Historical Writings

Church and Denominational History

Writings of James Aitken Wylie

The History of Protestantism

An exhaustive look a the history of the Protestant Church from the first Century to the 1800's.
James Aitken Wylie
James Aitken Wylie

Rev Dr James Aitken Wylie LLD (1808-1890) was a Scottish historian of religion and Presbyterian minister. He was a prolific writer and is most famous for writing The History of Protestantism.

Wylie was born on 9 August 1808 in Kirriemuir to James Wylie and Margaret Forrest. His name-father, Rev James Aitken, was an Auld Licht Anti-burgher minister in the Secession Church. Wylie was educated at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen, where he studied for three years before transferring to St Andrews University to study under Rev Dr Thomas Chalmers. He followed his name-father's example, entering the Original Secession Divinity Hall, Edinburgh in 1827.

He was ordained at the Secessionist Church in Dollar, Clackmannanshire in 1831.

In 1846 he left the church to become sub-editor of the Edinburgh religious newspaper the Witness, under Hugh Miller. In 1852, after joining the Free Church of Scotland, Wylie edited their Free Church Record, a role which he continued until 1860.

He published his book The Papacy: its History, Dogmas, Genius, and Prospects in 1851, winning a prize of a hundred guineas from the Evangelical Alliance. The Protestant Institute appointed him Lecturer on Popery in 1860. He continued in this role until his death in 1890, publishing in 1888 his work The Papacy is the Antichrist. He died with his History of the Scottish Nation taken forward to 1286.

Aberdeen University awarded him an honorary doctorate (LL.D.) in 1856.

Wylie's classic work, The History of Protestantism (1878), went out of print in the 1920s, although it was briefly reprinted in Northern Ireland in a two-volume reproduction in the late 20th century. It has received praise from a number of influential figures, including Ian Paisley. The History of Protestantism was also reprinted by Hartland Publications, Rapidan, Virginia, USA in 2002 in four-volumes. ISBN 0-923309-80-2. It has now been re-published, as a 4-volume hardback set, by Reformation Heritage Books.

He died at 12 Archibald Place[2] (next to the old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 1 May 1890. He is buried with his wife, Euphemia Gray (1808-1845) and their children, in East Preston Street Burial Ground in Edinburgh. The grave lies in the eastern part of the south-east section.