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An essay by John Brown

Dr. Chalmers

Title:     Dr. Chalmers
Author: John Brown [More Titles by Brown]

"Fervet immensusque ruit._"--HOR.

"_His memory long will live alone
In all our hearts, as mournful light
That broods above the fallen sun,
And dwells in heaven half the night."


"_He was not one man, he was a thousand men._"--SYDNEY SMITH.

When, towards the close of some long summer day, we come suddenly, and, as we think, before his time, upon the broad sun, "sinking down in his tranquillity" into the unclouded west, we cannot keep our eyes from the great spectacle,--and when he is gone the shadow of him haunts our sight: we see everywhere,--upon the spotless heaven, upon the distant mountains, upon the fields, and upon the road at our feet,--that dim, strange, changeful image; and if our eyes shut, to recover themselves, we still find in them, like a dying flame, or like a gleam in a dark place, the unmistakable phantom of the mighty orb that has set,--and were we to sit down, as we have often done, and try to record by pencil or by pen, our impression of that supreme hour, still would IT be there. We must have patience with our eye, it will not let the impression go,--that spot on which the radiant disk was impressed, is insensible to all other outward things, for a time: its best relief is, to let the eye wander vaguely over earth and sky, and repose itself on the mild shadowy distance.

So it is when a great and good and beloved man departs, sets--it may be suddenly--and to us who know not the times and the seasons, _too soon_. We gaze eagerly at his last hours, and when he is gone, never to rise again on our sight, we see his image wherever we go, and in whatsoever we are engaged, and if we try to record by words our wonder, our sorrow, and our affection, we cannot see to do it, for the "idea of his life" is forever coming into our "study of imagination "--into all our thoughts, and we can do little else than let our mind, in a wise passiveness, hush itself to rest. The sun returns--he knows his rising--

"To-morrow he repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky;"

but man lieth down, and riseth not again till the heavens are no more. Never again will he whose "Meditations" are now before us, lift up the light of his countenance upon us.

We need not say we look upon him, as a great man, as a good man, as a beloved man,--_quis desiderio sit pudor tam cari capitis?_ We cannot now go very curiously to work, to scrutinize the composition of his character,--we cannot take that large, free, genial nature to pieces, and weigh this and measure that, and sum up and pronounce; we are too near as yet to him, and to his loss, he is too dear to us to be so handled. "His death," to use the pathetic words of Hartley Coleridge, "is a recent sorrow; his image still lives in eyes that weep for him." The prevailing feeling is,--He is gone--"_abiit ad plures_--he has gone over to the majority, he has joined the famous nations of the dead."

It is no small loss to the world, when one of its master spirits--one of its great lights--a king among the nations--leaves it. A sun is extinguished; a great attractive, regulating power is withdrawn. For though it be a common, it is also a natural thought, to compare a great man to the sun; it is in many respects significant. Like the sun, he rules his day, and he is "for a sign and for seasons, and for days and for years;" he enlightens, quickens, attracts, and leads after him his host--his generation.

To pursue our image. When the sun sets to us, he rises elsewhere--he goes on rejoicing, like a strong man, running his race. So does a great man: when he leaves us and our concerns--he rises elsewhere; and we may reasonably suppose that one who has in this world played a great part in its greatest histories--who has through a long life been preeminent for promoting the good of men and the glory of God--will be looked upon with keen interest, when he joins the company of the immortals. They must have heard of his fame; they may in their ways have seen and helped him already.

Every one must have trembled when reading that passage in Isaiah, in which Hell is described as moved to meet Lucifer at his coming: there is not in human language anything more sublime in conception, more exquisite in expression; it has on it the light of the terrible crystal. But may we not reverse the scene? May we not imagine, when a great and good man--a son of the morning--enters on his rest, that Heaven would move itself to meet him at his coming? That it would stir up its dead, even all the chief ones of the earth, and that the kings of the nations would arise each one from his throne to welcome their brother? that those who saw him would "narrowly consider him," and say, "is this he who moved nations, enlightened and bettered his fellows, and whom the great Taskmaster welcomes with 'Well done!'"

We cannot help following him, whose loss we now mourn, into that region, and figuring to ourselves his great, childlike spirit, when that unspeakable scene bursts upon his view, when, as by some inward, instant sense, he is conscious of God--of the immediate presence of the All-seeing Unseen; when he beholds "His honorable, true, and only Son," face to face, enshrined in "that glorious form, that light unsufferable, and that far-beaming blaze of majesty," that brightness of His glory, that express image of His person; when he is admitted into the goodly fellowship of the apostles--the glorious company of the prophets--the noble army of martyrs--the general assembly of just men--and beholds with his loving eyes the myriads of "little ones," outnumbering their elders as the dust of stars with which the galaxy is filled exceeds in multitude the hosts of heaven.

What a change! death the gate of life--a second birth, in the twinkling of an eye: this moment, weak, fearful, in the amazement of death; the next, strong, joyful,--at rest,--all things new! To adopt his own words: all his life, up to the last, "knocking at a door not yet opened, with an earnest indefinite longing,--his very soul breaking for the longing,--drinking of water, and thirsting again"--and then--suddenly and at once-a door opened into heaven, and the Master heard saying, "Come in, and come up hither!" drinking of the river of life, clear as crystal, of which if a man drink he will never thirst,--being filled with all the fulness of God!

* * * * *

Dr. Chalmers was a ruler among men: this we know historically; this every man who came within his range felt at once. He was like Agamemnon, a native {anax andron}, and with all his homeliness of feature and deportment, and his perfect simplicity of expression, there was about him "that divinity that doth hedge a king." You felt a power, in him, and going from him, drawing you to him in spite of yourself. He was in this respect a _solar_ man, he drew after him his own firmament of planets. They, like all free agents, had their centrifugal forces acting ever towards an independent, solitary course, but the centripetal also was there, and they moved with and around their imperial sun,--gracefully or not, willingly or not, as the case might be, but there was no breaking loose: they again, in their own spheres of power, might have their attendant moons, but all were bound to the great massive luminary in the midst.

There is to us a continual mystery in this power of one man over another. We find it acting everywhere, with the simplicity, the ceaselessness, the energy of gravitation; and we may be permitted to speak of this influence as obeying similar conditions; it is proportioned to _bulk_--for we hold to the notion of a bigness in souls as well as bodies--one soul differing from another in quantity and momentum as well as in quality and force, and its intensity increases by nearness. There is much in what Jonathan Edwards says of one spiritual essence having more being than another, and in Dr. Chalmers's question, "Is he a man of _wecht_?"

But when we meet a _solar_ man, of ample nature--soul, body, and spirit; when we find him from his earliest years moving among his fellows like a king, moving them whether they will or not--this feeling of mystery is deepened; and though we would not, like some men (who should know better), worship the creature and convert a hero into a god, we do feel more than in other cases the truth, that it is the inspiration of the Almighty which has given to that man understanding, and that all power, all energy, all light, come to him, from the First and the Last--the Living One. God comes to be regarded by us, in this instance, as he ought always to be, "the final centre of repose"--the source of all being, of all life--the _Terminus ad quem_ and the _Terminus a quo_. And assuredly, as in the firmament that simple law of gravitation reigns supreme--making it indeed a _kosmos_--majestic, orderly, comely in its going--ruling, and binding not the less the fiery and nomadic comets, than the gentle, punctual moons--so certainly, and to us moral creatures to a degree transcendantly more important, does the whole intelligent universe move around and move towards and in the Father of Lights.

It would be well if the world would, among the many other uses they make of its great men, make more of this,--that they are manifestors of God--revealers of His will--vessels of His omnipotence--and are among the very chiefest of His ways and works.

As we have before said, there is a perpetual wonder in this power of one man over his fellows, especially when we meet with it in a great man. You see its operations constantly in history, and through it the Great Ruler has worked out many of His greatest and strangest acts. But however we may understand the accessory conditions by which the one man rules the many, and controls, and fashions them to his purposes, and transforms them into his likeness--multiplying as it were himself--there remains at the bottom of it all a mystery--a reaction between body and soul that we cannot explain. Generally, however, we find accompanying its manifestation, a capacious understanding--a strong will--an emotional nature quick, powerful, urgent, undeniable, in perpetual communication with the energetic will and the large resolute intellect--and a strong, hearty, capable body; a countenance and person expressive of this combination--the mind finding its way at once and in full force to the face, to the gesture, to every act of the body. He must have what is called a "presence;" not that he must be great in size, beautiful, or strong; but he must be expressive and impressive--his outward man must communicate to the beholder at once and without fail, something of indwelling power, and he must be and act as _one_. You may in your mind analyze him into his several parts; but practically he acts in everything with his whole soul and his whole self; whatsoever his hand finds to do, he does it with his might. Luther, Moses, David, Mahomet, Cromwell--all verified these conditions.

And so did Dr. Chalmers. There was something about his whole air and manner, that disposed you at the very first to make way where he went--he held you before you were aware. That this depended fully as much upon the activity and the quantity--if we may so express ourselves--of his affections, upon that combined action of mind and body which we call temperament, and upon a straightforward, urgent will, as upon what is called the pure intellect, will be generally allowed; but with all this, he could not have been and done, what he was and did, had he not had an understanding, in vigor and in capacity, worthy of its great and ardent companions. It was large, and free, mobile, and intense, rather than penetrative, judicial, clear, or fine,--so that in one sense he was more a man to make others _act_ than _think_; but his own actings had always their origin in some fixed, central, inevitable _proposition_, as he would call it, and he began his onset with stating plainly, and with lucid calmness, what he held to be a great seminal truth; from this he passed at once, not into exposition, but into illustration and enforcement--into, if we may make a word, overwhelming insistance. Something was to be done, rather than explained.

There was no separating his thoughts and expressions from his person, and looks, and voice. How perfectly we can at this moment recall him! Thundering, flaming, lightening in the pulpit; teaching, indoctrinating, drawing after him his students in his lecture-room; sitting among other public men, the most unconscious, the most king-like of them all, with that broad leonine countenance, that beaming, liberal smile; or on the way out to his home, in his old-fashioned great-coat, with his throat muffled up, his big walking-stick moved outwards in an arc, its point fixed, its head circumferential, a sort of companion, and playmate, with which doubtless, he demolished legions of imaginary foes, errors, and stupidities in men and things, in Church and State. His great look, large chest, large head, his amplitude every way; his broad, simple, childlike, inturned feet; his short, hurried impatient step; his erect, royal air; his look of general good-will; his kindling up into a warm but vague benignity when one he did not recognize spoke to him; the addition, for it was not a change, of keen specialty to his hearty recognition; the twinkle of his eyes; the immediately saying something very personal to set all to rights, and then the sending you off with some thought, some feeling, some remembrance, making your heart burn within you; his voice indescribable: his eye--that most peculiar feature--not vacant, but _asleep_--innocent, mild, and large; and his soul, its great inhabitant, not always at his window; but then, when he did awake, how close to you was that burning vehement soul! how it penetrated and overcame you! how mild, and affectionate, and genial its expression at his own fireside!

Of his portraits worth mentioning, there are Watson Gordon's, Duncan's--the Calotypes of Mr. Hill--Kenneth M'Leay's miniatures--the Daguerreotype, and Steell's bust. These are all good, and all give bits of him, some nearly the whole, but not one of them that {ti thermon}, that _fiery particle_--that inspired look--that "diviner mind"--the _poco piu_, or little more. Watson Gordon's is too much of the mere clergyman--is a pleasant likeness, and has the shape of his mouth, and the setting of his feet very good. Duncan's is a work of genius, and is the giant looking up, awakening, but not awakened--it is a very fine picture. Mr. Hill's Calotypes we like better than all the rest; because what in them is true, is absolutely so, and they have some delicate renderings which are all but beyond the power of any human artist; for though man's art is mighty, nature's is mightier. The one of the Doctor sitting with his grandson "_Tommy_" is to us the best; we have the true grandeur of his form--his bulk. M'Leay's is admirable-spirited--and has that look of shrewdness and vivacity and immediateness which he had when he was observing and speaking keenly; it is, moreover, a fine, manly bit of art. M'Leay is the Raeburn of miniature painters--he does a great deal with little. The Daguerreotype is, in its own way, excellent; it gives the externality of the man to perfection, but it is Dr. Chalmers at a stand-still--his mind and feelings "pulled up" for the second that it was taken. Steell's is a noble bust--has a stern heroic expression and pathetic beauty about it, and from wanting color and shadow and the eyes, it relies upon a certain simplicity and grandeur;--in this it completely succeeds--the mouth is handled with extraordinary subtlety and sweetness, and the hair hangs over that huge brow like a glorious cloud. We think this head of Dr. Chalmers the artist's greatest bust.

In reference to the assertion we have made as to bulk forming one primary element of a powerful mind, Dr. Chalmers used to say, when a man of activity and public mark was mentioned, "Has he _wecht?_ he has promptitude--has he power? he has power--has he promptitude? and, moreover, has he a discerning spirit?"

These are great practical, universal truths. How few even of our greatest men have had all these three faculties large--fine, sound, and in "perfect diapason." Your men of promptitude, without power or judgment, are common and are useful. But they are apt to run wild, to get needlessly brisk, unpleasantly incessant. A weasel is good or bad as the case may be,--good against vermin--bad to meddle with;--but inspired weasels, weasels on a mission, are terrible indeed, mischievous and fell, and swiftness making up for want of momentum by inveteracy; "fierce as wild bulls, _untamable as flies_." Of such men we have nowadays too many. Men are too much in the way of supposing that _doing_ is _being;_ that theology and excogitation, and fierce dogmatic assertion of what they consider truth, is godliness; that obedience is merely an occasional great act, and not a series of acts, issuing from a state, like the stream of water from its well.

"Action is transitory--a step--a blow,
The motion of a muscle--this way or that;
'Tis done--and in the after vacancy,
We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed.
Suffering" (_obedience_, or _being_ as opposed to _doing_)--
"Suffering is permanent,----
And has the nature of infinity."

Dr. Chalmers was a man of genius--he had his own way of thinking, and saying, and doing, and looking everything. Men have vexed themselves in vain to define what genius is; like every ultimate term we may describe it by giving its effects, we can hardly succeed in reaching its essence. Fortunately, though we know not what are its elements, we know it when we meet it; and in him, in every movement of his mind, in every gesture, we had its unmistakable tokens. Two of the ordinary accompaniments of genius--Enthusiasm and Simplicity--he had in rare measure.

He was an _enthusiast_ in its true and good sense; he was "entheat," as if full of God, as the old poets called it. It was this ardor, this superabounding life, this immediateness of thought and action, idea and emotion, setting the whole man a-going at once--that gave a power and a charm to everything he did. To adopt the old division of the Hebrew Doctors, as given by Nathanael Culverwel, in his "Light of Nature:" In man we have--_1st_, {pneuma zoopoioun}, _the sensitive soul_, that which lies nearest the body--the very blossom and flower of life; _2d_, {ton noun}, _animam rationis_, sparkling and glittering with intellectuals, crowned with light; and _3d_, {ton thymon}, _impetum animi, motum mentis_, the vigor and energy of the soul--its temper--the mover of the other two--the first being, as they said, resident _in hepate_--the second _in cerebro_--the third _in corde_, where it presides over the issues of life, commands the circulation, and animates and sets the blood a-moving. The first and second are informative, explicative, they "take in and do"--the other "gives out." Now in Dr. Chalmers, the great ingredient was the {ho thymos} as indicating _vis animae et vitae_,--and in close fellowship with it, and ready for its service, was a large, capacious {ho nous}, and an energetic, sensuous, rapid {to pneuma}. Hence his energy, his contagious enthusiasm--this it was which gave the peculiar character to his religion, to his politics, to his _personnel_; everything he did was done heartily--if he desired heavenly blessings he "panted" for them--"his soul broke for the longing." To give again the words of the spiritual and subtle Culverwel, "Religion (and indeed everything else) was no matter of indifferency to him. It was {thermon ti pragma}, a certain fiery thing, as Aristotle calls love; it required and it got the very flower and vigor of the spirit--the strength and sinews of the soul--the prime and top of the affections--this is that grace, that panting grace--we know the name of it and that's all--'tis called zeal--a flaming edge of the affection--the ruddy complexion of the soul." Closely connected with this temperament, and with a certain keen sensation of truth, rather than a perception of it, if we may so express ourselves, an intense consciousness of objective reality,--was his simple animating faith. He had faith in God--faith in human nature--faith, if we may say so, in his own instincts--in his ideas of men and things--_in himself_; and the result was, that unhesitating bearing up and steering right onward--"never bating one jot of heart or hope" so characteristic of him. He had "the _substance_ of things hoped for." He had "the _evidence_ of things not seen."

By his _simplicity_ we do not mean the simplicity of the head--of that he had none; he was eminently shrewd and knowing--more so than many thought; but we refer to that quality of the heart and of the life, expressed by the words, "in simplicity a child." In his own words, from his Daily Readings,--

"When a child is filled with any strong emotion by a surprising event or intelligence, it _runs_ to discharge it on others, impatient of their sympathy; and it marks, I fancy, the simplicity and greater naturalness of this period (Jacob's), that the grown-up men and women _ran_ to meet each other, giving way to their first impulses--even as children do."

His emotions were as lively as a child's, and he ran to discharge them. There was in all his ways a certain beautiful unconsciousness of self--an outgoing of the whole nature that we see in children, who are by learned men said to be long ignorant of the EGO--blessed in many respects in their ignorance! This same Ego, as it now exists, being perhaps part of "the fruit of that forbidden tree;" that mere knowledge of _good_ as well as of _evil_, which our great mother bought for us at such a price. In this meaning of the word, Dr. Chalmers, considering the size of his understanding--his personal eminence--his dealings with the world--his large sympathies--his scientific knowledge of mind and matter--his relish for the practical details, and for the spirit of public business--was quite singular for his simplicity; and taking this view of it, there was much that was plain and natural in his manner of thinking and acting, which otherwise was obscure, and liable to be misunderstood. We cannot better explain what we mean than by giving a passage from Fenelon, which D'Alembert, in his Eloge, quotes as characteristic of that "sweet-souled" prelate. We give the passage entire, as it seems to us to contain a very beautiful, and by no means commonplace truth:--

"Fenelon," says D'Alembert, "a caracterise lui-meme en peu de mots cette simplicite qui se rendoit si cher a tous les coeurs, 'La simplicite est la droiture d'une ame qui s'interdit tout retour sur elle et sur ses actions--cette vertu est differente de la sincerite, et la surpasse. On voit beaucoup de gens qui sont sinceres sans etre simples--Ils ne veulent passer que pour ce qu'ils sont, mais ils craignent sans cesse de passer pour ce qu'ils ne sont pas. L'homme simple n'affecte ni la vertu, ni la verite meme; il n'est jamais occupe de lui, il semble d'avoir perdu ce _moi_ dont on est si jaloux.'"

What delicacy and justness of expression! how true and clear! how little we see nowadays, among grown-up men, of this straightness of the soul--of this losing or never finding "_ce moi!_" There is more than is perhaps generally thought in this. Man in a state of perfection, would no sooner think of asking himself--am I right? am I appearing to be what inwardly I am? than the eye asks itself--do I see? or a child says to itself--do I love my mother? We have lost this instinctive sense; we have set one portion of ourselves aside to watch the rest; we must keep up appearances and our consistency; we must respect--that is, look back upon--ourselves, and be respected, if possible; we must, by hook or by crook, be respectable.

Dr. Chalmers would have made a sorry Balaam; he was made of different stuff, and for other purposes. Your "respectable" men are ever doing their best to keep their status, to maintain their position. He never troubled himself about his status; indeed, we would say _status_ was not the word for him. He had a _sedes_ on which he sat, and from which he spoke; he had an _imperium_, to and fro which he roamed as he listed; but a _status_ was as little in his way as in that of a Mauritanian lion. Your merely "sincere" men are always thinking of what they said yesterday, and what they may say to-morrow, at the very moment when they should be putting their whole self into to-day. Full of his idea, possessed by it, moved altogether by its power,--believing, he spoke, and without stint or fear, often _apparently_ contradicting his former self--careless about everything, but speaking fully his mind. One other reason for his apparent inconsistencies was, if one may so express it, the spaciousness of his nature. He had room in that capacious head, and affection in that great, hospitable heart, for relishing and taking in the whole range of human thought and feeling. He was several men in one. Multitudinous but not multiplex, in him odd and apparently incongruous notions dwelt peaceably together. The lion lay down with the lamb. Voluntaryism and an endowment--both were best.

He was _childlike_ in his simplicity; though in understanding a man, he was himself in many things a child. Coleridge says, every man should include all his former selves in his present, as a tree has its former years' growths inside its last; so Dr. Chalmers bore along with him his childhood, his youth, his early and full manhood into his mature old age. This gave himself, we doubt not, infinite delight--multiplied his joys, strengthened and sweetened his whole nature, and kept his heart young and tender; it enabled him to sympathize, to have a fellow-feeling with all, of whatever age. Those who best knew him, who were most habitually with him, know how beautifully this point of his character shone out in daily, hourly life. We well remember long ago loving him before we had seen him--from our having been told, that being out one Saturday at a friend's house near the Pentlands, he collected all the children and small people--the _other_ bairns, as he called them--and with no one else of his own growth, took the lead to the nearest hill-top,--how he made each take the biggest and roundest stone he could find, and carry,--how he panted up the hill himself with one of enormous size,--how he kept up their hearts, and made them shout with glee, with the light of his countenance, and with all his pleasant and strange ways and words,--how having got the breathless little men and women to the top of the hill, he, hot and scant of breath--looked round on the world and upon them with his broad benignant smile like the {anerithmon kymaton gelasma}--the unnumbered laughter of the sea,--how he set off his own huge "fellow,"--how he watched him setting out on his race, slowly, stupidly, vaguely at first, almost as if he might die before he began to live, then suddenly giving a spring and off like a shot--bounding, tearing, {autis epeita pedonde kylindeto laas anaides}, _vires acquirens eundo_; how the great and good man was _totus in illo_; how he spoke to, upbraided him, cheered him, gloried in him, all but prayed for him,--how he joked philosophy to his wondering and ecstatic crew, when he (the stone) disappeared among some brackens--telling them they had the evidence of their senses that he was in, they might even know he was there by his effects, by the moving brackens, himself unseen; how plain it became that he had gone in, when he actually came out!--how he ran up the opposite side a bit, and then fell back, and lazily expired at the bottom,--how to their astonishment, but not displeasure--for he "set them off so well," and "was so funny"--he took from each his cherished stone, and set it off himself! showing them how they all ran alike, yet differently; how he went on, "making," as he said, "an induction of particulars," till he came to the Benjamin of the flock, a _wee wee_ man, who had brought up a stone bigger than his own big head; then how he let him, _unicus omnium_, set off his own, and how wonderfully IT ran! what miraculous leaps! what escapes from impossible places! and how it ran up the other side farther than any, and by some felicity remained there.

* * * * *

He was an orator in its specific and highest sense. We need not prove this to those who have heard him; we cannot to those who have not. It was a living man sending living, burning words into the minds and hearts of men before him, radiating his intense fervor upon them all; but there was no reproducing the entire effect when alone and cool; some one of the elements was gone. We say nothing of this part of his character, because upon this all are agreed. His eloquence rose like a tide, a sea, setting in, bearing down upon you, lifting up all its waves--"deep calling unto deep;" there was no doing anything but giving yourself up for the time to its will. Do our readers remember Horace's description of Pindar?

"Monte decurrens velut amnis, imbres
Quem super uotas aluere ripas,
Fervet, immensusque ruit profundo
Pindarus ore:

--'per audaces nova dithyrambos
Verba devolvit, numerisque fertur
Lege solutis.'"

This is to our mind singularly characteristic of our perfervid Scotsman. If we may indulge our conceit we would paraphrase it thus. His eloquence was like a flooded Scottish river,--it had its origin in some exalted region--in some mountain-truth--some high, immutable reality; it did not rise in a plain, and quietly drain its waters to the sea,--it came sheer down from above. He laid hold of some simple truth--the love of God, the Divine method of justification, the unchangeableness of human nature, the supremacy of conscience, the honorableness of all men; and having got this vividly before his mind, on he moved--the river rose at once, drawing everything into its course--

"All thoughts, all passions, all desires,--
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,"

things outward and things inward, interests immediate and remote--God and eternity--men, miserable and immortal--this world and the next--clear light and unsearchable mystery--the word and the works of God--everything contributed to swell the volume and add to the onward and widening flood. His river did not flow like Denham's Thames,--

"Though deep yet clear, though gentle yet not dull;
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."

There was strength, but there was likewise rage; a fine frenzy--not unoften due mainly to its rapidity and to its being raised suddenly by his affections; there was some confusion in the stream of his thoughts, some overflowing of the banks, some turbulence, and a certain noble immensity; but its origin was clear and calm, above the region of clouds and storms. If you saw _it_; if you took up and admitted his proposition, his starting idea, then all else moved on; but once set a-going, once on his way, there was no pausing to inquire, why or how--_fervet_--_ruit_--_fertur_, he boils--he rushes--he is borne along; and so are all who hear him.

To go on with our figure--There was no possibility of sailing up his stream. You must go with him, or you must go ashore. This was a great peculiarity with him, and puzzled many people. You could argue with him, and get him to entertain your ideas on any purely abstract or simple proposition,--at least for a time; but once let him get down among practicals, among applications of principles, into the regions of the affections and active powers, and such was the fervor and impetuosity of his nature, that he could not stay leisurely to discuss, he could not then entertain the opposite; it was hurried off, and made light of, and disregarded, like a floating thing before a cataract.

To play a little more with our conceit--The greatest man is he who is both born and made--who is at once poetical and scientific--who has genius and talent--each supporting the other. So with rivers. Your mighty world's river rises in high and lonely places, among the everlasting hills; amidst clouds, or inaccessible clearness. On he moves, gathering to himself all waters; refreshing, cheering all lands. Here a cataract, there a rapid; now lingering in some corner of beauty, as if loath to go. Now shallow and wide, rippling and laughing in his glee; now deep, silent, and slow; now narrow and rapid and deep, and not to be meddled with. Now in the open country; not so clear, for other waters have come in upon him, and he is becoming useful, no longer turbulent,--travelling more contentedly; now he is navigable, craft of all kinds coming and going upon his surface forever; and then, as if by some gentle and great necessity, "deep and smooth, passing with a still foot and a sober face," he pays his last tribute to "the _Fiscus_, the great Exchequer, the sea,"--running out fresh, by reason of his power and volume, into the main for many a league.

Your mere genius, who has instincts, and is poetical and not scientific, who grows from within--he is like our mountain river, clear, wilful, odd; running round corners; disappearing it may be under ground, coming up again quite unexpectedly and strong, as if fed from some unseen spring, deep down in darkness; rising in flood without warning, and coming down like a lion; often all but dry; never to be trusted to for driving mills; must at least be tamed and led off to the mill; and going down full pace, and without stop or stay, into the sea.

Your man of talent, of acquirements, of science--who is made,--who is not so much educed as edified; who, instead of acquiring his _vires eundo_, gets his _vires eundi_, from acquirement, and grows from without; who serves his brethren and is useful; he rises often no one knows where or cares; has perhaps no proper fountain at all, but is the result of the gathered rain-water in the higher flats; he is never quite clear, never brisk, never dangerous; always from the first useful, and goes pleasantly in harness; turns mills; washes rags--makes them into paper; carries down all manner of dye-stuffs and feculence; and turns a bread-mill to as good purpose as any clearer stream; is docile, and has, as he reaches the sea, in his dealings with the world, a river trust, who look after his and their own interests, and dredge him, and deepen him, and manage him, and turn him off into docks, and he is in the sea before he or you know it.

* * * * *

Though we do not reckon the _imagination_ of Dr. Chalmers among his master faculties, it was powerful, effective, magnificent. It did not move him, he took it up as he went along; its was not that imperial, penetrating, transmuting function that we find it in Dante, in Jeremy Taylor, in Milton, or in Burke; he used it to emblazon his great central truths, to hang clouds of glory on the skirts of his illustration; but it was too passionate, too material, too encumbered with images, too involved in the general _melee_ of the soul, to do its work as a master. It was not in him, as Thomas Fuller calls it, "that inward sense of the soul, its most boundless and restless faculty; for while the understanding and the will are kept as it were _in libera custodia_ to their objects of _verum et bonum_, it is free from all engagements--digs without spade, flies without wings, builds without charges, in a moment striding from the centre to the circumference of the world by a kind of omnipotency, creating and annihilating things in an instant--restless, ever working, never wearied." We may say, indeed, that men of his temperament are not generally endowed with this power in largest measure; in one sense they can do without it, in another they want the conditions on which its highest exercise depends. Plato and Milton, Shakspeare and Dante, and Wordsworth, had imaginations tranquil, sedate, cool, originative, penetrative, intense, which dwelt in the "highest heaven of invention." Hence it was that Chalmers could personify or paint a passion; he could give it in one of its actions; he could not, or rather he never did impassionate, create, and vivify a person--a very different thing from personifying a passion--all the difference, as Henry Taylor says, between Byron and Shakspeare.

In his impetuosity, we find the rationale of much that is peculiar in the style of Dr. Chalmers. As a spoken style it was thoroughly effective.[1] He seized the nearest weapons, and smote down whatever he hit. But from this very vehemence, this haste, there was in his general style a want of correctness, of selectness, of nicety, of that curious felicity which makes thought immortal, and enshrines it in imperishable crystal. In the language of the affections he was singularly happy; but in a formal statement, rapid argumentation and analysis, he was often as we might think, uncouth, and imperfect, and incorrect: chiefly owing to his temperament, to his fiery, impatient, swelling spirit, this gave his orations their fine audacity--this brought out hot from the furnace his new words--this made his numbers run wild--_lege solutis_. We are sure this view will be found confirmed by these "Daily Readings," when he wrote little, and had not time to get heated, and when the nature of the work, the hour at which it was done, and his solitariness, made his thoughts flow at their "own sweet will;" they are often quite as classical in expression, as they are deep and lucid in thought--reflecting heaven with its clouds and stars, and letting us see deep down into its own secret depths: this is to us one great charm of these volumes. Here he is broad and calm; in his great public performances by mouth and pen, he soon passed from the lucid into the luminous.

Footnote:[1] We have not noticed his iterativeness, his reiterativeness, because it flowed naturally from his primary qualities. In speaking it was effective, and to us pleasing, because there was some new modulation, some addition in the manner, just as the sea never sets up one wave exactly like the last or the next. But in his books it did somewhere encumber his thoughts, and the reader's progress and profit. It did not arise, as in many lesser men, from his having said his say--from his having no more in him; much less did it arise from conceit, either of his idea or of his way of stating it; but from the intensity with which the sensation of the idea--if we may use the expression--made its first mark on his mind. Truth to him never seemed to lose its first freshness, its edge, its flavor; and Divine truth, we know, had come to him so suddenly, so fully, at mid-day, when he was in the very prime of his knowledge and his power and quickness--had so possessed his entire nature, as if, like him who was journeying to Damascus, a Great Light had shone round about him--that whenever he reproduced that condition, he began afresh, and with his whole utterance, to proclaim it. He could not but speak the things he had seen and felt, and heard and believed; and he did it much in the same way, and in the same words, for the thoughts and affections and posture of his soul were the same. Like all men of vivid perception and keen sensibility, his mind and his body continued under impressions, both material and spiritual, after the objects were gone. A curious instance of this occurs to us. Some years ago, he roamed up and down through the woods near Auchindinny, with two boys as companions. It was the first burst of summer, and the trees were more than usually enriched with leaves. He wandered about delighted, silent, looking at the leaves, "thick and numberless." As the three went on, they came suddenly upon a high brick wall, newly built, for peach-trees, not yet planted. Dr. Chalmers halted, and looking steadfastly at the wall, exclaimed most earnestly, "What foliage! what foliage!" The boys looked at one another, and said nothing; but on getting home, expressed their astonishment at this very puzzling phenomenon. What a difference! leaves and parallelograms; a forest and a brick wall!

What, for instance, can be finer in expression than this? "It is well to be conversant with great elements--life and death, reason and madness." "God forgets not his own purposes, though he executes them in his own way, and maintains his own pace, which he hastens not and shortens not to meet our impatience." "I find it easier to apprehend the greatness of The Deity than any of his moral perfections, or his sacredness;" and this--

"One cannot but feel an interest in Ishmael, figuring him to be a noble of nature--one of those heroes of the wilderness who lived on the produce of his bow, and whose spirit was nursed and exercised among the wild adventures of the life he led. And it does soften our conception of him whose hand was against every man, and every man's hand against him, when we read of his mother's influence over him, in the deference of Ishmael to whom we read another example of the respect yielded to females even in that so-called barbarous period of the world. There was a civilization, the immediate effect of religion, in these days, from which men fell away as the world grew older."

That he had a keen relish for material and moral beauty and grandeur we all know; what follows shows that he had also the true ear for beautiful words, as at once pleasant to the ear and suggestive of some higher feelings:--"I have often felt, in reading Milton and Thomson, a strong poetical effect in the bare enumeration of different countries, and this strongly enhanced by the statement of some common and prevailing emotion, which passed from one to another." This is set forth with great beauty and power in verses 14th and 15th of Exodus xv.,--"The people shall hear and be afraid--sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed--the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold of them--the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away." Any one who has a tolerable ear and any sensibility, must remember the sensation of delight in the mere sound--like the colors of a butterfly's wing, or the shapeless glories of evening clouds, to the eye--in reading aloud such passages as these: "Heshbon shall cry and Elealeh--their voice shall be heard to Jabez--for by the way of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up--for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise a cry. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? He is gone to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages: Ramath is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled--Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth. Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. The fields of Heshbon languish--the vine of Sibmah--I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh." Any one may prove to himself that much of the effect and beauty of these passages depends on these names; put others in their room, and try them.

We remember well our first hearing Dr. Chalmers. We were in a moorland district in Tweeddale, rejoicing in the country, after nine months of the High School. We heard that the famous preacher was to be at a neighboring parish church, and off we set, a cartful of irrepressible youngsters. "Calm was all nature as a resting wheel." The crows, instead of making wing, were impudent and sat still; the cart-horses were standing, knowing the day, at the field-gates, gossiping and gazing, idle and happy; the moor was stretching away in the pale sunlight--vast, dim, melancholy, like a sea; everywhere were to be seen the gathering people, "sprinklings of blithe company;" the country-side seemed moving to one centre. As we entered the kirk we saw a notorious character, a drover, who had much of the brutal look of what he worked in, with the knowing eye of a man of the city, a sort of big Peter Bell--

"He had a hardness in his eye,
He had a hardness in his cheek."

He was our terror, and we not only wondered, but were afraid when we saw _him_ going in. The kirk was full as it could hold. How different in looks to a brisk town congregation! There was a fine leisureliness and vague stare; all the dignity and vacancy of animals; eyebrows raised and mouths open, as is the habit with those who speak little and look much, and at far-off objects. The minister comes in, homely in his dress and gait, but having a great look about him, like a mountain among hills. The High School boys thought him like a "big one of ourselves," he looks vaguely round upon his audience, as if he saw in it _one great object, not many_. We shall never forget his smile! its general benignity;--how he let the light of his countenance fall on us! He read a few verses quietly; then prayed briefly, solemnly, with his eyes wide open all the time, but not seeing. Then he gave out his text; we forget it, but its subject was, "Death reigns." He stated slowly, calmly, the simple meaning of the words; what death was, and how and why it reigned; then suddenly he started, and looked like a man who had seen some great sight, and was breathless to declare it; he told us how death reigned--everywhere, at all times, in all places; how we all knew it, how we would yet know more of it. The drover, who had sat down in the table-seat opposite, was gazing up in a state of stupid excitement; he seemed restless, but never kept his eye from the speaker. The tide set in--everything added to its power, deep called to deep, imagery and illustration poured in: and every now and then the theme,--the simple, terrible statement, was repeated in some lucid interval. After overwhelming us with proofs of the reign of Death, and transferring to us his intense urgency and emotion; and after shrieking, as if in despair, these words, "Death is a tremendous necessity,"--he suddenly looked beyond us as if into some distant region, and cried out, "Behold a mightier!--who is this? He cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in his apparel, speaking in righteousness, travelling in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save." Then, in a few plain sentences, he stated the truth as to sin entering, and death by sin, and death passing upon all. Then he took fire once more, and enforced, with redoubled energy and richness, the freeness, the simplicity, the security, the sufficiency of the great method of justification. How astonished and impressed we all were! He was at the full thunder of his power; the whole man was in an agony of earnestness. The drover was weeping like a child, the tears running down his ruddy, coarse cheeks--his face opened out and smoothed like an infant's; his whole body stirred with emotion. We all had insensibly been drawn out of our seats, and were converging towards the wonderful speaker. And when he sat down, after warning each one of us to remember who it was, and what it was, that followed death on his pale horse,[2] and how alone we could escape--we all sunk back into our seats. How beautiful to our eyes did the thunderer look--exhausted--but sweet and pure! How he poured out his soul before his God in giving thanks for sending the Abolisher of Death! Then, a short psalm, and all was ended.

Footnote: [2] "And I looked, and behold, a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."--Rev. vi. 8.

We went home quieter than we came; we did not recount the foals with their long legs, and roguish eyes, and their sedate mothers; we did not speculate upon whose dog _that_ was, and whether _that_ was a crow or a man in the dim moor,--we thought of other things. That voice, that face; those great, simple, living thoughts; those floods of resistless eloquence; that piercing, shattering voice,--"that tremendous necessity."

* * * * *

Were we desirous of giving to one who had never seen or heard Dr. Chalmers an idea of what manner of man he was--what he was as a whole, in the full round of his notions, tastes, affections, and powers--we would put this book into their hands, and ask them to read it slowly, bit by bit, as he wrote it. In it he puts down simply, and at once, what passes through his mind as he reads; there is no making of himself feel and think--no getting into a frame of mind; he was not given to frames of mind; he preferred states to forms--substances to circumstances. There is something of everything in it--his relish for abstract thought--his love of taking soundings in deep places and finding no bottom--his knack of starting subtle questions, which he did not care to run to earth--his penetrating, regulating godliness--his delight in nature--his turn for politics, general, economical, and ecclesiastical--his picturesque eye--his humanity--his courtesy--his warm-heartedness--his impetuosity--his sympathy with all the wants, pleasures, and sorrows of his kind--his delight in the law of God, and his simple, devout, manly treatment of it--his acknowledgment of difficulties--his turn for the sciences of quantity and number, and indeed for natural science and art generally--his shrewdness--his worldly wisdom--his genius; all these come out--you gather them like fruit, here a little, and there a little. He goes over the Bible, not as a philosopher, or a theologian, or a historian, or a geologist, or a jurist, or a naturalist, or a statist, or a politician--picking out all that he wants, and a great deal more than he has any business with, and leaving every thing else as barren to his reader as it has been to himself; but he looks abroad upon his Father's _word_--as he used so pleasantly to do on his _world_--as a man, and as a Christian; he submits himself to its influences, and lets his mind go out fully and naturally in its utterances. It is this which gives to this work all the charm of multitude in unity, of variety in harmony; and that sort of unexpectedness and ease of movement which we see everywhere in nature and in natural men.

Our readers will find in these delightful Bible Readings not a museum of antiquities, and curiosities, and laborious trifles; nor of scientific specimens, analyzed to the last degree, all standing in order, labelled and useless. They will not find in it an armory of weapons for fighting with and destroying their neighbors. They will get less of the physic of controversy than of the diet of holy living. They will find much of what Lord Bacon desired, when he said, "We want short, sound, and judicious notes upon Scripture, without running into commonplaces, pursuing controversies, or reducing those notes to artificial method, but leaving them quite loose and native. For certainly, as those wines which flow from the first treading of the grape are sweeter and better than those forced out by the press, which gives them the roughness of the husk and the stone, so are those doctrines best and sweetest which flow from a gentle crush of the Scriptures, and are not wrung into controversies and commonplaces." They will find it as a large pleasant garden; no great system; not trim, but beautiful, and in which there are things pleasant to the eye as well as good for food--flowers and fruits, and a few good, esculent, wholesome roots. There are Honesty, Thrift, Eye-bright (Euphrasy that cleanses the sight), Heart's-ease. The good seed in abundance, and the strange mystical Passion-flower; and in the midst, and seen everywhere, if we but look for it, the Tree of Life, with its twelve manner of fruits--the very leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. And, perchance, when they take their walk through it at evening time, or at "the sweet hour of prime," they may see a happy, wise, beaming old man at his work there--they may hear his well-known voice; and if they have their spiritual senses exercised as they ought, they will not fail to see by his side, "one like unto the Son of Man."

[The end]
John Brown's essay: Dr. Chalmers