Thursday, November 08, 2007

'This One Thing I Do.' John Brown of Broughton Place. - II

The third John Brown, the subject of this series, inherited from his father a love of good books and a faculty of study. From his mother he seemed to inherit something of his appearance, and a more meditative turn of character. He was a sickly infant, and for some days after his birth he was not expected to live. Live he did, but he was a delicate child, and not until his college years did he shoot up to his commanding stature and develop his strong constitution that brought him through life.
Whitburn, scene of his father's ministry, was of course the scene of his childhood. In the final years of the eighteenth century it was a wsild, secluded place, surrounded by the wild moors. The Secession meeting-house was located in a commanding position, and the manse stood beside it. From the manse young John could see, twenty miles away, Edinburgh. The meeting-house stood apart from the village, and so the young family were relatively isolated.
John Brown had two sisters and a younger brother named George, who later also became a pastor. Although his parents had other children, all died in infancy.
The Seceders, concerned for the education of their children kept up their own in the vestry of the meeting-house. As was the custom then, the school teachers were young candidates for the ministry. John Brown attended this school until the age of about eight or nine, when he passed to another school in the village, and finally to the Parish School, where he recieved what he later said was the most valuable part of his education. The parish schoolmaster, one Mr. Macdonald, was a man of great learning, and young John drank up classical and literary learning from this man. Soon John Brown was the highest scholar in the school, no doubt to the delight of his literary father. His passion for books became almost proverbial, and religion was not neglected. His was not a sudden conversion, and John Brown could never name a day on which he had passed from death to life, but he loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and he loved the brethren.
John Brown's father did not evangelize the Highlands at the expense of his own faily. The manse parlour was a place where he taught his family, his four children learned from him the truths of religion. As for Isabella Brown, the mother, she loved the hymns of Isaac Watts, and in that metrical form she imprinted the truths of religion on the minds of her children.
So John Brown passed from death to life before he could even recall the fact. He organised prayer-meeting at school, and rebuked his friends if they used improper language. Yet it was natural and child-like religion.
As the son and grandson of ministers, it seemed that his calling was already chosen for him - he would be a pastor. While still at school himself he taught a class of younger children in the Sabbath-school. He taught, apparently, much from the 63rd and 84th Psalms and the 12th and 35th chapters of Isaiah.
His mother died when he was eleven, and he was of course deeply affected by it. He watched her die as one who had all her hope in Christ, and no hope anywhere else. "Guilt stares me in the face; but through grace I desire to trust the promises" were her last words. When she was dead the young John wrote a little account of her life and death. As the sketch, edited of course, was later published, it may be said to have been John Brown's first published work.
His father married again, and the second wife was as much a Christian as the first. She did what she could to fill up the place of the first Mrs. Brown. but never to supplant her in the affections of her children.

A candidate for the ministry in the Secession Church had a clear route marked out for him in life, and the next step on that route for John Brown was Edinburgh University. God willing, that is where we shall see him next time.



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