Thursday, November 09, 2006
The Scottish Legacy Part 2
Thomas Boston(1676-1732)- Theologian and leader of the Marrow Men who were involved in the Marrow controversy resulting in Secession from the Church of Scotland. Upon his reading the book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity written in 1645 by Edward Fisher, a presbyterian layman whose occupation was a barber-surgeon, Thomas had a personal awakening. He became enthusiastic about the book feeling that the current orthodoxy was focusing too much on the law to the exclusion of grace and so he gave copies of the book to his colleagues. James Hog, one of Thomas's friends and a fellow Marrow man had the book republished in Scotland. The book was written four years before the appearance of the Westminster Confession and tried to mediate Neonomian and Antinomian views in season during that time. After its republication, the General Assembly in 1720 initiated the Black Act condemning the book and prohibiting its reading. The Black Act leveled 5 charges against Thomas and the Marrow Men. The Assembly condemned the Marrow as teaching, 1. assurance of salvation is of the essence of faith, 2. universal atonement, 3. holiness is not necessary to salvation, 4. fear and punishment and hope of reward are not proper motives for Christian obedience, and 5. that believers are not under the law as a rule of life. Thomas held firmly to the doctrine of predestination and agreed with Calvinist orthodoxy on this. Thomas did however hold to a two fold purpose in the death of Christ, believing that it definitely saved the elect but that also Christ is the only "Savior of the world," so that there is a gospel warrant for offering Christ to the whole world. Thomas believed the Bible taught only two covenants, contra John Cameron and the Calvinist orthodoxy of his day, denying the covenant of redemption. He believed the three covenant system violated the scriptural and reformational principal of grace alone. Thomas believed faith precedes repentance but accepted that knowledge of the law was necessary to come to the gospel. Thomas believed saving faith was inexorably tied to the scriptures as God's word is the only foundation for salvation. Thomas like Calvin denied implicit faith and held to a knowledge of Christ and the gospel doctrines as saving. Thomas did believe that assurance was grounded in Christ and his work alone and believers' obedience was to be out of love and gratitude and not law. Thomas's most famous work is Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and his study notes in current publications of The Marrow of Modern Divinity. For more on Thomas Boston consult Calvin and Scottish Theology by M. Charles Bell.
John Glas (1695-1773)- Theologian and founder of the independent Kirk of Scotland known as "Glasites" in Britain and" Sandemanians", after his son-in-law, in America. Originally in the Church of Scotland, John came to disagree with the establishment on National covenants and asserted that the church is a called out people as Christ's kingdom is not of this world. He led his congregation in this direction and was ousted by the Church of Scotland. John believed in taking the scriptures in a more literal sense and desired a return to a more primitive christianity. He rejected the use of confessions, believing them to be inappropriate substitutes for the sufficient scriptures. He held that "saving faith" is the bare belief of the bare record of scripture. To deny this is to deny both "Faith Alone" and "Scripture Alone". Despite these views he continued to hold to infant baptism. His most influential work is The Testimony of the King of Martyrs written in 1725. The movement he started would be extended and defended by his controversial and able-minded son-in-law Robert Sandeman.
Robert Sandeman(1718-71)- Theologian, Author, Glasite Elder, missionary and Popularizer of "Sandemanism". As an elder in the Glasite Church and husband of John Glas' daughter, Katherine, Robert popularized the Glasite faith in his magnum opus, Letters on Theron and Aspasio. Robert wrote this as a reply to the popular Puritan work, Dialogues Between Theron and Aspasio by James Hervey. In this classic work, Robert covered such topics as Christ's atoning work on the cross, how the gospel is to be presented, the natures of mystery and reason in the scripture, and finally the Biblical meaning of saving faith. Robert's understanding of saving faith was in contrast to that of the "popular preaching" of his day. Although a Calvinist himself, the Puritans' idea of faith as including the will and "holy affections", as taught in Dialogues, seemed to Robert a works-oriented salvation. For Robert, "Everyone then who is born of the spirit lives merely by what he hears without his performing any duty at all unless we shall say it was the duty of Lazarus to hear and live upon the uttering of the call come forth" (Letters, p88). Again he says on page 126, "It is a commandment not requiring anything of us but bestowing life by the knowledge which it conveys: for the belief or knowledge of Christ is happiness as Jesus says this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent. The belief or knowledge of a comfortable truth is not work or labor but rest and peace...". For Robert, salvation was by Christ's work alone and known by the gift of faith alone. Robert led churches in Edinburgh and London for many years until 1764 when he brought his teaching to America. He formed churches in Pennsylvania and neighboring states and finally came to reside in Danbury,Connecticut where he is buried in the Old Wooster Cemetery in which his head stone reads, "Here lies until the resurrection the body of Robert Sandeman, a native of Perth, North Britain; who in the face of continual opposition from all sorts of men, long and boldly contended for the ancient faith that the bare work of Jesus Christ, without a deed or thought on the part of man, is sufficient to present THE CHIEF OF SINNERS spotless before God; To declare this blessed Truth as testifyed in the Holy Scriptures, he left his Country, he left his Friends; and after much patient suffering, finished his labors at Danbury, April 2 1771 AE. 53" and on the lower part is the poem "Deigned Christ to come so nigh to us As not to count it shame, To call us Brethren, should we blush At aught that bears his name? Nay, let us boast in his reproach, And glory in his cross; When he appears, one smile from him Will far o'erpay our loss". His teaching outside of Scotland became known as Sandemanianism, (more properly Sandemanism.) Although his church in America is no longer in existence and there are only a handful of Sandemanians (Glasites) left in Scotland, variations of his influence have been represented in reformed denominations at some point in time and still are to this day.
Archibald McLean (1733-1812) -Former member of the Glasite church and a cofounder of the Scotch Baptists along with his mentor Robert Carmichael. Archibald and Robert found John Glas's interference in a disciplinary matter in their Glasgow congregation too intrusive and withdrew from his association. Having sympathizers in Edinburgh the men went there and started a new congregation with the seven former Glasites there. Archibald had been having doubts about paedobaptism anyway not finding it in the Bible and felt to truly get back to "primitive Christianity" baptism should be of believers only. He confided his convictions with Robert who agreed and went to London to be baptized by the famous Baptist pastor John Gill. Robert then returned to Edinburgh and baptized the congregation there. Robert shortly thereafter, left the Bristo Place Scottish Baptist Church for a church in Dundee, leaving Archibald as the primary elder. Archibald wrote voluminously on the doctrines of scripture causing much controversy even with his former associate John Glas over believer's baptism. Archibald, nonetheless, agreed firmly with Glas and Sandeman that faith is simply belief of the truth and that any additions denied sola fide. This later brought him into conflict with Andrew Fuller, the pastor of the baptist church at Kettering, England who is popular for his moderating calvinism. Fuller upon reading McLean's views on faith responded, eventually leading to his Strictures on Sandemanianism. McLean is considered to be the founder of the Baptist church in Scotland as Scottish Baptist churches formed over Great Britain through his books and articles he wrote for John Rippon's(Gill's successor) Annual Register 2. The Scottish Baptist Churches differed from their English and American counterparts in church government as the Scottish Baptists believed in a plurality of elders to run the affairs of the church and of course his views of faith which were considered Glasite/Sandemanian and hence the animadversions of the English Baptist pastor John Brine and the American Baptist pastor Isaac Backus to the work of Robert Sandeman would apply to McLean as well. His works also inspired the Irish born, Scottish educated Alexander Campbell who along with Barton Stone started the Restoration Movement in America. This movement ,however, taught in the Christian/Disciples of Christ/Churches of Christ churches, does not faithfully represent McLean as it degenerated into Arminianism and Baptismal Regeneration. See the 6 volume works of Archibald M'Lean for a detailed analysis of his doctrine.
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)- Mathematician and Theological leader in the Free Church movement in Scotland. Thomas became disgusted with the current social conditions of his time and set about a return to the scriptural way of relief for the poor. He taught the poor should work (2 these. 3:10), relatives should care for there own (1 Tim. 5:4), and only as a last resort charity from neighbors, the rich and the church. Thomas came to see the need for a disjunction in church and state and headed up a group which led to the formation of the Free Church in Scotland. Thomas was a Calvinist in his theology and held to a Scottish Common Sense Realism. Thomas is also the formulator of the "Gap Theory" of creation which says that their is a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 lasting for millions or billions of years in which dinosaurs and other early lifeforms lived and Lucifer fell bringing down God's judgment and subsequent recreation starting with Genesis 1:2. This view was elaborated on by George Pember in his Earth's Earliest Ages and popularized by C.I. Scofield in his Scofield Reference Bible which has come to be called the "Divine Judgement theory".