Sunday, April 13, 2008

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

In 1848 John Brown began his second period of authorship. With the pain of the atonement controversy behind him, Brown began to give his exegetical writings, for which he is still justly famous, to the world. He was in his mid-sixties at the time, and for ten years his pen was that of a ready writer.
In May 1848 he issued the first of these works, his Expository Discourses on the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter. As the title suggests, they were originally delivered as a series of expository sermons on the book. Brown had spent sixteen years in their delivery, a fact that probably amazes most modern preachers. These were not lectures given in the classroom, but sermons to a mixed congregation. And many of those who had heard the sermons had requested the publication. In a typical remark, Brown said:
"The author would probably never have thought of offering these illustrations to the world, had not a number of much respected members of his congregation earnestly solicited him, before increasing age should make it difficult, or approaching death impossible, to furnish them with a permanent memorial of a ministry of considerable length, full of satisfaction to him, and he trusts not unproductive of advantage to them. Such an application could not be treated lightly; and on weighing the subject, he found that he durst not refuse to comply with it."

It is notable that Brown did not speak with a view to publication, a fact which no doubt contributed to the success of his ministry. There is nothing worse than the preacher whose sermons are intended not to be delivered from the pulpit, but to make up a nice volume for the enjoyment of the reading public.
As the quotation from his preface shows, Dr. Brown saw the three volumes of these lectures as his legacy to his congregation, the legacy of a man whose voice would soon be lost in death. The book is a commentary, but of course it partakes also of the usual character of sermons. It is not therefore academic, but popular, for woe betide the preacher who merely lectures to his congregation! The discussion is not general and abstract, but it is applied with all the force that the great master of exegesis was capable. Brown shows us in his 1 Peter how great learning is the foundation, not the superstructure, of the exposition of the Word. He never indulged in a mere display of learning, but subordinated his learning to the good of his hearers.
Of all the men who had written on the Epistle before him, Brown found most to his taste the work by Archbishop Leighton:
"That very remarkable work teaches a singularly pure and complete theology, a theology thoroughly evangelical in the true sense of that often abused epithet."
As a result of this opinion, Brown often quoted the great Archbishop's commentary in his sermons on the book.
Not surprisingly, the work sold very well, both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It opened the way for more books from Brown's pen, books that quickly followed.
A story is told of the eccentric United Presbyterian minister, William Anderson of John Street (pictured), Glasgow in connection with these volumes on 1 Peter. One morning Anderson was ministering himself, and the afternoon service was to be taken by the noted Dr. M'Farlane of Erskine Church. Anderson was preaching through 1 Peter, and had reached the section in chapter 3. 1-6 about the duties of wives to their husbands. After reading these verses he told the congregation that he had been consulting Dr. John Brown's Expository Discourses on the Epistle, and had found it put so well by Brown that he felt it would be best for him just to read Brown's sermon to the congregation. As he opened the volume he said with a twinkle in his eye: "You are a favoured people this day; you are to hear Professor John Brown in the forenoon and Dr. John M'Farlane in the afternoon!"

Needless to say, we far prefer this manner of using another's sermon than that most often practiced, which is to do so without any acknowledgment at all.
So Dr. John Brown's last and most productive period as an author began.
Of which more, God willing, next time.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Preaching this coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Barrow Strict Baptist Chapel, Suffolk. Services are at 11.00 AM and 2.30 PM. There will be lunch at the chapel between services.
The Chapel is located on the main street, and is a very attractive flint building in the 1830s Nonconformist Gothic style.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ministers Behaving Badly. William Robertson

William Robertson of Irvine had quite a sense of humour, as readers of our April Fools' Day post will have noticed. Charles Jerdan tells a number of anecdotes about him in his Scottish Clerical Stories. We present a few:
He once told a friend that he had long been puzzled about the significance of the weathercock on the top of a church spire. But, he added with sly humour, he had at last reached the conclusion that when the Roman Catholics put St. Peter at the head of the Church, it was natural that they should also put the cock on the top of the steeple.

On one occasion Principal John Caird, of the University of Glasgow, had been occupying his pulpit [illustrated at the head of our previous post - H.H.]. Next day the two ministers were walking together down the main street of Irvine, when Dr. Robertson noticed a young woman, who was a member of his church, coming towards them. She was a domestic servant, who had been on an errand, and was carrying a plate with a pat of butter on it. The pastor left his friend for a moment to speak a kind word to the girl. When he returned, Dr. Caird said jocularly, "Is that one of the pillars of your Church?" "No, he answered, she is only a flying butt'ress."

When he was told at a friend's table about a young minister, the cost of whose education at the University and the Theological Hall had been defrayed by the sale of the produce of a hennery, he remarked that in that case he would be "a lay preacher."


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ministers Behaving Badly. The Mark of the Beast

Dr. William B. Robertson was the pastor of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Irvine, Ayrshire. Illustrated is the interior of his church, now sadly derelict. Trinity Church was built for him in 1863, replacing a previous building used by the congregation. A staunch Calvinist, Robertson's lecturing on Calvinism made the doctrines of grace gracious indeed.

"On one occasion Dr. Robertson was assisted at the half-yearly Communion in his church by a minister by the name of James Dunlop. It was in the days when sacramental services were brought to a close with a meeting for worship on the Monday. At that concluding service Mr. Dunlop preached from Revelation xiii. 18, his subject being 'The Number of the Beast' - 'Six hundred, threescore and six.' In the discourse he passed under review the leading theories as to who the beast was: some holding that he was Nero; others, Lateinos, the Roman emperor or race; others, Mohammed; others, Luther; other Napoleon Buonaparte; and so so. I do not know what view the preacher himself preferred.
"When the service was over, Robertson said to hi: 'Man, Dunlop, what kind of subject was that to take! It was a most unsuitable text to preach from in connection with sacramental services. But, if you would preach about the Number of the Beast, you might have found a more satisfactory explanation than any of those you mentioned. I can give you a much better theory myself.' 'What is that?' asked the other. 'It is that you yourself are the Beast, Dunlop. That is my view, and I shall prove the correctness of it. What is your name? James Dunlop. We shall put it in Latin, Jacobus Dunlopus. Take the sum of all the letters in 'Jacobus Dunlopus' that are Roman numerals, and you will find that it amounts to the Number of the Beast. Thus:
J (that is, I) = 1
A = 0
C = 100
O = 0
B = 0
U (that is, V) = 5
S = 0
Jacobus yields 106. Now take your surname, Dunlopus:

D = 500
U (V) = 5
N = 0
L = 50
O = 0
P = 0
U (V) = 5
S = 0
'Dunlopus yields 560. The total, 666; showing that you are the Beast, Dunlop!"

(From Charles Jerdan, Scottish Clerical Stories, [Edinburgh, Oliphants, 1920] Pp. 123-4)