« PreviousContinue »
spiritual life; and their Christian intercourse by the way, stimulated and encouraged each other in the path of duty. Their journeys bomeward were performed in a similar manner, and, notwithstanding their great length, their conversations about the work of the day, and on other religious subjects, made them seem much shorter than they really were ; and as they reached the diverging roads which led to their respective localities, they would have engaged in prayer before parting, commending themselves, and the cause for which they were testifying, to the guardianship of the great Head of the Church.
Nor were the benefits of these extraordinary efforts in attending on ordinances exclusively confined to themselves. Sometimes their godless neighbours were led to make inquiry, and take knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. It is told of one who lived at the Mill of Kindrought, parish of Strichen, that he had his curiosity aroused by observing, every Sabbath morning, a company of individuals pass his door on their way to the distant church at Craigdam; and that one day he inquired why they travelled so far for the gospel, when they could get it nearer home. The reply was, “Come and see." He did so, and, strange to tell, Mr Brown, doubtless under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that morning read out for his text the same words, “ Come and see.” The result will be anticipated : a complete change in the character and views of the person alluded to, was wrought by that day's work; thenceforth he regularly attended ordinances at Craigdam, and continued an honourable and zealous adherent of the Secession during the rest of his life.
Such incidents had a happy influence in recommending the principles of Seceders to the attention of those who were otherwise hostile to them; but while the Seceders had many encouragements to be stedfast in their profession, they were as often exposed to reproach, and the annoyances of a petty social persecution. In some instances, this species of opposition was carried to almost a criminal degree, and would hardly be credited in this tolerant age. One of the Sabbath morning parties, in travelling to Craigdam, required to cross the Ythan, and, it is said, that a farmer in the neighbourhood was in the habit of hounding them with his dog, calling out, “ Here, tak' thae Seceders.” Another instance was that of a certain laird in the district, who had some farms to let, and to the advertisement added the following postscript, “ Cairds* and Seceders need not apply." But the Lord can easily make the wrath of man redound to his praise. The same individual having quarrelled with the parish minister, gave orders that none of his servants should attend his ministry, and sent them to the Secession station at Whitehill. His conduct in this respect was equally intolerant, and to be condemned; but it was over-ruled for good : two of his servants having joined the Secession, and became respectable members of that congregation. Seceders then, as they are to some extent still, were subjected to much obloquy and ridicule, on account of their separation from the Established Church, not only by the men of the world, but by fellow-Christians, and were often carica
tured as under some kind of bewitchment. When, on one occasion, several elders left the parish church of Tarves at the same time, and joined Craigdam, the worthy minister expressed from the pulpit his feelings of surprise and indignation, declaring that “the reel of the elders of Tarves would be heard baith south and north.” The truth is, that the real ground of opposition to the Secession was, that enmity which lies in our depraved hearts to the doctrines of the Word of God, and to a public profession of them; and there is reason to fear, that what has been ascribed to the improved and liberal state of the age in such matters, should rather be placed to account of the general degeneracy of all professors of religion.
But amidst their many difficulties and discouragements, the congregation of Craigdam prospered with a rapidity, and to an extent, which astonished both its friends and its enemies. Mr Brown went there under circumstances the most unlikely to succeed, having only twenty-four names at his call, and the promise of a stipend of £15 per annum; but, believing that the Master whom he served sent none a warfare on their own charges, he committed himself to Him, and his poor but affectionate people.
The visible fruits of Mr Brown's ministry at Craigdam, during a period of nearly fifty years, are an ample proof of his character, both as a man and a minister ; but the following particulars, relating more specially to himself
, will not, we believe, be uninteresting. William Brown was born at Baxter's Knowe, Forgandenny, Perthshire, where his father was a respectable farmer. He had the happiness to be brought up at the feet of that accomplished divine and gentleman, the Rev. Alexander Moncrieff of Culfargie, who was both patron and minister of the parish of Abernethy. Being little more than a child when the Secession took place, he had only reached the Divinity Hall in 1747, when the unhappy division occurred in the Associate Synod anent the Burgess Oath. Like many others, he was deeply distressed at being obliged to separate from those with whom he had enjoyed sweet fellowship in the Gospel, but he bad no difficulty as to the path of duty. He at once sided with the Anti-Burghers.
We have not been furnished with particular information as to Mr Brown's appearances as a student, or his piety in early years; but judging from his after life, there is abundant warrant for assigning to both a high position. The circumstances already noticed, under which he obeyed the call of the great Husbandman, to work in the vineyard, will be admitted as a satisfactory evidence of our observation.*
• A considerable time ago, the Rev. Dr Brown of Glasgow, grandson of Mr Brown of Craigdam, volunteered to furnish the writer with some particulars of his "revered grandfather," which he characterized as "worth their weight in gold." The information was promised again and again, but at last declined, on a most frivo. lous pretence. The writer can only account for Dr Brown's conduct in one war. The original promise was made previous to the disruption of 1852 ; and as Free Church-men generally, have, since that event, shown a marked hostility to Original Seceders, it does not seem uncharitable to assume that as the ground on which he declined to fulfil it. It may, however, be observed, that the principles maintained by his " revered grandfather," are identically those held by Original Seceders at the present day; although it may be questioned whether Dr B. would now place them in balance with the precious metal.
Mr Brown has been described as a man of small stature, and slender frame, but of such active habits, that he easily accomplished what would have been a difficult task to ordinary men. He was singularly qualified for occupying a large field, and the Head of the Church gave him a large one to occupy. He went east, and preached at Auchnagat, Clola, and Peterhead ; north, and preached at Wbitehill
, Rosehearty, and at Mormon-hill; west, and preached at Huntly, Keith, and Grange ; south, and preached at Shiels and Aberdeen ;-—so that, like Samuel, wbile multitudes flocked to hear him at Shiloh, he also had set times and seasons for going round the country, and teaching the people. His diocese extended from the Dee to the Moray Frith, and, for a period of fourteen years, all the Seceders in that extensive field looked to him for supply of ordinances.
As a preacher, Mr Brown had few equals among his co-temporaries. He was a scholar deeply learned in the things of Christ; and to a solemn and impressive manner, he had the happy faenlty of presenting divine truth to the minds of his hearers in the most simple and affecting language, which at once convinced the understanding and touched the heart. “The great theme of his preaching," writes one, “was the love of Christ, or the cross; and his great object was to bring Christ and sinners together, that the sinner, feeling his own poverty, might be enriched from the fulness of Christ. He was a Marrowman,' mighty in word and doctrine, and, at the same time, an affectionate, subduing, softening preacher. He felt for bis hearers. He wept so often when he preached, that lie was called by some the weeping minister.' I often wondered, when a boy, at what I witnessed at Craigdam : the minister in tears, and his audience in tears. Pure sympathy with my pious mother made me often weep too. On such occasions, Mr Brown would employ such persuasive appeals as,
O sirs, wbat ails you at Christ? Is he not the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely ? O love the Lord, all ye his saints! O sinner, will you not open to Christ? O think much of him; O ye that have chosen him for yours, what think ye of the choice? O commend him to others. O wish well to his kingdom, and pray for the coming of it. Thy kingdom come !!" Such a manner of address had often the blessed effect of arresting mockers (for there were mockers in those days), and subduing the enemies of the cross of Christ to his holy will.
Some striking instances of these are still held in sweet remembrance. There was a profane irreligious man, who lived in the little village of Fivie, who went to Craigdam one Sabbath “ to see and hear the fun," and to act like a “ fool,” or “merryman," as he termed it. As he approached the Church door, two old men happened to meet, when the one addressed the other, “Well, what news to-day ?" " Braw news,
was the reply," braw news, man; Christ is risen th' day, and triumphed over death and hell, and bruised Satan's head, and cast him behind him ; and we will see him in Craigdam th' day a conqueror." This brief but striking conversation went to the “ fool's” conscience; his heart was opened that day to hear the Word of the Lord ; he was made a fool, that he might become wise unto eternal life; and he became a worthy man, and was afterwards ordained an elder in the congregation. Another case was that of a farmer, near by Craigdam, whose wife was a Seceder, and in the babit of accommodating distant friends on communion occasions. To this the busband was much opposed, and at last told her that he would not allow any more of her “groaning hypocrites” to come to his house. The wife was obedient to her husband, but being a pious woman, spread out her case before the Lord. The communion season again came round, and on the Sabbath, while the people of God were engaged in his worship, the worldly-minded farmer busied himself surveying his farm and cattle. While wandering in the fields, however, he was unconsciously led in the neighbourhood of the “ Tent," then customary on such occasions, and, as he would afterwards have told, was drawn by some irresistible power within hearing of the minister who was preaching. From the tent he was led to the chưrch, where he was graciously compelled to receive into his heart the engrafted word of salvation. Thenceforth, he became a devoted Christian, and dedicated himself and all that he bad to the Lord, and instead of shutting his door against the people of God, who came up seeking spiritual food to their souls, his house was known for many years as a bethel, where all who choose were made welcome. But we can only make room for another of these interesting incidents. A man, named John Jack, lived in Inverury, who was not only a rigid “Old Kirk" man, but a great enemy to Seceders. He had vowed that he would worship nowhere but at the parish church of Tarveg. It was, however, so ordered in providence, that one Sabbath, as he was passing the church at Craigdam, it came on such a tremendous storm of snow and drift, that he was glad to take shelter among the heretics. But, though unwillingly compelled to enter the company of Seceders, he was determined not to be polluted with their doctrine, and accordingly sat down in a seat, and put a finger into each ear. In this posture he remained till the sermon was nearly finished; but bis arms got stiff, and he could bold no longer. His own account was, “My fingers went out, and the Word came in, and took root in my obstinate heart.” It is only necessary to add, that John Jack was afterwards a regular attender at Craigdam. Mr Brown was in the practice of explaining the morning psalın, and when at any time John missed that exercise, he would have remarked, "I have lost my morning piece."
It will sound strange to many to be told, that Mr Brown had only one text for the year. The text was given out on the morning of the annual Sacrament, and on such occasions he was accustomed to remark, “ I have changed my text, but not my subject.” To this circumstance has been ascribed the fact, that the Seceders of Craigdam were distinguished for their knowledge of Bible doctrine, and the duties of Christianity-and why they manifested, in such a large degree, “love to the brethren." The frequent repetition of the annual text, instead of being offensive to the old Seceders, had a freshness and a power precious to them. “I remember," writes an aged minister, “ of an old woman, one of Mr Brown's Seceders, who heard me in the beginning of my ministry ; finding that I had a new text every Sabbath, she was pleased to say that I connicht texts (wasted them): Mr Brown,' she said, ' would have made one of my texts serve him a year; but I could not take a haud o' them as he did.'"
In every part of his work, whether in the pulpit or out of it, he wanifested equal diligence and zeal. He was ready to every good work, and from his anxiety to meet the numerons demands made upon his time, was commonly styled “the rinnin' minister.” To the sick and the dying, he was ever a welcome visitor; and long after bis labours on earth were terminated, ager Christians on their death-bed would have praised God for having heard the Gospel by Mr Brown in Bucban.
During the latter years of his ministry, be was severely afflicted with an internal disease, which often caused him acute pain ; but up to nearly his last Sabbath on earth, he was privileged to declare the riches of Christ; and even when bodily distress rendered it necessary to carry him to the pulpit, like another Knox, when warmed with his subject, he was like to “ding it into blads.” When finally laid aside from public work, his own exercise furnished a beautiful confirmation of the power and the consolations of that Gospel he had so often pressed on the acceptance of others. To him, Christ was most precious, and freqnently he would have expressed his entire hope and confidence in his finished work to those around him. A friend, who visited him on his death-bed, having reviewed his past labours and singular usefulness in the Church of Christ, remarked, that he deserved one of the best places in heaven. “Deserve a place in heaven," said the dying saint, “I deserve a place in hell for my sins, and should certainly be sent thither, were it not for the blood and righteousness of my dear Lord, who is all my hope.” His last prayer was in behalf of his children, and his children's children, whom he named one by one, commending them to the care of a covenant God; and in behalf of his flock, and the witnessing Church of Christ, of which he accounted it his honour to be a minister. And having thus finished his course and kept the faith, this faithful servant of Jesus Christ fell asleep in the Lord, in the seventy-third year of his age, and forty-ninth of his ministry. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; yea, saith the Spirit, they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them."
In course of years, the congregation at Craigdam increased to a great size, and the adherents from several of the distant places began to feel their own strength, and the duty of having ordinances dispensed nearer bome, so that both old and young might enjoy them. Accordingly, in 1766, the people of Clola applied to the Presbytery for a disjunction, which was granted by forming them into a distinct congregation. This was only the commencement of the work of breaking down and building up; for within the next twenty years, not fewer than ten or twelve additional branches were cut off from the parent stem, and planted as trees in the Lord's vineyard. And it is but right to observe, that this work met with the hearty concurrence of the worthy minister of Craigdam; nor did he suffer by it. He could truly say, I have sought not yours, but you; and the love was reciprocal, for as his congregation increased, they remembered him in temporal