him with great perciliousness.
From his private letters at this time it would appear that he was sadly mortified at the conduct of this family -
even the very servants treating him with marked disrespect. "The whole combined household," says his son-in-law
and biographer, Dr. Hanna, "were at war with him." The undaunted tutor resolved nevertheless to act his part
with dignity and effect. Remonstrances were vain. To the wrong they did him in dismissing him, when
company came, to his own room, they would apply no remedy. He devised therefore a remedy of his own -
He was living in a town in which, through means of introduction given to him by Fifeshire friends, he had
already formed some acquaintances. Whenever he knew that there was to be a supper from which he would be
excluded, he ordered one in the neighbourhood inn, to which he invited one or more of his own friends. To make
his purpose all the more manifest, he waited till the servant entered with his solitary repast, when he ordered
it away, saying, 'I sup elsewhere to-night.' - Such curiously-timed tutorship suppers were not very likely
to be relished by Mr. -, who charged him with unseemly and unreasonable pride. 'Sir,' said he, 'the very servants
are complaining of your haughtiness. You have far too much pride, sir.' - 'There are two kinds of pride, sir'
was the reply. 'There is that kind of pride which lords it over inferiors; and there is that pride which
rejoices in repressing the insolence of superiors. The first I have none of - the second I glory in.'
When but nineteen years of age, he applied for a license as a preacher; which was granted on the plea that
he was "a lad o' pregnant pairts." He was licensed 31st July 1799, and preached his first sermon in Chapel-lane
Chapel, in Wigan, on 25th August. On the following Sabbath he preached in Liverpool. His brother James, who
heard him preach, wrote to his father that he thought Thomas more occupied with his mathematical studies than
with his religious, and referred in proof, to some documents in Thomas' handwriting, adding "If you can read them,"
- for even his handwriting was so bad that his father is said to have laid aside his letters till he was returned
home to read them himself. He subsequently attended for two sessions the classes of chemistry and natural
philosophy at Edinburgh, under Dr. Hope and Professor Robison. He had also a ticket to Dr. Brown's class of
moral philosophy. About this period, he became an admirer of the works of Godwin, and thenceforth the
philosophical scepticism which for a time characterised him commenced. In a letter to his father, he mentioned
that he was getting into a stock of sermons, which would render "the business abundantly easy," when he got
a church, which at that time he expecting.
In 1801 he became assistant minister of the parish of Cavers, near Hawick, Roxboroughshire. At this period
of his life he evinced nothing, either in his mode of preaching or in general ability, to distinguish him from
the ordinary run of probationers, except perhaps in the positive character of his habits, and a somewhat
self-willed and independent spirit of abstraction. In 1803, when little more than twenty-two years of age, he
was appointed assistant to Professor Vilant, the professor of mathematics in the university of St. Andrews.
This situation was quite to his taste. "His thirst for literary distinction was intense; to fill the mathematical
chair in one of the universities, the big object of his ambition; to this assistantship at St. Andrews might
prove a stepping-stone." This prospect influenced his literary ardour to the utmost. His lectures were eloquent,
and unusually brilliant, and his students regarded him with admiration. The old professors, in the true spirit
of mediocrity, were envious, and tried to disparage him. He repelled their attempts to injure him with indignation,
and maintained his independence as a man of science. "Under his extraordinary management," writes one of his
pupils, "the study of mathematics was felt to hardly less a play of the fancy, than a labour of the intellect; the
lessons of the day being continually interspersed with applications and illustrations of the most lively nature,
so that he received, in a singular manner, the confidence and attachment of his pupils."
In 1803, through the influence of his relative, Dr. Adamson, professor of civil history at St. Andrews, as already
stated, he was represented by his university to the living at Kilmany, a small scattered village in the county of
Fife, situated about midway between Cupar and Dundee, to which charge he was ordained on the 12th May in that year.
Soon after this envy deprived him of his assistant professorship. His father, also, wished him to attend exclusively
to his ministerial duties, did not approve of him teaching at the university. During the first session
differences arose between him and the professor, so that he was told that his services would not be required. He
resolved to vindicate his injured honour by opening classes of his own at the very door of the unversity, which he
did in the session of 1804. His class was most numerously attended. He also lectured upon chemistry as well as
mathematics. The opening of this private class, in apparent opposition to the university professor, brought upon
him, as well as upon the students who attended him, the full indignation of the United college. His presbytery also
interfered with him, because he gave so much of his time to these lectures. But he met them in the same spirit of
defiance, and as they could not bring against him any charge of neglect of duty, he told them that he had as good a
right to indulge in this "amusement" as they had to enjoy themsleves in their own favourite pastimes.
So far from being deterred by the opposition of the professors, on a vacancy occuring, in 1804, he became a candidate
fro the natural philosophy chair in the unversity of St. Andrews, but was unsuccessful. Finding the manse at Kilmany
old and in wretched repair, he made many efforts to get it rendered habitable for himself and his two sisters who
were to resided with him. Not content with his labours at St. Andrews, he gave courses of lectures in chemistry, &c.,
in various of the neighbouring towns. It is related that having, by his chemical acquirements, lighted up his manse
of Kilmany with gas, his parishioners were hugely astonished thereat, as at that period this new lighting power, now
become so common, was almost unknown in this country. Their feelings on the subject, however, need not be considered a
matter of surprise, when it is stated that even Sir Walter Scott at one period scoffed at the idea of light from gas,
and yet lived to introduce it into his house at Abbotsford, and afterwards became chairman of the Edinburgh Gas Company.
At the time of the threatened invasion of Great Britain by the French, when the volunteers were organised, Mr. Chalmers
showed his patriotic feelings by enrolling himself in the St. Andrews corps, holding a double commission as chaplain
and lieutenant. In 1805, he joined the corps at Kirkcaldy, where it was then on permanent duty.
When the chair of mathematics in the university of Edinburgh became vacant in that year (1805) by the translation of
Professor Playfair to the chair of natural philosophy, in the same university, Mr. Chalmers was one of the many
candidates, who competed with the late Sir John Leslie for the vacant professorship. He withdrew, however, at an
early period of the protracted contest which ensued, and in the end Sir John was elected. It is understood to have
been in compliance with the wishes of his father and nearest relatives, who were anxious that he should remain a
minister, that he retired from the competition, and for a time sat down quietly in his charge. Nothing but a strong
sense of filial obligation could have induced him thus reluctantly to forego the prospect of realizing his heart's
warmest desire, and continue to perform in his village charge the somewhat monotonous though highly honourable and
responsible duties of a country minister. It was on occasion of this contest that his first publication was called
forth. Mr. Playfair, in his letter to the Lord provost of Edinburgh, from the number of clergymen who had come
forward as candidates, was led to observe that there were very few Scottish clergymen eminent in mathematics or
natural philosophy, and that the vigorous and successful pursuit of these sciences was incompatible with clerical
duties and habits. Mr. Chalmers immediately took up his pen, and under the title of 'Observations on a Passage in
Mr. Playfair's Letter to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, relative to the mathematical pretensions of the Scottish
Clergy,' he published a tract vindicating the character of his brethern, and asserting that they had sufficient leisure
for literary pursuits. In that pamphlet he alleged that one weekday was quite enough for the duties of the parish,
and the rest was leisure time. After he changed his views of the nature of the work of the ministry, he
endeavoured to recall this unfortunate pamphlet.
At the beginning of 1808, he first commenced authorship in that department in which he afterwards excelled, namely,
political economy. His volume was entitled 'An Inquiry into the Extent and Stability of National Resources,' and
he found some difficulty at first in obtaining a publisher. The object of this work was chiefly to show that if our
native resources were properly cultivated, and our means duly economised, there would be no necessity for depending on
foreign trade, - a theory which he was subsequently convinced was not altogether a correct one. Amidst much that was
questionable, the volume inculcated some sound views in political science; but its vehemence of tone, although at times
lofty and eloquent, prevented it from making any great impression, and it was in some instances very severely assailed
by the Reviewers.
At this period the mind of this extraordinary man seems to have been more occupied with subjects of a political and
scientific than a religious nature. For some years after his settlement at Kilmany, he attracted very little attention
as a preacher beyond the limits of his own parish. Indeed, for a number of years, from his violent and excited mode
of delivery, he was rather unpopular in the pulpit.
In May, 1809, he made his maiden speech at the General Assembly, on a question of augmentation of stipends, and that
speech caused a great sensation, and was published by request. He used to say that 'Butler's Analogy,' which he commenced
to study at an early period, "made him a Christian." The deaths of his sister and his uncle, and a long illness which
followed, led him about this time to serious thought, and to a complete change in his religious views. On 17th March,
1810, he says he had completed his thirtieth year, and lamented that on a review of the last fifteen years of his life,
at least two-thirds of that time had been uselessly spent. He became, about this time, greatly fortified in his belief
of Christianity. One day he called on a friend, and said, "Tell me all you have ever heard against Christianity from
its enemies - I am more than able to refute them all. The evidences of our religion are overwhelming." He at this time
reviewed Dr. Charteris' Sermons, and intended the criticism for the Edinburgh Review, but sent it to the Rev. A. Thomson
for the "Christian Instructor.' The latter demurred to it as a review, but inserted it among miscellaneous contributions.
In a note Mr. Thomson regretted the absence of the peculiar doctrines of the cross in the volume under review. About the
beginning of 1811 Mr. Chalmers took up Wilberfore's 'Practical View of Christianity,' and he got on in reading it till he
felt himself on the eve of a great revolution in all his opinions about the gospel. He wrote his mother that he had
reached the conclusion that his profession required all his talents and energy - a change of views, certainly, on this point.
So great an improvement was now observable in his mode of preaching, that his congregation was equally surprised and
delighted; and from this important era in his life may be dated the commencement of that distinction to which he was
soon after to advance. He had become intimately acquainted with Dr. (afterwards Sir David) Brewster, and was engaged by
him to write several articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia conducted by him, and amongst others the paper on 'Christianity.'
In the course of the research and investigation into which he was led while preparing this celebrated article, which he
afterwards expanded into his well-known Treatise on the Evidences, he became deeply impressed with far more serious and
heartfelt views of the great truths of the Gospel, than he had ever previously entertained; and the result was soon
apparent. From a mere formal preacher, he became a bold, eloquent, and earnest pulpit orator, upon whose discourses hung
enchained thousands of admiring hearers. He broke through all at once, like the sun from behind a cloud, and his
parishioners were filled with amazement at the sudden transformation. "It was not long," says his biographer, "till
the whole aspect of the Sabbath congregations in Kilmany church was changed. The stupid wonder which used to sit on the
countenances of the villagers or farm servants who attended divine service, was turned into a fixed, intelligent and
devout attention. It was not easy for the dullest to remain uninformed; for if the preacher sometimes soared too high
for the best trained of his people to follow him, at other times, and much oftener, he put the matter of his message
so as to force it an entrance into the most sluggish understanding." So remarkable, indeed, was the change that the
parish church in Kilmany, which had till then been attended by a thin and listless auditory, was now thronged, not only
by the inhabitants of the parish, but by crowds of strangers from the surrounding towns and villages, thousands flocking
from St. Andrews, and even from Dundee, to hear him.
His fame, as a preacher, soon reached Edinburgh, the capital; where he preached on several occasions, with great acceptance,
and henceforward he was universally acknowledged to be the most powerful and popular preacher in the Scottish Church.
In November 1814 he was elected by the Town Council of Glasgow minister of the Tron church in that city, and was admitted
to that charge on the 21st of the following July. Here he preached those eloquent discourses which soon raised him to the
rank of one of the first preachers in Europe. The characteristics of his eloquence have often been described. The
provincial Scotch accent, the gutteral voice, the heavy blue eye kindling into fury and the smooth gestures which
distinguished him, were all forgotten when he spoke. His amazing powers of oratory, and great command of language, enabled
him to triumph over all these apparent defects. Before leaving Kilmany, he published 'The Duty of Giving an Immediate
Diligence to the Business of Christian Life,' being an address to the inhabitants of that parish. In his farewell
sermon preached July 9, 1815, he affectingly alludes to the change which had taken place in his views of religious truth since
coming among them. For the greater part of twelve years, he says, his preaching was attended with little reformation of
heart or conduct; and he adds - "Out of your humble cottages have I gathered a lesson, which I pray God, I may be enabled
to carry with all its simplicity into a wider theatre, and to bring with all the power of its subduing efficacy upon
the vices of a more crowded population."
On the 21st February, 1816, the degree of D.D. was conferred on Mr. Chalmers by the Sentatus Academicus of the University
of Glasgow. In May 1817 Dr. Chalmers appeared for the first time in a London pulpit, having on the 14th of that month
preached in Surrey chapel, the anniversary sermon for the London Missionary Society. His reputation had preceeded him,
and although the service did not commence till eleven o'clock, "at seven in the morning the chapel was crowded to excess,
and many thousands went off for want of room." On the following Thursday he preached again in the same place on behalf
of the Scottish Hospital, and on the succeeding Sunday in the Scotch church, London Wall, and in the Scotch church,
Swallow Street. Many of the clergy of the Church of England, peers, and members of parliament, flocked to hear him.
Among the latter were Huskisson, Wilberforce, and Canning, and the latter, on one occassion, when the preacher paused
to take breath, after one of his electrifying bursts of oratory, was overheard to whisper to a gentleman beside him:
"This is indeed true eloquence. The tartan beats us all."
The amount of misery and wretchedness which he found existing among the poorer classes of Glasgow, filled his heart with
sorrow; and to the work of the pastor was soon added that of the philanthopist. He now devoted much of his attention to
the Christian and civic economy of towns, and laboured anxiously to introduce an improvement to the mode of maintaining
the poor, with the design of ameliorating their condition, as well as doing away with the compulsory assessment. His
sagacity foresaw that our poor-laws would pauperise Scotland, and that the more given by legal sanction the more would
pauperism be created. Having explained his views to the magistrates of Glasgow, they were favourably entertained; and
he was translated to the parish of St. John's in that city, that he might be the better enabled to develop his plans.
For this purpose, on the 18th of August 1919, the Town Council unanimously resolved that "Dr. Chalmers should have a
separate, independant, and exclusive management and distribution of the funds which may be raised by voluntary or
charitable collections at the doors of St. John's church, for the relief of the poor resident in said parish."
In St. John's, then containing a population of nearly 12,000 souls,who had been, till then, much neglected, he laboured
with great zeal and success in moral and religious education of the poor. In carrying out his great design of "excavating
the heathen" - one of his own happy and significant phrases - he went boldly to the lanes and alleys of his parish, to
compel them 'to come in." His aptitude for familiarising himself with those he visited, and disarming prejudices
and opposition, is well illustrated by the following incident:- Going the round of his visitations, he called one day
upon a poor cobbler, who was industrially engaged with awl and ends, fastening sole to upper. The cobbler kept fast
hold of the shoe between his knees, perforating the stubborn bend and passing through the bristled ends right and left,
scarcely noticing his clerical visitor; but the glance he gave showed evident rcognition; then rosining the fibrous lines,
he made them whisk out on either side with increasing energy, showing a disinclination to hold any parley. "I am,"
said the Doctor, "visiting my parishioners at present, and am to have a meeting of those residents of this locality,
in the vestry of St. John's (on a day which he named) when I shall be happy to have your presence along with your
neighbours." The showmaker kept his spine at the sutor's angle, and, making the thread rasp with the force of the
pull, coolly remarked, "Ay, step your wa's ben to the wife and weans; as for me, I'm a wee in the deistical line, Doctor."
With that intuitive perception of character and tact in addressing himself to the variety of dispositions and characters
in society, which distinguished him, he entered into conversation with the cobbler, asking questions about his profession,
and the weekly amount of his earnings, sympathising with him on the exceedingly limited amount of his income, compared
with the outlay necessary for food, clothing, house rent, &c. Then taking up one tool after another, he asked
and obtained explanations, of their different uses, and follwing up the conversation by a chain of moral reasoning, from
cause to effect, led the cobbler away from his last, and obtained a patient hearing, which ended in the latter becoming
a steady church-goer.
The church of St. John's was soon found far too small for the eager crowds anxious to hear him. He not only preached
twice every Sunday, but once on the week-days. His splendid 'Astronomical Discoveries,' perhaps the most fascinating
of all his works, were part of of the fruits of his week-day preachings. Though week-day sermons were by no means
popular, he was attended by crowds of all ranks and classes; and noblemen jostled with humble tradesmen in the great
desire to hear Dr. Chalmers. The same continued till his last pulpit appearance, wherever and whenever it was known
that he was to preach.
Among the works published by Dr. Chalmers during his residence in Glasgow, were the following: 'Thoughts on Universal
Peace, a Thanksgiving Sermon,' 1816; 'The Utility of Missions, a Sermon,' 1816; 'A Series of Discourses on the Christian
Revelation, viewed in connection with the Modern Astronomy,' 1817; 'A Sermon delivered at Glasgow, on November 19th,
1817, the day of the Funeral of Princess Charlotte;' 'Sermons Preached in the Tron church, Glasgow,' 1819-20; 'The
Importance of Civil Government to Society; A Sermon,' 1820, 'The application of Christianity to the Common and Ordinary
affairs of Life, in a Series of Discources,' 1820; 'The Christian and Civic Economy of Large Towns,' 2 vols, 1821-1823;
'Sermons Preached on Public Occasions,' 1823 and 'The Evidence of Christian Revelation,' 1824. His works became very
popular and sold rapidly; but he preferred devoting himself to his parochial duties, at a time when his writings would
have brought him large remunerating prices from the publishers.
At the commencement of his ministry at St. John's, that he might not be impeded in his philanthropic schemes in that parish,
the whole parochial arrangements being on his shoulders, and guided and impelled by him by almost superhuman energy, he
had secured the services of the Rev. Edward irving, then a licentiate of the church, as an assistant. Mr. Irving also
assisted him in household visitation.
In 1822, he started a tour through England, in search for information as to the state and prospects of its poor-law
administration; on which occassions he again visited London, and had intercourse with Lord Calthorpe, Lord Teignmouth,
Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Clarkson, Mr. Malthus and others.
In 1823, he was elected professor of moral philosophy in the university of St. Andrews. Attached to a college life, and
believing that his greater usefulness consisted of teaching, he now saw his wishes in this respect accomplished, and that
in his own alma mater. He accepted the chair in preference to a pastoral charge in Edinburgh, to several of which he had
been invited. He demitted his charge of St. John's on the 5th November, and was installed and delivered his introductory
lecture at St. Andrews, on the 17th of the same month.
His professional labours at St. Andrews gave an impulse to that ancient seminary which, in some measure, tended, for the
time, to restore it to some portion of its former fame, and while he continued there he also delivered a seperate course
of lectures on political economy as connected with the moral philosphy class. But it was a sphere too limited for his
usefulness, and by far too narrow for his genius; and a larger field,and higher office soon opened to him in the
Scottish metropolis itself, which was destined to become the scene of his greatest triumphs.
In 1828, on the divinty chair in the university of Edinburgh becoming vacant, Dr. Chalmers was unanimously elected to the
professorship, by the magistrates and town council of that city, and he at once accepted the appointment. He entered on
the duties of his new chair by pronouncing an address of surpassing eloquence and splendour; and during the fifteen years
that he held it, he was eminently succesful in his lectures, and has left the impress of his original genius, and vast
stores of theological instruction, on the minds of many of the students, who afterwards became ministers of the gospel.
Although the theological chair in the university of Edinburgh is considered the highest academical professorship in Scotland,
that chair is but poorly endowed in comparison to the corresponding chair in the university of Glasgow, and the latter,
in consequence of its being richer, is of more consideration to a man, who like Dr. Chalmers, had a family, whose disposition
was generous to the extreme, and whose benevolence was unbounded. On the professorship of theology, therefore, becoming
vacant in the university of Glasgow, he offered himself as a candidate, but the election was vested in the college; and as
Chalmers was a leader among the non-intrusionists - that is, those who were opposed to the exercise of patronage in appointments
to living in the church, and an anti-pluralist to boot - he had become obnoxious to the university authorities, and was rejected.
In 1829 Dr. Chalmers took an active part in favour of emancipation of the Roman catholics - a concession which, there is reason
to beleive, he lived to regret. In 1832 appeared the evidence given by him and the Right Rev. J. Doyle, before a Select Committee
of the House of Commons, on the state of Ireland. In that year were also published two of his works, namely 'On Political Economy
in connection with the Moral state and Moral prospects of Society,' and 'The Supreme Importance of a right Moral to a right
Economical State of the Community.'
His treatise on 'The Power and Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and
Intellectual Constitution of Man,' appeared in 1833. This was one of the celebrated Bridgewater Treatises. The Right Hon. and Rev.
Earl of Bridgewater, who died in 1829, left the sum of �8,000, at the disposal of the president of the Royal Society, as a reward
to the author of the best treatise on the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as illustrated in Creation &c. That gentleman
took the opinions of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, as well as of a nobleman, a friend of the deceased earl,
on the means of carrying out the bequest; and it was very judiciously resolved that instead of being given to one man, for one
work, the money should be allocated to eight different persons for eight separate subjects, though all connected with the
same primary theme. Dr. Chalmers was selected as one of the writers, and in 1833, accordingly, appeared from his pen, in two
volumes, the work already mentioned. His collected works revised by himself, were published in 1836, in 25 duodecimo volumes.
His valuable Lectures on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, were published in 1837.
During what was called the great voluntary controversy, Dr. Chalmers took a very active and influential part in support
of the obligations of civil rulers to provide for the religious instruction of the people, and for the maintenance of a
national religion. He delivered a series of valuable lectures on the Importance of Church Establishments, which made a
great impression at the time. He was also the chief promoter of the church extension in Scotland. For his successful
labours in this cause he repeatedly received thanks of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In 1838, he was
invited to London to deliver a course of lectures on the Establishment and Extension of National Churches, which he did
in the Hanover Square rooms, to overflowing audiences. Amongst his hearers were the Duchess of Kent, the Duke of Cambridge,
many of the prelates and clergy of the Church of England, and the most distinguished members of both houses of parliament.
These lectures were said to be got up at the expense of a nobleman, who desired to strengthen the existing institutions of the
country, and were designed principally for the higher classes of society.
When he preached in London, the Duke of Wellington, the late Earl of Eldon, the Duke of Sussex, with several other members
of the royal family, and many among the higher ranks, whom the journalists of the day remarked "they were not accustomed to
elbow at a place of public worship," were found among the crowded congregations assembled from all parts to hear him. None,
indeed, ever enjoyed a larger share of popularity - "that thing," as he expressed it in his own graphic language, "of stare,
and pressure, and animal heat."
Dr. Chalmers continued to occupy the chair of divinty in the university of Edinburgh, till the disruption took place
in the Established Church of Scotland, in May 1843, when, at the head of more than four hundred ministers, he quitted
the Establishment, and immediately founded the Free Protesting Church of Scotland. As a matter of course, he resigned
his chair in the university, and was elected principal and primarius professor of theology to the seceding body. Driven
by conscience from the walls of the Establishment, he did not relinquish one jot of his Estalishment principles; and
indeed, what is called the voluntay doctrine forms no part of portion of the Free Church creed. The fundamental doctrine
of the Free Church, as distinguished from the Established Church, is that the State, while bound to provide for the
interests of religion, and to protect and defend the church, has no right whatever to interfere, and ought not to be
allowed to interfere in things pertaining to the spiritual province of the church; that patronage is a sin and crying
grievance, and that no minister should be "intruded" on any parich or congregation contrary to the will of the people.
Hence the distinctive name, before the disruption, of Intrusionists and Non-Intrusionists. These principles are very
plain and simple; and yet Dr. Chalmers used to complain that he could never get an Englishman to understand them.
In the procedings of the new church, Dr. Chalmers took a leading part, and was the principal framer of the scheme of
the Sustentation Fund for the support of the clergy. In 1845, he retired from the management of the more weighty and
important business of the Free Church, and confined his attention almost entirely to what belonged to the new college.
In his address on the occassion he stated that he had "neither the vigour nor the alertness of former days;" that he
found his strength sufficient neither for the debate of the Assembly nor the details of committees or of correspondence;
and he therfore resigned "a general care of the church for a more special and intense care of those students who are
to the church her future guides and guardians." he planted a church on the territorial system, in the West Port of
Edinburgh, in one of the poorest and most destitute localities of Scotland's capital, and in the near vicinity of the
spot where Burke and Hare committed their wholesale murders in 1827; and one of his last appearances in an Edinburgh
pulpit was on opening that humble and obscure place of worship. Three weeks before his death, he was called to London,
to give evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on the refusal of certain landholders in Scotland to allow
sites for churches on their properties to adherents of the Free Church. While in the metropolis on this last visit,
he preached three times to crowded congregations, among whom, as usual, were many of the great and noble of the land;
and having finished his testimony, he returned from London on Friday 28th of May, to his own house in Morningside,
about two miles from Edinburgh. On the succeeding Sunday he attended public worship, along with the Rev. Dr. Cunningham,
in Morningside Free Church, and at an early housr that evening, he retired to rest his usual health. Next morning, the
31st of May, 1847, he was found dead in his bed. "It appeared," says the 'Witness' newspaper, "that he had been sitting
erect when overtaken by the stroke of death, and he still retained in part that position. The massy head gently reclined
on the pillow. The arms were folded peacefully on the breast. There was a slight air of oppression and heaviness on the
brow, but not a wrinkle or a trace of sorrow or pain disturbed its smoothness. The countenance wore an attitude of deep
repose. No conflict had preceded dissolution."
The union in one person of such zeal and eloquence as Dr. Chalmers displayed, is exceedingly rare. As a preacher the grandeur
of his conceptions, the novelty and amplitude of his illustrations, and the graphic force and significancy of his diction,
with the irresistable earnestness of his manner, altogether formed such a combination of qualities as is seldom found in
modern oratory. The celebrated Robert Hall said that Dr. Chalmers' preaching "stopped people's breath." The effect he produced,
it has been remarked was like that of the sage in Rassela - "when he spoke, attention watched his lips; when he reasoned,
conviction closed his periods."
His accent and appearance were both against hin. The former was broad provincial Scotch; the latter was dull and heavy, and by
no means conveyed any idea of the wonderful fertility and energy of his mind. In stature he was about the middle height, stout,
large-boned, and muscular, but not at all approaching to corpulency. His grey eye, which in his ordinary moods had a placid
expression, when excited shone with intense brilliancy; his forhead was broad and massy, but not particularly lofty; his step
was quick and eager, his accents fast and hurrying, his gesture awkward, and his delivery monotonous; but yet, when roused from
his lethargy, when fairly within his subject, these drawbacks were all forgotten in his powerful and rapid stream of his eloquence.
He usualy commenced speaking in an undertone; and it was not until he had gone on for some time that feelings of admiration began
to be kindled, at the exhibition of those wondrous powers which made him the first pulpit orator of the age. His eloquence, it may
be said, did not flow on in a continuous strain. He allowed himself and his hearers intervals of repose, during which he uttered
nothing very striking. But these pauses, like the breathings which ever and anon the wind takes in a tempest, or like the temporary
cessation of the thunder when it appears to be collecting all its force for a new explosion, were succeeded by bursts of the most
electrifying nature, which perfectly enthralled his hearers. Those who never heard him preach can collect from his published
discourses no adequate conception on his audiences. "His earnest and massive eloquence," says one of the newspaper biographers,
"bore down all before it. His accents might at first appear uncouth; but all this impression speedily disappeared before a torrent
of rapid and brillaint thoughts. He seized on his text, turned it over and over in thousand shapes, showed it in a thousand lights,
and never left it till it was written on the hearts of his hearers. Even the cool and critical Jeffrey said there was something
remarkable about that man; he reminded him more of what had read of Cicero and Demosthenes that any orator he had ever heard."
Although a thorough Calvinist, deeply imbued with the theology of the great man whose system he had imbibed, he carefully and
faithfully divided the word of truth. While he was anxious to point out the only ground of a sinners acceptance, no one
ever urged so earnestly and eloquently the "duties and decencies, and respectabilities and charites of life." Besides the degree
of D.D., which as already mentioned, he received that of LL.D. from the university of Oxford. He was also a corresponding member
of the Royal Institute of France, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London. He married in 1812, Grace, second daughter of
Captain Pratt of the 1st royal veteran battalion. This lady survived him. He also left six daughters, two of whom were married
to Free Church ministers; the one to the Rev. Mr. Mackenzie of Ratho, and the other to the Rev. Dr. Hanna, formerly of Skirling,
now of Edinburgh, at one time editor of the North British Review, to the pages of which Dr. Chalmers himself regularly contributed,
and author of Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers, published after his death. His third daughter was married in November 1852, to William Wood
Esq., accountant, Edinburgh, son of the late John Philp Wood Esq., auditor of excise and editor of Douglas' peerage.