Patrick Gillespie

Patrick Gillespie (1617–1675) was born 2 March 1617, and educated at St. Andrews University, where he graduated in 1635. In 1642, he became minister of the second charge of Kirkcaldy, and of the High Church of Glasgow in 1648. From that time he took a very prominent part in public affairs. He strenuously opposed any peace with the King, being a stout supporter of Cromwell, and was a leader in the group known as the protesters. He considered the terms made with Charles II unsatisfactory, and after the battle of Dunbar (3 September 1650) he helped raise an armed force, which was placed under the command of officers recommended by him.

He was the author of the ‘Remonstrance’ (December 1650) addressed to Parliament in which the protesters made the gravest charges against the public authorities, and condemned the treaty with the king. This seditious paper was condemned by church and state. Soon after the commission of assembly passed resolutions in favour of allowing all those who had been previously considered undesirable, on profession of their repentance, to take part in the defence of the country. Supporters of this commission were known as resolutioners. Against this Gillespie and his friends protested, and as the General Assembly, which met in July 1651, was likely to approve of the resolutions of the commission, they protested against its legality. For this he and two others were deposed from the ministry. They and their sympathisers disregarded the sentence, and made the first schism in the church since the Reformation.

There was now no one in Scotland who was in greater favour with the Protector, or who had more influence with him than Gillespie. Hence his appointment as Principal of the University of Glasgow in 1653. Protests that Gillespie was inexperienced in teaching, had been deposed from the ministry, and that the election belonged to the professors, were waved away. Gillespie’s record at the University is mixed. He spent lavishly on building projects, but left the University heavily in debt. Toward the end of his time in office he demolished a portion of the old buildings without building replacements, which had then to be done by his successors.

In 1653, Cromwell turned the General Assembly out of doors, and in the following year he called up Gillespie and two other protesters to London to consult with them as to a new settlement of Scottish ecclesiastical affairs. The result was the appointment of a large commission of protesters, who were empowered to purge the church of ministers whom they thought scandalous, and to withhold the stipend from any one appointed to a parish who did not possess a testimonial from four men of their party. This was known as ‘Gillespie’s Charter’, and was particularly odious to the resolutioners, who formed the great majority of the church.

In 1655, Gillespie and other protesters went to London to seek an increase of power. He obtained from the Protector a large addition of revenue to the university out of church property. After his return home he quarrelled with the town council, and was libelled for neglect of duty and maladministration of funds. In May 1659, he again visited London, and obtained from Richard Cromwell an increase to his income out of the college revenues.

At the Restoration, Gillespie’s support of Cromwell and his leadership of the protesters counted against him. He sent his wife to court to intercede for him, but was deprived of his office and imprisoned in Stirling Castle. In March 1661, he was brought to trial. He professed penitence, and threw himself upon the mercy of the court. He had powerful friends, and escaped with a sentence of confinement to Ormiston for a time. He could obtain no further employment in the ministry, and died at Leith in February 1675. [More via GASHE]

The Works of Patrick Gillespie:

The Ark of the Covenant Opened. (485 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via Internet Archive]
Also titled, “A Treatise of the Covenant of Redemption Between God and Christ, as the Foundation of Covenant Grace.” With an introduction by John Owen.

Rulers’ Sins the Causes of National Judgements. (15 pages)
[pdf epub mobi txt web via]
2 Kings 23:26. A sermon preached at the fast, December 26, 1650.

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