Robert Leighton and the Theology of Further Reformation, 1660-1690

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Scottish Church History Society Conference

Date/Time
Date(s) - 22/10/2016
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Session: The Scottish Episcopal Church, 10.30am

Location
Lecture Room 4, Edinburgh Theological Seminary


Scholars have now reached a consensus that the period of European history up to 1800 can be described as a ‘very long reformation’. Clamours for ‘further’ reform were a constant of post-Reformation discourse. This paper will examine the concept of further reformation in Scotland, by analysing the ideas of Archbishop Robert Leighton (1611-1684) and his followers. It will argue that Leighton developed an idea of ‘personal’ reformation, which enjoyed influence in Scotland, England and Europe until the end of the long reformation period. Leighton believed that sixteenth-century reformers had failed to effect change in the morals of ordinary Christians, which were, in his view, far more important than the questions of church government over which the Scottish church was deeply divided. In response, Leighton and his followers turned to guides for those living in monastic houses written by medieval mystics and Counter-Reformation Catholics. Leighton believed that these Catholic texts could usefully be appropriated by Protestants to effect the much needed ‘personal reformation’. His followers began publishing Catholic devotional writings for a lay readership. This paper will suggest that these efforts enjoyed wide influence: among moderate Enlightenment divines, among English latitudinarians, and among pietist and quietist movements across Europe.

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