Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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

As is usually the case with devoted ministers, John Brown had no thought of leaving the church at Biggar. In 1817 he had turned down a call to a new congregation in North Leith. The call to Rose Street was upheld by the Synod, however, and Brown himself saw that he ought to yield and go to Edinburgh. He sorrowfully parted from a congregation that just as sorrowfully gave him up to Edinburgh. Brown was glad that he left the church at Biggar to a friend, the Rev. Dr. Smith. Looking back, he reflected: "Biggar was much endeared to me, as the scener of very sweet enjoyments, and very deep sorrows. 'The dews of youth' lay heavy on these scenes, and their recollection refreshes the heart." What Anwoth was to Rutherford, Onley to John Newton and Kidderminister to Richard Baxter, that was what Biggar was to John Brown.
John Brown had nearly completed his thirty-eighth year when he arrived in Edinburgh. He arrived then, not in the flush of youth, nor in the decay of age, but in the prime of life.
Rose Street United Secession Church had begun its life as a split from the original Burgher congregation in Bristo Street. It had been built up almost entirely by the Rev. James Hall, but a dispute about building a new place of worship had split the congregation after nearly forty years, and Dr. Hall had taken a majority to build a new church in Broughton Place, whilst a minority remained behind. This minority had organised itself into a new congregation and called Brown.
This was of course a deplorable state of affairs. Unhappily it was all too common. A gifted minister would build up a congregation in a poorer part of town, then move with the majority to a finer building in a richer part, leaving the poor minority behind. But John Brown entered with gusto on what was effectively the task of building a new congregation in the old building. He had, in other words, to recover the Church from a very painful split.
Edinburgh in 1822 was a city with many great preachers. In addition to Dr. Hall there were in the Church of Scotland such preachers as Andrew Thompson, Henry Grey and Robert Gordon. Evangelical preaching had become popular, and Brown was assured of an audience. A congregation, much less a church, was another matter. Brown had to offer more than simply doctrine, and he did. He preached from the heart. His expository sermons were plain, direct and earnest. There was no novelty, still less were there ticks. Just earnest preaching of the Gospel to sinners. It was here that he preached the sermons that would later become his Exposition of Hebrews, a book of great force and insight.
So John Brown was launched in Edinburgh. God willing, we shall see how his ministry there progressed next time.



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