Wednesday, June 25, 2008

'This One Thing I do': John Brown of Broughton Place XXXVI

In his old age Brown was the patriarch of the United Presbyterian Church. During the period in which he wrote his final works his life seemed like the 'Beulah Land' Of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. His health was preserved, his congregation at Broughton Place remained peaceful and the Theological Hall was quietly pursuing its important work of training a New Testament ministry. The denomination itself was peaceful and flourishing.
Just as the United Secession and the Relief had united, so thoughts turned to the uniting of the Free and United Presbyterian Church. This union was not to be, for the Free church stood by the Westminster teaching on the national establishment of religion, while the United Presbyterians, though taking no official position on the question, contained many who were conviced advocates of the Voluntary position that all churches ought to be entirely separate from the state. On this rock the union debate foundered, and it would not be until 1900 when the two churches united on the basis of the United Presbyterian position. Brown himself argued vociferously that this would have to be the basis for union in 1857. These were his principles, no doubt acquired through his contacts with English disenters.

On 6th February 1856 Dr. Brown completed the fiftieth year of his ministry. To make the occasion he preached that day in the great chapel at Broughton Place the sermon that he had preached at the opening of his ministry at Biggar. This same sermon was later published in his Parting Counsels. By doing this he showed that he still held to the same high view of the ministry with which he had begun fifty years before.
John Brown desired no other services commemorating his jubilee in the Christian ministry, but of course this was not to be. The church desired to honour him, and honour him they did in a jubilee service held on the 8th of April 1856. Brown, of course, sought to make this an occasion praising God, not man. Closing his own address he said: "I would feel as if I had neglected a duty did I not ere closing make an acknowledgement of how good a master, for these last fifty years, I have had, and how unprofitable a servant he has had in me. Yes, He has been a good Master, sustaining me in weakness, guiding me in perplexity, comforting me in sorrow... He has given me wages with my work, and wages in my work: all I am, all I have, I owe to Him."

Indeed, and so we must, for the time being, leave Dr. Brown before we return to him, God willing, next time.



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