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.



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