Truth be known, I have often been the kid at the back of the classroom. Rather than sitting on the front row, taking notes, listening intently, I am sitting at the back of the room and gazing about absent-mindedly. When the pressure is on–meaning the assignment is due tomorrow or I am on the verge of failing–I get busy. Bottom line: I am usually a bad student.
Case in point: For years–at least a decade or more–I have heard George Grant wax on and on about Thomas Chalmers. Then the front row students ask, “What should I read to learn more of Chalmers?” Meanwhile, I am wondering how much longer until class is over. Repeatedly, in lectures, asides, personal exhortations, and the like, Dr. Grant says,
“The first book that I always send readers to is the short profile by John Roxborough and Stuart Piggen entitled, The St. Andrew Seven (Banner of Truth). Though not entirely about Chalmers (most of the text is devoted to six of his students and the way he influenced the trajectory of their lives and ministries) it is nevertheless the best single, accessible work available in a modern edition.”
The front row students hypervenilate until their copy of the book is in their hands. And, they are anxiously awaiting that still future event where some mega-work on Chalmers by Grant himself arrives in print. Meanwhile, on the back row, all I hear is that there is some book called Seven Saints Named Andrew, which I confuse with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (a movie), which I might watch instead of having to read the book.
Then a copy of the book arrives in the mail. That is like a note sent home to the parents. So, with the pressure on, I have finally begun to plod my way through this massive 150 pages tome with no pictures.
First observation: A telling story appears about Chalmers in the early days of his ministry. Although he was employed as a pastor, he was quite interested in a position teaching mathematics at the University of Edenburgh. His view was that “after the satisfactory discharge of his parish duties,” a minister could enjoy five days in the week of uninterrupted leisure for the prosecution of any science which his taste may engage.”
In popular terms, and some people actually think this, the preacher only works one day a week.
Twenty years later, and we might add, much sanctifying grace later, Chalmers wrote:
“What are the objects of mathematical science? Magnitude and the proportion of magnitude. But then…I had forgotten two magnitudes. I thought not of the littleness of time. I recklessly thought not of the greatness of eternity.”
It takes time–of which there is too little–but the kid at the back of the room does finally hear something,