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Significant Scots
John Brown

BROWN, JOHN, author of the "Self-Interpreting Bible," and many popular religious works, was born in the year 1722 at Carpow, a village in the parish of Abernethy and county of Perth. His father, for the greatest part of his life, followed the humble occupation of a weaver, and was entirely destitute of the advantages of regular education, but, nevertheless, seems to have been a man of superior intelligence and worth, and even to have possessed some portion of that zeal in the pursuit of knowledge, and that facility in acquiring it without the ordinary helps, which his son so largely inherited. In consequence of the circumstances of his parents, John Brown was able to spend but a very limited time at school in acquiring the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. "One month," he has himself told us, "without his parent’s allowance, he bestowed upon Latin." His thirst for knowledge was intense, and excited him even at this early period to extraordinary diligence in all departments of study, but particularly to religious culture. The strong direction of his mind from the beginning to scholarship in general, and to that kind of it more closely connected with divinity in particular, seems to have early suggested to his mother the possibility of his one day finding scope for the indulgence of his taste in the service of the church, and made her often picture, in the visions of maternal fondness, the day when she should, to use her own homely expression, "see the crows flying over her bairn’s kirk."

About the eleventh year of his age he was deprived by death of his father, and soon after of his mother, and was himself reduced, by four successive attacks of fever, to a state which made it probable that he was about speedily to join his parents in the grave. But having recovered from this illness, he had the good fortune to find a friend and protector in John Ogilvie, a shepherd venerable for age, and eminent for piety, who fed his flock among the neighbouring mountains. This worthy individual was an elder of the parish of Abernethy, yet, though a person of intelligence and religion, was so destitute of education as to be unable even to read—a circumstance which may appear strange to those accustomed to hear of the universal diffusion of elementary education among the Scottish peasantry, but which is to be accounted for in this case, as in that of the elder Brown, by the disordered state of all the social institutions in Scotland previous to the close of the seventeenth century. To supply his own deficiency, Ogilvie was glad to engage young Brown to assist him in tending his flock, and read to him during the intervals of comparative inaction and repose which his occupation afforded. To screen themselves from the storm and the heat, they built a little lodge among the hills, and to this their mountain tabernacle (long after pointed out under this name by the peasants) they frequently repaired to celebrate their pastoral devotions. Often "the wilderness and the solitary place were glad for them, and the desert rejoiced even with joy and singing."

Ere long it happened that Ogilvie retired from his occupation as a shepherd, and settled in the town of Abernethy. In consequence of this change, young Brown entered the service of a neighbouring farmer, who maintained a more numerous establishment than his former friend. This step he laments as having been followed by much practical apostasy from God, and showed itself in a sensible decline of religious attainments, and a general lukewarmness in religious duty. Still, however, during the season of backsliding which he himself saw reason thus to deplore, his external character was remarkably distinguished by many virtues, and especially by the rare and truly Christian grace of meekness. In the year 1733, four ministers of the Church of Scotland, among whomi was Mr Moncrieff of Abernethy, declared a secession from its judicatures, alleging as their reasons for taking this step the following list of grievances; "The sufferance of error without adequate censure; the infringement of the rights of the Christian people in the choice and settlement of ministers under the law of patronage; the neglect or relaxation of discipline; the restraint of ministerial freedom in opposing mal-administration, and the refusal of the prevailing party to be reclaimed." To this body our young shepherd early attached himself; and ventured to conceive the idea of one day becoming a shepherd of souls in that connection. He accordingly prosecuted his studies with increasing ardour and diligence, and began to attain considerable knowledge of Latin and Greek. These acquisitions he made entirely without aid from others, except that he was able occasionally to snatch an hour when the flocks were folded at noon, in order to seek the solution of such difficulties as his unaided efforts could not master, from two neighbouring clergymen—the one Mr Moncrieff of Abernethy, who has just been mentioned as one of the founders of the Secession, and the other Mr Johnston of Arngask, father of the late venerable Dr Johnston of North-Leith; both of whom were very obliging and communicative, and took great interest in promoting the progress of the studious shepherd-boy. An anecdote has been preserved of this part of his life and studies which deserves to be mentioned. He had now acquired so much knowledge of Greek as encouraged him to hope that he might at length be prepared to reap the richest of all rewards which classical learning could confer on him, the capacity of reading, in the original tongue, the blessed New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Full of this hope, he became anxious to possess a copy of the invaluable volume. One night, accordingly, having folded his flocks in safety, and his fellow-shepherd, whose sentiments towards him were now those of friendship and veneration, having undertaken to discharge his pastoral duties for the succeeding day, he set out on a midnight-journey to St Andrews, a distance of twenty-four miles. Having reached his destination in the morning, he repaired straightway to the nearest bookseller, and asked for a copy of the Greek New Testament. The master of the shop, though, situated as he was in a provincial Scottish University, he must have been accustomed to hear such books inquired for by youths whose appearance and habiliments were none of the most civilized, was nevertheless somewhat astonished by such an application from so unlikely a person, and was rather disposed to taunt him with its presumption. Meanwhile a party of gentlemen, said to have been professors in the university, entered the shop, and having understood the matter, questioned the lad about his employment and studies. After hearing his tale, one of them desired the bookseller to bring the volume, who accordingly produced it, and throwing it down upon time table, "Boy," said he, "read that book, and you shall have it for nothing." The offer was too good to be rejected, and young Brown, having acquitted himself to the admiration of his judges, carried off his cheaply-purchased Testament in triumph, and, ere the evening arrived, was studying it in the midst of his flock upon the hills of Abernethy.

His extraordinary acquisitions about this time subjected him to a suspicion, which was more generally entertained, than would now appear credible, that he received a secret aid from the enemy of man, upon the pledge of his own soul. It was probably in consequence of the annoyance he experienced on this account, that he abandoned the occupation of a shepherd, and undertook that of pedlar or travelling-merchant. This mode of life was once of much greater importance and higher esteem in Scotland than at present, when the facilities of communication between all parts of the country and the greater seats of commerce have been multiplied to such a degree, and was often pursued by persons of great intelligence and respectability. Its peculiar tendency to imbue the mind with a love of nature, and form it to a knowledge of the world, have been finely illustrated by a great poet of our day: nor is the Scottish pedlar of the Excursion, though certainly somewhat too metaphysical and liberal, in every respect the unnatural character which it has been represented. It will not, however, be considered very surprising when we say, that young Brown did not shine in his new profession. During his mercantile peregrinations, which lay chiefly in the interior parts of Fife and Kinrosshire, he made it a rule to call at no house of which the family had not the character of being religious and given to reading. When he was received into any such dwelling, his first care was to have all the books it could furnish collected together, among which, if he did but light upon a new one, with avidity he fell to the literary feast, losing in the appetite of the soul, the hunger of the body, and in the traffic of knowledge forgetting the merchandise of pedlar’s wares. It is related, and may well be believed, that the contents of his pack, on his return to head quarters from one of his expeditions, used to present a lively image of chaos, and that he was very glad to express his obligations to any neat-handed housewife who would take the arrangement of them upon herself. Many a time and oft was he prudently reminded of the propriety of attending more to his business, and not wasting his time on what did not concern him—till his monitors at last gave up the case in despair, and wisely shaking their beads, pronounced him "good for nothing but to be a scholar."

Soon after the close of the Rebellion of 1745, during which period he served as a volunteer in the regiment of militia raised by the county of Fife, in behalf of the government, he resolved to undertake the more dignified duties of schoolmaster. He established himself in the year 1747 at Gairney Bridge, a village in the neighbourhood of Kinross, and there laid the foundation of a school which subsisted for a considerable time, and, fifteen years after, was taught by another individual whose name has also become favourably known to the world—whose lot, however, was not like his predecessor’s, to come to the grave "like a shock of corn fully ripe," but to wither prematurely "in the morn and liquid dew of youth,"—the tender and interesting young poet, Michael Bruce. During Mr Brown’s incumbency, which lasted, for two years, this school was remarkably successful, and attracted scholars from a considerable distance. He afterwards taught for a year and a half another school at Spittal, in the congregation of Linton, under Mr James Mair. The practical character of his talents, the accuracy of his learning, the intimate experience which, as a self-taught scholar, he must have had of elementary difficulties, and the best mode of solving them, and the conscientiousness, and assiduity which, always formed distinguishing features of his character—must have peculiarly qualified him for the discharge of his present duties. While active in superintending the studies of others, he did not relax in the prosecution of his own. On the contrary, his ardour seems to have led him into imprudent extremes of exertion. He would commit to memory fifteen chapters of the Bible as an evening exercise after the labours of the day, and after such killing efforts, allow himself but four hours of repose. To this excess of exertion he was probably stimulated by the near approach of the period to which he had long looked forward with trembling hope—the day which was to reward the toils and trials of his various youth, by investing him with the solemn function of an ambassador of Christ. During the vacations of his school, he was now engaged in the regular study of philosophy and divinity under the inspection of the Associate Synod, and the superintendence of the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, and James Fisher, two of the original founders, and principal lights of the Secession church. At length, in the year 1751, having completed his preparatory course of study, and approved himself on trial before the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, he was licensed by that reverend body, at Dalkeith, to preach the gospel in their society. He entered upon the sacred work with deep impressions of its solemn responsibilities. He has himself mentioned that his mind, immediately previous to his receiving authority to preach, was very vividly affected by that awful text in Isaiah vi. 9, 10, "He said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; see ye indeed, but perceive not; make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert and be healed." He had not been long a probationer, when he received two nearly simultaneous calls to the settled discharge of ministerial duty; one from the congregation of Stow, a village in the shire of Edinburgh, and the other from that of Haddington, the principal town in the county of that name. The Presbytery of Edinburgh, within whose bounds both congregations were included, and which had therefore, according to the Presbyterian constitution, the right of deciding between their competing claims, submitted the matter to his own discretion. His choice was determined to Haddington, partly by his feelings of sympathy with that congregation for disappointments it had already experienced, and partly by his modest estimate of his own qualifications, to which he felt the smaller of the two charges more suitable. Over this congregation therefore he was finally ordained pastor in the month of June, 1751. It deserves to be mentioned, however, that he continued regularly to visit and examine the congregation of Stow until it was supplied with a regular minister.

To the duties of the sacred office he devoted himself with the most zealous and laborious industry. The smallness of his congregation enabled him at once to undertake the widest range of ministerial duty, and to execute it with the greatest minuteness and accuracy. Besides regularly preaching four discourses every Sunday during the summer, and three during winter in his own place of worship, and occasionally in the country during the week, he visited all his people annually in his pastoral capacity, and carried them twice in the same period through a course of public catechetical examinations. He was very assiduous in his visits to the sick and the afflicted, and that not merely to those of his own congregation, but to all, of every denomination, who desired his services. The peculiar characteristic of his manner of address on all these occasions, public and private, was an intense solemnity and earnestness, which extorted attention even from the scorner, and was obviously the genuine expression of his own overwhelming sense of the reality and importance of the message. "His grave appearance," says a late English divine, who had attended his ministry for some time, "his solemn, weighty, and energetic manner of speaking, used to affect me very much. Certainly his preaching was close, and his address to the conscience pungent. Like his Lord and Master, he spoke with authority and hallowed pathos, having tasted the sweetness and felt the power of what he delivered." To the same effect, the celebrated David Hume, having been led to hear him preach on one occasion at North Berwick, remarked, "That old man preaches as if Christ were at his elbow." Except for his overawing seriousness, and occasionally a melting sweetness in his voice, it does not appear that his delivery was by any means attractive. "It was my mercy," he says, with characteristic modesty, that "the Lord, who had given me some other talents, withheld from me a popular delivery, so that though my discourses were not disrelished by the serious, so far as I heard, yet they were not so agreeable to many hearts as those of my brethren, which it was a pleasure to me to see possessed of that talent which the Lord, to restrain my pride, had denied to me." His labours were not in vain in the Lord. The members of his congregation, the smallness of which he often spoke of as a mercy, seem to have been enabled to walk, in a great measure, suitably to their profession and their privileges; and he had less experience than most ministers of that bitterest of all trials attached to a conscientious pastor’s situation—scandalous irregularities of practice among those in regard to whom he can have no greater joy than to see them walking in the truth. In ecclesiastical policy, he was a staunch Presbyterian and Seceder in the original sense of the term, as denoting an individual separated, not from the constitution of the established church, either as a church or as an establishment, but from the policy and control of the predominant party in her judicatures. At the unhappy division of the Secession church in 1745, commonly known by the name of the Breach, on the question of snaking refusal of the burgess oath a term of communion, though personally doubtful of the propriety of a Seceder’s swearing the oath in question, he attached himself to that party, who, from declining peremptorily to pronounce it unlawful, obtained the popular appellation of Burghers,—justly considering that a difference of opinion on this point was by no means of sufficient importance to break the sacred bond of Christian fellowship. His public prayers were liberal and catholic, and he always showed the strongest affection for gospel ministers and true Christians of every name. In an unpublished letter to a noble lady of the episcopal communion, he expresses his hope "that it will afford her a delightful satisfaction to observe how extensive and important the agreement, and how small the difference of religious sentiments, between a professedly staunch Presbyterian and a truly conscientious Episcopalian, if they both cordially believe the doctrine of God’s free grace reigning to men’s eternal life, through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord." He made a point of regularly attending and acting in the church courts, though he avoided taking any leading part in the management of ecclesiastical business. The uniformity and universality of his habits of personal devotion were remarkable. Of him it might well be said, that he walked with God, and that in God he, as it were to his own consciousness, lived, and moved, and had his being. He had acquired a holy skill in deriving, from every scene of nature, and every incident of life, occasions of Christian thought, impulses of Christian feeling, motives to Christian duty. His "Christian Journal" seems to have been literally the picture of his daily course and association of ideas, and the beautiful motto he has prefixed to it, to have been the expression of his own experience: "The ear that is ever attentive to God never hears a voice that speaks not of Him; the soul, whose eye is intent on him, never sees an atom in which she doth not discern her Best Beloved." He could hold sweet communion with his heavenly Father in the most terrible displays of His majesty, not less than in the softer manifestations of His benignity. One day, hearing a tremendous crash of thunder, he smilingly exclaimed to those around,-"That is the low whisper of my God." His seasons of prayer, stated and special, secret and domestic, were frequent beyond the rules of any prescribed routine. Often was he overheard, in the nightly and the morning watches, conversing with his God in prayer and praise, remembering his Maker upon his bed, and having his song with him in the night. Amidst the ordinary details of life, the devout aspirations of the heart were continually breaking forth in ejaculations of thanksgiving and holy desire: his conversation habitually dwelt on heavenly things; or, if secular objects were introduced, he would turn them with sanctifying ingenuity into divine emblems and spiritual analogies. His whole mind and life seemed impregnated with devotion, and all his days formed, as it were, one Sabbath. The extent of his pecuniary liberality was surprising. He considered it a binding duty on every individual to devote at least the tenth part of his revenue to pious uses; and out of an income which, during the greater part of his life, amounted to only forty pounds a year, and never exceeded fifty, and from which he had a numerous family to support, he generally exceeded that proportion. He distributed his benevolence with strict attention to the Saviour’s command, "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."

He was aware of the importance of conversation among the various means of doing good, and, though he laments his own "sinful weakness and unskilfulness in pushing religious discourse," he was too conscientious to neglect the opportunities which presented themselves of promoting, in this way, the glory of God and the best interests of men. He made it a distinct principle never to leave any company in which he might be placed, without saying something which, by the blessing of God, might promote their spiritual good. It is related, that, having accidentally met Ferguson the poet walking in Haddington church-yard, and being struck with his pensive appearance, he modestly addressed him, and offered him certain serious advices, which deeply affected him at the time, and doubtless had their share in exciting and promoting those terrible convictions which latterly overwhelmed the poet’s mind, and in which it may perhaps be hoped there was something better than "the sorrow that worketh death." He knew, however, that there was a certain discretion to be used in such cases, and a selection to be made of the "mollia tempora fandi," the seasons when words are "fitly spoken." Of this, the following anecdote is an example:—Having occasion to cross the ferry between Leith and Kinghorn, with a Highland gentleman as his fellow-passenger, he was much grieved to hear his companion frequently take the name of God in vain, but restrained himself from taking any notice of it in the presence of the rest of the company. On reaching land, however, observing the same gentleman walking alone upon the beach, he stepped up, and calmly reminded him of the offence he had been guilty of, and the law of God which forbids and condemns it. The gentleman received the reproof with expressions of thanks, and declared his resolution to attend to it in future. "But," added the choleric Celt, "had you spoken to me so in the boat, I believe I should have run you through."

It will not be supposed, that, after having given himself with such ardour to study in circumstances of comparative disadvantage, he neglected to avail himself of the more favourable opportunities he now enjoyed of extending and consolidating his knowledge. By a diligent improvement of the morning hours, and a studious economy of time throughout the day, he rarely spent fewer than twelve hours of the twenty-four in his study. He possessed extraordinary patience of the physical labour connected with hard study. No degree of toil in the way of reading, or even of writing, seemed to daunt or to fatigue him. Though he never enjoyed the assistance of an amanuensis, he transcribed most of his works several times with his own hand: and even without a view to the press, he more than once undertook the same fatigue for the convenience of private individuals. In this way, at the request of the Countess of Huntingdon, he copied out his System of Divinity, before its publication, for the use of her Ladyship’s theological seminary in Wales. He had remarkable facility in the acquisition of languages; and of this species of knowledge, the key to every other, he possessed an extraordinary amount. Besides the three commonly called the learned tongues, he was acquainted with Arabic, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic; and of the modern languages, with the French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and German. In the various departments of real as distinguished from verbal knowledge, his reading was very wide in range and various in subject. His favourite pursuits were history and divinity; but every subject, which more nearly or more remotely bore on the literature of his profession, he considered worthy of his attention. He afterwards saw reason to repent of the wideness of his aims in this respect, and to regret "the precious time and talents," to use his own words, "he had vainly squandered in the mad attempt to become a universal scholar." His reading, though thus extensive, was at the same time very exact and accurate. In order to render it so, he in many cases adopted the tedious and laborious method of compiling regular abridgments of important and voluminous books. Among the works he thus epitomized, were Judge Blackstone’s Commentaries, and the Ancient Universal History.

In the month of September 1753, about two years after his ordination, Mr. Brown married Miss Janet Thomson, daughter of Mr. John Thomson, merchant at Musselburgh. For eighteen years he enjoyed in her a "help meet" for him in his Christian course, and at the end of that period he surrendered her, as he himself expresses it, "to her first and better Husband." They had several children, of whom only two survived their mother—John and Ebenezer, both of whom their father had the satisfaction before his death of introducing as ministers into the church of Christ, the former at Whitburn, and the latter at Inverkeithing. Two years after the death of his first wife, which took place in 1771, he was married a second time to Miss Violet Crombie, daughter of Mr. William Crombie, merchant, Stenton, East Lothian, who survived him for more than thirty years, and by whom he left at his death four sons and two daughters, of whom only the half are now alive. In his domestic economy and discipline, Mr. Brown laboured after a strict fidelity to his ordination vow, by which he promised to rule well in his own house. His notions in regard to the authority of a husband and a father were very high, and all the power which as such he thought himself to possess, was faithfully employed in maintaining both the form and the power of godliness.

In the year 1758, Mr. Brown, for the first time, appeared as an author. His first publication was entitled "An Help for the Ignorant, being an Essay towards an Easy Explication of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, compiled for the use of the young ones of his own congregation." In addition to this, he published, six years after, two short catechisms—one introductory to, the other explanatory of, the Shorter Catechism. All these publications have been very extensively useful. In 1765, he published, what was at the time by far the most popular and successful of his works, entitled "The Christian Journal, or Common Incidents Spiritual Instructors." This work, though it has some of the literary defects which, on such a subject, might have been expected from an author so circumstanced, such as the occasional indulgence of unrefined images, the excess of detail in tracing the analogies, and a certain monotonous rhythm of style, in many cases scarcely distinguishable from blank verse—nevertheless displays an extraordinary richness and ingenuity of fancy, and in many instances rises into a most impressive and heart-warming eloquence. In 1766 he published a History of the Rise and Progress of the Secession, and, the year following, a series of Letters on the Constitution, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. These tracts were followed by his Sacred Tropology, the first of a series of works which he designed for the purpose of giving a clear, comprehensive, and regular view of the figures, types, and predictions of Scripture. The second and third parts were published in 1781.

In the year 1768, in consequence of the death of the Rev. John Swanston of Kinross, Professor of Divinity under the Associate Synod, Mr Brown was elected to the vacant chair. The duties of this important office he discharged with great ability and exemplary diligence and success. His public prelections were directed to the two main objects, first, of instructing his pupils in the science of Christianity, and secondly, of impressing their hearts with its power. The system of Divinity which he was led, in the course of his professional duty, to compile, and which was afterwards published, is perhaps the one of all his works which exhibits most striking proofs of precision, discrimination, and enlargement of thought; and is altogether one of the most dense, and at the same time perspicuous views which has yet been given of the theology of the Westminster Confession. The charge which he took of those committed to his care, was not entirely of the ‘ex cathedra’ description. The situation of the Hall in a small provincial town, and the manners of the age, combined with his just sense of the importance of the students’ private exertions and personal habits, enabled him to exercise a much more minute and household superintendance over the young men under his direction. Frequently in the morning he was accustomed to go his rounds among their lodgings, to assure himself that they were usefully employing "the golden hours of prime." The personal contact between professor and pupils was thus remarkably close and unbroken, and hence we find that among those who can recollect their attendance on the Divinity Hall at Haddington, the interest with which every mind looks back to the scenes and seasons of early study has a greater character of individuality, and is associated with minuter recollections than we generally meet with after so long a lapse of years.

The same year in which he was elected to the theological chair he preached and published a very powerful sermon on Religious Steadfastness, in which he dwells at considerable length on the religious state of the nation, and expresses violent apprehensions at the visible diffusion and advance of what he called latitudinarianism, and what we of this tolerant age would term liberality of religions sentiment. He likewise this year gave to the world one of the most elaborate, and certainly one of the most valuable of all his writings, the Dictionary of the Holy Bible. For popular use, it is unquestionably the most suitable work of the kind which yet exists, containing the results of most extensive and various reading both in the science and in the literature of Christianity, given without pretension or parade, and with a uniform reference to practical utility. In 1771, the Honourable and Reverend Mr Shirley, by command of the Countess of Huntingdon, applied to Mr Brown for his opinions on the grand subject of justification, in view of a conference to be held on this question with Mr Wesley and his preachers. This application gave occasion to a long and animated correspondence with that noble lady, (a correspondence which, in consequence of our author’s modesty, remained a secret till after his death,) and to a series of articles from his pen on the doctrine of justification, which appeared, from time to time, in the Gospel Magazine and Theological Miscellany, between the years 1770 and 1776. In the same year he was led, by a desire to contribute to the yet better instruction of his students, to form the design of composing a manual of church history on a general and comprehensive plan. It was to consist of three parts, "the first comprehending a general view of transactions relating to the church from the birth of our Saviour to the present time; the second containing more fully the histories of the Reformed British Churches in England, Scotland, Ireland, and America; the third to comprehend the histories of the Waldenses and the Protestant churches of Switzerland, France, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Hungary." Of these he completed the two former, his General History having been published in 1771, and his History of the British Churches in the beginning of 1784. These form very useful popular compends, though destitute of high historical authority. The history of the British Churches, as a work of original research, is much superior to the more general compilation, which is little more than an abridgment of Mosheim, written in a more fervid spirit than the latter is accustomed to display. Mr Brown’s next publication appeared in 1775, and was an edition of the metrical "Psalms, with notes exhibiting the connection, explaining the sense, and for directing and animating the devotion." In 1778 he gave to the world the great work on which his reputation is chiefly founded, "The Self-Interpreting Bible," the object of which is to condense, within a manageable compass, all the information which an ordinary reader may find necessary for attaining an intelligent and practical knowledge of the sacred oracles. The first publication of this work was attended with considerable difficulties, in consequence of the claim of the king’s printers to the exclusive right of printing the authorized version of the Scriptures, whether accompanied or not with illustrative matter. This claim, however, having been set aside, the work was at length given to the world in 1778, and received with a high and gradually increasing and still un-exhausted approbation. The same year he published a small tract entitled "the Oracles of Christ Abominations of Antichrist," and four years after, his "Letters on Toleration:" strenuously maintaining the unlawfulness of tolerating by authority a false religion in a professedly Christian country. These publications originated in the universal sentiment of alarm entertained by the evangelical presbyterians of Scotland, both within and without the establishment, in consequence of the proposed abolition of the penal code against the Roman Catholics.

In 1781, besides his works on the types and prophecies formerly referred to, he published a sermon on the "Duty of Raising up Spiritual Children unto Christ," preached partly at Whitburn, and partly after his son Ebenezer’s ordination at Inverkeithing. He likewise, in the course of the same year, wrote a pamphlet in defence of the re-exhibition of the testimony, and a collection of the biographies of eminent divines, under the name of the "Christian Student and Pastor." This was the first of a series of similar compilations intended as illustrations and examples of practical religion, and was followed in 1781 by the "Young Christian," and in 1783 by the "Lives of thirteen Eminent Private Christians." In 1783, he published a small "Concordance to the Bible." The year following, he received an invitation from the reformed Dutch church in America, to become their Professor of Divinity, which he declined, and modestly kept secret. And, in 1785, he concluded his career as an author, by a pamphlet against time travelling of the Mail on the Lord’s-day—a day for the observance of which, in time strictest degree of sanctity, he always showed himself peculiarly jealous, not only abstaining himself, but prohibiting his family, from speaking on that day on any worldly affair, even on such as related to what may be called the secularities of religion and the church. The tracts published by him in periodical works, along with his "Letters on Gospel Preaching and the Behaviour of Ministers," were collected after his death, and published under the title of "Remains."

Throughout his writings, Mr Brown’s uniform aim was general utility; personal emolument formed no part of his object, and certainly very little of his attainment, as the whole profit accruing to himself from his voluminous, and in many cases, successful works, amounted to only 40. Without possessing much original genius, but on the other hand too ready, it may be, to submit the freedom of his mind to system and authority, he was endowed with a strong aptitude for acquisition, and great power of arrangement, a sound and generally sober judgment, and a rich and vivid fancy, though united with a defective, or rather, perhaps, an uncultivated taste. The selection of subjects, and general conception of almost every one of them, are very happy, and in many cases the execution proves his high endowments for the task he undertook.

The time now drew near that he should die. For some years previous, he had been greatly annoyed with a gradual failure, at once in the bodily power of digestion and the mental faculty of memory—the symptoms of a constitution fairly worn out by the intense and incessant labours to which it had been subjected. In the beginning of 1787, his complaints increased in such an alarming degree, accompanied by a general and extreme debility, that he found it necessary to abandon the pulpit. During the months of spring, he lived in a continual state of earnest and active preparation for the great change he was about to undergo. He expired on the 19th June, and on the 24th his remains were followed to their place of repose in Haddington church-yard, by nearly the whole inhabitants of the town, and a large concourse of his friends and brethren from a distance. At the first meeting of the Associate Synod after his decease, "the Synod," as their minute bears, "unanimously agreed to take this opportunity of testifying their respect to the memory of the Rev. John Brown, their late Professor, whose eminent piety, fervent zeal, extensive charity, and unwearied diligence in promoting the interests of religion, will be long remembered by this court, especially by those members of it who had the happiness of studying divinity under his inspection."

Memoir of Rev John Brown taken from his Bible

Memoir of John Brown D.D.
By John Cairns D.D. (1860) (pdf)

Supplementary Chapter to the Memoir of John Brown, D.D.
Letter to Rev. Dr. Cairns by John Brown M.D. (1860) (pdf)

John Brown's Self Interpreting Bible Article

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