Robert Sandeman ~ Promoter of the Glasite Church

“Robert Sandeman (born Perth 29 April 1718, died Danbury, Connecticut 2 April 1771) was a nonconformist theologian. He was closely associated with the Glasite church which he helped to promote.

He was born the second of twelve children to a linen weaver, David Sandeman and his wife Margaret Ramsay. He attended Edinburgh University between 1734 and 1736, where he initially seemed destined for a career in either medicine or the established church. It was here, however, where he encountered the teachings of John Glas. In 1737 he married Glas’ daughter Katharine (who died childless in 1746) and in 1744 became an elder of the Glasite church in Perth.

He was more forceful than Glas and also more controversial. It was he who was largely responsible for spreading the church’s doctrines both within Scotland and elsewhere. As a result of this, outside Scotland the Glasite denomination was known as Sandemanian, reflecting his importance.

In 1757 he came to wider attention by publishing Letters on Theron and Aspasio, in which he attacked the theology of James Hervey (whose Theron and Aspasio had been published in 1755.) In particular Sandeman disagreed with Hervey’s idea of imputed righteousness but also put forward the intellectualist perception of religion he shared with Glas and his view that faith was the beginning of a correspondence, leading to full assurance of hope.

His work was widely read, drawing responses from theologians such as John Wesley and John Brine and was also influential. In the years that followed Benjamin Ingham reorganised his church along the lines set out by Sandeman and he corresponded on church structure with London Congregationalist pastors, setting up a church at St Martin-le-Grand in 1760.

Also in 1760 Letters was published in New England and in 1763 he was invited to Danbury with James Cargill to advise on church formation. He engaged in some fairly successful missions while there, founding some churches despite the opposition of orthodox congregationalists. They always remained small, however, partly because his churches were factious and exclusive (something that also held them back in England and Scotland) but also because of his loyalism in the years leading up to the American War of Independence.”