'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.
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