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A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.-Prov. 24: 5.
He that followeth after righteousness and mercy, findeth life, righteousness, and honor.—Prov. 21:21.
REW. THOMAS CHALMERS, D.D. LL.D.
HUMAN greatness is often—if not always—an equivoque, an ambiguity. It is sometimes an assumption, sometimes a misfortune, sometimes the creature of circumstances, factitious, ostentatious, false. It is sometimes a crime, a fallacy, an impiety. With some men their greatness is in inverse ratio as their proximity; it requires “distance to lend enchantment to the view ;” since to be acquainted with them is an effectual cure for the temptation to idolatry. Here a man is a monarch, not because he ever did or ever was any thing great, or splendid, or virtuous; but for several other reasons. He was the child of such parents; he was older than their other children; a vacancy occurred in the throne, and he was passively ordained the proper candidate.
Among the incumbents of the clerical profession greatness is too often the result of no certainly appropriate qualities of its possessor. He was elected in the conclave—either by scrutiny, or by accession, or by acclamation, and, quem creant adorant, he is, presto, the great Father of all Christendom, the Prince of this world, the Prophet of eternity, the Arbiter of human destiny, the Vicar of the Son of God! Or, the premier of Great Britain has named him to the Archbishopric of York or Canterbury, with a stipend of imperial affluence; and the Head of the Church there—masculine or feminine—has, as a matter of course, confirmed the nomination' Or, an Irish Papist comes to the United States, works at gardening for a while, then takes the chrism of the Popish priesthood, and then, rising on the pyramid by merit or contrivance, he gets at last to be appointed by the pope
32 TRUE GREATNESS.
to the renowned archprelacy of Basilopolis' with some expectation of the broad brim of a cardinal, with some considered possibility of the tiara itself! The greatness of CHALMERs appears only the brighter and the better amid all these meretricious contrasts. He held no office that men invented, or that Pagans envy, or that monarchs patronize or properly estimate. His fame rested on what he was, and on what he did, and on what he promised, with God for his underwriter. His great qualities made his exalted reputation; and his goodness ripened, and expanded, and aggrandized those qualities. His honors in time are only types of what they are in eternity; his eminence in this world only the shadow of his graduation in that which is to come. A prosperous coup d'état can make, it seems, an autocrat, or even an emperor; an incident of party tactics, or a powerful bribe, may instate a pseudo-successor of apostles; a trifle of any other sort may confer sublunary greatness, in which the possessor is both envied and passive, to say nothing of qualification or desert. The kingdom of heaven, unborrowed and unborrowing as the solar light, rejects and inhibits all worldly conformities, all earthly imitations; and is only ruined or superseded by their ascendency. Jesus said–Ye Know that the princes of the nations exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But IT SHALL NoT BE so AMONG YoU: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant : even as the Son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. The astronomical discourses of Chalmers appeared in this country near forty years ago; and I read them in the fervor of my first love. From that period my estimation of their author was deep and high. I went to Scotland, that land of my mother's fathers' sires, with a vivid sense of its many attractions, in September, 1833; but no object there attracted
me like the person, the ministration, the companionship of Chalmers. To see him, to hear him, to enjoy his society, was number one among my items of desire. The scenery of the Highlands, Roderick Dhu’s country and Ellen's Isle, and the lochs, were all vastly little in comparison. And all this was aggravated by a special cause—it was now or never in my apprehension. Two events, controlled alone by Providence, are memorable here—one, the way in which I missed the opportunity in London; another, the strange coincidence by which I hit it in Glasgow and in Edinburgh. He was announced to come to London in the summer, and lecture a series on the “Christian expediency of ecclesiastical establishments.” He came, and in his serial, as in his general ministrations, in the Caledonian chapel, Sidmouth Street, Regent's Park, just vacated by the degradation of poor Irving, was attended by the titled, the noble, and the grand, contesting in crowds for the privilege. What crested equipages, what pomp and peerage, what mobility and royalty, and in all what pageantry and glory, were there to hear him ' I was then on the Continent, and returned just in time to desiderate his last performance, he having returned to Scotland a few days previous. It was a great, and even a painful privation, then seeming irreparable. However, I was availed of the glowing accounts and narrations of others—and some of his “deliverances” I could read, as the result of that furtive and impudent stenography, as Jay denounces and virtually calls it, so common in London and other places, by which certain adepts of the trade take notes, in their own way, of any distinguished or available speaker, from the platform or the pulpit ; and, right or wrong, per fas et nefas, give it to the public in a few hours, and make money by hawking it about the streets, while the interest is fresh, or the affair a novelty, whether literary, political, or ecclesiastical. I read and considered a sermon, thus furnished, which was eloquent,