by Michael Haykin
Andrew Fuller and the Sandemanians
In December 1967, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave an address to what was then known as the Puritan Conference on the topic of ‘Sandemanianism’. Our initial reaction might be that the topic is esoteric, of little interest or value to modern men and women. But we would not feel this way if we were well-versed in the history of eighteenth-century Evangelicalism, the womb from which this particular doctrinal viewpoint came forth. Dr Lloyd-Jones proceeded to show that this theological aberration is of paramount importance for our own day. This article seeks to explore some aspects of the long-forgotten Sandemanian controversy.
Sandemanianism and the nature of saving faith
The roots of Sandemanianism lie in the 1720s when John Glas (1695-1773), minister of the Church of Scotland work in Tealing, Scotland, and a man of considerable erudition, gradually came to the conviction that Christ’s kingdom is one that is completely spiritual and, as such, independent of both state control and support. A church of some seventy believers was formed in the parish of Tealing, and over the next couple of decades ‘Glasite’ congregations could be found in Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh and booming textile centres such as Paisley and Dunkeld. Although the Glasites were never numerous, Glas’ views exerted wide influence throughout the British Isles and America, especially through the travels and writings of his son-in-law Robert Sandeman (1718-1771), whom Lloyd-Jones rightly describes as ‘a born controversialist’. In addition to adopting such practices as foot-washing, holy kissing, the use of lots to determine God’s will, and an insistence on unanimity in all church decisions, Glas’ and Sandeman’s followers also distinguished themselves from other eighteenth-century Evangelicals by a predominantly intellectualist view of faith. They became known for their cardinal theological tenet that saving faith is ‘bare belief of the bare truth’.
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