A Brief Account of Mr John Brine, friend of Dr Gill
By John Purkis, from The Sinner Saved, The Huntingtonian Press, Spring 2000
“Grace is not our old nature made better, and excited unto spiritual acts; but it is a new nature produced in our minds by the infinite power and grace of God; for which reason we are said to be new creatures. Something now exists in us 17 which had no being in our minds before. Nothing short of this comes up to the scriptural account of this matter,” So wrote Mr. Brine in his Treatise of Regeneration, Conversion and Sanctification, and I begin these notes with that quote because it so encapsulates the view of Brine, Gill (and many others) with regard to the Gospel conversion of sinners.
John Brine. like John Gill, was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire in 1703, being 6 years Gill’s junior. His parents were poor with regard to this world’s goods, and John received little in the way of formal education. Howbeit, he was an intelligent and studious young man, and he read a great deal. He came early under the ministry of John Gill, who was at that time a member of the Baptist Chapel at Kettering, which was then pastored by Mr Thomas Wallis. Gill preached occasionally at Higham Ferrers, and he described Brine as being among the first-fruits of his ministry.
Brine married Anne Moore. a daughter of Mr John Moore (who died in 1726), another Baptist minister of Northampton, whom Gill describes as an “eminent preacher of the Gospel of considerable abilities and beaming, of whom I had the honour to have a personal knowledge of, and acquaintance with.” (It was from Moore that Brine inherited his Hutter’s Hebrew Bible, which was a great treasure to him.) However, Anne did not rest upon her religious upbringing and head- knowledge of these things, but laboured to get a sight and sense of her sin, and through the efficacy of divine grace, an abhorrence and detestation of it, along with a view of the loveliness of Christ, and was enabled to cast her soul upon him.
Brine himself was called into the ministry by the church at Kettering, where he continued for a few years until he was called to the pastorate at Currier’s Hall, Cripplegate, London. This church was raised up under the ministry of Hanserd Knollys (born 1598), who was the minister there for 50 years, dying at aged 93 in 1691. John Skepp was also the pastor of this church until 1721. Brine was the minister here for 35 years. He preached at the ordination of John Ryland, Sen. at Northampton in 1750, charging him to be “desirous to approve thyself to him [God], so be thou concerned diligently and faithfully to attend unto the duties of thy station in the church … Thou art to preach the Word, the Word of God; the Word of truth; the Word of life; the Gospel of salvation; the Gospel of the grace of God, even of the true grace of God, and not the counterfeit of it.” Wise words indeed which many so-called preachers of our day would do very well to take heed unto. Of the days in which Brine ministered, we may learn much from a preface to his Treatise on Various Subjects in which he says: “Our present situation, as a people professing Christianity, calls for two things in an especial manner. One is the defence of the doctrines and principles of our religion, and that revelation wherein those principles are contained. For many persons curtail, corrupt, or oppose the most important doctrines of the religion of Jesus, which makes it necessary truly to state, and thoroughly explain, and defend them from the cavils and objections of bold and daring adversaries. And most needful it is to vindicate the sacred Word of God. which is objected unto by many, some in one way, and some in another; but the design of them all is to sink its credit with men, and to take them off from religiously regarding the sacred Scriptures”
He goes on to say that there is a need to convince professors of that lukewarmness indifference and sad declension into which they are now fallen. The reader will instantly recognise the clear parallel with our own day, which give Brine’s works a great deal of contemporary relevance.
When Gill retired from giving his Wednesday evening lecture in Eastcheap, Brine (along with some others) carried it on. He also preached the Lord’s Day evening lecture in Devonshire Square. Indeed, his whole life was said to be one of ministerial labour, he was also a very considerable writer, although his works are rarely to be met with today. Brine lived for many years in Bridgewater Square, Barbican. although latterly he resided in Kingsland, where he died. Shortly before he died he said “I think I am of sinners the chief, of saints the least. 1 know that 1 am nothing, but, by the grace of God, I am what 1 am.” He died on February 21st, 1765. aged 63 years. He left orders that no funeral sermon should be preached for him, however, on the occasion, Dr. Gill preached from 1 Cor. 15: 10, and as an appendage he said. “I am debarred from saying so much of him as otherwise 1 could do. We were born in the same place, and he was among the first-fruits of my ministry. 1 might take notice of his natural and acquired abilities, his great understanding, clear light, and sound judgement in the doctrines of the Gospel, and the deep things of God; of his zeal, skill, and courage in vindicating important truths, published by him to the world,’ and by which he being dead, yet speaketh. I might also observe to you, that his walk and conversation in the world, was honourable and ornamental to the profession which he made, and suitable to the character he sustained as a minister of Jesus Christ, which endeared him to his friends, and to all who knew him: but 1 am forbid to say more.”
To gain a fuller understanding of Brine we could do worse than examine some of his writings. As they are not particularly common upon the bookseller’s shelves these days it is worth quoting some passages in full, and these are drawn from his Various Treatises, the first is taken from On The Depravity of Human Nature: “Some observations upon this subject.
1.Pride in men, as it is a sin, so it is extreme folly. For we have lost all that which was the true glory of our nature, and are become the subjects of such base and sordid lusts, as render us most abominable and hateful. 2. Salvation must be unconditional and free; because as the human mind is thus debased. it is incapable of performing duty, in order to the reception of divine benefits. 3. It is astonishing goodness in God favourably to regard men. 4. He is at full liberty to bestow the special blessings of his grace on whom he pleases, since none can prevent divine goodness by acts of holy obedience. 5. lt betrays self-ignorance in those who extol human wisdom and power. 6. If we imagine that we have a natural capacity of doing good, it is an evidence that we are in state of unregeneracy.”
One can immediately see how different this is from the easy- believism of today’s preaching. Calling upon the dead to “Close with Christ” accept Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour”, or even to “Yield to the Holy Spirit” is demonstrated clearly to be contrary to the scriptural understanding of the state of fallen man. Note how in point 6. Brine describes those who “imagine they have a natural capacity of doing good” as evidence that they are unregenerate. If Brine is right (and he would need to be proved wrong from the Scripture), how many unregenerate men do we have in our pulpits and authoring “Christian” books today? Brine himself says that “some may think 1 have used too much freedom in censuring several popular, and very spreading principles among us.” However, he also goes on to say, “This, 1 am convinced is a liberty that some do not like with what they publish to the world … and some are offended, if their writings are examined and their real sentiments are exposed to view.” Brine had no difficulty in discriminating between real conversion and the mere semblance of it as his writings abundantly prove.
In On Growth in Grace he says, “The saints can sin without being acted by another, but they cannot act in a holy spiritual manner without assistance from Christ, who is their Head of life and influence. Without him they can do nothing. They are not sufficient of themselves, as of themselves, to think anything that is good and holy. And, therefore, good men often pray for heavenly aid and assistance. Self endeavours to mortify sin will always prove ineffectual. The Holy Spirit is the sole Author of this work.” What a contrast to the man-centred, works-based religion that is passed off as the Gospel these days, how we need to contend for these things!
I want to close this brief account with a quotation that shows Brine at his most pastoral, dealing with declension in the believer again drawn from On Growth in Grace. “What saint soever is declined in grace, whether he is gone off from the practice of his duty or not, Christ and the truths of the Gospel are less valued by him than formerly they were. His thoughts are less employed on the person of Christ, and he hath not the same relish and savour of evangelical truths. He is not so much conversant with them, nor hath the same pleasure in them as formerly. His mind is entertained with other objects and his affections are grown cool to heavenly things. If this is our case, as it certainly is the sorrowful condition of many professors in our days., and considering how general this is, it is very much if it is not thus with us in some degree; let us be persuaded of this, as a certain truth, that a revival under this melancholy decay, must begin where we were directed by the Holy Spirit at our first conversion, to begin in our actings God-ward viz. in an application unto Christ, who is our life, our all, and in a renewed application of the report of the Gospel concerning him in his person, offices, work, and precious benefits. Without this an alteration for the better is not to be expected; for if it is we shall certainly meet with a sad disappointment. Grace when decayed will never recover its vigour unless it is acted on those glorious objects, which it is a disposition to view and embrace with delight.”
Reader, let us make it our hearty prayer that the Lord will be pleased of his free grace to apply these things to our souls, and to raise up men like unto John Brine once more to minister his Word to his people in our day.
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