Thursday, November 01, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XLI.

It is a sad fact that all too often even the best of ministers have been too busy to pay adequate attention to their families. James Begg, Brown's contemporary and fellow defender of Calvinistic orthodoxy, had a son who became an actor, to his father's distress. With his many responsibilities, as pastor in the Ord, then in Glasgow, as professor and later principal at Aberdeen, not to mention his outside engagements, it might have been expected that David Brown's family would have suffered. This was not the case, however. David Brown and his wife were not of the 'happy all the day' school of Christianity - they could not be, they were not well-off comfortable people but tried believers. At the same time they took very seriously the texts that speak of belivers 'rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory'. There are, we think, two opposite errors to be avoided, that of making Christianity a gloomy thing and that of making it light and frothy. Christ teaches that 'In the world ye shall have afflections, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world'.
The Brown family was governed by the Bible. David Brown and his wife saw from Scripture that no family could thrive except on a foundation of lover and righteousness together. Both rigid legalism and foolish indulgence were shunned, and the children were taught to love the Bible and the great hymns and metrical Psalms. The preacher made sure his children knew the Gospel, but he was also careful not to assume the children were regenerate.
He spent all the time he could with his children, and during the Glasgow pastorate the school holidays were spent away from town, David Brown travelling back to Glasgow on the Saturday to preach and then returning to whatever place they were spending the holiday on the Monday. For this reason the Isle of Arran, linked to Glasgow by a reliable ferry service, yet isolated across the sea, was a popular destination. The separation from Glasgow meant that the essential time with the children was not encroached upon by visitors. A robust and active man, Brown was a father who could lead his children in exciting activities in Arran, on fishing trips and boating. He saw family outings as a means of binding the faily together, and they became almost sacrosanct, an institution kept up as long as possible. They went to Switzerland with him, but for the most part the holidays were confined to Scotland. When he supplied for six weeks at Braemar, the family came too, visits were made to Skye and the Outer Hebrides. In later years the village of Stonehaven, just down the coast from Aberdeen, made a pleasant summer retreat. There David Brown enjoyed walking down to the pier and speaking to the fishermen of the fishermen of Galilee.
But in 1879, on 30th July, David Brown suffered a terrible loss in the death of his beloved wife after a long illness of more than five years. Her last conscious words were "Jesus paid it all." THERE is a basis for hope!
Mrs. Brown had been a support to her husband through all the trials of his life since the marriage. David Brown spoke of his married life as "forty-three years of cloudless sunshine." A happy marriage indeed, and a picture of the love of Christ to the Church.
Six of David Brown's seven children were born during his pastorate at the Ord, and no doubt benefited from the less hurried pace of Highland life. One of these children died in infancy, a great grief to the family. We have already referred to Alexander, David Brown's eldest son. His eldest daughter, Margaret Dyce Brown, was married in 1860 to David Stewart, a wealthy and prominent Aberdeen factory-owner who was twice Lord Provost of Aberdeen, and would have been three times Provost if he had so wished. In 1895 Stewart ran for parliament, but was unsuccessful. He was knighted and lived at Banchory House, a secluded mansion on Royal Deeside. The estate gave David Brown a secluded retreat in his later years. It is our privilege to possess a copy of William Garden Blaikie's biography of David Brown inscribed "To dear Mabel from her affectionate father and mother Sir David and Lady Stewart, Banchory House, 16 May 1898".
The Brown's third daughter, Jane Charlotte, married James S. Fyfe, a merchant who traded from the Philippines. She died in 1882. David Dyce Brown, the only other son, became a London doctor. The remaining daughters, Hannah and Meredith, did not marry, but devoted themselves to looking after their father in what Charles Wesley calls 'age and feebleness extreme'. Meredith Brown eventually became involved in the Shaftesbury Institute in London, and Hannah Brown devoted herself to the care of her father, by this timepractically blind and almost completely deaf.



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