A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Chalmers, Thomas

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Chalmers, Thomas (1780-1847). -- Divine, economist, and philanthropist, b. at Anstruther, Fife, s. of a shipowner and merchant, studied at St. Andrews and, entering the ministry of the Church of Scotland, was first settled in the small parish of Kilmeny, Fife, but, his talents and eloquence becoming known, he was, in 1815, translated to Glasgow, where he was soon recognised as the most eloquent preacher in Scotland, and where also he initiated his schemes for the management of the poor. In 1823, page 78he became Prof. of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews, and in 1828 of Divinity in Edin. In 1834 he began his great scheme of Church extension, the result of which was that in seven years £300,000 had been raised, and 220 churches built. In the same year, 1834, began the troubles and controversies in regard to patronage and the relations of Church and State, which in 1843 ended in the disruption of the Church, when 470 ministers with C. at their head, resigned their benefices, and founded the Free Church of Scotland. C. was chosen its first Moderator and Principal of its Theological Coll. in Edin. The remaining four years of his life were spent in organising the new Church, and in works of philanthropy. He was found dead in bed on the morning of May 30, 1847. His chief works, which were coll. and pub. in 34 vols., relate to natural theology, evidences of Christianity, political economy, and general theology and science. Those which perhaps attracted most attention were his Astronomical Discourses and his Lectures on Church Establishments, the latter delivered in London to audiences containing all that was most distinguished in rank and intellect in the country. The style of C. is cumbrous, and often turgid, but the moral earnestness, imagination, and force of intellect of the writer shine through it and irradiate his subjects. And yet the written is described by contemporaries to have been immeasurably surpassed by the spoken word, which carried away the hearer as in a whirlwind. And the man was even greater than his achievements. His character was one of singular simplicity, nobility, and lovableness, and produced a profound impression on all who came under his influence. The character of his intellect was notably practical, as is evidenced by the success of his parochial administration and the "Sustentation Fund," devised by him for the support of the ministry of the Free Church. He was D.D., LL.D., D.C.L. (Oxon.), and a Corresponding Member of the Institute of France.

Memoirs (Hanna, 4 vols.). Smaller works by Prof. Blaikie (1897), Mrs. Oliphant (1893), and many others.