George Gillespie (1613-1648) was a theologian and pastor of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. He lived, worked, and ministered during the tumultuous times of the English Civil War. He was a theologian and churchman of such distinction that he was appointed to serve as one of the Scottish Commissions to the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in spite of his youth. Although he died in his mid-thirties, his legacy has endure through his writings, which continue to be an object of fascination to those interested in Scripture, Church History, and Theology.
The seventeenth century was an age of heightened eschatological expectation. Precursor movements to the Reformation were fueled and fortified by this expectation, anticipating the imminent return of Jesus Christ and the overthrow of the Roman Church. The early Reformers appropriated and refined these expectations; and, in spite of the misappropriation and radicalization of the Reformation eschatology by some, eschatological thought continued to develop and thrive among the Reformation-minded into the seventeenth century. Reformation England and Scotland participated fully in this burgeoning interest in eschatology, and it was in this context that George Gillespie studied and labored (1613-1648).
The purpose of this essay is twofold. First, having been so influential at the Westminster Assembly and in the production of her standards, George Gillespie is a person of enduring interest, and worthy of ongoing study. This essay is offered as an introductory analysis and evalutation of the structure of Gillespie’s eschatological thought. Second, it will be readily apparent that Gillespie’s eschatological views are out of step, not only with those of contemporary Evangelicalism, but also with those of mainstream Reformed and Presbyterians in the early twenty-first century. However, there was nothing idiosyncratic about his views in his own day. This essay is offered in the hope that the presentation of Gillespie’s views might stimulate interest in, appreciation for, and further study of, the neglected and almost-forgotten eschatology of the Second Reformation.