The life and ministry of Thomas Chalmers
In an age when every respectable member of society attended church, the Great Disruption reverberated throughout Scotland. The debate over whether church or state was the ultimate arbiter of clerical appointments had rumbled on for years, but on 18 May 1843, 121 ministers and 73 elders left the Church of Scotland General Assembly in Edinburgh, walked down the hill, and held the first meeting of the newly formed Free Church.
The man who was appointed first Moderator of this Free Church was Thomas Chalmers. There was no other choice. Chalmers was universally renowned as a preacher, theologian, political economist, social activist and visionary organiser. It is hard to imagine anyone else who would have possessed the necessary strength of character and purpose to have so comprehensively and efficiently raised the funds and driven through the reforms that were necessary for the establishment of this new denomination.
However, while this book is no hagiography – for example, Professor Finlayson does not hide Chalmers’ characteristic stubbornness and belligerence in the face of often quite reasonable opposition – some of Chalmers’ less acceptable theological and social views are still omitted.
This short biography of Thomas Chalmers will undoubtedly help fill an unfortunate gap in the knowledge of many Christians today. In particular, the events and consequences of 1843 should be recognised as holding a significant place in evangelical history, not just in Scotland but around the world.