Monday, October 01, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XX.

David Brown had the highest view of his position. He was preparing future ministers and missionaries of the Free Church of Scotland. These young men would either make or mar the Church of the future.
Scottish Presbyterianism has always promoted an educated ministry. In her best days her ministers have been the most educated, her theology fresh and Biblical. She has combined this deep learning with an equally deep reverence and piety. Indeed, it has been DEEP learning, not shallow. We would contend that only a shallow learning is incompatible with Christianity. The work of the ministry, he insisted, was a solemn work that required a sense of the gravity of what was being done - preaching to immortal souls. Conversion, he warned, is not everything (how we need to hear that today). The minister had to feed Christ's sheep. We pity those Christians who worship in places where all that is aimed at is conversion. They are sheep, they look up, but they are not fed as they ought to be. And preaching must be Biblical. "The Bible is not an antiquated book about p;eople and things that have passed away, but what Stephen calls it, the lively, living oracles, having a never dying power, a vernal freshness, as if it came just wet from the press, as my friend Dr. Duncan used to express it," Brown said.
The minister, in his opinion, should study his language. He should read good, well-written books. One of the most common delusions among students, he said, is that they can speak and read English. No, many spoke badly and read badly. Somer were far too flowery in language, imitating Thomas Guthrie of Edinburgh. Not that Guthrie was not a great preacher, but he was too unique to be imitated. A man ought to be natural in the pulpit.
The best model Brown ever saw for a preacher was Spurgeon, "A few weeks ago I worshipped in Mr. Spurgeon's Tabernacle, not for the first time. A rare sight it was - some five thousand worshippers... THERE was a man, standing on a platform, with a modest table at his side and a Bible placed on it, and himself with no clerical habiliments. Yet from first to last he was listened to with breathless attention... and what prayers! Simplicity itself, but how reverential; it was talking to God, telling Him what we felt in His presence, what we wanted from Him, and also what we expected, and all in that name which is above every name. I say nothing asbout his sermons, the character of wshich everyone knows, save that everyone felt as if they were addressed to himself or herself in particular. But what I referred to this preacher for just now was, the bell-like clearness with which he articulated every word to the close of the sentence. I myself, whose hearing is so imperfect, heard every word. This, of course, in so vast a building was indispensable to his being heard at all; but it was done with no apparent effort, there was no shouting. He simply stood upright, spoke straight out, possessed by his subject, and intent only on lodging it in his hearers."

Brown was aware that some men allowed study to dry up their spiritual life. He always warned against that. Bengel had not allowed that to happen, and his studies had in fact fed his devotion - that should be true of the minister. The minister should study the Bible DEVOTIONALLY as well as exegetically. And he should read Christian biography. Lives of Luther and Calvin, of the greatest Puritan devotional writers, of Wesley and Whitefield, of the leaders of the the early missionary movement like Carey and Judson, and of Thomas Chalmers were recommended. Another method was visiting sick Christians. The minister's devotional life was key.
So Theological college, to Brown, was as much about encouraging good habits as it was about learning facts. And practical work was always encouraged. God willing, next time we shall see how Brown took part in the 1859 revival in Aberdeen.



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