Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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

Meeting in Glasgow in June 1841, the Secession Synod condemned James Morison for his Arminian leanings. Brown's biographer conceded that the Synod saw better than Dr. Brown the direction of Morison's mind. Not contented to rest at the half-way house of Amyraut (pictured), James Morison soon became a full-blown Arminian of the Wesleyan type.
Suspicion then landed on Brown himself. If this was the result of his Amyraldian teaching, then some thought it reasonable to investigate his orthodoxy.
We must always be careful about condemning anyone merely for the 'tendencies' of their theology. After all, few men are logical enough to follow out the implications of their theology. So John Brown could call Andrew Fuller's writings for the support of his own Amyraldianism when Fuller strenuously denied the double-reference theory himself, just as the moderately Arminian Morison could appeal to Brown. Logically, it might be said, Fuller's theology may lead to Amyraldianism. But it is quite unfair to impute Amyraldianism to Fuller himself.
As Morison's remaining Calvinism withered, men thought that they saw in Dr. Brown a threat to the orthodoxy of the Secession Church. After all, was not Brown a Professor in their theological hall? Was he not teaching the future ministers of the Church?
This concern was laudable in itself. Satan often uses seminaries and colleges as his means of entry into sound churches. Thus the professor's chair must be, if anything, guarded with greater care than the pulpit. heresy in the pulpit corrupts one church, heresy in the professor's chair corrupts many pulpits.

In defending himself, John Brown declared that his theological position had not been condemned and quoted yet another stalwart of the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, in his defence, "the highest name in modern Calvinism." In the conclusion to his Freedom of the Will, Edwards wrote: "From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by His death, yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as He intended should actually be saved thereby." This, Brown said, was what he held. Obviously there was no way the Synod was going to condemn Edwards' words, and so Brown was safe from prosecution (we note with interest that at this year's Amyraldian Association (26th-7th March) Dr. Alan Clifford will be giving a lecture with the suggestive title "Jonathan Edwards: Amyraldian?" It ought to be worth listening to in the light of John Brown's use of Edwards to defend the orthodoxy of the Amyraldian view!

It is outside the scope of this series to engage in detailed exegesis. Suffice to say that Brown defended himself with great zeal. Nevertheless, in 1845 Dr. Marshall of Kirkintilloch charged Brown with heresy before the Synod of the United Secession Church.

God willing, next time we shall review the outcome of this charge.



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