Chief Scottish Man

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ISBN 9781783972975

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“On Thursday 18 May 1843 the Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers walked out of St. Andrew’s Church in Edinburgh, along with two hundred and two other ministers and elders. These men were leaving the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly for the last time and within a few hours, Chalmers would be appointed as the first moderator of the newly constituted Free Church of Scotland.”

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) stood at the centre of events that would change the face of the church in Scotland. Without his vision, organizational skills, and his ability to mobilize opinion, it is unlikely that the Free Church would have come into existence. Through his preaching the light of the gospel shone forth, and through his schools and work for the poor, lives were changed.

This new and updated biography tells the story of visionary thinker, minister, and preacher Thomas Chalmers and the many years of struggle for the spiritual independence of the Church of Scotland. It traces his journey from his childhood in a small fishing community to his academic prowess and calling into active gospel ministry. Discover the unforgettable storyof the man who Thomas Carlyle called the “chief Scottish man of his time”.

This volume contains most of the material that appeared in the original Bitesize Biographies, but with additional details to flesh out some areas Thomas Chalmers life and an entirely new chapter on his preaching and pastoral leadership.


“This book provides a fresh and accessible summary of the life of one of Scotland’s greatest sons – and a chief Scottish man! Sandy Finlayson honestly assesses the hugely significant influence Chalmers had on a very different Scotland from today – socially, economically, politically and spiritually – without descending into hagiography. The great Scottish church leader had a heart of iron with feet of clay!  A refreshing reminder that even giants stumble! The book demonstrates well how the gospel which transformed Chalmers life and priorities should still fuel our vision. for contemporary Scotland.  A nation that needs the church to be visionary, confident in the power of the Gospel to change hearts, but also communities and society. A church that empowers its people to serve and inspires in them a missionary heart and a radical social conscience. This book will introduce ‘The Chief Scottish Man’ to whole new audience who will be inspired and challenged by his life story, as I have been as I read it’s pages.”

Rev. Derek Lamont,
Minister, St. Columba’s Free Church,


“Who is the Christian leader from nineteenth-century Scotland whose ministry had the greatest impact?  One could make a case for David Livingstone in the wider world, but inside Scotland itself the most likely candidate is undoubtedly Thomas Chalmers – a truly great preacher, denominational leader, and evangelical statesman. Sandy Finlayson has written a clear, judicious, and lively biography of Victorian Scotland’s Chief Man. I learned from it, was inspired by it, and highly recommend it.”

Dr. Timothy Larsen,
McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College,
Wheaton, IL,
and author of A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians.


“This biography of Chalmers is written from a clear understanding of Chalmers’ Reformed faith and with strong historical insights. Never was there a time when the life and thought of Thomas Chalmers was more needed than ours today. Chalmers’ insistence on the theological integrity of the church and its commitment to biblical truth provides a necessary antidote for the wavering of many who claim to share Chalmers’ historical lineage. His social and economic teaching provides an important balance to those who equate theological conservatism with social conservatism. Professor Finlayson writes clearly and with keen insight into why Chalmers has cast such a long shadow over succeeding generations.” 

Rev. Dr. A Donald MacLeod,
Research Professor of Church History,
Tyndale University College and Seminary,


“Yet again, the Church of Jesus Christ, finds herself indebted to Professor Sandy Finlayson. Having previously written concerning the Founding Fathers of the Free Church of Scotland, Professor Finlayson, in the space of 11 chapters, now focuses our attention on the first among equals of these founders, Thomas Chalmers. He does so in a manner that not only informs the reader, but also evokes thanksgiving to God for a man like Chalmers, who like us all, had his flaws; yet at the same time, exposes the paucity of men of similar stature and influence in the 21st Century Church. The first chapter, which gives an overview of Scottish Church history since the Reformation, is itself, worth the price of the book alone. We look forward, with eager anticipation, to other writings from the keyboard of Professor Finlayson.”

Rev. D. Allan MacLeod,
Pastor, Evangelical Presbyterian Church,


“Every serious church leader should be familiar with the towering figure of Thomas ChaImers: intellectual genius, compelling orator and the ecclesiastical giant who, in 1843, led the “Disruption” in which 450 ministers in the Church of Scotland separated themselves from the “Establishment” to form the Free Church of Scotland. Yet, at root, Chalmers was a compassionate Scottish pastor who, moved with pity for hundreds of helpless families caught in the poverty trap, sought to bring about revolutionary social reform to desperate communities in the context of church and gospel. In this well researched and highly readable new biography, Sandy Finlayson will help to ensure that the legacy of Thomas Chalmers is maintained well into the future. A thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring read.”

Rev. Iver Martin,
Principal, Edinburgh Theological Seminary,
The Mound, Edinburgh.


“Thomas Chalmers was a colossal figure who deserves to be far more widely known and studied today. He was in the first-rank of preachers in his era; his social reform and political thought exercised a tremendous influence on Scotland; and his place as a professor and churchman put him at the center of Scottish Church History during one of its most significant eras. If Chalmers is unfamiliar to you, then this is the place to start. Sandy Finlayson’s biography is clearly written and accessible, while interacting with the best scholarship and primary sources. It shows an appreciation for the personality and accomplishments of its subject, but it never slips into hagiography or holds back on legitimate criticism. This is a book worthy of your time, and Chalmers is a man worthy of your appreciation.”

Rev. Dr. Jonathan L. Master,
Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


“While little known today, Thomas Chalmers was a colossus in the mid-nineteenth century, of such stature that even Karl Marx felt the need to name and shame him in Das Kapital.  A scholar, a philosopher, an economist but, above all a churchman and a Christian, his was a life lived to the full.  Here, Sandy Finlayson continues his project of bringing nineteenth century Free Church divines to life for a new day and a new audience by focusing on the greatest of them all. Clear, concise and accessible.”

Rev. Dr. Carl R. Trueman,
Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College,
Grove City, PA.


“This revised and expanded portrait of one of Scotland’s chief men is written with the best qualities of a sympathetic biography, and readers will find it responsible, engaging, and instructive. Finlayson writes a book which every Christian should read, for it introduces us to a man with godly ambition, a reformer’s vision, and a few of the faults sometimes found in great men. The first two we sorely need in the church today. The last we must learn to forgive in others, and see in ourselves, and this life and study of Thomas Chalmers well help us to that end.” 

Rev. Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn,
Professor of Church History,
Westminster Theological Seminary,
Philadelphia, PA.


“Don’t let the compactness of Professor Finlayson’s work on Chalmers deceive you. It is chock full of useful information on the subjects of shepherding strategy, preaching, church history, church and state, mercy ministry, church planting, and pastoral leadership. All of this comes in the context of the life story of a faithful servant of Christ. This volume will inform, encourage, and equip you to grow in your effectiveness as a shepherd of God’s flock.”

Rev. Dr. Timothy Witmer, Emeritus Professor of Practical Theology,
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA,
and author of The Shepherd Leader.

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Dimensions 12.9 × 19.8 cm