Moderate Party (Scotland)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Moderate Party as a church term normally refers to an important group of clerics in the Church of Scotland in the 18th century. It is often contrasted with the Evangelicals, but that is very much a simplification. Most members of both parties considered themselves orthodox Christians and the leaders Principal Robertson for the Moderates and his Edinburgh University colleague, John Erskine for the Evangelicals, had a very warm and mutually respectful relationship.

The right of the landowning gentry to nominate ministers to parishes and its consequent influence on church matters underlay the various Secessions (of 1733 and 1752, in particular) from the Church of Scotland, which took place in the 18th century. However, the theological differences between Moderates and Evangelicals were significant indeed. For example, James Meek was a typical Moderate who had been nominated by the Duke of Hamilton and opposed by his Cambuslang parishioners on aspects of his preaching.

On the other hand, the significant achievements and stature of many Moderate clerics – such as Principal William Robertson of Edinburgh University and onetime Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; his successor as principal and moderator, George Baird, who set up the Church's education system; Thomas Reid, philosopher; George Campbell, theologian; Adam Ferguson, philosopher and historian; John Home, dramatic poet; and Hugh Blair, literary scholar, makes it difficult to dismiss them as insincere placemen.

As one later evangelical minister (WH Porter in References below) said, the Moderates "gave us our Paraphrases; Campbell, who replied to Hume, M'Knight the communicator, Hill the theologian, and Blair the preacher, were Moderates. Though in 1796, the Moderates were mainly, not entirely, responsible for the defeat of Foreign Missions proposals, yet in 1829, the Mission to India was founded by Dr Inglis, a Moderate. Principles Blair and M'Farlane were both moderates, yet to the one the Church of Scotland owes her Education Scheme, to the other her Colonial scheme".


  • I D L Clark From Protest to Reaction: The Moderate Regime in the Church of Scotland, 1752 - 1805 in Phillipson, N. T. & Mitchison, Rosalind. Scotland in the age of improvement: essays in Scottish history in the eighteenth century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996. originally published, 1970. xi,270p: map; 22cm. ISBN 0-7486-0876-1 Press F: Age of improvement
  • Porter, Wm Henry Cambuslang and its Ministers (in Mitchell Library - Glasgow Collection, reference GC941.433 CAM 188520 Box 952
  • Richard B Sher Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Moderate Literati of Edinburgh (Princeton: Princeton University Press and Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1985; paperback edition, Edinburgh University Press, 1991 ISBN 0-691-05445-2).