Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. XVIII.

Donald Fraser was an active minister and an active Christian, and the last years of his life were was active as those that had gone before. He stuck to his rule of giving his strength first to the Church over which he had been made pastor and only then to other congregations. He was in his Marylebone pulpit twice every Lord's Day, and he gave of his best. The dislike of more general Church business that had been his in Scotland, left him in England, and he took a keen interest in the business of the Synod. He was made Convener of the College Committee in 1888, and thus had particular responsibility for Westminster College, then located in Queen's Square, London, but later moved to the buildings in Cambridge pictured above. He was part of the committee the English Presbyterian Synod appointed to revise the Westminster Directory for Public Worship. While the Westminster Directory is an admirable document, as a guide to Public worship it was simply TOO LONG for the majority of English Presbyterian congregations in the nineteenth century. If followed closely it would produce two hour services, and Fraser and his compatriots knew that their denomination would not stand for that.
He continued to write, works on 'Metaphors in the Gospels' and 'The Seven Promises' flowing from his pen (having first been preached in the Marylebone pulpit). He also wrote a small work on the new English Presbyterian Articles entitled 'Sound Doctrine'. We have already said that we feel the late 19th and early 20th century preference for minimal doctrinal statements to have been a mistake. The point of creeds and confessions is, as Thomas Chalmers so wisely said, is to be 'landmarks of old heresies'. They are intended not to include as many as possible, but to wisely circumscribe "The faith once delived to the saints'. Especially in a time of doctrinal deviation, the wisest move is to retain the older, longer confessions of the seventeenth century as our standard. Yes, the English Presbyterian Articles were 'sound' as far as they went, but they did not go far enough, and they allowed the 'liberals' to ravage the denomination in safety. God willing, we shall have more to say on Fraser's 'Sound Doctrine' in a forthcoming post.
Fraser began to feel his age at last, and in 1891 the Marylebone Church called Dr. J. Smith, an American, as assistant pastor to give Fraser some relief. The scheme lasted six months, until Dr. Smith returned to his native land. Fraser then took over the whole of the work once more, remaining sole pastor of the congregation until his death.

And of those last few months of Donald Fraser's life we shall write, God willing, next time.



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