Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. VI.

As pastor of the Montreal congregation of the Free Church of Scotland and clerk of the Eastern Canadian Presbytery, Donald Fraser had rapidly become a notable man in Canadian Church life. Year by year he took a more active part in the life of the Church, leading a movement towards union with the Unied Presbyterian Church in Canada.
He also visited Scotland in 1857 to solicit funds for the construction of a new building for Knox College. It was not a task Fraser particularly relished. Asking for money was a bad business, in his opinion, and he did not feel he was gifted or such work. But the college, of which he was an alumnus, asked, and the Synod agreed, so together with Dr. Burns of Toronto, Fraser crossed the Atlantic to 'the old country'. While Burns took Scotland, Fraser had the task of soliciting the English Churches (and particularly the Presbyterian ones) for money.
What was particularly significant for Fraser about this visit was that he made contacts in Enland, particularly Dr. James Hamilton of Regent Square Church, London (pictured). He also preached for the first time in Marylebone Presbyterian Church, where he would one day be pastor.
Rejoining Dr. Burns in Scotland, Fraser was called upon to speak at the Free Church Assembly, then held in the Music Hall, George Street, Edinburgh (The Free Assembly Hall had not yet been finished). It was on the evening set aside for Continental and Colonial matters, and Fraser had the unnerving experience of speaking just fter M. Pilatte had given a telling speech on the condition of France. After the applause, members began to leave the house in troops while Fraser (then an unknown in Scotland) was called on to speak about Canada! It can only have confirmed his dislike of church politics.
After Scotland, Fraser went on to Switzerland, not on a vacation, but on business - to seek out Reformed French-speaking preachers for Quebec. Alas, Fraser found that Switzerland itself was in need of such and could offer no aid, but he did meet the greatest French-speaking theologians of the day - Dr. J. H. Merle D'Aubigne, Professor Gaussen (author of one of the best books ever written on the inspiration of Scripture) and Dr. Caesar Malan. Malan particularly impressed Fraser with his spiritual conversation and his insistence on the assurance of faith.
Before returning to Canada, Fraser was able to visit his relatives in the Highlands, preaching in the Free Church at Kirkhill and the Free East Church of Inverness. He then returned to Montreal, litle suspecting that he would soon return to the land of his birth to stay.

Of which more, God willing, next time.



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