An examination of the life and career of Rev William McGill (1732-1807): controversial Ayr theologian

Richard, Robert (2010) An examination of the life and career of Rev William McGill (1732-1807): controversial Ayr theologian. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the late 1780s there arose a theological controversy in Ayrshire, centred around the Rev William McGill (1732-1807), the associate minister to William Dalrymple (1723-1814) of the Old Kirk in Ayr. McGill was principally accused of holding ‘Socinian’ views, particularly in his Practical Essay on the Death of Jesus Christ (1786) which were at odds with the accepted standards of his church, a church which still retained a mainly Calvinistic outlook in the period.

The Aim of this thesis

Within this thesis I will attempt to place McGill firmly within the context of his day. This will be done by offering a picture of the Scottish, English and Irish ecclesiastical scene, with particular reference to Scotland, in which the Ayr minister was working. Further consideration will be given to the impact of the Enlightenment, as well as the American and French Revolutions, in the latter part of the century. The response of the various churches in Britain to these events are of particular importance for McGill’s career as, in his final published work On the fear of God (Ayr, 1795), the theological ‘radical’ emerges as a political conservative.
What has perhaps been lacking in previous assessments of McGill is a study of the full range of influences which drove the Ayr minister’s theology. By utilising the evidence offered by the ‘Ayr Library Society’ (which held the works of noted English Socinians) of which McGill, along with Dalrymple, was a founder member in 1762, I will attempt to trace some of the main sources for McGill’s later thought. Of key significance is the holding of works by the Society of several leading English Socinians. Although speculative (as McGill does not directly cite these works), based on the evidence there does appear to be parallels between McGill’s work and that of the English theologians.
I will also assess, in addition to considering why McGill’s work proved contentious, the reasons for his ‘apology’, following the case. Additionally it will be important to re-examine the overall effect of the case, in order to fully appreciate the significance of McGill for the wider Scottish churches of his day.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: McGill, Atonement, Socinianism, Ayrshire, Church, Secession, Dalrymple, Burns
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Hazlett, Prof. W.I.P.
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Mr Robert Richard
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1432
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:39

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