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DR. CHALMERS was licensed as a preacher of the gospel by the Presbytery of St. Andrews on the 31st July, 1799. In December, 1801, he became assistant to the Rev. Mr. Elliot, minister of Cavers, a parish lying along the banks of the Teviot, a few miles from Hawick. As Mr. Elliot was laid aside by his infirmities, the pulpit duties devolved wholly upon his assistant, after a regular discharge of which for a period of about nine months, Dr. Chalmers left Cavers in September, 1802. He was ordained as minister of the parish of Kilmany, in Fifeshire, on the 12th of May, 1803; and twelve of the most important and most fruitful years of his life were spent in this peaceful retreat. In the autumn of 1815, he was removed to Glasgow, in which city eight years of incessant but triumphant toil were devoted to all the different kinds of ministerial labor. In November, 1823, he final. ly resigned the pulpit for the professor's chair.
He was twenty-three years of age at the date of his ordination, and forty-three when he gave up his charge-his ministry as an ordained clergyman covering thus the space twenty years.
From the large mass of his pulpit preparations Dr. Chalmers had already selected those discourses which seemed to him the worthiest of being published-the dikeliest by their publication to do good. Out of the re'mainder it might have been perilous—it would perhaps have been improper—to have selected so many as thirtythree new sermons, and to have presented them as of
equal or kindred merit with those already issued through the press. It occurred to me, however, in reading over this class of his manuscripts, that without injury done to his usefulness or reputation as a preacher, a two-fold—a literary as well as a religious—object might be attained by the publication of a series of them arranged in chronological order.
It was as a preacher that Dr. Chalmers first reached celebrity. His earlier authorship had failed to make any deep impression on the public mind. His Treatise on the “ Evidences of Christianity" had begun to attract attention, and would finally have secured to him a high place among the defenders of the Christian faith ; but it was the publication of his “ Astronomical Discourses” which at once raised him to a pinnacle of higher eminence, gave to him a larger audience, and won for him a larger influence than it had been the lot of any Scottish minister from the days of the Reformation to enjoy. In these discourses, whose eloquence filled all eyes with its dazzling splendor, and opened all lips to praise, an idiomatic peculiarity of phraseology was at once observable. Under this new employer of it, our language took new forms, and showed itself capable of rendering new services; and while critics said of this new way of wielding words that it was neither strictly accurate nor classically elegant, it was universally felt and confessed that by an easy use and mastery of words and phrases which in other hands had been unmanageable, Dr. Chalmers possessed a rare, an unequaled power of setting forth his ideas in a multitude of changing phases, varying in a thousand ways the form of their presentation, not only without any injury to, but with positive and large enhancement of effect. There was an interminable but unwearying variety—a volu
minous amplitude which yet never passed into the turgid -the life-blood of a quick intelligence or a most fervid emotion “circulating vitality to the last extremities of expression—to the minutest ramifications of phrase.”
But this style of writing, how came it to be adopted and employed ? Had it an infancy, a growth ? And if so, what was its earliest, its infant condition and how rose it to such a stately muturity? This volume is presented as a help to him who would prosecute such inquiries. It furnishes him with the means of tracing up very nearly to its fountain-head, that full flowing river whose many-waved bosom has borne so many thousands so triumphantly along. He does not indeed here see that stream rolling at its largest breadth and with its fullest volume—for that it is to the Astronomical, or some other of the already published discourses, that he must look. Nor does he see it, as within narrower banks but with waters purer, deeper, stillier—with more of heaven's own pure light upon them, it ran on when near its close-for that it is to the Hore Sabbatice that he must look_but we raise him here to a stand-point whence he can see it through a longer period of its course, and trace it through more of its variations than previously lay open to his eye.
It is mainly, however, with a hope that, in the form given to it, this volume may serve as a contribution to the religious biography of Dr. Chalmers, that it is put into the reader's hands. Before him here, and within comparatively narrow compass, he has a series of compositions between the date of the first and the last of which an interval of very nearly half a century occurs. Had the topics treated of in these writings belonged even to any branch of a purely speculative philosophy, it
would have interested us to follow, through so long a line of progress, the advancing footsteps of an intellect gifted with such superior power, and urged on by so simple and so strong love of truth; and that interest would have been quickened into a heightened intensity had we been informed beforehand that, at a certain stage in his progress a singular revolution had taken place in the opinions and sentiments of the inquirer. But the topics dwelt upon throughout this volume-God, and the revelations He has made of Hirnself to man, man and his awful relationships with God and eternity—are no matters of mere barren speculation. According to the manner in which they are approached and dealt with by each of us they affect, closely and influentially, our state and character here, our prospects for eternity. It was in this light they were looked upon by the departed author of these writings. It is generally known that some years after his settlement at Kilmany, a revolution happened which altered the whole spirit, course, and object of his life and ministry. He himself believed, that upon the change which then took place his own salvation hinged. He believed that had that change not been realized, he should have stood at last hopelessly condemned at that tribunal before which he has now appeared. Although before that change his faith in the divine origin of Christianity was intelligent and entire—though all the doctrines which our standards teach were fully and unequivocally admitted by him—though as to all the external proprieties of professional conduct, and many of the most attractive virtues of social life, he might have challenged a comparison with the great majority of the men among whom he lived, yet was it his conviction that the faith which bringeth salvation had not till then been formed