Thomas Chalmers once asserted, "I am thankful to say that no reading so occupies and engages me as the biography of those who have made it most their business to prosecute the sanctification of their souls." I rather think he would be amazed that in this day and time we would be studying him in that light. After all, he was a very self-effacing man. As Robert Balfour said, "I am astonished at a man of such superior powers so modest and humble."
But, here we are. And from this vantage point it is evident that Chalmers was a giant of the faith. So, study him we ought.
Alas, that is easier said than done. There are no major biographies of him currently in print (though I hope to remedy that before this time next year). None of his more than forty books remain in print either (though, I hope to remedy that as well). As John Duncan, his contemporary and fellow-laborer commented, "We have lost much of Chalmers for want of a Boswell. Many of his best sayings are gone forever. As a man of erudition he could hardly have been better. But more, as a heaven-taught man, he needed little."
Thankfully, there are sources we can turn to in order to learn of and from this remarkable man. As W. M. Taylor recorded, "To the end of his days he had around him a circle of loving and devoted students, all of whom were fired with enthusiasm which they had caught from his lips. He was not so much an instructor as a quickener. The other professors laid the materials in the minds of the students, but he brought and struck the match, which kindled these materials into a flame that burned with an energy kindred to his own."
Likewise, David Masson wrote, "To describe the matter of the lectures of Thomas Chalmers would be more difficult than to give an idea of their form. It was called Theology, and there certainly was a goodly survey of the topics of a theological course. But really it was a course of Chalmers himself, and of Chalmers in all his characters. Within two or three consecutive sessions, if not in one, every listener was sure to be led so completely and with so much commotion through the whole round of Chalmers’s favourite ideas, that, if he remained ignorant of any one of them or unsaturated with some tincture of them all, it could only be because he was a miracle of impassiveness."
This weekend at the King's Meadow Conference, we will recall the legacy of this reforming pioneer of parish life by paying heed to some of those favorite ideas and the passions they somehow quickened in his students. And thus may God be pleased to use Chalmers again, in this day just as He has in days gone by.