Free Online Bible Library | Robert Barclay

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Robert Barclay

1648-1690. Scottish Quaker theologian and apologist. Son of a professional soldier who had fought with Gustavus Adolphus as well as in the Scottish army, Barclay was sent to France at the age of ten. There he spent four years studying with his uncle, who was rector of the Scots College (Roman Catholic) at Paris. Returning to Scotland, he followed his father in accepting Quakerism (1667). In 1670 he married a convert, Christina Mollison, settled at his estate at Ury, and began to write the apologetic treatises which were to bring him fame. Barclay's persecution began in 1672 after he walked through the streets of Aberdeen clothed with sackcloth and with ashes on his head. He was imprisoned the same year and several times thereafter, including his longest sentence during the winter of 1676-77. He also traveled to the Continent in the service of his faith. His first trip in 1676 brought him into contact with his distant relative Princess Elizabeth of the Rhine. She had taken an interest in Quaker ideals, and when Barclay left he carried a letter from her to Prince Rupert, asking him to use his influence on behalf of Quaker prisoners. In 1677 William Penn,* George Fox,* and Barclay went to Germany, and Robert once more interviewed Elizabeth. After his return to Scotland he became a favorite of the duke of York (later James II). This friendship led to the granting of the colony of East New Jersey to a group of Friends,* including Barclay who was made governor of the territory in 1683. Although he never went to the New World, his brother settled there. The province was meant to be a refuge for the persecuted and to provide a practical application of Quaker ideals of toleration. Among his many works the better known are A Catechism and Confession of Faith (1673), The Anarchy of the Ranters (1676), and An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, Being an Explanation and Vindication of the People Called Quakers (1678). Insisting upon divine inward revelation as necessary for true faith,Barclay also formulated the humanitarian and pacifist ideals still followed by the Society of Friends.

Truth Triumphant (Barclay's works) (1692); W. Armistead, Life of Robert Barclay (1850); M.C. Cadbury, Robert Barclay (1912); D.E. Trueblood, Robert Barclay (1968).

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