His Walk Beyond Fear: A Tribute to H. C. Brown, Jr.
Since neither he nor I had blood brothers, we became as such to one another. That relation led us through many experiences together, to be treasured forever. What is written here, then, flows from the deep resources of love, grief, and celebration.
In one of H.C.’s last books, he told the story of his walk toward fear. He spoke of his long anxiety lest others should know of his heart disease. He rejoiced in the victory over that anxiety which had come in connection with his first heart surgery. I always wondered about the use of the word “fear” It really did not belong in his vocabulary. Anxiety, yes, but fear, no. He was human, and so he had his moments of despair. But he was one of the bravest men I ever knew. His anxieties more than once said their prayers and whatever fear there was turned to hope. Today that hope has become sight.
I shall remember H.C. as a person of great joy. When we first met, he was completing his graduate study at Southwestern. He demonstrated the joy of a sharp, analytical mind. It was not surprising that he was soon chosen to teach at the seminary.
Later, I was to join the same faculty. And my brother gave me joyful encouragement in those fledgling days. Together with our beloved colleague, Jesse Northcutt, we hammered out the discipline of teaching preaching. For eleven years this was our common goal.
H.C. was a great teacher. I never knew a student who sat in his classes who did not love him. His analytical mind produced a careful emphasis on sermon form. His convictions on biblical preaching helped many students to discover that sermons exist only as they interpret the Word of God. Of the three of us who taught in the department at the time, he was the most meticulous in collecting material. This opened the door to his writing, which began in the early sixties to grow to prolific proportions, and which will perpetuate his ministry for decades.
H.C.’s joy extended to his own personal contacts. The pranks of faculty retreats, the ability to laugh at a good joke, the ability to kid, and even the stubborn debate-like hold to a point endeared him to me.
I shall remember H.C. as a person whose faith did not falter in personal loss. He lost three members of his family in the years we walked together. In every case he showed that God’s grace is sufficient. Without exception, he brought something productive from his sorrow, including a book, tenderly written in memory of Dorothy Ruth, his wife of many years.
I shall remember H.C. as a remarkable family man. He was a good father. God was good to let him stay with us until he knew of Kay’s full growth to womanhood and entry upon her own career. He was a good son and brother. We spoke often of his parents and of Elizabeth, his devoted sister. After Dorothy Ruth’s death, God sent Velma into H.C.’s life. It was my joy to read the vows which united them. Velma offered the love, the patience, and the strength he needed. Together they wrote, Together they became a team to “walk beyond fear.”
I shall remember H. C. as a courageous man in the face of illness. I have walked with my brother in his greatest crises. The test came when he was called upon to walk toward fear in open-heart surgery. He faced this challenge, as he faced all others, with a determination to live and to be productive for Christ. His great courage helped to carry him to recovery and usefulness.
Perhaps the most fitting tribute to God’s grace in H. C.’s life is that the years following surgery, years of reduced stamina and nagging residual problems, were among the most productive years of his life. His books and articles continued to flow into print. His devotion to his students continued, and these last years of teaching were surely among his best. Never once in our conversations did he communicate anything but faith and the highest resolve for the future.
But, physically, it was not to be. The recent months have seen his body devastated. In the midst of it all, however, faith and courage held. His last words to me, by telephone from his hospital room, were words of reconciliation with whatever came and of commitment to God’s will for his life. His determination to live continued with unbelievable force.
Thank God, that determination now has come to fruition. On Sunday morning, June 10, 1973, God received my brother to Himself. We who loved him are diminished. A part of us is gone. But the tears must not continue to drop for him. At last the warrior is home — no more pain, no more failure to find the strength he wanted so much, no more quivering of heart, no more tears. It is as he would have wanted it. This great, living, vibrant man who loved sports with avid fervor would not have wanted to live on without the ability to play in the game of life actively. H. C. has not only walked toward fear — he has now walked beyond it. We can thank God for a man like my brother. And we can be certain, in a house not made with hands, he has heard the Master’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Southwestern Journal of Theology
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