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The Pilgrimage and Conversion of Thomas Chalmers

Following His Journey from Anstruther to Glasgow

David C Jackson

This book follows the life and work of Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847) from his childhood in Anstruther to the end of his ministerial career in Glasgow in 1823. He became a theologian, minister and Scottish reformer and is best remembered for his involvement in the Disruption of 1843. Following Chalmers’ career up to the end of his Glasgow period offers a range of valuable insights into the human, spiritual and theological dimensions of a man who was once described by Thomas Carlyle as «the chief Scotsman of his age». It has been decades since Chalmers and his work have received any notable scholarly attention and this book attempts to unravel his complicated nature by pursuing a forensic investigation into his communitarian ideology and attitude towards social reform. New facts have come to light, not least the apparent reversion of Chalmers’ conversion, recognised and discussed here for the first time, allowing the reader to form a more accurate picture of his legacy within Scottish religious history. As the author meticulously unravels his subject’s disturbing psychological mindset, he provides a compelling critique of the Church of Scotland and examines the role of John Bunyan’s Mr Christian as Chalmers’ model and mentor.

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Chapter 25. The Final Humiliation of Chalmers’ Ministry in Glasgow


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The Final Humiliation of Chalmers’ Ministry in Glasgow

The St John’s experiment was generally not nearly as successful a venture as Chalmers promoted it to be, and perhaps there is some truth in the view that he was simply working hard to achieve some credit so he could move on with his head held high. But even then, career progression took time to prepare for, and few future clerical or university employers would want to know if the famous Thomas Chalmers had left Glasgow under a cloud. In 1823, Chalmers’ time at St John’s came to an end after just four years.

In January of that year, Chalmers’ colleagues were shocked to learn that he intended to resign in the autumn in order to take up the Chair of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews University. This news had two levels of impact in that not only was he to part company from all his Glaswegian social and business connections, but he was also to leave the ministry altogether. This was stunning and dramatic news as apparently, this time, he had confided in no one as to his intentions.

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