Monday, November 12, 2007

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

Although they had seceded from the Church of Scotland over the question of patronage, championing the rights of the Church to call its own pastor, the Seceders remained committed to an educated ministry. In the ordinary course of things this meant that students for the Secession ministry had to attend one of the Scottish universities, at Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews or Aberdeen. A normal student would be expected to take a full university course before or while attending the denominational Divinity Hall.
John Brown was a student at Edinburgh University from 1797 to 1800. Of his time at the universitry very little is known. Apparently he set little store by his university days, valuing more his schooldays in Whitburn and his time at the Divinity Hall. We know that he attended Professor Dalziel's Greek lectures, and can be fairly confident that he attended the Latin lectures of Dr. Hill. In his second winter session at Edinburgh we know he studied Logic under Dr. Finlayson, one of the city's ministers who did something to redeem the system of pluralities that allowed a minister to hold several positions. Finlayson's teaching Brown appreciated as teaching him correct habits of study and clear, logical habits of thought.
One class we know that John Brown did NOT attend was that of Moral Philosophy. His grandfather, John Brown of Haddington, had regarded the course, in the way it was taught in Scottish universities, as a vain substitute for Christian revelation. Although the Edinburgh Professor, Dulgald Stewart, was one of the most famous of the university's teachers at that time, John Brown faithfully obeyed the injunction and stayed away. He did however READ Duglad Stewart's books, and he always admired the man.
John Brown was undoubtedly a careful student, and he certainly gained greatly from his course. What a contrast to too many university students, who gain only extravagant tastes and indolent habits!
When staying in Edinburgh, John Brown stayed with his grandfather's widow, who had moved to Edinburgh after her husband's death, and his closest companion was his uncle (there was a large age-difference in the family), William Brown. So John Brown sought out Christian fellowship, and companionship. The family pastor, Dr. Peddie, was his while he weas in the metropolis.
It should be remembered that the Scottish university of those days was, in terms of the age of the undergraduate students, more like a modern secondary school, with most undergraduates taking their degrees at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Perhaps this is why John Brown recalled little of his university days.
In April 1800 John Brown, aged fifteen and newly graduated from Edinburgh University, went out to work as a teacher at Elie, on the Eastern coast of Fife. This was, as we have said, the usual next step after university for a candidate for the Secession ministry. Not only was teaching a way for a university-educated youth (for at fifteen he could hardly be called a man) to support himself, it was also a means of disciplining the student. If he could keep order in a school, he had some possibility of being able to do so in a Church!

For three years John Brown taught at Elie and, following an examination by the Presbytery, in the long summer vacation, he went up to Selkirk for the Divinity Hall. Of which more, God willing, next time.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


I found your series on Marcus Dods very interesting. Dods was my great-great-great uncle. I have found some of his work on the internet, including "How to be Like Christ".

I am preaching a sermon on that work this Sunday. (Filling in for our minister who is out of town; I am an elder in a Presbyterian church.) I would love to have some e-conversation with you on that subject. If you are interested, please contact me at (I am in the U.S.)

thanks very much

9:18 pm  

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