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Archive for January, 2013

William Hanna, son-in-law and biographer of Thomas Chalmers, here reflects on the bearing of Chalmers’ inner, spiritual history on his outer history in the public light.  Inner histories are certainly more inaccessible and uncertain to others.  “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?”  Even self-knowledge is murky at best.  Yet with the infallible light of Scripture, we may shed light on what is left us of the inner-histories of great men, shaping the parts they played on the stage of divine providence.

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“The events in which Dr. Chalmers mingled, and which ho helped so much to mould, were far from engrossing his thoughts. The part he took in them was in fact the product of those deeper convictions which rested upon the unseen and enduring objects of faith. Behind the outer history of his life there lay that inner spiritual history which made the other what it was. His correspondence, his speeches, his published writings, and his public acts, which furnish such ample materials for unfolding the one history, are absolutely barren as to the other. We know of no other iImagendividual of the same force and breadth of Christian character, who, in all his converse, public and private, with his fellow-men, spoke so little of himself, or afforded such slender means of information as to his own spiritual condition and progress, and yet it would be difficult to name another of whose deeper religious experience we have so full and so trustworthy a record. We owe this to the openness and perfect truthfulness of his private Journal. The strict reserve which he observed in his communications with others he entirely laid aside when communing with his own heart, the fullness of the one disclosure more than atoning for the stintedness of the other. The very breaks and gaps, the compressed or the expanded condition of his private Journal, when studied in connection with his external occupations during different periods, are themselves instructive. Judged of in this way, the year 1840 formed a marked epoch in his spiritual life, as exhibiting the commencement of that softening, refining, elevating process which, ripening to perfection, threw such a pure and mellow light of piety around his closing years—a light whose chastened lustre was perceived and felt even by those who saw not into the place of its birth.”

 

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rainy_day_wallpaper_series_5_out_of_7_by_moggget-d5ddcjf“I find that principle and reflection afford a feeble support against the visitations of melancholy. It is a physical distemper, and must be counteracted by physical means. It is not the direct application of reason that will school it down, any more that it can cure the discomfort of your physical sensations when placed in an overheated room, for example. But it is our duty to apply whatever experience tells us is a corrective against those unpleasant feelings which agitate, and enfeeble, and render unfit for any useful exertion. It is not my duty to feel cool and comfortable when placed in a confined room; but it is my duty to rise and open the window if this can restore me to my wonted capacity of exertion. It is perhaps not my duty to summon up a cheerfulness of mind in the hour of unaccountable despondency, for perhaps this is an affair as completely beyond the control of reason as any other of our physical sensations; but it is my duty to study, and, if possible, to devise expedients for restoring me from this useless and melancholy state. Now, all experience assures me that regular occupation is that expedient; and it is my duty, if I find myself unequal to the severity of my usual exercises, to devise slighter subjects of employment which can be resorted to in the time of necessity. This I esteem to be an important part of moral discipline. Writing a fair copy of an old production which you wish to preserve, setting your books and papers into a state of greater arrangement, writing letters, looking over your accounts, and making slight but interesting calculations about your future gains and future expenditure,—these, and a number of other subjects of occupation, should occur to be ever ready to offer themselves as correctives to melancholy. Let me cultivate, then, that habit of exertion which will not shrink from a remedy which I find so effectual.”

-Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)

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