Thomas Chalmers

1780-1847. Scottish minister. Born in Anstruther and educated at St. Andrews University, he was inducted to Kilmany parish in 1803 and lectured part-time in mathematics at his university. In 1811 he experienced evangelical conversion, and his ministerial emphasis and activity were completely changed. He began to write for the Christian Instructor, publication of which marked the turning of the tide in the Moderate-Evangelical encounter. In 1815 he was inducted to the Tron Church, Glasgow, and his theology, kept within the bounds of the Shorter Catechism, was heard by crowded congregations twice every Sunday. The city's social needs were staggering. Chalmers created a new parish, St. John's, out of three existing overgrown parishes, with 10,000 people in its limits, many of them the poorest in Glasgow. He divided the parish into twenty-five areas with about 400 people in each. An elder was appointed to the spiritual oversight, and a deacon to the social welfare, of each area. Day and Sunday schools were provided for all children. Chalmers and his assistants conducted four services each Sunday. This pastoral experiment made evangelicalism a force to be reckoned with.

Glasgow reeled in shock when Chalmers left in 1823 to teach moral philosophy at St. Andrews, but when he moved on to Edinburgh in 1828 to teach divinity, his friends were sure he had found his sphere. He became moderator in 1832 and thereafter the leader and symbol of the Evangelical party. During the next decade he championed the cause of church extension, building in six years 216 churches, and raising £290,000. After the Disruption,* Chalmers became moderator of the Free Church assembly and also professor of theology in New College. His Institutes of Theology was published posthumously in 1849.

See H. Watt, Thomas Chalmers and the Disruption (1943).