The Occom Circle


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"Sandemanianism is a Christian sect founded in Scotland around 1730 by John Glas (1695-1773), a Presbyterian minister. Its adherents were also called Glasites. Glas believed that the true Church was completely spiritual and, thus, independent of state politics, support, or control; for these ideas, he was expelled from the Church of Scotland. Glas formed his own congregation, and his ideas spread to the large textile centers of Scotland. His son-in-law, Robert Sandeman (1718-1781), promoted the ideas of the sect, which took its name from him and spread to England and America. Sandemanian churches were structured after the early Christian churches, with elders and pastors, a weekly celebration of communion, communal meals, foot washing, holy kissing, and a rejection of individual wealth. Most controversially, their cardinal theological tenent taught that saving faith could be nothing more than a simple assent to the truth of God's work through Christ, not an exercise of will or effusion of affection. Several key 18th-century evangelists strongly opposed this intellectualist view of what Sandeman called "bare faith," though others saw it as a critique of the growing subjectivism encouraged by evangelical revivalists. Sandeman traveled to Boston in October 1764, and during the next few years preached in New York, Philadelphia, New London, Providence, and Portsmouth, NH, establishing churches along the way. There is no evidence that Wheelock met Sandeman or entertained the idea of becoming an adherent, despite the rumor John Thornton reported circulating in London in 1771. Because of their pacifism, Sandemanians were labeled Loyalists during the War years, and many fled to Nova Scotia. The last Sandemanian Church in America closed in 1890 and in London in 1984.


Haykin, Michael. "Sandemanianism." The Evangelical Times. September 1998. Smith, John Howard. The Perfect Rule of the Christian Religion: A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century. Albany: SUNY Press, 2008.