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The Glasites or Glassites were a small Christian church founded in about 1730 in Scotland by John Glas. Glas's faith, as part of the First Great Awakening, was spread by his son-in-law Robert Sandeman into England and America, where the members were called Sandemanians.

Glas dissented from the Westminster Confession only in his views as to the spiritual nature of the church and the functions of the civil magistrate. But Sandeman added a distinctive doctrine as to the nature of faith which is thus stated on his tombstone:

That the bare death of Jesus Christ without a thought or deed on the part of man, is sufficient to present the chief of sinners spotless before God.

In a series of letters to James Hervey, the author of Theron and Aspasio, Sandeman maintained that justifying faith is a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus, differing in no way in its character from belief in any ordinary testimony.

Beliefs and practice

In their practice the Glasite churches aimed at a strict conformity with the primitive type of Christianity, as understood by them. Each congregation had a plurality of elders, pastors, or bishops, who were chosen according to what were believed to be the instructions of Paul, without regard to previous education or present occupation, and who enjoy a perfect equality in office. To have been married a second time disqualified one for ordination, or for continued tenure of the office of bishop.

In all the action of the church unanimity was considered to be necessary; if any member differed in opinion from the rest, he must either surrender his judgement to that of the church, or be shut out from its communion. To join in prayer with anyone not a member of the denomination was regarded as unlawful, and even to eat or drink with one who had been excommunicated was held to be wrong. The Lord's Supper was observed weekly; and between forenoon and afternoon service every Sunday a love feast was held at which every member was required to be present. This took the form not of symbolic morsels of wine and bread, as in other communions, but a (relatively) substantial meal, a custom leading to the Glasites' nickname of 'Kail Kirk' for the Scotch broth that was served at this setting. This custom may have arisen, in part, as a charitable response to the poverty of most members of this Church and also as a pragmatic response to the length of meetings (particularly the sermons) and the distances some members of the congregation had to travel in order to attend.

At Glasite services, any member who "possesses the gift of edifying the brethren", was allowed to speak. The practice of washing one another's feet was at one time observed; and it was for a long time customary for each brother and sister to receive new members, on admission, with a holy kiss.

"Things strangled and blood" were rigorously abstained from. They disapproved of all lotteries and games of chance. The accumulation of wealth they held to be unscriptural and improper.



A church was set up by Glas in Dundee following his suspension by the Church of Scotland, with its congregation becoming known as Glasites. The first meeting house in Perth followed in 1733. Glasite churches were also founded in Paisley, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leith, Arbroath, Montrose, Aberdeen, Dunkeld, Cupar, and Galashiels. Buildings built as Glasite chapels survive in Dundee, Edinburgh and Perth (two), Galashiels and possibly elsewhere.

Sandemanian Churches in England

Glas's views were again advanced beyond Scotland with Sandeman's publication of Letters on Theron and Aspasio in 1757. The resulting correspondence between the leading church elders, Glas and Sandeman, and English pastors, Samuel Pike, John Barnard, and William Cudworth among others, led to the adoption of this primitive form of Christianity for their London congregations beginning in the early 1760s. John Barnard's petition to Robert Sandeman brought the latter south to London from Scotland in April 1761 with his brother William and John Handasyde, an Elder from the Northumberland meeting house. This visit led to the establishment of the first legitimately constituted Sandemanian congregation on 23 March 1762 at Glover's Hall. To accommodate larger gatherings, this congregation moved initially to the Bull and Mouth-Street, St. Martin's Le Grand, and then to Paul's Alley in the Barbican in the autumn of 1778. This third London meeting house was that of Michael Faraday's youth. The Sandemanians relocated to Barnsbury Grove, in north London, in 1862 where they met until nearly the turn of the century. Michael Faraday was a Deacon at Paul's Alley in the Barbican during the 1830s, an Elder there from 1840 to 1844 and again from 1860 to 1864, the final two years of which were at the Barnsbury Grove meeting house (see 2008 photograph). A plaque was installed in the building indicating his seat of prayer. The building was converted into a telephone exchange, and that end of Barnsbury Grove renamed Faraday Close.

Beyond London

As the congregation at the Bull and Mouth-Street, St. Martins-le-Grand, London solidified through the inclusion of noted pastors like Samuel Pike in 1765, other English parishes followed their Sandemanian lead. The first response outside London occurred in Yorkshire with followers of Benjamin Ingham. Ingham discreetly sent two of his preachers, James Allen and William Batty, to Scotland to observe Glasite practices in 1761. Of these three Methodist preachers, only Allen fully converted and began to establish Sandemanian meeting houses in Northern England, to include his hometown of Gayle, Kirkby Stephen, Newby, and Kirkby Lonsdale. By 1768 Allen, together with John Barnard and William Cudworth from London, helped establish congregations in York, Norfolk, Colne, Wethersfield, Liverpool, Whitehaven, Trowbridge and Nottingham. Sandeman personally established fewer than a dozen churches in England including Liverpool before he went to America in 1764. The Trowbridge meeting house, in Wiltshire, was the location to which Samuel Pike moved and at which he preached for the final two years until his death in 1773.

Sandemanian Churches in America

Robert Sandeman sailed into Boston from Glasgow aboard the George and James, captained by Montgomery, on 18 October 1764. At the invitation of Ezra Stiles, Sandeman preached his first sermon in Newport on 28 November. He spent Christmas and most of January 1765 in Danbury, Connecticut, discussing theology and church governance with Ebenezer White and his followers. Over the next four months Sandeman and his party travelled to New York, Philadelphia, New London, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and finally Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Sandeman established his first church in Portsmouth on 4 May 1765 accompanied by James Cargill, Andrew Oliphant, and his nephews. Within the month Sandeman returned to Boston and established his second meetinghouse in the home of Edward Foster. From Boston, he returned to Danbury and created his third church among White's followers with Joseph Moss White and himself serving as elders. Sandeman referred to his church as formal to distinguish it from Ebenezer White's church that retained traditional church authority.

Colonial resistance to Sandemanianism initially stemmed from the absence of ministerial authority within their congregations. This lack of a central authority challenged the existing social fabric throughout New England which relied upon the state to enforce church orthodoxy. As many colonials rose up in protest of punitive Crown policies in the decade following Robert Sandeman's arrival, his followers remained passively loyal, in Paul's footsteps, setting the stage for bitter estrangement between the factions. It was not until Sandeman's passing in 1771 that the remnants of the Danbury church moved to New Haven and formed the fourth church in America. Sandemanians as a whole were labeled "Loyalists" for their pacifist stance, to conform with Paul's teachings, since they did not oppose the crown like so many of their colonial brethren. In addition to passivism, many of the Boston congregation evacuated with the British and went into exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia, further escalating the fears of their colonial brethren. This relocation to Halifax lead to the formation of the fifth church. A Boston printer, Mr. John Howe, followed the British lead to Canada with his family only to return alone with the British army to document the unfolding war story upon its return to New York. Horace Marshall, in his article History of Danbury, mentions two additional Sandemanian congregations located south of Boston in Newtown and Taunton, Massachusetts. It is not clear what role, if any, Robert Sandeman played in the establishment of these congregations, though the Boston records indicate he performed several marriages in that city during the winter and spring of 1767 to 1768. A great many Loyalist Sandemanians were uprooted during the revolution and lost most of their property. John Howe's story exemplifies this situation. In his case, he sailed to Nova Scotia and became an elder in the congregation that formed.


The last of the Sandemanian churches in America ceased to exist in 1890. The London meeting house finally closed in 1984. The last Elder of the Church died in Edinburgh in 1999.

Their exclusiveness in practice, neglect of education for the ministry, and the antinomian tendency of their doctrine contributed to their dissolution. Many Glasites joined the general body of Scottish Congregationalists, and the denomination has long been considered extinct.

Critics of Sandemanianism

A prominent critic of Sandemanian beliefs was Baptist Andrew Fuller (1754–1815), who published Strictures on Sandemanianism (1812), in which he argued that if faith concerns the mind only, then there could be no way to distinguish genuine Christians from nominal Christians. He also argued that knowing Christ is more than mental knowledge of facts about Him; it involves a desire for fellowship with Him and a delight in His presence.

John "Rabbi" Duncan said once that Sandemanianism was "the doctrine of justifying righteousness along with the Popish doctrine of faith."

Sandemanian families and notable members

Prominent Sandemanian families include the surnames Barnard, Baynes, Baxter, Boosey, Bell, Deacon, Faraday, Leighton, Mann, Vincent, Whitelaw and Young. There was a strong link between the Sandemanians and scientists. Notable members of the Sandemanian Church include William Godwin, Michael Faraday, Charles Wilson Vincent and James Baynes.

The Sandemanian church and its members are mentioned several times in Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Brick Moon". In Hale's short story "My Double, and How He Undid Me," the main character and narrator is a Sandemanian minister.


The archives of the Glasite Church are held by Archive Services at the University of Dundee and have attracted researchers from America.



Re missing citation pertaining to Michael Faraday: Ira Brodsky, The History of Wireless, Telescope Books, p 20.


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  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Macfadyen, Dugald (1911). "Glasites". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 86.
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Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Glasite by Wikipedia (Historical)