Monday, April 23, 2007

Thomas Chalmers - Scottish Amyraldian? IV

From Chalmers' early life we turn to his theology.

Thomas Chalmers bound himself to no rigid system of theology. He wanted to take as his guide the Bible, as it was, not stretched to fit someone else’s ideas, not even to fit the Westminster theology. “Let me not be the slave of human authority, but clear my way through all creeds and confessions to Thine own original revelation,” he prayed in print [Quoted Hanna, Vol. 2 P. 707]. In private he was even more outspoken. In conversation with one of his daughters (they took down his more notable sayings like Luther’s students), he was more outspoken:

I look upon catechisms and confessions as mere landmarks against heresy. If there had been no heresy, they wouldn’t have been wanted. 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 what I say is, do not let that wretched mutilated thing be thrown between me and the Bible.”[Hanna Vol. 2 P. 729]

Thomas Chalmers was a Calvinist. There is no other theological term that can be used to describe him. Not that he was a blind follower of Calvin, as we have seen, he refused to make any man his master in theology save for “the man Christ Jesus.” Chalmers merely felt that Calvin had come closest to the true meaning of the Bible and to the system of theology taught in the Scriptures. He used the name because it had already been coined and was used to describe the system of theology that he held. He insisted on the total depravity of man, the unconditional election of sinners by grace to salvation; the sweet irresistibility of God’s gracious call, and the final perseverance of all the saints of God. He also taught that only the elect would be saved by Christ’s death, “not because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross,”[Canons of Dort, Chapter 2, Article 6] but because the rest would not believe. However, as we shall see, Chalmers differed significantly from such writers as James Haldane and Robert S. Candlish in his understanding of what ‘Limited Atonement’ or ‘Particular Redemption’ meant.

God willing, next time we shall look at the starting-point of Chalmers' theology.



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