Friday, September 28, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at the ancient Baptist Chapel at Salhouse, Norfolk. Salhouse is another chapel badly affected by the virtual end of village life in England. It has a long history, but a very uncertain future. Outside of God's reviving, the Baptist Chapel at Salhouse will share the fate of the village's Methodist and Horsehoe Baptist chapels and will close. But God can preserve His people, and we must trust in Him.

Services are at 11.00 AM and 2.30 PM. The Chapel is located in Chapel Loke, in Salhouse Village.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XIX.

David Brown returned to Aberdeen in 1857 after an absence of twenty-seven years. He was in his fifty-fifth year, and he was returning to the scenes of his youth. His parents had died some years before, but his brother William was still in business in the Granite City, and hios brother-in-law, Rev. John Murray (no relation that we know of) was one of the city's formost ministers. All suspicion lifted after his inaugural lecture. Its subject was 'Christ the ultimate Refuge for the Doubter', and it was based on Peter's reply to Christ's question in John 6, 'Will ye also go away?' 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.' It was founded on his own experience with John Duncan, and he presented Christ as the one that Christians could not leave. He showed how this simple exchange in the Gospel of John bore on the whole of theology, especially the three subjects he had been given, apologetics, exegetical theology and Church history. He saw the three enemies of the faith, tenscendental philosophy, rationalistic criticism and materialistic science, and he saw the need to contend earnestly for the once-for-all delivered faith. He exhorted his students to abide in Christ. Christ, he said, had to be the centre of the theology student's life. It was as much a sermon as it was a lecture, and both studdents and non-students called for Dr. Brown to publish it, which he duly did.
He addressed apologetics in the traditional way, of course. Kuyper had not yet begun his teaching in the Netherlands, and many decades remained to pass before Cornelius Van Til would burst on the scene like a bright star. He taught textual criticism in his exegetical class, and began to take his Church History classes through the great events of the Church. For the first time in a Scottish theological college, Mosheim was not the textbook, although students were advised to buy his book. Beginning with his fourth-year class, and beginning with the Reformation, he selected a volume by Hardwick on the Reformation. The facts were well presented in the book, but the Anglican Hardwick seriously annoyed Brown. His lectures were quite animated, and no student would have left them thinking Hardwick was unbiassed. Still, Brown reasoned, it would help the students to read history critically. He began to work out a course of Church History lectures that would be more satisfactory than the available books.

At length, David Brown was able to fill up the courses. We give information from his synopsis in the College Calendar. He taught each class for five hours a week. In Apologetics he worked deductively, starting with Christianity as a fact. Natural theology he explored not as proving Christianity, but as demonstrating that it was not false. The exegetical course, because of the constraints of time and a small faculty (three professors), was limited to the Gospels, but included txtual criticism, grammar, special introduction, and exegesis of particular portions of the text. The senior Church History course began with the Reformation, starting with Luther, then the Swiss Reformation, and then the English. It included lectures on the theology of the Reformers. The Counter-Reformation and Council of Trent were dealt with next, then the progress of the various Reformed Churches. Examinations were rigorous and frequent, though regular.

The students on the whole respected Brown. He was second to none in his exegetical abilities, and he was always willing to talk to students about whatever difficulties they might be under. He was a great thinker, and too astute to fall into the traps that some others did. Most of all, he was an earnest Christian, and his lectures breated a devotional spirit.
He held the professorship for thirty years, resigning it in 1887, ten years before his death.

God willing, next time we shall see something of his aims in his work as a professor.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XVIII.

Thomas Chalmers had always envisaged the Free Church of Scotland as possessing multiple colleges located in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, at least, After his death, however, there had been a failure of nerve among some of the Free Church leaders, and Principal Candlish of New College had urged that New College should remain the ONLY Free Church College. David Brown, Aberdonian by birth and a minister in Glasgow, had been a member of what was humorously termed 'Her Majesty's Opposition', and had supported the original College scheme, which had been passed. As a sort of consolation prize, it was agreed that New College should gain an extra Chair, one of Exegetical Theology.
David Brown, whose studies had been bringing him more and more into the field of exegetical theology, was a candidate for that post. He knew that his time as a pastor was drawing to an end. The Church at large had gained from his books, but he could not hide from the fact that Free St. James' had suffered somewhat. Others were able to combine writing with the pastorate, David Brown was not.
The other main candidate for the Edinburgh Chair was George Smeaton, one of the Aberdeen professors, and today noted for his standard work on the Holy Spirit and his two books on the New Testament doctrine of the Atonement.
Dr. Beith of Stirling proposed Brown for the Chair. In his speech he drew attention to Brown's published work, and particularly his book on the Second Coming, wehich he regarded as the last word on the subject (chance would be a fine thing). Some said David Brown was too old, nine years older than Smeaton, but Beith pointed out that David Brown was in excellent health. Some men at fifty were younger than others at thirty, he said, and history bore him out (it is a matter of history that Smeaton died in 1889 and Brown in 1897). Yet the Assembly voted for Smeaton, and the result was three fine volumes that continue in print today. Brown was instead appointed to the vacant Aberdeen Chair.
It was not what Brown had wanted. The Edinburgh Chair was purely of New Testament exegesis. The Aberdeen Chair combined Apologetics and Church History with the New Testament, owing to the smallness of the college faculty (the size of the college, illustrated above, gives some indication of the fact). Yet God had crossed his desire to put him in a sphere of eminent usefulness in the Church, a fact Brown only later came to see. So it is with providence,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

God willing, next time we shall see how David Brown began his work in Aberdeen.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XVII.

Of all the commentary projects of the later 19th century, the Jamison, Fausset and Brown commentary was one of the most consistently evangelical, and it is one of the few still in print.
The project had its birth in the Glasgow publishing house of Messrs. Collins and Sons. Mr. Morrison, a member of the company, suggested that it was very desirable to bring out a new Bible commentary, incorporating the best evangelical scholarship. The firm had already published a commentary based on Thomas Scott and Matthew Henry and edited by Rev. Dr. Macfarlane of the Erskine Church, Glasgow, which had been a great commercial success. Morrison pointed out that a modern commentary, more up-to-date, yet sharing the doctrinal outlook of the Calvinists Henry and Scott, would be an excellent addition to the firm's catalogue. The directors agreed, and so authors were needed. Morrison suggested David Brown's name at once, as the single Glasgow minister most suited to the task. Originally David Brown was to have taken the whole New Testament, but his appointment (to be dealt with in its place, God willing) as a theology professor made him unable to do more than the section on the Gospels, Acts and Romans. The rest of the New Testament was completed by Mr. Fausset.
Bishop Moule of Durham, no mean commentator himself, said that Dr. Brown in a few words gave the essencce of the sacred text. Spurgeon thought highly of the volumes, "of this I have a very high opinion," he said, "it is to some extent a compilation and condensation of other men's thoughts, but it is sufficiently original to claim a place in every minister's library: indeed, it contains so great a variety of information that if a man had no other exposition he would find himself at no great loss if he possessed this and used it dilligently" ('Commenting and Commentaries', (London, Passmore and Alabaster, 1885), P. 20). Professor Salmond, who worked with Brown at Aberdeen, pronounced Brown's portion of the commentary to be "undoubtedly the best part."

The commentary was originally issued in six volumes, and is commonly reprinted today in three. It has been abridged several times, and the portion on the Gospels is printed separately by the Banner of Truth Trust. Brown is indeed a sober, conservative, evangelical and reformed scholar. We find in Romans 11 his conviction of a future national restoration of Israel to the land, and their embracing to a great extent the Messiah. In Romans 9 he soundly contradicts all Arminian errors on the passage. The fact that this book is still in print is itself a great testimony to the scholarship of David Brown. Sadly we do not have his commentary on most of Paul's epistles. We think that would have proved most interesting. In later life he published a small commentary on Romans in the series of 'Bible-Class Handbooks' published by T. and T. Clark, and in Schaff's Commentary he wrote on the Epistles to the Corinthians.
How many modern commentaries will still be in print in 150 years? The proportion, we feel (if we have 150 years left to us) will be much the same as it is today for Victorian commentaries.

God willing, next time we shall consider Brown's translation to another scene of trials.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Ministers Behaving Badly

In his memoir Remin-iscences of my Country and People (Cardiff, 1925), David Davies, Penarth, recounts the story of Thomas Jenkins, minister of the Welsh Baptist Church at Maudlin Street, Bristol, a man notable for his warm heart and girth. Indeed, Jenkins was a man so heay that he had problems walking unaided:

'For some years after my settlement in the ministry at Cardiff, I used to hear of Mr. Jenkins's periodical visits to Cardiff [...]. On one very hot summer day, Mr. Jenkins found the task of Walking the whole length of Bute road to what was then called the "Bristol Packet," specially arduous. But on the way down he saw an Irishman driving a donkey-cart to the Docks. He, in desperation, called: "Pat, what will you charge for taking me to the Docks?" "Faith; sixpence!" said Pat. "Very well," gratefully responded Mr. Jenkins, and he made for the centre of the road where the donkey-cart was. But on his arrival, an unexpected problem presented itself - how to get Mr. Jenkins into the cart! It was quite impossible for him to climb into the cart, and quite as impossible for the Irishman to lift him into it! They stood bewildered, but fortune smiled upon them, for at that very moment a powerful navvy happened to pass by. He was at once requisitioned. The donkey was at a standstill, and the tailborad of the cart was taken off, and then the navvy and Irishman, joining hands beneath Mr. Jenkins - and calling out "one," "two," "three," - made a supreme, almost a superhuman, effort to lift him up. This they just managed to do, but he was so heavy they were obliged to drop him with a thud on the bottom part of the cart at the tail-board end, when suddenly the donkey was shot upward into mid-air, kicking and braying hopelessly, until Mr. Thomas, on account of the sharply inclined plane that the bottom of the cart had now formed, slid off and dropped into the roadway, when the donkey, too, silmultaneously dropped to terra firma.
Poor Mr. Jenkins had the fright of his life; but so had the donkey - and so had the Irishman! Mr. Jenkins's exuberant spirits and genial humour, however, could not be suppressed even then, for as he lay helplessly on his back in the centre of Bute Road, he exclaimed in his broadest Welsh accent: "Pat, your donkey tried to take me up yonder too soon!" "Sure," replied Pat, in his most pronounced Irish brogue, "it's the impossible that my poor beauty was trying! It's downward that ye've been after going, in spite of the three of us!" Then giving a touch of the stick to the donkey, he exclaimed, "Faith, I wouldn't take ye for a quid!" and proceeding on his way he left poor Mr. Jenkins prostrate on his back to the mercy of the navy, who, being more human, lifted him up, and set him on his way anew!'


Friday, September 21, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XVI

David Brown spent fourteen years as a Glasgow minister, from 1843 to 1857. While most of his time was taken up with the work of the ministry, it was at Glasgow, when he was finally free from the need to farm a glebe to provide for himself and his family, that David Brown was able to write seriously. It was there that he wrote two of his most important works, his 'Christ's Second Advent' and his Commentary on the Gospels. Both of these books were linked indirectly with his time as Edward Irving's assistant in London.
David Brown had been attracted to exegetical study in the New Testament from his days at the Divinity Hall, but he had been pressed to study the Scriptures more deeply in reaction to the bizarre goings-on at Regent Square. He had been particularly impressed by the commentary of J. A. Bengel, the eighteenth century German scholar (iilustrated). What particularly impressed Brown was Bengel's combination of thorough scholarship and pround and evangelical faith. Bengel engaged in critical studies not to dismiss the New Testament, but because he believed God had preserved the text in the various versions. He wanted to study the text because it WAS the Word of God, and he engaged in critical study to better understand what God had said. David Brown followed Bengel's method of seeking out the TRUE meaning of texts apart from traditional interpretations, interpreting Scripture by Scripture. Not surprisingly, Brown also valued the expositions of John Calvin very highly, stating that, "In Calvin there is a noble manliness." Calvin and Bengel were, in his view, the two greatest expositors of Scripture. No minister could dispense with either.
Brown's book 'Christ's Second Advent' was the outcome of these studies. He had at first imbibed premillenial views, and until his time with Irving had held to them. Irving's bizarre teaching on the restoration of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit shortly before the Second Coming had shaken Brown and forced him to a deeper study of the Biblical teaching on the Second Coming of Christ. He took careful note of what was literal and what was symbolic. The Revelation, he noted, was primarily a symbolic book. Seeking to bring together the whole of the Biblical teaching on the Second Coming, he concluded that it was not after all to precede a thousand-year reign of Christ before the final judgement, but that Christ would come AT the end of the world and that His coming would be simultaneous with the general resurrection and followed immediately by the Last Judgement. There would be only one coming of Christ, and that in ONE stage, not two. Christ's Church would be complete at His coming, no-one would be saved AFTER the Second Advent.
David Brown did not want to pick a fight. No, he wrote out of a deep concern that the premilleniasl scheme was false and that it was extremely liable to produce bizarre teachings such as those that had destroyed Edward Irving. Advocates of the scheme will say that of course it may be abused. Brown was concerned that it was unbiblical. Jesus does not come back to be a mere earthly King, however powerful, to reign over a millenial kingdom in which good and evil are mixed, though good predominates. No, He comes back to judge the world. and to bring in a final triumph of light over darkness. David Brown's book is a masterly performance. It is a book to be reckoned with and has been reprinted many times.

In 1852 Princeton College (later Princeton University) conferred on David Brown the degree of D,D, in recognition of the importance of his theological writings. God willing, next time we shall deal with the most important of these, his contribution to the Jamieson, Faussett and Brown commentary.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XV

In the autumn that followed the Disruption, David Brown recieved a most unexpected letter - a call to another pastorate, not in the country, but in one of Scotland's two great cities. The people of Free St. James's Church, Glasgow, desired him to be their pastor.
Free St. James's was one of those Free Churches formed where a large part of the congregation had come out, but the old minister had stayed in. In his case, though, it was not because of cowardice but because of eccentricity. Dr. John Muir was a strong Tory and an enemy of Catholic Emancipation. He believed that Roman Catholics would necessarily work against Britain's interests. If they were granted freedom of worship and political power, then all would be over with Britain. In consequence of this, when parliament voted for Catholic Emancipation, Muir felt all was lost. There was no longer any point in trying to preserve the country, so the Disruption was a waste of time, a colossal act of folly. Britain was already ruined. As a result he stayed in while eleven of his twelve elders and a large chunk of his congregation came out (in passing we would note that pessimistic views of the future DO affect how we live now, and this proves it).
These men and women needed a pastor, and they knew David Brown through his brother Charles, who had been minister in Glasgow's Anderston Church. They had appreciated his ministry and discernment, and extended a formal call to him.

Understandably, David Brown was reluctant to leave the Ord, but he had to face the practical realities. He had a young family and no home for them. If he stayed in the Ord he was unlikely to be able to find a decent house, and while he was willing to sacrifice his own health in his Master's cause, the health of his family was another matter. It would not be fair of him to put the lives of his children at risk from bad accomodation. So he decided after much prayer that the Glasgow call was God's provision for him and for his family, and he moved to Glasgow in October 1843.
David Brown thus found himself in close poximity to his brother Charles. The proximity was a blessing to both men and to their families, for even city ministers were greatly tried by the Disruption. Of course, a congregation that included wealthy city merchants was far less affected than one of rural farmers. In a city a site for a new Church was far easier to obtain than in a country district where one man owned practically all of the land.

The revival associated with the Disruption has already been noted. It continued through the Disruption itself. The disruption ministers saw the danger of the Free Church becoming concerned solely with the issues of spiritual independence over which the Disruption took place. In an effort to prevent that, the Free Church ministers sought to preach the Gospel more earnestly, knowing that it alone is the Power of God unto salvation. The ministers and members were brethren in adversity, and the older nonconforming bodies of presbyterians came forward to help the Free church in whatever way they could. They refused to preach ecclesiastical politics. That does not mean that they did not preach sermons dealing with important issues of the day - but they did so by applying the Gospel.
David Brown was noted as an earnest, godly minister. He did not have his brother's preaching ability, but both men were eminently men of prayer. David Brown kept the cross at the forefront of all his preaching. Without the rhetorical skills of men like Dr. Guthrie of Edinburgh, Brown presented the cross in all its simplicity was Christ dying for sinners. Christ was all in his sermons, and the ministry was blessed. That is the Gospel. Let others preach what they like, 'But we preach Christ crucified'.

The Glasgow ministry was greatly blessed, and the power of God was evident in it. Many more were called into the Kingdom, and David Brown knew the seal of God on his move.
God willing, next time we shall look at David Brown in the aspect in which he is best known to us today - that of an author.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XIV

The terrible shock of the Disruption split the Church of Scotland. It set congregations against ministers and ministers against congregations. Some congregations were split in two. Some ministers who had led their congregations to the brink drew back and watched with alarm as their congregations did what they did not have the nerve to do and went into exile, leaving their minister still in the 'Auld Kirk' and branded as a coward whose nerve had failed.
David Brown had seen that there would be no site granted at the Ord, and so he had begun, just before the Disruption, an afternoon service in the village of Cornhill. At first he had hired a large room at the local inn, but since the minister of Cornhill was opposed to the gatherings, being no evangelical, they were soon turned out. Then the services had to be held in the open air.
There was never any question of David Brown doing anything other than going out at the Disruption. He made the fact very clear to everyone, travelling around the area and explaining what the conflict was about. It was not a mere ecclesiastical squabble - a conflict within the Church could be dealt with by the Church. No, the problem was that the minority party had tried to enslave the Church to the civil magistrate, effectively denying the heaship of Christ. Practically, this would mean the end of effective Church discipline. Church discipline depends on the independence of the Church from state control. If Church and State are identified, then civil magistrates have the final say in matters of Church government. They can overturn ecclesiastical censures. Look at the Church of England for an example of this. Historically the position of the Church of England as notionally including every Englishman, with the sovereign as supreme governor of the Church, has meant that excommunication was regarded as civil as well as ecclesiastical. The result of this was that it became a civil penalty more than a religious one. Effectively there was no church discipline, nor could there be.
So David Brown and 473 other ministers left the Church of Scotland on 18th May 1843, never to return. He returned to the Ord to wait the request from Lord Seafield for the keys of church and manse. He had willingly left both by his action in Edinburgh, and he was under no illusions that his social position had just fallen even further. A great struggle awaited him, and he was fully ready for it. The vast majority of his congregation and all of his elders had adhered to the Free Church and come out with him. They would do what they could, but he and his family were without a home.

Brown was ready to fight the battle, but in the end it was not to be his battle. That lay elsewhere. God willing, next time we shall see where.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Free Church of The Welsh: Nine

The episode of the Free Church of the Welsh left deep scars in the Merseyside Welsh Community. However, the new denomination did not last long. Formed as a protest against a perceived injustice, the new church had no specific doctrinal basis on which to base a coninued witness. If it stood for anything, it was for the rights of individual congregations over and against the machinery of a connexion. Attempts to expand into Wales met with no lasting success. A fellowship was established in Carmarthen in March of 1902, but did not last.

By early 1920, as the long drift away from religion began, the Free Church of the Welsh was in talks about unity with the local Quarterly Meeting of the Union of Welsh Independents. By 1921, the Free Church of the Welsh had merged with the Independents and the denominational magazine had ceased publication. Both W. O. Jones and his right hand man, became Independent ministers, Jones dying in May of 1937 in the post of minister of Canning Street Independent Church. He was describes as a man of 'gentlemanly spirit and [...] culture.' His turbulent past was very much behind him.


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XIII

Now that, at long last, he was a parish minister of sorts, David Brown put into effect what he had learned in the ten years since he had left the Divinity Hall at Aberdeen. His ministry in the Ord was quite remarkable, and the joy of his home life amazed many. How could anyone enjoy such a life of hardship? Well, the source of the Browns' joy was something worldly men have never been able to understand. They both trusted in God to provide for them, and they were not disappointed.

One of his more notable evangelical neighbours soon took notice of him - the Duchess of Gordon. She organised religious fellowship meetings at her home, Huntly Lodge, and this association helped to further remove the suspicions that had hung around the young minister since his association with Edward Irving in London. Brown soon found that he had good evangelical neighbours in the Presbytery, Mr. Grant of Banff, Mr. Reid of Portsoy and Mr. Anderson of Boyndie. The parish of his brother-in-law, Mr. Thornburn of Forglen, was in the neighbouring Presbytery of Turriff. Mr. Thornburn was a powerful preacher, an able and fearless man who would, after the disruption, be minister of the Free High Church of Inverness (where Donald Fraser was later minister). He was a man Brlown could confide in and call upon for help when needed.
David Brown continued his concern for the young people under his care. As in Dumbarton, he founded Bible classes, and he took particular care of the young communicants, personally taking the classes for such young people as sought admission to the Lord's table. He used the Westminster Shorter Catechism as his manual for instruction, and he took great care to admit none to the Lord's Table without having taken care to ask them how it was between their souls and God. And David Brown would not take a flippant answer. He was not satified, as some were, for a young man or woman to take one term's instruction in the class, but encouraged two or even three terms' attendance. Each candidate would be asked, privately, their spiritual condition, for Brown knew that admission to the Table could be incredibly damaging for a person who was not a real Christian and knew full well that he wasn't. In this way admission to the Lord's Table functioned very much as baptism would in a Baptist Church.
On one occasion a converted ploughman had completed his first term. David Brown urged him to stay for another session, but the man was reluctant. He said that his fellow-servants, who attended a 'moderate' Church, would taunt him for it. Still Brown insisted. Coming to the Lord's Table was a solemn step. At last the ploughman agreed. Meeting his minister later, he explained how he had answered his fellowservants. They had indeed tounted him, but he had answered. "What did you say to them?' the pastor asked. "I jist tauld them that ae admission at the Ord was worth ten at Beenie."
David Brown's ministry was the means of bringing a great change in the Ord. Many people, young and old, were awakened under a truly spiritual ministry, and many were turned to everlasting righteousness. Men and women who afterwards were great influences for good themselves were converted. In hindsight, this revival was a part of a wider awakening in Scotland that prepared the way for the Disruption of 1843. Mark this, it is often God's way to send revival before a crisis in the Church. Note also that revival may solve many problems, but it also brings them.

So it was for David Brown. From 1837 to 1843 he was a happy man in his ministry in the Ord. He loved the people and they loved him. Yet a great tempest was about to burst on the Church of Scotland, and david Brown could see the storm clouds approaching. A day of decision was coming, and David Brown knew that he would not be able to remain long at the Ord after the storm hit.

God willing, next time we shall see David Brown's conduct at the Disruption.


Monday, September 17, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh: Eight

The movement of the Spirit in 1904-5 affected Liverpool, as it did other places where there was a large Welsh Community. While it is truly said that there is in Christ 'neither Jew nor Greek, Scythian nor barbarian,' it is a strange fact that, when the Spirit begins to move in a country, often people from that country become strangely receptive to the Gospel of God. In late March 1905, Evan Roberts arrived in Liverpool to conduct a mission there. Feelings were still strained by the events of 1901, and at a meeting led byEvan Roberts in Great Mersey Street Congregational Church, the ministers came together for the meeting. W. O. Jones prayed for their hearts to be joined in love: "Thou knowest the whole affair that has occured in this city [...] strengthen me and forgive all they and I have done, and all I thought they had done against me. Thou knowest I have tried to do so, God, and O, help them to forgive me all that was out of place, and all that they thought was out of place [....] Melt our hearts; help us to unite in heart, to work together for the sake of our Saviour. Kindle our desires to save the world and to give all the glory to thee. O Lord, visit this city more mightily than thou ever hast already done."

Evan Roberts continued to state that there was something preventing the Spirit from moving. The serive ended in some disappointment. Subsequent events, taking place at a meeting in the Princes Avenue Wesleyan church. In the midst of the meeting, Roberts experienced convulsions, again speaking of 'obstruction.' From here, I shall allow the Western Mail to take up the story:

'The obstacle,' he said later on, 'is the same as last night. I must give the message. You may believe it or not. You may do as you like, friends.' He broke down again [....] At length, as though bracing himself to a great effort, he said: 'God has committed this message to me many days ago, but only tonight is it to be disclosed. The message relates to the Free Church of the Welsh. This is the message. Do as you like with it. It comes directly from God:- "The foundations of the Church are not on the Rock. (Sensation.) The foundations of the Church are not on the Rock." (A Voice: 'O God, remove the obstacle!')

W. O. Jones led objections to these words, stating: 'that he attached no importance to the statement or to Evan Roberts' alleged Divine message, and that it would have no adverse effect on the young denomination.' G. C. Rees, a prominent layman in the Free Church of the Welsh stated that he felt Evan Roberts' denunciations to be hysterical, and denied that they would have any negative effect on the Free Church of the Welsh.

But was the church 'built on the rock'?


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XII

The Ord was a miserable place by worldly standards, the church and manse were in the most desolate part of the district, the congregation worldly and poor (one or the other can be more easily borne, both are extremely depressing). They were used to the sermons of 'Moderate' ministers in the parish churches, where sermons were intended to make good, honest, moral men. David Brown's preaching was different. He determined to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He came with the GOSPEL, which is nothing else than the message of Christ crucified for sinners, and he came with earnesrtness and love for men. He cared for their souls, and the message spread in the Ord.
The Ord district included part of the parish of Marnoch, where the conflict that would culminate in the Disruption of 1843 was at its fiercest. David Brown's evangelical ministry began in 1836, and the next year Rev. William Stronach of Marnoch died, precipitating the conflict in the parish between the congregation and the patron. The patron finally won in 1841, but it was a bitter victory, as all but one of the congregation promptly left. The patron did not have to sit under his appointee's ministry!
All suspicion fell away from 'Broon o' the Ord'. His patient fiancee finally found the end of her long wait and entered into marriage, and the small manse beside the chapel was to the couple like a palace. Catharine Brown (nee Dyce) was a blessing to her husband. The daughter of a prominent Aberdeen doctor, her patience in waiting until a young minister had been settled is astonishing. Her marrying a man for whom existence was still a struggle was even more so. She was used to a comfortable life, and life on the Ord could never be that. But she saw in her beloved a zeal for Christ that charmed her and led her to join herself to him so they could go to heaven together. From then until her death in 1879 she shared his trials and helped him through them all. A good wife is a gift from God, and David Brown was truly thankful for his. Often women's ministry is far less public than men's, but far, far more valuable.

God willing, next time we shall enter more fully into the ministry in the Ord.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh: Seven

The new denomination formed in the aftermath of W. O. Jones from the Calvinistic Methodist ministry now had a name, 'the Free Church of the Welsh.' Now it needed a creed. What was that creed to be? On Sunday 22 September, 1901, Jones read out a declaration which the papers called the 'manifesto' of the church. It contained the words:
'We have noticed for years the increase of the spirit of officialdom in the denom ination. In very many cases we could not close our eyes to the fact that ministers and elders dominate the churches. They have succeeded, gradually and silently, in taking possession of all authority to make laws, to govern, and to judge all important cases, without consulting the members, and very often against their wishes."
The declaration condemned the practice of electing elders for life and advocated making buildings the property of individual congregartions, rather than the denomination. This was to be 'a new religious organisation, with wider freedom and with more democratic characteristics..' The church would elect ministers and elders for fixed terms, although they could be re-elected if chosen. The councils of the church would be representative of the pews, as well as the pulpit and 'big seat.' Interestingly, nothing was said about doctrine, apart from an affirmation that the new denomination would be 'orthodox.'
In the aftermath of this, the new denomination began to expand, chapels opening in Garmoyle Road (April, 1903); Merton Road, Bootle (May 1903); Donaldson Street, Liverpool (June, 1903) and Claughton Road, Birkenhead (August, 1903). More minsters were called. By July 1904, the Free Church of the Welsh had seven churches, four chapels, nine Sunday Schools and four ministers. And the firs of Revival were to burn through Merseyside, bringing Evan Roberts in their wake.


Friday, September 14, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown XI

David Brown found his long search for a pastorate difficult, yet he wasenabled to see that it was for good, "Were I as sure that all is right with myself as I am that the Judge of all the earth will do rightly, I should feel more easy. However I have abundant reason to be thankful, and one benefit which I may sensibly derive from the trials I experience, is a power to speak to others in like circumstances, which I find becomes more manifest to myself the more deeply I myself am afflicted," he wrote.

He had another blessing in his brother Charles. The two had a great affection for each other, as only brothers can, and they encouraged one another. Each had a high appreciation of the other's gifts, and Charles was certain that God had a great purpose in his brother's life. He felt deeply David's afflictions and was a pastor to him as the pastor at Dumbarton could not be. What a blessing a brother after the flesh who is a brother in Christ can be to a tried Christian! Thank God for such brothers! Humanly speaking, David Brown would have found his time at Dumbarton far more difficult had it not been for Charles, who was an excellent pastor. His book on 'The Ministry', available from the Banner of Truth Trust, should b e required reading for all theological students.

At last David Brown left Dumbarton. He left it a better place, and he left as a man who had virtually had to be sole pastor, even though he was officially only the assistant minister! This was one of the great faults of the Church of Scotland of those days. Not so great as it was in the Church of England then, but still serious. The ministry is a holy calling, not a profession, still less a sinecure. The minister who neglects his work heaps up condemnation to himself. Brown's senior minister at Dumbarton neglected parish visitation, preaching, and in general every one of his duties, preferring to spend his time with the local gentry. One service a week was enough for the people in his opinion. Let us thank God if we are spared such a dull and formal 'ministry'.
It was 1836, ten years after his graduation from Aberdeen Divinity Hall, when David Brown was finally ordained the first pastor of a country chapel in the district called the Ord. The Ord is a barren district six miles south-west of Banff, a bare, desolate area. The church was a chapel-of-ease, not a parish Church. This meant that David Brown had a lower status than parish ministers, and a lower salary. In fact it seemed a wretched place for a man to start his ministry, but David Brown felt the call of God to that uninviting place, and he was ordained there on 17th November 1836. His candidate days were over at last, and now he would be 'Broon o' the Ord'.

God willing, next time we shall see what ministry in that neglected district meant to David Brown and his young family.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - X.

David Brown was brought through the troubles at Regent Square as he had been brought through his troubles with John Duncan, and he came through with a deeper knowledge of the Bible, against which he had tried Irving's teaching and the 'prophecies' uttered by the 'prophets' at Regent Square. He had been forced to reconsider a lot of things, including his eschatology, and that study was to bear fruit in later life.

Despite his undeniable eccentricities, and the extravagances into which he tragically fell towards the end of his life (a life that was cut short by the trouble he so sadly brought upon himself), Edward Irving was a great preacher with a high view of the Christian ministry, and David Brown had learned that high and Biblical view as well. With such a model of dilligence to imitate, David Brown had learned to be a PASTOR in London.
He returned to Scotland, however, with suspicion attached to his name, conscious that he was no closer to being ordained than he had been when he had gone to London, since the very fact of his connection with Irving (although he utterly repudiated Irving's peculiar views) counted against him. How sad it is when unreasonable suspicion of heresy attaches to a young preacher because of his associations! The rumour goes around that so-and-so holds unsound doctrine - and no-one ever thinks to ask the man in question before passing on the rumour! If only they had asked, the rumour would never have spread! Brown had in fact explicitly rejected Irving's teachings, and his rejection of them had severed him from many close friends, while his association with Irving had alienated him from those who, had they only known him better, would have been his closest friends.
In fact, things were worse for Brown. Not only was he seeking a pastorate, but for four years he had been engaged to be married, but without a pastorate he could not marry! The only post he could find was that of assistant minister in Dumbarton, a post that existed so that the parish minister, a man of a low reputation and character, could do as little work as possible!
It was the Lord's doing, we know. With the good influence of Irving fresh in his mind, Brown threw himself into the work, started an evening service, Bible classes for the young people, and evangelistic services. He became known as an orthodox, evangelical pastor, and was used for much good in the town. Still, he could not marry on the Dumbarton assistantship salary, and disappointment followed disappointment in the vacancies he preached in. His brother Charles, three years younger than him, was a pastor in Glasgow already. Only the grace of God bore David up.

God willing, next time we shall see the end of his waiting.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - IX.

Today, in the wake of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, we have some idea of what to do if the pastor suddenly starts talking about the restoration of the extraordinary gifts of tongues and prophecy. At least we have some categories in which to think about this sort of thing. In 1830 it was completely novel, especially in a respectable London presbyterian congregation associated with the Church of Scotland! But it happened. David Brown was in the pulpit preaching when Mr. Robert Baxter, a London solicitor who was a respected Church member suddenly cried out "The spiritual ministry, the spiritual ministry!" Other such interruptions followed, some in 'unknown tongues'.
David Brown did not at first reject the interruptions, although he might well have, since they were utterly foreign to Scots Presbyterianism. He decided instead that it was right to 'try the spirits', as the Bible exhorts (if a movement discourages such honest trying of the spirits, we ought to be very cautious of it indeed). It soon became clear that was was going on was not of God. Mr. Baxter's 'utterances' went from being simple exhortations founded on the Bible to bizarre predictions and doctrinal statements, predictions that were not fulfilled, and doctrinal statements that contradicted the Scriptures. Most notably, Baxter prophesied that he would go to Westminster Hall, where he would utter a prophecy that would result in him being 'struck off'. He went to Westminster Hall, but no prophecy ever came. David Brown saw that no prophet speaking by the Holy Spirit in the Bible ever made false predictions, and he realised there were only two possibilities. Firstly, they could be dealing with excited human beings who were self-deluded. The so-called prophecies might be nothing more than wishful thinking and excited impressions that came out of human imaginations. Secondly, a satanic agency could be deluding Baxter and others. David Brown knew Satan was real, and it was possible that even genuine Christians might be being misled by him as he tried to discredit the Church.
After much prayer and study, Brown finally concluded the manifestations were from the flesh, and he renounced them completely. The 'unknown tongues', at first supposed to be real languages, were just ecstatic speech, meaningless sounds uttered by overexcited people. The 'prophecies' were the results of overexcited imaginations, and the 'power' felt in the services was just excitement. With a heavy heart, Brown went to Irving and told him of his conclusion.

"Well, Mr. Brown," Irving said after a pause, "You have left us." "Yes, but not, as you know, while there was any shadow of ground to think that this work was divine." Again Irving paused before he spoke in that impressive voice of his. "Your intellect, sir, has destroyed you," he said at last with deep emotion. "Yes, sir, I confess it, my intellect has done the deed, whatever that may mean: I am responsible for the use of my intellect, and I have used it." Thus they parted, with deep emotion on both sides.

We are all, as David Brown, given our intellect by God, and as Christians we are responsible to use it in God's service. We are not to dismiss things out of hand, but we are also not to be carried along by unthinking emotion. Brown found the Regent Square movement wanting, so he had to reject it. He was driven by the unbiblical extravagances of the movement to a deeper study of the Scriptures for which generations of pastors are thankful.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Irving's tragic life should read Arnold Dallimore's biography of Irving published by the Banner of Truth Trust. God willing, next time we shall deal with David Brown's return to Scotland.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - VIII

David Brown was at first happy in his post at Regent Square Church. However that happiness was not to last. First Edward Irving developed an unhealthy interest in unfulfilled prophecy. Note, we do not say that ministers ought never to preach about unfulfilled prophecy. We have done so once or twice in five years of preaching. The trouble is when a minister becomes so obsessed with the topic that it consumes him so that practically every sermon concerns the question. We are commanded to preach Christ Crucified, not Daniel's 'little horn'!!! Irving was neither the first nor the last man whose usefulness was in a large measure destoryed by an obsession with prophecy.
Edward Irving had a powerful imagination, and imagination, while a useful gift in a minister, has to be kept under control, otherwise it can run away with a man. The field of unfulfilled prophecy is a very dangerous place in which to give free reign to the imagination, because the controls on the imagination are so few there. Notwithstanding the protests of some that theirs is the only truly literal interpretation of Revelation (as if everyone else is treating it as "a collection of myths" as one leading Evangelical writer of the present day has put it), every expositor of unfulfilled prophecy has used his imagination. We think for example of Hal Lindsay and the other writers during the Cold War who confidently found the Soviet Union in Ezekiel while protesting they were taking it 'literally'. Not that we would put Revelation off limits to preachers, we would just urge that Scripture should be compared with Scripture, not the latest newspaper.
So it was with Irving. While at first the novelty of the theme kept the fashionable crowds, it also attracted sensation-seekers, unstable men who looked for new things all the time. A sensational, unbiblical asnd heretical preacher of our own day has said "if we keep on giving you the same message every time, we're dead!" Irving fell into extravagant and fanciful theological novelties, particularly concerning the restoration to the Church of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Person of Christ.

These teachings drove a wedge between the pastor and his assistant. David Brown could not accept the idea that Jesus' human nature had a sinful principle in it, and there was the division. At the time Brown accepted Irving's premillenial position (although he did not think the time was as near as Irving did), and when Irving asked Brown if he thought that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit would be restored in the End Times, Brown replied that he could find no clear evidence that they had been finally withdrawn. In other words, while Irving was a Restorationist where the Gifts were concerned, Brown was a Continuationist.
Thus, when people in the congregation began to manifest what were claimed to be those gifts restored, Brown was open to their reality.

God willing, next time we shall see how Brown reacted to these manifestations.


Monday, September 10, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - VII

David Brown had been hitherto unable to find a charge in the Church of Scotland. This was not unusual, in this period there were many more students than there were vacant charges, thus students often found themselves waiting for older ministers to die. One of the causes of this surplus of men licenced to preach was the number of men God had not called who studied for the ministry, another was patronage, which made it more difficult for an Evangelical preacher to get a charge. So, when he recieved a call from the National Scotch Church, Regent Square, London, to be assistant minister to their famous pastor, Rev. Edward Irving, he jumped at the chance. Brown preached his first sermon at Regent Square on 3rd January 1830 and continued in the post until 26th April 1832, two years and four months. For his first year he boarded with his friend James Nisbet the publisher, an arrangement that had many advantages.

Edward Irving, like many another pastor, had discovered the importance of a fixed routine. Thus he spent each morning in his study, and after an early lunch he took a walk and attended to his other duties, which were many. In the early 1830s Regent Square was on the edge of London, and there were open fields in which the busy pastor could walk. David Brown accompanied his senior pastor on many of these strolls, and it was there that the relationship between the two ministers developed. They talked about all manner of things, and although he was the senior, Irving was always ready to learn from his assistant. There was a child-like earnestness about Irving. He was not the prototype of the flamboyant showman minister. Irving was a PASTOR, and he took his work seriously, visiting both rich and poor. Irving made the person he was visiting feel that they were doing the pastor a great service by entertaining him. He cared for his people, and that meant David Brown saw an excellent model of a genuine pastor. Irving had himself one done Brown's job as Thomas Chalmers' assistant in Glasgow, and he found a kindred spirit in the young man from Aberdeen.

One of David Brown's jobs was visiting the various Sunday-schools connected with the Church. On visitation day many parents would be present and children would sing Psalms. On one occasion a small, sickly boy had repeated the 23rd Psalm. Next month it was reported to the school that he was dying, and Brown went to see him. He found the child in a slum-dwelling, and the mother told the young minister that her son had been talking all night. She was a Roman Catholic, and said she did not know Protestant hymns, but the boy had spoken of death's dark vale. Brown went to see the boy and found him lying on a bed of straw.
"Are you dying?" the pastor asked. The boy nodded, "Yes, sir." "Are you afraid to die?" "No, sir." Why?" "Because I am going to Jesus." "But how do you know you are going to Jesus?" "Because I love Him." David Brown always remembered that pastoral visit.

He enjoyed the ministry at Regent Square. It was what he was called to, it was what he had longed to do. But upheavals came in the church that would set David Brown in reluctant opposition to the senior pastor. God willing, we shall see what those were next time.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Hethersett Reformed Baptist church, Henstead Road, Hethersett at 6.30 PM. Established in the 1870s, HRBC is now firmly founded on the truths of God's Word that are commonly called Calvinistic. Hethersett is my home Church at present, and though we have seen ups and downs through the years, praise God, He has always kept us to this day and provided Rev. David Farrow to be our pastor. Hethersett's website (recently completely updated) is in the sidebar, and here. You will find there a brief presentation of what we believe.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh: Six

Expelled from the Calvinistic Methodist Church, W. O. Jones found that, at the age of 40, his life was in ruins. However, while the great and the good of the denomination had rejected him, Jones still had his enthusiastic supporters. Expelled formally from the denomination at Oswestry in a meeting on 26 June, 1901, Jones met with the defence committee at the Common Hall, Hackins Hey, to consider their next move. That next move was a meeting on Tuesday 2 July, attended by 160 people, where it was decided to sever all links with the Calvinistic Methodist Church and look to set up as an independent congregation, with W. O. Jones as their minister. The first service was held on Sunday 14 July, 1901.
The morning prayer meeting was attended by 600 people, while the evening service drew a congregation of over 2,000. W. O. Jones preached on the text: 'The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost.' At the end of the day Jones was able to record: 'At last a happy Sunday.' The following Sunday saw a larger congregation, and by 28 July, 650 people had applied to join the new church, which was formed at the evening service, William Jones, Rock Ferry proposing that W. O. Jones be called as their pastor.
Over July and August the new church organised, setting up Sunday Schools in Liverpool, Birkenhead and Bootle, with three others added by the end of August. At the same time the new church's organisation committe was forced to look for an assistant to the pastor, who was faced with more work than he could cope with.
The new movement was growing, but it needed a name. At a Seiat held in Hope Hall on 4 September, 1901, it was decided that the new denomination (for its growth was such that it would surely be so) would be called Eglwys Rydd y Cymry, 'The Free Church of the Welsh.'


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - VI

David Brown, now once more an evangelical full of zeal for Christ, was licenced to preach by the Presbytery of Aberdeen in June 1826. His father thought that his son would find it beneficial to spend a little time in London before he sought a pastorate. Accordingly David Brown went to London for two months in 1827, carrying letters of introduction (for his father was the Provost of Aberdeen) to relatives in London. Among others was one to the evangelical publisher James Nisbet. Unlike many 'evangelical' publishers today, Nisbet published serious Christian books, sermon volumes, biography and history, theological works, and so on. On his catalogue at the time was a 'Missionary Geography', a sort of 19th century version of 'Operartion World'.
Nisbet and Brown became firm friends, and Nisbet took the young man to his church. James Nisbet was an office-bearer in the congregation pastored at that time by the cdelebrated Edward Irving (illustrated). Irving was at the height of his fame, his church crowded with the rich and famous. David Brown was impressed with everything. Irving's stately figure, his manner, his preaching. A personal introduction impressed David Brown still more, for the two men had both read similar books and thought in similar ways. Both were earnest Christians. When they parted, and Brown returned to Aberdeen, it was quite a wrench.
Irving's Regent Square Church was finished in 1827, so David Brown was not present at the opening, when Irving occupied an hour and a half in the opening exercises before Thomas Chalmers, the guest preacher, had said a word. But in the summer of 1828 Brown was present when Irving preached at Roseneath, on the Clyde. David Brown did not yet have a fixed charge at this point, and late in 1829 he recieved a letter from Irving and the officebearers of the church in London calling him to the post of assistant minister. David Brown was inclined to go, his parents thought that ministry in London would harm his prospects.

God wiling, next time we shall see what the outcome was.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - V.

The last of the so-called Five Points of Calvinism is the Perseverence of the Saints. This does not mean that true saints never fall away, but it means that God always graciously brhings them back when they do. So it was swith David Brown. He wanted to go to Germany and plunge into the unbelief that John Duncan had introduced him to. But God hindered him, and instead Brown found himself spending the winter in Edinburgh. There he enrolled at the university, attending lectures in chemistry as well as other subjects. He also came under a very different religious influence, attending services at the High Church (St. Giles') where the evangelical Dr. Gordon was minister, and at the church pastored by Dr. M'Crie, the biographer of John Knox and other Scots worthies (see here for more information on Dr. M'Crie). But, with a new-found enthusiasm for all things Continental, his greatest influence was Cesar Malan of Geneva (the subject of our illustration). Malan was a follower of Calvin, and he preached the Gospel, urging men to come at once to a clear determination of their condition with God. David was delivered from the bondage of a false theology, and restored to true views of the glory of Christ. His spiritual vision was restored, and he returned to Aberdeen desiring to share this liberating truth with Duncan.
Duncan did not recieve it at first, refusing to talk to Brown about spiritual things. David Brown prayed for an opening, and one came. They talked for hours, and Brown pointed out the great difficulty that had to be overcome for Duncan to believe - his pride. Brown helped Duncan to see that he was a sinner, and that he was a 'Greek' (we preached on that text recently) who thought God's way of Salvation was 'foolish'. The doctrines of Christianity, he explained, ARE Christianity, the atonement everything.
Charles Brown, who had been with his brother in Edinburgh, had invited his friend Dr. Malan to Aberdeen. David Brown, knowing how Dr. Malan's ministry had been blessed to him, he invited Duncan to speak with the Genevan evangelist. Duncan came, and Malan pressed the Gospel on him. Duncan, the proud scholar, was converted and became as a little child. It was not the pressure of the evangeliust that converted him, but the grace of God as he sat at home in his study. So David Brown was used to bring one who is still a blessing to many thousands to faith in Christ.

God willing, next time we shall see how David Brown entered on the ministry of the Gospel.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh. Five

The crisis at Chatham Street came to a head on 11 July, 1900, when the Mothly Meeting of the Liverpool Presbytery found W. O. Jones, the minister, guilty of behaviour unbecoming a minister of the Gospel and expelled him from the Connexion. Jones was horrified that a dispute with his elders about the discipline of a church member had become a trial of his own moral fitness.
W. O. Jones appealed to the Association, which in its meeting at Pwllheli, Caernarfonshire, on 22 August. Had declared that it 'completely rejected Mr. William Owen Jonesas a preacher and minister in the denomination, and ... trusted[ed] that he should not despite this be considered an enemy but should be prayed for.'
Appealing against the ruling, Jones set out his position in the pages of the Y Cymro (The Welshman), a weekly Welsh-language newspaper. At the same time, 255 members of Chatham Street church protested to the Liverpool Monthly meeting, unhappy at their treatment of W. O. Jones. On 12 January, 1901, a Defence Committee was set up, while November 1900 saw William Jones' first church, Waunfawr, Caernarfon pass a resolution favourable to their former minister, a course followed also by three churches in Birkenhead. Public petitions were also circulated.
The appeal was duly held, amid attacks on the legality of the actions of the original investigating committee. This time evidence was given under oath. Jones and other passengers contradicted the evidence of drunkenness aboard the Vito. However, the accusations of the first mate of the Vito became more lurid, accusing the minister of visits to brothels. The evidence may have been shaky, but the appeal was dismissed in the summer of 1901.
Having appealed, Jones found that the full weight of the denomination was to be brought against him, with serious suggestions that he be expelled from the membership of Chatham Street, as well as the ministry. Jones was alost crushed, although his diary indicated that he remained confident in his final vindication, even if that were to be at the judgement:
'How wronged I have been. God knows. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and thathe will stand in the end etc.'
As for justification before men, Jones did not have too long to wait. In April 1902, Mr. Justice Mills heard two slander cases which Jones had brought against some of his ministerial opponents. Both of these cases ended with the allegations (one of which was particularly unsavoury), being withdrawn and formal apologies being given.
In the meantime, Jones had taken further actions, which had led to a complete and formal separation from the Calvinistic Methodist Church and the creation of a new denomination.


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - IV

In the 1820s Aberdeen Divinity Students attended classes on alternate days at Marischal and King's Coleges. In Marischal Brown's teacher was Principal W. Laurence Brown (no relation, there are just an awful lot of Browns in Scotland). While he was brilliant, Laurence Brown was no evangelical, and his teaching cold and dry. As a student he had won the £1200 Burnett Prize for an essay on the Being and Attributes of God, beating Anglican Evangelical (and future Archbishop of Canterbury) John Bird Sumner into second place and thus ensuring his appreciation from Aberdeen as a Scotsman who beat and Englishman. The Hebrew Professor, James Kidd, minister of Gilcomston Chapel of Ease (the congregation that gave rise to Gilcomston South Church) was another matter. He was a leading evangelical, though not the best Hebrew tutor in the world. In King's College the Professor of Divinity was Dr. Duncan Mearns, an acomplished theologian and a devoted, pious Christian, but as dry as Laurence Brown was. He was orthodox enough, but it was a dry orthodoxy.
David Brown's faith was sorely tried in the Divinity classes. Most of his fellow-students were utterly worldly and only a few students met together for Bible study and prayer. Brown tried to influence the worldly students to a more spiritual view of the great task to which they had dedicated their lives, but there was little effect.
While at the Divinity Hall, Brown met a former student who was teaching in Aberdeen. This was John Duncan, later nicknamed 'Rabbi'. Duncan had been a theological student, but he had lost his faith and, after a brief period of atheism, he was now a unitarian theist. Since the university's Hebrew teacher was not very effective, Brown went to Duncan to teach him Hebrew privately.
The effect was mixed. Although he learned a lot about Hebrew, Brown's faith was shaken by the arguments of his teacher. Impercetibly, the fervour of Brown's faith lessened until Duncan could refer to himself and his student as 'we Unitarians'.
We hear a lot about university being a dangerous place for young Christians today - it was the same in the 1820s! The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same!
Duncan was licenced to preach in 1825, having decietfully subscribed the Confession of Faith. Brown, his faith eclipsed, completed his studies in Aberdeen and decided to study in Germany, where the Higher Criticism was developing.

God willing, next time we shall see how God brought David Brown back to the faith of his mother.


Monday, September 03, 2007

The Free Church of The Welsh: Four

The Meeting on 15 March, 1900, was presided over by J. W. Jones, one of the elders atChatham Street church. He told the members that he, together with fellow elders William Williams, William Jones and John Jones could no longer work with W. O. Jones, their minister. It was proposed that the monthy meeting of the Presbytery looking into the affair, an idea that was enthusiastically secponded by W. O. Jones and which passed unanimously.
The committee of inquiry met for the first time on 30 March, at Chatham Street. There its members heard allegations that W. O. Jones had been drunk at some of the church meetings. W. O. Jones was horrified. He had sincereky believed that William Williams' retraction on 7 September, 1899, had been the end of the matter. However, other members of the committe stated that the minister had been warned about rumours circulating regarding his sobriety. Whatever the case, Jones was shocke dto learn that the inquiry was to focus on him, and not on the denominations disciplinary rules.
Angry confrontations between minister an elders continued throughout 1900, with W. O. Jones being supported by the majority of the church members. In this time, the one ray of sunshine was Jones' marriage, on 5 April, 1900, to Ceridwen Jones. But the clouds were gathering, as the committees enquiries dragged up rumours concerning Jones' conduct on the cruise-ship Vito. The committe heard conflicting evidence from church members, and were told that Jones was in the habit of taking claret for the sake of his health (this from his landlady). These stories were no more than rumour, but were enough to create suspicion.
The most solid witness was Captain Jervis of the Vito, who told two members of the committee that Jones had used foul language and was, in his opinion, 'an immoral man.' However, he died before this evidence could be pressed further. Jones admitted again that he had taken alcoholi, but enied being drunk, something his fellow passengers corroborated. Still, suspicions had been raised, and on 9 July 1900, the verdict was returned:
That we are forced to believe that the Revd. W. O. Jones, BA, has been guilty on several occasions of behaviour that makes him unfit to be a minister of the gospel, and thus we come to the decision that he should not in any way hold such an important position among us.
On 11 July, the monthy meeting votedto accept the verdict. W. O. Jones was expelled from the ministry of the denimonation.


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - III.

David Brown was born 17th August 1803 in a house on Broad Street, Aberdeen, close to Marischal College, where he would later be a student. The house was close to his father's shop, and the bookseller's son was soon to develop his lifelong love of books. He was a small, feeble infant who was not expected to live long (he actually lived to be ninety-three!!!), and as the son of a wealthy town councillor, he had every advantage the Granite City could give in addition to an industrious father and a pious and no less industrious mother. While his preaching gifts and spiritual power never matched those of Charles, David's gifts lay in the direction of learning and scholarship - he was to become a seminary professor, and even before that, he was called to fight great battles for Christ in his life, as he would indeed in the college itself - despite being in an evangelical and Reformed denomination!

His first school was Dr. Welsh's Academy, and at the age of ten he entered the town grammar school. The school was so named because it taught Latin grammar - and Latin was the only subject it taught. He finished top of his class, and retained an interest in the affairs of the school throughout his long life. He attended prize-givings, and it must have been quite something for the boys to recieve their prizes from a man who had been ast the school eighty years before! An active lad, David Brown took a leading part in games as well as school-work.
In 1817 he entered Marischal College, Aberdeen, to begin his university education. He was a good scholar, but not a remarkable one, and he took his degree of M.A. in 1821. History has preserved no memorials of his university career. Living in his parents' house, David Brown had great advantages over those students who had to board in the city, not least the continuing Christian influence of his mother, and a sound local church where he was known. Christian students MUST seek out good local churches.

We have no details of David Brown's conversion. All we know is that he was converted by 1821, because he entered the Aberdeen Divinity Hall after his graduation. While it is true that some entered for worldly motives, it is clear that David Brown could not and did not. His mother's influence had led him to Christ and he truly desired to preach Christ crucified.
God willing, next time we shall deal with David Brown's experience as a theological student at Aberdeen in the 1820s. We shall see that sometimes a theological college can be as damaging as a secular university, if not more so.