Thursday, November 15, 2007

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

Having completed his studies under George Lawson of Selkirk, John Brown went in September 1804 to Dunblane, to stay with Rev. Michael Gilfillan, Secession minister there and one of his relatives. There he completed his trial exercises for a license to preach before the Presbytery of Sirling and Falkirk. He was licensed to preach the Gospel on 12th February 1805. John Brown of Whitburn, a member of that Presbytery, was present, and no doubt he was overjoyed to see his son come this far.
Whilst a candidate in the Church of Scotland at this period might wait years for a pastorate, owing to there being more preachers than there were vacanicies, and the relatively dead state of the denomination, the Secession Church was still growing. A vibrant, evangelical and Calvinist denomination, the Seceders of this period contained many of the most devoted Christians in Scotland. A license to preach meant that a man was acceptable not, as in some parts of the Church of Scotland, to academics and deists, but to devoted ministers of Christ.
Still, the preacher had to travel around congregations preaching. In 1805 this meant riding around the country on a horse, and often young preachers would spend a whole week getting to the place where they were due to preach on the Lord's Day. John Brown had little experience of this. So short of preachers was the Burgher Secession that there was actually some argument between the Glasgow and Stirling Presbyteries as to whose student Brown was!
His first engagement, the Lord's Day after he was licensed, was at Bathgate, close to Whitburn, and then on the two Lord's Days following he preached at Stirling, supplying for the Rev. Dr. Smart, then pastor of the Church founded by Ebenezer Erskine, one of the founders of the Secession Church (our illustration shows the building that succeeded the original chapel where Brown preached). Soon afterwards the congregation called John Brown to be their assistant minister, one of the greatest honours the Secession could have given a young preacher. But they were unsuccessful, for a call had already been accepted by the young man to the pastorate of the congregation of Biggar. The two calls coming at practically the same time, it was not left to John Brown to decided which he preferred (and there were great advantages in both), but the Synod, the highest court of the Church, was to judge. After careful consideration the claims of the pastorless Church at Biggar were preferred over those of the wealthy Stirling congregation. Perhaps the pleas of John Brown of Whitburn on behalf of the smaller congregation were the decisive factor. Either way, John Brown was sent to Biggar. The date for the ordination was set, and for the six months between the acceptance of the call and the ordination John Brown ministered in various vacant Secession pulpits, and in October in the Secession Church in London to cover the minister's much-needed holiday. Then, in February of 1806, he returned to Biggar to be ordained to the ministry there.

Of which more, God willing, next time.



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