John Barclay

1734-1798. Founder of the Bereans.* He trained for the Presbyterian ministry at St. Andrews, where he came under the influence of Dr. Archibald Campbell. A powerful preacher, Barclay served as assistant minister at Errol (1759-63) and Fettercairn (1763-72). He came under censure for the views expressed in his book Rejoice Evermore, or Christ All in All (1766). An appeal to the General Assembly (which was dismissed) enabled him to air his views in Edinburgh, where he gained a number of adherents who resolved to secede and invited Barclay to become their minister. He went to England for ordination at Newcastle in 1773. His church in Edinburgh became known as the Berean Assembly. From 1776 to 1778 he was in England, where churches of his persuasion were formed in London and Bristol. Returning to Edinburgh, he resumed his ministry there and in other churches which had been formed in Scotland.

Barclay diverted from current Calvinism in a number of particulars. He amplified the assertion of Doctor Campbell that man is unable to reach belief in God by using his rational powers, and he questioned the value of theistic arguments, even that from design. The revealed truth of the Bible can be received only by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Faith is neither a subjective emotion nor personal appropriation of Christ, but the intellectual acceptance of biblical revelation. Barclay therefore rejected both the moralism of the Moderates* and the “soul- struggles” of the Evangelicals, and asserted that assurance of salvation is the hallmark of Christianity. Unbelief is the sin against the Holy Ghost. Unbelievers cannot even pray for their own conversion. The Lord's Supper requires no special soul preparation.

See J. Thomson and D. McMillan (eds.), The Works of John Barclay (1852).