Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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

The transition from Biggar to Edinburgh meant that there were more calls on John Brown's time, and he was unable to publish much during those years. Perhaps the best- known and most useful of the books that he did publish were not original but compilations from the works of others. One was The Christian Pastor's Manual, containing some of the best works on the pastoral task from Puritan writers, the other The Mourner's Friend, a book of comfort for the bereaved. The rest of his work in this period consisted of prefaces to republications of such works as Matthew Henry's Communicant's Companion and Henry Venn's Complete Duty of Man.
The great Apocrypha Controversy of 1828 moved Brown to write once more. The cause of the controvery was this: the British and Foreign Bible Society published and issued Bibles containing the Apocrypha for distribution in Roman Catholic countries. No doubt the intention was good - to remove prejudice against the Society's Bibles. After all, it was argued, the Apocrypha do not contain anything dangerous to true religion. The Articles of the Church of England recommend them for reading.
But here was the problem, particularly for Scots Presbyterians and English and Welsh Nonconformists. The Apocrypha are not inspired, therefore they ought not to be circulated as though they formed a part of the Sacred Volume. What was more, the Roman Catholics claimed to obtain such dogmas as Purgatory from the Apocryphal books. Arguably the Council of Trent had given the Apocrypha the status of Scripture as a direct claim to control over the Bible, and no true son of John Knox would ever yield to Rome in that.
So Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, was the centre of this dispute, and Brown was, as a member of the Edinburgh Society, involved in the controversy.
The whole Edinburgh Society agreed that the plan to publish the Apocrypha with the Bible was a very bad idea, and demanded that it should cease. The problem was, how was this to be done? Should the Continental societies that were responsible for circulating such Bibles be disbanded, or should they be retained? How should the London Committee responsible for allowing such actions apologise, and how far should they be trusted in the future?
Alas the controversy split the Edinburgh Society, although only after the London Committee had withdrawn the offending Bibles. John Brown went with the dissenters who stayed with the London Committee, and it was Brown who wrote the apologia for the group. The aim of his pamphlet was to plead that the British and Foreign Society was basically sound, that it was opposed to Publishing Bibles with the Apocrypha, and that it was worthy of public confidence.
Alas the sides remained apart. More importantly, the split had been along denominational lines, and it represented the beginning of division in Scottish Evangelicalism.

And, on the heels of this controversy, would come another move. Of which more, God willing, next time.



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