Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. XVI.

Donald Fraser and Marylebone Presbyterian Church found, despite the generally wealthy character of the congregation, that they were in debt due to the high land prices in London's West End. The Church struggled to reduce the debt, and would have done so sooner had they not consulted theirt minister's comfort. They bought, at considerable expense, a house in Cambridge Square, near the church, to serve as a manse. It was a great help to Fraser, who could not afford to rent a house in the expensive district around the church building.
The other major drain on the finances of the Church was the District Mission in Bell Street, where a full-time missionary was employed to evangelize the district. We wonder how many modern 'megachurches' are engaged in this sort of work. Surely a wealthy congregation should do everything in its power to assist smaller churches that are poorer in the things of this world, and should employ its resources in evangelism, not in entertainment?
In London, Fraser became a more successful author than he had been in Canada (not a hard thing to do, as he lost money in his Canadian venture). His chief work was three volumes of 'Synoptical Lectures on the Books of Holy Scripture' published between 1871 and 1876. The contents of the volumes had been prepared for the pulpit (as is often the case with books by preachers), and they sold well, going through several editions. The books sold in America as well as in the UK, and the New Testament lectures were translated into Italian.
Between the first and second volumes in the 'Synoptical Lectures', Fraser contributed a number of papers to a magazine on Ephesians 4.4-7. Soon afterwards they were republished in a book, along with a paper on 2 Thessalonians 2, as 'The Church of God and the Apostasy'. His other books were a volume on Thomas Chalmers and a book on 'The Speeches of the Holy Apostles', made up of sermons. Besides these books, Fraser contributed to many magazines and periodicals. He did not publish many single sermons, but one of them, on 'The Lord's Day' almost led to a heresy trial!
In his sermon, Fraser had stated that the Lord's Day is not the Sabbath moved to another day, but a purely Christian institution. Unfortunately an elder at another london Church thought this was heresy and brought it before the Presbytery of London.
It is important to note that Fraser did not deny that the Lord's Day and the Sabbath were CONNECTED, but he felt that the Lord's Day rested on the Jewish Sabbath as upon a pedestal. It was BETTER than the Sabbath. Fraser explained this to the Presbytery, and the accusation collapsed. The sermon was never reprinted.
Fraser's other foray into print was one that caused him great stress and anxiety. The English Presbyterians had no real paper of their own. There was something called 'The Weekly Review' that was MEANT to be their paper, but it was disliked by the denomination and owned by its publisher, who regularly insulted all and sundry in its pages.
To replace it 'The Outlook and Journal of the Churches' was proposed, a weekly penny paper, and Fraser was one of its board. He felt that there were not enough English Presbyterians to support a penny paper and proposed it should be twopence. The price remained a penny, the paper lost money, even with over five thousand subscribers.
And then the editor had to retire, and Donald Fraser was obliged to become the new editor. While he enjoyed some of the work, the pace of it was too fast fort a busy pastor, and his wife, seeing the effect it was having, pleaded with him to give it up. At last he did so, due to illness, and the paper metamorphosed into 'The Presbyterian' and was relaunched.
In general, Fraser was a successful author and a dilligent pastor. But that came with a price, and like many Victorians, he had to travel for his health.
God willing, that is what we shall deal with next time.



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