The Anonymous Writings of George Gillespie: A Defense of Authorship.
By Chris Coldwell
Copyright 1997 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett

The following is a much expanded version of the earlier article: A Defense of George Gillespie's Authorship of Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty. Some page numbers referred to below have reference to a forthcoming collection of the anonymous writings of George Gillespie, which contains a refined and expanded defense of authorship.

George Gillespie, the young theologian associated so closely with the Second Reformation in Scotland through his polemic against unlawful ceremonies,1 the author of the death blow refutation to the Erastian scheme of church government,2 and one of the key figures in the assembly that produced the documents that even today in one form or another, constitute the statement of faith of most Presbyterians,3 also wrote several anonymous tracts of a controversial nature, which for the most part have resided in obscurity for the last 350 years. There are four of these tracts, one on the liturgy controversy in Scotland, and three dealing with (among other things) the subject of "religious toleration."

The known anonymously published works of George Gillespie are:

1. Reason For Which the Service Book Ought to be Rejected (Edinburgh, 1638)

2. Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty (London, 1644/45)

3. Faces About: Or a Recrimination against John Goodwin (London, 1644)

4. A Late Dialogue Betwixt a Civilian and a Divine (London, 1644)

I. In reality, the first anonymously published work of Gillespie was his first book, English Popish Ceremonies, published in 1637 and smuggled into Scotland at the breaking forth of the Second Reformation. But with the success of the Reformation, his authorship became public and propelled him to the first ranks of those involved in the Reformation of his day. This book was a leading factor in his being chosen as one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. His second published work, also on the worship controversies facing Scotland, was Reasons for which the Service Book urged upon Scotland ought to be rejected. This article along with Reasons against the rendering of our sworn confession, attributed to Archibald Johnston, were bound with editions of The confession of faith of the Kirk of Scotland, subscribed by the Kings majesty . . . 1580 With a designation of such acts of parliament, as are expedient, for justifying the union, after mentioned And subscribed by the nobles, 1638 (Edinburgh: G. Anderson, 1638). These were also printed with the Latin edition of the Confession, and with Reasons for a General Assembly (1638). It is ascribed to Gillespie by Robert Baillie.

We have some reasons against the service in print ... I took the author to be Mr. Henderson, but I am informed since, they came from Mr. George Gillespie, a youth who waited on my Lord Kennedy, and is now admitted to the kirk of Wemyss maugre St. Andrews beard, by the presbytery. The same youth is now given out by those who should know, for the author of the English Popish Ceremonies: whereof we all do marvel; for though he had gotten the papers, and help of the chief of that side, yet the very composition would seem to be far above such an age. But if the book be truly of his making, I admire the man, though I mislike much of his matter. Yea, I think he may prove amongst the best wits of this isle.4

William Campbell writes that Reasons was so able a pamphlet that "Baillie took the writer to be Henderson, but he later discovered that the author was Gillespie. These four pages are the most succinct and pithy presentation of the case against the Service Book that I know. In one phrase he damns all ceremonious liturgies. ‘It quenches the Holy Spirit because he gets no employment.’"5 Reasons was republished for the first time since 1638 in the appendix to the Naphtali Press edition of English Popish Ceremonies.

II. The next three anonymous writings of Gillespie all address to some degree the topic of "toleration," which was a hotly disputed subject at the time. Unlike Reasons, which did not bear Gillespie’s name as the document was prepared as a public statement for the church, these three were published anonymously because of the political realities with Gillespie being a Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly.6 Because Wholesome Severity has become known due to the recent controversies over Theonomy,7 Gillespie’s authorship of this piece will be covered first and more fully, rather than taking the three in chronological order.

There is excellent historical evidence for Gillespie’s authorship of Wholesome Severity. The source of the attribution of this work to Gillespie is his cousin, Rev. Patrick Simpson (1628-1715). Simpson was 19 or 20 when Gillespie died (1648). He evidently grew up with his cousin (see M’Crie’s comment in Wodrow’s Correspondence, volume 1, pp. 14), and he was present when Gillespie was sick and dying. The historian, Robert Wodrow, knew Simpson, corresponded with him, and at one time interviewed him and stayed with him for three days. From this interview we have Simpson’s recounting of Gillespie’s last illness and death and the statement that Wodrow says he has from Mr. Simpson’s mouth that Gillespie was the author of Wholesome Severity and Dialogue Betwixt a Civilian and a Divine:

George Gillespie was born January 21st, 1613. He was first minister at Weemyse, the first admitted under Presbytery 1638. He was minister at Weemyse about two years. He was very young when laureate, before he was seventeen. He was chaplain first to my Lord Kenmure, then to the Earl of Cassilis. When he was with Cassilis, he wrote his ‘English Popish Ceremonies,’ which when printed, he was about twenty-two. He wrote a ‘Dialogue between a Civilian and Divine;’ a piece against Toleration, entitled ‘Wholesome Severity reconciled with Christian Liberty.’ He died in strong faith of adherence, though in darkness as to assurance, which faith of adherence he preached much. He died December seventeen, 1648. If he had lived to January 21, 1649, he had been thirty-six years. (‘Memoir of the Rev. George Gillespie,’ Works, p. xl.)

Wodrow’s personal assessment of the long lived Mr. Simpson, was that "I have now had long acquaintance of him, and never knew one more pleasant and profitable in conversation ... He had one of the clearest judgments, and yet the most exact and tenacious memories that I ever knew."

The evidence then in support of Gillespie’s authoring Wholesome Severity is a usually reliable and accurate historian’s recording of facts from an interview of a man of unusually clear tenacious memory (for his age). And who better than a close friend and relative to know what Gillespie may have or may not have written, and who may well have collected and read all the material by his famous cousin? And why would he mention these works? Would it not be because they were published anonymously and he knew his cousin wrote them and wanted to attest to that fact? Wodrow termed Simpson one of the last "antediluvian" Presbyterians. He saw him as an important source of data, given, one supposes, his relationship to Gillespie, one of the prime movers of the Second Reformation. In addition to Wodrow, Gillespie’s authorship of Wholesome Severity was accepted by such theologians and/or historians as James Walker, Theology and Theologians of Scotland, who refers to the tract as little known in 1872 (p. 101),8 Macpherson, Doctrine of the Church in Scottish Theology,9 Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant,10 J. King Hewison, The Covenanters,11 and Campbell, "George Gillespie" in the Records of the Scottish Historical Society.12

Objection from Exclusion from the Collected Works.

The objection has been raised that there is some sort of significance to the fact that William M. Hetherington (or whoever made the editorial decisions) did not include Wholesome Severity (or Dialogue betwixt a Civilian and a Divine) in the only collection every made of his works, the Presbyterian’s Armoury edition of 1844.13 This is the edition used for the photo-reprints made this century of portions of Gillespie’s works. Hetherington states that it was the goal to make the collection as complete as possible, so therefore, the conclusion is drawn by some that the exclusion of Wholesome Severity bears some significance. However this is a rather weak objection considering:

1. Hetherington includes the attribution of Wholesome Severity to Gillespie from Wodrow via Simpson in his Memoir of Gillespie appended to the collected works. Hetherington writes in his Advertisement: "Being desirous to render this Edition of Gillespie’s works as full and complete as possible, several small and comparatively unimportant papers have been copied from the Wodrow Manuscript, some account of which will be found at the close of the Memoir.14 An appendix to the Memoir contains all that could be gleaned from Wodrow’s Analecta, as printed by the Maitland Club." The fact Hetherington did not dispute the Wodrow extract, when he included it by his own choice in the Memoir without comment or qualification, would seem to obviate this line of reasoning.

2. Other papers are not included in the collection, so it was never the intention to be a perfectly complete edition. For instance state papers from 1648 are mentioned in the Memoir but are not included in the collection. In addition, Reasons For Which the Service Book Urged Upon Scotland Ought to be Refused, was not included, and indeed, never even mentioned or referenced anywhere in the collection. Baillie attributes this short piece to Gillespie, appended to editions of the confession circulated in 1638 (see below).

3. In speaking of Gillespie’s Assertion of the Government, Hetherington states: "The valuable treatise here referred to has not been so much noticed as several other of Gillespie’s writings, but is included in this collective edition." This would seem to imply that value judgments were made on whether to include works in the collection, and that "complete works" was never meant to imply perfectly complete. The collected works actually includes all but the 1648 Assembly papers of Gillespie, and the anonymous tracts. Rather than concluding Gillespie authorship of these should be rejected, a more reasonable conclusion would be to conclude that they were not included because they were not considered important enough to take the effort to find the rare copies, or even if copies were available, to undertake the work to include them.

4. Hetherington writes in his Advertisement, "Although the great value of Gillespie’s various works was well known to many, yet there had been no recent reprints of them and they had become so very scarce that it was with great difficulty any of them could be obtained." It is quite possible that Wholesome Severity was left out of the collection because a copy of the text to print from could not be found.

So for these reasons it would seem to be special pleading to dispute Gillespie’s authorship of Wholesome Severity simply from its exclusion from the Armoury edition of his works. This same argument would apply to Dialogue Betwixt a Civilian and a Divine.

Similar Style and Content

Arguments from style and content are of smaller consequence taken alone, but with the historical data as a foundation, they affirm and make the case even stronger that Gillespie was the author of Wholesome Severity.

1. Similar sources are cited. In two works from 1645 and Wholesome Severity (1645) we find the use of the reformed theologian, Gualther: Wholesome Severity (Commentary on Deuteronomy), the House of Lords Sermon (1 Corinthians, Isaiah, Malachi), and Nihil Respondes (1 Corinthians). Gillespie cites Gaulther on Deuteronomy a couple of times in his Assertion (1641), and on 1 Corinthians in Aaron’s Rod (1646). He also cites Pelgarus on Deuteronmy and Piscator on Acts in Assertion, which are both cited in Wholesome Severity. Grotti Apologeta is cited in Wholesome Severity and in Gillespie’s Brotherly Examination (1645). The German reformed theologian Bartholomaeus Keckermann’s Systema logicae is cited in Aaron’s Rod, and Keckermann’s Curs. Philos. (Course in Philosophy) in Wholesome Severity (Keckerman’s collected works were published: Opera Omnia, Geneva, 1614 – He is referenced also in Dialogue, p. 48). Tossanus on John is cited in Aaron’s Rod, and on Matthew in Wholesome Severity.

2. There are similar themes or ideas among various works and Wholesome Severity.

(1) Gillespie speaks of Presbyterian Government being maligned in Aaron’s Rod and Wholesome Severity:

Aaron’s Rod Blossoming (Armoury, p. xix):

I know well that there are other horrid calumnies and misrepresentations of presbyterial government, besides that of encroaching upon magistracy; but they are as false as they are foul. And although we go upon this disadvantage which Demosthenes (being loadened with a heavy charge and grievous aspersions by Aeschines) did complain of, that, though by right, both parties should be heard, yet the generality of men do, with pleasure, hearken to reproaches and calumnies, but take little or no pleasure to hear men’s clearing of themselves or their cause; and that his adversary had chosen that which was more pleasant, leaving to him that which was more tedious. Nevertheless I must needs expect from all such as are conscionable and faithful in this cause and covenant, that their ears shall not be open to calumnies, and shut upon more favourable informations. And, how3ever, let the worst be said which malice itself can devise, it shall be no small comfort to me, that our Lord and Master hath said, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake."

Wholesome Severity (p.116; see also Anthology, volume 4, p. 198):

Does not the Solemn League and Covenant bind you sincerely, really, and constantly to endeavor the nearest (mark nearest) uniformity and conjunction in religion; and that you shall not suffer yourselves directly or indirectly to be withdrawn from this blessed union and conjunction. I know there is a spirit of jealousy walking up and down. O beware of groundless fears and apprehensions. Judge not, lest you be judged. Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment (Matt. 7:1; Jn. 7:24). Many false rumors and surmises there have been concerning the Presbyterian principles, practices, designs. Expertui lequor [I speak from experience]. I am persuaded if there were but a right understanding one of another’s intentions, the accommodation I speak of would not be difficult. Brethren, if you will not hearken to wholesome counsel, you shall be the more inexcusable. I have in my eye that law of God, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him (Lev. 19:17). Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov. 17:6). Therefore love the truth and peace (Zech. 8:19). Yea, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11).

(2) And in both works it is argued that the abuse of a thing is not a reason against its right use:

Aaron’s Rod Blossoming (Armoury edition, p. xix):

... When I speak of this divine ordinance of church government, my meaning is not to allow, much less to animate any in the too severe and over-strict exercise of ecclesiastical discipline and censures. ... Yet a failing there may be, and hath been, both ways. The best things, whether in church or state, have been actually abused, and may be so again, through the error and corruption of men. The abuse of a thing which is necessary, and especially of a divine ordinance, whether such abuse be feared or felt, ought not, may not, prejudice the thing itself. My purpose and endeavour shall be (wherein I beseech the Lord to help my infirmities) to own the thing, to disown the abuses of the thing, to point out the path of Christ’s ordinance without allowing either rigour against such as ought to be tenderly dealt with, or too much lenity towards such as must be saved with fear, and pulled out of the fire, or at all any aberration to the right or left hand.

Wholesome Severity (pp. 100, 110; also see Anthology, volume 4, p. 189, 195):

True, it may fall out so; and so the Lord save us that we never be accessory to the persecuting of any who are in the truth, for so it may be again through men’s corruption and abuse of the Magistrate’s power (so the best things may be abused)...

Thirdly, we must distinguish between the coercive power of the Magistrate in matters of religion, and the abuse of that power. When we justify the power, we justify not the abuse of it; and when we condemn the abuse, we must not therefore condemn the power. Acontius (Stratagemata Satanae., lib. 3, p. 147), builds much upon this notion: let a man imagine that his lot is fallen in those times when the truth is persecuted by authority, when the Magistrate justifies the wicked and contemns the godly (which has been the more ordinary condition of the Church), and then let him accordingly shape the resolution of the question concerning the Magistrate’s punishing of heretics. Will not a man think, he says, it had been better that heretics had not been punished, than that upon pretence of coercive power against heretics, the edge of the civil sword be turned towards the preachers and professors of the truth? But notwithstanding of all this, truth must be truth, and justice must be justice, abuse it who will. Parliaments and Synods have been many times enemies to the truth, and have abused their power in matters of religion: must we therefore deny the power of Parliaments and Synods? or must we cast off any ordinance of God because of the abuse of it? If the thing were indifferent, the abuse might take away the use: not so, when the thing is necessary...

(3) Liberty of conscience is addressed in Wholesome Severity and some of the same ideas are covered in his House of Lords Sermon, where very similar language is also used (emphasis add).

Sermon Before the House of Lords (Armoury edition, p. 12):

2. In the second place, think of the extirpation of heresy and of unsound dangerous doctrine, such as now springs up apace, and subverts the faith of many. There is no heretic nor false teacher which has not some one FAIR PRETEXT or another; but bring him once to be tried by this refining fire, he is found to be like a potsherd covered with silver dross (Prov. 26:23). What is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord (Jer. 23:28), and what is the dross to the silver? If this is the way of Christ which my text speaks of, then surely that which now passes under the name of liberty of conscience is not the way of Christ. Much has been written of this question. For my part I shall, FOR THE PRESENT, only offer this one argument. If liberty of conscience ought to be granted in matters of religion, it ought also to be granted in matters civil or military, as is acknowledged, therefore neither ought it to be granted in matters of religion. Put the case: Now there are some well-meaning men, otherwise void of offence, who from the erroneous persuasion of their consciences, think it utterly sinful, and contrary to the word of God, to take arms in the Parliament’s service, or to contribute to this present war, or to obey any ordinance of the lords and commons, which tends to the resisting of the king’s forces. Now compare this case with the case of a Socinian, Arminian, Antinomian, or the like. They both plead for liberty of conscience; they both say our conscience ought not to be compelled, and if we do against our conscience, we sin. I beseech you, how can you give liberty of conscience to the heretic, and yet refuse liberty of conscience to him that is the conscientious recusant in point of war? I am sure there can be no answer given to this argument which will not be resolved in this principle: Men’s consciences may be compelled for the good of the state, but not for the glory of God. We must not suffer the state to sink, but if religion sinks we cannot help it. This is the PLAIN ENGLISH of it.

When I speak against liberty of conscience, IT IS FAR FROM MY MEANING TO ADVISE ANY RIGOROUS OR VIOLENT COURSE AGAINST SUCH AS, BEING SOUND IN THE FAITH, AND HOLY IN LIFE, and not of a turbulent or factious carriage, do differ in smaller matters from the common rule. Let that be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it (Job 3:4), in which it shall be said that the children of God in Britain are enemies and persecutors of each other. He is no good Christian who will not say Amen to the prayer of Jesus Christ (John 17:21), that all who are his may be one in him. If this is heartily wished, let it be effectually endeavored; and let those who will choose a dividing way rather than a uniting way bear the blame

Wholesome Severity (p.77; Anthology, volume 4, 178-179):

But now will the sectaries be contented (as Christ’s witness in former times were) to be examined and judged according to the word of God, and if they are found to be what they are accused to be, then suffer accordingly? Nay, if so, they fear they shall run too great a hazard. Therefore they cry out for toleration and liberty of conscience, hereby going about not only themselves to fish in troubled waters, but to improve at once the manifold advantages of sympathizing with the principles of the most part of men amongst us; for as it is a common plea and bond of union among all heretics and sectaries, how many soever their divisions and sub-divisions are among themselves; yea, they give (in this) the right hand of fellowship to the Prelatical and malignant party, for they also put in for liberty of conscience: and as carnal and profane men desire nothing more than that they may not be compelled to any religious duty, but permitted to do what seems good in their own eyes. So liberty of conscience is a sweet and taking word among the less discerning sort of godly people, newly come out of the house of bondage, out of the Popish and Prelatical tyranny; I say the less discerning sort, because those of the godly who have their senses exercised to discern good and evil, know that liberty of heresy and schism is no part of the liberty of conscience which Christ has purchased to us at so dear a rate. But is there no golden book and taking bait for the Magistrate? Yes surely; for his part he is told that he may punish any breach of peace or civil justice, or a trespass against the State and against civil authority, but yet not put forth his power against any man for heresy or schism, being matters of religion and of conscience. As if both politicians and divines had been in a great error when they said that the end and use of Magistracy is to make bonum hominem, as well as bonum civem, a good man as well as a good commonwealth’s man. Shall I add further, that all who wish well to the public from principles either of religion or policy, want not here their own temptations, persuading to a toleration of sectaries, in regard of the necessity of an union against the common adversary, and the great hazard, if not certain ruin, of the cause, by our own ruptures?

Under these FAIR colors and handsome PRETEXTS do sectaries infuse their poison, I mean their pernicious, God provoking, truth defacing, Church ruinating, and State shaking toleration. THE PLAIN ENGLISH OF THE QUESTION is this: whether the Christian Magistrate is keeper of both tables: whether he ought to suppress his own enemies, but not God’s enemies, and preserve his own ordinances, but not Christ’s ordinances from violation. Whether the troublers of Israel may be troubled. Whether the wild boars and beasts of the forest must have leave to break down the hedges of the Lord’s vineyard; and whether ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing must be permitted to converse freely in the flock of Christ. Whether after the black devil of idolatry and tyranny is trod under our feet, a white devil of heresy and schism, under the name of tender consciences, must be admitted to walk up and down among us. WHETHER NOT ONLY PIOUS AND PEACEABLE men (whom I shall never consent to persecute), but those also who are as a pestilence or a gangrene in the body of Christ, men of corrupt minds and turbulent spirits, who draw factions after them, make a breach and rent in Israel, resist the truth and reformation of religion, spread abroad all the ways they can their pernicious errors, and by no other means can be reduced; whether those also ought to be spared and let alone.

3. There are similar phraseologies used (see also (3) above).

Gillespie uses Gallio to illustrate a favorite idea, the nullifidian, and the adiaphorist for one who views all things as things indifferent, in Wholesome Severity, English Popish Ceremonies, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, as well as in Faces About (p.33; 1644 edition, p. 4), and Dialogue (p.69; 1644 edition, p. 34). Compare from English Popish Ceremonies, "The atheistical nullifidian, nothing regards the assoiling of ecclesiastical controversies; he is of Gallio’s humor (Acts 18:17), and cares for none of those things..." "the pragmatical adiaphorist, with his span-broad faith and ell-broad conscience, does no small harm..." (Naphtali Press edition, p. xxvi-xxviii) -- and Aaron’s Rod, "Let the Gallio’s of this time (who care for no intrinsical evil in the church)..." (Armoury edition, p. xv) -- with Wholesome Severity, "The first is when the Magistrate is a Nullifidian, Neutralist, and Adiaphorist, esteeming as Gallio did ...." (p.107; see also Anthology, volume 4, p. 193.)

It is also interesting at least to note in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) that English Popish Ceremonies is cited as a usage example of the term "nullifidian," and Wholesome Severity is cited as one for "adiaphorist." And for what it is worth, the OED attributes Wholesome Severity without controversy to George Gillespie in the list of works cited for usage.

There is also similar use of language and ideas in English Popish Ceremonies and Wholesome Severity.

In Wholesome Severity the author writes (p.102; also in Anthology, volume 4, p. 191):

The thing being necessary, as has been said, it is pars tuitor, yea, tuitissima [it is the safer part, yea, the very safest], that a man is compelled to it ... though it is against his erring and ill informed conscience.

In English Popish Ceremonies Gillespie writes (Naphtali Press edition, p. 25):

If it is said again, What should be done to them who have not laid down the error of conscience, but do still retain the same? I answer, that which is safer and better is chosen. If therefore the error of conscience is about weighty and necessary matters, then it is better to urge men to the doing of a necessary duty in the service of God, than to permit them to neglect the same, because their erring conscience disapproves it; for example, it is better to urge a profane man to come and hear God’s word than to suffer him to neglect the hearing of the same, because his conscience allows him not to hear. But if the error of conscience is about unnecessary things, or such as are in themselves indifferent, then it is pars tutior [the safer part], the surest and safest part not to urge men to do that which in their consciences they condemn.

Thus there is very strong historical as well as internal evidence to support the attribution of Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty to George Gillespie.

III. Faces About according to Campbell was published after Dialogue, although the indications from the microfilm of the Thomason Tract collection seems to indicate otherwise.15 Both Johnston, in his Treasury of the Covenant,16 and Campbell in his article on George Gillespie,17 attribute Faces About to Gillespie. Neither gives any authorities for this attribution. However there is evidence in Wholesome Severity that the author of that piece wrote an earlier piece, and there is a play on words involving the titles, Faces About and As You Were (an answer to Faces About).

Wholesome Severity (p.81; also in Anthology, volume 4, p. 180):

The second opinion falls short, as far as the former exceeds: that is, that the Magistrate ought not to inflict any punishment, nor put forth any coercive power upon heretics or sectaries, but on the contrary grant them liberty and toleration. This was the opinion of the Donatists, against which Augustine has written both much and well, in diverse places: though himself was once in the same error, till he did take the matter into his second better thoughts, as is evident by his Retractions (lib. 2, cap. 2, and epist. 48). In the same error are the Socinians and Arminians (See Peltii Harmonia, Artic. 21; Nic. Bodecher, Sociniano. Remon-strantismus, cap. 25. See also Grotii Apologeticus, cap. 6, p. 130; Theoph. Nicolaid, Tractat. de Ecclesia, cap. 4, p. 33). The very same is maintained in some books printed amongst ourselves in this year of confusion: viz. The Bloody Tenet; Liberty of Conscience; The Compassionate Samaritan; John the Baptist; and by Mr. Goodwin in his Theomaxia, and his Innocencies Triumph. In which places he denies that the Magistrate, and particularly that the two Houses of Parliament, may impose anything pertaining to the service and worship of God under mulcts [fines] or penalties. So M.S. to A.S. (pp. 53-55, etc.), disputes against the coercive power of the Magistrate to suppress heresies and sects. This power the Presbyterians do ascribe to the Magistrate, as I shall show by and by. Therefore I still aver (emphasis added), that Mr. Goodwin in denying and opposing this power, herein (as in diverse other particulars) ascribes much less to the Magistrate than the Presbyterians do: which overthrows that insinuation of the five Apologists. 17

Faces About (p.38; 1644 edition, p. 11):

He gives a sore blow to the Parliament’s power (p. 50). "To hold that the persons so elected (unto parliamentary trust and power) have a power, by virtue of such nomination or election, to enact laws and statutes in matters of religion, and to order, under mulcts or penalties, how men shall worship and serve God; as it is a means to awaken the eye of jealousy upon them, and so is seven times more destructive," etc. Surely this is a means to waken the parliaments eye of jealousy upon himself. Shall every one in Israel do in religion what seems good in his own eyes? Shall the Covenant, how necessary soever for the good of the Kingdom, be left free, that every man may take it or refuse it, as he lists? May the civil power inflict no punishment on those that do evil? And who do more evil than soul-destroying, and church disturbing heretics? Has the magistrate no coercive power in matters of religion? Let the five Apologists animadvert to this, and look how sweetly it agrees with their solemn professing, that they give more to the magistrate, than the principles of Presbyterian Government will yield (Apol. Nar., p. 19).

... I fear, if the genealogy of this same doctrine of his were searched for, it should be found to have origination and descent from Socinians and Arminians, which (I conceive) I could demonstrate if I had leisure to turn over my books.

In Faces About the author denies that the Independent way (advocated by the Apologetical Narration of the five Independent brethren, and commended by John Goodwin) gives more to the magistrate than the Presbyterian form of church government, and then in Wholesome Severity the author maintains that he is still of this opinion (there is no prior statement in Wholesome Severity related to this statement and it is obviously referring to a previous publication). Note that the author postulates in Faces About that this doctrine of Toleration probably had roots with the Socinians and Arminians, and in Wholesome Severity he demonstrates this with citations (also showing its connection to the Donatists).

In Wholesome Severity, Gillespie interacts with several of Goodwin’s publications, as well as one ascribed to Hezekiah Woodward which was a short and direct reply to Faces About. This work is entitled, As you were, or, A reducing, if possibly any, seduc’t ones, to facing about, turning head, front against God, by the recrimination, so intended, upon Mr. J.G., Pastor of the church in Colmanstreet, in point of fighting against God / by an unworthy auditor of the said ... Iohn Goodwin. 1644. In Wholesome Severity Gillespie refutes the notions regarding Gamaliel expressed by both Goodwin and the author of As You Were, and makes a play of words with that title (as Goodwin and the author of As You Were had done with Faces About).

Wholesome Severity (p.103; also Anthology, volume 4, p. 191-192):

5. The next thing [that] comes in my way is an argument brought for liberty of conscience, from Gamaliel’s speech in favor of the apostles (Acts 5:38-39). Refrain from these men and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work is of men, it will come to nought. But if it be of God ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. The strength of his argumentation did lie in this dilemma: this doctrine or way is either of men, or of God. If it is of men, you shall not need to repress it, for it will come to nought of itself, which he proves by two historical instances of Judas and Theudas. If it is of God, it is in vain to strive against it, for it must prevail, and the counsel of heaven must stand. Therefore be what it will be, there is no danger to let it alone. But on the other side, if you go about to repress it, you run the hazard both of fighting against God, and of provoking the displeasure as well of the Romans, who have not permitted unto you the liberty of capital punishments, as of the people of the Jews who magnify these men and their way. This is the whole substance, sense, and scope of that speech of Gamaliel in the Council. Hence did some argue for a toleration to Servetus and other heretics. And though this their way was then discovered to be their folly, yet their posterity approve their sayings. The same argument is used in that pamphlet called Liberty of Conscience (pp. 34-35). Upon the same foundation Mr. Goodwin builds in Theomaxia, and the Paraenetick for Christian Liberty (pp. 2, 11), supposing the credit and authority of Gamaliel’s speech, for matter of truth to be one and the same with other Scriptures, and that there is nothing in all that speech but what is fully consonant with the word of God, unquestionably so acknowledged. So Mr. Goodwin affirms (p. 10), and after him one P.P. (which is by interpretation, Poor Pamphleteer) falls in the same ditch; he might well call it As You Were, for he makes that party to be never a jot more in the right. First of all he will commend Gamaliel’s speech, and justify Mr. Goodwin’s doctrine. Sure I am, Calvin takes Gamaliel to be a godless politician, and a neutralist, and his speech to have great error in it. So says Pelargus upon the place.

... Next he will not yield so much as that Gamaliel did doubt whether the apostles’ doctrine was from God or not, and that he made it an uncertain case. In this sir, you have faced about, sure you are not As You Were, for Mr. Goodwin himself Theomaxia, p. 11), says that "Gamaliel in point of judgment or conscience, was still but where he was, doubtful and in suspense with himself about the business."

So Wholesome Severity, which Gillespie wrote according to the proof cited, has internal evidence that the author wrote a previous work against John Goodwin. Other evidence about the titles, as well as the content, point to Faces About, as that prior piece.

IV. A Late Dialogue Betwixt a Civilian and a Divine is a tract in the form of a dialogue, a popular format at the time for discussing controversial subjects. In this fictional conversation between a citizen of London and a divine, subjects are discussed such as, the sin of delaying reformation, whether there was a form of church government that is jure divino, whether there was ecclesiastical excommunication among the Jews, as well as the subject of Toleration. It is attributed to George Gillespie by his cousin, Patrick Simson, for which see the discussion above concerning Wholesome Severity. The internal evidence to support this claim is very strong.

While there is similar vocabulary and phaseology (we see the term nullifidian, and references to Gallio and Gamaliel, see discussion on Wholesome Severity above), and similarity of authors cited (to Wholesome Severity and other works by Gillespie), there is content similar in places to English Popish Ceremonies, and very similar to places in Aaron’s Rod Blossoming.

Dialogue (p. 50; 1644 edition, p. 10-11):

How was the Lord offended with Jeroboam’s setting up of altars at Dan and Bethel; yea even with the Kings of Judah, for not taking away the high places, though Jeroboam might have pleaded that it was extremely dangerous (in regard of the war betwixt him and Rehoboam) that his subjects should go to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the Lord there. And the Kings of Judah might plead, that it was too burdensome for all the people to be tied to go to Jerusalem with their sacrifices; that God would have mercy and not sacrifice; especially considering that they held the foundation, and sacrificed to the Lord only; and this variation from the law of Moses, being in no substantial thing, but only in the circumstance of the place.

In like manner, Jeroboam thought not fit to have the Feast of Tabernacles upon the fifteenth day of the seventh month, but upon the fifteenth day of the eighth month, when the fruits of the earth were more fully gathered in; he would observe the feast according to the law in all the substantials, but would not be tied to the circumstance of time. But God does utterly reject his worship, because Jeroboam had devised it of his own heart (1 Kings 12:33).

English Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 1993, pp. 316-317 -- Part 3, Chapter 8, section 19):

Now, if any prince in the world might have fair pretences [claims] for the making of such innovations in religion, Jeroboam much more. He might allege for his changing of the signs of God’s presence, and of the place of worship, that since Rehoboam’s wrath was incensed against him, and against the ten tribes which adhered unto him (as appears by the accounting of them to be rebels, 2 Chron. 13:6, and by the gathering of a huge army for bringing the kingdom again to Rehoboam, 2 Chron. 11:1), it was no longer safe for his subjects to go up to Jerusalem to worship, in which case God, who required mercy more than sacrifice, would bear with their changing of a few ceremonies for the safety of men’s lives. For his putting down of the priests and Levites, and his ordaining of other priests which were not of the sons of Levi, he might pretend [claim] that they were rebellious to him, in that they would not assent unto his new ordinances, which he had enacted for the safety and security of his subjects, and that they did not only simply refuse obedience to these his ordinances, but in their refusal show themselves so steadfastly minded, that they would refuse and withstand even to the suffering of deprivation and deposition; and not only so, but likewise drew after them many others of the rest of the tribes to be of their judgment (2 Chron. 11:16), and to adhere to that manner of worship which was retained in Jerusalem. Lastly, for the change which he made about the season of the feast of tabernacles, he might have this pretence [claim], that as it was expedient for the strengthening of his kingdom to draw and allure as many as could be had to associate and join themselves with him in his form of worship (which could not be done if he should keep that feast at the same time when it was kept at Jerusalem); so there was no less (if not more) order and decency in keeping it in the eighth month, when the fruit of the ground were perfectly gathered in (for thankful remembrance whereof that feast was celebrated) than in the seventh, when they were not so fully collected.

These pretences [claims] he might have made yet more plausible, by professing and avouching that he intended to worship no idols, but the Lord only; that he had not fallen from anything which was fundamental and essential in divine faith and religion; that the changes which he had made were only about some alterable ceremonies which were not essential to the worship of God, and that even in these ceremonies he had not made any change for his own will and pleasure, but for important reasons which concerned the good of his kingdom and safety of his subjects. Notwithstanding of all this, the innovations which he made about these ceremonies of sacred signs, sacred places, sacred persons, sacred times, are condemned for this very reason, because he devised them of his own heart (1 Kings 12:33), which was enough to convince [convict] him of horrible impiety in making Israel to sin.

Later and more significantly in Dialogue the divine is demonstrating that the Jews had separate and distinct civil and ecclesiastical governments. While wording is not exactly the same as in Aaron’s Rod, it is very similar and a closely similar outline is followed. More to the point, some of the same citations are used, with exactly the same quotations in Latin.

Dialogue (p. 57; 1644 edition, p. 18):

Though the Jewish Church and commonwealth were for the most part not different materially, the same men being members of both, even as in all Christian republics; yet they were formally different from one another, in regard of distinct acts, laws, courts, officers, censures, and administrations.

Aaron’s Rod (Part 1, chp 2, pp. 3-4):

First. The Jewish church was formally distinct from the Jewish state. I say formally, because ordinarily they were not distinct materially, the same persons being members of both; but formally they were distinct, as now the church and state are among us Christians.

Dialogue (p.57; 1644 edition, p. 19):

Learned Master Selden (De jure natur. & Gentium. L. 2. Cap. 4) has rightly observed that those proselytes, who were called prosilyti justitiae, though they were initiated into the Jewish religion by circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice; and were free not only to worship God apart by themselves, but also to come into the Church or Congregation of the Israelites, and did get to themselves the name of Jews; yet were restrained and debarred from dignities, magistracies and preferments, as also from some marriages which were permitted to the Israelites.

Aaron’s Rod (p. 4):

7. In respect of members; for, as Mr. Selden hath very well observed concerning that sort of proselytes who had the name of Proselyti Justitiae. They were initiated into the Jewish religion by circumcision, baptism and sacrifice; and they were allowed not only to worship God apart by themselves, but also to come into the church and congregation of Israel, and to be called by the name of Jews.

The exact same Latin is referenced from Selden in both books cited above: Proselytus Justitiae utcunque novato patriae nomine Judaeus simpliciter censendus esset quam peregrinus semper, cui jura quamplurima inter cives.

Dialogue (p.58; 1644 edition, p. 20-21):

I shall do M. Selden so much right as to appeal from him to himself, for in another place where he writes at greater length of the Jewish excommunication, he describes it to have been a separation, not only from the former civil commerce and company in regard of that distance of four cubits, but also from communicating together in prayer and holy assemblies. And that it was so, it is not only the most received opinion of Protestant divines, but even of those who have devoted themselves to the study of Jewish antiquities, such as Drusius, Johannes Coch, L’Empereur, and others.

Brughton also, in his exposition of the Lord’s prayer (p. 14, etc.), tells us that the Jewish Church and the apostolic Church, though they differed about traditions and about the Messiah, yet for government they agreed.

De anno civili Judaeor cap. 18. Neque enim à Templo, Sacrificiis, aut Conventibus sacris omnino quis apud cos ex sententia aliqua Excommunicationis, sive firensi, sive alia humana arcendus erat.

Selden de Jure natur. & Gent. Lib. 4. C. 9. Atque is plane a communicatione orationis, et conventus, et omnis sancti commercii relegabatur, quemadmodum de hujusmodi anathemate sub initiis ecclesiae Christianae loquitur Tertullianus.

Drusius, Quaest. & Resp. lib. 1. Quaest. 9. Solebunt autem veteres (Judaei) si quis gravius deliquerat primum eum movere caetu ecclesiastico: si non emendabat se, tum feriebant anathemate: quod sine tum quidem redibat ad frugem, ultimo ac postremo loco samatizabant.

Annot. In Exc. Gemar. Sanhedrem, cap. 1, Qui simpliciter excommunicatus est (menudde) est ille quidem separatus a caetu, ita ut pro vero membro ecclesiae non habeatur.

Dr. Buxtorf. Dissert. de literis Hebraeor. Th. 49, has observed a notable passage in Pirke, and in Ielammedenu, which makes much for this point in hand. It is concerning the Samaritans, who being circumcised by two elders of Israel sent to them, and having received the book of the Law, were afterwards upon just causes excommunicated by Ezra. ….

Gillespie also cites these same authors, and mostly the same places in Aaron’s Rod (Ibid, p. 19ff), and uses the same exact Latin quotations.

These four anonymously published works of Gillespie are not unworthy of the author, and demonstrate his abilities and wit, as well as any of the works published under his name. Indeed, Dialogue of all of these four is the most interesting, as it would seem to show some preparatory work that eventually found its way into Aaron’s Rod Blossoming. Reasons could be viewed as a merited follow up to English Popish Ceremonies, giving the young author of that monumental book a hand in the official documents circulating in 1638 to promote the Second Reformation. Faces About is little more than a pamphlet that led Gillespie into a fuller dispute with those advocating toleration, which he drew out more fully in Wholesome Severity.


1 A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 1993). Also in Works: A Presbyterian’s Armoury (Edinburgh: Robert Ogle and Oliver and Boyd, 1844).

2 Aaron’s Rod Blossoming (Sprinkle Publications, 1985), a reprint from Works: A Presbyterian’s Armoury (Edinburgh: Robert Ogle and Oliver and Boyd, 1844).

3 The Westminster Standards.

4 The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie (Edited by David Laing; Edinburgh, 1841), vol., 1, p. 90. Cited in English Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 1993), pp. xix-xx.

5 William M. Campbell, "George Gillespie," in Records of Scottish Church History Society (Endinburgh, 1949), Vol. 10, p. 109.

6 William M. Campbell, "George Gillespie," in Records of Scottish Church History Society (Endinburgh, 1949), Vol. 10, p. 118. "In fairness to Gillespie it can be said that policy rather than poltroonery dictated the anonymity of his tracts for he had an abundancy of personal courage." Toleration and accomodation was still to be addresed by the Assembly of Divines and the Parliament.

7 Theonomy is not addressed in this paper, nor does it necessarily imply one is a theonomist if one holds to Gillespie authorship of Wholesome Severity. Nor should non-theonomists be driven to deny his authorship, by the use some theonomists have made of this tract. Similar passages in other authors of the period are referred to by theonomists, so nothing is really achieved by ignoring the evidence that Gillespie wrote Wholesome Severity. It is as much of a mistake to ignore differences in these earlier writers and anachronistically call them theonomists, as it is to ignore the similarities which leads them to that exaggerated way of speaking. Of course a great deal of the problem in discussing theonomy, is the elusiveness of a single definition of the word. Even some theonomists concede that the word, theonomy, has become a liability to the discussion of the relationship between the civil magistrate and the Old Testament judicial laws. Now, it appears some theonomic authors are attempting to clarify (or redefine depending upon one’s point of view) theonomy as simply "general equity" (WCF 19:4). If this is true, it would seem hard to justify the coining of a new term for this established truth, which older divines have warned against for the tendency it has toward stirring up needless strife in the church (i.e. James Durham, Concerning Scandal, Naphtali Press 1990, p. 240). As to the handling of earlier authors such as Gillespie, one can only hope for a better level of scholarship on both sides of the theonomy question.

8 James Walker, The Theology and Theologians of Scotland 1560-1750 (1872, Revised 1888. Reprint by Knox Press, 1982), p. 101.

9 John Macpherson, The Doctrine of the Church in Scottish Theology (Edinburgh, 1903), p. 40. Also, Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Theology, volume 5 (Naphtali Press, 1992), p. 139.

10 Rev. John C. Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant (Edinburgh: 1887), p. 303.

11 J. King Hewison, The Covenanters: A History of the Church of Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution (Glasgow, 1913), vol. 1, p. 384.

12 William M. Campbell, "George Gillespie," in Records of Scottish Church History Society (Endinburgh, 1949), Vol. 10, p. 113.

13 Harold Cunningham, "Liberty of Conscience: A Problem for Theonomy," Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 13, November 1997, Theological Seminry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland. "A tract, at least specific portions of it, widely distributed by theonomists, and alleged to come from the pen of Gillespie is entitled, Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty. It was never included in any of Gillespie’s works, and is considered by some authorities as being of doubtful origin, nevertheless as so much dependence has been placed upon it recently, in articles such as Give Me that Old Time Theonomy it merits some investigation." It would have been better, particularly in a theological journal, had Dr. Cunningham named authorities, rather than leave the impression of a reliance on unnamed sources. Authorities in support of Gillespie’s authorship have already been cited, and the burden of proof is on those who deny it.

14 This has reference to the first time publication of the Notes of the Assembly.

15 UMI, Early English Books 1641-1700, Faces About (reel 230:E13, no 17) Dialogue (reel 230:E14, no 17) Wholesome Severity (reel 232:E24, no 5). Faces About has Oct 21 written by hand on the cover, Dialogue has Oct 30, and Wholesome Severity has Jan 8. Wholesome Severity has the imprimature date of December 14, 1644, published on the title page, so these do not apply to the date of imprimature, if to anything. However, they could be the day of publication, in which case Dialogue follows Faces About by nine days.

16 Rev. John C. Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant (Edinburgh: 1887), p. 303.

17 William M. Campbell, "George Gillespie," in Records of Scottish Church History Society (Endinburgh, 1949), Vol. 10, p. 113.