A. C. Cheyne (1924-2006), a recognized Scottish Church History scholar summarizes the central ideas inherent in Chalmers’ ”territorial parish.” It was a “manageably small area housing a community of some two thousand souls who lived, worked and worshipped together, with a church and a school at its center and a minister and a kirk session to attend to both its spiritual and its temporal necessities: here, he argued, was the basic – he would even have said the redemptive – unit of Scottish society. Here was the means of national regeneration.” In my reading of Chalmers, I would suggest that he would say the preaching of the Gospel was the means. Yet, he certainly saw the territorial parish as the most efficient vehicle for getting that Gospel preaching to every man, woman, and child.
Archive for the ‘The Romance of Locality’ Category
“However thoroughly we may he convinced of the benefit that would result from the influence of locality, we feel that it is not in easy task didactically to set forth this influence, by any process of argument or explanation. The conviction is far more readily arrived at by the tact of real and living experience, than by the lessons of any expounder. There is a charm in locality, most powerfully felt by every man who tries it; but which, at the same time, it is most difficult so to seize upon as to embody it in language, or to bring it forth in satisfying demonstration to the public eye. We do not know an individual who has personally attached himself to a manageable portion of the civic territory, and has entered with taste and spirit upon its cultivation-and who does not perceive, with something like the force and the clearness of intuition, that, if this way of it were spread over an assembled million of human beings, it would quickly throw a new moral complexion over the teeming expanse that is on every side of him. But what he feels, it is not easy to make others see. For, however substantial the influence of locality is, there is a certain shadowy fineness about it, in virtue of which it eludes the efforts of an observer to lay hold of it, and to analyze it. It is no bad evidence, however, of the experimental soundness of this operation, that the incredulity about it, is all on the side of those who stand without the field of local management; and the confidence about it, on the side of those who stand within-and that, while the former regard it as a mystic and undefinable fancy, the latter find in it as much of sureness and solidity, as if their eyes saw it, and their hands handled it.”
-Thomas Chalmers, The Christian and Economic Polity of a Nation, p. 43.
The following is a delightful quote in the preface of the 1840 edition of Thomas Chalmers’ Christian and Economic Polity of a Nation:
We confess no small gratification in finding, at the end of twenty years, that our promulgations, held at the time to be altogether Utopian, of the great charm and efficiency which lie in the household ministrations of clergymen, are now repeated in the most popular, and at the same time, the most able and authoritative of our daily journals. The Times newspaper of a few days back recommends with great force and eloquence, and in the following terms, “the still further prosecution of an earnest and indefatigable system of parochial domiciliary visiting throughout all the parishes of the land. This, depend upon it, is the only patent and talismanic key to English hearts, whether of Churchmen, Papists, or Dissenters. Disinterested and persevering kindness, brought habitually to a man’s home under all sorts of discouragement, is what no human being can long or rudely resist. With that elevated determination and singleheartedness, which, in the absence of all impertinent intrusions or officious curiosity, manifestly seeks to engage mankind in a devout concern for their immortal interests, let every family in every city, town, or hamlet, be regularly and affectionately visited, no matter what denomination they may belong to. The established clergy, accredited, commissioned, and upheld by the law of this realm, are the clergy of the whole nation. Every fireside in their parish is a part of their allotted charge. They have an official as well as a moral right, subject, of course, to discreet limitations, to seek admittance into every door, ‘ whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.’ Painful repulses will occasionally, though not often, occur; but these, compensated by a consciousness of dutiful exertion and by cordial welcomes in other cases, will sooner or later be overcome hy meek and patient endurance. Only let all the families of England be regularly invited to the dispensation of a free gospel in a free church ; and eventually the very universality of this hahit of parochial visiting will establish it as a part of our social system; and cause it to work with the uniform beneficence of nature’s general laws.”