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.



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