The Perfect Rule of the Christian Religion

A History of Sandemanianism in the Eighteenth Century

By John Howard Smith

Subjects: Religion, Christianity, Theology, History, American Religion
Paperback : 9781438425085, 246 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9781438425078, 246 pages, January 2009

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1. "I Thought Myself a Sound Presbyterian"
2. "The Perfect Rule of the Christian Religion"
3. "He Becomes Possessed of a Truth"
4. "May God Preserve Our [Churches] Amidst All Attacks"
5. "Spirited Conduct"
6. "Mine Eyes Must Flow with a River of Tears"

A history of the Sandemanians, a little-known but ultimately influential Christian sect in colonial America.


Some thought them dangerous, others credited them with recovering original Christianity. The Sandemanians, a sect with roots in the turmoil of eighteenth-century Scottish Presbyterianism, espoused a radical theology that influenced the development of American Christianity. Founder John Glas blended elements of fundamentalist New Testament Christianity with Enlightenment philosophy to create what he believed to be "the perfect rule of the Christian religion. " The history and legacy of the Sandemanians are given full attention in these pages, which reveal the origins of the sect in Scotland and follow its greatest proselyte, Robert Sandeman, across the Atlantic to New England. Author John Howard Smith shows how such a minor sectarian movement could create so much controversy at the time of the First Great Awakening and the American Revolution. The churches Sandeman established were eventually crushed by the Revolution, their adherents scattered, never to grow into a denomination. The Sandemanians are little known today, yet elements of their theology played a key role in the future of American Christianity.

John Howard Smith is Assistant Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Commerce.


"…the student of eighteenth-century Baptist life up until now was hard pressed to find sufficient material to study Sandemanianism in depth. John Howard Smith has rectified this neglect with a carefully researched and well-written history of this movement … Smith is to be thanked for bringing to life an obscure but still relevant sect, important in the study of Baptist history and evangelical theological debate, through this fine treatment. " — Southern Baptist Journal of Theology