Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine,  3rd ser. 1 (1822), 40–46.

[Review of The Christian and Civic Economy of Large Towns, nos. I to VIII, by Thomas Chalmers]  [1/4]



Review, Serial

Publications reviewed:

Chalmers 1821–26


Christianity, Political Economy, Disease, Immorality, Medical Treatment, Adulteration, Astronomy, Theology of Nature, Politics, Nomenclature, Astrology, Population

Publications cited:

Chalmers 1817

    Asserts that Christianity has 'complete moral efficacy' to 'correct the most corrupt state of society'. Given that there are Christian countries of long standing where serious social ills exist, concludes that the remedy has been 'adulterated' and improperly applied in some instances. Nevertheless considers that the genuine remedy 'is not lost, as appears from many sufficiently attested cases of relief or cure; and if moral disease still rages, and, in certain districts, spreads its most concentrated contagion [...] the fair inference is, that such districts have been too much neglected by those in whose hands this powerful panacea has been deposited'. Observes that a 'more extensive application' of the treatment is the pressing issue to which Thomas Chalmers's The Christian and Civic Economy of Large Towns is addressed. (40) Discusses the alleged causes of the degenerate state of urban populations and attributes it instead to 'the non-application of Christianity' (42). Argues that 'Moral and political evils are inseparably involved', and that statesmen and political economists need to understand the character of 'genuine Christianity'. Claims that, '[b]y a silent operation, and by methods undignified by the technicality of science, it [...] infallibly works out, wherever it prevails, all the ends of good government, and all the results of the science of political economy'. The reviewer does not mean to suggest that political economy 'is useless', since it 'may direct efforts, where it cannot create the principle from which they must spring', but it is 'mere intellectual play, without the operating and corrective influence of religion'. (43) It would be like applying the principle of astrology (were that principle shown to be valid) while ignoring the influence of the most recently discovered planets; the projects of the 'Economist' are affected by 'moral counteractions' which can only be controlled by religion (43–44). Exemplifies this from the poor laws, which encourage 'the spirit of dependence, improvidence, and pauperism', a moral evil 'which cannot submit to a scientific or political cure'. (44) An extract from the book under review suggests that Christianization can have the desired effect without Christian workers knowing about it: 'as well may the inventor of a philosophical apparatus disown the aid of those artizans, who, in utter ignorance of its use, only know how to prepare and put together its materials, as may the [...] speculator in the walks of civil economy disown the aid of those christian labourers, who, in utter ignorance of the new doctrine of population', only know how to lead others to Christian virtue. The reviewer suggests that Christians should look to the 'deep and divine philosophy, of Religion' rather than so much to 'human laws and science'. (45) Observes that these truths have been well expressed by Chalmers, and concludes that the 'practical and stirring nature' of the work 'renders it one of the most important works which has, for many years, issued from the press' (46).

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