The Times/1922/Obituary/John Brown
DEATH OF DR. JOHN BROWN.
THE BIOGRAPHER OF BUNYAN.
We regret to announce that the Rev. Dr. John Brown, the biographer of Bunyan, and pastor emeritus of Bunyan's Church at Bedford, died in London yesterday morning, at the advanced age of 91.
By his death, Congregationalism has lost one of its most conspicuous figures. He was born in 1830 at Bolton, and had outlived all his contemporaries. Educated at a private school, he then passed to Owens College, Manchester, and to Lancashire Independent College. He graduated at London University in 1853, and two years later settled at Park Chapel, Manchester. In 1859 he married a daughter of the Rev. D. E. Ford , of Manchester, by whom he had three sons and three daughters. One of his daughters is the wife of Mr. J. N,. Keynes, Registrary of the Union of Cambridge, and the mother of Mr. J. M. Keynes, author of "Economic Consequences of the Peace" and its sequel, "The Revision of the Treaty," published last week.
The great work of Dr. Brown's liie began when, in 1864, he became the pastor of the historic church Bunyan Meting, at Bedford. He was the ninth pastor, Bunyan was the third, and not the founder and first pastor, as many suppose, John Gifford, a dissolute Royalist to whom sudden conversion came, was the first pastor, and Bunyan confessed that he owed much to this man's ministrations. The eight pastors before Dr. Brown all died at their post. None died in retirement, and none moved to another sphere of activity after becoming minister of Bunyan Meeting. This fact exercised the mind of Dr. Brown when faced with the question of retirement on account of advancing years. He was loth to break this link with the past tradition. The Church, however, made him pastor emeritus in 1903, and as pastor of Bunyan Meeting Dr. Brown would wish to be known in death. The link of this succession was broken by some who followed him in the pastorate.
Shortly before Dr. Brown went to Bedford, there had been much internal dissension in the Church. A young man of Bunyan Meeting whose father was one of the Church's pillars was expelled from Cheshunt College because the Principal and Professors considered him heterodox. This young man Mr. Hale White, afterwards became famous under his pen-name of "Mark Rutherford," as author of "The Revolution in Tanner's Lane" and other books of rare quality. The father wished the Church to protest to the college authorities on behalf of his son. As the Church did not do this, both father and son, with a number of other members, withdrew from the Church. Dr. Brown did much to heal this breach. He was an able, though not a great preacher, with a special influence over young men, and the congregation became deeply attached to him.
But it is by his "John Bunyan: His Life, Times, and Work" that Dr. Brown will be best remembered. This book represents an extraordinary industry, patience, and research, and remains the standard biography. In recognition of it, Yale University conferred on the author the degree of D.D. Dr. Brown's Bunyan researches were continued almost to his last days, and the results were incorporated in the later editions. In the first edition Dr. Brown advanced the theory that Bunyan was arrested for preaching on three occasions. The warrant for Bunyan's third arrest subsequently came to light. The much-disputed question of Bunyan's attitude in the Civil War seems to be settled by a discovery Dr. Brown made at the Record Office. The muster-rolls of the Parliamentary garrison of Newport Pagnell were found, and in these the name of John Bunyan appears twice. A rare book of Bunyan's bearing the imprint of Cowley,. bookseller, Newport Pagnell, recently came up for auction, and this, with the soldiering experience Bunyan gives in his autobiographical "Grace Abounding for the Chief of Sinners]]," seems conclusive. Dr. Brown also collected Bunyan relics, brought about the erection of a statue at Bedford, which was unveiled by Dean Stanley, and the presentation by the Duke of Bedford of the Bunyan gates, and made the plain meeting house the Mecca to which the feet of pilgrims turned from every part of the world.
Dr. Brown's learning and worth were recognized by the Congregational Union, of which he became chairman in 1891. His address entitled "The Historic Epscipate" aroused a good deal of controversy,. He wrote and lectured much, his chief works being "Apostolic Succession," "The Pilgrim Fathers of New England," "Puritan Preaching in England," "From the Restoration to the Revolution," "Commonwealth England," "The English Puritans," all of which are of value and authority to-day. Dr. Brown was, indeed, one of the makers of modern Congregationalism, to which he gave so much of his labour and loyalty. At the three International Councils in 1891 (London), 1899 (Boston, U.S..A.), and 1903 (Edinburgh), he took a leading part. He spent his retirement at Hampstead, where his kindly presence became well known.