Wednesday, February 06, 2008

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

In 1833 the Rev. Dr Dick, Professor of Theology in the United Secession Church since 1820, died. Dr. Brown was his obvious successor. But times were changing, and the Secession Church was changing too. The old method of a single professor who taught every subject was beginning to be seen as somewhat inefficient. It demanded a succession of geniuses. Thankfully such a succession had been supplied from John Brown of Haddington to Dr. Dick. In 1820, when the Burgher and Aniburgher Synods united, a change had been suggested, but it was not carried through as the Antiburgher professor did not enter the union. The united Synod did, however, set up a committee to consider the question of a second professor. The Church of Scotland had three theological professors in each of its Divinity faculties, teaching Hebrew, Church History and Theology. The idea of multiple Professors was therefore not novel.
In 1822 the Rev. John Jameson of Methven published a pamphlet setting forth a plan to establish a proper theological college for the Secession Church, located in Edinburgh and with a staff of five professors, each teaching a separate year of the five year course. These professors would remain pastors, and the short two month sessions would be retained. Jameson proposed three Systematic Theology chairs, a chair of Pastoral Theology and a chair of Biblical Literature. Needless to say the plan was not adopted. What WAS done was that in 1825 the Rev. Dr. Mitchell was appointed as a second professor with Dr. Dick, teaching Biblical Literature.
On the death of Dr. Dick a further effort was made to reorganise the Hall. Dr. Brown had supported Jameson, and he saw Dr. Dick's death as the opportune moment to press Jameson's scheme on the Synod once more. The Synod appointed a committee to examine the provision for the training of candidates for the ministry. It decided on a system with four professors, Biblical Literature, Exegetical Theology, Systematic Theology, and Pastoral Theology with Church History. Although it was felt that a longer session was desirable, it was recognised that the students had to support themselves, so the August-September session was retained out of necessity.
The committee's advice was adopted by a large majority in April 1834. The next step was to appoint the three professors for the three empty chairs. Dr. Brown was elected to the chair of Exegetical Theology in recognition for his Biblical commentaries. Rev. Dr. Duncan of Midcalder was elected to the chair of Systematic Theology and Dr. Balmer of Berwick to that of Pastoral Theology.
Dr. Brown retained the chair until his death, working with such colleagues as Dr. John Eadie. The new scheme had the great advantage that it sought out men with expertise in a specific area. By doing this it not only reduced the calls the chair made on busy pastors, it also ensured that students were properly trained.
Since Dr. Dick and Dr. Mitchell had both been Glasgow ministers, the Hall had been located in Glasgow during Dr. Dick's lifetime. This continued to be the case in 1834, and Dr. Brown and Dr. Balmer in particular found this difficult, so much so that they considered resigning. Only a petition by the students kept them from resigning, and the Senior Hall (the last three years of the course) was located in Edinburgh.

God willing, next time we shall consider Brown's actual work in the Chair.



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