The Character of John Brown
Among the things which obviously claim our attention in the character of Mr. Brown, we must not pass over the astonishing extent of his scholastic acquirements. Though possessed of no very considerable fund of originality, his capabilities for the acquisition of almost every species of literary knowledge was such, that he outran most of all his contemporaries, though possessing every advantage of a regular education, and that from their infancy. Ordinary attainments, whether in languages or science, could by no means satisfy the ardour of his inquisitive mind. With a memory strongly retentive, a solid and discriminating judgment, and an inflexible and persevering assiduity, with the blessing of God on his labours, he acquired and secured an uncommon share with which, from a child, he had cultivated a very particular acquaintance, so that he could repeat almost every text, and state its meaning and connexion. His feet were early turned into the paths of wisdom. Apprehended by the grace of God while his mind was yet young and tender, he made choice of his law as the rule of his life, and solemnly devoted himself to his service. In prayer, public, secret, or domestic, he overstepped the rules of almost any prescribed routine; even amid the ordinary business of life, the breathings of his soul were continually breaking forth in ejaculations of gratitude and praise, particularly while composing, or committing his discourses to memory. He possessed such an habitual evenness of temper, that hopes realized or disappointed seemed neither to elate nor greatly depress his spirits. He lived always conscious of God’s presence, and as one who had learned to lay down the sinful suspicion that men by nature have of Him. On hearing a peal of thunder he remarked, “that is the low whisper of my God.” His Christian Journal, which presents a good index of the general tone of his mind, bears this inscription, “The soul that is ever attentive to God never hears a voice that speaks not to Him; the soul, whose eye is intent on Him, never sees an atom, in which she does not discern the face of her best beloved.” He was scarcely ever seen to weep, unless it were from the impressions of divine truth on his own heart, or compassion for perishing souls. Bodily pain, or the death of relatives, he suffered without a tear; but when warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and, in Christ’s stead, entreating and beseeching them to be reconciled to God, his heart got frequently too big for utterance.
I’ve added a link to the top of my sidebar to the right. It links to Post Tenebras Lux, the website of Dr. Thomas R. Browning, Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. At his site is a lecture series about the life and ministry of Martin Luther and the story of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It is the month of October now, and Luther nailed the historic 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, so it is time to begin gearing up to commemorate the Protestant Reformation, which was the providential way “How Christ Restored the Gospel to His Church.”
“The Christian Curmudgeon” was a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) since its founding. He recently left the PCA for his own reasons and is now ministering in the Reformed Episcopal Church. In the past few weeks, you may have noticed that The Aquila Report has posted two articles expressing the growing concern over the state of the PCA. In light of this, The Christian Curmudgeon has written a very helpful post characterizing the various theological and practical trajectories represented by the first generation of the PCA. The point being that the PCA was never intended to be a strictly confessional Reformed denomination. This sheds light on how they got into the chaotic state they are in today. Read his informative post, “I Don’t Have a Dog in this Fight, But That Doesn’t Keep Me From Having an Opinion.”
VI. The providence of God has, in a most marvellous manner, PRESERVED the scriptures of the Old and New Testament from being lost or corrupted. While perhaps millions of other books, once of considerable fame in the world, and which no one sought to extirpate, are lost and forgotten, the Scriptures, though more early written, and though Satan and his agents unnumbered have hated them, and sought to cause their memory to perish from among men, or to corrupt them, still remain, and remain in their purity.
In great wisdom and kindness, God, for their preservation, ordered an original copy to be laid up in the Holy of Holies (Deuteronomy 31:26); and that every Hebrew king should write out a copy for himself (Deuteronomy 27:18); and appointed the careful and frequent reading of them, both in private and public. With astonishing kindness and wisdom has he made the contending parties who had access to the Scriptures–such as the Jews and Israelites, the Jews and Samaritans, the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Jews and Christians, and the various parties of Christians–MUTUAL CHECKS upon each other for almost three thousand years past, that they might not be able either to extirpate or to corrupt any part of them. When the Christians had almost utterly lost the knowledge of the Hebrew originals, God, by his providence, stirred up the Jewish rabbins to an uncommon labour for preserving them in their purity, by marking the number of letters, and how often each was repeated, in their Masoras.
By what tremendous judgments did he restrain and punish Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syro-Grecian king; Dioclesian, the Roman emperor; and others who attempted to destroy the copies of Scripture, in order to extirpate the Jewish or Christian religion! And he has bestowed amazing support and consolation on such as have risked or parted with their lives rather than deny the dictates of Scripture, or in the least contribute to their extirpation or misinterpretation.
By quickly multiplying the copies or the readers of the Scriptures, he rendered it impossible to corrupt them in anything important, without causing the corruption all at once to start up into every copy dispersed through the world, and into the memories of almost every reader;–than which nothing could be more absurd to suppose. Nay it is observable that of all the thousands of various readings which the learned have collected, not one in the least enervates any point of our faith or duty towards God or man.
For those of you still awaiting my closing post on “Gender Roles: Complementarianism,” rest assured I have not forgotten, but the post is still not ready. Stay tuned, true believer! In the meantime, I enjoyed the following video…
Listen as Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President and Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California and Ligonier teaching fellow, discusses the tendency toward anti-intellectualism throughout church history, and calls believers to not only love God with their hearts and their strength, but also with their minds. This lecture was delivered at the 2012 Ligonier national conference on “The Christian Mind.”
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34
If you are a Campbellite, a former Campbellite, or otherwise knowledgable about the nuances of Campbellite doctrine and logic, please critique the following syllogism I have devised in my attempt to think through the reason Campbellites would deny the doctrine of original sin.
It is my understanding that Campbellism does affirm that Adam’s posterity inherited a natural predisposition to commit sins, so the only distinction between Augustinians and Campbellites with which I’m dealing lies in the Campbellite denial of the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s sin to his posterity.
I am also prepared for the possibility that Campbellites might object to my assertion in the first proposition “that baptism literally washes away sin.” It would also be good if anyone could help me articulate this proposition more precisely.
Here is my working syllogism:
Campbellites agree with Augustine that baptism literally washes away sin;
Campbellites disagree with Augustine that baptism is for infants;
Therefore, Campbellites conclude that infants are not affected by original sin, but are rather born innocent.
On this week’s episode of the Christ the Center podcast (#263, “Insider Movements“), Dr. David Garner is interviewed about his recent article in Themelios, “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel,” analyzing the hermeneutics underlying the Insider Movement, a sociological and anthropological approach to contextualizing evangelism without calling on people whose identities are tied to other world religions like Judaism, Islam and Hinduism to disassociate themselves from those religious, cultural and family ties, but to work inside them and transform their approach to those religions in light of the teachings of Jesus. While it is noble to attempt to find a way to minimize the risk of loss or danger a Jew, Muslim or Hindu (for example) may face upon becoming a Christian, it is unfaithful to the Jesus they claim to follow if they would settle for living to distort their new-found faith with the teachings and practices of the religion with which they have previously been associated. Living to syncretize Christianity with non-Christian world religions is not a faith worth living for or dying for.
This movement is clearly in contradiction with the teachings of Jesus to those who would follow him. Jesus carried his cross and died on it for those who believe, and he calls on believers to take up their cross, follow him, and be willing to live publicly for him and, if need be, accept rejection by leaders of other religions, communities and families, even if such rejection includes dying for him.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV).
I know it’s easy for me to say, and to criticize those who would find a way around it, but I too have a cross of self-denial to carry if I am to follow Jesus. I must kill my own sin (a struggle which involves suffering and risk of social rejection on my part), and publicly acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior and associate myself formally with his people, the Church (Hebrews 10:25), serving him with my time, talent and treasure–loving, forgiving and giving to my brothers until it hurts. Should the time come that the culture or community in which I live demands that I deny my Lord Jesus Christ, I am called upon to defy such a demand and willingly suffer the consequences in reliance upon the grace and goodness of God, knowing that if such is happening to me, it is no more than what he sacrificed for me.
One of the interesting things about this movement which Dr. Garner points out in the article and the interview is that the intellectual source of such innovation in world missions comes from the same root as the church growth movement–Donald McGavran (d. 1990) and his School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary (formerly the famous School of World Mission).
Donald Anderson McGavran (December 15, 1897–1990) was a missiologist who was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, Church Growth, and South Asian Studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. A child of missionaries in India and later amissionary himself (1923–1961), McGavran spent most of his life trying to identify and overcome barriers to effective evangelism or Christian conversion.
McGavran identified differences of caste and economic social position as major barriers to the spread of Christianity. His work substantially changed the methods by which missionaries identify and prioritize groups of persons for missionary work and stimulated the Church Growth Movement. McGavran developed his church growth principles after rejecting the popular view that mission was ‘philanthropy, education, medicine, famine relief, evangelism, and world friendship’ and become convinced that good deeds – while necessary – ‘must never replace the essential task of mission, discipling the peoples of the earth’. [HT: Wikipedia]
While McGavran’s efforts in his time were more theologically conservative and a reaction against liberal missionary trends, a student of his named C. Peter Wagner built on McGavran’s principles and create the church growth movement which has brought us such phenomena as seeker-sensitive worship and the modern megachurch. Incidentally, he is also the one who coined the phrase New Apostolic Reformation for the worldwide sweep of Charismatic and Word of Faith theology with a special emphasis on the restoration of the apostolic office, which movement in America has recently frightened the political Left because so many who would fall under this umbrella have modified the theonomist views of R. J. Rushdoony (for more on that, see this) and declared that they would “take dominion” over every sphere of influence in America.
Syncretism in the name of saving one’s life is no way to spread Christianity. A new generation around the world must hear the age-old truism: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” [paraphrasing Tertullian, Apology chapter 50].
I just finished watching the latest video uploaded to the Reformed Audio YouTube page, Rev. John Galbraith, Address at GA on 75th Anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Galbraith, age 98 at the time of the delivery of this address back in June of 2011, was in attendance and stood to vote for the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church on June 11, 1936. The extent of his service to the church is outlined in the introductory material under the video on the YouTube page as follows:
Rev. John P. Galbraith, founding member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936 and retired minister, addresses the General Assembly of the OPC’s Committee on Christian Education on the 75th Anniversary of the OPC on June 11, 2011. Rev. Galbraith graduated from Westiminster Theological Seminary in 1937 (where he studied under J. Gresham Machen until his untimely death) and was ordained to the gospel ministry that same year. During his 75 years as a minister in Christ’s church, Rev. Galbraith served as the pastor of three OPC churches, clerk of the OPC General Assembly for six years (1940, 1984-88), General Secretary of the Committee for Foreign Missions for thirty years, General Secretary of the Committee for Home Missions, and on numerous other denominational committees. In this address, at the age of 98 years old, he reflects on the mission of the OPC and God’s goodness to the church for 75 years, as well as challenges the church faces. Introduction by Rev. Danny Olinger. For more of Rev. John Galbraith, please visit www.reformedaudio.org/Galbraith
In his address, Rev. Galbraith comments that J. Gresham Machen’s “two pillars” of the church are that 1)The Bible is the Word of God, and 2) It Must Be Obeyed! Built upon these pillars, the young denomination would organize the Committees on Home and Foreign Missions in order to “speak to those who are without,” and underscores how that it is the mission of the Committee on Christian Education to “speak to those who are within”–to teach the teachers. He goes on to urge the OPC to watch out for the inclusivism which ultimately destroyed the PCUSA, and commends toward that end a firm committment to the Westminster Standards as our corporate confession of our ultimate guide, the Bible. Finally, upon his conclusion and stirring recommendation, those in attendance rise to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.”
You will be challenged and encouraged to renew your faith in and obedience to the Bible in this address.
But Mr. Brown was not only distinguished as a minister of the gospel, and a teacher of divinity, he is celebrated also as an author. A strong desire to contribute towards the moral and religious improvement of mankind, and that he might, in some measure, be useful to the church of Christ, when he rested from his labours, weighed down every consideration of either profit or applause connected with his writings; indeed the pecuniary reward of all his labours, in this way, was but a matter of small account, never exceeding forty pounds. It was reserved, however, for his booksellers to reap a much more bountiful harvest; several of his works having already appeared in upwards of thirty, and some even in forty editions.
His first attempt as an author was his large work on the Catechism, which appeared in the year 1758; the next was a lesser work, also on the Catechism; and the rest of his works succeeded one another as circumstances seemed to render them necessary. (A modern edition is available from Reformation Heritage Books) That the doctrines he taught might appear with all the solidity and perspicuity in his power, he was at the extraordinary pains of writing his manuscripts thrice, and occasionally four times over, before they went to press; and frequently, after all this trouble in correcting, adding, and retrenching them, to request some one of his brethren to examine, and give his candid opinion concerning them.
But on none of his works has he bestowed so much labour as on his Dictionary of the Bible; a book of such diversified information, extensive research, and generally acknowledged utility, that it is doubtful if any work, of equal size, has hitherto appeared better calculated for assisting in the study of the Holy Scriptures, although now from the increased amount of information on scientific, historical, and other subjects, it necessarily is imperfect as compared with what he doubtless would have made it, had he possessed the opportunities of our day.
Professor of Divinity
On the death of the Rev. J. Swanston of Kinross (1768), the professor of divinity for the Burgher branch of the Secession, Mr. Brown was elected to fill the vacant office; nor were they at all disappointed in their choice. The ability and attention with which he fulfilled the various duties of that important charge, met with universal approbation. He found it was absolutely necessary to support the dignity of a teacher amongst his students, but could not help discovering, at the same time, the affection and anxious solicitude of a father for his children, which, on their parts, was rewarded with confidence, love, and obedience.
He treated them with the greatest impartiality; or, if piety, talents, application, or exemplary conduct, in any case inclined him to a preference, he was careful that it should never be observed. To promote their best interests, he was unwearied in his labours of love. That he might satisfy himself that the young men were improving their time, he used to visit them at their lodgings early in the morning, to see that they were properly engaged.
The ordinary course of attendance on the divinity lectures was five sessions, of two months each. In his View of Natural and Revealed Religion, and the Cases of Conscience subjoined to his Practical Piety, we have a connected view of the substance of all these lectures. His General History of the Church, as well as that of the British Churches, were originally intended for the use of his students. He ever considered personal piety the most essential qualification for successfully discharging the various and important duties of the ministerial office; and accordingly pressed on his students the pre-eminent interest they themselves had in the doctrines they were to preach to others; assuring them, that divinity was to be studied in a very different way from that of a system of philosophy; and that, without heart-religion, they must necessarily continue unprofitable students of theology.
He urged, moreover, by all means to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the oracles of God in the original languages; and, next to these, with the writings of Turretine, Owen, Boston, Fisher’s Marrow of Modern Divinity, the Erskines, and Hervey’s Theron and Aspasio, with his Defence against Wesley. The serious and solemn manner in which, on particular occasions, he was in the habit of addressing his students, but especially on parting at the end of the sessions, seldom failed in melting both the speaker and hearer into tears and of leaving the best impressions on their young minds; and the many able and acceptable ministers, in Great Britain and Ireland, who had been trained up under his tuition, afford the most convincing proof of his success in this department of his manifold labours.
The pastor of a large congregation has but little time to spare from the duties of his office, compared with one engaged with a less numerous charge. In this respect Mr. Brown found himself in his proper element at Haddington. There, without trenching on the duties of his office, he could devote a very considerable portion of his time to study; and this privilege he improved to the best advantage.
In the summer months his constant rule was to rise between four and five, and during the winter by six. From these early hours, till eight in the evening, excepting the time allotted to bodily refreshment, family worship, or when called away on the duties of office, he continued to prosecute his studies with unremitting application. To a mind so ardent in the acquisition of knowledge, with a judgment so clear, a retentive memory, and exertions so intense, it was by no means surprising that he became greatly superior to most men engaged in discharging the same sacred duties.
In acquiring the knowledge of languages, ancient or modern, he possessed a facility altogether his own. Without an instructor, unless for one month to start him in the Latin, as formerly mentioned, he soon got so far acquainted with that language as to relish its beauties; and, left to his own resources, though frequently but indifferently provided with the proper books, he soon became critically acquainted with the Greek, and especially the Hebrew. Of the living languages, he could read and translate the Arabic, Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic, the French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and German.
With him natural history, civil law, natural and moral philosophy, were particular objects of research; but divinity, and the history of human affairs, sacred or civil, were his favourite studies; and his success in these departments of knowledge are visible in his various works.Among the writers on divinity with whom he was versant, we find that Turretine, Pietet, Mastrecht, and Owen, with Boston, Erskine, and Hervey, were the chief; which shows that he accounted sound divinity and accurate sentiment a far better recommendation of his author, than the flowing fancy, the brilliant style, or the harmonious period.
Though stimulated by a sense of duty, and strongly excited by inclination, to the study of divinity, such was his anxiety to become a universal scholar, that he made himself acquainted with the whole round of the sciences. In his reading, especially important works, he was in the habit of compendizing his author as he went along. In this way he abridged the whole of Blackstone’s Commentaries, the ancient Universal History, and a number of other important works. This, however, is a method concerning which the learned hold different opinions. To lay aside the book, and abridge entirely from memory, and that in the writer’s own language, without regarding the style of the author, will make the substance of the work more his own; which, with other reasons that might be named, seems to render it the more eligible method.
The following episode of the Reformed Forum’s new podcast, East of Eden, was tailor-made for the readers of this blog! East of Eden is a podcast devoted to discussing all things Jonathan Edwards. Not the recent politician with good hair and a bad reputation, but the eighteenth century preacher of the First Great Awakening who became known as the theologian of revival. In this week’s episode, the co-hosts interview a guest to be named below as they discuss Edwards’ sermon on “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth.” One comment made by Nick Batzig sums up nicely both the sermon and the theme of this blog: “You can have truth in the mind without godliness in the heart, but you can’t have godliness in the heart without truth in the mind.”
Later, I will update this post with a transcript of the context of the preceding quote. In the meantime, listen to the entire episode, “Christian Knowledge,” to be challenged to inform your godliness with a thorough understanding of the truth which accords with godliness (Titus 1:1).
Listen to Lutheran Church Missouri Synod minister, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, talk about what drove Luther’s hammer…
The contemporary spirit of the Evangelical movement is to lower the historic bar on the differences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Since the 1994 statement Evangelicals and Catholics Together, things have gone from bad to worse. Enter R. C. Sproul, probably the premier Reformed and Protestant apologist of the 20th and early 21st century to stem the tide, and remind us all that not only are the historic distinctions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism still there, but many more issues have further complicated the matter. Get informed on all the issues so that you may retain the courage to be Protestant (with apologies to David F. Wells)
In recent years, some evangelical Protestant leaders have signed statements pledging themselves to joint social action with Roman Catholics. Others have refused to participate, declaring that, in their view, the statements went too far, touching on the gospel, which remains a point of disagreement between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Many evangelical Christians have found themselves confused by the different directions taken by their leaders.
In Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism, Dr. R.C. Sproul takes his stand for the cardinal doctrines of Protestantism in opposition to the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Sproul, a passionate defender of the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, cites the historic statements of the Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholic authorities, then references modern doctrinal statements to show that the Roman Catholic Church has not altered its official positions. In light of this continuing gap, he writes, efforts by some in the evangelical camp to find common ground with Rome on matters at the heart of the gospel are nothing short of untrue to biblical teaching. In Sproul’s estimation, the Reformation remains relevant.
Are We Together? is a clarion call to evangelicals to stand firm for the gospel, the precious good news of salvation as it is set forth in Scripture alone.
HT: Ligonier Store
On this episode, we welcome Rev. Dr. Carl R. Trueman to discuss the important role of creeds and confessions in the church through his book The Creedal Imperative. Dr. Trueman is the Paul Woolley Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and Pastor of Cornerstone Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ambler, PA. Dr. Trueman brings his critical thought and historic sensitivity to this important plea to many conservative evangelicals.
HT: Reformed Forum