Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XL.

That David Brown, one of the most eminent scholars of the Free Church of Scotland, should have been elected Moderator of the Church's General Assembly, is no wonder. That he should only have recieved the honour after his eightieth birthday is extremely surprising until we recall his fearless contending for the Faith. He was 'divisive', and that played against him in a Church that was increasingly trying to hide the liberals who lurked within it.
Finally, in 1883, William Garden Blaikie (later Brown's biographer) put forward his friend's name in the conference of ministers and elders who were responsible for selecting the next Moderator. Blaikie had previously supported Brown for the Edinburgh chair of New Testament, now he proposed him against Rainy's candidate for Moderator. Again Brown's supporters were defeated, but this time the vote was for an annual office, and so David Brown was elected to the office of Moderator for the 1885 General Assembly.
David Brown was not the sort of man who could be expected to give a comfortable opening address at the Assembly. His text was 'Watchman, what of the night?' His method was to give a survey of the state of the Free Church. It was not good. The missionary task had been comparatively neglected, he said. Certainly, if most missionaries of the Free Church came out of the tiny college at Aberdeen, that had to be true. Why? A lack of faith in God who alone could convert the heathen. The same was true at home. How many in the industrial cities were neglected? Had not the Free Church ecome a comfortable middle-class denomination of nonconformists? As for the middle classes, scepticism and rank atheism was spreading in the universities and among the reading public. The apologist's spirit was stirred as he denounced them all. All the sceptics were simply the fools who had said in their hearts that there is no God.
What of the Free Church of Scotland? Ah, there was no plce there for complacency.
"If this Church continues to be blessed with a converted and quickened ministry, bent supremely on the winning of souls, zealous for the spiritual health of their flocks, and eager for the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom over all lands, it will never die... But how stand we now? Well, in some things we are greatly in advance. The scholarship of our young ministers and their general culture are certainly superior..." But learning and culture are only of use in a minister if they are sanctified, and where was that? So many men, he went on to say, had much learning and little religion. CONSECRATION was needed, men like M'Cheyne, who laid ALL on the altar. As for WHAT was being learned, some of it was directly contrary to Christianity. He referred to the so-called higher criticism, and how it led young men to disparage the Bible and yet profess regard to the truths that it taught. "Rest assured, my younger brethren, that whatever uncertainly is thrown over the books of the Bible will in the end attach to the truths which they teach." It reduced Christianity to mere sentiment, and was in fact, Brown boldly declared, "thin, ill-concealed Unitarianism." He had himself BEEN a Unitarian in theology, he knew what it was, and its evil effects. The Church must go forward, yes, but 'looking unto Jesus', and standing on the Word of God, not looking to an idol invented by men, and giving up the Word. The Postmillenialist Principal could see the latter-day glory, and urged the Church not to lose its nerve before the World. Oh that it had done so!

God willing, next time we shall see something of David Brown's family life.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXIX.

The Victorian age was the great age of the religious periodical. Literally thousands of periodicals were produced by Evangelicals of various stripes, Rationalists, Ritualists, and so on. Such a writer as David Brown was of course a frequent contributor to the religious press. The 'Sunday Magazine', edited by Dr. Guthrie, a cousin of David Brown, was frequently graced with articles by David Brown, particularly on Church history. It is a sad fact today that most evangelicals care nothing for history. Perhaps this is the reason so many are falling into the same errors the liberals fell into a century ago. Most of Brown's articles were biographical studies of great champions of the Truth. He held that all of the most important eras of the Church history were marked by a number of powwerful minds, perhaps one or two in each place of conflict. Brown was gifted with the ability to draw vigorous pen-portraits of great men.
At this time of year, in this year of remembering the martyrs, it is perhaps fitting to remark that Brown's mind was often turned towards the Reformers. Not so much the men that we all know, Calvin, Luther, Knox, Cranmer and Zwingli, but to the great Polish Reformer John a-Lasco (or Jan Laski, in Polish). David Brown related that he did not know a nobler man among all the Reformers, or one who had made such sacrifices for the cause of the Reformation. For a while David Brown desired to write a biography of this man who lies in undeserved obscurity in English-speaking nations. "Englishmen should have some interest in a foreign nobleman who sacrificed the highest interests in his own country, and laying his all at the feet of Christ, became a Protestant preacher in another land; who, when thwarted in the great changes he was effecting in the sphere of labour which he had chosen (East Friesland), and forced to seek shelter in England, was quickly appreciated and recieved with honour by Edward VI and by Cranmer; who, at their desire, became superintendent of the foreign congregations settled in London, French, Italian, and Belgic (or German), over whom the young King spread the broad shield of his protection; who occupied this difficult post to the high satisfaction of all concermed; and who as long as Edward lived, enjoyed his confidence and esteem."
Englishmen ought to (as we ourselves remarked to a Polish friend of ours), but they did not, and the project fell through because David Brown could not interest a publisher in the book. What David Brown wrote then is probably still true today, "John a-Lasco is scarcely known by name to ordinary readers of Church history."

Sad but true. Maybe, with the influx of Poles into England in the last few years, and the Polish grocery stores that are now a feature of our English cities, someone will step forward and correct the oversight.

God willing, next time we shall see David Brown recieving the highest honour the Free Church could bestow - the post of Moderator of the General Assembly in 1885.


Monday, October 29, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXVIII.

David Brown continued to write after his appointment as Professor at Aberdeen, but his output was reduced by his workload. His chief writings in this period were a book on 'The Restoration of the Jews', his 'Life of Dr. John Duncan', commentaries on Romans and the Corinthian Epistles, and a book on the structure of the Book of Revelation.
The book on 'The Restoration of the Jews' (full title 'The Restoration of the Jews: The History, Principles, and Bearings of the Question') was published in 1861. It is probably the fullest work on the question of whether or not the Jewish people would be restored to the Land of Israel and, as a nation, converted to Christ, ever written. He traced the history of opinion on the question from the Church fathers to the day in which he wrote. He noted that there are several question here that are often confused, the conversion of the Jews to Christ and their return to the Land, and the restoration of the whole Hebrew economy including the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. David Brown held to the first and repudiated the latter. One of the greatest problems with many writers on both sides of the argument, he said, was that they did not separate these two questions. How true! The basis of David Brown's view is Romans chapter 11. The covenant made with Abraham conveyed three things, Brown contended, the Land, the Seed and the Promise. Faith and Land went together. To recieve the Land the Jewish nation would have to turn to Christ (it should be remembered that Brown was Postmillenial, and therefore saw the conversion of nations as quite Biblical. After all, the Great Commission calls for the Church to 'disciple the nations' translated literally). Brown's intention was practical - it was to provide a spur for missionaries to the Jews. Yet many Dispensationalists contend that Covenant theology is antisemitic!
Brown's conclusions may be summed up as follows: There remains in the future a great revival among Jewish people that will bring a majority of them to faith in Christ. This faith will bring a restoration of the Land to them, and will result in a marvellous revival of the Christian Church.
The Life of Dr. Duncan was a labour of love. Duncan had been Brown's closest friend in his university days, and a man he had the greatest regard for. Brown's book, still in print today, is still generally regarded as the best biography of that most remarkable man who was pastor, missionary and professor. The publication of Brown's book led to a volume of Duncan's sermons and communion addresses, and Dr. Moody Stuart's little volume that is published today by the Banner of Truth Trust. Moody Stuart's volume was always intended as a supplement to David Brown's book, and we reccomend that it should be treated as such.David Brown's memoir of Rabbi Duncan is a classic, one of the books every Christian should read. In Brown's day it was read by men from the whole spectrum of professing Christianity, including John Henry Newman, to whom David Brown sent a copy. From the other end, Rev. W. Carus, the biographer of Charles Simeon, quoted Duncan's conversion from the pulpit at Winchester Cathedral.
The 'Structure of the Apocalypse' was another contribution to David Brown's eschatalogical studies, vindicating the book of Revelation from the sneers of sceptics who did not understand it from a literary point of view. He noted that many lies had been circulated, such as that Calvin denied that it was true Scripture. No, Dr. Brown said, Calvin did not preach from it because he confessed that he did not understand it. After some difficulties in some parts of the early Church, the Revelation has been accepted as Scripture by every orthodox teacher.
Brown then set forth his view that the book was predictive, and that the seven seals cover the whole of the time period of the book, with the seven trumpets and the seven vials or bowls being subdivisions of the seals. He saw the two great opponents of the Church depicted in Revelation as Rome pagan and Rome papal. The opening of the sixth seal was the destruction of pagan Rome, the opening of the seventh vial that of Papal Rome. Brown was a postmillenialist, and saw the binding of Satan as future.
His other two books were his small commentary on Romans and his commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians.

God willing, next time we shall say a little about his contributions to magazines.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

'Christ Shall be Magnified:' Mrs. Laura Thomas VI

As one who had been converted in her youth, Mrs. Thomas had no truck with the notion that young people should not be expected to take an interest in the tings of God, and so must be attracted with the things of the world. From the start of her time in Cardiff she took an active interest in children's work, and the manse doors were always open to the young people of the church.

About 1862 a prayer meeting for young people was held at Bethany English Baptist Church, a few hundred yards from the Tabernacle. Mrs. Thomas went, taking one of the Tabernacle young people with her. On the way back from this, the youth asked whether a similar meeting could be held at Tabernacle, a request that was readily granted. A prayer meeting for the young people fo the church was held on Tuesday evenings in the vestry of the old chapel. After a period these meetings were felt insufficient, and a second meeting was arranged for Sunday evenings.

Mrs. Thomas led these Sunday evening meetings, reading a portion of scripture and expanding upon it. Hymns were sung, and Mrs. Thomas would call on a few of the children to pray. While many welcomed these meetings, and the interest shown by the children and young people, others were less kind to the meetings, accusing the children of 'playing at church.'

But play does not bear the lasting fruit of piety which these meetings produced. This was not the rowdiness of some modern 'youth' services. One Sunday night twenty-two young people entered the evening service at the chapel, enquiring about membership of the church. They told the pastor that they had been converted in the five o'clock meeting. It was the start of revival, and many more were added to the church.

What was her secret? It was her life of prayer. She had learned the goodness of God by experience, and knew that nothing is too hard for God. Mrs. Laura Thomas knew her God; is it any wonder that she was strong and did exploits?


Friday, October 26, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXVII.

We are in an age today that seems to idolize youth, when Sir Menzies Campbell has recently been removed from the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party apparently just for being too old. Well, the 'cult of youth' has flourished in ages before ours, and with better reason at times! William Robertson Smith was a victim of it at Aberdeen, and David Brown met it from the other side! When he was nominated for the Principalship of the Free Church College, Aberdeen, in 1876 the main objection was that, at seventy-three, he was too old. The other was his involvement in matters outside the College - something we think ought to have been counted in his favour! He was elected unanimously.
In speaking of Brown in the Assembly, Dr. Adam remarked that, since the death of Principal Patrick Fairbairn of Glasgow, there was no minister in the wholer of the Free Church of Scotland with a higher theological reputation than David Brown. The commentary that bore his name, characterised by great research, exegetical skill, spirituality and excellent English, had spread widely, and his book of the Second Advent had become a standard work on the subject (we still think it is devastating). He was a gentleman and a scholar, but best of all, he was a Christian, a deeply religious man whose love for Christ was evident in everything he wrote and said. He was a man of faith and a man of prayer. We think that every other qualification, particularly learning, should be secondary to this in a theological professor. There are many men puffed up with human learning who have been the bane of the Churches. But godly men, men who have been deeply humbled by the work of Christ and lie at the foot of the cross, THEY are fitted to be theological professors and none besides.
As Principal, David Brown's extra duties consisted mainly in presiding at meetings of the faculty and delivering the closing addresses at the end of the sessions. He took great care over these addresses, and ensured that they were always delivered to declare the importance of that true religion that Mr. Hart tells us is 'more than notion'.
David Brown was also very careful to distinguish between that vague 'spirituality' that is the counterfeit of true religion and the real thing. He discribed the old Highland religion that we read of in the works of Dr. Kennedy of Dingwall, a deep religion founded on the rock of Scripture, and contrasted it with an Edinburgh Free Church student he had met. The Edinburgh student had been to study in Germany, as was the fashion then (such a change from the days when Edinburgh students had gone to study at Princeton!), and Brown asked him whose theological lecttures he had attended. "Pfleiderer's," the student replied. "What? Pfleiderer does not believe in the Supernatural at all!" the old theologian exclaimed. "Oh, but he's very spiritual." David Brown had no time for that sort of 'spirituality'! "Walk closely with God in the midst of your studies, as great Bengel (my favourite Biblical scholar) ever did; so that when his students met daily for their studies, and he began with a few words of prayer, they said his prayers were like morning dew. When you preach, remember that you go to the pulpit as ambassadors for Christ, and as such let yourselves be nothing, and your master and your message everything; your motto being, 'He must increase. but I must decrease."
It was surely a telling sign of his influence that, despite its size, the Aberdeen Free Church College supplied more foreign missionaries to the Church than any of the other two.

What a blessing such a principal was to his students! O that men like him might be the only ones allowed to teach in our Evangelical and Reformed colleges and seminaries!

Next time, God willing, we shall consider David Brown's later writings.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

'Christ Shall be Magnified:' Mrs. Laura Thomas V

The church to which Nathaniel Thomas was called, Tabernacle, the Hayes, Cardiff, was an old and prestigious cause. Christmas Evans, the famous one-eyed preacher of Wales had once occupied the pastorate, and its position, in the centre of Cardiff, reflected its importance. The building illustrated was not built until 1862, but stands on the same site as the original.
The contrast between quiet, religious Carmarthen and Cardiff could not have been more pronounced. The town (as it then was) had recently begun the growth spurt that would see it surpass all other towns in Wales. It was neither settled nor quiet, but full of life and vice. The town was expanding mushroom-like, and the churches were failing to keep pace. Unlike the drink traffic, which dominated Cardiff then as it does now. Vice and intemperance were rife. It was not safe to go outsode in Cardiff after dark, and on one occasion the Pastor and his wife were woken up by the sounds of a murde taking place in the street outside. Later that night another murder took place in the same street. At first Mrs. Thomas must have wondered just what she had exchanged the settled nature of Carmarthen for, but soon the realisation of the darkness that pervaded the city moved her to give her all for the 'spirits in prison.'
She made the prostitutes who haunted the city a particular area of her care. As a woman, she was able to speak with them without raising any wicked gossip or rumour, and shared with them the Gospel of the sinners' friend. Hers was not the piety stereotyped in novels and in the activity of the busybodies, those who knew her noting that what she showed was real. If the counterfeit coin caused many to be disgusted with Victorian piety, her very real piety attracted sinners, just as the real love of her saviour had attracted sinners.
Children, too, were drawn to her. And, as we shall see, her work among the young people of Cardiff was blessed abundantly.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Christ Shall Be Magnified:' Mrs. Laura Thomas IV

As Mrs. Thomas, Laura Blagdon faced a life unlike anything she could have expected growing up. She learned Welsh, for the chapel whose pastor she had married was a Welsh-language church. As pastor's wife, she threw herself into theduties of a pastor's wife, her new role included home visiting and teaching at the Sunday School. She learned Welsh enough to be able to read the Bible aloud in Welsh.

Noticing a lack of Bibles in the possession of the poor, she arranged, in 1854, a survey of the town of Carmarthen to work out how many Bibles there were in the town, while collecting money from the poor as a contribution towards Bibles for the poor.

As Pastor's wife, she was often solicited for aid by the poor members of the congregation. One of these was a young man who was leaving the town to seek his fortune, but was too poor to afford a suit of clothes to wear at chapel. After consulting with her husband, she gave the poor youth his best suit, which went down very well at the new chapel.

She took a large class of girls in the Sunday school, which she taught with great enthus iasm, going out into the countryside to seek botanical speciments in order to have new illustrations for her classes. The love for the Word of God which had sent her on her wanderings did not die.
She was unable to complete her labours among the poor of Carmarthen, for in 1856 her husband was invited to become pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Cardiff.


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXVI.

David Brown, as we have seen, saw Mr. Spurgeon as perhaps the greatest preacher of the age, and certainly the best model for his students. This was because Spurgeon was natural in the pulpit, straightforward and down-to-earth in his use of language. Unlike some of the older Free Church ministers, like Dr. Thomas Guthrie, inclined to flowery language that was popular enough in its day, but makes them sound very quaint today.
And there lies the irony. For it was Guthrie, not Spurgeon, who was up-to-date in his day. In London it was Joseph Parker, who now seems incredibly Victorian and old-fashioned, who was the equivalent to the modern 'Emerging' pastor. Spurgeon was not fashionable. But he was timeless and plain.
Their common contending against error brought Brown and Spurgeon together. Holding very different positions, one the principal of a small theological college in the Highlands of Scotland, the other the pastor of the largest Church in London, they contended in different ways, but for a common cause and against a common foe.
Mr. Spurgeon liked to have the autographs of men whose books he enjoyed, and so, having read Brown's biography of 'Rabbi' Duncan, he wrote to Brown for his autograph - only to discover he already had it, having requested it after reading the commentary. He wrote:

Nightingale Lane, Clapham, May 11.

Dear Sir, - I have to apologise for having troubled you twice about so small a matter as your autograph; but the fact is, I did not recognise Dr. David Brown of Duncan's Memoir as the David Brown of the Commentary. Pray excuse me. I am getting to fear and tremble about the Browns. You must know that the President and Vice-President of our Baptist Union are both Browns, and that the Chairman of our London Association is also a Brown. 'Browns to right of us, Browns to left of us,' etc. God bless them all.
Yours Heartily C. H. Spurgeon.

On his travels, Spurgeon visited Aberdeen on several occasions to speak. On one of them Brown found him in the vestry surrounded by a number of friends. One of Spurgeon's Tabernacle Deacons, who had come with his pastor, told Brown that Spurgeon needed a few quiet minutes, or the lecture would be a disaster, but Spurgeon was unwilling to mention the fact. Brown instantly cleared the room. Even in the hall, Spurgeon was obviously deeply burdened, and obviously affected by his depression. Turning to the Prince of Preachers, Brown promised that he would be praying for him through the lecture. "Thank you for that!" Spurgeon exclaimed. "Thank you for that!"
When the time came, the depression lifted and Spurgeon spoke with great power and clarity. At the end, when people came to congratulate Spurgeon, the great man turned to the college principal and said, "You owe it all to him."
How often, indeed, could it be said of a powerful sermon that much, if not all, is owed to those men and women who hold up the minister in prayer?

God willing, next time we shall consider Principal Brown's electionand labours in that office of Principal.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

'Christ Shall be Magnified:' Mrs. Thomas III

Despite her father's actions, Miss Laura Blagdon felt she had to write, telling him of her decision to be baptised. No reply to this letter survives:

"[...]The rite was to have been in the river, only the crippled woman begged for the baptistry, otherwise the pastor greatly prefers the former, and it is more agreeable to Scripture. Oh! you cannot conceive, or I tell, the joy with which I looked forward to the blessed occasion, and and for Jess [her sister], at first a little nervous, her courage rose to a great height and heavenly pleasure. The services are all Welsh, but ... in the future there will always be some English."

Her own baptism she described in ecstatic language:

"Sight almost failed me, and I saw no man save Jesus only. Friendly arms I felt, but saw not; strong courage came down from on high; and, as I stepped down into the waters, they felt warm and delicious. The kind pastor whispered, 'Don't be anxious now - be very calm;' and then stayed a few moments to still the gasping, and then the same sweet words [of administration], though I heard them not. Oh, I felt that I was nigh God! - and my flesh trembled, though my spirit deeply, yet awfully rejoiced! I heard music - my eyes closed; and then, so gently, so slowly, I sank into my Saviour's grave, and I felt the waters closing and gurgling over my face - how I rose I know not. Vital warmth never forsook any of us, and we only grieived this blessed heavenly season was over. Blessed! - aye, more blessed, more joyful, more glorous, more heavenly, than any day which has dawned on any of us. My dear father, any you soon have the like, and then I have wished you all I can on earth. Oh, do search the New Testament, and not man's traditions - venture at the bidding of Him, who really died for you, and rose again for you, and prove your love to Him as powerfully as His is so powerfully revealed to you. Please let m darling sisters read this, which has cost me an immense effort to write; it has become a task too great to be silent."

Her baptism was not the only great event in her life at this time. Soon afterwards Mr. Thomas began to pay court to her, and on 13 September, 1852, Miss Laura Blagdon married Pastor Nathaniel Thomas. It was a union that was to last for the rest of her life.


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXV.

The centre of David Brown's theology was Christ and Him crucified. Writing to a friend on the subject of a lecture given by Mr. Batchelor on 'Rationalism in the Free Churches', he said: "Batchelor's position is the one in which I mean to live and die - the propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord's death as the central article of Christianity - not the Incarnation." That is not to say that he thought the incarnation unimportant. No, he accepted fully the Apostle's position that to deny that Christ is come in the flesh is to manifest the spirit of antichrist. Every doctrine has its place in the system of Christianity, and as James Denney so truly says, the atonement, not the incarnation, is the diamond pivot on which Christianity turns. Christ is, as Robert Robinson so eloquently put it, 'The Lord who came to die'. The reason for the incarnation was the atonement.
In his long life, David Brown had found that whenever the doctrine of the atonement was undervalued, it was the beginning of a downward spiral that ultimately landed the errorist in Unitarianism. For if man does not need the Lord of Glory to die in his place, but needs an example, or moral instruction, then a created being could have done that, perhaps some great angel (Arianism). Then the question is asked, why an angel? Why not just a very holy man who was incredibly close to God? And without the revelation of the Son of God incarnate, there is no Trinity, and the man who began by undervaluing the atonement has denied Christ.
Thus, as he looked out on the Evangelical denominations of his day, Brown was increasingly fearful. Here were these men, in the name of academic freedom, soft-pedalling the atonement. The next generation would deny it, the generation after would deny Christ, and bring utter ruin on themselves and all who followed them. Blind guides and blind followers would alike fall into the ditch of Unitarianism.
SO IT HAS PROVED. And yet, as the young, intellectual ministers of Brown's day were not proclaiming the atonement with the clear ring demanded of them by the Scriptures, so the young, intellectual 'Evangelicals' of our day are! It is time to wake up! Time for us to contend earnestly and to PUT OUT of our Churches those errorists, those heirs of the liberal theologians who have sunk most of professing protestantism in Unitarian heresy.
Some men, as they grow older, become more tolerant of heresy. David Brown, the champion who had long contended for the faith, became more and more INtolerant of it. Rightly so! 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' And David Brown gloried in the cross.

God willing, next time we shall have a little to say about David Brown and C.H. Spurgeon.


Monday, October 22, 2007

'Christ Shall be Magnified:' Mrs. Laura Thomas II

Miss. Laura Blagdon, her mother and sister, cast out of their home, spent a brief period at Cheltenham, where they had friends. But the memories of happier times spent there made the stay brief. A friend mentioned Carmarthen as a suitable place for them. They set off to the West, meaning to stop a while at Coleford. On their way there they paused at Lydney. There, in the churchyard, they prayed to God for guidance.

As a result, they decided to go at once to Carmarthen, then a quiet and elegant county town, dominated by its ancient Castle, coming alive only on market day. Here in what was once the Royal capital of Wales, Welsh and English speaking culture existed side by side, while the town abounded with churches and chapels of every denomination. The Blagdon's attached themselves to Zion Calvinistic Methodist Chapel (pictured).

However, Laura was already considering a step which would mean separation from that church. Shortly before the move to Carmarthen, someone had asked her whether she had been baptised. Miss Blagdon (not unnaturally) replied: "Yes, of course I have been baptised!" at which point the man had replied: "You may have been sprinkled in your infancy, of which you know nothing, but that is not Christian Baptism." Laura, together with her sister and mother, hand begun 'to search the scriptures, to find out whether these things were so.'

The drift towards the Baptists continued when Mrs. Blagdon met her former music teacher, Mr. John Rollings, a deacon at Priory Street Baptist Church in the town. Still used to the Anglican orders, the Blagdons took him to be the pastor of the church and thus, when they became convinced that believer's baptism was the only scriptural baptism, they asked him to baptise them. He explained that a deacon among the nonconformists was not the same as a deacon among the Anglicans and introduced the family to his pastor, Mr. Nathaniel Thomas.

After interviewing the Blagdons, Pastor Thomas recommended them to the church as fit candidates for baptism, and on 22 January 1852, they were baptised at Priory Street. They had intended to remain at Zion, but hearing a personal attack on them in the course of a sermon against believers' baptism, they left that chapel and joined the church at Priory Street.


'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXIV.

The Victorians were great letter-writers, though not in the same way as Samuel Rutherford or John Newton. Still, they wrote to each other. David Brown's list of correspondents was very broad, as we have seen, embracing B.B. Warfield, James Martineau and John Henry Newman! Of course some of his correspondents were brothers in Christ, others he regarded as lost perishing sinners to be won for Christ.
Among Christians Brown was well known for his work as a commentator and, in academic circles, for his work on the Revised Version (unhappy though he was with the final result). One of his most intimate correspondents was Principal Moule of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, later Bishop of Durham (pictured in full Victorian Clergyman's attire). Brown wrote to Moule often during the work on the Revised Version (work that Brown found particularly difficult due to Westcott and Hort). Sometimes he wrote to Moule seeking support for his views, and at other times he wrote to Moule sharing what had happened in the Revision company.
He also encouraged Moule in his writing. In particular he enjoyed Moule's 'Ephesian Studies'. "Ephesians is a subject in which you are thoroughly at home. Bishop Lightfoot [of Durham] told me at Bishop Aukland [then the principal residence of the Bishop of Durham] that it was the Epistle he would try next. I said that I could guess that he would take that after Colossians. 'Yes, but...' 'I know what that but means. You haven't your students, as at Cambridge, to listen to your lectures on the Epistle.' 'That's it,' he said. 'I'm trying to get three or four to lecture to, but it wants the stimulous of about a hundred sitting with pens in hand to hear me.' You know the loss; the book never appeared. He was a real Christian, and I believe walked with God."
That was the effect of the Episcopate on Lightfoot, it dried up his literary work by making him into an administrator.

Brown also corresponded with Moule about the Keswick teaching. Moule was quite involved in Keswick, the Aberdeen Professor had his doubts. So far as the Keswick teaching was simply that the sanctification of a Christian is the work of God, not the work of man, that it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, he found it helpful. If the Keswick teaching (then in its early days) was that we are completely sanctified in Christ, all was well. If it was that our faith is an instrument of sanctification, while unbelief is sin, good. But the idea of a once-for-all crisis experience ending the struggle with sin was one with which he would have nothing to do. It was FALSE, and dangerous. And so it is.

God willing, next time we shall consider the centre of Brown's theology.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

'Christ Shall Be Magnified:' Mrs. Laura Thomas

She died the wife of Nathaniel Thomas, Minister of the Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, Cardiff, but Laura Emily Ann Thomas was born Laura Blagdon, daughter of John Blagdon, Esq., of Boddington Manor, Gloucestershire (pictured). Possessed of a glowing complexion as a child she earned the nickname 'Rosy,' which remained with her all her life. Brought up amid the sumptuous surroundings of Boddington Manor, she lived the life of a squire's daughter, with parties and good deeds mingling.

Even so, there was something special about her. As a child she had been deeply affected by the sermon preached by Francis Close, the Vicar of St. Mary's, Cheltenham, brought to weep bitterly. Her father removed her from the church. He was further disturbed when she took it upon herself to visit a young gamekeeper on the estate as he lay dying, seeking to pluck his soul from the flames of hell. While she was cheered when he professed faith shortly before death, the local clergyman felt that such conduct was unbecoming of a young lady of quality, and informed her father, urging him to keep her from such 'enthusiasm.'

Perhaps another cause of this was that Miss Blagdon was seeking to convert a cottage on the estate into an evangelical preaching station. At first the preachers were all ministers of the Church of England, but soon a dearth of such men forced them to open the doors of the preaching house to Dissenters, chiefly Baptists and Methodists (Wesleyan). This did not amuse Mr. Blagdon, who had only tolerated the opening of the meeting house because it was a pet project of his favourite daughter.

Slowly Miss. Laura Blagdon became totally estranged from her former friends, as she sought to pursue God's glory to the exclusion of all. He felt her lifestyle to be a deliberate insult to his own, which was very much that of the county squire. The relationship was further undermined by the fact that Miss Blagdon utterly ignored class distinctions, doing some thing that her biographer speaks of as having possessed greater zeal than discretion.

At last her father could bear it no longer. He forbade her from living under his roof any longer, ordering her from his house at the suggestion of certain of his companions. It must have hurt her deeply, but Laura went out from the mansion. With her went her mother and younger sister, heartened by the words of their Lord:

There is no man that hath left house, or brethren,
or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children,
or lands for my sake, and the Gospel's, but he shall
receive and hundredfold now in this time brethren,
and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands,
with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Zion Strict Baptist Chapel, Park Hill Drive, Leicester. This picture is a little deceptive, the building (which used to be a British Telecom workshop) is really quite large.
Zion Chapel was founded in 1873, after difficulties with the status of the building had forced the congregation worshipping in Trinity Chapel to vacate it and construct their own building. Trinity Chapel had been built in 1840 by a Mr. Harrison, and was opened on 25th December of that year by Mr. J.C. Philpot, then minister at Stamford and Oakham. No Church was formed at the time, and it was not until 13th August 1843 that the people worshipping at Trinity Chapel were formed into a Strict Baptist Church. Mr. Grey Hazelrigg was called to the pastorate at Trinity in 1861, but the position of the chapel as the private property of one man led that man to think he had the right to appoint the pastor and dicate to the Church. Thus in 1872 the Church was forced to leave Trinity Chapel and build the old Zion, a huge strcture that held over 600 people. The old chapel was forced to close about a decade ago, owing to vandalism and mounting costs of repairs, and the present structure was bought. The upper part of the pulpit from the old Zion Chapel is used in the present chapel.

Grey Hazelrigg, first pastor of Zion, was born into wealth and privilege at Noseley Hall, near Leicester. Built by sir Arthur Hazelrigg, Baronet in 1729 on an estate that had been in the Hazelrigg family since the Middle Ages (there is still a 13th century chapel at Noseley from an older house), Noseley is still the home of the Hazelrigg family (their website, with pictures of Noseley Hall, is Here ). Grey Hazelrigg, as a younger brother, went into the army as an officer. He was converted while an officer, and attached himself to the Plymouth Brethren. But he got little good among the Brethren when he came into soul-trouble and joined himself to the strict Baptists, with whom he remained all his life. Grey Hazelrigg began to preach, and it caused quite a sensation. While it was not unusual for members of the gentry to become Anglican vicars, and the Hazelriggs were evangelical Anglicans, the idea of a baronet's son becoming a Nonconformist minister was quite a novelty. One of his hearers said of Mr. Hazelrigg, "He ties the sinners up in bundles and casts them into hell, and then calls them back again."
Mr. Hazelrigg had no formal training, but his ministry was anointed by God. He was a man tried by all manner of troubles, inward and outward, and that marked his ministry. At times, indeed, he wondered why he gave up the life he had enjoyed at Noseley for the reproach of the ministry (though his family did not persecute him). The 650 seats in Zion Chapel were needed. About 290 people were baptized at Zion during his ministry, and we can expect that more were converted.
Grey Hazelrigg was pastor at Zion from 1873 until his death in 1912. His favourite hymn was 'The Sands of Time are Sinking'.
His successor was Thomas Robbins, who was called to the pastorate at Zion in 1918. His ministry was greatly blessed, but he died suddenly in 1920, a couple of days after preaching his last sermon.

The pulpit at Zion, then, has been occupied by many great men of God, and it is quite a responsibility to occupy it.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXIII.

Benjamin B. Warfield was without a doubt one of the greatest theologians of his day. His defence of the inerrancy of Scripture alone is a masterful work that has never been answered. Instead it has been ignored, caricatured and abused. None of these methods are recommended at all. So it is no surprise that such a great American Presbyterian defender of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints should have come into some contact with David Brown. Yet it was not to be expected that the two men would agree on everything, in agreement though they were on most matters. In particular they disagreed on the subject of Biblical Criticism. We refer not to the fanciful speculations of the so-called higher critics, which we have savaged a dozen times already in this series, but to the altogether saner science of textual criticism. While the 'higher critics' worked without any material to back up their ungodly dreams, Textual critics work with real manuscripts, Papyrus fragments, great codices, and so on. While Warfield was an admirer and follower of Westcott and Hort, David Brown disagreed rather violently with those men, as we have seen in the post in this series on the subject of the Revised Version of the English Bible. Warfield used Hort's Greek text and textual critical methods. David Brown thought Hort basicacally over-simplistic and muddled, based on a very few very old texts to the extent of claiming some obvious scribal errors were original readings! Warfield though Brown's method of criticism "to result in dominating external evidence without internal evidence." This was not true, and the two men continued friends. Thankfully today Westcott and Hort's simplistic methods have been significantly refined, and no longer do we find 'lithon' for 'linon' in Revelation 15.6! All manuscripts (it is the very nature of manuscripts!) contain scribal errors, even the best, and all rules have exceptions!
Warfield was an enthusiastic supporter of Brown's book on the Second Coming of Christ. "The Pre-millenarian serpent was scotched, not killed by your book many years ago," he wrote to Brown in 1887. "Leaving the Apocalypse (Revelation) to one side for the moment, I cannot help seeing that the more didactic portions of the New Testament set the matter beyond all appeal, at least as far as this, namely, that Christ's Advent introduces the END of the world, and the FINAL consummation and LAST Judgement, and not another worldly dispensation of any kind." And so say all of us at Free St. George's, Dr. Warfield! David Brown's book on the Second Coming of Christ did for us what it did for B. B. Warfield - convinced us that no self-respecting Calvinist ought to be a premillenialist!!!
We reiterate that the eschatological controversy, unlike that with Rome and the Unitarians, is a debate, for the most part (we are thinking here of those cults like the Watchtower Society and Harold Camping that major on end-times speculation), an in-house debate between Christians. The central doctrine of Christianity to Warfield and to Brown was the atonement, the incarnate Son of God dying for sinners. It was from THAT place that they would not move. 'We preach Christ Sruciefied' is the motto of the Church of God in all ages, and it was Brown's. Her urged it on his students. They were to preach Christ as the PROPITIATION for our sins. That was Brown's place. As the hymn-writer put it. so Brown would have consented:
Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul's anchor may remain;
The blood of Jesus, for my sin,
Before the world's foundation slain.

God willing, next time we shall consider a few more of Brown's correspondents.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXII.

We have seen how David Brown corresponded with Cardinal Newman, showing the man who had abandoned his evangelicalism because of a distrust of the Bible that the Bible IS sufficient after all. We noted that Newman was part of a larger trend of Anglicans joining the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time as this development, others were moving away from the teachings of the Bible completely and embracing rationalism as their highest authority. While some abandoned religion entirely, and some tried to transform the existing Churches in their own rationalist image,others set up new 'churches' based on rationalist 'theology' or joined the existing Unitarian congregations. The most important of the Unitarian leaders of the day was James Martineau (1805-1900), the Norwich-born philosopher, lecturer and minister. Unlike Newman, Martineau had been raised a Unitarian and had never believed the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. His pastorates, from 1827-31 in Dublin, 1832-57 in Liverpool and 1859-72 at Little Portland Street, London, were all in Unitarian chapels. While not a convert to Unitarianism, Martineau was one of its most enthusiastic advocates, being Christened by some 'the High Priest of Uniarianism.'

Although at first glance it might seem that two more different men than Newman and Martineau could not be found in all of England, in fact they were alike in many ways. Both men were descended from Huguenots, French Protestant refugees who had fled to England in the 17th century from fierce persecution in their native land. While Newman's Huguenot ancestors had joined the Church of England and retained their Calvinism, the Martineaus had retained their Presbyterianism and abandoned their evangelicalism! In Martineau Brown saw a man who was profoundly impressed by the hymns of the Wesleys, and a man he might be able, under the hand of God, to guide into faith in Christ as more than simply a teacher to be admired, but the Son of God who came to die for ruined sinners.

Both Martineau and Brown were Victorian gentlemen, and their correspondence was carried out in a manner befitting the fact. While Martineau, who, to use his own words, considered "involuntary heresy... but an infirmity and not a sin", could very easily be polite with a man with whom he disagreed (we do not consider there to be such a thing as involuntary heresy and would point our readers to Dr. W.G.T. Shedd's excellent sermon 'Sin in the Heart the Source of Error in the Head' in his volume of 'Sermons to the Natural Man' for a proof of our position), for a staunch Calvinist like David Brown to maintain a tone of charity involved effort. But Brown was convinced that both parts of the phrase 'speaking the Truth in Love' were important - and so they are!
On 23rd June 1881, Martineau, as Principal of Manchester College, London, delivered an address to current and former students on 'Loss and Gain in Recent Theology'. Reading the report of the lecture, Brown saw that Martineau had LOST all that was distinctive of Christianity and GAINED precious little. Though Martineau denied it, the logical end of his 'theology' was an end of all revealed religion, since if God has spoken, man is apparently unable to hear, and that Christ is not the Son of God but a mere man. Martineau protested that "the figure of the historical Christ is, for me, disengaged from the unhistorical elements of the Gospel narratives by a legitimate application of the critical principles." But of course Brown denied that this WAS legitimate. Martineau began by denying the possibility of the miraculous, and so he ended by denying the historicity of the miraculous. He then fondly supposed that this was a 'legitimate application of the critical principles'. No, it was chopping up the Gospels based on his own naturalistic presuppositions! In other words, before Van Til used the expression, David Brown subjected Martineau's lecture to an internal critique!
David Brown, whom we have found to be a presupositionalist before Van Til, urged on Martineau the fact that we are all deeply influenced by our presuppositions, often unconsciously. Certainly Martineau belived that he was unbiassed (a common conceit of the Victorian era), but he was not, because no-one is. Himself a student of Bible criticism, Brown had seen what a subjective tool the so-called 'higher criticism' was, and he had no time for such a game (for game it certainly had become). Unitarianism, he noted, had a downward trend. And indeed it does, down to the pit from whence it came.

God willing, next time we shall consider some of Brown's other contacts, including that with B. B. Warfield of Princeton.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXI.

David Brown gave no uncertain sound in his ministry. He knew whom he had believed, and therefore he was not insecure in his Christianity. What was more, having for a time in his youth embraced error, and having worked among new converts, he knew the nature of error.
The latter years of the 19th century are remarkable in history as a period during which the Roman Catholic Church advanced in protestant nations. It may be that with the loss of the Papal States in Italy the Pope desired to increase his spiritual empire. At the same time the 'Oxford Movement' in Anglicanism led to many Anglican ministers embracing the ritualism of the Roman Catholic Church, and in some cases eventually becoming Roman Catholics. Most notable among these men was undoubtedly John Henry Newman. Brought up in an evangelical and Reformed home, Newman had been seduced by ritualism in Oxford, and argued into disbelieving, not the inspiration of the Bible, but its sufficiency. From that point his life had been a logical progression to the Roman Catholic Church. Newman, like many a convert to Rome before and since, went to Rome because he had been convinced that the authority of the Bible was not sufficient unless backed up by the authority of the Church. He saw the beginnings of rationalistic 'liberalism' and fled to an infallible Church. The irony is that the Roman Church has proved a rope of sand! For all its boasts about unity, it is a mere organisational unity, and all too often NOTHING MORE.

David Brown corresponded with Newman when the one-time Evangelical was already a Roman Catholic priest living and working at the Birmingham Oratory. In Newman he saw a man who had been led astray from Christ, and who might yet be brought back to the simple Huguenot faith of his youth.
David Brown sent copies of several of his apologetic lectures to Newman. There we see the apologist as an evangelist. As ever, Principal Brown was not content to remain in the classroom, but he always sought to step out of it.
One of these lectures, given at the beginning of the 1873-4 session, was on 'The Helplessness of Modern Unbelief', in which Brown exposed the utter IRRATIONALTY of those who claimed to be rationalists. He particularly criticised W. Rathbone Greg and his claim that he believed in God "but not necessarily a personal God" because of the weight of probabilities. A merely PROBABLE God, as Brown pointed out (good Calvinist that he was), is not a God who can be worshipped. At this point Brown quoted Greg's fellow rationalist, and Cardinal Newman's brother, F.W. Newman, who expertly demolished the regard Greg and others held Christ in. If Christ really said all the Gospels quote him as saying, or even a part of it, and He was not God incarnate, then he was an arrogant, intolerant impostor, F.W. Newman declared. And F.W. Newman was quite willing to come to that conclusion. At least he was consistent there, unlike Greg and others, both then and today, who profess admiration for Christ, but refuse to believe on Him. Quite, Brown agreed. So those rationalists who claimed to admire Christ were skewered by this internal critique. In order to continue to profess regard for Christ, they had to chop up the Bible based not on evidence, but on unsupported presuppositions. They made Christ into a man like them. In fact many of them seemed to have thought they were gazing on an image of the 'Jesus of History' when they were in fact all the while looking into a mirror!

This brought Brown into closer contact with Cardinal Newman. Brown went to visit Newman at the Oratory. We have no record of what the two talked about, but it must have included the sufficiency of the Bible and the errors of Rome. We do know that in 1878 Brown wrote to Newman concerning Newman's 'Apologia', pointing out that Newman (like so many converts to Rome) had mis-read history and had thus failed to see that his position was historically untenable. Again, we do not have the letter, but we have Newman's reply, in which he promised Brown (whom he now regarded as a friend) that he would look into the historical difficulties Brown had brought up

Alas, nothing came of this contact, and Newman died in His Romanism.


Monday, October 15, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXX.

The latter part of the 19th century was marked by change, by at least attempts to replace that which was old with that which was new. Among these attempts was the Revised Version of the Bible.
It was recognised that the Authorised Version of 1611, while one of the finest works ever produced in the English language, was now somewhat archaic in language. While spelling had been regularized to get rid of such spellings as 'beleeve', there were still expressions such as 'he that letteth will let' that were quite unintelligible to the average man on the street ('let' in this passage meaning practically the reverse of what he would have thought it meant). Thus, in 1870, the Convocation of the Church of England proposed that a Revised Version of the Bible be produced. Although the motion came from the Church of England, the actual revisers came from a wide variety of backgrounds, including Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. From 1870 to 1880, David Brown sat on the New Testament revision committee that produced what was called the Revised Version.
The idea of the Convocation had been an updating of the English of the Authorised Version, somewhat like the New King James Bible of today. In fact what was produced was a new translation from a different underlying Greek text, the text itself being informed by the principles of Westcott and Hort.
Despite his heavy workload, and the Robertson Smith case, David Brown was present at 209 of the 407 meetings of the New Testament Revision company (as it was called). He recorded in correspondence with his Anglican friend, Principal Moule, some of the difficulties of the work. To give one example, there was a discussion about the word 'stinketh' in relation to Lazarus' body. Some balked at the directness of the word, and Brown said, with his Scottish humour, "What would you say to an American Baptist translation, 'By this time he is offensive.'" The company collapsed in laughter.
In Roman 6.1 one of the company, Dr. Kennedy, argued for the translation 'God who is over asll be blessed for ever,' declaring that the only reason anyone disagreed with him was theology. Dean Scott (of the Liddell Scott Lexicon), replied, "No, sir, we stand upon Greek. The verse weon't translate but, as in the Authorised Version, according to the Septuagint and New Testament Greek." Thus the R.V. DOES describe Christ as 'God over all, blessed for ever.' All users of Liddell and Scott's lexicon should know this fact!
David Brown, like all the Scottish members of the Revision Committee (including Dr. Eadie of the United Presbyterian Church), tended to the conservative side. In fact, he practically agreed with Dean Burgon's position in 'The Revision Revised'. He had been called upon to participate in an updating of the A.V., not the production of an entirely new translation with a new Greek text. The remit of the revisers had been limited to updating the A.V., and to Brown and others, it seemed that Westcott and Hort had taken over the Company to produce a new Bible version based on their textual theories. Brown disagreed with these theories anyway, and contemplated writing a book opposing them. That task, however, he finally left to others.
He pointed out several places where Westcott and Hort had adopted readings that were obviously mistakes, for example in Revelation 15.6, where the A.V. says the angels were 'clothed in pure and white linen'. The Revision there read 'arrayed witrh precious stone pure and bright.' The difference in the Greek is one letter, the letter nu (n) in the T.R. being replaced with the letter theta (th) in the Westcott and Hort text. Brown noted that the possibility of a scribal error here is great, and the very fact that the R.V. had to supply 'precious' indicated a high probability that Westcott and Hort had a bad reading here. Modern scholars agree, and all modern Bible versions we consulted read 'linen' here. He pointed up a number of other changes which were based on two or three old manuscripts, but opposed by the great weight of manuscript evidence. In summary, David Brown supported the IDEA of Revision, but not the R.V., which he felt had, in the New Testament, been hi-jacked by Westcott and Hort as a vehicle for proting their text.

We give a list of the scholars on the New Testament Company in 1879:

The Right Rev. Charles John Ellicott, D. D., Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (Chairman), Palace, Gloucester.
The Right Rev. George Moberly, D. C. L., Bishop of Salisbury, Palace, Salisbury.
The Very Rev. Edward Henry Bickersteth, D. D., Prolocutor, Dean of Lichfield, Deanery, Lichfield.
The Very Rev. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D. D., Dean of Westminster, Deanery, Westminster.
The Very Rev. Robert Scott, D. D., Dean of Rochester, Deanery, Rochester.
The Very Rev. Joseph Williams Blakesley, B. D., Dean of Lincoln, Deanery, Lincoln.
The Most Rev. Richard Chenevix Trench, D. D., Archbishop of Dublin, Palace, Dublin.
The Right Rev. Joseph Lightfoot, D. D., LL.D., Bishop of Durham.
The Right Rev. Charles Wordsworth, D. C. L., Bishop of St. Andrew's, Bishopshall, St. Andrew's.
The Rev. Joseph Angus, D. D., President of the Baptist College, Regent's Park, London.
The Rev. David Brown, D. D., Principal of the Free Church College, Aberdeen.
The Rev. Fenton John Anthony Hort, D. D., Fellow of Emmanual College, Cambridge.
The Rev. William Gilson Humphry, Vicarage, St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, W. C.
The Rev. Benjamin Hall Kennedy, D. D., Canon of Ely and Regius Professor of Greek, The Elms, Cambridge.
The Ven. William Lee, D. D., Archdeacon of Dublin, Dublin.
The Rev. William Milligan, D. D., Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, Aberdeen.
The Rev. William F. Moulton, D. D., Master of the Leys School, Cambridge.
The Rev. Samuel Newth, D. D., Principal of New College, Hampstead, London.
The Ven. Edwin Palmer, D. D., Archdeacon of Oxford, Christ Church, Oxford.
The Rev. Alexander Roberts, D. D., Professor of Humanity, St. Andrew's.
The Rev. Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, LL.D., Prebendary, Hendon Vicarage, London, N. W.
The Rev. George Vance. Smith, D. D., Parade, Carmarthen.
The Rev. Charles John Vaughan, D. D., Master of the Temple, The Temple, London, E. C.
The Rev. Brooke Foss Westcott, D. D., Canon of Peterborough and Regius Professor of Divinity, Trinity College, Cambridge.
The Rev. J. Troutbeck (Secretary), Dean's Yard, Westminster.

The English New Testament Company lost, by death, the Right Rev. Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Winchester; the Very Rev. Dr. Henry Alford, Dean of Canterbury; the Rev. Dr. John Eadie, Professor of Biblical Literature in the United Presbyterian Church, Glasgow; and Mr. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, LL. D.; and they lost, by resignation, the Rev. Dr. Charles Merivale, Dean of Ely.

God willing, next time we shall have something to say about David Brown in controversy with Roman Catholics and Unitarians!


Friday, October 12, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXIX.

After long discussion, Robertson Smith had demanded a heresy trial to clear his name. David Brown, now principal at Aberdeen, had begun to examine his young Professor's views. Brown knew Smith too well to suspect him of knowingly trying to undermine the Bible, but he also remembered his old friend Irving and his errors. Edward Irving had never meant to undermine the sinlessness of Christ, but he had done so. In other words, a man's good intentions did not necessarily protect him from error. David Brown took no pleasure in thus examining the views of his brilliant young colleague, but he knew it had to be done. If he was willing to confront error in other Churches, he could not give his own denomination a free pass. In that he acted as a good man ought to, confronting error whedrever it could be found, and not assuming the worst of those whose teachings he saw were dangerous. It is a sad fact that the vast majority of heretics have imagined they were upholding, not undermining, the Gospel. History tells us that Christ has often been wounded in the house of his friends.
The question, then, that faced David Brown, was this: Did Robertson Smith's views really involve the practical denial of the inspiration of Deuteronomy? Smith was a young man, Brown now an elder statesman of the Church. Smith's reading had been affectively confined to German higher-critical works, Brown's embraced a wide circle of theology - a fact necessitated by his teaching responsibilities. Smith had never held a pastorate and had spent much of his life in an academic setting, Brown was an experienced minister who had worked with both rural poverty and urban wealth. In other words, in practically every field David Brown was Robertson Smith's superior - a man does not live seventy years as eventful as Brown's without learning something, and David Brown was commited to a learned ministry.
Our readers are referred to the past series on Robertson Smith for the full details. Suffice to say that Robertson Smith finally fell by his own hand. Just a few days after he had been admonished and reinstated to his office, another volume of the Encyclopaedia appeared containing an article on 'Hebrew Language and Literature' that was even more advanced in tone than the article 'Bible'. Yet Smith had said nothing about this article during the trial! He was removed from office by the next General Assembly.
If his biographers give us a true picture of Robertson Smith, he was an arrogant young man who thought that because he had read deeply modern German authors, he was above all criticism. He looked on the aged Principal Brown with something bordering on contempt, as a senile old fossil who wanted to uphold the traditional views. He did not consider that David Brown and his other critics might have very good reasons for holding their positions. David Brown, it must be remembered, had himself struggled with unitarianism and German rationalism whilst a student. He had come to his views on the Bible by study and investigation, not a blind faith. He saw that Robertson Smith's problem was not too much learning, it was too little - the young man had only read books of one school, and that a school that tended to put unsupported speculations into the place of fact. The 'Higher Criticism' was an attempt to reconstruct the history of the Biblical texts, not using external evidence, but internal. Unfortunately the process was entirely subjective. Different critics came up with entirely different histories of texts, and all without any hard evidence at all. David Brown had seen this in his reading and determined to be very cautious of it. He studied the Higher criticism closely, and it was because of this deep study that he utterly rejected it. David Brown was committed to scholarship - and the true scholarship that upholds the truthfulness of the Bible.

God willing, next time we shall look at Principal Brown's other controversy that ran alongside the Robertson Smith case - the Revised Version of the Bible.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXVIII.

David Brown was the greatest ornament (if such a word can be rightly used of such a practical man) of the Free Church College, Aberdeen. But there was one man who, for a time, seemed to challenge him in that place. That man was William Robertson Smith (see sidebar for a link to our past series on him). Smith was a brilliant man without a doubt, but his very brilliance became a snare to him. Often this is the case, Satan uses men's talents and abilities as snares. PRIDE is his great wepon, and to some it is an intellectual pride.
Robertson Smith was the son of a well-respected country pastor, a graduate of the University of Aberdeen, like David Brown, and a graduate of New College. His abilities in the Hebrew language had led the 1870 General Assembly to take the unparalelled course of appointing him to the Chair of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Free Church College, Aberdeen at the end of his theology course. This very act contributed to the young scholar's downfall. Without the grounding the pastoral ministry had given David Brown and the other Free Church professors, he WAS an ivory tower academic.

David Brown liked Robertson Smith as a man. He was a likeable enough young fellow at first, and David Brown was no narrow-minded bigot. He was a scholar himself of international fame, and he enjoyed the company of learned men. Though Robertson Smith had studied in Germany, Brown knew men like John Cairns of the United Presbyterian Church who had done the same and not been ill-affected by it, and he himself saw the usefulness of Biblical criticism of the textual kind, comparing manuscripts to get to the purest form of the text.

But in 1875 the third volume of the 9th edition of the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica' appeared, containing an article on the Bible by Robertson Smith. It contained opinions on the dates and compositions of books of the Old Testament that were quite contrary to what the Free Church as a whole held, and identical to some of the most extreme views of the German liberals. It was essential for the Free Church to act, and as a member of the College Committee, Brown was at the centre of the firestorm of protest that sprang up.
In summary, the views of Robertson Smith were:
1. The Levitical laws did not date from the time of Moses, but from a later date.
2. Deuteronomy contains mention of institutions and arrangements that did not exist in the time of Moses.
3. This is accounted for by the assumption that Deuteronomy is not a historical document, but the claim to be one is a literary device.
4. This method was legitimate and is not at odds with the full inspiration of the book.
5. This method was not a sort of fraud.
The College Committee as a whole was not impressed, and eventually it was concluded that a formal charge of heresy should be brought.

God willing, next time we shall continue with this saga.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXVII.

David Brown's eldest son was dead, and he had only learned about the fact nearly three months later. He was already on his way to meet his son's ship when the telegram reached his home, and it was forwarded so that he recieved it at Stirling. At once he returned to Aberdeen in great distress. Brown was a father, and a Christian, not a Stoic, of course he mourned. It grieved him all the more that there would not even be a proper funeral, that Alexander's body lay somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
But there was a still greater concern in the household. Wherever Alexander's body was, Christ could raise it up on the last Day, but for what would he be raised? Eternal life or eternal punishment? And where was his soul now? Paradise or Hell? Professor Brown and his wife hurried down from Aberdeen to London to obtain some details of their son's tragic death, hoping to have some clue of the state of his soul. They had never heard him confess Christ, they did not know his spiritual state.
Going through his papers they were horrified to find that the only document of a religious natre was a half-written letter, and the most important part was unwritten! His illness had kept him from completing it!
But there was a better witness. By God's providence there had been on board that vessel as a passenger an American missionary, Rev. Joseph Scudder, one of eight brothers all of whom were missionaries. Scudder himself had been sick, but when he heard that a young man on board was very ill indeed, the missionary determined to do his duty and speak to the youth. He had soon realised Brown was dying, and as any Christian ought to do, he had pressed on Alexander the solemnness of his condition. Alexander had opened his heart to the American, telling him that he was a minister's son, brought up in the midst of a glowing evangelicalism. But in India Alexander Brown had gone astray, the strange views of some great writers having confused his view of the way of salvation. Now that he lay at the very doors of death, however, he saw the simplicity of God's way of salvation by Christ. He had been seeking Christ, he said, for the past few months, but it was through the American Missionary's words that David Brown's son at last found peace. The sophisticated poetry of his Oxford days meant nothing to him now, and he loved the simple, yet profound words of Watts, of Wesley, of Newton and of Cowper. No doubt the hymns of the tortured poet of Olney were particularly sweet to the young man as he layu dying, far from home and family. Now Alexander rejoiced in pardon of sins, and in Christ his saviour.
On 2nd January Scudder entered his young friend's cabin. "I am dying," Alexander said, "and I wish to bid you good-bye." The missionary sat down beside the dying man, who embraced him and said, "Oh, I bless God, I bless God, that He sent you on board this ship!"
And they spoke of Christ, of the twenty-third Psalm, which all Scots of that period knew, and of the fourteenth chapter of John. His trust in Christ was unclouded. Early the next morning, he did and went to be with his Lord.
The anxious parents rejoiced at the news. Of course they still felt the loss, but they knew their son was safe with Christ. God had sent Scudder, a man quite like Alexander Brown, but a real Christian, to preach the Gospel to him. This is how God works, he seeks out his elect, He lays them low, and he saves them.
David Brown wrote a little book, 'Crushed Hopes Crowned in Death' as the memorial to his son. In it he laid out the simplicity of God's salvation in Christ, and drew attention to the fact that, while Alexander had been told about Christ, it was not knowing ABOUT Christ that saves, but knowing HIM. And finally, he held up Scudder's example. Here was a missionary who had not spared himself, but in his sickness ministered to one sicker than he was. Here was a true missionary, a man to humble every preacher.
So David Brown drew comfort from his son's death, and praised God who 'doeth all things well'. God willing, next time we shall see what the next great trial to meet David Brown was.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXVI.

Children are a blessing from the Lord, and David Brown had that blessing. The eldest son in any family is an object of great hope, and even more so in a Scots family of the nineteenth century. David Brown's eldest son was named Alexander, and he was an exceptionally intelligent lad. He was of course brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, for David Brown was the sort of father who always had time for his children, but who taught them that they must submit to their parents. David Brown was of the Puritan stamp, not the ghastly, joyless caricature of Puritanism, but the real thing, the Puritanism of Willian Guthrie, author of 'The Christian's Great Interest', who one moment could laugh out loud at the joke and the next engage in reverent prayer, the Puritanism that sanctified life and inspired Watts to write,
'Religion never was designed to make our pleasures less.'
Nor was it meant to make our culture less. Alexander Brown was taught by his Puritan family a love of art and literature as well as the Bible and religious things, for Puritanism has no prejudice against really good literature, only against that which is low and immoral. In the various family homes, in the Ord, in Glasgow and in Aberdeen, he learned to love his family, and he never had cause to regret the Puritanism of his family home.

After the local schools, Alexander Brown continued to Glasgow university, where he was deeply involved in the student missionary society. There, at the age of eighteen, he wrote an essay on religious poetry, tracing the progress of English religious verse to the great hymns of the eighteenth century which he had learned at that Puritanical home! From there he went on to Oxford, where he was recognised as one of the best English scholars of the day. Yet his father was distressed by this one point - he laced the 'one thing needful'. The fact was that, though familiar with sacred things, Alexander was careless of them.
Seeking a profession, the choice seemed hard for him. It seemed that he had a choice between law and the ministry. Yet he could not afford to study law, and had no calling to the ministry. David Brown had longed for his son to follow him in the high calling of the pastorate, but he recognised it was not to be - he would have no part in intruding an unsent man into the Church of God.
So Alexander Brown entered the Indian Civil Service, and on 4th December 1858 he set sail for India. David Brown was unable to accompany his son to the ship, but Mrs. Brown went with her son, and one of her last exhortations to him on setting sail was "Alexander, confess Christ."
He began well, and learned the local languages quickly. But then his health, previously robust, began to fail. In an attempt to aid recovery, he was sent to the Andaman Islands, but he returned even worse. At last he was ordered home after less than a year in India, and on December 12th he set sail for Britain again on board the 'Marlborough'.
This was long before radio, and a ship at sea swas essentially out of communication. On 27th March 1860 the 'Marlborough' arrived off Weymouth, and David Brown set out at once to meet his Son. But he was far too late. He had hardly left Aberdeen when a telegram arrived at his home with the sad news that Alexander Brown had died on 3rd January and ben buried at sea.

God willing, next time we shall see David Brown's response to this world-shattering news.


Monday, October 08, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXV.

David Brown was, as we hope our readers are by now aware, the very reverse of an ivory tower theologian. He was practical, approachable, and deeply involved with the religious and secular life of the city in which he lived, and the life of the local Church. He was also passionate about preaching, as every minister ought to be. Not only did he urge on his students the absolute necessity of an earnest ministry (he agreed completely with his brother's sentiments set forth in the book recently republished by the Banner of Truth Trust), but he also preached as often as he possibly could. It was to him the highest task to preach Christ, and it was a labour of love in the highest possible sense, love to Christ who had saved him, love to the saints whom Christ had died for as well, and love to perishing sinners. All of his sermons concluded with an appeal urging sinners to come to Christ for salvation. Often he would preach single sermons, but sometimes he preached for several weeks at a time in one Church, in 1859 preaching at the Braemar Free Church as supply while the pastor was in America (the pulpit pictured above is in the building that replaced the wooden structure Brown preached in). His preaching was both doctrinal and experimental, it was the old Scots Calvinism, the doctrine of Knox and of Rutherford and Boston, without any false mixture of German heresy.
In 1892, at the age of eighty-nine, he preached the funeral sermon of one of our past subjects, Rev. Donald Fraser, at Inverness. Fraser had been a close friend of Brown's, despite some doctrinal disagreements between the two in later years, and although it was a cold, snowy February, he gladly complied. David Brown travelled to Inverness through the snow and preached with great power on a subject dear to our hearts, the penitent thief and the Lord of glory on the cross. How fitting and right it was, at the funeral of one who had done great things for God and for the Church, to come back to the great truth that none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good! Donald Fraser would certainly have approved of the topic, he was not the sort of man who wanted to point to himself, but to Jesus crucified.
Late in life, after the accident that laid him low, Brown had fewer opportunities and less strength. Still, he preached as often as he could, and when he could no longer preach full sermons he spoke shorter messages at the communion table. And when he could no longer do that, he pronounced the benediction. He did what he could. His biographer compares him to John Knox, serving the Lord 'with his glad heart and dying hand'. Oh, what a blessed life he had! Let the preacher read these words and be humbled. THIS was preaching as one never sure to preach again, and emphatically as a dying man to dying men!

Mrs. Cousins' poem says 'With mercy and with judgemement my web of time He wove', and that is true of all believers. God willing, next time we shall see an incident in David Brown's life that illustrates this.


Friday, October 05, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXIV.

Every Free Church professor was not only a member but an elder in a local congregation. It was felt to be extremely important by the Free Church that their professors were not isolated from the local Church by their work. Not that David Brown was the sort of man who could ever do that, but others were so tempted.
David Brown was a member of the old Free South Church in Aberdeen, serving in that capacity for forty years, under several ministers (pictured is a caricature of John Adam, who was minister of the Free South Church from 1849 to 1867). Three times he held the post of Moderator of the Kirk-Session when the pastorate was vacant, and his wisdom guided the congregation through some difficult times. In his devotion to the work he gave an example to the other elders, and the sight of him in extreme old age in his usual place would no doubt have impressed the young people of the Free South Church. He set an example too in his regard for the ordinance of the Lortd's Table, for in forty years of membership he never missed a single communion season, but was always to be seen breaking bread with the church to which he was joined. It should of course be remembered that we are not talking about a weekly or even monthly administration, but a quarterly one. He treated his post as elder as one of the gravest importance, and involved himself in as much church business as his other duties allowed him. He continued, as he had done in his pastorates and assistantships, to teach classes of young people and prepare them for communion. The Free South Church had a great man as elder in David Brown.

He held the deepest interest in the local congregation and in the wider denomination, a feat that is really exceedingly difficult. As the grandson of a Secession minister, he was deeply interested in the abortive union plans of the 1860s and 70s. He did not rejoice in the many splits in the Scots Church, and he saw that the Seceders of the 1870s were as orthodox as the Free Church of Scotland was. Yet the wounds of the Voluntary Controversy that had preceded the Disruption, in which the Seceders had sabotaged Thomas Chalmers' Church extension project, were not yet healed, and in a large measure it was that past event that scuppered the union in the 1870s. Brown pleaded for compromise on both sides, but in the end he saw that neither Church was ready, and he let the matter drop.
Like his friend Donald Fraser (subject of a past series on this blog), David Brown rejoiced at the prospect of the abolition of patronage in the Church of Scotland. He had no 'ignoble sectarian temper', and supported rather than resisted this forward movement. Quite right, we say. To seek the ill of any denomination is quite contrary to true Christianity!

God willing, next time we shall consider David Brown as a preacher who was no longer a pastor.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXIII

David Brown's responsibilities in Scotland made foreign travel a luxury he could not often enjoy. The work of the College, the Free Church and the various societies to which he belonged made it difficult to get away. In 1867, however, he was able to take his family on holiday to Switzerland. Even then his work followed him. With Switzerland growing in popularity as a holiday destination, the Continental Committee of the Free Church was looking to provide places of worship for its members who holidayed in Switzerland. Thus they asked Dr. Brown to look for suitable places to establish places of worship for tourists. Brown agreed to this, and so even on the family holiday, he was working!
Some towns he found already had Presbyterian Churches, and he avoided advising setting up rival churches in these. Two places, however, he found to be in need of the Committee's attention, Interlaken and Lucerne. There had indeed been some efforts made at Interlaken, the parish Church of Unterseen had been obtained for services, and one service had actually been held. But Unterseen was quite some way from the hotels, and the time at which the Church was available, midday, was inconvenient. David Brown was thus asked to find a better place of worship.
Since accommodation for the worshippers of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England had already been provided within the walls of Schloss Interlaken (pictured), it was suggested the the Free Church of Scotland might be able to use the Sacristy of the old castle. The room was large enough, but it was rather dark. David Brown thus applied to the Bernese government for permission to open up windows in the sacristy and fit up the room for use by the Free Church at the expense of the Free Church. He informed the government that the doctrine of the Free Church was that of the Heidelberg Catechism, the great symbol of the German-speaking Reformed Churches, and that they were a Presbyterian Church like that of Berne. The government agreed to the application, and then Brown had to oversee the restoration of the sacristy. He had to find an architect, a builder, and ensure that the work was properly carried out. And, of course, he had to obtain funds. As is often the case, there were costs that were not anticipated when the work began, and David Brown went to some of his wealthy Free Church friends to ask for help. It was forthcoming, and in 1868 David Brown spent a great part of the summer as the Free Church minister of Interlaken. It was in the nature of a working vacation for him, and no doubt his children in particular appreciated the months in the picturesque Swiss town.
In Lucerne the Free Church was able to hire the Maria Hilf Church for worship from the local Roman Catholic Church. Hearing that the Pro-Legate of the Pope was in town, Brown approached him to ask him consent to use the Church. The Legate told Dr. Brown that, if he asked leave to use the Maria Hilf, he would refuse. But of course, if Dr. Brown did not ask, the Legate would say nothing on the matter. Brown understood at once what the legate was driving at. While he himself was for peace, his masters in Rome would not allow Protestant 'heretics' to use their building if they were edver told. So no formal request was made, and the Presbyterians used the Maria Hilf for many years until it was felt that the decorations so beloved of Roman Catholics were hardly suitable for Presbyterian worship, and the church hall was used instead.

So David Brown served his countrymen abroad. God willing, next time we shall see him in Aberdeen again.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXII

Although his first responsibility, one that he took extremely seriously, was that of a Professor in the Free Church College, David Brown also took his part in wider work. He was on good terms with such evangelical gentry and aristocracy as Mr. Gordon of Parkhill, the Earl of Kintore, Lord Haddo (later the Earl of Aberdeen) and Mr. Brownlow North. Dr. Brown was extremely close to Lord Haddo, and often took part in evangelistic work ledby these men. To see a peer of the realm standing in the open air and proclaiming the eternal Gospel must have been an astounding sight in those days, when there were so many who, to slightly paraphrase Cowper, wore a coronet and prayed, and indeed, in some cases even preached! David Brown was often a guest at Lord Aberdeen's residence at Haddo House (pictured).

A part of Christian work in any country where the Gospel has been long established is societies. We have known deacons to despair of their ministers' involvement with societies, but these things have their places. David Brown was particularly involved in the work of the National Bible Society of Scotland. As principal of a theological college, he was well placed to direct the work of the Aberdeen auxiliary of the society, sending Bibles to parts of Scotland that needed them, and providing Bibles for missionaries.
He was also one of the founders of the Evangelical Alliance. As a minister in London, he had seen the great variety of evangelicalism in Britain, but also its essential doctrinal unity, and the idea a union of individual evangelical Christians from many denominations appealed to him. He took a deep and active interest in the Alliance, and at one meeting, held in Ryde in 1886, he presented a paper on the subject of modern scepticism. He took on in it practically every form of theological error known in the United Kingdom and abroad. He did not spare the so-called higher criticism and its work in subverting faith in the reliability of Scripture. It so loved, he noted, to pronounce on cases that it could not really say anything about with any degree of certainty (this obnoxious characteristic was noted by other orthodox men such as Kennedy of Dingwall). Despite the popularity of Dean Farrar's writings and preaching, and his position, David Brown did not spare Farrar's false views on the atonement and expressed his utter anhorrence of Farrar's universalism. And of course he upheld the primacy of preaching, as a theological professor should.
Not that Brown had no concern for unity. He certainly did. But he had a far higher concern for truth.
And he was involved in the 'Alliance of Reformed Churches throughout the world, holding the Presbyterian system' (to give the full name of the body. It was to him a means of meeting foreign presbyterian theologians and sharing information. Unlike some younger Scottish theologians and ministers of the period, there was nothing parochial about David Brown. His name, thanks to the commentary, was well-known, and it enabled him to have fellowship with some of the great Calvinistic theologians of the time.

God willing, next time we shall see David Brown's limited overseas work.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXI.

David Brown (finally pictured) was, as we have seen, no ivory tower theologian. His early ministerial career had ensured that was not the case. In his post in the Free Church College in Aberdeen he was concerned to encourage a living piety in students.
The great revival of 1858-9 began in the United States. It spread to Aberdeen in 1858, with the preaching of Duncan Matheson and Reginald Radcliffe, among others. Many came under conviction of sin, and many passed from death to life.
Brown was not a man who simply accepted the testimony of others, as we have seen from his London experience. Yet he saw the hand of God in the work. He also saw the dangers of well-meaning but theologically vague men teaching the converts of the revival. As a theology professor he saw it as his duty to give the revival what guidance he could. He urged the students to do what they could to help, and he backed the movement. He was the first Aberdeen minister to do so, and with his experience in London, he knew what real fanaticism looked like.

We ought to state that the preachers in 1858-9 in Scotland were all decided Calvinists, like Brownlow North, whom John Brown's old friend 'Rabbi' Duncan had called "an untrained theologue" with an emphasis on the theologue. They were men who taught the doctrines of grace as found in the Westminster Confession. They were also some of the greatest evangelists Scotland ever knew.

Living in Aberdeen, David Brown was in the best position to see the real results of the revival. The evangelists preached, stayed for some months, then passed on. David Brown remained in Aberdeen until his death in 1897. He saw that many of the converts of the revival were among the strongest Christians in the city. In later years they provided elders in many congregations Of course some who professed faith fell sway - it is always so. But most of them did not disgrace their profession.
David Brown was an intelligent man. He saw there were two bad tendencies that often attended the young converts of revivals. First, the ordinary services of the Church did not satisfy those converted in the great open-air meetings and in mission-meetings. Second, there was a tendency to ignore and even disparage the intellectual element in religion. Religion too often became a merely emotional thing with these perople, and that tended to weaken Christianity, which ought to have BOTH elements. So he began a meeting for these young converts, a sort of Bible-class before public worship, where they could meet together and be instructed in an atmosphere more congenial to them, whilst not neglecting the local churches.

How important it is that our religion should consist in both experience and doctrine. Doctrine is the skeleton, experience is the flesh. They need each other, apart they are monsters, together they are a healthy person.

God willing, next time we shall consider Brown's wider work outside the College.