Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. III.

Brought up and converted in the Presbyterian Church, in Scotland and in Canada, there was no question as to whether Donald Fraser should enter the ministry of that denomination. He had investigated the history and doctrine of the church and was satisfied with them, though he had investigated other churches as well. A staunch evangelical, he appreciated the work of evangelical Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Methodists and Baptists, and refused the unchurch any, but he was a Presbyterian through-and-through.
He entered the John Knox theological College of Toronto, the college of the Free Church body in Canada, (a later home of which is our illustration) in the autumn of 1848. At that time the college was housed in a private house. He already had Latin and Greek (and had since his childhood), but at Knox College he had to learn Hebrew as well. He was taught there by Principal Michael Willis, a friend of Thomas Chalmers and later the founding president of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, and Dr. Robert Burns. The theology taught there was the old Scottish Calvinism that Donald Fraser had heard in Inverness and Abberdeen.
During the summer vacation, Donald Fraser preached regularly. The Canadian branch of the Free Church of Scotland was short of ministers, and it was in a country that was still expanding by immigration. His second session at Toronto was followed by more preaching, in the prarie provinces, where log-built schoolhouses served as places of worship and a horse was an essential for the pastor.
A Free Church student spent three sessions in college, and after two at John Knox College, Donald Fraser spent one at New College, Edinburgh. His father urged on him the advantages he would get from a session there, and paid for all expenses.
New College was then at her height. William Cunningham was the Principal, 'Rabbi' Duncan was teaching in his own eccentric fashion, Dr. Black was teaching Church History and Dr. Bannerman was in his prime. Even better, for a young preacher, Edinburgh was full of great preachers, Dr. Guthrie filled Free St. John's (now Free St. Columba's) with his picturesque eloquence, Dr. Gordon's soaring vision of God was declared in the Free High Church, and most of all, Dr. Robert S. Candlish was at the height of his powers at Free St. George's. Fraser was captivated by Condlish and sat under his ministry. Fraser was shaped by the power of Dr. Candlish every bit as much as he was by the New College faculty.
Fraser also read widely. The thing he feared most was a half-educated preacher, a being he though exemplified the adage that 'a little learning is a dangerous thing'. The man who introduces Greek when he does not really know it, or who mangles a theological controversy, was to him the most terrible of beings.
Fraser profited from his time at New College. So did Canada, for when his session was done, despite the pleas of some, he left Scotland to return to his adopted land.

And it is there, God willing, that we shall find him next time.



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