Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gillespie, Patrick

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485577Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21 — Gillespie, Patrick1890George Washington Sprott

GILLESPIE, PATRICK (1617–1675), principal of Glasgow University, was third son of John Gillespie, minister of Kirkcaldy, by his wife Lilias, daughter of Patrick Simson, minister of Stirling [see Gillespie, George]. He was baptised 2 March 1617, was educated at St. Andrews, where he graduated in 1635, became minister of the second charge of Kirkcaldy in 1642, and of the High Church of Glasgow in 1648. From that time he took a very prominent part in public affairs, first as an extreme covenanter, and next as a friend and supporter of Cromwell. He strenuously opposed the 'engagement' for the rescue of Charles I, helped to overthrow the government that sanctioned it, and advocated the severest measures against all 'malignants.' He considered the terms made with Charles II unsatisfactory, and after the battle of Dunbar (3 Sept. 1650) he assembled a meeting of gentlemen and ministers in the west, and persuaded them to raise a separate armed force, which was placed under the command of officers recommended by him. He was the author of the 'Remonstrance' (December 1650) addressed to parliament by the 'gentlemen, commanders, and ministers attending the Westland Force,' in which they made the gravest charges against the public authorities, condemned the treaty with the king, and declared that they 'could not own him and his interest in the state of the quarrel' with Cromwell. This seditious paper was condemned by church and state. Soon after the commission of assembly passed resolutions in favour of allowing 'malignants,' on profession of their repentance, to take part in the defence of the country. Against this Gillespie and his friends protested, and as the general assembly, which met in July 1651, was likely to approve of the resolutions of the commission, they protested against its legality. For this he and two others were deposed from the ministry. They and their sympathisers disregarded the sentence, and made the first schism in the church since the Reformation. Many of the protesters, as the dissenters were called, preferred Cromwell to the king, and some of them became favourable to independency. Gillespie was the leader of this section, and there was no one in Scotland who was in greater favour with the Protector or who had more influence with him. Hence his appointment to the principalship of the university of Glasgow in 1652, notwithstanding protests on the grounds that the election belonged to the professors, that he was insufficient in learning, and had been deposed from the ministry. In 1653 Cromwell turned the general assembly out of doors, and in the following year he called up Gillespie and two other protesters to London to consult with them as to a new settlement of Scottish ecclesiastical affairs. The result was the appointment of a large commission of protesters, who were empowered to 'purge' the church of ministers whom they thought 'scandalous,' and to withhold the stipend from any one appointed to a parish who had not a testimonial from four men of their party. This was known as 'Gillespie's Charter,' and was particularly odious to the resolutioners, who formed the great majority of the church. In September 1655, having gone to Edinburgh to preach, Gillespie was interrupted by a part of the congregation, who asked how he dared to appear there, being a deposed minister and 'an enemy and a traitor both to kirk and kingdom,' and then rose and left the church. Not 'much dashed' he gave out for his text 'I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am.' A few weeks later, when preaching in the High Church of Edinburgh (14 Oct. 1655), he prayed for 'his highness the Lord Protector, and for a blessing on all his proceedings,' being the first to do so publicly in Scotland. About this time he got the synod of Glasgow, in which he had great influence among the young ministers and 'yeoman elders,' to annul the sentence of deposition passed by the general assembly, and he was sent as a correspondent to the synod of Lothian, in order to get their act acknowledged, but, much to his indignation, he was not admitted. Soon after Gillespie and other protesters went to London to seek an increase of power, but Sharp, who had been sent up by the resolutioners, was there to oppose them. Sharp was backed by the English presbyterians. Gillespie and his friends 'plyed hardly the sectaries,' and 'did pray oft with them both privately and publicly,' but though they were 'affectionately for them,' and 'with all their power befriended them,' they were not successful. Gillespie spent about a year in London, and during this visit was seriously ill. He lived in state, preaching before the Protector in 'his rich velvet rarely cut cassock,' and was the intimate friend of Owen and Lockyer, Lambert and Fleetwood. He obtained from the Protector a large addition of revenue to the university out of church property. After his return home he quarrelled with the town council, and was libelled for neglect of duty and maladministration of funds, but the accusation was not pushed to extremities. In May 1659 he again visited London, and obtained from Richard Cromwell an addition of 100l. a year to his income out of the college revenues. On 28 Oct. 1659 'he was desired' for the Outer-High Church, Edinburgh. At the Restoration he sent his wife to court to intercede for him. It was said that he offered to promote episcopacy, but this he denied. He was deprived of his office, and imprisoned in Stirling Castle. In March 1661 he was brought to trial, when he professed penitence, and threw himself upon the mercy of the court. He had powerful friends, and even Sharp used his influence on his behalf, so that he escaped with a sentence of confinement to Ormiston for a time. The king thought him more guilty than James Guthrie, and said that he would have spared Guthrie's life if he had known that Gillespie was to be treated so leniently. Lord Sinclair wished to have him appointed to Dysart, but Sharp said that one metropolitan was enough for Scotland, and that two for the province of Fife would be too many. He could obtain no further employment in the ministry, and died at Leith in February 1675. His superior abilities, fluent delivery, and popular manners made him at one time a man of great personal influence. He was, however, ambitious, domineering, and extravagant, so that it was said no bishop in Scotland had ever lived at so high a rate. He deserves to be considered a benefactor to the university of Glasgow, as he renewed and enlarged the buildings, and added to its permanent revenues, if he left it deeply in debt. His works were:

  1. 'Rulers' Sins the Cause of National Judgments,' a sermon, 1650.
  2. A posthumous work, 'The Ark of the Testament opened,' published in 1677, with a preface by Dr. John Owen, who highly commends it, and expresses his great esteem for the author, and his 'respect for his labours in the church of God.'

[Scott's Fasti, iv. 518; Baillie's Letters, vol. iii .; Records of the Kirk; Lamont and Nicoll's Diaries; Cook's Hist. of the Church of Scotland; Life of Archbishop Sharp; Beattie's Hist. of the Church of Scotland during the Commonwealth.]

G. W. S.