After he surrendered to Christian ministry in 1803, Thomas Chalmers (1780 – 1847) dedicated much of his life to gospel labor among Scotland’s poor. Nevertheless, he never abandoned the broad range of interests he had developed during his college years; even from his home in one of Edinburgh’s poorest districts, he kept a frequent and familiar connection with the university and its aristocratic class. As few ever have, Chalmers kept his feet firmly planted among both the richest and the poorest of Scottish society. In this sermon excerpt he brings this unique perspective to bear, reminding both rich and poor that their station in this life is only temporary. Before the bar of God, neither robes nor rags count for anything.
“Christianity is, in one sense, the greatest of all levellers. It looks to the elements, and not to the circumstantials of humanity; and regarding as altogether superficial and temporary the distinctions of this fleeting pilgrimage, it fastens on those points of assimilation which liken the king upon the throne to the very humblest of his subject population. They are alike in the nakedness of their birth. They are alike in the sureness of their decay. They are alike in the agonies of their dissolution. And after the one is tombed in sepulchral magnificence, and the other is laid in his sod-wrapt grave, are they most fearfully alike in the corruption to which they moulder. But it is with the immortal nature of each that Christianity has to do; and, in both the one and the other, does it behold a nature alike forfeited by guilt, and alike capable of being restored by the grace of an offered salvation. And never do the pomp and the circumstance of externals appear more humiliating, than when, looking onwards to the day of resurrection, we behold the sovereign standing without his crown, and trembling, with the subject by his side, at the bar of heaven’s majesty. There the master and the servant will be brought to their reckoning together; and when the one is tried upon the guilt and the malignant influence of his [life] . . . —O! how tremendously will the little brief authority in which he now plays his fantastic tricks, turn to his own condemnation; for, than thus abuse his authority, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”1
1 Thomas Chalmers, Sermons, in The Select Works of Thomas Chalmers, vol. 4 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1850), 167.