THOMAS GILLESPIE (1708-1774), Scottish divine, was born at Clearburn, in the parish of Duddingston, Midlothian, in 1708. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, and studied divinity first at a small theological seminary at Perth,. and afterwards for a brief period under Philip Doddridge at Northampton, where he received ordination in January 1741. In September of the same year he was admitted minister of theparish of Carnock, Fife, the presbytery of Dunfermline agreeing not only to sustain as valid the ordination he had received in England, but also to allow a qualification of his subscription to the church's doctrinal symbol, so far as it had reference to the sphere of the civil magistrate in matters of religion. Having on conscientious grounds persistently absented himself from the meetings of presbytery held for the purpose of ordaining one Andrew Richardson, an unacceptable presentee, as minister of Inverkeithing, he was, after an unobtrusive but useful ministry of ten years, deposed by the Assembly of 1752 for maintaining that the refusal of the local presbytery to act in this case was justified. He continued, however, to preach, first at Carnock, and afterwards in Dunfermline, where a large congregation gathered round him. His conduct under the sentence of deposition produced a reaction in his favour, and an effort was made to have him reinstated; this he declined unless the policy of the church were reversed. In 1761, in conjunction with Thomas. Boston of Jedburgh and Collier of Colinsburgh, he formed a distinct communion under the name of "The Presbytery of Relief," - relief, that is to say, "from the yoke of patronage and the tyranny of the church courts." The Relief Church eventually became one of the communions combining to form the United Presbyterian Church. He died on the 19th of January 1774, His only literary efforts were an Essay on the Continuation of Immediate Revelations in the Church, and a Practical Treatise on Temptation. Both works appeared posthumously (1774). In the former he argues that immediate revelations are no longer vouchsafed to the church, in the latter he traces temptation to the work of a personal devil.
See Lindsay's Life and Times of the Rev. Thomas Gillespie; Smithers's History of the Relief Church; for the Relief Church see United Presbyterian Church.
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