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.



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