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34 HEARING CHALMERs.
not badly reproduced, which interested me, provoked some animadversion, and of which I shall speak again—not alone with commendation, great and brilliant, and fervid and good in the main, as it certainly was. The other incident was a compensation and a great felicity. It seems that Chalmers, when he retired from St. John's, Glasgow, made, as I was told, a pact with his people, that, if they would give him a voice in the selection of his successor, he would visit them at least once a year, spend a Lord's day with them, and assist by collections in accomplishing the stipend, or something of this sort. When, therefore, I came by steamer, on Tuesday, September 3, 1833, from Belfast, on the Clyde, to Glasgow, I was informed that Chalmers was there, and was to preach for his former people next Lord's-day. I was also assured, however, that I stood no chance at all of hearing him; as crowds challenged the privilege, as the police were to take possession of the doors and passages, and as more than the edifice could contain probably had already a ticket or a pledge for the occasion. I was at last indebted to my friend, William Collins, Esq. who, as a member and pew-owner, had precedence. We went at an earlier hour than usual ; and then, by dint of physical effort as well as courage, he parted the crowd, and I followed, I scarce know how, till, after laborious perseverance, and serving an ejectment on some interlopers in his pew, we found our seats. The interval was one of some congratulation and impatience. We were then to wait nearly an hour till the time of service. The scene was interesting and peculiar. The house was a perfect jam ; and, as I then perceived, in pew, aisle, and every space-way, these were all filled with the sterner sex alone. It seemed hard to exclude the ladies all from the spiritual feast; but, as my friend indicated, I soon found that, by an order of arrangement, the galleries were reserved for them, and were all occupied at an earlier hour,
HIS BROAD scorch. 35
they having the first opportunity of entrance. It was well. And yet I felt for the preacher, as the scene might make him sympathetically uneasy, and the air be too soon deoxygenated for the proper exercise of speaking. As soon as they saw the preacher, however, they grew still, Conticuere omnes, intentique ora tenebant; and, through the entire performance, their attention was fixed and profound; though at intervals, when in preaching he paused or ceased for a moment, reclining to recover his strength, there was such a noise of throats, and noses, and kerchiefs, and such a general preparation for another onset of oratory and attention, that the contrast of stillness, when he resumed, was the more observable, especially as it was so promptly restored, and so remarkably perfect. As Chalmers entered from the vestry and ascended the pulpit, there was something at once simple and unaffected, on the one hand, and solemn, and engaged, and absorbed, on the other, in his manner and expression. His stature ap peared shorter than I expected; but his countenance, with no glare or ostentation, seemed gathered to a point, in tranquil but fixed concentration; as if he had a message to deliver and a work to do, and as if he would do that, and care for nothing else, on the present occasion. When he began to speak, though I had heard of his Fifeshire accent, or rather broad Scotch brogue, the somorous quaintness and earnestness of his voice surprised me. In prayer, I was sometimes mystified at first, by such expressions sounding as the following : “O Lard, a gude and a blassed thang ut az, to luve and to sarve tha; and a bettir thang ut az, to sanaganst tha. O Lard, may ol th’ Kraschun grasses ba in us and grow, partakoolyrly the grass of fath.” By bettir there, or rather betther, he meant bitter; though, as he first uttered it, it struck my ear and my soul as terrible or confounding sentiment ' The disciples of Emmons could scarcely go it! Some of his expressions, however, were sim
ple, filial, and beautiful, as well as touching, in an eminent degree. One I will quote, as I well remember it, in the main : “May our luve for tha, our Master and Lard, ba true and pramative ; may it ba like that of apowstles and the Kraschuns of the martyr ages; may wa sarve tha bakous wa luve tha, and luve tha bakous wa delight to do tha honor.” I give these as the best approximate specimens of his enunciation and his utterance that I can recollect or command— certainly from no thought or allowance of caricature, and with a tender demur lest I should seem to disparage him with any reader. His peculiarities soon lost their quality as strange or ungrateful, and became easy and musical, alike to the ear and the mind. The strength and the wealth of his thoughts soon carried us in the wake of his prosperous mental navigation, and we all felt the pleasure and the safety of such a helmsman, as we sailed with him, unanimous and happy, with the port of the celestial city almost peering to our view. Indeed, as I became wonted to his voice and his way, they lost all their momentary offense, and seemed rather transmuted, by association, into attractions, and beauties, and harmonies of masterly oratory. I will, however, give one more specimen. His pronunciation of the word virtue was quite racy and peculiar. Very often the e was continental; as a in day, and sometimes as a in far. Thus, inculcating the sentiment that we must be justified by grace through faith, and endeavoring to expose and explode the rival sentiment of good works for the basis, he said, disparaging the proud claims of human virtue, speaking it with pungency and earnestness, thus—“Warchy az not the price of hivin.” And, indeed, his peculiarities of the sort were many and pervading; but, like others, I observed them only at first, and felt equally that they were both incorrigible and also respectable, as his, rising in their associations, till entertained with favor and pleasure by his whole audience, though to many of them they were too natural to
SUPERIOR TO it. 37
be observable ; certainly they were in no sense offensive or disagreeable. But in Edinburgh, where they think the English is spoken as well as written by themselves to perfection, orthoepy and all, some of them affect to criticise him for his local vulgarities of pronunciation; though every scholar of them has himself unconsciously some of the accent, by which the ear of an Englishman or an American could instantly detect them, though they are all unconscious of the fact ; as one, a native, I think, of Glasgow, said to me, denying it, “Why, ya wad na knaw me by my brog, wad ye ’’’ I felt tempted, in good humor, almost to mock him, and reply, “Naw, Sandy, ya’r th’ mon far that, ya knaw ; I dinna ken the thang in what yer sain.” But the way of Chalmers was peculiar, not vulgar; yet no one could suspect or imagine it from reading his writings; and he, if not unconscious of it, was not at all embarrassed by it. He was too elevated in all his thoughts for such trifles to affect him. He was really superior alike to the importunity and the impertinence of things inconsiderable and contemptible. It is said, that, conscious of his vocal peculiarities, and viewing them as much incorrigible, as they were native and vernacular, he rose philosophically above it, esteeming it of no importance, and superinducing an earnest naturalness of manner, prosperous in spite of it, and ever superior to it. Every man should be himself in the pulpit and every where else. As his own countrymen were less conusant or conscious of it, and as, in the ears of others of the great English tongue, one could never fail impressively to observe it, I may assume this as the justification of a friendly pen in the present notice of it. His matter, and style, and affluence of thought, especially his eloquence of expression, as a preacher, the world knows ; his manner, as a whole, it is the privilege of only a comparative few of his readers to have seen and heard. All these
38 GREAT PRAISE FROM MASON.
combined make his admirers and eulogists. One compliment, uttered by the late Rev. John Mitchel Mason, D.D. of New York, is quite surpassing, if not the greatest ever sincerely and spontaneously pronounced on a modern preacher of the Gospel. It was certainly sincere, as well as emotional and extemporaneous. That of Louis le Grand to Massillon, though more famed, is certainly inferior. Having heard of it in America, I asked a worthy and intelligent lady in Glasgow, at whose house I was, if she had heard of it? when she replied—More, sir. I heard the thing itself. It occurred in my house, and in this room. Dr. Mason was sitting about where you sit, just returned from church ; and I was impatient to hear his opinion of my own honored pastor, for many reasons, as you know ;* and hence I asked him, while he seemed absent as in reverie—Pray, tell me, dear sir, your opinion. What think you of Dr. Chalmers ? He paused in vacancy, and I repeated the question, when he answered—What I think of him 2 very little, madam, I assure you; I think very little of him. I forgot him during the sermon—he forgot himself; he hid himself; and put in the foreground, alone in sight, the Master—the theme—the Gospel; all in the clear light of heaven displayed; so that I thought of these only—not of him at all. She added, what I had also heard from our mutual friend, Bruen, at home, its proper supplement, and what was, with the former, thus happily authenticated. Dr. Mason went in the afternoon or evening, said she, to hear the learned and eloquent Dr. Dick; but his style was as unlike that of Chalmers as possible—it was fine, sentimental, soothing, and elegant; as his delivery was soft and gentle, with nothing aggressive or exciting in the whole of it. Hence I asked him, in turn, what he thought of our other great preacher ? He replied, Very little, madam. I had no room left in my
* He was her mother's pastor; herself a native American, born on Long Island.