Robert Barclay

Scottish Quaker Apologist


December 23, 1648
October 3, 1690
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Apologetic works, Catechisms, Controversial literature, Biography, Barclay, Robert,--1648-1690,


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Robert Barclay was one of the most eminent writers belonging to the Religious Society of Friends and a member of the Clan Barclay. In 1667 he joined the recently formed Society of Friends after returning to Scotland. Soon afterwards he began to write in defense of his sect, by publishing in 1670 Truth cleared of Calumnies, and a Catechism and Confession of Faith (1673). In 1670 he had married a Quaker lady, Christian Mollison of Aberdeen.

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 this inner light 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."

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