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W2833 TO REV. THOMAS BAKER from Alexander Gordon
Aug 22 1840
To: Rev. Thomas Baker
From: Ouselands

My Dear Sir,

Your favour of the 19th has been duly received but I was not prepared for the response you have made me, in the valuable and edifying disclosure of my acquaintance Dr. Chalmers, for your too partial considerations of an obsolete ritual, which but for its antiquity and illuminations--age and art only, would long ago have perished with its kindred dust of the shelf. Chalmers is a man of Genius, amply displayed in his preaching writings and oratory, yet more considered as a highly imaginative philosopher than a deep theologian, also more speculative than practical. I regret that his extensive power and influence have been wasted on a needless contention with the civil authorities, and which has gained him neither credit or respect. Independent of his clerical merits, he will hereafter be viewed as a church-partisan.1 His pen however is a mine of riches, and worthy of all regards for the doctrines he inculcates.

I once read the volume you have honoured me with, and was so much pleased with it, that I intended a copy should be placed in the library, but it was omitted. You have most kindly supplied the deficiency, and it shall remain with me, both for its monition,2 and an interesting memorial of our acquaintance.

Since Sir Walter Scott departed, who while he lived was considered as the "Genius loci" of our ancient capital, I view Dr. Chalmers and Professor Wilson as his Successors to that rare distinction. We have men of more solid talent and profound learning than either, but there is a charm in the inventive and poetic faculties, which carries those I have alluded to quite out of the common road of literary fame.

That your health may soon be reestablished is an anxious desire, and on its compleat [sic] restoration I shall in conjunction with my family rejoice, in a participation of your ministerial labour, should they again recommence in our vicinity.

The weather at present is rather uncomfortably warm for pedestrian locomotion, yet the days are shortening and the night lengthening. I trust that as soon as the Atmosphere is more indulgent to a walk, we shall have the pleasure and gratification of seeing you Mrs. Baker and family to spend a portion of the day with us.

Mrs. Gordon joins me in best regards to Mrs. Baker yourself and daughter, and I remain most truly,

My Dear Sir,

Faithfully respectfully


Alexander Gordon

1 Dr. Thomas Chalmers: "In 1841 the movement which ended in the Disruption was rapidly culminating, and Dr [Thomas] Chalmers found himself at the head of the party which stood for the principle that no minister shall be intruded into any parish contrary to the will of the congregation. [emphasis added] Cases of conflict between the church and the civil power arose in Auchterarder, Dunkeld and Marnoch, and when the courts made it clear that the church, in their opinion, held its temporalities on condition of rendering such obedience as the courts required, the church appealed to the government for relief. In January 1843 the government put a final and peremptory negative on the church's claims for spiritual independence. On May 18, 1843 470 clergymen withdrew from the general assembly and constituted themselves the Free Church of Scotland, with Dr Chalmers as moderator. He had prepared a sustentation fund scheme for the support of the seceding ministers, and this was at once put into successful operation. On May 20, 1847, immediately after his return from the House of Commons, where he had given evidence as to the refusal of sites for Free Churches by Scottish landowners, he was found dead in bed."

Note: This independence from the head Church of Scotland represents the essence of Presbyterianism.

Hamilton has a Chalmers Church named after Dr. Thomas Chalmers: "In 1905, when the charter members of the new congregation on the Mountain in Hamilton were challenged to choose a name they reached back into their Scottish Presbyterian roots and chose the name of perhaps the most illustrious Scottish Presbyterian clergyman of the 19th. Century. Thomas Chalmers, a native of Fifeshire, was a graduate of St. Andrew's University and the University of Edinburgh. He was licensed to preach in the Church of Scotland in 1799. However, he had also excelled in mathematics, and so he began a career in ministry while also holding a post as Professor of Mathmatics at St. Andrew's University. In 1811, after a time of serious illness and some family bereavements, he had a personal religious experience which led him from a life of relative indifference to one of deep spiritual fervour. After ministering in Glasgow for 8 years he became Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of St. Andrew's and later Professor of Theology at the University of Edinburgh. He was very deeply involved in the life of the Church of Scotland, serving as Moderator in 1831-32. By 1842, however, he had become the acknowledged leader of a group of protesting people within the Church of Scotland who argued for spiritual reform in the church and for the right of each congregation to choose its own minister. In 1843 about one-third of the ministers in the Church of Scotland left the church and organized themselves as the Free Church of Scotland. Thomas Chalmers was not only the first Moderator of the Free Church he also became a Professor and the Principal of the theological college which the Free Church established in Edinburgh. This was a post he held until his death in 1847. Thomas Chalmers is remembered not only as an outstanding preacher and teacher, but as one who gave leadership in caring for the poor and encouraging the church to become involved in charitable work and in the establishment of Sunday Schools. He had a tremendous influence on church life in Scotland in his era. When fellow Scots on the Mountain in Hamilton began a new congregation almost 60 years after his death they chose to honour his memory by calling their new congregation Chalmers Presbyterian Church."

The Whitehern Museum library has seven volumes of Dr. Chalmers works, Chalmer's Posthumous Works vol. I, II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII. Vol.IV is missing and may have been loaned out. See also W-MCP1-1.025, W-MCP6-1.424.

2 Monition: cautionary advice or counsel.

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