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BROWN, WILLIAM Lawrence, D. D., an eminent theological and miscellaneous writer, was born, January 7, 1755, at Utrecht, where his father, the reverend William Brown, was minister to the English congregation. In 1757, his father removed with his family to St Andrews, in order to undertake the duties of professor of ecclesiastical history; and the subject of our memoir, having.commenced his education under his father's care, was placed successively at the grammar-school and university of that city, entering the latter at the early age of twelve. His native abilities, favoured by the fostering care of his father, enabled him, notwithstanding his immature years, to pass through his academical course with distinction; classical literature, logic, and ethics, being the branches of study to which he chiefly devoted his attention. After studying divinity for two years at St Andrews, he removed to Utrecht, where he prosecuted the same study, and also that of civil law. In 1778, having previously been licensed by the presbytery of St Andrews, he succeeded his uncle as minister of the English church at Utrecht; a field of exertion too narrow for his abilities, but which he, nevertheless, cultivated with the same zeal and application which a conscientious clergyman might be expected to bestow upon one more extensive. Such spare time as his duties left to him, he employed in attention to a few pupils whom he received into his house. He at the same time enlarged his range of study, and occasionally made excursions into France, Germany, and Switzerland. In 1786, he married his cousin, Anne Elizabeth Brown, by whom he had five sons and four daughters.

The first literary effort of Mr Brown, was an essay on the origin of evil, written for a prize offered by the curators of the Holpian legacy at Utrecht, and which was adjudged the second honour among the essays of twenty-five competitors, that of being published at the expense of the trust. Soon after this, namely, in 1784, the university of St Andrews conferred upon him the degree of Doctor in Divinity. Dr Brown was successful in several other prize essays, two of which were published, under the titles of "An Essay on the Folly of Scepticism," London, 1788; and "An Essay on the Natural Equality of Man," Edinburgh, 1793. The latter took a more sober view of the subject than was generally adopted at the time of its publication; and it accordingly became the means of introducing Dr Brown to the notice of the British government. Previously to the armed interposition of the Prussians in 1788, Dr Brown was exposed to so much annoyance on account of his attachment to the dynasty of Nassau, that he found it necessary to proceed to London, in quest of another situation. The event alluded to, not only enabled him to retain his former office, but caused his elevation to a professorship, newly erected in the university of his native city, for moral philosophy and ecclesiastical history. He unfortunately was not allowed sufficient time to prepare the two elaborate courses of lectures required in this new situation; and, by his extraordinary exertions to accomplish what was expected of him, laid the foundation of ailments, from which he never afterwards recovered. His inaugural discourse was published under the title of "Oratio de Religionis et Philosophiæ Societate et Concordia maxime Salutari." Two years afterwards, he was nominated rector of the university; and on depositing his temporary dignity, he pronounced an "Oratio de Imaginatione in Vitæ Institutione regenda," which was published in 1790. Though offered the Greek professorship at St Andrews, he continued in Utrecht, till the invasion of Holland by the French, in the beginning of 1795, when he was obliged to leave the country in an open boat, with his wife and five children, besides some other relations. Notwithstanding the severity of the season, the roughness of the weather, and the frail nature of the bark to which so many lives were committed, he reached the English coast in safety.


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