« Barclay, Joseph Barclay, Robert Bar Cochba »

Barclay, Robert

BARCLAY, ROBERT: Scotch Quaker; b. at Gordonstown (28 m. n.w. of Aberdeen) Dec. 23, 1648; d. at Ury (14 m. s.w. of Aberdeen) Oct. 3, 1690. He was descended from an ancient Scottish family and his father was Col. David Barclay of war celebrity in Germany and Sweden. After a careful home training he was sent to his uncle, Robert Barclay, rector of the Scotch College in Paris, for further education, and so came under Roman Catholic influences and inclined toward that communion. But in 1664 he was called home and in 1667 followed his father into the Society of Friends. He was zealous with voice and pen in the advocacy of their faith and in consequence was in prison for five months during 1676-77, and was again under arrest in 1679. If he had not had aristocratic and influential friends it might have gone much worse with him. He traveled through Great Britain and also in Holland and Germany. He was the most remarkable theologian the Quakers have produced. Besides a Catechism and Confession of Faith (1673; repeatedly reissued; translated into Latin, French, Danish, and Dutch), he prepared controversial works. The treatise upon which his great fame rests is An Apology for the true Christian divinity, as the same is held forth, and preached by the people, called, in scorn, Quakers. He had previously published fifteen theological theses for a debate and they were so favorably received that he translated them into Latin and accompanied them with an exposition in the same language, prefaced them with a remarkably faithful epistle to Charles II, dated Nov. 25, 1675, and issued the volume at Amsterdam in 1676. He says that he did this “for the information of strangers.” In 1678 he published, probably in Aberdeen, his own translation of the Apology, and it has become a classic. An edition, the fourteenth, was published at Glasgow in 1886, and other editions have appeared in Philadelphia; there are translations of it in German, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Danish. In 1692 William Penn brought out an edition of it, with other works, under the title Truth Triumphant through the spiritual warfare, Christian labours and writings of that able and faithful servant of Jesus Christ, Robert Barclay.

Bibliography: R. B. Barclay, Genealogical Account of the Barclays of Urie, Aberdeen, 1740, ed. H. Mill, London, 1812; W. Armistead, Memoir of R. Barclay, Manchester, 1850. For full list of books by and on Robert Barclay consult Joseph Smith, Descriptive Catalogue of Friends’ Books, 2 vols., London, 1867, and Supplement, 1893. The sketch in DNB, iii, 167-170 is also valuable; also Reliquiæ Barclaianæ, a Collection of Letters privately printed, 1870 (lithographed).

« Barclay, Joseph Barclay, Robert Bar Cochba »
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