Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thomas Chalmers - Scottish Amyraldian? II

The Divinity Professor at St. Andrews at the time Thomas Chalmers began his Divinity course was Dr. George Hill. Hill’s doctrine was orthodox enough, when brought to the standard of the Westminster Confession, but Chalmers suspected that Hill only taught the doctrines of the Confession because he had to do so in order to keep his post. Even as a Moderate, Chalmers disliked hypocrisy and a slavish following of theological standards.

Thomas Chalmers was licensed to preach on 21st July 1799, but he showed little interest in the work of the ministry. Chalmers was not a lazy man, it was just that he had, as Sir Richard Hill noted of the Moderates, “a very moderate share of zeal for God.” “Consequently,” indeed Chalmers did content himself “ with a very moderate share of labour in his master’s vineyard,” but that did not mean he was not busy elsewhere. His preaching was little more than the delivery of brilliantly composed moral essays (some composed early on Sunday morning), his interest more in learning about mathematics, chemistry and physics than in preaching. When he was appointed to his first post, that of assistant minister in the parish of Cavers, he worked diligently enough, but without any real fervour.

He was ordained to his first parish, that of Kilmany, on 12th May 1803. To Chalmers it was just another event in what he hoped to be his orderly progress to a university chair. He entered into the holy calling with none of that sense of awe and responsibility that ought to attend an ordination. In fact he was more concerned about retaining a post as assistant to the professor of Mathematics at St. Andrews that he had held before he was ordained. The assistantship was an obvious stepping-stone to the Professorship itself. He hoped to be re-appointed, even though he was now a parish minister. After all, he noted, did not his work at Kilmany leave him four days in the week free? The university did not agree and he was not re-appointed. So Chalmers started teaching independently of the University! No doubt he did this to try to impress the university. It did not have the desired effect. He was seen as disruptive and somewhat dangerous! This shows, however, Chalmers' zeal for the professorship! He was willing to go against the University. But he was not willing to take up his cross, deny himself, and follow Christ.

But Thomas Chalmers, Moderate minister, was about to be shaken. God willing, that will be our topic next time.



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