A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Bereans

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BEREANS, a sect of Protestant Dissenters from the church of Scotland, who take their title from, and profess to follow the example of the ancient Bereans, (Acts xvii. 11.) in building their system of faith and practice upon the scriptures alone, without regard to any human authority whatever.

Mr. Barclay, a Scotch clergyman, was the founder of this denomination. They first assembled as a separate society of Christians in the city of Edinburgh, 1773.

The Bereans agree with the established churches of England and Scotland respecting the trinity, predestination and election, though they allege that these doctrines are not consistently taught in either, but they differ from them in various points. Particularly, they reject all natural religion; and assert, that our knowledge of God is from revelation alone.

They hold faith to be a simple credence in God's word. They consider personal assurance[1] as of the essence of faith. They argue, that God has expressly declared, He that believeth shall be saved; and therefore it is not only absurd but impious, and in a manner calling God a liar, for a man to say, "I believe the Gospel, but have doubts nevertheless of my own salvation." They maintain that unbelief is the unpardonable sin.

They consider a great part of the Old Testament—history, and the whole book of Psalms, as typical or prophetic of Christ, and do not apply them to the experience of private Christians. See Hutchinsonians.

In admitting to communion, this denomination do not require that account of personal experience which many other churches do. When they exclude unworthy members for immoral conduct, they do not think themselves authorized to deliver them over to Satan, as the apostles did; that power they consider as restricted to the apostles, and to the inspired testimony alone; and not to be extended to any church on earth, or any number of churches, or of Christians, whether decided by a majority of votes, or by unanimous voices.[2]

The doctrines of the Bereans have found converts in England, Scotland, and America.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Mr. Barclay says, "By whatever evidence I hold the resurrection of Jesus, by the same precise evidence I must hold it for a truth that I am justified—for God hath equally asserted both."—On this M'Lean remarks—"The resurrection is a truth independent of my believing, and the subject of direct testimony; but my justification is not declared to be a truth until I believe the former; nor is it directly asserted, but promised on that provision. If thou shalt believe, &c. Rom. x. 9." See M'Lean's Commission of the Apostles.
  2. See Barclay's Works. Nicols' Essays, &c.