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Biographia Scoticana Scots Worthies by John Howie

The Life of Mr. JOHN BROWN.

Mr. Brown was ordained minister at Wamphray in Annandale. There is no certain account how long he was minister there, only it was some time before the restoration of Charles II. as appears from his great faithfulness in opposing prelacy, which was then about to be intruded upon the church; insomuch that, for his fortitude and freedom with some of his neighbouring ministers for their compliance with the prelates, contrary to the promise they had given him, he was turned out of that place.

Upon the 6th of Nov.1662, he was brought before the council. Whether by letters to converse with the managers, or by a citation, it is not certain. But the same day, the council's act against him runs thus:

|Mr. John Brown of Wamphray, being conveened before the council, for abusing and reproaching some ministers for keeping the diocesan synod with the arch-bishop of Glasgow, calling them perjured knaves and villains, did acknowledge that he called them false knaves for so doing, because they had promised the contrary to him. The council ordain him to be secured close prisoner in the tolbooth till further orders.|

He remained in prison till Dec.11, when, after Mr. Livingston and others had received their sentence, the council came to this conclusion anent him, |Upon a petition presented by Mr. John Brown minister of Wamphray now prisoner in Edinburgh, shewing, that he had been kept close prisoner these five weeks by-past, and seeing that, by want of free air and other necessaries for maintaining his crazy body, he is in hazard to lose his life, therefore, humbly desiring warrant to be put at liberty, upon caution to enter his person when he should be commanded, as the petition bears; which being at length he heard and considered, the lords of council ordain the king's supplicant to be put at liberty, forth of the tolbooth, his first obliging himself to remove and depart off the king's dominions, and not to return, without licence from his majesty and council, under pain of death.|

Great were the hardships he underwent in prison, for (says a historian) he was denied even the necessaries of life; and though, because of the ill treatment he met with, he was brought almost to the gates of death, yet he could not have the benefit of the free air until he signed a bond obliging himself to a voluntary banishment, and that without any just cause.

But, upon the 23d of the same month, on presenting a petition to the council to prorogue the time of his removal from the kingdom, in regard he was not able to provide himself with necessaries, and the weather so unseasonable that he could not have the opportunity of a ship, &c. as the petition bears; which being read and considered, |They grant him two months longer after the 11th of Dec. by-past; in the mean time he being peaceable, acting nothing in prejudice of the present government, &c.| -- And next year he went over to Holland (then the asylum of the banished) where he lived many years, but never, that we heard of, saw his own native country any more.

How he employed himself mostly in Holland we are at a loss to say; his many elaborate pieces, both practical, argumentative and historical, witness that he was not idle; which were either mostly wrote there, or published from thence; and particularly those concerning the indulgences-paying, &c. sent for the support and strengthening of his persecuted brethren in the church of Scotland, unto whom he and Mr. M'Ward contributed all in their power, that they might be kept straight (while labouring in the furnace of affliction) under a scene of sore oppression and bloody tyranny. But hither did the malice of their enemies yet pursue them. For the king, by the infliction of prelate Sharp, anno 1676, wrote to the states-general to remove them from their province. And although the states neither did nor could reasonably grant this demand, seeing they had got the full stress of laws in Scotland many years before, yet it appears that they were obliged to wander further from the land of their nativity.

Some time before his death, he was admitted minister of the Scots congregation at Rotterdam; where he, with great prudence and diligence, exercised that function; it being always his study and care to gain many souls to Christ. For as he was faithful in declaring the whole counsel of God to his people, in warning them against the evils of the time, so he was likewise a great textuary, close in handling any truth he discoursed upon, and in the application most home, warm and searching, shewing himself a most skilful casuist. His sermons were not so plain, but the learned might admire them; nor so learned, but the plain understood them. His fellow-soldier and companion in tribulation gives him this testimony, |That the whole of his sermons, without the intermixture of any other matter, had a specialty of pure gospel tincture, breathing nothing but faith in Christ, and communion with him, &c.|

The ordination of faithful Mr. Richard Cameron seems to have been the last of his public employments; and his last but excellent discourse (before his exile from this world, which appears to have been about the end of the year 1679) was from Jer. ii.35. Behold I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned, &c. And having finished his course with joy, he died in the Lord. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.

No doubt Mr. Brown was a man famous in his day, both for learning, faithfulness, warm zeal and true piety. He was a notable writer, a choice and pathetical preacher; in controversy he was acute, masculine and strong, in history plain and comprehensive, in divinity substantial and divine; the first he discovers in his work printed in Latin against the Sodinians, and his treatise de causa Dei contra anti-sabbatanios, which the learned world know better than can be here described. There is also a large manuscript history intitled, Apologia pro ecclesia, &c. anno Domini 1660, consisting of 1600 pages in 4to, which he gave in to Charles Gordon, sometime minister at Dalmony, to be by him presented to the first free general assembly of the church of Scotland, and was by him exhibited to the general assembly anno 1692; of this history the apologetical relation seems to be an abridgment. His letters and other papers, particularly the history of the indulgence, written and sent home to his native country, manifest his great and fervent zeal for the cause of Christ. And his other practical pieces, such as that on justification, on the Romans, Quakerism the way to Paganism; the hope of glory; and Christ the way, the truth and the life; the first and second part of his life of faith, and Enoch's testament opened up, &c.; all which evidence his solid piety, and real acquaintance with God and godliness.

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