Page images
PDF
EPUB

which preceded his undertaking the article on Christianity, says:-" Of the truth of Christianity he had a firm and unwavering belief. He unhesitatingly believed that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that the Christian system is divine. In this conviction he had been firmly established at an early period of life, by reading Bishop Butler's Analogy of Natural and Revealed Religion, &c. He told me that it was Butler's Analogy that made him a Christian." He did not need to be made a Christian by being converted from Deism, or what is generally spoken of as infidelity. The scepticism of his student years was one which affected the foundations of all religion, whether natural or revealed. And when that scepticism was cleared away, Butler's great work came in to do the signal service of satisfying him that there was nothing either in the contents or credentials of Christianity to weaken the force, much less to warrant the setting aside, of its own proper and peculiar proofs. These proofs he had investigated, and found valid. It was but to revive, therefore, the studies, and to re-establish the convictions of earlier years, that, under the impressions of his sister's death, he wished to be employed in drawing up a condensed statement and defence of the argument on behalf of the divine origin of Christianity.

But although his faith required and underwent no change as to the credentials of the Bible, it was not so with his views and impressions as to its contents. The sermons preached by him during that period sufficiently represent what those views and impressions were throughout the first six years of his ministry. That single-minded simplicity of character, which had not even to struggle with any tendencies to guile, lent a truthful transparency to all his utterances from his pulpit, and made his public ministry a full and faithful transcript of all his opinions and feelings as to religion. He never inculcated upon others what he did not fully and heartily believe himself;

he never (as was but too common in those days) kept back from his people any part of his own religious creed; nor did any fear of unpopularity restrain him from publicly and vehemently decrying that evangelism which he then nauseated and despised. I subjoin a summary of his religious creed, in the very words in which he presented it to his hearers at Kilmany:

"In what particular manner the death of our Redeemer effected the remission of our sins, or rather, why that death was made a condition of this remission, seems to be an unrevealed point in the Scriptures. Perhaps the God of Nature meant to illustrate the purity of His perfection to the children of men; perhaps it was efficacious in promoting the improvement and confirming the virtue of other orders of being. The tenets of those whose gloomy and unenlarged minds are apt to imagine that the Author of Nature required the death of Jesus merely for the reparation of violated justice, are rejected by all free and rational inquirers. *** Our Saviour, by the discharge of His priestly office, removed those obstacles to our acceptance with God which would have been otherwise invincible. But the obviating of difficulties was not the only part of Christ's mediatorship. The knowledge of some positive ground of acceptance was absolutely necessary, since the bare possibility of obtaining the Divine favour was not sufficient of itself to effect our salvation. The revelation of the means requisite for acceptance was therefore an essential part of Christ's undertaking; and in discharging His office as a prophet, in revealing the will of God for man's salvation, He has communicated a knowledge of these means in a most complete and satisfactory manner. With indignation do we see a speculative knowledge of the doctrines of Christianity preferred to the duties of morality and virtue. The cant of enthusiasm-the effusion of zeal-the unintelligible jargon of pretended knowledge-are too often considered

*

as the characteristics of a disciple of Jesus; whilst, amid all these deceitful appearances, justice, charity, and mercy, the great topics of Christ's admonitions, are entirely overlooked. Consult your Bibles, and you will find that these are the sure indications of the favour of heaven. * * * The rewards of heaven are attached to the exercise of our virtuous affections. The faith of Christianity is praiseworthy and meritorious, only because it is derived from the influence of virtuous sentiments on the mind. Let us tremble to think that any thing but virtue can recommend us to the Almighty. * He who has been rightly trained in his religious sentiments, by carefully perusing the Scriptures of truth, will learn thence, that the law of God is benevolence to man, and an abiding sense of gratitude and piety. He will estimate the deficiencies of his obedience by his deviations from the laws of social duty, and the frequent absence of right impressions of reverence and love. Having learned the comfortable doctrines of pardon and salvation, that by the death of Christ there is hope to the sincere and humble penitent who wishes to forsake the evil of his ways, he will go on, in the confidence of such declarations, in his endeavour to promote the glory of God and the welfare of the human race. A sense of the Divine goodness will open his heart to the sentiments of gratitude and love. He will study to approve himself worthy of such conduct by cultivating the graces of charity and piety. True, his best endeavours fall short of perfection, and, after all, he may be called an unprofitable servant; true, considering his numberless violations of the divine law, and the small progress he has made in the path of holiness, he may have reason to be discouraged; but contemplating the wonders of redeeming love, and finding all the deficiencies of his imperfect virtue supplied by the atonement and propitiation of Jesus, he goes on his course rejoicing, assured that, through Christ, his sincere but imperfect obedience

is looked upon by heaven with a propitious eye. But let him allow himself to be guided by the instructions of our mystical theologians, and all will be involved in gloom and obscurity.

*Who but laments to see the luminous truths of Christianity invested thus with a veil of mysticism—to see the splendour of the Sun of Righteousness obscured in the mists of ignorance and superstition? Let us, my brethren, beware of such errors. Let us view such fanatical vagaries with the contempt they deserve, and walk in the certain path marked out to us by reason and by Scripture. Thus shall we rise superior to imaginary terrors, and learn to lament the real imperfections of our character. Thus shall we approve ourselves worthy of the Divine goodness, by directing our efforts to the cultivation of our pious affections, and to improvement of our social conduct. Thus shall we exemplify the real nature of the Christian service, which consists in gratefully adoring the Supreme Being, and in diffusing the blessed influences of charity, moderation, and peace."

The Christianity which thus clearly and confidently expressed itself, and which substantially was the promulgation of a modified, milder, and mitigated law, could scarcely have had a fairer trial made, both of its power of individual consolation and support, and of the possible reach and extent of its influence over others, than was made in the person of that eloquent advocate, in whose own character and conduct those social virtues, which it so strongly enjoined, were so attractively exhibited. We have to wait now but a few months till we see this slight and superficial Christianity fairly and fully put upon its trial-till we see it signally and utterly fail.

Before he went to the Assembly, Mr. Chalmers had removed from Woodsmuir to the farm-house of Fincraigs, to be nearer Kilmany, while his manse, which had already been commenced, was

building. He had scarcely reached Fincraigs, on his return from Edinburgh, when sad tidings arrived from Anstruther. His uncle, Mr. Ballardie, who had been a sailing-master in the navy, had long retired from the service, and having no family or near friends of his own, had been a kind of second father to his nephews and nieces.* He had already crossed, and Mr. Chalmers, senior, was now just touching the limits of the threescore years and ten, and the bond between them had been growing stronger as they grew older, till now not a day could pass without their being an hour or two in each other's company. And they were one in deep piety as well as in strong affection. Mr. Ballardie's wife had been dead for many years, and his house was kept by her sister. On the evening of the 6th June, he had retired to his own room after tea. His sisterin-law, finding that he remained longer away from her than was usual, followed. She found him kneeling on a chair in the very attitude of prayer, but the spirit had fled-apparently without pain or struggle it had taken its departure; and from this lowly posture before the throne of grace on earth had passed into the presence of the throne of glory in the heavens. Notice of the sudden and impressive death was instantly despatched to Kilmany: it found Mr. Chalmers in such a severe illness, contracted on his way home from the Assembly, that much as he longed to pay the last tokens of respect to the remains of his departed relative, he was prevented by the positive interdict of his medical attendant. "I cannot help," he said, after telling his father by letter of the un

66

Dr. Chalmers used often to tell that, when yet a very little boy, he was summoned to his uncle's side one day to get his first lesson in mathematics-a science in which Mr. Ballardie was no mean proficient, and which he put far above all the other branches of human knowledge. What," said he, making a point upon the slate," is that?" "A det," said the young beginner. "Try again," said the uncle, ignorant of the already enlarged vocabulary of his scholar, and little doubting that the word, whose definition was to be the burden of the first lesson, would now come forth. Try again; what is it?" "A tick," was the reply.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »