Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Sandemanians

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An English form of the Scottish sect of Glassites, followers of John Glas (b. 1695; d. 1773) who was deposed from the Presbyterian ministry in 1728, for teaching that the Church should not be subject to any league or covenant, but should be governed only by Apostolic doctrine. Glas's son-in-law, Robert Sandeman (b. 1718; d. 1771), having been for many years an elder in the Glassite sect, removed to London in 1760, where he gathered a congregation at Glovers' Hall, Barbican. Though for the most part he followed the teaching of Glas, he went beyond that doctrine in maintaining that faith is only a simple assent to Divine testimony which differs in no way from belief in ordinary human evidence. In 1764 Sandeman went to America to propagate his views, and founded some congregations there, for which reason the Glassites in America, like those in England, are known as Sandemanians. In England the sect has never been numerous, possessing less than a dozen meeting-places in the whole country, including two in London. It is chiefly known owing to the great chemist Sir Michael Faraday (b. 1791; d. 1867) having officiated as a Sandemanian elder in London in the middle of the nineteenth century. Membership is granted on confession of sin and public profession of faith in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. The new member receives a blessing and the kiss of peace from all present. Each congregation is presided over by several elders, all unpaid, who are elected for their earnestness of conviction and sincerity, and who hold office for life. On the death of an elder the survivors propose for election the name of a suitable member of the congregation, who is then elected by the whole body. The Sandemanians practice a weekly celebration of the Lord's supper, and the agape or love-feast, which takes the form of dining together between the morning and afternoon services. The elders alone preach, but the ordinary members take turns in offering prayers. The ceremonial washing of feet is also performed on certain occasions. They abstain from things strangled and from blood. As they consider that casting lots is a sacred process, they regard all games of chance as unlawful. They practice community of goods to a modified extent, considering all their property as liable to calls on behalf of the Church and the poor. It is also considered wrong to accumulate wealth. If any member differs obstinately from the rest he is expelled and by this system perfect unanimity is secured. They refuse to join in prayer with members of other denominations and to eat and drink with an excommunicated person is held to be a grievous sin. The Sandemanians as a religious body are very obscure and it is difficult to obtain reliable information with regard to them, but the total membership in Great Britain is believed not to exceed two thousand.

BLUNT, Dict. of Sects, Heresies, and Schools of Thought (London, 1874); Dict. Nat. Biog., s. vv. Glas and Sandeman; JONES, Life and Letters of Faraday (London, 1870).

EDWIN BURTON