Tuesday, October 16, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXI.

David Brown gave no uncertain sound in his ministry. He knew whom he had believed, and therefore he was not insecure in his Christianity. What was more, having for a time in his youth embraced error, and having worked among new converts, he knew the nature of error.
The latter years of the 19th century are remarkable in history as a period during which the Roman Catholic Church advanced in protestant nations. It may be that with the loss of the Papal States in Italy the Pope desired to increase his spiritual empire. At the same time the 'Oxford Movement' in Anglicanism led to many Anglican ministers embracing the ritualism of the Roman Catholic Church, and in some cases eventually becoming Roman Catholics. Most notable among these men was undoubtedly John Henry Newman. Brought up in an evangelical and Reformed home, Newman had been seduced by ritualism in Oxford, and argued into disbelieving, not the inspiration of the Bible, but its sufficiency. From that point his life had been a logical progression to the Roman Catholic Church. Newman, like many a convert to Rome before and since, went to Rome because he had been convinced that the authority of the Bible was not sufficient unless backed up by the authority of the Church. He saw the beginnings of rationalistic 'liberalism' and fled to an infallible Church. The irony is that the Roman Church has proved a rope of sand! For all its boasts about unity, it is a mere organisational unity, and all too often NOTHING MORE.

David Brown corresponded with Newman when the one-time Evangelical was already a Roman Catholic priest living and working at the Birmingham Oratory. In Newman he saw a man who had been led astray from Christ, and who might yet be brought back to the simple Huguenot faith of his youth.
David Brown sent copies of several of his apologetic lectures to Newman. There we see the apologist as an evangelist. As ever, Principal Brown was not content to remain in the classroom, but he always sought to step out of it.
One of these lectures, given at the beginning of the 1873-4 session, was on 'The Helplessness of Modern Unbelief', in which Brown exposed the utter IRRATIONALTY of those who claimed to be rationalists. He particularly criticised W. Rathbone Greg and his claim that he believed in God "but not necessarily a personal God" because of the weight of probabilities. A merely PROBABLE God, as Brown pointed out (good Calvinist that he was), is not a God who can be worshipped. At this point Brown quoted Greg's fellow rationalist, and Cardinal Newman's brother, F.W. Newman, who expertly demolished the regard Greg and others held Christ in. If Christ really said all the Gospels quote him as saying, or even a part of it, and He was not God incarnate, then he was an arrogant, intolerant impostor, F.W. Newman declared. And F.W. Newman was quite willing to come to that conclusion. At least he was consistent there, unlike Greg and others, both then and today, who profess admiration for Christ, but refuse to believe on Him. Quite, Brown agreed. So those rationalists who claimed to admire Christ were skewered by this internal critique. In order to continue to profess regard for Christ, they had to chop up the Bible based not on evidence, but on unsupported presuppositions. They made Christ into a man like them. In fact many of them seemed to have thought they were gazing on an image of the 'Jesus of History' when they were in fact all the while looking into a mirror!

This brought Brown into closer contact with Cardinal Newman. Brown went to visit Newman at the Oratory. We have no record of what the two talked about, but it must have included the sufficiency of the Bible and the errors of Rome. We do know that in 1878 Brown wrote to Newman concerning Newman's 'Apologia', pointing out that Newman (like so many converts to Rome) had mis-read history and had thus failed to see that his position was historically untenable. Again, we do not have the letter, but we have Newman's reply, in which he promised Brown (whom he now regarded as a friend) that he would look into the historical difficulties Brown had brought up

Alas, nothing came of this contact, and Newman died in His Romanism.



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