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The subject was not brought before the Presbytery so soon as he had expected. On the evening of the day on which this speech was delivered, the following hurried note was despatched to Dr. Brown at St. Andrews:
"CUPAR, May 8, 1804.
"MY DEAR SIR,-You will be surprised to hear that the long threatened discussion was at last introduced into the Presbytery this day. It met with the fate it deserved-was quashed and reprobated. The discussions were all in public. A numerous audience attended, and our argumentation lasted two hours. Yours, with much esteem, THOMAS CHALMERS."
CHEMICAL LECTURES REPEATED AT ST. ANDREWS-PRESBYTERIAL INTERFERENCE — CANDIDATE FOR THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHY CHAIR AT ST. ANDREWS, AND FOR THE MATHEMATICAL CHAIR AT EDINBURGH-FIRST PUBLICATION-CHEMICAL LECTURES AT KILMANY AND CUPAR-DOUBLE COMMISSION IN THE VOLUNTEERSINCIDENT AT KIRKALDY-HIS FATHER'S CHARACTER-HIS BROTHER GEORGE'S DEATH.
HIS chemical lectures had been so highly relished, that Mr. Chalmers readily consented to repeat them during the next winter session at St. Andrews. A summer's interval of leisure would enable him to render them more complete and more attractive. Their delivery would not call him away from Kilmany for more than two or three days in each week; and as he had relinquished the intention of re-opening mathematical classes, it was his hope that no further Presbyterial interference would be attempted. But he was disappointed.
At a meeting of the Presbytery of Cupar, held on the 4th September 1804, "Dr. Martin begged the Presbytery to insert in their minutes that, in his opinion, Mr. Chalmers giving lectures in chemistry is improper, and ought to be discontinued. To this request the Presbytery acceded. On which Mr. Chalmers begged it to be inserted in the minutes, that after the punctual discharge of his professional duties, his time was his own; and he conceived that no man or no court had a right to control him in the distribution of it."* It was only in the morning
* Extracted from the Minutes of Presbytery.
of the very day on which the Presbytery met that Mr. Chalmers got intelligence of Dr. Martin's intention. He retired for the brief interval of time which remained, and then started for Cupar, with the following hurriedly written sentences prepared in the way of defence:
"MODERATOR,-In the olden times, ecclesiastical persecution doomed one of its victims to be heavily fined; it doomed another to imprisonment; another, to the loss of his ears; and another, to the horrors of execution. Now, I would fain hope that the gentleman's appearance arises rather from an error in judgment than from the workings of an unfair and arbitrary disposition. He may perhaps think, that what is perfectly lawful in professors and professors' sons, is great presumption and great vice in a poor literary pedlar, who trudges on to his literary station with a bundle of manuscripts and old wares from the country. Whatever rank, however, my brethren of the Presbytery may choose to assign to me, I must protest against the unequal distribution of punishment. They know it is not in their power to inflict execution. Such is the happy constitution of our country that my ears are completely protected from their violence. As to imprisonment, I shall resist them with all my might if they attempt to confine me within the boundaries of my parish; but as to fines, such is my confidence in the equity of our worthy comptroller, that I will pay down with cheerfulness whatever he shall think my delinquency deserves.
"I have thought that the fundamental error of this business consists in beginning the inquiry at the wrong end. The gentleman sees me indulging in an amusement that is certainly foreign to the nature of my profession, but not more so than the amusements of feasting, and playing, and music, and painting-indulgences which we all enjoy, and from which no absurd scruple of conscience ought to keep us. Suppose that any of my
brethren is much given to the dilettante occupation of music, the Presbytery, I should presume, would never think of disturbing his enjoyment, unless he was so exclusively devoted to his favourite exercise as to desert his sermons-desert his examinations-desert his attention to the sick. You tolerate him in his indulgence, and why? because you find that the duties which belong to his ministerial office are punctually executed. Should not the same reason apply in equity to the case before us? I am indulging in a favourite amusement. You have no right to presume that I am therefore deserting the duties of my professional employment. Such presumption at least does not supersede the necessity of inquiry. Now, let the gentleman traverse the boundaries of my parish; let him begin with the houses of my wealthy proprietors, and descend to the lowest tenements of poverty and disease, I will defy him to find a single individual who can substantiate the charge of culpable negligence against me. I will defy him to find a single individual who will say that I have been outstripped by any of my predecessors in the regularity of my ministerial attentions, or who will say that he has discovered any thing in my conduct which betokened a contempt for religion or indifference to its sacred interests. What more will the gentleman require of me? Has he any right to control me in the distribution of my spare time? I maintain he has none. I spurn at the attempt as I would at the petty insolence of a tyrant; I reject it as the interference of an officious intermeddler. To the last sigh of my heart I will struggle for independence, and eye with proud disdain the man who presumes to invade it."
In November, the chemical lectures were resumed at St. Andrews. On the 10th of that month, Mr. Chalmers writes to his brother :
"DEAR JAMES,-You allude to the quantity of business I
have in hand. This is neither more nor less than teaching a class of chemistry in St. Andrews during the winter. It only withdraws me from my parish two days in the week. It affords a rational and dignified amusement, and it fills up that spare time which I would otherwise fret away in indolence and disgust. It did not altogether meet my father's approbation at first, influenced as he was by his scruples about clerical residence; but he must now be convinced that it trenches upon no essential duty, and that I expend as much effort upon the religious improvement of my people as any minister within the bounds of my Presbytery.-Yours affectionately,
The offence taken at the proceedings of the foregoing winter could neither have been very deep nor very lasting. Dr. Rotheram, the Professor of Natural Philosophy, had died. His chair was in the gift of the College, and the election was to take place in December. Along with Mr. Duncan, now Professor of Mathematics at St. Andrews, then Rector of the Academy at Dundee, and with Mr. Leslie, who had just completed and published his researches on Heat, Mr. Chalmers proposed himself as a candidate. Overlooking the claims of all the three, the electors were divided between Dr. Macdonald, minister of Kemback, and Mr. Jackson, Rector of Ayr Academy, who finally --and after a lengthened litigation, terminated only in the House of Lords-obtained the chair.
After the occurrences of the former session, Mr. Chalmers' hopes could not have been very sanguine. On the day of election, he writes to his father:-" St. Andrews, Dec. 1, 1804.The meeting is not yet broken up, but I have every reason to think that Dr. Adamson's party have a decided tendency to Mr. Jackson. I confess I am not much affected by the disappointment, as my University prospects have upon the whole bright