The Practical Divinity of Universal Learning:

John Durie’s Educational Pansophism



George M. Ella


O.St.R. (Land NRW); I. Staatsprüfung Sek. I und II (Duisburg); II. Staatsprüfung Sek. I und II (Essen); Översiktskurs in Theologie (Uppsala); fil. kand. (Uppsala); BD (London); PGCE (Hull); Dr. phil. (Duisburg); Dr. theol. (Marburg).


‘I highly recommend Dr. George Ella’s insightful work The Practical Divinity of Universal Learning. Dr. Ella sheds new light on the pioneering work of John Durie (1596-1680) in early attempts at universal education and Protestant church unity. Dr. Ella convincingly proves that Durie’s contributions to Europe’s educational and political reforms in the late 17th and early 18th centuries are immense and often overlooked by modern scholars.  Ella also helps the reader understand Durie’s profound belief that all knowledge is of God, and as such, Practical Divinity cannot be considered mere theology, but life itself.  Durie’s use of the phrase “The Public Good” as a synonym for universal education is prophetic for me.  After reading Dr. Ella’s The Practical Divinity of Universal Learning a great deal of good will most assuredly come to the school and church over which I have influence.’

Wade Burleson, Chancellor of Emmanuel Christian School and Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church,

Enid, Oklahoma, USA

‘Scottish and English Christians are greatly indebted to George Ella for reviving and greatly expanding their knowledge of the tireless and many-sided work of one of their own Christian scholars, who lived in troubled times and laboured in many parts of Europe as well as in his own country to expand learning and to foster international Protestant understanding.’

Roger T. Beckwith, M.A., B.D., D.D. Former Warden,

Latimer House, Oxford.

‘George Ella has written a rich and compelling account of a seminal seventeenth-century figure. Scholars of puritanism and its intellectual contexts across the disciplines will be enormously in his debt.’

Prof. Dr. Crawford Gibben, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., F.R. Hist.S., F.T.C.D..

Trinity College, Dublin

‘In the sixteenth century two great movements shook and woke up the European world: the Renaissance and the Reformation. The first was a movement of the mind, the last a movement of the Spirit. As the century progressed and knowledge, and the thirst for knowledge, increased, there arose a dichotomy between ‘education’ (‘facts and figures’) and ‘theology’ (‘the religious realm’), which by the seventeenth-century were rapidly separating into two mutually exclusive, and mutually jealous, spheres. John Durie, above all other men, understood the danger and, realising that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, he strove tirelessly to ground all knowledge, all education, on its true foundation: the Almighty Creator God, and His will and plan as revealed to human minds in the Bible. Durie came to see that right views of our relationship to our Maker, instilled from earliest childhood, offered a foundation for true and uniform education (that could be built on to the highest level and encompass all available knowledge), and also a base for a uniform theology and united Church. Durie was a centuries ahead of his time. His God-given insights should be widely and seriously read today for they are of vital importance to the modern world.’

Prof. Dr. Stephen P. Westcott, M.A.C.S., Ph.D, Litt.D.

Reformation International Theological Seminary

‘Scotsman John Durie was an international statesman of the highest order during the reign of Charles I and under Cromwell’s Protectorate. He served as ambassador to numerous European courts, laboured to create peaceful relations between war-torn European countries and endeavoured to establish union and common purpose amongst Continental Protestant and Reformed churches. For these labours alone Durie ought to be remembered and respected.

But, perhaps his finest achievement and most enduring contribution was in the arena of education. He systemised the nature and purpose of human learning and promoted a view of universal education that recognised the Divine source of all knowledge. He saw how all branches of human learning revealed the truth about God and all His works.

We are deeply indebted to Dr George Ella for reintroducing Durie’s accomplishments to a new generation and for restoring to us one of Britain’s and Europe’s most comprehensive thinkers. In days when the whole purpose and practice of education is rightly being re-examined, John Durie’s ideas may be about to prove their enduring usefulness.

Peter Meney,

Editor of New Focus Magazine, Director of Go Publications