It’s been a while since I last posted an excerpt from the Memoir of the Reverend John Brown of Haddington as it is found in his Self-Interpreting Bible, but a comment from his great great great Granddaughter spurred me to get back on the job. The following excerpt summarizes Brown’s move …
…From shepherd to salesman to schoolmaster.
Some short time after the spreading of this report, and probably owing to the disagreeable situation in which it had placed him, our shepherd abandoned his crook, and undertook the occupation of a pedlar or itinerant merchant ; a profession, however, in which he made but an indifferent figure. His mercantile excursions were chiefly confined to those parts of the country lying between the Forth and Tay. He seldom took lodging in any family that was not characterized for religion. The first thing he did in his new lodgings, was to turn over their books, and finding one to his mind, the sale of his wares was forgotten, and every mercantile consideration quenched in the more congenial traffic of literary knowledge. His friends and well-wishers frequently hinted the impropriety of neglecting his business; and some of them ventured to apprize him of his danger, and the difficulties into which his carelessness was likely to involve him ; but all their admonitions went for nothing—although he was often obliged to any kind person who would arrange his ill-assorted pack, while he pored for an hour over some book which had fallen into his hand. The acquisition of wealth, unless in so far as it tended to promote the more important acquisition of knowledge, was, in his opinion, a matter about which no wise man would greatly concern himself.
During these perambulations, Charles Stuart the pretender had effectd a landing in the north, and boldly laid claim to his grandfather’s forfeited throne. The partial success attending his opening career, and the alarm it produced, had thrown the country into considerable disorder. The Presbyterians, in general, were loyal ; those of the Secession were universally so. There were many amongst them who had been eye-witnesses of the cold-blooded butcheries, the unqualified tyranny, and ruinous spoliation sanctioned by the last of the Stuarts, and shuddered at the thought of their return. They were inclined, of course, to stand by the king and a Protestant succession, at all hazards; nor was it ever known that one of their body joined the ranks of the pretender. Mr. Brown was imbued with the same political principles ; and observing one day a party of Highlanders approaching him, he had the address to conceal himself till they were gone ; when, pondering on the unsettled state of the country, which he considered unsafe for one of his profession, he came to the resolution of relinquishing his present employment, at least till quieter times. In pursuance of this new scheme he concealed his pack in a peat-stack, and enlisted in a corps of volunteers that had been raised in the neighbourhood in support of government ; with whom he did duty in Blackness, and latterly in the castle of Edinburgh, till the rebellion was extinguished by the decisive battle of Culloden.
On the breaking up of his regiment, he retired to the scenes of his former wanderings, withdrew his deposit from the peat-stack, and recommenced his former employment, which he seems to have followed for at least another year. Tired at last of this uncongenial and wandering life, and wishing to get into a more direct road to his ultimate design, he undertook at the suggestion of several friends the toilsome and troublesome vocation of a teacher. In 1747 he opened a school at Gairney Bridge, a village in the vicinity of Kinross ; which he superintended for two years with remarkable success. His experience, as a self-taught scholar, enabled him with more ease to lead them through those elementary difficulties that stand in the way of the young scholar ; while his patience and conscientious assiduity, which peculiarly qualified him for an instructor of youth, attracted scholars from every quarter. While thus unwearied in carrying them forward in the various branches of education, he laid hold on every proper opportunity to impress their young minds with the importance of practical religion ; particularly on Saturday, before dismissing his school, he made it his constant rule to address them on the duty, the propriety, and urgent necessity of remembering their Creator and Redeemer in the days of their youth ; and the happy result of his pious endeavours may be partly gathered from the astonishing fact, that, though only two years a schoolmaster, eight or nine of his scholars were afterwards ministers of the gospel. His strenuous endeavours to press others forward in the paths of wisdom and usefulness, however, did not retard his own motion, or relax his industry. He has been known to commit to memory fifteen chapters of the book of Genesis in an evening after dismissing his school ; and after all this unparalleled exertion, to allow himself only four hours in bed.