Adherents.com Home Page

< Return to Religion of History's 100 Most Influential People
< Return to Famous Presbyterians
< Return to Famous Sandemanians

The Religious Affiliation of the Scottish Clergyman
John Glas
the founder of Sandemanianism (i.e., the "Glasites")


From: "John Glas" article on Wikipedia.org website, incorporating text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Glas; viewed 26 September 2005):
John Glas (October 5, 1695 - 1773), was a Scottish clergyman.

He was born at Auchtermuchty, Fife, where his father was parish minister. He was educated at Kinclaven and the grammar school, Perth, graduated from the University of St Andrews in 1713, and completed his education for the ministry at Edinburgh. He was licensed as a preacher by the presbytery of Dunkeld, and soon afterwards ordained by that of Dundee as minister of the parish of Tealing (1719), where his preaching soon drew a large congregation. Early in his ministry he was brought to a halt while lecturing on the Shorter Catechism by the question "How doth Christ execute the office of a king?" This led to an examination of the New Testament foundation of the Christian Church, and in 1725, in a letter to Francis Archibald, minister of Guthrie, Forfarshire, he repudiated the obligation of national covenants.

In the same year he formed a society separate from the multitude, numbering nearly a hundred, and drawn from his own and neighbouring parishes. The members of this ecclesiola in ecclesia pledged themselves to join together in the Christian profession, to follow Christ the Lord as the righteousness of his people, to walk together in brotherly love, and in the duties of it, in subjection to Glas as their overseer in the Lord, to observe the Lord's Supper once a month and to submit themselves to the Lord's law for removing offences. From the scriptural doctrine of the essentially spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ, Glas in his public teaching drew the conclusions:

1. that there is no warrant in the New Testament for a national church
2. that the magistrate as such has no function in the church
3. that national covenants are without scriptural grounds
4. that the true Reformation cannot be carried out by political and secular weapons but by the word and spirit of Christ only.

This argument is most fully exhibited in a treatise entitled The Testimony of the King of Martyrs (1729). For the promulgation of these views, which were at variance with the doctrines of the national church of Scotland, he was summoned (1726) before his presbytery, where in the course of being investigated, he affirmed his belief that every national church established by the laws of earthly kingdoms is antichristian in its constitution and persecuting in its spirit, and further declared opinions upon the subject of church government which amounted to a repudiation of Presbyterianism and an acceptance of the puritan type of Independence.

For these opinions he was in 1728 suspended from his ministerial functions, and finally deposed in 1730. The members of the society already referred to, however, for the most part continued to adhere to him, thus constituting the first Glassite or Glasite church. The seat of this congregation was shortly afterwards transferred to Dundee (whence Glas subsequently removed to Edinburgh), where he officiated for some time as an elder. He next labored in Perth for a few years, where he was joined by Robert Sandeman, who became his son-in-law, and eventually was recognized as the leader and principal exponent of Glas's views; these he developed in a direction which laid them open to the charge of antinomianism.

Ultimately in 1730 Glas returned to Dundee for the remainder of his life. He introduced in his church the primitive custom of the osculum pacis and the agape celebrated as a common meal with broth. From this custom his congregation was known as the kail kirk. In 1739 the General Assembly, without any appeal from him, removed the sentence of deposition against him, and restored him to the status of a minister of the gospel of Christ, but not that of a minister of the Established Church of Scotland, declaring that he was not eligible for a charge until he should have renounced principles inconsistent with the constitution of the church.

In his personal life, Glas married Catherine Black, the eldest daughter of a Perth minister in 1721. The couple had a happy marriage and brought forth 15 children - all of whom predeceased him, as did his wife, who died of tuberculosis in 1749, 24 years before him. According to the accounts of the time, Glas was a most kind-hearted man, very fond of children, a most humane man, with not a trace of fanaticism or bigotry.

Glas's published works bear witness to his vigorous mind and scholarly attainments. His reconstruction of the True Discourse ef Celsus (1753), from Origen's reply to it, is a competent and learned piece of work. The Testimony of the King of Martyrs concerning His Kingdom (1729) is a classic repudiation of erastianism and defence of the spiritual autonomy of the church under Jesus Christ. His common sense appears in his rejection of John Hutchinson's attempt to prove that the Bible supplies a complete system of physical science, and his shrewdness in his Notes on Scripture Texts (1747). He published a volume of Christian Songs (Perth, 1784). A collected edition of his works was published at Edinburgh in 1761 (4 vols., 8vo), and again at Perth in 1782 (5 vols., 8vo).

From: "Glasites" article on Wikipedia.org website, incorporating text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica and 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopaedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Glas; viewed 26 September 2005):
Glasites, or Sandemanians, were a Christian sect, founded in about 1730 in Scotland by John Glas. It spread into England and America, but is now practically extinct.

Glas dissented from the Westminster Confession only in his views as to the spiritual nature of the church and the functions of the civil magistrate. But his son-in-law Robert Sandeman added a distinctive doctrine as to the nature of faith which is thus stated on his tombstone: "That the bare death of Jesus Christ without a thought or deed on the part of man, is sufficient to present the chief of sinners spotless before God."

In a series of letters to James Hervey, the author of Theron and Aspasio, he maintained that justifying faith is a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus, differing in no way in its character from belief in any ordinary testimony. In their practice the Glasite churches aimed at a strict conformity with the primitive type of Christianity as understood by them. Each congregation had a plurality of elders, pastors or bishops, who were chosen according to what were believed to be the instructions of Paul, without regard to previous education or present occupation, and who enjoy a perfect equality in office. To have been married a second time disqualified for ordination, or for continued tenure of the office of bishop.

In all the action of the church unanimity was considered to be necessary; if any member differed in opinion from the rest, he must either surrender his judgment to that of the church, or be shut out from its communion. To join in prayer with any one not a member of the denomination was regarded as unlawful, and even to eat or drink with one who had been excommunicated was held to be wrong. The Lord's Supper was observed weekly; and between forenoon and afternoon service every Sunday a love feast was held at which every member was required to be present. Mutual exhortation was practised at all the meetings for divine service, when any member who had the gift of speech (Xhpfo-jsa) was allowed to speak. The practice of washing one anothers' feet was at one time observed; and it was for a long time customary for each brother and sister to receive new members, on admission, with a holy kiss.

Things strangled and blood were rigorously abstained from; the lot was regarded as sacred; the accumulation of wealth they held to be unscriptural and improper, and each member considered his property as liable to be called upon at any time to meet the wants of the poor and the necessities of the church.

Churches of this order were founded in Paisley Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leith, Arbroath, Montrose, Aberdeen, Dunkeld, Cupar, Galashiels, Liverpool and London, where Michael Faraday was long an elder. Their exclusiveness in practice, neglect of education for the ministry, and the antinomian tendency of their doctrine contributed to their dissolution. Many Glasites joined the general body of Scottish Congregationalists, and the sect may now be considered extinct. The last of the Sandemanian churches in America ceased to exist in 1890.

Search Adherents.com

Custom Search
comments powered by Disqus

Webpage created 26 September 2005. Last modified 26 September 2005.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: webmaster@adherents.com.