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Archive for the ‘The Gospel & the Poor’ Category

The following are quotes from Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) who was passionate about relieving the poor and above all, bringing them the glad tidings of the Gospel.

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“Such is the peculiar adaptation of the Gospel to the poor, that it may be felt in the full force of its most powerful evidence by the simplest of its hearers” (Chalmers, Works 6:256).

“The proper work of an establishment . . . is to reclaim and christianize the common people” (Chalmers, Works 18:206).

“In respect of immortality, the great and the small ones of the earth stand on an equal eminence” (Chalmers, Works 6:288).

“Yet I must say I liked the Irish part of my parishioners. They received me always with the utmost cordiality, and very often attended my household ministrations, although Catholics” (Chalmers, Works 16:243).

“The main impulse of [the parish minister’s] benevolence, lies in furnishing the poor with the means of enjoying that bread of life which came down from heaven, and in introducing them to the knowledge of those Scriptures which are the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth” (Chalmers, Works 11:290).

“There is none we think of correct moral taste, and whose heart is in its right place, that will not rejoice in such a spectacle, as far more pleasing in itself, and, if only universal in our churches, far more indicative of a healthful state of the community, than the wretched system of the present day, when the gospel is literally sold to the highest bidders among the rich, and not preached to the poor” (Chalmers, Works 11:381).

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And some longer quotes:

“Now the great aim of our ministry is to win souls; and the soul of a poor man consists of precisely the same elements with the soul of a rich. They both labour under the same disease, and they both stand in need of the same treatment. The physician who administers to their bodies brings forward the same application to the same malady; and the physician who is singly intent on the cure of their souls will hold up to both the same peace-speaking blood, and the same sanctifying Spirit, and will preach to both in the same name, because the only name given under heaven whereby men can be saved” (Chalmers, Works 11:356).

“It was saying more for the common people of Judea that they heard the Saviour gladly, than for the Scribes and Pharisees who heard him with envy, prejudice, and opposition; and it is saying more for the common people of this country, that they hear the doctrine of Christ gladly, than for those learned who call that doctrine foolishness, for those men of taste who call it fanaticism, for those men of this world who call it a methodistical reverie, for those men of fashion and fine sentiment who shrink from the peculiarities of our faith, with all the disgust of irritated pride and offended delicacy” (Chalmers, Works 11:358).

“If a poor child be capable of being thus transformed, how it should move the heart of a city philanthropist, when he thinks of the amazing extent of raw material, for this moral and spiritual manufacture that is on every side of him—when he thinks, that in going forth on some Christian enterprise among a population, he is in truth, walking among the rudiments of a state that is to be everlasting—that out of their most loathsome and unseemly abodes, a glory can be extracted, which will weather all the storms, and all the vicissitudes of this world’s history—that, in the filth and raggedness of a hovel, that is to be found, on which all the worth of heaven, as well as all the endurance of heaven can be imprinted—that he is, in a word, dealing in embryo with the elements of a great and future empire, which is to rise, indestructible and eternal, on the ruins of all that is earthly, and every member of which shall be a king and a priest for evermore” (Chalmers, Works 6:260).

“It was not thus with the ancients of our Church when spoiled of her endowments by the rapacity of the Crown, and of those nobles who formed the all-powerful aristocracy of that generation. True there was but the population of a million in these days; but whole tracts of country were rifled by the hand of violence of their ecclesiastical patrimony, and no means were left for the Christian education of the people who would have sunk into a state of moral barbarism but for the efforts of so many patriots as courageous and enlightened as the world ever saw,—the fathers and founders of the Kirk of Scotland. The territory had been desolated of its provision both for churches and schools; but they went forth upon it notwithstanding, and chalked out their parishes, and planted their stations for the ministry of the word, and without the visible means of sustenance or support, laboured both with the Church’s plat, and the Church’s polity, till the God in whom they trusted overthrew the counsels of their adversaries, and forced out of their sacrilegious hands a hardwon maintenance for an order of men whom now it is the fashion to stigmatize, but who have ever proved, throughout all the periods of our bygone history, and have now the opportunity of proving still, that they are the best friends of the poor man and of the labourer” (Chalmers, Works 18:289).

“To give money, is not to do all the work and labour of benevolence. You must go to the poor man’s sick bed. You must lend your hand to the work of assistance. You must examine his accounts. You must try to recover those debts which are due to his family. You must try to recover those wages which are detained by the injustice or the rapacity of his master. You must employ your mediation with his superiors. You must represent to them the necessities of his situation. You must solicit their assistance, and awaken their feelings to the tale of his calamity. This is benevolence in its plain, and sober, and substantial reality; though eloquence may have withheld its imagery, and poetry may have denied its graces and its embellishments. This is true and unsophisticated goodness” (Chalmers, Works 11:303-4)

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“Ministers are the fishers of men; and the effect of an endowment is to lengthen their line, and enable them to reach downward to the lowest gradations of the commonwealth. The voluntaries are a kind of fly-fishers—whose operations do not reach to the muddy bottoms, to those depths and those fastnesses of society, which to them are inaccessible. And a chapel of ease, give it any ecclesiastical organization you like, is just such a voluntary [entity]. Nominally, you may give it the title of an established church; but you will never give it the power or the properties of an established church without an endowment” (Works 18:101-102)

In this quote, Chalmers is contending within his historical situation for the full inclusion of “chapels of ease” (more or less preaching stations) within the established Church of Scotland. But what is crucial, he argues, is that they should be territorial, assigned to focus pastorally and evangelistically on one defined neighborhood, and endowed, so that they do not have to be beholden to the more privileged classes attending from beyond their ‘parish.’ Without these two pillars, the ability to minister to all, both rich and poor, becomes extremely difficult. In fact, it becomes impossible when contemplated as a system for the entire nation, which is what an establishment is built to guarantee. In the end, you are back to the religious marketplace, and those who lack “wealth and will” are left to sink to the bottom.

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In the following quote, Chalmers explains how a territorial establishment, where parish missions bring the Gospel to every home and hearth, is a double blessing. Even if few souls are saved, the social and moral impact of the Gospel effort leavens the lump:

“And perhaps it will give in your eyes less of a Utopian, and more of an experimental character, to our anticipations of a result so general—if we ask you to consider the just observation of Mr. Wilberforce, on the effect of Christianity even beyond the circle of its own proper and genuine disciples. It elevates the general standard of morals, in every country or neighbourhood which it enters. Even though it should but spiritualize the few, it civilizes the many. Over and above its direct influence on those whom it converts, it has, through the medium of their example and their virtues, a reflex or secondary influence on the families of every little vicinity around them-insomuch that the sanctities and the extraordinary graces of a small number, with the influence of a purifying and preserving salt on the general mass, tell, by a certain overawing power, in restraining the profligacies, and so in raising the character for decency and morals of society at large. This will be remarkably seen in any parish that is under a reclaiming process from the out-fields of heathenism, if the experiment be but well and vigorously conducted. We do not say that the minister will Christianize all; or that he will introduce the worship of God, the voice of psalms, into every family. But the melody that is heard in the habitations of the righteous, will have a certain softening and subduing effect on the inmates of other habitations; and it will be found no romance, but in strict accordance with the realities of human nature, if-by means of his schools and of his other parochial institutes, and (of no small account either) if, by means of his own frequent and various intercourse with the people, and the dignifying effect upon all the householders of their personal acquaintance with the clergyman, and of the personal cognizance which he takes of them and of their families—he mollifies, and to a very great degree, the general aspect of that parochial community over which he presides ; and bequeaths to​ his successors a far blander and better generation, than he had to encounter himself at the outset of his great undertaking” (Works 14:334-335)

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“If, in virtue of the missionary doings abroad, we read that hundreds of families in some before untrodden field of heathenism have been Christianized—let us not forget, that many are the cities of our own island, where, without one mile of locomotion, we might have converse with thousands of families, which, but for the same doings at home, would be sunk in the apathy and the grossness of practical heathenism”

-Thomas Chalmers, Works 11:445

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“There is one lesson that we need not teach, for experience has already taught it, and that is, the kindly influence which the mere presence of a human being has upon his fellows. Let the attention bestowed upon another, be the genuine emanation of good-will, and there is only one thing more to make it irresistible. The readiest way of finding access to a man’s heart, is to go into his house; and there to perform the deed of kindness, or to acquit ourselves of the wonted and the looked for acknowledgment. By putting ourselves under the roof of a poor neighbour, we in a manner put ourselves under his protection—we render him for the time our superior—we throw our reception on his generosity, and we may be assured that it is a confidence which will almost never fail us. If Christianity be the errand on which the movement is made, it will open the door of every family; and even the profane and the profligate will come to recognise the worth of that principle, which prompts the unwearied assiduity of such services. By every circuit which is made amongst them, there is attained a higher vantage-ground of moral and spiritual influence; and, in spite of all that has been said of the ferocity of a city population, in such rounds of visitation there is none of it to be met with, even among the lowest receptacles of human worthlessness. This is the home walk in which is earned, if not a proud, at least a peaceful popularity—the popularity of the heart—the greetings of men, who, touched even by the cheapest and easiest services of kindness, have nothing to give but their wishes of kindness back again; but, in giving these, have crowned such pious attentions with the only popularity that is worth the aspiring after—the popularity that is won in the bosom of families, and at the side of death-beds.”

Thomas Chalmers, Collected Works, 14:49-50

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Chalmers, A Neglected Population

The rest of the quote runs, “And I say, farther, that there is a smouldering flame gathering at the bottom of the social edifice, which, if it be not speedily met and extinguished, will upheave the social edifice from its base, and overthrow all the institutions of the country.”

From “Dr. Chalmers’ Lecture,” Witness, June 19th, 1844

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Here is the latest edition to the “Chalmers Audio Library,” a work composed in 1835 entitled “The Cause of Church Extension, and the Question Shortly Stated, Between Churchmen and Dissenters in Regard to It.”

In this essay, Chalmers clarifies the true goals of the Church Extension movement in Scotland in the 1830s, indicating that it is much more than an effort to build more churches for the establishment. It is a means to Christianize the entire home population of the nation, including the poor. The essay is rather encumbered with historical details that will seem remote to the modern Christian. However, if one perseveres, he will find that this contributes significantly to the body of Reformed missiology and offers much of enduring value for the Church’s contemporary witness.

For more about the Church Extension movement, see The Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, p. 182.

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I’m heading to Grand Rapids to share about my urban evangelistic outreach in the greater Providence, R.I. metro. A meeting for the general public will be held at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary at 7 p.m., this coming Monday, February 17.

For those unfamiliar with the work, the Reformed Parish Mission (RPM) is an outreach effort of the Presbyterian Reformed Church (PRC) of R.I. A major focus of RPM is bringing the Gospel and a confessionally Reformed witness to South Providence through regular, neighborhood visitation, in the conviction that minorities, immigrants, and the less privileged are easily neglected and are often more receptive. This effort aims at the gathering of folks to the regular Lord’s day services of the congregation, their conversion and upbuilding, and the offering of practical and constructive life-help as we are able.

In my slideshow presentation, we’ll be talking about Thomas Chalmers, his parish mission vision and method, and my attempt to operate on these principles in 2020. If you are a confessional Presbyterian or Reformed believer with a passion for advancing the Gospel and live in the Grand Rapids area, please join us! And if you don’t live in the area, but know someone who might be interested, please pass this along.

More about RPM.

RPM Bulletin Insert

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IMG_0103Should robust, confessional, reformed Christianity be the preserve only of white, middle and upper class folk? Chalmers didn’t think so, much less that the Gospel should be left to the demands of the religious marketplace. Another appeal for establishments, and especially aggressive, territorial missions.

Another addition to the Chalmers Audio Library. Sermon on Isa. 26:9, “For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” In this message on the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales, Chalmers argues that such national calamities are God’s instruments to call the nation to learn righteousness. He takes the opportunity to rebuke the fashionable upper classes for whom religion is a mere occasional, token exercise, and makes a general appeal to support the spread of righteousness among the nation’s poor and neglected by way of an endowed, territorial system, worked by godly ministers.

 

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StateLibQld_1_113036_Cartoon_of_students_receiving_the_cane,_1888Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) sharing about how the Tron church Sabbath school leadership worked through disciplinary issues with their sometimes rowdy students. Insightful and amusing!

“Although we had no set forms of teaching, yet we conversed over all the modes that we might find out the best. On one point we had much discussion, namely, whether or not punishment should be resorted to in a Sabbath-school. Mr. Stow was very strenuous in condemning its introduction—I was rather inclined the other way. Among other strong cases, Mr. Stow told us of a boy who had been so restless, idle, and mischievous, that he was afraid he would have to put him away, when the thought occurred to him to give the boy an office. He put, accordingly, all the candles of the school under his care. From that hour he was an altered boy, and became a diligent scholar. An opportunity soon occurred of trying my way of it also. A school composed of twenty or thirty boys, situated in the east end of the parish, had become so unruly and unmanageable, that it had beaten off every teacher who had gone to it. The Society did not know what to do with it, and the Doctor asked me if I would go out and try to reduce it to order. I was not very fond of the task, but consented. I went out the next Sabbath, and told the boys, whom I found all assembled, that I had heard a very bad account of them, that I had come out for the purpose of doing them good, that I must have peace and attention, that I would submit to no disturbance, and that, in the first place, we must begin with prayer. They all stood up, and I commenced, and certainly did not forget the injunction,—Watch and pray. I had not proceeded two sentences, when one little fellow gave his neighbour a tremendous dig in the side; I instantly stepped forward and gave him a sound cuff on the side of his head. I never spoke a word, but stepped back, concluded the prayer, taught for a month, and never had a more orderly school. The case was reported at one of our own meetings. The Doctor enjoyed it exceedingly, and taking up my instance and comparing it with Mr. Stow’s, he concluded that the question of punishment or non-punishment stood just where it was, inasmuch as it had been found that the judicious appointment of a candle-snuffer-general and a good cuff on the lug had been about equally efficacious.”

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