1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Glas, John

GLAS, JOHN (1695–1773), Scottish divine, was born at Auchtermuchty, Fife, where his father was parish minister, on the 5th of October 1695. He was educated at Kinclaven and the grammar school, Perth, graduated A.M. at 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 effective preaching soon secured a large congregation. Early in his ministry he was “brought to a stand” 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 his views found expression in the formation of 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 Mr Glas as their overseer in the Lord, to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper once every month, to submit themselves to the Lord’s law for removing offences,” &c. (Matt. xviii. 15–20). 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 confessedly at variance with the doctrines of the standards of the national church of Scotland, he was summoned (1726) before his presbytery, where in the course of the investigations which followed he affirmed still more explicitly 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 Independency. For these opinions he was in 1728 suspended from the discharge of 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 laboured in Perth for a few years, where he was joined by Robert Sandeman (see Glasites), 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, where the remainder of his life was spent. 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 application from him, removed the sentence of deposition which had been passed against him, and restored him to the character and function 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.

A collected edition of his works was published at Edinburgh in 1761 (4 vols., 8vo), and again at Perth in 1782 (5 vols., 8vo). He died in 1773.

Glas’s published works bear witness to his vigorous mind and scholarly attainments. His reconstruction of the True Discourse of 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 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). (D. Mn.)