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a Saturday, and see my father and Mr. Hodges, (a venerable elder with whom I was acquainted.) They all agree with you.' I referred to a very able lecture which the Professor had delivered a day or two previously, as a really masterly defence of one of the deepest points of Calvinistic doctrine, upon the scheme of Jonathan Edwards. I was surprised when he said, 'I was not paying attention to it, but thinking of something else,' probably following out some mathematical problem. 'Why,' I said, 'did you not attend to a disquisition so able?' 'Because,' he answered, 'I question the sincerity of the lecturer.' The exercise of mere intellectual power without heart, seemed to have no power to suspend his favourite study. He most certainly passed through that year's curriculum without making entry on the theological field, and there can be no doubt that his system did not go beyond sublime ideas of the Divine Omnipresence, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Goodness, and the grandeur, extent, and variety of His works, combined with some lively conceptions of the character, the teaching, and the example of the author of Christianity.”*
Though a disquisition by Dr. Hill on the scheme of Jonathan Edwards was thus listened to idly and in vain, very different was the treatment which towards the close of the same session the writings of that great metaphysician and divine received. Speaking of this period, Professor Duncan says, "He studied Edwards on Free Will with such ardour, that he seemed to regard nothing else, could scarcely talk of any thing else, and one was almost afraid of his mind losing its balance." Edwards' theory of Necessity fell in with the reasonings of his earlier favourite Godwin, and was speedily adopted; and it was no cold assent of the understanding merely which was given to it. Planting his foot upon the truth, demonstrated as it seemed to him so irresistibly by Edwards-that fixed unalterable links bind to
* MS. Memoranda.
gether the whole series of events in the spiritual as well as in the material universe, he rose to the sublime conception of the Godhead, as that eternal, all-pervading energy by which this vast and firmly knit succession was originated and sustained; and into a very rapture of admiration and delight his spirit was upborne. Looking back to this period, twenty-four years afterwards, he writes:
“February 26th, 1821.-O that He possessed me with a sense of His holiness and His love, as He at one time possessed me with a sense of His greatness and His power, and His pervading agency. I remember when a student of Divinity, and long ere I could relish evangelical sentiment, I spent nearly a twelvemonth in a sort of mental elysium, and the one idea which ministered to my soul all its rapture was the magnificence of the Godhead, and the universal subordination of all things to the one great purpose for which He evolved and was supporting creation. I should like to be so inspired over again, but with such a view of the Deity as coalesced and was in harmony with the doctrine of the New Testament."*
Alluding to this singular period in his mental history, he has told a member of his family that not a single hour elapsed in which the overpoweringly impressive imagination did not stand out bright before the inward eye; and that his custom was to wander early in the morning into the country, that, amid the quiet scenes of nature, he might luxuriate in the glorious conception.
The magnificent vision did, however, after some months depart. What helped perhaps to dissipate the intellectual spell under which he had been held was a visit which, in the summer of 1796, he paid to his eldest brother, James, then resident in the neighbourhood of Liverpool. A fragment of the journal which he kept during this visit is still preserved. It is
*MS. Letter to Mrs. Chalmers.
not the journal of a dreaming young philosophical enthusiast. We are struck with the entire absence of all those sentimental and imaginative remarks in which such youthful journalists indulge as happen to be of a poetic temperament. It bears no mark upon it either of the scene or the occupations whence the writer had emerged. No one on reading it could believe that for months before the writer had been rapt up to the very highest heaven of abstract thought, and had been breathing the air which circulates round one of the loftiest summits of speculation. Left to his own unaided conjecture, the reader of this journal might rather have imagined the writer to be some honest burgher's son who, going to settle as a merchant in the south, was keeping his eyes quite open to all the new objects which met him by the way, and looking at them with a very shrewd and penetrating glance. That the St. Andrews student, soaring almost intoxicated with delight amid the heights of one of the loftiest of human speculations, nearly lost to his wondering companions' vision, should be also the minute and faithful chronicler of every shift the wind made in the Frith of Forth, from Anstruther to Grangemouth, and of the exact number of locks in the Forth and Clyde canal, how many ascended from the one river and how many from the other, and of the precise number of steps in the stairs of Dunbarton Castle, and of the rates at which for many preceding years the population and the shipping and the dock-dues of Liverpool had increased, and of the relative proportion between the ploughed and the pasture lands in Cheshire, &c., &c.-this was but one early illustration of the speculative and the practical, in him so strikingly blended and combined.
His third session at the university, which had witnessed his first well-sustained intellectual efforts, had witnessed also his earliest attempts in English composition. Here he had to begin at the very beginning. Letters written by him even after his second
year at College, exhibit a glaring deficiency in the first and simplest elements of correct writing. And he had to become very much his own instructor; guiding himself by such models as the prelections of Dr. Hunter and Dr. Brown, and the writings of Godwin or other favourite authors presented. A few of his first efforts in this way have been preserved. They exhibit little that is remarkable in style. The earliest compositions of those who have afterwards become distinguished as poets or orators or eloquent writers, have generally displayed a profuse excess of the rhetorical or the imaginative, which it took time and labour to reduce to becoming proportions. In the College exercises of Dr. Chalmers, this order is reversed. The earliest of them are the simplest and plainest, with scarce a gleam of fancy or sentiment ever rising. to play over the page. They give token of a very vigorous youthful intellect, disciplining itself at once in exact thinking and correct perspicuous expression; never allowing itself to travel beyond the bounds of the analysis or argument which it is engaged in prosecuting, never wandering away to pluck a single flower out of the garden of the imagination, by which illustration or adornment might be supplied. Those who, as the result of their analysis, have concluded that in Dr. Chalmers' mental constitution the purely intellectual largely predominated -that fancy was comparatively feeble, and that imagination, potent as she was, was but a minister of other and higher powers, might find historic verification of their analysis in the earliest of his College compositions. But his progress here was marvellously rapid. Habits of accurate and easy composition, which in many instances it costs half a lifetime to acquire to the same degree, were acquired by him within two years. And the ordinary difficulties of expression once mastered, that burning fervour which glowed with such constant intensity within, got free and natural opportunity of outflow, and shaping spon
taneously the language that was employed for the utterance of thought or sentiment, moulded it into forms of beauty and
It was then the practice at St. Andrews, that all the members of the University assembled daily in the public hall for morning and evening prayers, which were conducted by the theological students. The hall was open to the public, but in general the invitation was not largely accepted. In his first theological session it came by rotation to be Dr. Chalmers' turn to pray. His prayer, an amplification of the Lord's Prayer, clause by clause consecutively, was so originally and yet so eloquently worded, that universal wonder and very general admiration were excited by it. "I remember still," writes one who was himself an auditor,* "after the lapse of fifty-two years, the powerful impression made by his prayers in the Prayer Hall, to which the people of St. Andrews flocked when they knew that Chalmers was to pray. The wonderful flow of eloquent, vivid, ardent, description of the attributes and works of God, and still more perhaps, the astonishingly harrowing delineation of the miseries, the horrid cruelties, immoralities, and abominations inseparable from war, which always came in more or less in connexion with the bloody warfare in which we were engaged with France, called forth the wonderment of the hearers. He was then only sixteen. years of age, yet he showed a taste and capacity for composition of the most glowing and eloquent kind. Even then, his style was very much the same as at the period when he attracted so much notice, and made such powerful impression in the pulpit and by the press."
For the cultivation of his talent for composition he was largely indebted to debating societies formed among the students. During the session 1793-94, he had been admitted as * The Rev. Mr. Burns of Kilsyth, in MS. Memoranda.