Thursday, January 24, 2008

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

John Brown came to Edinburgh cured of all oratorical tricks by his years in Biggar. What he gave the people was the simple Word of God, and that is why the books that grew out of his ministry are still read today.
The scholar was also a pastor, and he visited the people around his church. On some visits he took a copy of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress with him, from which he read aloud, and which he used as a means to preach the Gospel. During the summer he preached in the open air. We know that this is not always practical today, but surely we have enough parks and pedestrianised shopping streets in Britain today to form platforms for the preaching of the Word. If people will not come to our churches, we should go to the people. In the open air BRown preached like another Whitefield, showing men their sins and pointing to Christ as the only saviour for sinners.
John Brown let no day lie idle. He was always 'redeeming the time'. One day of the week would be given over to visiting the sick, a second to brief visits to members of the Church, follwed by an address to the visited families and the catechising of their children when they met in the evening at the Rose Street Session-house, and a third to teaching a large Bible-class of young women. For the rest, he had to prepare sermons and to study, while from 1834 to 1831 he was Clerk of the United Secession Presbytery of Edinburgh.
Of course the cause of missions remained dear to his heart, and as a pastor in the nation's capital he had a wide field in which to promote them. In those earlier days of missionary societies they took up a lot of a minister's time if he supported them, and Brown found that much of his time was eaten up by them. Yet it was not without profit, as it introduced him to other Evangelical ministers outside of his own comparatively small denomination, men like the Haldane brothers and the Church of Scotland evangelical leaders in Edinburgh.
Brown also managed to find time to teach a class on the Greek New Testament, and it was out of this that many of his commentaries grew. Among the members of this class were William Cunningham, later pincipal of New College, David Brown, whom readers of this blog will be familiar with, and John Brown Patterson. Students gathered around him weekly to read through the New Testament in Greek. Here was a preparation also for the time when the call would come to be Professor for his Church.
There were also meetings of more mature men. One was a society for the study of sacred geography, which was short lived. A longer-lived body was the Christian Economic Society, of which Thomas Chalmers was a member. Since Chalmers and Brown did not always agree, the drawing-room discussions of the society were extremely lively!

Next time, God willing, we shall consider some of Brown's literary work at Rose Street.



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