Moderates

The name given to various groups of Scottish divines in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Their basic position was that because of “our present happy constitution in Church and State” secured by the Revolution Settlement of 1690, hardships such as the presentation of ministers to parishes by lay patrons and the necessity of subscribing the Westminster Confession* of Faith could be endured. Their opponents regarded lay patronage as a serious infringement of the rights of the church, and many seceded from the “prevailing party” in the Church of Scotland in 1733, in 1761, and most notably in the Disruption* of 1843. The earlier Moderates were very critical of “man-made creeds and confessions” and tolerant of “infidels” such as David Hume and Lord Kames, but did not press for the removal of the legal requirement of subscription to the Confession. A later Moderate, George Hill, wrote a classic textbook of Calvinist doctrine, but the Moderates were more interested in science, history, and philosophy. They helped to found the Royal Society of Edinburgh. William Robertson's histories gained a European reputation, while Thomas Reid and the “Common sense” school of philosophers were influential in America.