DR. CHALMERS'S DAILY SCRIPTURE READINGS.
Tuts volume is the first of a series designed to embrace the whole of the posthumous works of the late Dr. Chalmers, arranged in five formal or four substantive classes. The first class will be Scripture Readings, a species of personal commentary or remark on the author s private reading ; of which the first volume is before us. The second clue will embrace his theological lectures, in a remoulded and revised form, under the title of Theological Institutes, intended to constitute a treatise on divinity. This task he commenced in 1841, and to it all his leisure time was given. " None of his published writings," says his sou-in-law and editor, the Reverend W. Hanna, "received a larger if so large a measure of the au- thor's care and thought in their preparation. He looked forward to it himself; when completed, as his largest and most matured contribution, to the science of theology ; and he leas left it nearly in the state in which he designed to present it to public notice." The third section is an offshoot of the second, and will contain the lectures on Butler's Analogy ; which their author had also contemplated publishing in a revised form, but with- out having made much progress in his plan. The last division will hex volume of Discourses, selected from the author's unpublished sermons - " beginning with one of his earliest and at the time most frequently useti compositions for the pulpit, and giving a series of others, composed at die- ferent successive periods in the course of his ministry."
The Scripture Readings, though substantially differing only in the length and elaboration of their treatment, and perhaps in a rather more devotional style as regards the Sunday compositions, will appear under the two titles which their author affixed, as huleed, they were formally two distinct, w.o.rks.
" The two series of Biblical compositions," says Dr. Hanna, " now to be offered to the public, were commenced by Dr. Chalmers in October ItS41, and continued with unbroken regularity till the day of his decease. Go where he might, how- ever he might be engaged, each week-day had its few verses read, thought over, . written u —forming what he denominated Hors:&tibiae Quotidian'; each Sabbath- y had its two chapters, one in the Old and the other in the New Tes-
ament, with the two trains of meditative devotion recorded to which the reading of them respectively gave birth—forming what he denominated Horse Biblicie Sab- !reticle.' When absent from home, or when the manuscript books in which they were ordinarily inserted were not beside him, he wrote in abort-hand, carefully entering what was thus written in the larger volumes afterwards. Not a trace of haste, or of the extreme pressure from without to which he was so often subjected, is exhibited in the handwriting of these volumes. There are but few words omit- ted, scarcely any erased. Instead of being a first and an only copy, written often in the midst of a multitude of engagements, they look more like the last and the corrected copy of one who had few other tasks than that of their preparation to occupy him. • • " In preparing the Horse Biblicre Quotidian',' he had beside him for use and reference, the Concordance, the Pictorial Bible, Poole's Synopsis, Henry's Commentary, and Robinson's Researches in Palestine. These constituted what he called his Biblical Library.' There,' said he to a friend, pointing as he spoke to the above-named volumes, as they lay together on his library table, with a volume of the ' Quotidianse,' in which he had just been writing, lying open be- side them, there are the books I use; all that is Biblical is there. I have to do with nothing besides in my. Biblical study.' To the consultation of these few vo- lames he throughout restricted himself. It would have interfered with, it would have defeated his primary design in commencing these compositions, had he used the many other helps which were at hand—had he been led away by their em- ployment into any lengthened critical, or historical, or doctrinal investigations. fhese writings were not intended to be the vehicles of learned research. They were not intended to constitute an elaborate exposition. He had no intention of drawing up for the use of others a regular commentary on the Holy Scriptures. The thought of others, the idea of publication, was not in his mind when he be- gan to write. He used the pen in this instance for his own private benefit alozs. Seeking to bring his mind into as close and as full contact as possible with the passage of the Bible which was before him at the time, he recorded the thoughts suggested, the moral or emotional effects produced—that these thoughts might the less readily slip out of his memory, that these effects might be more pervading and more permanent. His great desire was to take off from the sacred page as quick, as fresh, as vivid, and as complete an impression as he could; and in using his pen to aid in this, his object was far more to secure thereby a faithful trans- cript of that impression than either critically to examine or minutely to describe the mould that made it. His own description of these' Horn &Miele Quoti- dianse' was, that they consisted of his first and readiest thoughts, and be clothed these thoughts in what to him at least were the first and readiest words. Traces of his own peculiar phraseology do constantly occur, and yet in such a form as to demonstrate of that phraseology that it was as capable of condensation as of ex- pansion; that it could be brief and aphoristic, or ample and many-volumed, as the time or the object might require."
This long extract from the editor's preface almost supersedes the ne- cessity of further description ; though some remarks on the literary cha- racter of the work may be added. The books of the Old Testament that form the subject of the volume before ns close with Joshua. The number of verses Dr. Chalmers read daily varied from six or seven to an entire chapter occasionally; his measure, apparently, being the completeness of the topic. His treatment is varied, but mostly general, taking the subject of the whole text or some leading particulars, not descending into minutiae or attempting to handle verse after verse. The various nature of the subjects naturally suggests variety of treatment, as to record the impres- sion from the text, not any preconceived theological plan, was the object of the author. The nature of that impression, however, to a great extent must depend upon the reader's mind; and the great variety of Dr. Chal- mere's studies has served him well upon this occasion, though perhaps at the expense of his theology. His Readings do not give the idea of a learned Biblical scholar; and lie seems conscious of deficiency himself, gliding over or passing by difficulties and mooted points,— unless, indeed, he designedly left them, as "vain wisdom." But the variety is remarkable: philosophical, political, social, and moral specu- lations, in addition to direct religion, well out according to the character of the text, from the reiteration of the writer's thirty-year old geolo- gical views upon the meaning of "In the beginning," down to the fatiguing minuteness of the ceremonial law. Over this he throws relief if not light ; now tracing a support to forms and externals from the direc- tions touching the priest's dress, now upholding the antiquity and obli- gation of tithes ; anon finding something to justify Voluntaryism, then to suptort Endowments; and in this reading on a passage in Exodus expounding the rationale of both in such a way as to lend a hand to the Free Birk.
" Exodus xxxvi. 1-7.—What the Lord commanded was, that such and such work should be done, not that such and such contributions should be rendered to it. These He left free; and accordingly they were brought in the form of free offerings. The commandment was upon Moses, however, to proclaim and receive these offerings, and then turn them to the use which had been appointed. Still God is all in all. He put the wisdom to devise in the hearts of some, the willing- ness to give in the hearts of others. Shower down such gifts and graces, 0 Lord, on the friends of Scotland's people and Scotland's Church ! " It is delightful to be told, as we are here, of the sufficiency, nay exuberance, of the voluntary principle for the object assigned to it: no argument, however, for an exclusive voluntaryism. It is in striking conformity with human nature, that for the erections, as in this instance, of the tabernacle, God should not have im- posed a levy upon His worshipers, but drawn on their free will; whereas for the maintenance of the ecclesiastical labourers a legal provision was instituted. It was thus that we aimed at the prosecution of Church Extension—subscriptions for the places of worship—an endowment for their officiating ministers."
The brevity of the Readings adds much to their variety and interest ; somewhat resembling in this respect " ana" or " table talk"; but it mili- tates against the display of the author's peculiar eloquence. It cannot, however, conceal his genial nature, or his love of truth, that shows itself in an unconscious exhibition of himself, as well as in a candid admission of difficulties that more learned theologians have attempted to explain. One thing that often "mazes" him, is the peculiar morality of the early ages. When it is exhibited in individual acts of fraud or violence—as the ruffianism of some of the fathers of the Twelve Tribes—he often passes it with a remark; but when it shows itself in a more general form, or in a character held up for imitation, he resorts to a theory which he often throws out, the theory of a "progressive morality." The following is his Reading on part of the twelfth chapter of Genesis, where Abraham re- presents Sarah to the Egyptians as his sister.
" The mystery of this passage lies in the deceit of Abraham being recorded with- out any animadversion on the evil of it. He is called the father of the faithful; and all true disciples walk in the footsteps at least of his faith. But the trait that is given of him here is surely not for our imitation. There are other examples of the same thing held forth in Scripture, and without the reprobation that we might have expected—as with Jacob, and David, and several others; examples that are fitted to stagger those who reflect not sufficiently on the incapacity of our narrow faculties with their limited range to pronounce on all the objects and history of the Divine administration. Though morality. in the abstract is unchangeable, it looks as if in the concrete there was a progressive morality from one ours to another—an accommodation to the ruder and earlier periods of humanity, distinctly intimated by our Saviour, when He tells of polygamy [divorce) being allowed before the times of the Gospel because of the hardness of their hearts. It is worthy of remark, that there is no example, as far as I can recollect, of any deception or imperfect mo- rality of any sort being recorded of Christian disciples in the New Testament with- out a prompt and decided condemnation—as in the case of Paul rebuking Peter for his ambidextrous policy between Jews and Gentiles. In those cases given in the Old Testament, where God is represented as giving a specific order to that which with- out this express sanction would have been questionable or wrong, we feel no diffi- culty, and think that Butler's explanation thereof might well be accepted as alto- gether satisfactory."
This volume will not add to the reputation of Dr. Chalmers as a learned divine ; and were not the supposition almost incredible, one might doubt whether he was much of a Biblical reader till he began these Biblical Readings, many things seem to come so new to him. As regards theolo- 10=1 science, the work is light and loose ; but this very lightness and ooseness give it a popular attraction which a more profound production would not have possessed. The Readings also exhibit in a remarkable de- gree the mental and religious character of the man, as well in its power as its weaknesses. In this point of view, indeed, it may be looked upon as a species of religious autobiography, and (thus far) without the cant and turgidity which usually distinguish unhealthy outpourings of that kind.