Friday, November 23, 2007

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

John Brown was ordained pastor of the Burgher Secession Church, Bigger, in 1806. The following year he married Miss Jane Nimmo, whom he had known for some years and had met in Glasgow, where her father was a surgeon. They enjoyed a happy life until Mrs. Brown's early death in May 1816.
John Brown's Biggar ministry may be divided into two nearly equal periods of time, with the year 1815 marking the middle point. For the first nine years of his ministry John Brown was devoted, as a young minister ought to be, to his studies and his work as a local minister. In the second period he began to come to more public notice, as an author and as one involved in wider matters. But it cannot be said that this second period saw a slackening of his ministry. Quite the reverse, indeed. It seemed to all that John Brown's ministry became MORE earnest and spiritual at that date. The reason for this was known to be deep exercises and spiritual conflicts of which John Brown never spoke, but which were known to have taken place. Later it would seem that these conflicts prepared him for a far more devastating blow in the death of his wife the following year.
John Brown's first care was bestowed on the work of the pulpit. In a more liturgical church, where the minister is seen as a sacrificing priest, the pulpit may be neglected, but Biblical, protestant Christianity depends on the prophetic message. Nor did John Brown have the attractions of a musical service, for the Seceders of those days sang exclusively from the old Scots metrical Psalms. John Brown also put the work of the preaching ministry above his other duties as a pastor. While in Biggar he wrote a sermon and a 'lecture' weekly. The term 'lecture', as used in the Scottish Church in that period, really meant what we would call an expository sermon. So John Brown was not only preaching on isolated texts, but he was also working his way systematically through whole books of the Bible.
Different ministers have different methods of preaching, and it would be foolish to impose one man's method on others. Some ministers are quite comfortable preaching wholly extemporaneous sermons, others need more or less full notes to help them along, and still others read from full manuscripts. In the nineteenth century it was quite common for ministers to commit their whole sermons, word-for-word, to memory, and then to repeat it. John Brown was of this last class. He spent three days a week preparing his sermon and lecture, leaving three more for pastoral visiting.
Brown's sermons and lectures were of the more usual kind in structure, with two notable features, firstly a long introduction, and secondly recapitulation of what had gone before in the series. For John Brown, unlike C.H. Spurgeon, preached long series' of sermons, once spending a whole year on 2 Timothy 3.16! John Brown's sermons were didactic in character, opening up the Bible and TEACHING from it, not just prefixing a Bible verse to an exhortation to moral living. Thus the long series on 2 Timothy 3.16 was in fact a year-long course on the doctrine of Scripture. We wonder how many modern churches would be able to stand fifty or so sermons like that!
So much for his preaching. What it was we can gather from the content of his books. It was exegetical preaching, founded firmly on the text of Scripture, and it was from this work that his commentaries, so valued today, came.

God willing, next time we shall continue to consider John Brown in his work in Biggar.



Post a Comment

<< Home