"For Reformation and Uniformity": George Gillespie (1613-1648) and the Scottish Covenanter Revolution
Description: As one of the most remarkable of the Scottish Covenanters, George Gillespie had a reputation in England and Scotland as an orthodox Puritan theologian and apologist for Scottish Presbyterianism. He was well known for his controversial works attacking the ceremonies of the Church of England, defending Presbyterianism, opposing religious toleration, and combating Erastianism. He is best remembered as one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly in London, which sought to reform the English Church and establish a uniform religion for the two kingdoms. This study assesses his life, ideas, and legacy. In Gillespie's estimation revelation and reason played complementary roles in the Christian life. While the Fall had affected man's reasoning abilities, man could rely upon natural law and scholarship as long as one kept them within the limits of God's truth revealed in Scripture. Moreover, he insisted that the church structure its worship ceremonies, government, and discipline according to the pattern set forth in the Bible. In addition, he emphasized the central role of God's Word and the sacraments in the worship of God and stressed the importance of cultivating personal piety. At the heart of Gillespie's political thought lay the Melvillian theory of the two kingdoms, which led him to reject Erastianism as subordinating the church to the power of the state. Furthermore, his delineation of the limits of the authority of the civil magistrate, presented a challenge to the state's authority and led him to formulate a radical version of the Covenanter doctrine of resistance to the state. While Gillespie supported uniformity of religion between England and Scotland, opposed religious toleration, and rejected the Engagement with King Charles, none of these causes proved successful in his lifetime. Yet these ideas influenced generations of Resolutioners, Protestors, Cameronians, and other heirs of the Scottish Covenanter tradition.
Date: May 2003
Creator: Culberson, James Kevin