Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

the formidable shape of enormous wrongs~ a commentary upon a life of arduous philanevils intolerable; and which bring the social thropy. The narrative of a twenty, or fivesystem into extreme peril. A paternal gov- and-twenty years of prodigious public labour, ernment may heartily wish that its subjects, carried on in Glasgow and in Edinburgh, to individually, would act their parts better, be itself fully intelligible, must incorporate and so would save it a world of trouble; but these treatises in their chronological order. they will not do so, and therefore, inasmuch The treatises and the laborious life are the as grievous social evils must any way be re- warp and woof of a cloth of gold, which for medied; and inasmuchas civil government has firm coherence, and for moral splendour, has only one species of remedy at its command, scarcely & parallel in our religious history, namely law, law enforced by the public arm, Thus thought of, these several treatises, it enacts remedial statutes, and sees to it which in one sense may be said to have had that they fail not of their effect. Meanwhile, their day, and to be superannuate, can never it is to the ministers of religion that belongs fail to be inquired for and read while Scotthe duty of attacking these same social mis- land remembers this apostolic man. chiefs, taking their stand upon quite another The LECTURES ON ESTABLISHMENTS, which ground, and employing persuasions altogeth- were delivered with so much éclat in London er of another order. Law may be super in the spring of 1838, may seem to possess seded where morals are perfect, not else- a claim to some notice as distinguished from where. The expediency of a legal provision the Treatises on kindred subjects, above refor the helpless and indigent is a question ferred to. Those treatises constitute, as we with which we do not concern ourselves; have said, a running commentary upon a but it is an illusion to found an argument course of extraordinary labour and of successagainst such enactments upon an alleged ful enterprise. But the Lectures on Estabconstant or available distinction between lishments came to be commented on in a " justice” and “humanity.” The social sys- very remarkable manner five years after the tem, in its complications, infinite as they are, time of their delivery, by Chalmers' own abounds with instances which are not to be course of conduct—a course open, no doubt, disposed of in any such categorical and syl- to misapprehension, as well as to misinterlogistic manner. Justice and charity often pretation. Long ago the wrongful allegations blend their voices in a loud outcry for legis- of that period of agitation received their conlative measures of relief.

futation; and they are forgotten. There The Treatises on the Parochial System, may nevertheless be a residue of apparent (vol. xxi.) several of the tracts included in inconsistency, if not a small remainder of the twelfth volume, and those of the eight- actual inconsistency, which seems to call for eenth, if they be considered apart from the a word of comment. Sufficiently was the political and ecclesiastical doctrines which more obvious imputation of inconsistency rethey so ably propound and illustrate, and of futed by Dr. Chalmers himself at the time which Chalmers in his day was the apostle, of the Disruption; as, for example, in pasmay now be read, and will continue to be sages such as the following, (Correspondence read with advantage in respect of the many with Sir George Sinclair, December 4, 1841.) passages which illumine them, and which are admirable in their universal bear. “I conclude with noticing as briefly as possible ing upon Christian morals and Christian your remarks on my consistency : 1st

, You speak philanthropy. Even a reader who should of my former avowed preference for a National altogether dissent from Chalmers' doctrine, own theory. Now, in my London Lectures, in my

Establishment, reminding me of what you call my and should disallow every article of his ec Church Extension Addresses, in all my controverclesiastical and economic creed, must yet sies with the Voluntaries, in my numerous writlisten to him in these passages with, one ings for twenty years back, the spiritual indepenmight say, a reverential feeling. Was the dence of the Church has been ever brought proWriter--the Lecturer--the Professor-was minently forward as an indispensable part of that he a pallid theorist, stepping out from his violation of that independence in return for a State

theory, and I have uniformly stated, that the least seclusion to broach and to defend paradoxes Endowment, was enough to convert a Church Esvisionary whims, the progeny of his mere tablishment into a moral nuisance. It is a little brain? It was not so with Chalmers. This too much, that after the Conservatives had acceptman of system and dogma was always ed with thankfulness my defence of National Esgreater in his deeds and in his labours-great- tablishments, they should now propose to take er in personal beneficent performances, than away from me the benefit of their main vindicahe was in speculation and philosophy. The tion; or think that an advocacy given to a Na

tional Church, solely for the sake of its religious portion of his writings now before us, cum- and moral benefits to the population, should still brous as some of them may be in form, and be continued after they shall have converted it overwrought in style, should be regarded as from an engine of Christian usefulness into a mere

congeries of offices, by which to uphold the in-mists throughout England, who, in our apprehenfluence of patrons, and subserve the politics or the sion, are so near in theology to the Establishment, views of a worthless partisanship." -Memoirs, that for ourselves we cannot make out a principle vol. iv. p. 242.

in any of the differences on which they continue to

stand without its pale.”—Sixth Lecture. This is all very good ; and it is valid if taken as Chalmers' plea for himself, when the lecturer had been addressing the several

This would be right and pertinent too, if taunted by the Conservatives on the ground

orthodox nonconforming communions in resof inconsistency. But now let these same words be noted and brought into their bear-Spect of their differences one among another. In

that case he might pointedly have asked ing upon some passages in the “ London them, “Why, seeing that you have one creed Lectures.” Lovers of justice as we profess and nearly one ecclesiastical model, why do to be, we must cite them, and leave judg

you maintain your divisions ? Why keep ment with the equitable reader. The Lecturer is replying to the Noncon- nominations, or seven, as the case may be ?"

alive on grounds so unimportant-three deforming sects, who urge their equal claim But any such line of argument as this is, we and endowed, (let it be remembered that is addressed to the nonconforming sects at

must say it, grievously out of place when it Nonconformists do not ask to be favoured in any such manner) and he says :

large, as they now stand related to the Es

tablished Church. Let us see how this is. " To the question by which it was thought they mers knew enough of the course of contro

We must assume it as certain that Chalwould have gravelled us, When the difference is so insignificant between the Church and the Sec-versy, and of the state of religious parties in tarians, why treat them so unequally? our reply England, to be aware of the fact that the time is-When the difference is so insignificant, why had long gone by when Nonconformists inkeep up that difference at all? why do sectaries sisted, with any lively zeal or persistence, keep aloof from the Church on considerations either one among another, or when they are which are confessedly insignificant and paltry ? in debate with the Established Church, upon We hear of their common faith, that is, of their agreement with the Church, on all vital and essen: any one of those matters of ritual or obsertial topics; and this

, in opposition to the bigots vance to which, with any fairness, the conwithin the Establishment, we heartily accord to temptuous phrases employed by him can be the great majority of Dissenters in both parts of applied; it is not the nugæ triviales of a pothe island. But if they agree in all that is essen- lemical age that are now the points at issue. tial, what is the character of the topics on which The larger number in Dissenting Churches, they differ? There can be no other reply to this, the ministers and the laity, the well-informthan that they must be the non-essentials of ed and intelligent, have long ceased, in their Christianity—the nuga triviales, if not the nuga controversy with the Church, to make much or whimsical peculiarities, in which, through the ado about nothing. The ground they takevery wantonness of freedom in this land of perfect whether that ground be solid and defensible toleration, men have chosen to besport themselves, or not—which is not with us the question, is and so broken forth into their parti-coloured varie inclusive of PRINCIPLES ; and within this cir. ties ; each having a creed, or rather I would say, cle there meet us some of the most arduous (for, substantially speaking, nine tenths of the questions that can engage the attention of people in Britain have all the same creed,) each Christian men. Stated in as few words as having a costume and a designation of their own.

To the remonstrance of the excluded possible, what are now (and what have been sects, Why, when we differ so little, do you not these thirty years past) the grounds of distake us in? it may well be replied, Why, when sent among the orthodox - sectaries," are as you differ so little, do you keep yourselves important as anything can be that is not esout? Truly, it is not for Government to sential to a Christian man's belief: dissentmake the adjustment here; nor is there another ters refuse to admit any sort of interference way of bringing the adjustment about, but by on the part of the Civil

Government with the both in the Church and among the sectaries them religious holdings or doings of the people : selves. ... Government, after having made but then, even if so absolute a rejection of the preference, and so standing acquitted of the state interference as this were not maintaingreatest duty it owes to the commonwealth, leaves ed, Dissenters very generally regard the the whole charge of insignificance and folly to rest actual Church Established, in a manner to upon those who, for the sake of paltry and insigni- describe which correctly we could not do ficant differences, will thus quarrel and fall out better than avail ourselves of the language among themselves.. venerate the Church of England as a Christian above cited from Chalmers' letter to his Church ; but so far therefore from laying a stigma friend. - The English Dissenters believe on the sectaries, there are several, and these com- (rightly or wrongly) that the State has gone prising a very large majority of the Nonconfor not "a little way," but a long way in "vio

lating the independence of the Church ;” and as they are exemplified in the life and labours he tells us that, in his opinion, the “ least of the author-labours which will always be violation of this independence" affords ground looked upon by self-denying, benevolent, enough for justifying separation, inasmuch as and zealous men as pattern and as stimulus the consequence of any such sacrilege is to as the best guide, and as the inspiration " convert a Church Establishment into a of any course of Christian philanthropy. And moral nuisance." The Dissenters of these then, whoever would duly turn to advantage times (or many of them) are not vehement such an example, must, in justice to himself

, ly opposed to a moderated episcopacy; they read and study the Economic volumes in are not indisposed to liturgical worship; this series. they do not profess to be deeply scandaliz Pursuing Chalmers' course as tending more ed by surplices or other church decorums; and more toward his true position as the yet they think themselves compelled to pro- Christian Divine, and, if not the philosopher, test against the usages of Church Patronage ; yet the philosophie theologian, and the bold and they believe themselves justified in de champion of religious truth, we next take up manding that congregations should have at that "Essay on the CARISTIAN EVIDENCES, least something to do with the appointment which is not merely the earliest in date, but of their ministers. The English Dissenters which first brought the writer into view beof these times, or many of them, profess to fore the English public. It is unnecessary believe that the ecclesiastical principles and here to recur to the circumstances under usages of the Established Church have had which it at the first appeared in 1813: we the effect of “converting it from an engine now take it as it stands in the series of the of usefulness into a mere congeries of offices, collected works, in which it takes its place by which to uphold the influence of Patrons, as the third and fourth volumes. and subserve the politics or the views of a A considerable portion of this Essay conworthless partisanship."

sists of summary statements, or abridged Now it might happen that, if we were call. recitals of the staple Christian argument ed upon to argue the question with Dissen- an argument which has never been refuted ters, to wit, with reasonable and truth-loving such as it is found in the writings of men, we should labour to convince them that Lardner, Paley, Blount, and others. These their view of the Established Church, although synopses, or condensed evidences, call for it have a colour of reality, is greatly distort- no other remark than this, that they are ed, and is at this time mainly wrong; but characteristic of Chalmers, both in mind and assuredly as long as Dissenters do 80 think, temper. As to temper, he had an openness and especially so long as they demur on the and a candour which led him to admire, and grave question of religious establishments, freely to avail himself of, the authenticated we should scorn to taunt them with their se- products of other minds. There was in paration, as if it were a nugatory and frivo him a reverential feeling toward all those lous opposition ; we should think it most in- who might be named as the “canonized” equitable to bring to bear upon modern Dis- of philosophy and literature---the few who sent the contemptuous allegation, that it con- have been unanimously voted to pedestals sists in the caprices or whimsical peculiari- in the temple of fame. Free as he was ties in which, through the very wantonness from selfish ambition, and superior to the of freedom in this land of perfect toleration, egotism of authorship, no sinister jealousies men have chosen to besport themselves, and stood in his way when, in the course of an so have broken faith into their parti-coloured argument, he found other men’s labours varieties." Far be it from us thus to deal ready to his hand, which might be brought with men whom we believe to be as well in forward and commended, and perhaps informed, and as intelligent, and as conscien- corporated with his own train of reasoning. tious as ourselves. Thus far the Chalmers It need scarcely be said that, in any such of 1838 may seem to be amenable to some instances, he would have abhorred to act correction from the Chalmers of 1843; and the plagiarist. In frequent instances Chalwe may believe it probable that if, at the mers followed the guidance of others; but time of delivering the London Lectures, the if

, in any case, this sort of following was a events of 1843 had been distinctly foreseen, fact of which himself was conscious, he made more than two or three passages in the the reference and the acknowledgment in volume now before us would have been qua- the most ample manner. But these legitilified, or wholly omitted.

mate borrowings are also characteristic of As to this portion of Chalmers' writings, Chalmer's order of intellect. Bold-large namely, the Economic, the Political, and the in his grasp of subjects--statesmanlike Ecclesiastical

, they may, as we have said, businesslike-prompt to seize the salient be left uncommented upon, otherwise than points of an argument, and singularly firm

in his logical hold of whatever he held--he self specially qualified. It might be asked, was not a suggestive, explorative, penetra- Is the Christian world, even at this time, tive thinker. His intellectual habit was prepared for entertaining, intelligently and not that which impels, or which compels a reverentially, freely, boldly, and religiously, man to pass his entire material of cogitation, that great and arduous argument which has even every atom of it, through his own so long stood waiting its time, and which is mind, and in doing so to make it his own- to determine what we mean by the hackwhencesoever it may, in the first instance, neyed terms-Revelation, and the Inspirahave come to him. Whatever he believed tion of Holy Scripture ? If an answer to to be sound, right, and logically available, this question were peremptorily demanded, Chalmers took up, and carried it to its it must be, we think, of this conditional sort place, in any discussion which for the mo- - The Christian world is at this moment no ment engaged him. This he did, in part, as better prepared to listen to a dispassionate a practice, forcing itself upon a man so discussion of this subject than it has been at deeply occupied as he was in active life; any time heretofore: it is not so, because but mainly (as we think) as the conse- none have come forward to take it up, and quence of his individual structure of mind. to deal with it, in whom, as to their compe

In illustration of what we are here affirm- tency, as to their freedom from entangleing, it might be enough to refer the reader ments, and as to the thoroughness of their to the three concluding chapters of this religious principles, it has any well-groundEssay. It would be unfair to take these ed confidence. But further, it may confichapters in hand as if they had been recent dently be assumed, that such a state of ly composed, and were now put forth. We preparedness will ensue, as if instantaneousmust believe that, at this time, Chalmers ly and spontaneously, whenever the men, or would materially have qualified many the man, shall step forward who shall be passages which, as they stand, must give able to command the respect and attention pain to those who, as zealous as himself for of the Christian community, and in presence the genuine authority of Holy Scripture, of whom intemperate and ill-informed perhave thought more upon the subject of in- sons shall feel abashed, and shall hold their spiration than he had done, and who have peace. When this cause shall come on for taken pains to inform themselves better as a hearing, there must be proclaimed to the condition of the argument as a ques- "Silence” in the heaven of theological tion of fact. The chapters to which we re- debate. But we return for a moment fer are curious specimens of that logical to the volumes on the Christian Evidences. style which has prevailed among a certain This Essay first appeared in 1813, fortyclass of theologians ;-as thus-a position three years ago ; and as to the core of the is assumed ;-it is, let us grant, mainly reasoning, it is as sound and as available good and valid; but it is reasoned from un- now as it was then. Chalmers' revision exceptively, and it is pursued as if the rea- and correction of the argument against soner were utterly unconscious of serious Hume stands entire; and as to his own difficulties standing in his path, and which mode of refuting the flimsy sophism of the should be met or removed, sooner or later" Essay on Miracles," it is clear and unexin the argument. These chapters of the ceptionable: it is so, because Hume's cob“ Christian Evidences,” if they came before web may be swept away by more brooms us from the pen of an inferior writer-a than one; it needs no such refined process dogmatizing theologue, would not seem to as Campbell and others had imagined to be merit any sort of notice in reply: we necessary for the purpose :-only bring it should leave them to be forgotten, and the to the test of facts ;-let us see, in some sooner the better. Coming as they do half-dozen instances, which might be easily from a mind such as that of Chalmers, they adduced, what becomes of the demonstragive weight and urgency to the demand of tion alleged to abate or destroy our confithis present moment—that the doctrine of dence in testimony. Chalmers well states inspiration should now at length be set the fact, that human testimony may be of clear of the many confusions which still such a kind, and it may be presented in attach to it; and that this work should be such a form of complicated and intimate so done as not to leave staggering difficulties coherence, as would not merely carry our unnoticed and unheeded;

while a genuine assent, but must compel it, even to the exand untroubled faith in the authority of tent of its prevailing against our experience Scripture is brought to rest upon its true of the constancy of any natural phenomena grounds. This is a work for the undertaking whatever. All this is certain, and it is clear of which neither was the Christian world in enough. his time prepared, nor was Chalmers him. If, then, the question were asked, Is

Chalmers' Essay on the Christian Evidences Scotland, and who, alas! had, some of a book proper to be now put into the hands them, comfortably lodged themselves withof an intelligent young man for the purpose in its enclosures. But as Atheism and unof confirming him in his Christian profes- belief are at all times reactions from the sion? we should answer, Undoubtedly it Christianity in and about which they arise, is: - let him read Chalmers and Paley, they take their semblance from it; they with one or two other books that treat the are reflections of it; they are its counterquestion concisely and forcibly, and he parts or complements; they are negative cannot go wrong." But if such a question photographs of the religion to which they were put with a more discreet meaning, and oppose themselves; they show blacks for if the propounder of the question had in whites-whites for blacks all over. But view the case of a thoroughly informed read we are all apt to be the most angered er, one of those, to wit, who are fully by that which, while it dares to contraconversant with the science and with the dict us, is yet, in some occult manner, literature of the present time, then we must a resemblance of ourselves. Hume, and make exceptions to the Essay on two or the accomplished men of whom he was the three grounds.

leader and the idol, had formed no other None who were favoured to have inter-conception of Christianity than that which, course with Thomas Chalmers socially, can in their paternal homes, they had acquired need to be assured that his personal dispo- in the course of their training, according to sitions were manly, cordial, generous, kind, the religious fashion of an ill-conditioned sympathizing ; but he was as strong in bygone time; this fact should be considered temper as he was robust in understanding; in mitigation of the disapproval to which he fired at sophistry; he was hotly impa- they may fairly be liable. tient of subterfuges and shams, and he was Chalmers found himself on the battle-field impatient toward any reasonings or difficul- opposed to men with whom the rejection of ties of the sort with which, constitutionally, Christianity—such as it had always been he had no sympathy, and the solidity of offered to them—was, we may say, an inwhich he did not understand. Logic has to evitable consequence of the free development do with propositions-Yea and Nay: Philo- of thought in strong minds. But of this sophy has to do with things with the fact he had himself no distinct consciousthings of visible nature, and with the things ness ;-we think he had no consciousness of of mind; and its dealings with these things it at all; his training and his professional go far deeper down than do those of logic. feeling as a clergyman and the non-discrete But Chalmers was the categorical logician quality of his own mind, stood in the way much more than the philosopher; his intel- of his coming to a perception of it. Hence lectual destination was to the senate—to it is, therefore, that the tone of this Essay, the House of Commons, or to courts of and so of many of his writings, and the cast law - rather than to those silent places of the epithets which he allows himself to where the human reason, and the human use, are too pugnacious, too arrogant-they spirit, converse with and explore the uni- are, in fact, offensive in their apparent verse of matter and of mind. Therefore it meaning; and therefore it is, that the Essay was that Chalmers' opponent, real or imag- before us is less adapted to the present ined, in any argument, was a somebody time, and to England, than its substantial who is to be strenuously fought with and merits would have made it. knocked down, and tumbled over the city And yet this is not all. During the years wall as a nuisance.

that have elapsed since this Essay appeared, Besides, it behoves the reader of this the Christian argument, as it was carried on great man's works at large, to keep in between Christian advocates, and the severmind, we may say at almost every page, al classes of those who opposed themselves what was his position, and what was the thereto, has moved many steps in advance feeling which he had of that position, as the toward what must be the resting-place of notable champion of great, and then neglect the controversy --namely, a never-to-beed principles in Scotland, or, to confine ended antagonism between Christianity and ourselves to the subject now in view, Chal. Atheism in its simplest form. Historical mers stood forth in his time in defence of and literary criticism have undergone much that Christianity, of the truth of which he improvement of late, and these improvehad newly convinced himself, and of which ments-these more exact and more erudite he had been some time a minister. This modes of proceeding, have wrought a great Christianity was then assailed on all sides change in the feeling of well-informed men by men-some of them Atheists, and some toward the books of the New Testament Deists-who stood around the Church of (and those of the Hebrew Scriptures also)

« PoprzedniaDalej »