Wednesday, December 12, 2007

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

We have referred to the excellencies of John Brown's little book on True Religion. Honesty requires us to say that it also displayed a glaring fault - John Brown's definition of faith bordered on the Sandemanian. Like Thomas Chalmers, he viewed saving faith as an intellectual assent. True, this assent would, he said, lead to right affections and right actions towards God, but faith in the view of Brown, at least in 1818, was simply believing the Bible to be true. Trust in Christ was, in his opinion, a result of true faith, but not a part of it.
Since he saw trust as always joined to true faith, Brown's Sandemanianism, like Thomas Chalmers', carried a great deal of its own antidote. While John Cairns', Brown's biographer (who agreed with the present writer that John Brown's definition of faith was defective), speculated that Brown might have been influenced by Sandemanm himself, or by Maclean, Andrew Fuller's antagonist, it seems, particularly in light of the dedication of Brown's little work on True Religion, that Thomas Chalmers' identical beliefs are in fact the origin of Brown's. We shall see that Brown carried some of Chalmers' other views to their logical conclusion, as Chalmers did not, but that will be reserved, God willing, for a future installment.
John Brown was, as we have said, a great supporter of missionary societies. Though he was himself a Presbyterian, he supported the work of the Baptist Missionary Society in India in addition to the London Missionary Society and the Edinburgh Missionary Society. In May 1821 he preached the annual sermon for the London Missionary Society in Whitefield's Tabernacle in London. The sermon was soon after published under the title On the Duty of Pecuniary Contribution for Religious Purposes. This title concealed a well-reasoned case for systematic giving on the part of Christians to support the work of the Church, particularly abroad. Since we do not ask for contributions, nor would we to do this work, we can safely agree with Brown in urging Christians to give. It is strange that, when we fail to give to the Church, we seem so often to put the money into a bag with holes in it. Now we have many people encouraging investment because of the returns. We should humbly like to draw your attention to the returns from investing in the Church at home and overseas. Money and land will all be burned up, and on the great final Day you shall have nothing to show for it. But the work of the Church of God is eternal, and it shall abide for ever, for it is the immortal souls of God's elect.
Brown also visited England in 1819 as part of a deputation from the Scottish Missionary Society. In London William Wilberforce proved one of the greatest friends to the work. As a Christian man, he knew that freeedom of the body would only avail men in this life, not the next. So social concern was joined with support of missions and Christian witness by Wilberforce. Creeds and deeds were united in him. We can only say, 'go thou and do likewise'.

God willing, next time we shall see Brown in his more abundant labours.



Post a Comment

<< Home