Robert Barclay

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Robert Barclay (23 December 1648 – 3 October 1690) was a Scottish Quaker, one of the most eminent writers belonging to the Religious Society of Friends and a member of the Clan Barclay. He was also governor of the East Jersey colony in North America through most of the 1680s.



Barclay was born at Gordonstoun in Moray, Scotland. His father Col. David Barclay of Urie had served under Gustavus Adolphus, and pursued a somewhat tortuous course through the troubles of the civil war. His mother was Katherine Gordon (1620–1663) the daughter of Sir Robert Gordon 1st Bart of Gordonstoun (1580–1654). He was the eldest of five children.


Robert was sent to finish his education at the Scots College, Paris, of which his uncle[1] was Rector, and made such progress in study as to gain the admiration of his teachers, specially of his uncle, who offered to make him his heir if he would remain in France, and join the Roman Catholic Church.

Quaker convincement and marriage

In 1667, however, he followed the example of his father, and joined the recently formed Society of Friends after returning to Scotland. Soon afterwards he began to write in defence of the movement, by publishing in 1670 Truth cleared of Calumnies, and a Catechism and Confession of Faith (1673). In 1670 he had married another Quaker, Christian Mollison (c.1651–1724), of Aberdeen. They had seven children: three sons and four daughters.[2][3]


He was an ardent theological student, a man of warm feelings and considerable mental powers, and he soon came prominently forward as the leading apologist of the new doctrine, winning his spurs in a controversy with one William Mitchell. The publication of fifteen Theses Theologiae (1676) led to a public discussion in Aberdeen, each side claiming a victory. The most prominent of the Theses was that bearing on immediate revelation, in which the superiority of the Inward Light of Christ to reason or scripture is sharply stated. He was noted as a strong supporter of George Fox in the controversies that tore into Quakers in the 1670s. His greatest work, An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, was published in Latin at Amsterdam in 1676, and was an elaborate statement of the grounds for holding certain fundamental positions laid down in the Theses. It was translated by its author into English in 1678, and is claimed to be "one of the most impressive theological writings of the century"[4]. It is a weighty and learned work, written in a dignified style, and was eagerly read.

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