We resume our biography of the Reverend John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787), as he joins the Scottish Secession Church and teaches himself Latin and Greek while a humble, rural shepherd, preparing himself to one day become a shepherd of souls. We are also treated to a providential encounter that wins the young Brown the gift of a Greek New Testament.
To this party (the Secession Church) our shepherd considered it his duty to join himself; and, anxious to become a shepherd of souls in their communion, he prosecuted his studies with incredible ardour and perseverance, and soon acquired a considerable acquaintance with the Latin and Greek languages. In these difficult studies he had no instructor, excepting that, on some occasions of rare occurrence, he could find an hour to call on one or other of two neighbouring clergymen, namely, Mr. Moncrieff of Abernethy, and Mr. Johnston of Arngask, father of the late Dr. Johnston of North Leith, who kindly assisted him in surmounting any formidable difficulty that threatened to arrest the progress of literary pursuits. Having now obtained such an acquaintance with the Greek language as enlivened his hopes that he should ultimately succeed in his darling object of acquiring the necessary qualifications for preaching the blessed gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, he pressed forward with renovated vigour and growing confidence. But amongst the many things wanting to accelerate his motion, he was, at this time, anxious to obtain a Greek Testament, that he might have the satisfaction of reading, in the original language, the character and work, the holy life and vicarious death, of Him who feedeth his flock like a shepherd, and laid down his life for his sheep. Buoyed up with these hopes, and excited by this anxiety, after folding his flock one summer evening, and procuring the consent of his fellow-shepherd to watch it next day, he made a nocturnal trip to St. Andrews, distant about twenty-four miles, where he arrived in the morning. He called at the first bookseller’s shop that came in his way, and having inquired for the article in question, the shopman, on observing his apparent rusticity and mountain habiliments (dress characteristic of his occupation), told him that he had Greek Testaments and Hebrew Bibles in abundance, but suspected an English Testament would answer his purpose much better. In the mean time some gentlemen, said to have been professors in the university, happened to enter the shop, and learning what was going on, seemed much of the shopman’s opinion. One of these, however, ordered the volume to be produced, and, taking it in his hand, said, “Young man, here is the Greek Testament, and you shall have it at the easy charge of reading the first passage that turns up.” It was too good an offer to be rejected: the shepherd accepted the challenge, and performed the conditions to the satisfaction and astonishment of the party; and Mr. Brown very modestly retired with his prize.