Show Less
Restricted access

The Curious Conversion of Thomas Chalmers

John D. Clayton

Thomas Chalmers was arguably the most popular Scot and influential churchman of his age. However, when he was first educated, ordained, installed, and serving as a parish minister in the Church of Scotland, he was by his own admission not yet a converted Christian. How could a minister of the gospel not believe the gospel? How this happened is telling of his context, country, and church, but it is not a short story. From a confusion of church and state dating back to the Scottish Reformation to an increasing secularism in and through the Scottish Enlightenment, the Church of Scotland moved increasingly away from its Reformation roots and the necessity of the gospel in Christian conversion, as evidenced in the early life of Thomas Chalmers.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter Seven: The Rise of Moderatism



The Rise of Moderatism

Despite the state of his soul, Thomas Chalmers demonstrated remarkable oratory and academic giftedness, drawing the attention of his professors and ministers in the Kirk. However, as he neared the end of his education at St. Andrews, he was still remarkably young for ordination. At the time, the presbyteries of the Kirk would typically not license candidates for the ministry until they had reached the age of twenty-one. Chalmers was not the typical candidate. On his behalf, it was argued that he was “a lad o’ pregnant pairts”1 and that it would be foolish not to license, and subsequently ordain, such a gifted young man. The Presbytery of St. Andrews agreed, and Chalmers was licensed to preach on July 31, 1799.

A month later he ascended the pulpit of Chapel Lane Chapel of Liverpool serving as pulpit supply for the ailing parish minister, Reverend Kirkpatrick. His brother, James, attended the preaching of his inaugural sermon, relaying a review back to their father. James complimented his brother’s impassioned delivery, eloquent phrasing, and logical reasoning. He considered it a balanced sermon of doctrine and application (but heavier on the latter than the former). Based on what he had observed, James concluded that Thomas Chalmers, the preacher, would excel in the pulpit, but at the moment he remained rather “awkward in his appearance,”2 a peculiarity he would never outgrow.

While licensed to preach, licensure did not insure...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.