Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]


three or four young kangaroos looking out of its false uterus to see what is passing. Then comes a quadruped as big as a large cat, with the eyes, color, and skin of a mole, and the bill and web-feet of a duck-puzzling Dr. Shaw, and rendering the latter half of his life miserable, from his utter inability to determine whether it was a bird or a beast. Add to this a parrot, with the legs of a seagull; a skate with the head of a shark; and a bird of such monstrous dimensions, that a side bone of it will dine three real carniverous Englishmen-together with many other productions that agitate Sir Joseph,1 and fill him with mingled emotions of distress and delight.


THOMAS CHALMERS, the distinguished Scottish divine, was born at Anstruther, in Fifeshire, on the 17th of March, 1780. In November, 1791, he was enrolled at the university of St. Andrew's, where he prosecuted his literary and theological studies. Two or three years after leaving the university, he obtained the church of Kilmany, in his native county. Here he continued to prosecute his scientific studies; and, in addition to his parochial labors, he lectured in the different towns on chemistry and other subjects, wrote many pamphlets on the topics of the day, and contributed the article "Christianity" to the "Edinburgh Encyclopædia," edited by Sir David Brewster. This was afterward published separately, under the title of "Evidences of the Christian Revelation."

In 1814, he removed to the new church of St. John's in Glasgow, and while there, rose to be the greatest preacher of the day-his fame extending not only over Great Britain, but throughout all Europe and America; and no visit to the country was deemed by any one complete unless he had heard Chalmers preach. But he was not content with his distinguished rank in theology, for in 1817 he entered the scientific arena, and published his celebrated "Discourses on Astronomy." In 1818 appeared his "Commercial Discourses;" in 1819 his "Occasional Discourses in the Tron Church and St. John's Church;" and in 1821 his "Civic and Christian Economy of Large Towns."

So far was he from confining his labors to his parochial his duty to aid every good cause designed to elevate man.

duties, that he felt it was in the management of the pauperism of his district of Glasgow. It had His greatest triumph hitherto cost about £1400 per annum. session should relieve the city of the collection and expenditure of the whole. Dr. Chalmers proposed that his kirkThe proposal was accepted, and immediately, through his deacons, (each of whom could carefully explore his own small district,) a thorough investigation was instituted into the circumstances of every pauper. Frauds almost innumerable were detected: lines were drawn between the deserving and the undeserving poor: the idle, the dissolute, and the drunken were often reclaimed: while it was frequently

found that a little friendly advice was all that was needed to prevent the honest and industrious from sinking into destitution. In short, the scheme turned out to be more a contrivance to prevent poverty than to relieve it, and the £1400 was reduced to £280 per annum.

After laboring for some years in Glasgow, he was appointed, in 1824, to the professorship of moral philosophy in the University of St. Andrew's. His arrival there gave an impulse to that ancient seminary, which brought back much of the glory of its former days. The next year he was invited to take a chair in the then projected London University, but declined. During the period of his settlement at St. Andrew's, he published his works "On Church and College Endowments," on "Political Economy," his "Bridgewater Treatise," and his "Lectures on the Romans." His published works form twenty-five volumes, and they have been widely circulated. In addition to these, he has made many and important contributions to periodical literature.

In 1828 he was removed to the chair of theology in the University of Edinburgh, the highest academical distinction which could be conferred; and here, undisturbed by any change, he prosecuted his labors for many years, and concentrated upon himself a deeper interest than any other clergyman of the religious world either in Great Britain or America. Then came the memorable year 1843, when a very large and influential number of the clergy and their congregations seceded from the Established Church of Scotland, in defence of their right to have only such pastors as were their own choice, and not such as dukes and lords might thrust upon them at pleasure. Dr. Chalmers led the seceding party, and consequently resigned his professorship in the university-a noble instance of sacrificing all worldly advantage for the cause of truth.

Few scholars had accumulated so many academic honors as Dr. Chalmers. He received the degree of LL.D. from the University of Oxford, and was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Institute of France, honors never before awarded to a Presbyterian divine, and seldom to a Scotsman. In fine, while living he received all the homage and respect usually accorded to great men when dead, and this mainly because, while living, he was a good man as well as a great man. With him religion was not a mere theory on which he could expatiate with a wondrous grasp of intellect, illustrate with the most vivid imagination, and set before an audience in all the perspicuity and clearness that a complete mastery of his subject could accomplish. It was a living faith that mingled with all his thoughts, imparted a tone to his language, and moulded his actions; it was realized in his whole course of conduct. His attainments in science, his genius, his life seemed devoted to one end-to raise his country by the lever of religion.

Dr. Chalmers retired to rest on the evening of Sunday, May 30, 1847, apparently in perfect health, and died calmly during the night, the bed-clothes being found undisturbed about his person. The news of his death caused a most profound sensation throughout Great Britain and America, for it was felt that one of the brightest lights in the literary and religious world had gone out.1

1 Read "Edinburgh Review," lvi. 52; "Gentleman's Magazine," June, 1845, February, 1850, and October, 1850; also London Athenæum, 1847, pp. 597, 603, and 887.


Though the earth were to be burned up, though the trumpet of its dissolution were sounded, though yon sky were to pass away as a scroll, and every visible glory which the finger of the Divinity has inscribed on it were extinguished for ever-an event so awful to us, and to every world in our vicinity, by which so many suns would be extinguished, and so many varied scenes of life and population would rush into forgetfulness,-what is it in the high scale of the Almighty's workmanship? A mere shred, which, though scattered into nothing, would leave the universe of God one entire scene of greatness and majesty. Though the earth and the heavens were to disappear, there are other worlds which roll afar; the light of other suns shines upon them; and the sky which mantles them is garnished with other stars. Is it presumption to say, that the moral world extends to these distant and unknown regions? that they are occupied with people? that the charities of home and of neighborhood flourish there? that the praises of God are there lifted up, and his goodness rejoiced in? that there piety has its temples and its offerings? and the richness of the Divine attributes is there felt and admired by intelligent worshippers?

And what is this world in the immensity which teems with them; and what are they who occupy it? The universe at large would suffer as little in its splendor and variety by the destruction of our planet, as the verdure and sublime magnitude of a forest would suffer by the fall of a single leaf. The leaf quivers on the branch which supports it. It lies at the mercy of the slightest accident. A breath of wind tears it from its stem, and it lights on the stream of water which passes underneath. In a moment of time, the life, which we know by the microscope it teems with, is extinguished; and an occurrence so insignificant in the eye of man, and in the scale of his observation, carries in it, to the myriads which people this little leaf, an event as terrible and as decisive as the destruction of a world.

Now, on the grand scale of the universe, we, the occupiers of this ball, which performs its little round among the suns and the systems which astronomy has unfolded-we may feel the same littleness, and the same insecurity. We differ from the leaf only in this circumstance, that it would require the operation of greater elements to destroy us. But these elements exist. The fire which rages within may lift its devouring energy to the surface of our planet, and transform it into one wide and wasting volcano. The sudden formation of elastic matter in the bowels of the earth-and it lies within the agency of known substances to accomplish this-may explode it into fragnients. The exhalation of noxious air from below may impart a virulence to the air that is around us; it may

affect the delicate portion of its ingredients; and the whole of animated nature may wither and die under the malignity of a tainted atmosphere. A blazing comet may cross this fated planet in its orbit, and realize all the terrors which superstition has conceived of it. We cannot anticipate with precision the consequences of an event which every astronomer must know to lie within the limits of chance and probability. It may hurry our globe towards the sun— or drag it to the outer regions of the planetary system-or give it a new axis of revolution--and the effect which I shall simply announce, without explaining it, would be to change the place of the ocean, and bring another mighty flood upon our islands and conti


These are accidents which may happen in a single instant of time, and against which nothing known in the present system of things provides us with any security. They might not annihilate the earth, but they would unpeople it; and we, who tread its surface with such firm and assured footsteps, are at the mercy of devouring elements, which, if let loose upon us by the hand of the Almighty, would spread solitude, and silence, and death over the dominions of the world.

Now, it is this littleness, and this insecurity, which make the protection of the Almighty so dear to us, and bring with such emphasis to every pious bosom the holy lessons of humility and gratitude. The God who sitteth above, and presides in high authority over all worlds, is mindful of man; and, though at this moment his energy is felt in the remotest provinces of creation, we may feel the same security in his providence as if we were the objects of his undivided care.

It is not for us to bring our minds up to this mysterious agency. But such is the incomprehensible fact, that the same Being, whose eye is abroad over the whole universe, gives vegetation to every blade of grass, and motion to every particle of blood which circulates through the veins of the minutest animal; that, though his mind takes into its comprehensive grasp immensity and all its wonders, I am as much known to him as if I were the single object of his attention; that he marks all my thoughts; that he gives birth to every feeling and every movement within me; and that, with an exercise of power which I can neither describe nor comprehend, the same God who sits in the highest heaven, and reigns over the glories of the firmament, is at my right hand, to give me every breath which I draw, and every comfort which I enjoy.


About the time of the invention of the telescope, another instrument was formed, which laid open a scene no less wonderful, nor

less rewarding the inquisitive spirit of man. This was the microscope. The one led me to see a system in every star; the other leads me to see a world in every atom. The one taught me that this mighty globe, with the whole burden of its people and of its countries, is but a grain of sand on the high field of immensity; the other teaches me that every grain of sand may harbor within it the tribes and the families of a busy population. The one told me of the insignificance of the world I tread upon; the other redeems it from all its insignificance, for it tells me that in the leaves of every forest, and in the flowers of every garden, and in the waters of every rivulet, there are worlds teeming with life, and numberless as are the glories of the firmament. The one has suggested to me that, beyond and above all that is visible to man, there may lie fields of creation which sweep immeasurably along, and carry the impress of the Almighty's hand to the remotest scenes of the universe; the other suggests to me that, within and beneath all that minuteness which the aided eye of man has been able to explore, there may lie a region of invisibles, and that, could we draw aside the mysterious curtain which shrouds it from our senses, we might there see a theatre of as many wonders as astronomy has unfolded, a universe within the compass of a point so small as to elude all the powers of the microscope, but where the wonder-working God finds room for the exercise of all His attributes, where He can raise another mechanism of worlds, and fill and animate them all with the evidences of His glory. ***They, therefore, who think that God will not put forth such a power and such a goodness and such a condescension in behalf of this world as are ascribed to Him in the New Testament, because He has so many other worlds to attend to, think of Him as a man. They confine their view to the informations of the telescope, and forget altogether the informations of the other instrument. They only find room in their minds for His one attribute of a large and general superintendence, and keep out of their remembrance the equally impressive proofs we have for His other attribute of a minute and multiplied attention to all that diversity of operations, where it is He that worketh all in all. And when I think, that as one of the instruments of philosophy has heightened our every impression of the first of these attributes, so another instrument has no less heightened our impression of the second of them then I can no longer resist the conclusion, that it would be a transgression of sound argument, as well as a daring of impiety, to draw a limit around the doings of this unsearchable God; and, should a professed revelation from heaven tell me of an act of condescension, in behalf of some separate world, so wonderful, that angels desired to look into it, and the eternal Son had to move from His seat of glory to carry it into accomplishment, all I ask is the evidence of such a revelation; for, let it tell me as much as it may

« AnteriorContinuar »