Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

writer; and as one who comes at this time ples, it is probable that the men of the next to claim the place that may be due to him age may incline rather to take them up, in the permament religious literature of the practically wrought out as they were in Anglo-Saxon peoples, spread, and spread Chalmers' own course of life, than as they ing over all the world.

are laboriously argued in his writings. The When thus thought of, the mass of his history of his beneficent achievements—the writings, as they are now put into our mere narrative of his useful life, not only hands, ask for classification. Although these has more force, and carries more of available four-and-thirty volumes are characterized, in instruction, but it comes to us in a more an unusual degree, by singleness of inten- condensed form. Chalmers' elaborate pleadtion, by coherent thought, by unity of spirit, ings-his defences—his counter-statements as well as by much uniformity of style and his endless clearings up-his many iteramanner, they are, as to their form and their tions--and his lavish figures, might indeed subjects, very diverse ; nor could they well, be eagerly listened to when his voice quickas we think, be brought under a simpler dis- ened the soul of an audience; but in the tribution than the following. The volumes reading of the same (and it will be so more seem to range under five heads, as thus :— and more as time runs on) they tend to ex

haust patience, rather than to instruct. It is I. The Methods and the Principles of eminently true of subjects of this class—to Christian Benevolence, as related to Paro- wit, the topics of social science, of municichial and Municipal System; these methods pal economies, and of ecclesiastical polity, being made to rest upon the author's prin- that a severe condensation, as to the style, ciples of Political Economy, in its more is the one excellence upon which a lasting general aspect.

reputation must turn. In relation to those II. Ecclesiastical Polity.

great social questions which never remain III. Moral Philosophy.

seven years together in quite the same poIV. Theology; and the Christian Eviden- sition, Chalmers' public course will be apces.

pealed to in confirmation of this or that V. Christian Doctrine ; Christian Ethics; rule or principle; and perhaps his writings Biblical Exposition, and the principles of on this class of subjects may continue to be the Spiritual Life.

sometimes cited; but they will not, as we

think, like the “Wealth of Nations,” and a It may be that in forming this classifica- very few other books, continue to be read, tion-as to its order, we have followed the as a matter of course, by every student in guidance of a conjecture as to what will be this department. In expressing an opinion the relative longevity of the several Essays such as this, little disparagement is implied; and Treatises — which conjecture, in fact, and, in fact, none but what Chalmers' wellmay prove itself quite groundless, and con- sustained reputation may easily afford. cerning which there may be room now for Chalmers, if it were required of us to chadifferences of opinion. We are disposed to racterise him in a word, was the man-great take up the various materials before us, be- in action :-he was the man to give a needginning with those treatises which, bearing ed and an irresistible impulse to whatever as they did upon those movements of his he applied his herculean shoulder. The times of which Chalmers was the soul, and world-or that world wherewith he concernwhich have long ago passed their season, ed himself, he would not, and could not, and are, as we imagine, likely the soonest to be he did not leave just what and where it was seldom read, if not altogether forgotten. It when first he looked about upon it; for will be no disparagement to the permanent that first glance moved his soul to its depths; repute of this great man, if it be found that moved it, not with scorn--not with malign his enduring fame rests upon what he ac- anatgonism—not with a wild, unknowing encomplished in those regions of thought thusiasm-not with despondency ; but with which are the most remote from the fitful- a hopeful and a reasoning confidence-a calness and the perturbations of secular and lo- culated trust in the efficacy of those forcescal, or national interests, and which abide those energies of renovation which, if well substantially the same from age to age. employed, and manfully worked, will not fail

It is no doubt true, that, in those of his to bring about a better state of things, more writings which we assume to possess the or less complete. Chalmers was the man to least of an enduring quality and an intrinsic give a healthful impulse to all things around merit, there is much of what is instructive him ; but he was not the man to give them ---sound as it is in principle, and which may altogether a new direction. He was just so herefore be made available in all times and far the philosopher as an accomplished man places. And yet, as to these same princi- must be who concerns himself at all with

the things of Philosophy ; but he was not to effect their immediate purpose - a pur(as we presume to think) a philosopher in pose conservative and confirmatory, as any higher sense; or in any sense that related to the diffuse intellectuality of the should give him a place of his own among times when they appeared, and well adapted those who have wrought out a scheme of too as they may still be, to meet the same thought for themselves, and for their times. order of intellectuality at this time, or in The Thought of this present age has not any time future, they wholly fail to satisfy pivoted itself upon Chalmers' mind. He the conditions of philosophic discussion, was the philanthropist, eminently so; and such as it has of late years become. It may his understanding was of that robust order seem unfair to require of a man of a which utterly forbade his giving himself teacher, that he should forecast the progress up to any of these vapouring modes of en-of opinion for a half a century in advance of thusiasm which so often bring all philan- his own times; but this at least may be thropy into contempt. By an instinct, said, that while a writer who touches the quicker and surer than the guidance of boundaries of thought in all directions is reason-although reason never failed to likely to anticipate the recurrent theories of come up to his aid, he rejected whatever times future, he who stops far short of those was visionary and impracticable or not at the limits is likely to be numbered with the anmoment practical ; and by the same instinct tiquated at the very next coming on of a duly sustained as it was by the force of the crisis in speculative philosophy, lf, in these dialectic faculty, he seized upon whatever last times, religious belief has had to contend was good and right in the main, and also with more than enough of Alippant sophistry, sound in principle, among things actually it has also come to stand its ground in opposiexisting and constituted, and which may tion to deeply wrought speculative systems, be made available for immediate purposes : against which writings like those of --these he took up, and upon these he work- Chalmers, whatever ability they may dised with a prodigious energy, and with an in- play, afford little or no defence. And bedustry rare excellence commensurate sides, in the tone and style of these with that energy. Decisively conservative apologetic writings, as toward gainsayers, in temper, and reverential too in feeling, his these essays are less applicable than perhaps aim was to bring up the things that are as they might have been to the purposes for near as possible to their normal state of ef- which they were intended. That firm confectiveness :-he laboured to reinstate—to servative temper, and that reverential feelinvigorate-to quieken the languid pulse of ing, which we have just now spoken of, and the social body-to redress—to clear away which made Chalmers the thoroughgoing from it encumbering accumulations. But and uncompromising champion of the Creed there he stopped.

of his Church, impelled him also to look out Wanting almost entirely, as we shall upon the host marshalled on the other side have occasion to show, the analytic faculty with a lofty and undiscriminating disapproval; -wanting also the severe critical faculty, these opposers - one and all — were, in his and wholly wanting that melancholic ele- view, “the enemy;" howbeit more than a ment which leads minds severely reflective few of that antagonist host would gladly to distrust obvious conclusions, and to scru- have accepted CHRISTIAN Truth, if it only tinize all things that are offered to their as- had been presented to them in its purity, as sent, Chalmers sent down his line into no severed from the national Creed. Yet to abyss :-he himself, as to the dim world of render even this service -- & service on the painful speculation, had never trodden a side of Christianity so needful, and yet so path, like that of Bunyan's Christian, rarely attempted, namely, to present the through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Truth apart from the Creed - Chalmers, As a most kind-hearted man, his sympathies although large-hearted enough, and bold were awake towards all kinds of trouble, enough, and broad enough in his habits of whether of mind, body, or estate ; but spe- thinking, lacked some qualifications. Nevercially and intellectually he had no sympa- theless he might have addressed himself to thy with minds deeper rooted than his own, the task, if only he had come to see the uror more discriminative, or more exact, or gent necessity there is for doing it, and more analytic, or more scrupulously honest especially if he had perceived how urgent this toward their own misgivings. Such minds, necessity is- as related to the Christianity in approaching his, would quickly discover of Scotland, where the close adhesion of that from him they would not receive the the Creed to the Truth - the entombing of aid they needed.

the Truth within the Creed, has in modern And thus it is as to his philosophic wri- times forced so many of her choicest minds tings. Admirably adapted as they were into a position of antagonism, whether open

or latent, to the latter. An obstacle in Chalmer's style, and of that patience-trying Chalmers' way, which perhaps he would not practice of turning an argument over and have surmounted, even if he had clearly over a dozen times. The Preacher, the seen his call to enter upon that ground, was Professor, the Writer, has his eye fixed what we have named as his strong inbred always upon that mountain mass of popular feeling might we say, his Churchman's inertness which he must break his way into feeling of alarm lest a pin of the Tabernacle and overturn; and he is slow to believe should be loosened by presumptuous hands. that, after all, he has done his work efficientMoreover, there was a difficulty in relation ly. He has his eye fixed upon certain to a task of this kind which he would not rigid and inveterate formalities, trebly fenced easily have overcome; for it took its rise against assault; and after he has carried the in the very constitution of his mind. This, outworks, he is doubtful of his own success, as we have said, contained too little of that and returns upon the ground ever and again, discriminative severity, or that of penetra- and is fain to look back anew to assure tive exactitude which is required in parting himself of his conquest. Throughout the off the great and deep things of Christianity early years of his course, and indeed from the offensive asperities and the crudi- throughout the whole of that period in ties that had their origin in a rude, revolu- which his style was in process of formation, tionary, and fanatical period. Scotland - his office, his calling, was that of the chamand England too, in a different sense -- yet pion intent upon achieving a victory, and waits the advent of one equal to her own maintaining the Right against all comers, Chalmers in grandeur of soul, and in moral Although the entire works, as now before energy, who shall take up the work of her us, are susceptible of the classification above renovation at the point where he left it un- stated, no purpose which we have in view attempted, and shall give her at length a in this Article requires a strict adherence to Christianity far larger than any Confession, it. We intend nothing more than to take and burdened with no burdens that are of a glance at the mass, commencing with man's devising.

those of its constituents, which, in our Diverse as are the subjects embraced in opinion, possess the least of an enduring the compass of Chalmers' works, the mode quality, and going on to those of which it may of reasoning throughout them, and the style, be thought that they will take a permanent are much the same everywhere. This mode place in English religious literature. We and this style are clearly indicative of the therefore take up first the volumes on history of his mind, as well as of the several POLITICAL ECONOMY. - To enter here positions he occupied toward the Church and upon any questions belonging to this science the World. When first his powerful intel- would be quite out of place, and ill-timed lect woke up to a consciousness of what is also, as related to Chalmers' treatment of termed “evangelic doctrine," he looked the subject. The volumes now named, and around him and found on almost all sides, that others of the series, bearing upon kindred this doctrine, although it still held its place as subjects, should be looked into as exponents the authentic belief of the Church and the of his power of mind -- his logical force, Nation, had lost its hold, very generally, of and that statesman-like breadth of view and the heart and soul both of the ministers of capacity which distinguished him as a conreligion and of their hearers. The convic- troversialist. But these treatises can scarce. tion that this was the actual state of things ly be regarded as having taken a place around him, wrought mightily in his mind permanently among authorities in the and spirit, and it roused him to undertake science. We are far from affirming that he the work in which his success was signal - has not, in these and other of his writings, that of calling back ministers and people won some lasting repute in establishing to the realities of their own admitted faith. certain points ; but we believe there are In prosecution of this great work, which was few, if any, who are conversant with these essentially unlike that of the Reformers, his subjects, that would now care to vindicate style formed itself upon the leading condi- for him a claim to a foremost rank among tions of the task before him. He seized the masters and teachers of this branch of those principles and doctrines which were philosophy, still in course of development not in dispute between himself and his as it is. The years that have elapsed since hearers, and he strenuously insisted that Chalmers first took up these questions have these doctrines should be re-admitted to not only been marked by the appearance of their due place of influence over the heart, works of the highest merit; but more than the conscience, and the conduct of men. this, during these eventful years social and Hence comes much of that iteration which commercial changes have come about, afis so prominently the characteristic offecting not this country only, but Europe,

America, the World, which few or none of to a particular dogma, he did not always the men of that time had dreamed of, and hold himself free from that species of enwhich, if they had lived to witness them, tanglement which so often drags able logimust have compelled them to abandon some cians far astray from the fields of a tranquil of their favourite dogmas, and greatly to and a true philosophy. Nothing is so little modify others.

to be trusted to as “demonstrations which Chalmers' economic writings give evidence you cannot answer;" nothing is more fallaof a masculine energy, a power of holding cious than “ Tables ;" nothing is more to be and of dealing with those intricately related suspected than "facts admitted on all sides;" abstractions which constitute the materials nothing so like a broken reed as “an estabof the argument in this department. Whe- lished axiom in political science." The ther right or wrong in his doctrine, he great man before us was often led away by swayed his argument this way and that with his “Tables" and his “ Facts;" but more ease. In the logic of the science he was ex- often was he snared in his own massive pert, with its methods he was familiar, and logic. he had affixed for himself a determinate The great ends he aimed at in concerning meaning to its principal terms. We may himself with politics or political economy believe him to be wrong, but we do not find were those higher purposes relating to the him bewildered, or crushed under a burden wellbeing of the lower classes, which, as a that is too heavy for his shoulders. Smitten Christian moralist and a Christian pastor, he as he was with the charms of an hypothesis so devoutly and so devotedly sought to which startled the world, (Malthus' Es- realize. We find him, then, quite on his say,) but which has had its day, and proper ground in those of his writings which yielding himself too readily to its parade of naturally take their place after the Political demonstration -- to its partial array of facts Economy, and the cognate treatises, and - to its conclusions so hastily concluded, he which flow from these as consequences, and instantly saw how well this doctrine con- as practical deductions. cerning population might be built upon for CHRISTIAN AND ECONOMIC POLITY OF A NAgiving support to those further inferences of tION.—To Chalmers should be assigned a which his instincts and his principles as a foremost place of merit, as having brought moralist, and as a Christian minister, and about, as well by his personal efforts-his as a warm philanthropist, impelled him to indefatigable labours, as by his writings make himself the champion. Whatever (those, to wit, of the class now before us) there is in these economic writings which ap- that better feeling, and that better underproves itself to our convictions on grounds standing of social questions, which has beof mere humanity, and of Christian feeling, come the characteristic, and the praise, and is true so far; but these things are legiti- the hopeful indication of the times we live mately available as a basis for the inferences in. He clearly saw what was wanted as which the author builds upon them, only preliminary to any effective measures for when they have been brought into their bettering the condition of the labouring and place as modified by considerations which lower classes, which was to bring about a Chalmers in his earnestness quite overlooks,or community of feeling and an interchange of is not aware of, or which he misunderstands. ideas, and an active concurrence between two Who can find fault with anything that is in orders of persons who, hitherto, had been deed moral in what he urges and reiterates separated by misapprehensions, and often about the usefulness of the “moral res- by contemptuous aversions-namely, the traint," considered as a force counteractive Economists, or men of science in this de. of the law of increase? -- but when we come partment, and the ministers of religion. to the question of " early marriages," and Firmly holding the great truth, that Morals of protracted or absolute celibacy, an even- and Christian principle must be the basis of handed morality has something else to say the secular welfare of a nation, and that, in on this point; and besides there are facts destitution of this trustworthy foundation, physiological and ethico-physiological, which all economic expedients will prove to be also demand to be well thought of and con- ineffective, Chalmers stepped forward, and sidered. If it were to be alleged that in a tone of confidence, well founded as to Chalmers was a one-sided thinker, we should his qualifications for the task, he spoke as affirm, on the contrary, the breadth and the mediator between these two sets of men, grasp of his intellect, and we could adduce labouring to make clear to each the relationmany convincing instances of his aptitude in ship in which they stood, or ought to stand, planting himself on opposite sides of a sub- one to the other, so that there might take ject. But when, at the bidding of his own place a friendly correspondence and a recipowerful feelings, he surrendered himself pevcity of labours between them, for the

benefit of the community. To a very great framed for philosophic analysis; he seldom extent this large-minded and clear-sighted distrusted any conclusion, it was not his man effected his purpose ; and it was a most habit to strip propositions of their coating of worthy, as well as arduous achievement. He words. The mind of Chalmers was characcompelled cold economists to listen to him teristically the national mind-Logic ruled respectfully; he showed himself to be one him - the “perfervid" logician-onward who could well maintain his own ground, in bent, always, toward some practical and imwhatever position he might choose to place portant conclusion, he would not thank any himself. On the other hand, he had already one who, of cooler temperament than himwon a high place of regard among his breth- self, should take him aback for purposes of ren, and among the religious laity of his severe discrimination, and of analysis. Take country, and he had become known as the an instance. In the Preface to the “ Christwarm-hearted and undoubtedly Christian ian and Economic Polity" he says, mover of every labour of self-denying charity. He wrote and spoke, therefore, with. We have long thought, that, by a legal proas we may say-both parties well in hand; vision for indigence, two principles of our moral he laid his hand upon the heads of the one nature have been confounded, which are radically party, and he had his hand already upon the distinct from each other-distinct, both objectivehearts of the other party, and demanding to ly, in the laws and workings of the human constibe listened to by both, he actually brought tation. These two principles are humanity and about such an understanding between the justice, whereof the latter only is the proper object two, as that, from that time to this, there of legislation—which by attempting the enforcehas taken place a marked unison of view, ment of the former, has overstepped altogether its and combination in effort, in relation to own rightful boundaries." questions of national polity and social improvement. Chalmers, it is true, did not How clearly expressed is this string of stand alone in effecting this accordance; for propositions, and how apparently coherent! several illustrious Englishmen, and some Yet let us be permitted to ask, in the first Frenchmen, have done their part toward place, whether these two abstractions, “hubringing it about; some even were his pre- manity” and “justice,” to which it is so easy decessors in the work ; but his merit on this to affix verbal designations, are, when we ground, even if he had no other, is such as have in view the infinite complications of the should entitle him to be classed among the social system-a system deeply disordered— most noted of philanthropists.

so easily parted off

, the one from the other, All this, and more to the same effect, as that we can say, at a moment: This is a might be affirmed; or it might be affirmed claim of justice, and this of humanity ? It still more emphatically, even by those who is true, that an individual man, if he be of think that Chalmers erred in his economic sound mind and firm principle, and if his theory, and that he misapprehended many habitudes of thought are clear, may always facts-those especially which relate to pau- either discriminate, peremptorily, in relation perism in England. We must ourselves to his individual or personal conduct, between take side with those who thus think; and the two classes of claims; or, if there be yet we would yield to none of his disciples ambiguity in any case, he may make a rule and admirers in warmth of feeling toward for himself, and say: This shall be with me him as the ablest among the modern cham- a matter of justice; and this other case I pions of Christian benevolence. But, as we will consider only as a claim of mercy or have said, these pages are not to admit the charity. But alas ! in this disjointed world discussion of controverted questions, wheth- it is the few only who well know how to er political or theological.

effect any such discrimination, and it is fewer It is still in avoidance of any such discus- still who possess the moral ability to abide sions, the introduction of which might seem by their convictions. The consequence is, as if we sought to substantiate some dogma that instances of justice violated, a chuof our own, that we here take occasion to manities neglected — instances of compropoint out a characteristic of Chalmers' mind mises between abstract right and the im(already alluded to) the results of which pulses of feeling - selfish, or stupid, or meet us so often in his writings. His intel- passionate departures as they are from the lect was quick to take hold of, and immov- rule of reason and duty, heap themselves up ably firm in the retention of broad and within, and upon the surface of the social concisely worded principles. Once seen, system, until, in fact, aggravated inhumaniand seized, and grasped, and then ticketed as ties, or defaults on the side of justice, and of “axioms," they were seldom, if ever re- love, of sympathy, of affection, present viewed or revised. His mind was not themselves to the eye of the legislator in

« PoprzedniaDalej »