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For JUNE, 1802.
MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. J. BROWN OF HADDINGTON.
We love an author, from whose works our minds have
derived pleasure and improvement: we wish to be introduced to intimate acquaintance with him, that we may see him in the undress of life, and mark the genuine dispositions of his heart. To gratify a desire so reasonable, is certainly proper. In the present case, it appears to be, in some degree, necessary; for the self - denial which distinguishes all Mr. B's writings--the narrative which he hath given of himself, published in his Select Remains, and the strong terms in which he utters the deep sense he cherished of his sinfulness, especially when dying, seemned to throw a veil over his real character, and conceal his spiritual excellences. The truth of the following account, in which some particulars will appear singular, it is believed, will readily be admitted by all his brethren in the ministry, who were in habits of intimacy with him during his life, and now survive him in the vineyard of the Lord.
In learning, his attainments were eminent: they corresponded with the insatiable ardour of his young mind after general knowledge. His acquaintance with European languages will astonish our minds, when we consider, that, excepting the space of one single month, he was his own teacher. He relished the beauties of the Latin poets; but of the Greek, and especially of the Hebrew language, his knowledge was extensive, accurate, and critical. He could read and translate the French, the Italian, the German, the Arabic, the Persian, the Syriac, and the Ethiopic. Though he understood the Newtonian system, and was not unacquainted with the different theories of the human mind, connected with the science of morals, his favourite study was Divinity; and in subserviency to this, the history of nations, and of VOL. X. Dd
the church of God. He made an abridgement of the whole of the Ancient Universal History. In Divinity, he perused chiefly the writings of the best old divines, as Turrentine, Pictet, Mastricht, Owen; and of the moderns, Boston, Erskine, Hervey. But, above all, he studied the oracles of God. Indeed, his acquaintance with the Bible was singular. Seldoin was a text quoted, but he could accurately repeat it, explain its meaning, and state its connexion.
In piety, he was eminently heavenly-minded : prayer was his delight Besides the regular devotions of the closet, he appeared often engaged in ejaculations to his father in Heaven; particularly, when he was composing or meditating on his sermons. He frequently set apart a morning for extraordinary prayer, and often called together bis domestics to family - fasting, or thanksgiving. Though few more tenderly sympathized with the afflicted, yet he was scarce ever seen to weep, except from the deep impressions of divine truth on his own heart, or from compassion for perishing souls. Bodily pain, and the death of relations, he endured without shedding a tear; but when he was warning sinners of their danger, and beseeching them to be reconciled unto God, the emotions of his heart generally overcame his firmness, and frequently checked his utterance.
He was a conscientious observer of the Lord's Day. To converse on the cominon affairs of life, or even on the mere externals and trivial matters of the church, he considered as unsuitable to the spiritnal exercises of the day, and offensive to God. As he would not allow himself to say or do what he conceived to be inconsistent with the sanctification of that holy day, so he endeavoured to restrain all within his house from such practices.
In conversation, it was evident to every body that his constant aim was to reforn, and to edity. He seldom gave an opinion on political subjects, or at all intermeddled with them. The remarks which he made, when others introduced subjects of that nature, were usually religious. Instead of expressing approbation, or of passing censure on the eonduct of our rulers, he tried to lead the attention to the operations of Providence, which manages all things for the honour of God, and the welfare of bis church. The subject of ministers' stipeads he also studiously avoided in Boa versation; knowing that they who officiate in sacred
things, lie too frequently, however undeservedly, under the odium of being mercenary men; and that few things tend more to hinder the people's edification, than a suspicion that their minister's leading object is worldly gain. The proceedings of the ecclesiastical courts he seldom spake of to private Christians; and the imprudent behaviour of any of their members, he carefully concealed. He could not see how the mentioning of these things could any way promote the real spiritual profit of his people.
Through stedfast faith in the divine promises, he seems to have attained to an habitual evenness of mind, so as never to be much transported with joy, or much depressed with sorrow. In him the promise was evidently fulfilled; “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” On one occasion, hearing a most tremendous peal of thunder, he said, with much pleasant serenity, “ T'hat's the love-whisper of my God.”
For soine years before his death he took peculiar delight in reading and abridging the Lives and Experiences of se.' rious Christians.
During his last illness he discovered a remarkably thankful frame of mind for the smallest favour or assistance given to him ; and so entirely satisfied was he with the dispensations of Providence, that for three or four months before he died, he was never heard to utter a peevish word.
In diligence he was unwearied. In suminer, he rose between four and five in the morning; in winter, at six; and prosecuted his studies till eight in the evening. The hours which thousands waste in sleep, he busily employed in prayer, in reading, or writing. Formal visits he disrelished; and often said he would much rather compose a sermon, than spend an hour in these. His people knew his disposition ; and seldom invited him out, or called on hin without some errand of importance. The number of his publications is a proof of his diligence; especially as he was accustomed to write his manuscripts several times over, and never employed an amanuensis : nor were his ministerial labours ever relaxed. Besides expounding a part of Scripture, he preached three sermons every Lord's Day, excepting a short while, in the depth of winter. During the months, when, as Professor of Divinity under the Associate Synod, he was engaged in teaching the students, and his pulpit was supplied by his brethren, he frequently went a considerable number of miles, and preached
to a congregation for whom no sermon had been provided. He visited, ministerially, every family of his church once a year, and twice a year catechised them; besides his frequent instructions, often weekly, given to the children,
In charity he was exemplary. His income was indeed small ; but with what he had, it was his aim to do good to all, especially to the household of faith. It was his opinjon, that every man is bound to devote at least the tenth part of his income to pious uses ; and, though he had a numerous family, he often exceeded this proportion. He exercised a degree of economy in expences on his own person, which some of his brethren thought to be extreme. It appeared clearly, however, that his sole object in this frugality of expenditure on himself, was, that he might be the more enabled " to give to him that needed.” His alms were frequently accompanied with good counsels, that while the body was supplied, the salvation of the soul might not be neglected. To poor congregations who requested a collection from his people, rather than burthen them (being small in number, and generally poor) he seven ral times sent considerable sums out of his own pocket. Frequently did he cause the widow's heart to sing for joy; while the stream ran in a channel so concealed, that the spring was never discovered, save by the family whose withered garden was refreshed by its waters.
As a minister, he was a faithful and humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. He possessed a peculiar talent in preaching discourses which tended to awaken the conscience and search the heart. But his greatest pleasure was to publish the glad tidings of salvation, and the free access which sinners, even the chief, have to the Saviour, His urgent reasonings with sinners, on God's behalf, will not soon be forgotten by those who beard them. He possessed a happy turn of mind in choosing subjects of sers. mons that suited the special occurrences of Providence, towards the nation in general, or the circumstances of his own congregation in particular. i bough his learning was very considerable, he never made a shew of it in the pulpit. His object was not to exalt himself, but that Saviour whom, God delighteth to honour; and to bring down, as far as posible, the great truths of religion to the level of common capacities. He often repeated Archbishop Usher's saying: -" It will take all our learning to make things plain,
Great was his boldness and fidelity in addressing mortal souls. A respectable English diviue, who about