Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
~ Philippians 1:1
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
~ Titus 1:7
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
~ 1 Peter 2:25
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
~ 1 Peter 5:2
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
~ Acts 20:28
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
~ Ephesians 4:12
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
~ James 5:19-20
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
~ Proverbs 22:15
The First Visitation of His Parish, by Thomas Chalmers. The following contains Chapter Six of his memoirs.
First Visitation of His Parish. Its Methods and Results. Checks and Interruptions. The Great Question at the Town Hospital. The Christian Ministry Secularized. His Public Denunciations of the Evils of This System. Speech at the Anniversary of the Bible Society. Addition to the Eldership. Sabbath School Society. The Question of Punishment. Origin of Local Sabbath Schools. Dr. Chalmers’s Account of Their First Institution and Effects. His Defence of Sabbath Schools.
It is the acknowledged duty, and in rural districts the general practice, of clergymen of the Established Church of Scotland to make an annual visitation of their parishes, when every house is entered, and the general condition of each family as to education and church attendance is ascertained. Even in the earlier days of his more careless ministry this duty had been punctually discharged by Dr. Chalmers; and when new life and spirit were breathed into that ministry, he had been peculiarly impressed by the signal efficacy of these household ministrations. But in the larger towns, even under the most zealous pastoral superintendence, parishes had become so populous, and congregational and other public services had become so burdensome, that regular parochial visitations had fallen very much into disuse. Dr. Chalmers was convinced that the degraded condition of large masses of the city population—then little understood, though occasionally lamented might mainly be attributed to this ecclesiastical neglect. In his estimation of it, that degradation was neither a necessary nor an irremediable evil. There was nothing in any town population so essentially different from a rural one as to render the ministrations of a devoted clergyman less efficacious in the one case than in the other. Let but the same kind and the same amount of spiritual appliances, which in every well-served country parish secured such universal education of the young and such regular attendance at church, be brought to bear on the very worst districts of the most crowded city, and he was satisfied that they would accomplish the very same results. He commenced his ministerial labours in Glasgow with the immovable conviction of the perfect practicability of assimilating the worst-conditioned town to the best-conditioned country parish. As the basis of all after operations, his first object was to ascertain by personal inspection the actual condition of that community with whose spiritual oversight he was entrusted. At this time the Tron Church parish comprised that portion of the city which lies to the east of the Saltmarket and to the south of the Gallowgate. Its population was not exactly known, but it was believed to contain somewhere between eleven and twelve thousand souls. To visit every family of such a population within a year or two was a Herculean task, yet Dr. Chalmers resolved to accomplish it. To have a religious service in each house, and yet complete this first survey within the time projected, would have been impossible. His visits, therefore, were generally short. A few questions were asked regarding the state of the family as to education and church attendance, a few kindly observations were made, and Dr. Chalmers then passed quickly into the next house, leaving it to his elder to announce the discourse which in some neighbouring school-room or other convenient place was to be delivered on an approaching week-day evening for the special benefit of the inhabitants of the district. “Doctor,” said an old and pious widow whom he thus visited, “ you will surely not leave me without offering up a prayer.” The practice, however, must be uniform,—the established rule must not be broken; he refused, therefore, saying in his defence-“If I were to pray in every house I enter, it would take me ten years to get through the work.” That work was hard; the wynds were often close and filthy, the stairs narrow and steep, the houses vile and ill ventilated,-yet cheerfully and resolutely did he carry it through, cheering ever and anon the flagging spirit of his companion as they went along. “Well,” said he, looking kindly over his shoulder upon his elder, who, scarcely able to keep pace with him, was toiling up a long and weary stair,-“ Well, what do you think of this kind of visiting?” Engrossed with the toils of the ascent, the elder announced that he had not been thinking much about it. “Oh! I know quite well,” said Dr. Chalmers, “that if you were to speak your mind, you would say that we are putting the butter very thinly upon the bread.” The discoveries which broke upon him as he entered upon this visitation astonished and distressed him. Writing to Mr. Edie early in February 1816, he says, “ I have commenced a very stupendous work lately-the visitation of my parish. A very great proportion of the people have no seats in any place of worship whatever, and a very deep and universal ignorance on the high matters of faith and eternity obtains over the whole extent of a mighty population.”
While such a laborious visitation was prosecuted throughout the week, suggesting at every stage new schemes of usefulness, and while, at the same time, the demands of the Tron Church pulpit and of the thousands now crowding around it had to be satisfied each returning Sabbath, was it wonderful that Dr. Chalmers should be grievously provoked by the distracting interruptions to which from every point of the compass he felt himself exposed?
He had been not a little alarmed, even before he left many, by reports of the vast accumulations of unministerial labour which the customs of the place and the requirements of authority had devolved upon the ministers of Glasgow. It was his fear that neither time nor strength would thus be left to him to prosecute aright the higher objects of the Christian ministry which made him hesitate for a season to accept the offered appointment to the Tron Church. Dr. Balfour succeeded in quieting his alarms, by giving as mitigated a representation as possible of the extra-ministerial work which would be required, expecting doubtless that when once the movement was made Dr. Chalmers would yield to the pressure as it came upon him, and, like all the other city ministers, quietly accommodate himself to the demands and necessities of his position. But he was ignorant of the glowing ardour of that intense devotedness with which certain favourite projects were cherished, and of the determined and indomitable energy of that will which was waiting the opportunity to realize them. Soon after Dr. Chalmers’s settlement in Glasgow the fears which it was imagined had been allayed broke out with redoubled strength. It was sufficiently annoying to sit an hour in grave deliberation as to whether a gutter should be shut up or left open. He might remain, however, a silent auditor at that solemn farce; but it was worse to be called upon, as he was soon afterwards at a meeting of the Town Hospital, to take a personal share in a similar discussion. Some of the gravest of the city ministers, and some of the wisest of the city merchants, had been summoned to the conclave, when the weighty and perplexing question was propounded, whether pork broth or ox-head broth should be served to the inmates of the Hospital. Opinions differed, the debate waxed warm, and at last it was resolved to subject the matter to actual trial. A quantity of both kinds of broth was produced, each sitter tasting it as it made its circuit of the Board. The judgments were then collected and compared, when the sapient decision was given forth—that henceforth there should be served sometimes the one kind of broth and sometimes the other. It was but seldom, however, that, as in this case, the ludicrous aspect of the required service relieved the annoyance of its discharge. And a worse evil than the mere waste of time soon showed itself to be connected with that administration of the public charities which had to so large an extent been thrown upon clergymen. When examined some years afterwards before a Committee of the House of Commons Dr. Chalmers was asked, Have you any observations to make to the Committee with respect to the condition of the first parish to which you were appointed, the Tron Church, at the time of your appointment, and during the period of your ministry? I disliked very much the condition of the parish at the outset of my connexion with it, and withdrew altogether from any share in the management of its pauperism. I felt it my duty to do so. In the eyes of the population the minister stood connected not merely with the administration of this compulsory fund, but with the administration of a great many such charities as we call Mortifications in Scotland, which are endowments for indigence, left by benevolent citizens, and who generally constitute the clergy their trustees. Among the earliest movements I made through the families, I was very much surprised at the unexpected cordiality of my welcome, the people thronging about me, and requesting me to enter their houses. I remember I could scarcely make my way to the bottom of a close in the Saltmarket, I was so exceedingly thronged by the people; but I soon perceived that this was in consequence of my imagined influence in the distribution of these charities; and I certainly did feel a very great recoil, for it was so different from the principle upon which I had been received with cordiality in my country parish, where the topic of their temporal necessities was scarcely ever mentioned: I therefore resolved to dissever myself from the administration of these charities altogether. I soon made the people understand that I only dealt in one article, that of Christian instruction; and that if they chose to receive me upon this footing, I should be glad to visit them occasionally. I can vouch for it that the cordiality of the people was not only enhanced but very much refined in its principle after this became the general understanding: that of the ten thousand entries which I have made at different times into the houses of the poor in Glasgow, I cannot recollect half-a-dozen instances in which I was not received with welcome.”
All share in the management of the pauperism of his parish he could and he did decline. The draughts which were continually made for his attendance at this meeting or the other he could and he did dishonour. But he could not protect his study from a thousand invasions; nor could any private remonstrances turn the tide of that public opinion which asked and expected of the city ministers a whole host of secular services. Harassed at every point of his progress, and exposed to ignorant and ill applied reproach, he resolved at last, in some more public and effectual manner, to assert the proper and spiritual functions of the Christian ministry, to vindicate its injured prerogatives, and, if the voice of remonstrance and rebuke could do it, to effect a deliverance for himself and for his brethren. He chose the pulpit as his instrument; and few congregations ever listened to a minister with greater astonishment than did that to which his two discourses, delivered in the Tron Church on Sabbath the 13th October 1816, were addressed. His text was appropriate and ominous:–” Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables,” Acts vi. 2. The forenoon discourse was devoted to a minute and most singular detail of the multiform exactions and services by which the ministers of the Gospel in Glasgow had been withdrawn from prayer and the ministry of the word. He told his wondering audience of schedules, and circulars, and printed forms, with long blank spaces which the minister should have the goodness to fill up, and how of all his doings in this one department the simple achievement of seventy signatures in a day was all that his dizzy recollection had been able to retain. Pursuing the strange narration, in which pathos and satire and burning indignation were all blended, “ I have already said much,” he continued, ” of the interruption and the labour which the public charities of the place bring along with them; and yet I have not told you one-half the amount of it. I have only insisted on that part of it which takes a minister from his house, and from which the minister, at the expense of a little odium, can at all times protect himself, by the determined habit of sitting immovable under every call and every application. All that arrangement which takes a minister away from his house may be evaded–but how shall he be able to extricate himself from the besetting inconveniences of such an arrangement as gives to the whole population of a neighbourhood a constant and ever-moving tendency towards the house of the minister? The patronage with which I think it is his heavy misfortune to be encumbered, gives him a share in the disposal of innumerable vacancies, and each vacancy gives rise to innumerable candidates, and each candidate is sure to strengthen his chance for success by stirring up a whole round of acquaintances, who, in the various forms of written and of personal entreaty, discharge their wishes on the minister in the shape of innumerable applications. It is fair to observe, however, that the turmoil of all this electioneering has its times and its seasons. It does not keep by one in the form of a steady monsoon. It comes upon him more in the resemblance of a hurricane; and like the hurricanes of the atmosphere, it has its months of violence and its intervals of periodical cessation. I shall only say, that when it does come, the power of contemplation takes to herself wings and flees away. She cannot live and flourish in the whirlwind of all that noise and confusion by which her retreat is so boisterously agitated. She sickens and grows pale at every quivering of the household bell, and at every volley from the household door, by which the loud notes of impatience march along the passages, and force an impetuous announcement into every chamber of the dwelling-place. She finds all this to be too much for her. These rude and incessant visitations fatigue and exhaust her, and at length banish her entirely; nor will she suffer either force or flattery to detain her in a mansion invaded by the din of such turbulent and uncongenial elements.
” But though I talk of cessations and intervals, you are not to suppose that there are ever at any time the intervals of absolute repose. There is a daily visitation, though it is only at particular months that it comes upon you with all the vehemence and force of a tornado. There was of late an unceasing stream of people passing every day through the house, and coming under the review of the minister on their road to the supplies of ordinary pauperism. This formed part of the prescribed conveyance through which each of them trusted to find their way to the relief that they aspired after. This always secured a levee of petitioners, and kept up a perennial flow of applications, varying in rapidity and fulness with the difficulty of the times–but never, in the whole course of my experience, subsiding into a rill so gentle that it only ministered delight and refreshment to the bosom by the peacefulness of its murmurs. Oh, no! my brethren–there is a something here about which our tearful sons and daughters of poesy are most miserably in the wrong. I know that they have got many fine things to say about the minister of a beneficent religion having a ready tear for every suffering, and an open ear for every cry, and room in his house for every complainer, and room in his heart for a distinct exercise of compassion on the needs and the distresses of every afflicted family, and an open door through which the representations of dejected humanity may ever find a welcome admittance, and a free unoccupied day throughout every hour of which it is his part to act the willing friend of his parishioners, and to yield the alacrity of his immediate attentions in behalf of all the wants and all the wretchedness that is among them. Yes! all this ought to be done, and agents should be found for the doing of it. But the minister is not the man who can do it. The minister is not the man who should do it. And beset as we are on the one hand by a hard and a secular generation, who, without one sigh of remorse, could see every minister of the city sinking the spiritualities of his office under the weight of engagements which they themselves will not touch with one of their fingers; and deafened as we are on the other hand by the outcry of puling sentimentalists, who, without thought and without calculation, would realize all the folly and all the fondness of their fancy-sketches upon us, I utterly refuse the propriety of all these services–and yet proclaiming myself the firm, the ardent, the devoted friend of the poor, do I assert these advocates of theirs to be the blind supporters of a system which has aggravated both the moral and the physical wretchedness of a most cruelly neglected population.”
In the afternoon the subject was resumed, and in demonstrating the evils of the system which he denounced, Dr. Chalmers expatiated on the serious losses which the literature of theology and the learning of its ministers had thereby suffered, closing his impassioned oration in these words: “But I shall be told by some that all this literature is of no consequence;-—that it is an unhallowed innovation upon the simplicity that is in Christ now to plead for it as I have done; that to lament its decay and its departure as I have done is to take up the Sabbath with a topic of unsuitable contemplation, and to profane the pulpit by an argument which, in the eyes of many, may wear a complexion so classical and even so heathenish as positively to scandalize them. Oh! my brethren, I am afraid that upon this subject there has been a most unmanly surrender of Christianity and of all that strength and honour which belong to it, that so much authority has been given to the conceptions of a narrow and ignorant bigotry as to have laid open our religion to the scorn of philosophers, and to have brought down upon her the contempt and the disgust of the upper classes of society; that in this way she has been associated with all that is mean and with all that is ignoble, and has been banished from the circles of literature, and has been looked upon as such a tame vulgar and unworthy thing, as to be totally unfit for a man of eloquence and of liberal illumination; ay, and when they cast their glance upon her, and see nothing in any of her features but the plain and the coarse and the ordinary, let us not wonder though it should be a glance of hard and infidel disdain. What! are we to be told that in behalf of Christianity nothing can be summoned up either in the way of argument or of illustration to compel the homage and to school the superciliousness of these men? Are we, in truckling compliance with the humours of a baseless fanaticism, to strip away all learning and cultivation and eloquence, as so many unseemly appendages from the business of the priesthood? Are we to let down the defences of our faith, and to withdraw from it the labours of the understanding, and to mar any one of its legitimate recommendations, and to proclaim in the hearing of the public that instead of being all things to all men, our men of science and of scholarship are altogether beyond the range of its artillery, that they may assemble in their halls, and sit in the conscious superiority of reason above all the pretensions of this homely and unlettered superstition–that they may bid a proud defiance to all her anathemas, and leave it to the abject credulity of unenlightened minds to be shaken by her terrors—that they move in a secure and elevated region, where all the weapons of Christianity and all the remonstrances of her illiterate defenders cannot reach them, and that looking down on a vulgarized priesthood, they may feel how they have nothing to fear from such a tame and feeble host of assailants,-how the bulwarks of philosophy are safe from all the inroads of this loathsome fanaticism, and that it might be left to do all its slovenly work and to reap all its humble triumphs over the mass of an untaught population.
“Now, my brethren, what I strongly contend for is, that in like manner as the Bible of Christianity should be turned into all languages, so the preaching of Christianity should be turned to meet the every style of conception and the every variety of taste or of prejudice which can be found in all the quarters of society. The proudest of her recorded distinctions is that she is the religion of the poor-that she can light up the hope of immortality in their humble habitations—that the toil-worn mechanic can carry her Sabbath lessons away with him, and enriching his judgment and his memory with them all, can bear them through the week in one full treasury of comfort and improvement-that on the strength of her great and elevating principles a man in rags may become rich in faith, and looking forward through the vista of his earthly anticipations, can see on the other side of all the hardship and of all the suffering with which they are associated the reversion of a splendid eternity. Ay, my brethren, such a religion as this should be made to find its way into every cottage and to circulate throughout all the lanes and avenues of a crowded population, and the friend of the species might take it along with him to the tenements of want and of wretchedness, and knocking at every door where there is a human voice to bid him enter, he may rest assured that if charged with the message of the gospel, humanity in its rudest forms may hang upon his lips, and rejoice and be moralized by the utterance which flows from them. But, my brethren, while I would thus have the religion of the New Testament to send her penetrating influences through the great mass of the towns and families of the community, I would not have her to skulk in timid and suspicious distance from the proudest haunts either of wealth or of philosophy. I would have her to carry, as she well might, such a front of reason, and to lift such a voice of eloquence, and to fill her mouth with such a power and variety of argument, as should compel the most enlightened of the land to do her reverence. I would have her–with as firm and assured footstep as Paul ascended the hill of Areopagus, and amid the assembled literature of Athens drew an argument for the gospel from the poetry and the mythology of Athens, I would have her even now to make her fearless way through the halls and the universities of modern Europe, and as she stood confronted with the erudition of academic men, I would have her to equal and to outvie them. Oh! tell me why it should be otherwise! Tell me why the majesty of truth should ever want an able advocate to assert and to proclaim it, or why the recorded communication from God should ever want a defender of learning to vindicate its evidence and its history!
“I shall only say, that if the public, on the one hand, and the advocates for a learned, and a spiritual, and a separated order of clergymen, rich in mental accomplishments, and at liberty to give their ample and their exclusive leisure to the labours of the closet and the strict work of the ministry, on the other,-if these two parties be at variance, then we do not hesitate for a single moment to assert that the public are most glaringly and most outrageously in the wrong; that, in this instance, as in many others, the voice of the people is most assuredly not the voice of God; that be it as loud or as urgent as it may, it is the part of a conscientious man to let it rave idly around him till its own violence shall expend it; and wishing, as I do, my brethren, to combine the firmness of principle with the mildness of friendship to every one of you, I think it right to say, that after we have fairly emerged out of this contest it will be found that he with whom it originated, while he appeared to many of you to be the advocate of his own selfish accommodation, was, in fact, advocating the best interests of that misguided population who were opposed to him.”
One way in which the clerical emancipation so strongly contended for might be at least partially attained, was by the lay members of the Church coming forward to the relief of their ministers, and the platform as well as the pulpit was employed to invoke their aid. Dr. Chalmers was invited to take part in the proceedings of the Anniversary Meeting of the Glasgow Bible Society. It was the first meeting of this kind at which he had spoken in that city. This was, besides, his own favourite Society, for which he had written and laboured so much during the first years of his regenerated ministry at Kilmany. The motion, however, which happened to be assigned to him was a vote of thanks to one clergyman and two laymen. This conjunction of the two species of agency was irresistible; and the special objects of the Bible Society being all for the time forgotten, he launched out upon the engrossing topic, summoning his fellow-citizens to the help of an overburdened ministry, and strenuously urging that the administration not only of the benevolent but of the religious institutions of the city should be thrown mainly, if not wholly, upon laymen.
But even that, could it have been gained, was not enough. A few weeks among the wynds of the Saltmarket had wrought the conviction in his mind, that if these swarming multitudes were to be reclaimed, who, hidden from the public eye, were living in ignorance and guilt, and dying in darkness, a large band of fellow-labourers must go down and enter with him upon the spiritual cultivation of the neglected territory. As yet, however, but little could be expected from the regular office-bearers of his congregation. “Till Dr. Chalmers came to Glasgow,” so says a most competent authority, “parochial Christian influence was a mere name it was not systematic, it was not understood there was not the machinery for the moral elevation of a town population. The people were let alone. Some of the elders of the Tron Church were excellent men, but their chief duty was to stand at the plate, receive the free-will offerings of the congregation as they entered, and distribute them to the poor by a monthly allowance. Their spiritual duties and exertions were but small, and almost exclusively confined to a few of the sick.” On Friday the 20th December 1816, in the vestry of the Tron Church, a few younger and less prejudiced men, who might be more efficient coadjutors, were ordained to the office of the eldership, and we refer such of our readers as desire to enter fully into the spirit of the earlier period of Dr. Chalmers’s ministry in Glasgow, to the Charge which he delivered upon this occasion. One thing that address very clearly tells us that the wisdom, caution, and kindness with which he urged forward his contemplated reformations were equal to the indomitable energy displayed. His strong hand not only never tried to put new wine into old bottles, but it was with a very gentle motion that even into the new bottles the new wine was poured.
There was, however, one region of effort open to instant occupation, without waiting for any official reformations. It had surprised Dr. Chalmers to observe the lamentable extent of ignorance among the young, very few of the children among the lowest class of the community being in attendance upon Sabbath evening schools. Convinced that if more of these schools were opened in various districts of his parish, and vigorous means were taken by actual visitation of the families to bring out the children, a very large increase of attendance might be secured, he invited a few members of his congregation to form themselves into a Society for this purpose. At the second meeting of this Society, held on the 10th December 1816, Mr. Collins reported, that on the preceding Sabbath he had opened in Campbell Street the first of the projected schools, with an attendance of thirteen children. The schools rapidly multiplied—the attendance in each increased-new teachers volunteered, and at the end of two years it was found that upwards of 1200 children were under regular religious instruction. No young person was received into these schools who could not read the Bible with considerable distinctness and accuracy. The Bible, the Shorter Catechism, and the Scripture References were the class-books generally used, but no fixed rules for the management of the schools were laid down. Subject to the regulation that he should introduce no new class-book without submitting it for the consideration of the Society, each teacher was left to take his own way in the teaching or training of his own class. Monthly meetings afforded regular opportunities of communication as to the best and most effective methods of instruction. “Our meetings,” says one of the members of the Society, “ were very delightful. I never saw any set of men who were so animated by one spirit, and whose zeal was so steadily sustained. The Doctor was the life of the whole. There was no assuming of superiority, no appearance of the minister directing every thing; every one was free to make remarks or suggestions, Dr. Chalmers ever the most ready to receive a hint or a suggestion from the youngest or least experienced member; and if any useful hint came from such a one he was careful to give him the full merit of it-calling it, indeed, generally by his name. 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.”
The first schools of this Society were strictly parochial, that is, none but children residing within the bounds of the Tron Church parish were admitted to them, but they were not strictly or limitedly local. About a year after their institution, a new teacher having been admitted, Dr. Chalmers asked one of his elders to go with him to the Saltmarket, that from a number of contiguous families they might collect as many children as would fill the new school. They secured a room at the entrance of a long close. After going through the families living in this single lane, and summing up the number of children, there were found to be twenty-eight who had promised to attend. “I think,” said Mr. Thomson, “ that we have got plenty.” The idea of a separate school in and for a single close pleased Dr. Chalmers amazingly. “Yes!” he exclaimed, “this is the true local plan: we will just fix down Mr. R. to this close; we will make it his parish; let him visit all the families here, and look after all the children; that will be an effectual preaching of the gospel from door to door.” From this time the plan of marking out a small and definite locality, getting a room for the school within its limits, and charging the teacher with the educational oversight of all its families, was adopted and enforced. The strong additional stimulus imparted to the teachers by having a small and specific locality to work in, and a definite and overtakable work to do; its increased efficacy in calling out the attendance of the children, who were far readier to go to a schoolroom so near than to one more distant, and upon whom the gregarious principle came thus to operate with much more force; the bringing of the teacher into closer acquaintance with all the families of his district, and the bringing of those families into something like acquaintance with one another; but, above all, its pervading influence, its power thoroughly to diffuse the leaven of Christian influence through that portion of the mass on which it operated, these all pleaded so many recommendations of this system of local Sabbath-schools. To those schools in the Saltmarket in which it was first adopted an historic interest is attached. At a meeting held in Glasgow twenty years afterwards, and when he was engaged in the still greater work of adding two hundred churches to the equipment of the Establishment, Dr. Chalmers “adverted to a letter he had received from Mr. Heggie, a Sabbath-school teacher in the Saltmarket. This gentleman, he said, had been attached to that locality for a long period. And that which conferred the chief importance on this Sabbath school was, that with it was connected every opinion he had formed of the necessity of the parochial and of the territorial system. When he came to Glasgow he was connected with the Tron parish. His first attention was directed to the young, He found that there was a general Sabbath-school Society existing in Glasgow, by which many Sabbath-schools were established throughout the city. The schools were taught on no particular plan, and scholars were welcome to come to them from all parts of the city to receive religious instruction from the teachers on Sabbath evenings. A survey was taken of the Tron parish-the population of which was then 11,000—and he found that the number of children in the parish who attended the Sabbath-schools, on the general Sabbath-school system, did not exceed one hundred. He was satisfied that such a parish might yield a greater number of children capable of receiving Sabbath-school instruction. Accordingly he devised the local Sabbath-school system. In other words, instead of having schools for children coming from all parts of the city, and for those who had a previous will to attend on a particular teacher, he divided the parish into forty different sections, allotting thirty or forty houses to each section. He appointed local teachers for each section, and told each of them that his specific business was, instead of taking children from all parts of the city, and those who had a previous inclination to attend, that he should go forth within the limits of his district, and visit every family, telling them he had a Sabbath-school in the neighbourhood, and requesting the parents to send their children to it. Instead of waiting for them to come to him his part was to go to them, and induce the parents to send their children to the school. What was the result? His excellent friend, Mr. Heggie, had one or two closes in the Saltmarket attached to his school, and there was not a single family who did not send their children to him to be instructed. He had a goodly attendance of thirty or forty of them. What was true of his district was also true of all the other districts in the Tron parish. In consequence of attaching a territorial district to each Sabbath-school, and making it the business of the teacher to go to the children to get them to attend it, instead of waiting till they came to him-instead of having an attendance of little more than one hundred, as under the old general system, he had the satisfaction of preaching to an assemblage of not less than one thousand two hundred Sabbath scholars. Now, this had convinced him of the great superiority of the local to the general system of Sabbath-school instruction. The first thing that suggested the great argument he employed in support of the territorial system was the difference in the amount of attendance between the local and the general system of Sabbath school instruction.”
On Dr. Chalmers’s removal from the Tron Church to that of St. John’s, four of the teachers in these Saltmarket schools organized themselves into a separate Society. They chose as the field of their operations both sides of the Saltmarket, with the numerous lanes which branch off from them, containing a population of 3624 souls, out of which when they began their labours there were only 128 children attending any Sabbath school. Instead of extending their operations at once over the whole of the space, each appropriated a small locality, exerting all his influence to induce others to come and help them. In six months their numbers were complete the space was covered-twenty-six schools were opened-thirty-three teachers, including visitors, were engaged, and instead of 128 children 732 were in attendance. “ These schools continue to the present day, and there have flowed from this small local Sabbath school Society eight other Societies, in different parts of the city and suburbs, all fairly traceable to the impetus given in the Tron parish by Dr. Chalmers in this branch of parochial economy. I consider had Dr. Chalmers done nothing more than promote the principle of this local system of Sabbath schools, he would not have lived in vain. You can easily conceive the labour and fatigue he must have undergone, first to convince his agents of the propriety of his plan, and then to keep them from breaking the rules. You also know the difficulty of retaining Sabbath-school teachers for any lengthened period under any system of management, untrained as they are to the art, and over-sanguine of immediate results. The Doctor’s Christian simplicity, however, operated powerfully in retaining nearly all.”
It was not, however, upon a flowing tide of approval or popularity that these Sabbath-school operations at the commencement moved. It was very much the reverse. There were indeed a few, who from the very beginning hailed them with delight. But over the general public of Glasgow the spirit of religious indifference as yet strongly prevailed. That spirit looked upon such efforts with cold dislike, and when stirred into quicker life by such energy as was now embarked in their prosecution, it kindled into a disdainful opposition, and tried to fill its mouth with arguments. These Sabbath-schools, it was said, would interfere with the proper domestic training of the young. They were engaging laymen in what was fit and suitable employment for clergymen alone. They would be the means of disseminating a spirit of fanatical piety throughout the land. Not satisfied with the actual doing of the work, Dr. Chalmers desired to be its protector, and to turn, if he could, that tide of public feeling which was running against it. In one of his Tron Church sermons, delivered about the end of the year 1816, he entered upon a vigorous and most animated defence of Sabbath-schools, the very tone and manner of which sufficiently testifies as to the state of public feeling at that time in Glasgow. ” It is not easy for me,” he said in closing this defence, “to describe my general feeling in reference to the population with which I have more immediately to do. I feel as if it were a mighty and impenetrable mass, truly beyond the strength of one individual arm, and before which, after a few furtive and unavailing exertions, nothing remains but to sit down in the idleness of despair. It is a number, it is a magnitude, it is an endless succession of houses and families, it is an extent of field which puts at a distance all hope of a deep or universal impression, it is an utter impossibility, even with the most active process of visitation, to meet the ever pressing demands of the sick, and the desolate, and the dying, -it is all this, I confess, which tempts me to seek for relief in some wise and efficient system of deputation. In these circumstances I do feel greatly obliged by every contribution to the great cause of instructing and of moralizing. I do rejoice particularly in the multiplication of those humble and often despised seminaries. I think, I am certain that they are well suited to the present needs and circumstances of our population, that they may be made to open up a way through a mass that would be otherwise impenetrable, and to circulate a right and a healthy influence through all the untravelled obscurities which abound in it–that an unction of blessedness may emanate abroad upon every neighbourhood in which they are situated that they occupy a high point of command over the moral destinies of our city,* for the susceptibilities
* *One fact is not an argument, or rather we must not draw a general conclusion from any one particular fact; but I may state one which occurred in reference to St. John’s parish, which is very conclusive in its own department. Sixteen or eighteen of my Sabbath scholars, who had come to the knowledge of the truth, and who had been my pupils for about a dozen years, desirous of extending a knowledge of Christ to their perishing brethren, chose for themselves a locality in the Barony parish, which was only 200 yards distant from my district, and in which most of these young men and women resided. I may mention that the two parishes of St. John’s and Barony are divided simply by the breadth of a narrow street. The opposite side to St. John’s, therefore, was fixed upon for establishing themselves as local Sabbath-school teachers, and as particular a note was taken of the statistics of each family as Dr. Chalmers recommended in St. John’s. The following is the result of that survey on the subject of education: Out of 123 families on the Barony side there were found 134 children above six years of age who could not read, and were not at school; whereas on the St. John’s side of the street, out of 106 families, there were only three not at school. Of the former scarcely any were in Sabbath-schools; in the latter the greater proportion were in attendance. These young Sabbath-school teachers were afterwards active agents in getting up St. Luke’s Church, and getting it formed into a quoad sacra parish.”– Memoranda of David Stuar, Esq.
of childhood and of youth are what they have to deal with. It is a tender and flexible plant to which they aim at giving a direction. It is conscience at the most impressible stage of its history which they attempt to touch, and on which they labour to engrave the lessons of conduct and of principle. And I doubt not that when we are mouldering in our coffins, when the present race of men have disappeared and made room for another succession of the species, when parents of every cast and of every character have sunk into oblivion, and sleep together in quietness, the teachers of these institutions will leave behind them a surviving memorial of their labour, in a large portion of that worth and piety which shall adorn the citizens of a future generation.”