Friday, July 27, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. XXI.

Donald Fraser was not a particularly notable man. He founded no school, had no disciples. In fact he was an example of an active parish minister on the latter part of the nineteenth century. Like many ministers of the period, his theology changed from the Calvinism of his forefathers to a religion more in tune with the 'advanced' nineteenth century. While we firmly believe he was a true Christian, he took the first steps on a dowengrade others found led to disaster. But we shall return to a fuller assessment of Fraser's doctrine next time.
As a pastor, he is an example of a man consecrated to the work and devoted to the local Church. While other nineteenth century ministers gave much of their time to travelling and to a 'wider ministry' (C.I. Scofield, for example, had five months' vacation each year from his pastorate at Dallas), Fraser made it a rule to be in his own pulpit twice every Lord's Day except for a few weeks' necessary vacation - and then he was often preaching elsewhere. While other, better known men, in America and Britain, gave the 'wider ministry' a higher priority than their own Church (and we would count Scofield in his later years an example of this), Fraser made his own congregation his first priority. He remembered that he had been called to PASTOR the congregations he was called to, not just to preach to them whenever he was not preaching elsewhere. It was this commitment to the local Church that made Fraser a beloved minister in Montreal even twenty years after he had left.
Fraser's three pastorates, in Canada, in Scotland and in England, point to something else. Like many Scots of the nineteenth century, he was something of a wanderer. He followed his father to Canada, then returned to Scotland. But then he went into a self-imposed exile in England. What was the cause? It was the increasing movement within the Free Church of Scotland for disestablishment. Now, we do not believe in the national establishment of any church. But at the same time, any Church is in danger when the 'enemy' ceases to be Satan and the World and instead another denomination, almost identical to itself, becomes identified as the enemy. What is worst is when the difference between the two denominations is miniscule, as it was in the case of the Free Church and the Church of Scotland. We do not wonder that this "ignoble sectarian temper" drove Fraser across the border to a Church where such matters were easier to deal with - after all, the Church of England was very different from the Church of Scotland, and with the Oxford Movement on the one hand and the 'Essays and Reviews' party on the other, it really did have more obviously wrong with it.

We would point, then, to Fraser's unceasing labours in the Work of the ministry as an example to all pastors of what it means to really BE a local pastor. And we would point to his move to England as an example of the wholesome distaste a minister ought to have of mere sectarianism.

God willing, next time we shall consider what Fraser regarded as 'Sound Doctrine' in his last work - his commentary on the English Presbyterian Articles.



Post a Comment

<< Home