Friday, April 27, 2007

Thomas Chalmers - Scottish Amyraldian? Conclusion

We have come to the end of the paper and seen the evidence. If words mean things then, Thomas Chalmers held an Amyraldian position on the extent of the atonement, namely that it was for all men in view of offer, but that only the elect would appropriate that offer. Thomas Chalmers based this theology on his observation that the Bible offered the gospel freely to all, and the only basis for this was that Christ had died for all.

I began this paper thinking that I would find Chalmers was a ‘Fullerite’ free-offer teacher. He knew and admired Andrew Fuller,[See Hanna Vol. 1 Pp. 253-5, 279, Prelections P.425] and that admiration for fuller led to his having a high view of the English Particular Baptists.[“Let it never be forgotten of the Particular Baptists of England, that they form the denomination of Fuller and Carey and Ryland and Hall and Foster; that they have originated among the greatest of all missionary enterprises; that they have enriched the Christian literature of our country with authorship of the most exalted piety…” Romans Vol. 1. P. 229] In fact Chalmers went considerably beyond Fuller, into an Amyraldian view of the atonement. Perhaps it is because of these passages in his writings that Thomas Chalmers has had little part in the reprinting of reformed writings over the last fifty years or so. There are hopeful signs, however, that things may be changing; his Sabbath Scripture Readings have recently been republished in the United States by Solid Ground Christian Books, and the Banner of Truth Trust are about to republish Hanna's 'Letters of Thomas Chalmers'. The Romans has languished in obscurity for a century, and I had to obtain both volumes of the Institutes from North America, so rare have his books become.

The Free Church of Scotland did not follow Chalmers’ lead in theology. Instead it followed the strict Particularism of Robert Smith Candlish, the teaching that Christ died in no way for the non-elect. Chalmers was not the only teacher of Amyraldian principles in Scottish Presbyterianism, for the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland had John Brown of Broughton Place (author of the Hebrews and Galatians commentaries published by the Banner of Truth Trust, among other works). Neither of these men were followed, and when departures from Westminster Orthodoxy came in Scottish Presbyterianism in the latter years of the nineteenth century what came was theological liberalism, denial of total depravity, of substitutionary atonement and so on. The Free Church of Scotland as she currently exists was constituted in 1900 by strict subscribers to the Westminster Confession. Thomas Chalmers was represented as a name, rather than as a theologian, and ever since that has been his fate.[A particularly egregious example of this occurs in Hugh Watt, Thomas Chalmers and the Disruption (Edinburgh, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1943) Pp. 358-9, where Watt pictures the shade of Chalmers as a radiant figure in the hall reunion hall of 1929 “raising those speaking hands of his in benediction.”] It is time that injustice was done away with and Chalmers revealed as he truly was, not made a mere puppet for others to impose their views on. This paper is intended as a small contribution to that process.



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