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.



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