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The Curious Conversion of Thomas Chalmers

John D. Clayton

Thomas Chalmers was arguably the most popular Scot and influential churchman of his age. However, when he was first educated, ordained, installed, and serving as a parish minister in the Church of Scotland, he was by his own admission not yet a converted Christian. How could a minister of the gospel not believe the gospel? How this happened is telling of his context, country, and church, but it is not a short story. From a confusion of church and state dating back to the Scottish Reformation to an increasing secularism in and through the Scottish Enlightenment, the Church of Scotland moved increasingly away from its Reformation roots and the necessity of the gospel in Christian conversion, as evidenced in the early life of Thomas Chalmers.

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Appendix Two: The Influential Doctrine of George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford



The Influential Doctrine of George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford

George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford, both Westminster Assembly commissioners, standout as representatives of the understanding of the seventeenth-century Kirk and its understanding of church and state. Both ministers argued biblically about the relationship of church and state but also applied their arguments to their own specific contexts.


George Gillespie was a remarkably gifted minister, author, and theologian who from a young age was known for his acute attention to detail in his theological arguments, publishing his first work by the age of twenty-three, and by thirty he was selected as a commissioner to represent the Kirk at the Westminster Assembly.1 Consistently in confrontation with the Erastians2 of the Assembly, the rigorous debate served as inspiration for his key work, published during the years of the Westminster Assembly in 1646, titled Aaron’s Rod Blossoming,3 which in summary is a treatise of the freedom of the church from the state under its Head, Jesus Christ. Gillespie describes a “twofold kingdom of Jesus Christ: one, as he is the eternal Son of God, reigning together with the Father and the Holy Ghost over all things,” and also as “Mediator and Head of the church.” No other king but Christ is king of the Church.4 Gillespie’s Mediatorial-distinction does not deny God’s sovereign reign over the earthly kingdom and the governments within it. As Christ is the eternal Son of God,...

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