Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

21 Jan 1613 A.D. The “Great George Gillespie” of Scotland was born

21 Jan 1613 A.D.  The “Great George Gillespie” of Scotland was born.

Dr. Rusten tells the story.

Rusten, E. Michael and Rusten, Sharon. The One Year Christian History. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003.  Available at:

Mr. Gillespie was born in Scotland.  He graduated from St. Andrews University.  He came to prominence in 1637 when he anonymously published Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, Obtruded on the Church of Scotland.  By this time, the English leadership had become strenuously Arminian, strenuously anti-Genevan, and was loading up with Romanist pieties, e.g. bowing to stocks and stones and altars too.  Laud himself and his crops of cranks offended not just the Reformed in Scotland, but the Reformed in England…then, just like now.

Everyone of substance recognized and recognizes the Reformed characters of the English Reformers.  But, by Laud’s time, they were reading in their foul and un-Reformed theology injuring the Church and defiling Biblical and Confessional truth and consensus.

Mr. Gillespie criticized Charles 1’s imposition of English Episcopalianism on the Church of Scotland.

In 1643, he was Minister of Greyfriars in Edinburgh.  He was also the youngest of 4 Scotsmen to attend the famed Westminster Assembly in London.

At the assembly, he was called the “Great Mr. Gillespie” for his skilled defenses of Presbyterian governance.  Many stories emerged on his skills.

One story—perhaps apocryphal—involves a prayer that he offered. The subject before the Assembly was “What is God?”  Mr. Gillespie offered his prayer,  “God,” thou art a “Spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in Thy being, wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, justice and truth…” The answer allegedly was picked up and enshrined in the great Question and Answer 4 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a definition memorized by millions of Reformed offspring.

He was also involved in the debate as to whether the church or state could or should excommunicate the Mr. (Rev) Samuel Ruthersford, author of Lex Rex

He became the Minister of High Church in Edinburgh in 1647. 

In the summer of 1648, he was elected Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

In 1649, Mr. Gillespie became ill with tuberculosis.  From St. Andrews, Mr. Ruthersford wrote his younger colleague, “Be not heavy: the life of faith is now called for; doing was never reckoned in your account; thought Christ in and by you hath done more than by twenty, yea, an hundred gray-haired and godly pastors.  Believing now is your last. Look to that word, Galatians 2.20.”  Mr. Gillespie died in 1649 at age 36.

12 years after his death, 1661, Charles II would force Episcopalianism on the Church of Scotland.  The Parliament removed George Gillespie’s tombstone from his grave and broke it to pieces.

What the Anglicans didn’t, couldn’t and haven’t broken was Mr. Gillespie’s legacy, The Westminster Confession of Faith, a document far-beyond the Thirty-nine Articles of Church of England.


  1. God’s providence often takes younger people before older people. What can be learned from Mr. Ruthersford’s response?
  2. How should Reformed Anglicans think about 1662 and the Anglican repressions of the Scots Reformed Church?
  3. What might have been different if the Church of England had embraced the Westminster Confession of Faith?  Why did they toss it? 
  4. How should the Reformed and Presbyterian world evaluate those who remain Reformed but who use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer?  


Barker, William. Puritan Profiles.  Ross-Shire: Mentor, 1996.

Hodges, L.H. “Gillespie, George.” DSCHT. 359-60.

Loughridge, Adam. “Wesstminster Assembly (1643).” NIDCC. 1039.

No comments: