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Glasite Meeting House, Perth, Scotland

The Glasites /ˈɡlæsts/ or Glassites were a small Christian church founded in about 1730 in Scotland by John Glas.[note 1][1] Glas's faith, as part of the First Great Awakening, was spread by his son-in-law Robert Sandeman into England and America, where the members were called Sandemanians.[2]

Glas dissented from the Westminster Confession only in his views as to the spiritual nature of the church and the functions of the civil magistrate. But Sandeman added a distinctive doctrine as to the nature of faith which is thus stated on his tombstone:[3]

That the bare death of Jesus Christ without a thought or deed on the part of man, is sufficient to present the chief of sinners spotless before God.[4]

In a series of letters to James Hervey, the author of Theron and Aspasio, Sandeman maintained that justifying faith is a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus, differing in no way in its character from belief in any ordinary testimony.[3][note 2]

Beliefs and practice[edit]

Sandemanian graveyard, Gayle, Yorkshire

In their practice the Glasite churches aimed at a strict conformity with the primitive type of Christianity, as understood by them. Each congregation had a plurality of elders, pastors, or bishops, who were chosen according to what were believed to be the instructions of Paul, without regard to previous education or present occupation, and who enjoy a perfect equality in office.[5] To have been married a second time disqualified one for ordination, or for continued tenure of the office of bishop.[3]

In all the action of the church unanimity was considered to be necessary; if any member differed in opinion from the rest, he must either surrender his judgement to that of the church, or be shut out from its communion.[6] To join in prayer with anyone not a member of the denomination was regarded as unlawful, and even to eat or drink with one who had been excommunicated was held to be wrong. The Lord's Supper was observed weekly; and between forenoon and afternoon service every Sunday a love feast was held at which every member was required to be present.[3] This took the form not of symbolic morsels of wine and bread, as in other communions, but a (relatively) substantial meal, a custom leading to the Glasites' nickname of 'Kail Kirk' for the Scotch broth that was served at this setting.[7] This custom may have arisen, in part, as a charitable response to the poverty of most members of this Church and also as a pragmatic response to the length of meetings (particularly the sermons) and the distances some members of the congregation had to travel in order to attend.

At Glasite services, any member who "possesses the gift of edifying the brethren", was allowed to speak. The practice of washing one another's feet was at one time observed; and it was for a long time customary for each brother and sister to receive new members, on admission, with a holy kiss.[3]

"Things strangled and blood" were rigorously abstained from. They disapproved of all lotteries and games of chance. The accumulation of wealth they held to be unscriptural and improper.[8]


2009 photo of Glasite Church building in Dundee

A church was set up by Glas in Dundee following his suspension by the Church of Scotland, with its congregation becoming known as Glasites. The first meeting house in Perth followed in 1733.[9] Glasite churches were also founded in Paisley, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leith, Arbroath, Montrose, Aberdeen, Dunkeld, Cupar, and Galashiels.[3] Buildings built as Glasite chapels survive in Dundee, Edinburgh and Perth (two), Galashiels and possibly elsewhere.[10]

Sandemanian Churches in England[edit]

Glas's views were again advanced beyond Scotland with Sandeman's publication of Letters on Theron and Aspasio in 1757. The resulting correspondence between the leading church elders, Glas and Sandeman, and English pastors, Samuel Pike, John Barnard, and William Cudworth among others, led to the adoption of this primitive form of Christianity for their London congregations beginning in the early 1760s.[11] John Barnard's petition to Robert Sandeman brought the latter south to London from Scotland in April 1761 with his brother William and John Handasyde, an Elder from the Northumberland meeting house. This visit led to the establishment of the first legitimately constituted Sandemanian congregation on 23 March 1762 at Glover's Hall.[12] To accommodate larger gatherings, this congregation moved initially to the Bull and Mouth-Street, St. Martin's Le Grand, and then to Paul's Alley in the Barbican in the autumn of 1778.[13][14] This third London meeting house was that of Michael Faraday's youth.[note 3] The Sandemanians relocated to Barnsbury Grove, in north London, in 1862 where they met until nearly the turn of the century. Michael Faraday was a Deacon at Paul's Alley in the Barbican during the 1830s, an Elder there from 1840 to 1844 and again from 1860 to 1864, the final two years of which were at the Barnsbury Grove meeting house (see 2008 photograph[15]).[16] A plaque was installed in the building indicating his seat of prayer. The building was converted into a telephone exchange, and that end of Barnsbury Grove renamed Faraday Close.

Barnsbury Grove, Islington. 2008 photo of a 19th-century Sandemanian meeting house

Beyond London[edit]

Pulpit in the Glasite Meeting House, Edinburgh

As the congregation at the Bull and Mouth-Street, St. Martins-le-Grand, London solidified through the inclusion of noted pastors like Samuel Pike in 1765, other English parishes followed their Sandemanian lead.[17] The first response outside London occurred in Yorkshire with followers of Benjamin Ingham. Ingham discreetly sent two of his preachers, James Allen and William Batty, to Scotland to observe Glasite practices in 1761. Of these three Methodist preachers, only Allen fully converted and began to establish Sandemanian meeting houses in Northern England, to include his hometown of Gayle, Kirkby Stephen, Newby, and Kirkby Lonsdale. By 1768 Allen, together with John Barnard and William Cudworth from London, helped establish congregations in York, Norfolk, Colne, Wethersfield, Liverpool, Whitehaven, Trowbridge and Nottingham.[18] Sandeman personally established fewer than a dozen churches in England including Liverpool before he went to America in 1764.[19] The Trowbridge meeting house, in Wiltshire, was the location to which Samuel Pike moved and at which he preached for the final two years until his death in 1773.[20]

Sandemanian Churches in America[edit]

Robert Sandeman sailed into Boston from Glasgow aboard the George and James, captained by Montgomery, on 18 October 1764.[21] At the invitation of Ezra Stiles, Sandeman preached his first sermon in Newport on 28 November. He spent Christmas and most of January 1765 in Danbury, Connecticut, discussing theology and church governance with Ebenezer White and his followers. Over the next four months Sandeman and his party travelled to New York, Philadelphia, New London, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and finally Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Sandeman established his first church in Portsmouth on 4 May 1765 accompanied by James Cargill, Andrew Oliphant, and his nephews. Within the month Sandeman returned to Boston and established his second meetinghouse in the home of Edward Foster. From Boston, he returned to Danbury and created his third church among White's followers with Joseph Moss White and himself serving as elders.[22] Sandeman referred to his church as formal to distinguish it from Ebenezer White's church that retained traditional church authority.

Colonial resistance to Sandemanianism initially stemmed from the absence of ministerial authority within their congregations. This lack of a central authority challenged the existing social fabric throughout New England which relied upon the state to enforce church orthodoxy. As many colonials rose up in protest of punitive Crown policies in the decade following Robert Sandeman's arrival, his followers remained passively loyal, in Paul's footsteps, setting the stage for bitter estrangement between the factions.[23] It was not until Sandeman's passing in 1771 that the remnants of the Danbury church moved to New Haven and formed the fourth church in America. Sandemanians as a whole were labeled "Loyalists" for their pacifist stance, to conform with Paul's teachings, since they did not oppose the crown like so many of their colonial brethren.[24][25] In addition to passivism, many of the Boston congregation evacuated with the British and went into exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia, further escalating the fears of their colonial brethren. This relocation to Halifax lead to the formation of the fifth church. A Boston printer, Mr. John Howe, followed the British lead to Canada with his family only to return alone with the British army to document the unfolding war story upon its return to New York.[26][27] Horace Marshall, in his article History of Danbury, mentions two additional Sandemanian congregations located south of Boston in Newtown and Taunton, Massachusetts. It is not clear what role, if any, Robert Sandeman played in the establishment of these congregations, though the Boston records indicate he performed several marriages in that city during the winter and spring of 1767 to 1768.[28][29] A great many Loyalist Sandemanians were uprooted during the revolution and lost most of their property.[30] John Howe's story exemplifies this situation. In his case, he sailed to Nova Scotia and became an elder in the congregation that formed.[31]


The last of the Sandemanian churches in America ceased to exist in 1890.[3] The London meeting house finally closed in 1984.[32] The last Elder of the Church died in Edinburgh in 1999.

Their exclusiveness in practice, neglect of education for the ministry, and the antinomian tendency of their doctrine contributed to their dissolution.[33] Many Glasites joined the general body of Scottish Congregationalists, and the denomination has long been considered extinct.[3]

Critics of Sandemanianism[edit]

A prominent critic of Sandemanian beliefs was Baptist Andrew Fuller (1754–1815), who published Strictures on Sandemanianism (1812), in which he argued that if faith concerns the mind only, then there could be no way to distinguish genuine Christians from nominal Christians. He also argued that knowing Christ is more than mental knowledge of facts about Him; it involves a desire for fellowship with Him and a delight in His presence.[34]

John "Rabbi" Duncan said once that Sandemanianism was "the doctrine of justifying righteousness along with the Popish doctrine of faith."[35]

Sandemanian families and notable members[edit]

Prominent Sandemanian families include the surnames Barnard, Baynes, Baxter, Boosey, Bell, Deacon, Faraday, Leighton, Mann, Vincent, Whitelaw and Young. There was a strong link between the Sandemanians and scientists. Notable members of the Sandemanian Church include William Godwin, Michael Faraday,[36] Charles Wilson Vincent and James Baynes.[37]

The Sandemanian church and its members are mentioned several times in Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Brick Moon". In Hale's short story "My Double, and How He Undid Me," the main character and narrator is a Sandemanian minister.


The archives of the Glasite Church are held by Archive Services at the University of Dundee and have attracted researchers from America.[9][38][39]


  1. ^ John Glas preached supremacy of God's word (Bible) over allegiance to Church and state to his congregation in Tealing near Dundee in July 1725. Glas continued to preach his vision over the next five years. The General Assembly's response to Glas's publication of Testimony of the king of martyrs concerning his kingdom (1727) was to depose him in October 1728. The Church's deposition was enacted on 12 March 1730. See pages 19-21 of Geoffrey Cantor (1991).
  2. ^ Hervey's doctrine of "imputed righteousness" called for select individuals as being predestined and having a special relationship with God. Glas viewed this position as being self-serving and devoid of Biblical support. See page 24 of Cantor (1991). This exchange of ideas between Hervey and Sandeman in 1757 (as a continuation of the rift initiated by Glas in the late 1720s) was discussed, argued, and anguished over leaving many Christians throughout England and beyond looking for an alternative. This debate set the stage for Sandeman's correspondence and journeys south from Scotland to establish apostolic gatherings and his subsequent 1764 move to Boston.
  3. ^ John Barnard, uncle of Michael Faraday's father-in-law, Edward, brought followers to his London meeting house, named Glover's Hall around 1760. The 4th London meeting house found in Barnsbury Grove, and Michael Faraday's seat located within were commemorated by Lord Kelvin in 1906. See pages 38-43 of Cantor (1991). The London church record books show 106 members in 1795 (48 men, 58 women) and 110 members in 1842 (31 men, 79 women). These numbers only include those that confessed their faith. They do not include non-members who attended or children. These numbers held steady throughout this period of time.


  1. ^ Van Kirk (1907) page 75
  2. ^ Smith (2008), p. 37.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Macfadyen 1911.
  4. ^ For the entire quote, see page 112 of The Society's (1904) Transactions, Volume 6.
  5. ^ See pages 27 and 31 of Cantor (1991). The role of the elder (or bishop) was to teach and lead the congregation, while the role of the deacon (or deaconess), as defined in Timothy, was to provide for the poor and infirm. Two elders, as referenced in Acts, were required for a church to function, and a plurality was required to celebrate the Lord's Supper. The Edinburgh meeting house closed in 1989 when its membership fell to only one elder.
  6. ^ See pages 31-2 of Cantor (1991). Exclusion, following I Corinthians, was the first of two steps to excommunication from which there was no return. Eating with immediate family was allowed during exclusion. Estimates indicate that roughly half the membership was excluded at one time or another, while only a tenth left permanently.
  7. ^ Cantor (1991) page 58
  8. ^ Gardner, James (2003) [1858]. "Glassites". Faiths of the World. Vol. 2. Kessinger Publishing. p. 976. ISBN 978-0-7661-4304-3. [They] consider it to be their duty to abstain from blood, and from things strangled, considering the decree of the first council of Jerusalem to be still obligatory upon all Christians... They regard it as unlawful literally to lay up treasures on earth, and each member considers his property liable to be called for at any time to meet the wants of the poor and the necessities of the church. They look upon a lot as sacred, and accordingly they disapproved of all lotteries and games of chance.
  9. ^ a b "MS 9 The Glasite Church". Archive Services Online Catalogue. University of Dundee. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  10. ^ Figure 2.1 is a map of Britain showing the location of some 40 churches (meeting houses). His research breaks out the dates of closure of these various churches. The key window is from 1821 to 1867, or the middle period of closure. In addition to these British locations, Robert Sandeman added a handful of churches to America prior to his 1771 death in Danbury, Connecticut. See page 26 of Cantor (1991).
  11. ^ Smith (2008) pages 71, 78-81
  12. ^ Elmes (1831) page 213
  13. ^ For the history of the Sandemanian Meeting Houses in London see pages 220-1, and 261-276 of Wilson (1810), iii. This text cites 1778 as the year the London congregation relocated to Paul's Alley in the Barbican.
  14. ^ This note references the Supplementary letters. See note 30 on page 83 of Smith (2008).
  15. ^ See page 42 of Cantor (1991). Comparison of 2008 photo to that of figure 3.2 indicates substantial renovation work was done to include new roof, the addition of a second story, and facades removed to bare brick. The first story window shapes and placement of the front door provide the only linkages between the structures.
  16. ^ See pages 60-4, and 277-80 of Cantor (1991). Faraday's ordination service as Deacon took place on 1 July 1832, indicating his high moral standing within the community. As might be expected, controversy surrounds Faraday's (and others) 1844 exclusion and subsequent removal from his position as Elder. His resignation on 5 June 1864, after being reinstated as Elder four years earlier, is connected with an offer to assume the Presidency of the Royal Institution, an offer he declined.
  17. ^ Wilson (1810), Volume 2, page 96
  18. ^ Smith (2008) pages 82-6
  19. ^ See pages 24, 26, and 27 of Cantor (1991). He was accompanied by James Cargill to Boston where he met Ezra Stiles, President of Yale.
  20. ^ Wilson, volume 2, pages 96 and 97
  21. ^ Sandemanian Society (1870) page 51
  22. ^ Smith (2008) pages 113-4
  23. ^ See pages 94 and 115-20 of Smith (2008). Chapter 5 documents several examples of Sandemanian persecution at the hands of colonials due to their passive stance.
  24. ^ Smith (2008) pages 133-4
  25. ^ For a picture of the Danbury Meeting House, see page 373 of Barber (1836). This text places the location of the fourth church on Gregson Street.
  26. ^ See pages 137, 143 and 148 of Smith (2008). It is unclear if Mr. Howe established any churches either in New York or on Long Island while there with the British army.
  27. ^ The article The Places of Worship of the Sandemanians in Boston written by Henry Herbert Edes found on pages 109-133 in Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume 6, published in Boston 1904 By Colonial Society of Massachusetts provides a listing of colonial Sandemanians living in and around Boston.
  28. ^ See Sandeman in The twentieth century biographical dictionary of notable Americans published by the Boston Biographical Society in 1904.
  29. ^ Records Relating to the Early History of Boston containing Boston Marriages from 1752-1809 (1884), Volume 30 By Boston (Mass.) Registry Dept.
  30. ^ Their subsequent stories can be found in Biographical sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, with an Historical Essay, Volume 1, by Lorenzo Sabine. Published by Little, Brown & Co. in Boston 1864.
  31. ^ Blakeley and Grant (1864) page 25
  32. ^ Cantor (1991) page 41
  33. ^ Ross (1900) pages 30 and 31
  34. ^ Fuller (1812) pages 61, and 111-114
  35. ^ Brentnall (1997) page 158
  36. ^ Baggott, Jim (2 September 1991). "The myth of Michael Faraday: Michael Faraday was not just one of Britain's greatest experimenters. A closer look at the man and his work reveals that he was also a clever theoretician". New Scientist. Retrieved 6 September 2008.
  37. ^ "APPENDIX A: Faraday/Barnard Family Tree" (PDF).
  38. ^ "Church Records". Archival Sources for Local and Scottish History. Archive Services, University of Dundee. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  39. ^ "A new Glasite Church accession". Archives Records and Artefacts at the University of Dundee. University of Dundee. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2014.

Re missing citation pertaining to Michael Faraday: Ira Brodsky, The History of Wireless, Telescope Books, p 20.


  • Blakeley, Phyllis Ruth and John N. Grant: Eleven exiles: accounts of Loyalists of the American Revolution, Little, Brown and Co. (Boston, 1864).
  • Brentnall, John: Just a Talker: Sayings of John ('Rabbi') Duncan, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1997).
  • Cantor, Geoffrey: Michael Faraday, Sandemanian and Scientist: A Study of Science and Religion in the Nineteenth Century, Macmillan (Hampshire, 1991).
  • Edes, Henry Herbert: "The Places of Worship of the Sandemanians in Boston" in Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume 6, Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Boston, 1904).
  • Elmes, James: A Topographical Dictionary of London and its Environs, (London, 1831).
  • Fuller, Andrew: Strictures on Sandemanianism, Richard Scott, (New York, 1812).
  • Gardner, James: Faiths of the World, A Dictionary All Religions and Religious Sects, their Doctrines, Rites, Ceremonies and Customs, Volume II, Fullerton & Co. (London and Edinburgh, 1858).
  • Halleck, George Watson: "The Sandemanians", found in New England magazine, Volume 14 By Sarah Orne Jewett. Kellogg (Boston, 1896).
  • Ross, James: History of Congregational Independency in Scotland 2nd Edition. Hay Nisbet & Co. (Glasgow, 1908).
  • Sabine, Lorenzo: Biographical sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, with an Historical Essay, Volume 1, Little, Brown & Co. (Boston, 1864).
  • Smith, John Howard: The Perfect Rule of the Christian Religion: A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2008).
  • Van Kirk, Hiram: A history of the theology of the Disciples of Christ, Christian Publishing Company, St. Louis 1907.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainMacfadyen, Dugald (1911). "Glasites". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 86.
  • Boston Biographical Society: "Sandeman" in The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, (Boston, 1904).
  • Boston Registry Dept: Records Relating to the Early History of Boston Containing Boston Marriages from 1752–1809, Volume 30. (Boston, 1884).
  • Colonial Society of Massachusetts:Transactions, Volume 6 (Boston, 1904).