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.



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