Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXXIX.

The Victorian age was the great age of the religious periodical. Literally thousands of periodicals were produced by Evangelicals of various stripes, Rationalists, Ritualists, and so on. Such a writer as David Brown was of course a frequent contributor to the religious press. The 'Sunday Magazine', edited by Dr. Guthrie, a cousin of David Brown, was frequently graced with articles by David Brown, particularly on Church history. It is a sad fact today that most evangelicals care nothing for history. Perhaps this is the reason so many are falling into the same errors the liberals fell into a century ago. Most of Brown's articles were biographical studies of great champions of the Truth. He held that all of the most important eras of the Church history were marked by a number of powwerful minds, perhaps one or two in each place of conflict. Brown was gifted with the ability to draw vigorous pen-portraits of great men.
At this time of year, in this year of remembering the martyrs, it is perhaps fitting to remark that Brown's mind was often turned towards the Reformers. Not so much the men that we all know, Calvin, Luther, Knox, Cranmer and Zwingli, but to the great Polish Reformer John a-Lasco (or Jan Laski, in Polish). David Brown related that he did not know a nobler man among all the Reformers, or one who had made such sacrifices for the cause of the Reformation. For a while David Brown desired to write a biography of this man who lies in undeserved obscurity in English-speaking nations. "Englishmen should have some interest in a foreign nobleman who sacrificed the highest interests in his own country, and laying his all at the feet of Christ, became a Protestant preacher in another land; who, when thwarted in the great changes he was effecting in the sphere of labour which he had chosen (East Friesland), and forced to seek shelter in England, was quickly appreciated and recieved with honour by Edward VI and by Cranmer; who, at their desire, became superintendent of the foreign congregations settled in London, French, Italian, and Belgic (or German), over whom the young King spread the broad shield of his protection; who occupied this difficult post to the high satisfaction of all concermed; and who as long as Edward lived, enjoyed his confidence and esteem."
Englishmen ought to (as we ourselves remarked to a Polish friend of ours), but they did not, and the project fell through because David Brown could not interest a publisher in the book. What David Brown wrote then is probably still true today, "John a-Lasco is scarcely known by name to ordinary readers of Church history."

Sad but true. Maybe, with the influx of Poles into England in the last few years, and the Polish grocery stores that are now a feature of our English cities, someone will step forward and correct the oversight.

God willing, next time we shall see David Brown recieving the highest honour the Free Church could bestow - the post of Moderator of the General Assembly in 1885.



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