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.



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