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Calvin, Chalmers, Burns: A Canadian Hybrid Calvinism

Calvin, Chalmers, Burns: A Canadian Hybrid Calvinism

A Donald MacLeod, Research Professor, Tyndale Theological Seminary, Toronto

A paper presented to the Canadian Society of Presbyterian History

26 September 2009

In a moment of particular vitriol the essayist Sydney Smith once described Scotland as “That garret of the earth, the knuckle-end of England, that land of Calvin, oatcakes and sulphur.”[1] Certainly Scotland owes a lot to John Calvin but whether sulphur or oatcakes can be attributed to him is, I think, open to question. This paper seeks to determine how, in the early and formative years as Scottish immigrants settled in British North America, some of them sought to extend Calvin’s influence to the new world, and what shape that influence took and how close the transplant came to the original.

To do that I will focus on Robert Burns – not the Rabbie Burns of suppers and haggis – but the Rev. Dr. Robert Burns, D. D., F. A. S., F. R. S. E., first professor of divinity at Knox’s College, Toronto, and first minister after reorganization of Knox’s Church there. From 1825 and the founding of the Glasgow Colonial Society to his death in Toronto in 1869 no single figure had a greater influence on the Presbyterian church in British North America than Robert Burns.

For all that, he remains a strangely enigmatic figure[2]. We know he embraced the theology of John Calvin but, aside from a few tantalizing scraps of information, little is known about his own doctrine and teaching. As one who taught theological students for a quarter of a century, that is astonishing. He systematically burned all his sermons and most of his letters (he was a prodigious correspondent) and left an incomplete autobiography on his death in 1869, lovingly but inadequately annotated by his son.

Burns had deep roots in the church of the mother country when he came to Canada in 1845. For almost thirty-four years he was the highly respected and influential minister of the Laigh Kirk (St. George’s) Paisley where John Witherspoon[3] had once been minister. He was one of eight brothers, four of whom served as clergy of the Church of Scotland. In 1816 his brother George, a year younger, came to St John, New Brunswick, as the founding minister of St Andrew’s Church, where he stayed for fifteen years before returning to Scotland. The next generation perpetuated the Burns dynasty: his nephew, the legendary revivalist and missionary William Chalmers Burns[4], came to Upper Canada in 1844 and had two tumultuous years of peripatetic ministry. A niece married the best known Nineteenth Century Scottish pulpiteer, Thomas Guthrie[5], founder of the ragged schools. The Burns family was a dominate force in the Evangelical wing, first of the Church of Scotland and, after 1843, of the Free Church.

Robert Burns was a Calvinist, not only because of his family but by conviction. His father had been converted through the ministry of that Calvinist George Whitefield, a frequent guest in their home. But the son was not immediately persuaded by the evangelist’s eloquence. “Although the sermons of George Whitefield were estimated in our circle above all price, ‘the Calvinistic system’ had as yet failed to ‘conquer me.’”[6] Perhaps he had been turned off because as a child of ten he had been made to read his father the sermons of the Puritan John Flavel[7]. An aunt, who lived with the family, saw in Flavel something of the hypocrite and “perhaps she was not far wrong.” He continued: “My religious belief at this time was strictly orthodox, but it had a tincture of antinomianism about it.”[8]

On going up to university in Edinburgh at the age of twelve he noted that “the general phase of opinion among the students at this period was Arminianism” though, being required to sign a statement of faith for admission, they were careful not to read it ahead of time. “There were, in my day, very few symptoms of hard study, either of Calvinism or Arminianism, and I have a strong impression that the real cause of dislike to evangelical faith was a practical one, the want of a deep-toned sense of sin in the heart, and of high views of the majesty of a Holy God and the spotless purity of His law.”[9]

It was a fellow student, the American John Codman[10], who introduced him to Calvin. Codman, while a student at what he described as “Unitarian” Harvard, had been given a copy of William Cooper’s 1740 The Doctrine of Predestination unto Life Explained and Vindicated[11] to critique. “Soon did he find that instead of mastering Calvinism, Calvinism mastered him.”[12] It was the patrician Codman, for many years minister of the orthodox Trinitarian Second Church in Dorchester, near Boston, who convinced Robert Burns of Calvinism and remained a staunch friend until his death in 1847. While in Scotland the wealthy Codman had the book republished in a cheap edition and circulated it among his fellow students “with good success in the advancement of sound doctrine.”[13]

As he later recalled, three men had a profound influence on him at that time. The first was Thomas M’Crie, whose landmark Life of John Knox appeared in 1812, the year after his ordination, and “produced effects in regard to the revival of sound theology and true godliness in Scotland, second only to those of Luther and Calvin and Knox himself.”[14] A second was Andrew Thomson[15] of St George’s Edinburgh, described by Burns as “the slayer of the hydra of stern moderatism, and the hero of evangelical truth.”[16] Thomson founded and edited the Edinburgh Christian Instructor and Colonial Religious Review which was so influential the Moderate General Assembly of 1830 condemned its circulation. Thomson died the next year. Later that decade Burns himself, always a contributor, assumed the position of editor for its two final years.

But it was the third, Thomas Chalmers, who made the greatest impact on the young ordinand. Thomas Chalmers and Robert Burns were temperamentally similar: tempestuous, sometimes cantankerous, opinionated, and impossible to ignore. Burns may have been more loveable and less craggy, but no one commanded more passionate loyalty than Thomas Chalmers, the dynamic agent who brilliantly applied – and adapted – Calvinistic principles to his contemporary Scotland and became, in Burns’ words, “the great central pillar around which all effective movements, in the way of reform and extension on the part of the church, were seen to move.”[17] Titan that he was, Chalmers was always warmly pastoral, as evidenced by the letter he wrote in 1841 on the death of Robert Burns’ first wife, Janet Orr[18]. It is significant that in one of the two glass bottles placed in the foundation stone of the new Knox’s Church laid by Robert Burns on 21 September 1847 (barely four months after his death) there was a medallion likeness of Thomas Chalmers.

Chalmers’ Calvinism reflected his personality, somewhat idiosyncratic, and it was that Calvinism, moderated through Robert Burns, that influenced the Canada Presbyterian Church and, after the Union of 1875, the nascent Presbyterian Church in Canada. Chalmers’ Calvinism is generally described as of a more relaxed variety, particularly in regards to “definite atonement” or “particular redemption” and often unfortunately called “limited atonement.” In other words, the logical premise that since only the elect will be saved, Christ died only for them

Whether Calvin himself would own this third canon of Dordt (1619) is a subject for scholarly debate but it became a litmus test of Calvinist orthodoxy:[19] William Cunningham,


successor to Chalmers as Principal of New College in 1847, admits that this is generally regarded as “the weak point of the Calvinist system.” In explaining the doctrine, he sought to defend it from the charge that particular redemption stifles evangelism and thus only serves to continue the lifeless gospel of the Moderates. “Very few Calvinists have ever disputed the propriety and the obligation of addressing to men indiscriminately, without distinction, or exception, the offers and invitations of Gospel mercy.”[20]

When Robert Burns was called to Paisley in 1811 – the year, incidentally of Chalmers’ conversion at Kilmany – he brought a warm evangelistic fervour. Looking back one observer commented that “his early popularity was due, doubtless, in some measure, to his youthful appearance, associated, as these were, with an almost premature ripeness and mellowness of theology – with an ‘unction’ which in those days was rare, and with a fluency that was never known to fail him.”[21] Led by young men such as Burns, by the late 1820s the Evangelicals were clearly gaining ground in the Church of Scotland.

Inevitably, however, there were challenges. Three erstwhile Evangelicals – John McLeod Campbell, Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, and Edward Irving – felt that orthodox Calvinism hindered the church reaching Scotland’s unchurched with an unfettered gospel for all. The whole controversy centred on the extent of the atonement and the free offer of the gospel and was seen in retrospect as having directly challenged the Calvinism of evangelicals in the Church of Scotland and affected – or perhaps infected – the Free Church of Scotland and thus on to Canada.

John McLeod Campbell[22] was minister of the parish of Row on Gareloch in Dumbartonshire. His name would be associated with an Episcopalian layperson Thomas Erskine of Linlathen. The title of Erskine’s 1828 volume says it all: The Unconditional Freeness of the Gospel represented an attempt to loosen what was perceived as the shackles of Calvinism, opening the gospel to all in what verged on universalism and subsequently, in Erskine’s case, a total rejection of the doctrine of election. Meanwhile the third member of the triumvirate, Edward Irving, and a former assistant of Chalmers in Glasgow, described by one biographer as “forerunner of the charismatic movement”[23], was making waves from his Scotch church in London.

Chalmers’ reaction was equivocating. He was quoted by his son-in-law and biographer William Hanna as saying that “he thought Mr. Erskine’s Freeness one of the most delightful books that had ever been written.” “I don’t like” he continued, “narrowing the broad basis of the Gospel to the pinpoint speculations of an individual brain.”[24] Nick Needham has convincingly demonstrated[25] from Chalmers’ Institutes of Theology that he believed in universal atonement, if not universal salvation. Robert Burns, on the other hand, had an entirely difference response. His 88 page bromide The Gareloch Heresy Tried rapidly went into three editions and helped to discredit the so-called “Rowites.”.

Chalmers, with his warm magnanimous nature, had a fatherly regard for Edward Irving[26] who had in turn exercised a strong influence on John McLeod Campbell and Erskine of Linlathen.  Irving brought in a new emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit and a new perspective on the end times which stimulated both.  When he was charged with heresy and defrocked by the 1831 General Assembly Chalmers kept silent. There was one positive result: Irving forced the Church of Scotland to reexamine its eschatology (teaching about prophecy and the end times), and the hitherto neglected doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Teaching about the Holy Spirit strengthened a deep emotional longing in the closing years of the Eighteenth Century for revival in the Church of Scotland. The Moderates were all-powerful and it took an Englishman, an Anglican, to bring the prospect of renewed vitality. Charles Simeon, vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge, summered in Moulin near Pitlochry in Perthshire, and became a catalyst for renewal in Scotland. Robert Burns would spend an evening in Cambridge in 1812 with Simeon who made a lasting impression with his “unostentatious and unpaid evangelistic labour.”[27] “My father,” Burns recalled at the end of his life, “estimated the Moulin revival at the close of the century (1796) as the return of Whitefield and the scenes of Cambuslang.”[28] His grandson William Chalmers Burns was instrumental in both the revival that broke out in St Peter’s Dundee in the absence of the minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and in Kilsyth in 1839.

For ten years the Evangelicals, from the General Assembly of 1833, dominated the Church of Scotland. This came to an abrupt end when over 468 men marched out of St Andrew’s Church in Edinburgh to form the Free Church of Scotland. In so doing they lost any influence in the state church and terminated any possibility of achieving Chalmers’ vision of a Christian Scotland united by a common established Kirk. In spite of the rhetoric and emotion, the formation of the Free Church of Scotland was a defeat for the Calvinist view of a civil and just society, the civil magistrate constrained by the teaching of the Word of God as a religious and godly commonwealth provided an authoritative and recognised moral compass.

Two years later fifty-five year old Robert Burns arrived in Toronto, Canada West, to take up a call to the newly formed Knox’s Church and to serve as interim professor of divinity at Knox’s College[29].  That autumn he was unanimously elected Moderator of the Synod of the (Free) Presbyterian Church of Canada.

It was an extraordinary move. With his missionary passion, Robert was excited by the prospect of Christianizing (and civilizing) an untamed wilderness. As founder on 25 August 1825 of the Glasgow Colonial Society – officially named the Society (in Connection with the Established Church of Scotland) for Promoting the Religious Interests of the Scottish Settlers in British North America – he had, for the fifteen years of the Society’s  existence, made his mark on the religious life of the British colonies in North America. As one tribute said when he died in his eightieth year, active in ministry to the very end: “He has done more for our Church in Canada than any other man,”[30]

He loved his professorial role. A few months after arrival he wrote a college classmate[31]: “A wide field of usefulness spreads before me here both as a pastor and as a teacher. I have just finished (Saturday), one of my most interesting weekly exercises with 22 students – two hours of searching the Scriptures on questions of conscience and visitation of the sick – for we take up Pastoral Theology on Saturday; while two hours each day is devoted to Systematic Theology and church history … Assuredly the work is most important and valuable; more so than anything that ever before so engaged my mind.”

His 1846 course outline for systematic theology was standard Calvinist fare with some obvious reflections on what had been going on in Scotland in the 1830s:

“Ancient and modern theories regarding the being and perfections of God, as contrasted with the system of the Bible; imperfections of natural theology. General character and claims of revelation; internal evidences and outline of proofs at large; objections grounded on mysteries and supposed opposition to incarnation; mediatorial scheme; modern views on the atonement, its nature, extent and issues, justification by imputed righteousness through faith; divinity, personality and work of the Holy Spirit; on good works and the place they hold in the Christian system.”[32]

His lecture notes from that period survive and they provide interesting insights into his theology. His two lectures on election (97 and 98) show both his strong Calvinism and his pastoral heart.  “Our safest way,” he tells his students, “is to follow the plain doctrines of Sacred Scripture & leave it to God at last to vindicate his own plan & remove all difficulties.”[33] On limited atonement he is equally circumspect: In lecture 53 (titled “For whom Christ made satisfaction”) he states “This question is agitated with considerable heat perhaps more than merits the necessity of controversy.”[34] He adds “Everyman is to be taken in a restricted sense. Present gospel to every creature, not birds and beasts.” In one of his few published sermons, printed posthumously, on II Corinthians 5:14, 15 “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we that judge that if one died for all then were all dead. And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again,” Burns avoids the obvious question about Paul’s reference to Christ’s death being for all and focuses instead on Christ’s death as “the great and commanding principle of practical godliness.”[35]

His reading was vast. After each lecture there is a notation of authors he has consulted (and presumably recommends). He used Daniel Whitby’s anti-Calvinist 1720 On the five points of Calvinism[36] to introduce two classic rebuttals: the 1735 The Cause of God and Truth by the Baptist Calvinist John Gill[37] and Jonathan Edwards’ 1754 Freedom of the Will.[38] In regards to the extent of the atonement, William Bates’ 1835 The harmony of the divine attributes in the contrivance and accomplishment of Man’s Redemption, with an introduction by Archibald Alexander[39], published in 1835, is a recommended text.

Burns – like Chalmers – enjoyed the scrum of ecclesiastical and theological controversy. This would be demonstrated eight years into his ministry at Knox’s Church when he announced he would not set foot in the Sunday School until G. A. Pyper resigned as Superintendent. When Pyper and his friend J. M. Campbell were elected to the Kirk Session Burns refused to induct them. The matter made the pages of The Globe[40] and led eventually to the resignation of all the Knox’s Church elders who had “lost all confidence in the prudence, sincerity and honesty of purpose of the Reverend Dr Burns.”[41] Synod resolved the dispute by securing his resignation from the church with an appointment to Knox’s College as professor of church history.

One of the irritants at Knox’s Church was his peripatetic ministry which took him from Newfoundland to Bruce County along Lake Huron. He was everywhere, counselling clergy, speaking at almost every church in the fledgling denomination, being active in its life and ministry, and particularly devoting himself to its missionary interests, culminating in a tumultuous visit by Alexander Duff[42] in 1853.  “Whenever I have been called on to address a congregation on these visits,” he reported, “I have made it a rule to preach the gospel of the grace of God to sinful and dying men; and thereafter, if it is deemed proper in the circumstances, to address the hearers on their duties as a congregation connected with the Presbyterian church.”[43] “He did for the Presbyterian Church in the British Provinces what no other man could do,” stated one knowledgeable colleague. “We owe him much under God. He loved his church – knew every corner of the church and his life was bound up in the cause of God in the Dominion.”[44]

The Calvinism that Burns handed on to the Canadian church from his mentor Thomas Chalmers could perhaps best be described as a hybrid. Over the generations Calvinists can swerve off in two directions: they can morph into a sterile scholastic intellectualism or they embrace a mindless pietism wallowing in subjectivism. With the great emphasis on learning that characterized the Free Church of Scotland came the price of increasing academic dryness and institutional decline. But there was also the temptation to long for revival as a way of short circuiting the demands of rigorous reflection and analysis. As in Scotland with its memories of Cambuslang and Kilsyth, Canadians in the Free Church tradition looked for their inspiration to Glengarry and the Indian Lands revival of 1865 and 1866 led by Daniel Gordon and romanticised by his son Charles (“Ralph Connor”) in Glengarry School Days.

Place alongside this the fact that Robert Burns announced on arrival in Canada that he was now a teetotaller. This so-called “temperance” agenda, gaining ground at the same time in the Free Church in Scotland, made it easy to forge alliances with the Methodist denominations (the largest Protestant denomination in Upper Canada in the late Nineteenth Century). Dwight L Moody, with his spectacular 1873 campaign in Scotland, contributed to the unravelling there of the Free Church. He and his ilk also impacted Canada in dramatic ways with emotionally freighted appeals and giant interdenominational rallies[45]. Grand evangelistic alliances, shared social issues, and revivalism trumped Calvinist orthodoxy.

Indeed denominational boundaries were also falling in Scotland, though the road was not always straight and never narrow. When Robert Burns visited the 1869 Assembly of the Free Church he cheered on, amid acrimonious debate, those seeking to join the theologically suspect  United Presbyterians. That union would only be consummated thirty-one years later when the Free Church had lost its theological compass and had embraced voluntaryism. It is no accident that the impetus for church union in Canada came from Scotland with the arrival as Principal of Manitoba College of William Patrick, fresh from the union that formed the United Free Church in 1900. In a national Methodist assembly meeting in Winnipeg in September 1902, Patrick extrapolated from his recent Scottish experience a logical progression uniting all the Protestant churches in Canada in a grand coalition to fight – as Charles Gordon opined that day – rising and rampant materialism. Thus began twenty-three years of denominational brinkmanship in Canada.

In 1925, be it remembered, it was the Free Church part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada that led the way into church union. As in 1876 when it was a Church of Scotland minister, Archibald Hamilton Charteris[46], who blew the whistle on William Robertson Smith, the Free Church Old Testament higher critic, in the name of Calvinist orthodoxy, so some of the Kirk side of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, in their conservatism, were wary of theological accommodation with the Arminian Methodists and the independent Congregationalists. In 1925 there were more Knox and Chalmers congregations, with their Free Church roots, that went into Union than those named St Andrew’s, often suggesting a Kirk ancestry.


All this Robert Burns started the day he disembarked from the Erromanga. The two institutions that he was most responsible for, Knox’s College and Knox’s Church, have dropped their apostrophes and gone off in different directions theologically, reflective of the diversity that was, and is, the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Burns’ legacy is mixed. But the craggy individualist that he was would not, one suspects, want it any differently. He was after all, a Calvinist, and Calvinists follow in the tradition of our theological parent, independent and often unpopular. Like our Reformer Robert Burns was a man of passion and deep conviction. Theology was nothing if it did not lead to a renewed life. “Guard then against cold and speculative conception of the gospel of Christ,” he warned. “Receive it into your heart as well as into your understandings; and let it be your unceasing supplication at the throne of grace, that ‘God would enable you to adorn this doctrine.’”[47]


[1].Sydney Smith, Lady Holland’s Memoir, vol 1, (New York: Harper and Brother, 1855) 17.

[2]. There is a thorough and workmanlike 1978 Queen’s University Ph. D. thesis by Harry John Bridgman titled Three Scots Presbyterians in Upper Canada: A Study In Immigration, Nationalism and Religion which devotes pages 235 to 334 to a study of Burns but without much understanding or appreciation of Burns’ theology.  He has also written the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Volume IX (1861-1870) article on Burns (pages 104 – 108) (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976). In 1994 the Champlain Society published Selected Correspondence of the Glasgow Colonial Society 1825 – 1840 by Elizabeth Kerr McDougall (working with John Moir) (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1994). She dismisses Burns as “a controversialist with an acrimonious nature” and erroneously says he was forced to resign from his professorship as well as his congregation. Professor Richard Vaudry’s The Free Church in Victorian Canada, 1844 – 1861 (Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1989) is helpful. Burns’ Life and Times is now on the Internet http://www.archive.org/stream/lifetimesofrevro00burnuoft#page/438/mode/1up. William Fitch, a former minister of Knox Church Toronto, has a colourful and sanitized description of Burns’ ministry in Knox Church Toronto Avant-garde Evangelical Advancing (Toronto: Knox Church, 1971). In addition there are six boxes of a Burns archive accessed in 1913 (by the terms of the division of the assets of Knox College following church union given to the United Church of Canada) at the United Church Archives, 3250 Bloor St. W., Toronto. Box 1 and 2 are his (undated) lecture notes from Knox’s College. Part of Box 2 and Box 3 consist of shorthand sermon material dating back to 1819 through 1833. Box 4 consists of his exegetical studies “Sabbath forenoon” of various Bible books, verse by verse, in shorthand taught 1821 through 1832. Box 5 continues with this material but then (in script) includes material from his student days (1803 – 1809). Box 6 has earlier material going back to 1799.

[3]. John Witherspoon (1723 – 1792) served Laigh Kirk Paisley from 1758 to 1768 when he moved to Princeton as president of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University. He was a member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. His fundraising and securing books in Scotland for his struggling school served as an inspiration for, and anticipation of, Burns’ efforts on behalf of Knox’s College.

[4]. William Chalmers Burns (1815 – 1868) locum at St Peter’s Dundee in the absence of the minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne, then in Palestine and Eastern Europe, when revival broke out. He visited Canada from 1844 to 1846 and died under mysterious circumstances in China.

[5]. Thomas Guthrie (1803-1873) called in 1837 to Old Greyfriars Edinburgh, then to the new St John’s and after 1843 to the even newer Free St John’s.  A fundraiser for FC manses in 1845-6, he is best known today for his educational achievements among the destitute children of Scotland’s cities.

[6]. The Life and Times of the Rev. Robert Burns, D. D., F. A. S., F. R. S. E., Toronto: Including the Unfinished Autobiography (Toronto: James Campbell & Son, 1871) 9. Hereafter cited as Burns.

[7]. John Flavel (1627 – 1692) whose ministry was spent largely in Dartmouth, Devon. Ousted by the Act of Uniformity (1662), he was a prolific and a favoured author in the Eighteenth Century.

[8]. Burns, 8.

[9]. Burns, 8.

[10]. John Codman (1782 – 1847) was ordained 7 December 1808 on his return from Scotland and served the recently gathered Second Congregational Church in Dorchester until his death, a staunch defender of Trinitarian orthodoxy though his ordination sermon was preached by his close friend William Ellery Channing, the founder eleven years later of Unitarianism in America.

[11]. William Cooper (1694 – 1743) states about predestination “it is embraced by us because … we find it in our Bible. This is that makes us Predestinarians and Calvinists: For Calvin nor Augustine nor any names whatever, are anything to us but as they speak from Holy Scripture.” William Cooper in The Doctrine of Predestination unto Life Explained and Vindicated. Boston: J. Draper, 1730. 1-2. Cooper was minister of Brattle Street church, Boston, 1716 to his death.

[12]. Burns, 34.

[13]. Burns, 35.

[14]. Thomas M’Crie (1772-1835), Associate minister and later an “Old Light Antiburgher”, directed his Presbytery’s Divinity Hall, and was instrumental in shaping views that led to the Disruption of 1843 by stressing the spiritual independence of church courts from civil authority.

[15]. Andrew Mitchell Thomson (1779 – 1831) minister from 1814 of the new St George’s Edinburgh and editor of the influential Christian Instructor, described in the 1820 General Assembly (dominated by Moderates) as “highly injurious and calumnious.”

[16]. Burns, 41.

[17]. Burns, 40.

[18]. Burns, 57-58.

[19]. Cf Calvin’s response to Pighius: “Hence we read everywhere [in Scripture] that Christ diffuses life into none but the members of his own body.” A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God (Henry P. Cole, translator), in Calvin’s Calvinism (Whitefish, MT: Kessenger Publishing, 2008) 94.

[20]. Cunningham, William Historical Theology, vol. 2. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1863) 323.

[21]. Free Church Record: December 1869 as quoted in Burns, 64.

[22]. Dean Michael Jinkins of Austin, TX, Theological Seminary did a thesis on McLeod Campbell and is hopefully going to publish a book on him. Campbell’s thinking has recently been rediscovered. See Jinkins’ article “How to Spot a Heretic” (his original title “Heresy: The Temptation to Settle for A Lesser God”) in Presbyterian Outlook: 26 February 2009.

[23].  Arthur Dallimore, The Life of Edward Irving, Fore-runner of the Charismatic Movement. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983).

[24]. William Hanna, Memoir of the Life and Writings of Thomas Chalmers Vol. 3 (Edinburgh: A. Fullarton, 1853). As Nicholas Needham says of Hanna’s 1877 biography of Erskine of Linlathen: “His evident sympathies with the liberal Erskine reveal the theological breadth of Hanna’s own mature outlook.” Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993) 392.

[25]. Nicholas Needham, Thomas Erskine of Linlathen: His Life and Theology 1788 – 1837 (Edinburgh: Rutherford House Books, 1990).

[26]. Edward Irving (1792 – 1834) served with Thomas Chalmers in Glasgow from 1818 to1820 and then was called to London to what became known as the National Scottish Church when it was erected on Regent Square in 1827. In 1830 Irving was expelled from London presbytery (Church of Scotland) and went independent. After ‘miraculous gifts’ appeared through his ministry with tongues speaking, he was locked out of his church in April 1832. 800 people, including the so-called twelve apostles, followed him into the Catholic Apostolic Church, a new denomination.

[27]. Burns, 106.

[28]. Burns, 83.

[29]. The College, as also the Church, was originally named (until 1858 in the case of the College) with the apostrophe, Knox’s. Knox’s Church Galt, Cambridge, is the only PCC congregation that continues to be known with the apostrophe.

[30]. Burns, 442.

[31]. Burns to James Clason, 24 January 1846, Burns, 220.

[32]. Ecclesiastical and Missionary Record of the Presbyterian Church of Canada (January 1846): 146.

[33]. “Lecture 97 – Election” Burns Papers Book 4 File 1 PP Bur United Church Archives, unnumbered page (ad loc).

[34].  “Lecture 59 – On Christ’s Satisfaction” Burns Papers Book 2 File 1 PP Bur United Church Archives, unnumbered page (ad loc).

[35]. Burns, “The Practical Influence of the Death of Christ” in Canada Presbyterian Church Pulpit First Series (Toronto: James Campbell and Son, 1871) 136.

[36]. Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) Church of England controversialist who later turned Arian.

[37]. John Gill (1697 – 1771), English Baptist Calvinist and Biblical scholar.

[38]. See Perry Miller’s “Editor’s Introduction” to Freedom of the Will the section on Whitby Freedom of the Will (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957) 81-89.

[39]. Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), first professor at Princeton Seminary (1812).

[40]. Untitled articles, The Globe [Toronto] 23 and 26 October, 3 November, 1855: 1. On the conflict at Knox’s Church,
which is beyond the scope of this paper, see Barbara Murison, “Getting his walking ticket: Minister and Laity in Mid-Nineteenth Century Toronto”, Journal of Canadian Studies 32.3 (Fall, 1997), 36-54.

[41]. Untitled, The Globe [Toronto], 23 October 1855: 1.

[42]. Alexander Duff (1806-1878) went as a missionary of the Church of Scotland to Calcutta in 1830 and had a remarkable ministry among high-caste Hindus. On furlough in 1851 he was voted Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, visiting the United States and Canada in 1854 and 1855. In 1867 he became the first Professor of Missions at New College, Edinburgh.

[43].  Burns to Hon. Adam Fegusson, 29 August 1845, Burns, 291

[44].  Tribute by John W Smith of Grafton, Ontario, quoted in Burns, 217.

[45]. See Eric Crouse’s Revival in the City, The Impact of American Evangelists in Canada, 1885 – 1914 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill Queens University Press, 2005).

[46]. Archibald Hamilton Charteris (1835 – 1908) Professor of Biblical Criticism Biblical Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh (1868-1898). In 1875 he submitted an anonymous review to the Edinburgh Evening Courant challenging the confessional orthodoxy of William Robertson Smith, Old Testament professor at the University of Aberdeen whose higher critical views of the Old Testament that had recently been published in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

[47]. Robert Burns, “The Practical Influence of the Death of Christ,” in Canada Presbyterian Church Pulpit, First Series (Toronto: James Campbell and Son, 1871) 149.