KEITH, GEORGE ( 1638, Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland--27 March 1716, Edburton, England). Education: M.A., Marischall College, Aberdeen, 1654-58. Career: Surveyor; schoolteacher; Anglican clergyman. (See Chapter 7.)
George Keith, raised a Presbyterian, received a good education becoming learned in philosophy, theology, languages, and mathematics. He converted to Quakerism in 1663 and soon became a leader, first in Scotland and later in England, and suffered imprisonment in 1664, 1667, and 1675. Influenced by Descartes, the Cambridge Platonists, and Protestant mystics on the Continent, Keith early proved receptive to new intellectual currents and was willing to consider the theological implications of Quaker beliefs. Along with his good friend Robert Barclay*, Keith in debates and numerous tracts provided a systematic defense of Friends' ideas. After moving to London in 1670 Keith became a close associate of leading English Quakers and, along with George Fox*, William Penn*, and Barclay, journeyed to the Continent in 1677. Ostensibly, Keith was a surveyor and schoolteacher, but he spent much of his time writing and in the traveling ministry.
In 1684 Keith migrated to East Jersey, where he obtained extensive property, drew the boundary between East and West New Jersey, and served as surveyor- general. He journeyed to New England to defend Rhode Island Quakers against the Puritans. In 1689 he moved to Philadelphia and became master of the Quaker school. By 1691 he had decided to return to England when an elderly Quaker minister accused him of the heresy of preaching two Christs, an inward and spiritual Christ versus an outward and historical Jesus.
Keith, who had a forceful personality, demanded vindication and the resulting impasse eventually created a major division, with Keith charging many of the leading members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting with holding unsound