Here’s a great quote in Chalmers’ treatise on Natural Theology.  Innate instincts are marvelously designed for the welfare of humanity and even the animal kingdom.  Even fear!  -

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“Man has not been left to himself, any more than the inferior animals, for the care of his own preservation ; and instead of this interest being altogether confided to his own wisdom, or his own vigilance, he too has been fitted with a number of unreflecting instincts and appetites, but for the impulse of which he would inevitably perish. There cannot be a more palpable exhibition of this than is afforded by the appetite of hunger, which both reminds and urges man by its periodic calls to the food that is needful for his sustenance, and seems planted there to serve the office of a monitor, who might prompt him at right times to take of that aliment, on the neglect of which for a few days there would ensue his dissolution. And the same holds true of his mental as well as his bodily affections. When danger threatens, it is not enough either for escape or for protection, that under the government of reason he should adopt the right measures by which to shun or to resist it; but whether to wing his flight or to stimulate his wakeful diligence, there is inserted within his bosom the affection of fear. When an infant is born, it is not enough that nature has provided the material nourishment which keeps it in life; but for the indispensable safety of the little stranger, nature has also planted the strongest of her instincts in the heart of its mother, who under the impulse of an affection that never wearies, ceases not day nor night to tend and watch over it.”

200px-ThomasGuthrie1870sHere is an excellent article on a contemporary of Thomas Chalmers, Thomas Guthrie.  Like Chalmers, Guthrie (1803-1873) had a heart beating for the good of the souls and bodies of those downtrodden in Industrial-Age Scotland.  He also embraced the parish plan of action.  ‘Let each select their own manageable field of Christian work. Let us embrace the whole city, and cover its nakedness, although, with different denominations at work, it should be robed, like Joseph, in a coat of many colours. Let our only rivalry be the holy one of who shall do most and succeed best in converting the wilderness into an Eden, and causing the deserts to blossom as the rose.’

The author of this article, Andy Murray, blogs at Ragged Theology.  Andy also tells me that he’s just published a Kindle version of Guthrie’s memorable The City: Its Sins and Sorrows.

In the following, Thomas Chalmers writes a letter to a former mathematics professor  of his, whom he greatly admired.  Evidently, he thought he might be unconverted.  It also seems, judging from the way he writes here, that he was pricked in his conscience for having delayed so long to share the Gospel with him.  It’s worth noting that only two years later, Chalmers would enter eternity.

Is there someone we know and love, to whom we have a ‘debt’ to settle?  Is there someone who ought to be hearing the Gospel from us, and yet we have been slow to do so?  Let us then make haste, as Dr. Chalmers did, for the day is coming when no man can work!

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To Professor Duncan.

Edinburgh, 14th December, 1845.

My Dear Sir—I should not have written you on Sabbath, but for the subject on which I mean to address you, and to which I shall confine myself. I have long had the utmost regard for you. There is not a human being whom, without the circle of my relationship, I like nearly so well. But, though affectionate toward you, I have not been faithful. Consider how soon both you and I will be mouldering in our coffins. Heaven grant that we may both share in a blessed resurrection, through our common interest in Him who hath said, ” I am the resurrection and the life,” &c Ever believe me, my dear sir, yours very affectionately and truly,

Thomas Chalmers.

withered hand“Say not you cannot believe, the great defect is in your will. ‘Ye will not come to me,’ says Jesus, ‘that you may have life.’ Stretch out the withered hand to Christ; protest you shall never be satisfied till he put forth mighty power to make you believe, and never quit the throne till you get it, if you should dig your grave at it, Luke 16:39-43.”

-Thomas Boston

Some choice counsel from Thomas Chalmers to a Christian lady struggling with doubts (1826).  His distinction between having a concern about what and not how to believe is especially choice.

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2318058434_433229b519_oBut, generally, you complain that you are ignorant of how to go—how to believe. Now this has long been a stumbling-block to many; their thoughts are how they are to believe, when their thoughts should be what they should believe. They look inwardly for the work of faith, when they should look outwardly for the object of faith. “For every one thought,” says Richard Baxter, “that he casts downwardly upon himself, he should cast ten upwardly and outwardly upon Jesus, and upon the glorious truths of the Gospel.” You say that you have no doubts of the freeness of Christ’s salvation, and of His willingness to save you. Dwell upon this; persist in this ; stand in the Gospel attitude of looking upon Jesus, and light will at length arise within you. In the act of looking, you may have to wait a longer or a shorter time for your coming enlargement; but surely it is worth the waiting for. Meanwhile your business is prayer; a diligent attention in the ordinances of religion; reading of God’s word; and, above all, a keeping of the sayings of Christ: ” He that keepeth my sayings, to him will I manifest myself.” Be assured you are in good hands, even in the hands of Him who will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax.

St.-Jerome-In-His-StudyIn preparing for a message on the Parable of the Sower, I’ve looked at Jerome (ca. 347 – 420) among others.  Many of his comments are extremely helpful.  But as with all commentators, there is some chaff mixed in with the wheat.  When writing about the three levels of fruit among those who receive the seed in good soil, he declares, “The hundred-fold fruit is to be ascribed to virgins, the sixty-fold to widows and continent persons, the thirty-fold to chaste wedlock.”  Wrong on two counts – bad interpretation and bad theology.


Reformations are unsettling. They always involve a critique of the old order, a prophetic protest against wrong. And when those protests give way to action, things change. The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century was no different. So when it reached the shores of Scotland, there was quite a shaking up. [To read further, see full article here - starting at p. 9]



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