Rev George Gillespie

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Rev. George E Gillespie, Min. of St Giles, Edinburgh

Birthdate: (35)
Birthplace: Perth, Perthshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death: December 16, 1648 (35)
Kirkcaldy, Edinburg, Scotland, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev John Gillespie and Lilias Gillespie
Husband of Margaret Catherine Gillespie
Father of Rev. Robert Gillespie; Reverend George Gillespie, Jr. and Archibald Gillespie
Brother of Archibald Gillespie; Patrick Gillespie, Min. of East Parish, Glasgow; Christian Gillespie; Elizabeth Gillespie; Lilias Skene and 1 other

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About Rev George Gillespie

George Gillespie was born at Kirkcaldy, where his father, John Gillespie, was parish minister, and studied at St. Andrews University as a "presbytery bursar". On graduating he became domestic chaplain to John Gordon, 1st Viscount Kenmure (d. 1634), and afterwards to John Kennedy, 6th Earl of Cassilis. His conscience did not permit him to accept the Episcopal ordination which was at that time in Scotland an indispensable condition of induction to a parish. In April 1638, soon after the authority of the bishops had been set aside by the nation in Scotland, Gillespie was ordained minister of Wemyss (Fife) by the presbytery of Kirkcaldy. In the same year he was a member of the Glasgow Assembly, before which he preached (November 21) a sermon against royal interference in matters ecclesiastical. It was so pronounced, as to call for some remonstrance on the part of Argyll, the lord high commissioner. In 1640 he accompanied the commissioners of the peace to England as one of their chaplains. In 1642 Gillespie was translated to Edinburgh; but the remainder of his life was chiefly spent in the conduct of public business in London. He was from 1643 a member of the Westminster Assembly, in which he took a prominent part: he was appointed by the Scottish Church as one of the four commissioners to the Assembly. Here he was the youngest member, but took a prominent part in almost all the discussions on church government, discipline and worship, supporting Presbyterianism by numerous controversial writings, as well as by fluency and readiness in debate. Tradition long preserved especially his encounter with John Selden on Matt. xviii. 15-17.In 1645 he returned to Scotland, and is said to have drawn the Act of Assembly sanctioning the directory of public worship. On his return to London he had a hand in drafting the Westminster confession of faith, especially chap. I. Gillespie was elected moderator of the Assembly in 1648, but the duties of that office (the court continued to sit from the 12 July to the 12 August) told on his health; he fell into consumption, and died at Kirkcaldy on the 17 December 1648.

Biographical Summary

"George Gillespie, born 21st Jan. 1613, son of John G., min. of Kirkcaldy ; studied at St Andrews, and is said to have graduated M.A. 1629, though the date is probably that on which he entered the University ; bursar of the Presb. of Kirkcaldy. He became chaplain to John, Viscount Kenmure ; to John, Earl of Cassilis, and tutor to his son, James, Lord Kennedy ; ord. to Wemyss 26th April 1638 ; had calls to Aberdeen and St Andrews ; trans, to Greyfriars, Edinburgh, 23rd Sept. 1642. He was a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, 1643, and though the youngest member, by his learning, zeal, and sound judgment, gave essential assistance in the preparation of the Directory and Confession of Faith. He took final leave of Westminster 10th July 1647, and presented the Confession of Faith to the General Assembly on 4th Aug., obtaining its ratification. This disposes of the legend which connects him with the Shorter Catechism, which was not begun till 5th Aug. Dr Hew Scott mentions the fable that Gillespie drew it up "in the course of a single night." He was elected to this charge by the Town Council 22nd Sept. 1647, and adm. shortly after ; Moderator of Assembly 12th July 1648; died at Kirkcaldy 16th Dec. 1648. He marr. Margaret Murray, who had £1000 sterling voted by Parliament immediately after his death, for the support of herself and family, but, owing to the distractions of the time, it was never paid. His children were —

  • Robert, bapt. 15th May 1643 (received ordination from the "outed" ministers ; was imprisoned in the Bass for preaching at conventicles (1673) ; subsequently went to England, and died, his widow and children being recommended by Parliament to the royal bounty, 17th July 1695)
  • George, bapt. 20th May 1644
  • Archibald, died in 1659
  • Elizabeth (marr. James Oswald, merchant in Edinburgh, afterwards of Fingleton)."

SOURCE: Fasti ecclesiae scoticanae: the succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the reformation, Vol. I, page 58

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Rev George Gillespie's Timeline

January 21, 1613
Perth, Perthshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
April 6, 1644
Age 31
Fife, Scotland
May 20, 1644
Age 31
Perth, Pertshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Age 32
Scotland, United Kingdom
December 16, 1648
Age 35
Kirkcaldy, Edinburg, Scotland, United Kingdom
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom