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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal History of European Ideas
Volume (Issue) 47(4)
Page(s) 561 - 572
Title of proceedings History of European Ideas
DOI 10.1080/01916599.2020.1809005

Open Access

Type of Open Access Green OA Embargo (Freely available via Repository after an embargo)


This article presents two letters from the Glaswegian theologian JohnSimson (1667–1740) to his former student Archibald Campbell (1691–1756), professor of ecclesiastical history at St. Andrews as of 1733. AfterSimson’s condemnation for heresy in 1727–1728, Simson was in regularcontact with Campbell, who also came to be scrutinised by a Committeefor Purity of Doctrine in 1735–1736. The two letters by Simson addressCampbell’s claim that without the support of divine revelation, naturalreason is unable to discover any essential religious truths. Campbellpresented this claim as directed against the Deists, but was accused byconservatively orthodox theologians of undermining the tenet ofpostlapsarian mankind’s inexcusability. In his letters, Simson argues for astronger conception of natural reason–however not to protectinexcusability, but to argue for God’s goodness. In different ways,Simson and Campbell may thus both be seen to make elbow room forjustification by works, and to encourage religious tolerance.