Born in Aberdeen in 1803, son of a bookseller who was twice Provost of the city, David Brown graduated M.A. from Marischal College in 1821 before proceeding to the Divinity Hall. Emerging from a period of doubt which accompanied his studies, he became a probationer in the Church of Scotland and assistant to the celebrated Edward Irving in London, 1830-32. Thereafter he was minister of a country charge, The Ord, near Banff, which he left in the year of the Disruption, 1843.
From that year as a minister of the Free Church of Scotland he exercised a fruitful ministry at St. James’ Free Church, Glasgow, until the General Assembly appointed him to a professorship at the Free Church College, Aberdeen in 1857. Meanwhile by his volume on Christ’s Second Advent (1847), Brown had become widely known as a theologian and writer, in recognition of which Princeton College conferred upon him the degree of D.D. in 1852. Though in his fifty-fifth year on returning to Aberdeen, his influential professorship continued for thirty years, his best work being done in Exegetics of the Gospels.
In 1876 he became Principal of the College, a position in which he remained until near the end of his long life. He was Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly in 1885. He died in 1897 at the age of ninety-four, being engaged in literary work to the last. After the death of Patrick Fairbairn he had been the foremost theologian of the Free Church.
Next to his Commentaries – including The Four Gospels, published by the Trust – his Restoration of the Jews, and his Life of Dr. Duncan were his best known works. He is described by W. Robertson Nicoll as ‘one of the most brilliant men we have ever known . . . But what impressed us at first in him, and all through, was that he had a true zeal for souls . . . His conception of Christianity was that of a revival Christianity and this conception dominated his life.’