'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.
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