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condemning the judicatories of the national church as not being lawful courts of Christ, and declining all their authority and jurisdiction over them.—Upon which they withdrew, and attended the assembly no more. Whereupon the assembly past an act concerning them, declaring, That for their declinature, [declining] contempt, and schismatical courses contrary to their vows, and for the many groundless and calumnious reflections which they have cast on the church and her judicatories, they deserve deposition: but that they resolved to forbear them another year, to give them further time to bethink themselves and return to their duty; and they appointed them to be cited to the next assembly 1740.
Being cited accordingly, and not comparing the ass. 1740 proceeded to depose the whole eight brethren. But there having been debates about wording the sentence, and different senses put on it, we must look to the words themselves, which are, They depose them from the office of the holy ministry, prohibiting them to exercise the same within this church. And we must say, we are sorry to see a sentence of this sort so ambiguous.—If these words, Within this church, be connected with the word Depose, as well as with the word Prohibit, they mean no more but that they depose them from being ministers of this church; and many who voted it say they meant no more: so that, in this sense, the sentence is only a loosing of their relation from the national church; which the brethren themselves had done in effect, by their secession from her, by their renouncing all her authority and jurisdiction, and refusing all communion with any of her ministers.—But, on the other hand, if the words, Within this Church, be
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not connected with the word Depose, then the assembly meant to depose them simpliciter from the office of the ministry itself: and in this sense many members understood the sentence; and therefore a good many voted against it, and dissented from it. For though they did not approve of their wild divisive practices, yet they had not the freedom to unminister them, seeing they looked upon them as pious orthodox Presbyterian ministers, who had been useful in the church, and might still be useful in preaching Christ to lost perishing sinners. And, if the sentence be taken up in this…,[unlegible word] we join with those who testified against it; in regard we think the world cannot easily spare any of these ministers who are upright and zealous in preaching a crucified Jesus to fallen men, especially at a time when Deism and dry moral discourses are like to thrust out true Christianity.—Neither do we think it was time for the church to proceed to censure the brethren, till once they had done all they could to remove the evils and redress the grievances which were the grounds of their separation, and thereby had made them inexcusable in their schism; which, alas! Is far from being done. And as for the brethren’s licensing of preachers, which is one article of their libel, the assembly and commission might prevent that, if they pleased to observe our good rules, and particularly the 14th act of ass. 1736 against intrusions; seeing it is manifest, that, by every new intrusion and forced settlement which they make, they give encouragement to the brethren to erect a new tent, and license a new preacher; and, till such time as they shall cease from the one, they cannot well expect the brethren will cease from the other.—And, with respect to several other parts and articles of their
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libel, we think them too general, and no ways so particular, nor duly laid, as ought to have been in a process of this kind; and some of the most material things charged against the brethren are left out. But as we cannot justify the assembly in their conduct, so neither can we vindicate the brethren in theirs. And seeing, we proposed in this performance to give a fail and impartial testimony against the defections and evils of the time, whether upon one side or another, we shall briefly mention some of our seceding brethren's defections and strayings from the good old paths; which they have been led into, partly by their own precipitancy and misguided zeal, and partly by the headstrong humours of their followers: Such as,
1mo, Their unprecedented secession which they have made from their mother-church, and the lamentable schism they have begun and carried on with so much heat and uncharitableness, when they were under no necessity of going into any sinful terms of communion, and when they were joined with a body of faithful ministers who witnessed against the evils complained of, is well as they.—Our histories assure us, that such a schismatical course is contrary to what was the approven judgment and practice of our reforming ancestors for above an hundred years after our reformation from Popery, though sometimes they had greater provocation to it than our seceding brethren had.
2do, They both seceded, and constituted themselves into a presbytery for the exercise of discipline and government through the whole national church, without ever consulting with their brethren, and fathers in it, whom they then owned to be a numerous body of faithful ministers: though they
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could not but foresee that the said body of ministers, with their flocks, would be much affected, nay distressed, shaken, perplexed, and rent, by such singular and extraordinary steps as they were taking.
3tio, Their irreverend and disrespectful carriage towards their mother church, to whom they had solemnly vowed submission; as appears in their Declinature, wherein they disown all her authority and jurisdiction over them, and pronounce judicially a sentence of their newly erected presbytery against the general assembly, and all the other judicatories of the church, Finding and Declaring that they are not lawful courts of Christ; which sentence they presumed formally to intimate in face of the general assembly by their moderator, before many witnesses, May 17th 1739. They ought to have remembered, that the laws both of God and man do highly resent children's beating, cursing, or maltreating their mother, even when she is somewhat severe and out of her duty to them; and that it is necessary that zeal should be attended with meekness, courteousness, and humbleness of mind. Surely such a declinature, and such a sentence as theirs, would seem to import no less than the unchurching the whole church, and unministering her whole ministry, faithful body and all, as if they were all given up to some dreadful apostacy or fundamental errors. Now, we are pretty sure there are few judicious orthodox divines in the world that will adventure to unchurch the church of Scotland, or declare her no church of Christ, for all the faults she hath. They have owned others as the churches of Christ, who have been as corrupt as she, if not more. Nay, the glorious Head of the church, the best judge, hath
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owned some no less corrupt, as golden candlesticks, walked in them, and held communion with them; such as the church of Corinth, some of the churches of Asia, Galatia, and other places. And is it thank-worthy in any of the members to outrun the Head, or to be more forward to unchurch his churches, or to unminister his ministers, than he himself inclines to be?
4to, We cannot justify the brethren in refusing to return to assist these whom they owned to be a body of faithful ministers, to promote a work of reformation; when by a surprising providence they had got the upper-hand in the assembly 1734, and were doing all they could to remove the evils they complained of, and had got the door opened for them, and the act 1732 repealed, which was the great occasion of their protesting and seceding; and were most willing to do every thing else in their power to satisfy them and all the friends of reformation. But after they had continued for two or three years to struggle even above their strength, and thereby had got many good things done, still hoping their brethren would return to their assistance; they were grievously discouraged when they saw them still bent upon their begun schism, so as to set at nought all they had been doing, and misconstruct their most honest designs; yea, they were at length so disheartened by their measures, that many of them gave over travelling, and attending the assemblies, who thereupon, alas! soon returned to their old bias. So that it is manifest the brethren's wilfulness in their dividing way, put a stop to a begun national reformation, which, if they had favoured and struck in with, might have been advanced very far through the blessing of God, and many dismal consequences of their schism prevented.
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5 to, We must disapprove the brethren in seceding not only from the church, but also from their old Christian temper and disposition, and from that royal law of love and charity which they once preached up: this appears in their excluding from, the room they once had in their charity and communion, all their old friends and acquaintances, though never so sound and pious, or willing to spend or be spent for Christ and souls, if they have not light to secede and join with them. Whatever esteem of them they had before, they must now no longer employ them, hear, them, nor preach for them. Now, why should they treat the body of faithful ministers, they once took sweet counsel with, as if they were gross apostates, when it is notour they continue the very same men they were before, when the brethren sat with them in judicatories? They still witness and contend for reformation principles, as well as they; they give testimony against licensing or ordaining corrupt men, and against all errors and intrusions; against countenancing patronages, and accepting presentations; against all incroachments made upon the rights of the church and Christian people, and upon the Headship of Christ over the church, against the preaching up a sort of Heathen morality, and the neglect of the true preaching of Christ and gospel holiness, &c.—Now, what must be the reason for the brethren’s separating and departing from their old friends, as if they were become Papists or Mahometans? Is it a good reason, because they continue to witness against the evils of the time in the judicatories as they did before, and not in conjunction with the eight seceders? Why must it now become such a deadly sin for worthy men to go with Joseph and Nicodemus to backsliding
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judicatories to plead with their mother, to testify against corruptions, to do all they can to hold out English prelacy and ceremonies, and maintain the national establishment of presbytery, and a sound Confession of Faith, and to strive to do all the good in their power, while waiting for better times, when God will open the eyes of men to see the evil of their ways! Now, when honest men think these ends may be better answered by going to judicatories than by joining a few seceders, ought not their brethren to forbear them, and allow them the same place in their charity and communion they had before! 6tio, We cannot approve of their marking so narrowly the failings, mistakes, and wrong steps of their sincere godly brethren, as they do; and instead of covering and forgiving their weaknesses (as Christ enjoins) aggravating and magnifying them so, as to make every mistake a dangerous error and defection; and not only doing this in private conversation, but going to the pulpit, and proclaiming them at times of greatest concourse, such as sacrament occasions, which should be feasts of love and charity among Christians, and not engines of strife and debate. Such an uncharitable course we judge the ready way to mar the usefulness of many of Christ’s faithful servants in his vineyard, tending both to break their ministry, and break their hearts at once; to scatter their poor flocks, and do great harm to many precious souls.
7mo, Likewise we must witness against their exciting and stirring up poor people plainly and directly to leave their godly pastors, by whom many of them have been brought to Christ; and doing so at the very time while they are feeding and profitting under their ministry; and for no other reason
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but because these ministers have not freedom to join in their secession and testimony, &c. yea persuading the people to leave these, and come to them, as they would not fall under the curse of Meroz, &c. and doing this both when they preach at home, and when they invade the parishes or others abroad—We cannot but testify against such flock-scattering doctrine and practices, as most sinful; and judge it to be a counterfeiting of our Lord's words, He that despiseth you despiseth me, and also great cruelty to go and pluck weak children from the breasts, while sucking strength and nourishment from pure ordinances, and to tell them (as seceders do) that some few occasional meals, like their itinerant sermons, will be better for them; though perhaps they are not so good their daily fare. This doctrine tends to ruin souls, by fostering ignorance, error, infidelity, looseness, carnality, worldliness, Sabbath-breaking, and all sorts profanity through the land: for thus many thousands of ignorant Christless souls, if they obey them, must sit at home on the Lord's day, and live without the gospel, except when they get a transient sermon of this kind now and then from a seceder.
8vo, We must also bear witness against the brethren their narrowing the terms both of ministerial and Christian communion, so as no reformed church ever did. 1. As to ministerial, they have come that length to refuse communion with the most strict and holy minister in Scotland, if he do not secede and approve of their long act and testimony, notwithstanding of the many visible blemishes that are in it.—And this they do in contradiction to their protestation at their first secession, Nov. 16. 1733, by which they profess still to hold
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communion with all true Presbyterians, who groan under the evils of the time, and wrestle against them: and again they say the same in their first testimony, page 95. But they continued short while in that moderate disposition; for they soon came to refuse communion with all ministers but these of their own presbytery.—2. As to Christian communion, they go a prodigious length in excommunicating from the Lord’s table all who hear or communicate with any other ministers, although these ministers might possibly be the instruments of their conversion, and signally blessed to them; and men upon whom they can charge no defection or fault but their not seceding from the church, and acceding to their long testimony in all points. Surely, for men to prescribe such new terms of communion to god’s children before they can get their bread, terms not appointed by the Head, is both to incroach upon the headship of Jesus Christ, and break in upon that article of our Creed, The communion of saints.
9no, We must regret their casting slanders on their worthy ancestors, and on their mother church, in their Act and Testimony, and other papers emitted or adopted by them; particularly by alledging, that the assembly 1690 (which consisted of many confessors and old sufferers) made no particular acknowledgment of the backslidings of the land under prelacy;—and that they declared the perfidious prelates were not to be deposed for their treacherous defections.—That the parliament which met at that time imposed the oath of allegiance, to exclude the oath of the covenant.—That Professor Simson and Professor Campbell’s errors, and these favoured by the assembly’s Shorter Catechism revised, have overspread this church like a flood.—That the
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judicatories have overturned the foundations of the doctrine and government of Christ's church:—That they have subverted both her doctrine and worship:—That they have done what in them lay to pull the crown of Christ's head:—That they have refused to give him the glory of his supreme Deity, and involved themselves in denying the Son of God, which is one epecial mark of Antichrist:—That they have made sinful terms of communion, &c. For all which, see Testimony, first Edit. Pages 51, 53, 59, 105, 109, 143, 144, 145, 148. besides others of their papers. These are but a swatch of the many false aspersions contained in their writings, besides these which they daily cast upon their brethren in their sermons. Alas! that brethren who are concerned for the same gospel interest, should take such methods to slander their own mother's sons, to discredit their persons, and blast their ministry; especially when God is pleased to countenance severals of them remarkably in their work! There are indeed many evils in the national church; but it is sinful to calumniate her, and make her defections greater than they are. But notwithstanding of all these extravagant steps and accusations of our seceding brethren, occasioned through their intemperate party zeal; we still have regard to severals of them, as good men upon the main, and useful preachers of a crucified Jesus; and upon that account we wish well to them; not doubting but they have as good title to our charity as the Donatists and Novatians of old, and the Brounists and M’Millantes of later years. And we pray God to incline their hearts to unite with other godly ministers. As we have thus endeavoured to give our impartial testimony against the defections and wrong
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steps of the national church, and likewise of these who have of late separated from her; so we do also bear our testimony against the defections of the Episcopal clergy in meeting houses through Scotland. Ah, how wofully have they degenerated from the principles and practice of their fathers! Of old their fathers did not differ much from the established church except in point of church government, their doctrine and worship being very much the same: but now they are generally said to be Arminian and erroneous in their doctrine.—And upon our incorporating union with England, and the Toleration in 1712, they changed their way of worship, and fell in with the English service and ceremonies which their fathers would never receive, and which many Presbyterian writers have refuted to excellent purpose. Though this was a very great and remarkable change in the Scots Episcopal clergy, yet now it appears to have been introductive to a greater: for, being strongly attached to Jacobite principles and a Popish Pretender, they were thereby induced to entertain favourabIe thoughts of other Popish superstitions and errors, which at length many of them began to vent and stand up for; such as, A middle state for souls after death, and prayers for the dead;—The making the sacrament of the Lord's supper a proper sacrifice or propitiatory oblation for sin, and mixing the sacramental wine with water; pleading for the necessity of absolution by a priest, and confession of sins to him, in order to the forgiveness of sin;—The anointing with oil in baptism and other cases;—The necessity of Episcopal ordination and baptsim to salvation; And the practice of bowing towards the altar, and at the name of Jesus, with other Popish practices, for which they have no
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foundation nor warrant in the Bible, but to the contrary. Wherefore they do not much encourage their people to read the Scriptures, unless it be with such commentaries as they recommend to them; telling them that they must only receive the sense and meaning of the Scriptures from the church or clergy, and they must have a special regard to ancient liturgies, fathers, councils, traditions, &c. And, because the English prayer book doth not favour some of their new usages, they would have some places of it altered, or a new liturgy composed. In the prayers for the church, they leave out the words in the English Liturgy, Church militant here in earth, to favour prayers for the dead; and also they begin to favour the Arians, by passing over the Athanasian Creed in their worship. These innovations have occasioned in several places very great divisions both among the clergy and people: but still the innovating clergy gain ground against these who are more orthodox: and when they find people offended, or ready to leave them, upon account of their innovations, they either deny them, or artfully palliate them, until they get the people (who are but too tractable) reconciled to them; and thus they are gradually drawing nearer to the superstitions and idolatry of Rome from time to time.—Yea, some of them begin to preface and recommend Popish books, which contain devotions and prayers to the virgin Mary, and to the saints, besides other errors. May the Lord stop their career, and preserve the land from an inundation of Poperry, that Antichristian, tyrannical, bloody, blasphemous, idolatrous and damnable religion!
In such a time of general defection and degeneracy in this and other churches, when infidelity, error, superstition, lukewarmness, deadness, carnality,
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profaneness, schism and divisions were on the growing hand; what might have been expected from a holy and just God, thus dread fully provoked, but that he would remove our candlestick out of its place, or come against us with some desolating judgment? But, behold! instead thereof, God is pleased to glorify his sovereign mercy and free grace in pitying his forlorn remnant, and to arise and maintain his own cause, by pouring out his Spirit from on high in several parts, to renew the decayed face of the earth. Amazing goodness! when the enemy was coming in as an overflowing flood, and God in justice might have given us all up for prey to him, the Spirit of God was pleased to lift up a standard against him in a very surprising manner, for reviving his own work in many places through the world, and in this land in particular.
In or about the years 1732 or 1733, the Lord was pleased to pour out his Spirit upon the people of Saltzburg in Germany, who were living in Popish darkness, in a most uncommon manner; so that above twenty thousand of them, merely by reading the Bible which they made a shift to get in their own language, were determined to throw off Popery, and embrace the reformed religion; yea, and to become so very zealous for the truth and gospel of Jesus Christ, as to be willing to suffer the loss of all things in the world, and actually to forsake their houses, lands, goods and relations, that they might enjoy the pure preaching of the gospel. And O with what earnestness and tears in their eyes did they beseech Protestant ministers to preach to them in the places where they (when banished from their own country) came in different bodies! For it pleased the Lord to stir up Protestant princes
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and states to receive them, and provide for them, in many different places.
Near to the same time, or about the year 1735 or 1736, the Lord poured out his Spirit on many, in Moravia, another country in Germany, to enlighten them in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and inspire them with extraordinary zeal to propagate it to others; insomuch that Count Zinzendorf bishop of the Moravian church hath sent forth his missionaries to preach the gospel, not only in Germany and other parts of Europe, but in many places of the Heathen world, where they call the Indians, and the Negroes, the Hottentots and Greenlanders to the knowledge of a crucified Christ; and we are told of the great success of their ministry: and the Count himself travels and preaches in very many different and remote places; though it is matter of regret to hear that these zealous preachers of Christ are tainted with several errors; and so indeed were several of our reformers at the first. May the Lord purge them from all error whatsomever. Likewise, about the year 1736, there was a marvellous outpouring of the Spirit upon the people of Northampton in New England, and neighbouring pIaces, where God displayed the riches of his grace and the power of his Spirit, in the wonderful conversion of several hundreds in a short time, under the ministry of Mr. Jonathan Edwards and others there. O how glorious was that work! as appears by the narrative then published of it.
At the same very time the Lord was pleased to raise up and qualify a number of students at the college of Oxford, in our neighbour nation of England, to be instruments of much good, although not altogether purged from the corruptions of that land. They joined in a religious society, wherein
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they agreed upon certain methods and rules for spending their time in fasting, praying, communicating, visiting the sick and the prisoners, instructing the ignorant, &c. and hence they were called Methodists. And, being afterwards ordained to the ministry, they preached with great warmth, chusing subjects very much neglected in that church, such as the doctrines of grace, of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, of original sin and the corruption of our nature, of the nature and necessity of regeneration and the new birth, &c. These doctrines being new, they were much admired and followed wherever they preached: they used also a good deal of freedom in speaking against the loose and negligent clergy, for which they were at length denied the use of churches; whereupon they went and preached in the fields, in houses, and wherever they might have access, collecting money for erecting schools, hospitals, and other pious uses; travelling to many places, and preaching every day, and several times in one day, having many thousands to hear them, in London, Bristol, Gloucester, through Wales, and very many places in England. Many of their hearers were brought under great impressions, shedding tears, and crying out, What shall we do to be saved? And great changes were made upon very profligate persons, and upon severals who went to scoff and ridicule them. Also many of the clergy were quickened to their work by them. In the year 1740, Mr. Whitefield, one of the foresaid Methodists, went to New England, and Mr. Gilbert Tennent after him, where they preached some months, two or three times every day, with singular and extraordinary success, the people being greatly awakened, especially by Mr. Tennent’s
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preaching; so that there followed a remarkable change upon their lives, and a wonderful revival and appearance of religion through all that country for several years. The like also was very observable in Pennsylvania, and the Jerseys, about the same time. It is to be regretted, that the work began to be much clouded by some zealous but imprudent ministers, and a set of illiterate exhorters, who went through the country preaching ,and venting errors, and sometimes very rash censures against their brethren, and some of them pretending to visions, prophecy, and great attainments, and running into several extravagancies; upon which account some have endeavored to expose the whole work as Enthusiasm and Delusion. But it being Satan's ordinary way, when he sees Christ's kingdom advancing in a place, to exert himself to bring a reproach upon religion, by leading some zealous professors of it into errors and disorders; this can prove no more against the work in general, than the delusions of the Anabaptists and Fifth monarchy-men did against the reformation. But these clouds did not long continue. Likewise in the year 1740 and afterwards, in Scotland, even amidst our backslidings and divisions, in some parts promising tokens began to appear of a revival of Christianity: for in Edinburgh and elsewhere, some new praying societies were set up, and sundry students did associate with them, which gave hopes of a further reviving; and for this, many prayers were put up through the land, and that a good time before Mr. Whitefield came to Scotland, which was in the end of July 1741, where he abode some time, and preached many awakening sermons in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other places.
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In Cambuslang, a small parish four miles from Glasgow, there were several praying societies, who spent much time in prayers and wrestling with God (especially in February 1742) that he might pity them and the whole land, and pour out his Spirit upon them, as on other places. And the reverend Mr. William M'Culloch their minister, who frequently met with them, having at their desire (joined with others in the parish) set up a weekly sermon upon Thursday a little before, and preaching closely to them upon the nature and necessity of regeneration; it pleased the Lord, that, upon Thursday the 18th of February 1742, the holy Spirit so wrought upon his hearers, that about fifty of them, with many attending them came into his house, under alarming apprehensions about the state of their souls, crying, What shall we do to be saved ? The minister, being much affected with their case, spent that day and night with them, either separately or together, in exhortations, instructions, prayers, and singing psalms; being assisted in the work by some preachers and elders. And, the awakened and wounded people daily increasing, he was obliged to preach to and converse with them every day for a great many weeks thereafter; the people filling all the rooms of his house after sermon and, continuing in prayer and singing psalms in different companies till near midnight.—Many ministers came from other places to Mr. M'Culloch’s assistance, with multitudes of people to hear the word, and to be witnesses of that very uncommon work; and there many of them felt the power of the word, and went home with the arrows of God sticking in their hearts; and great numbers of these convinced people attained also to a fair appearance of a hopeful outgate;
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having their minds filled with peace and joy in believing. This was a wonderful time at Cambuslang for many months in the year 1742, and the pleasant fruits of it continued to appear both in that and the following years.—In Summer same year, viz. 1742, the work began to spread and appear remarkably in Kilsyth, Calder, Kirkintoloch, Campsie, Cumbernauld, Gargunnock, Baldernock, Muthil, and many other parishes; and even in Edinburgh and Glasgow there was a considerable revival in religion. In May 1742 there was published a narrative of the work at Cambuslang, attested by many; and soon after another narrative of the work at Kilsyth and parishes about it, continued in different parts, and published from time to time by the reverend Mr. James Robe. These narratives, being well attested, were spread and reprinted in America and different places of the world; they were translated into Dutch, and had several editions in Holland, and were well received by the ministers and divines there.
The work indeed was very surprising and extraordinary, much resembling that which was in the last century at Stewartoun, Irvine, Kirk of Shots and other places, in the years 1625, 1626, and several years after, though in a very dismal backsliding time; and that work in Ireland, about Antrim, and the Six mile water, about the year 1628; of both which Mr. Robert Fleming, once minister at Cambuslang, gives account, in the Fulfilling of the Scriptures; as do Mr. Robert Blair and Mr. John Livingston in the manuscripts of their lives.—And, there being much said and written about this work in the West of Scotland, we have thought ourselves bound to enquire into the nature, fruits and evidences of it; and from what
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some of us have seen of that work, and hath been attested by the ministers immediately concerned, and others who have seen it, we judge ourselves warranted to give our testimony to it, as a glorious work of the Spirit of God, which he hath been pleased to send in his sovereign free mercy, in a time of great infidelity, formality and back sliding, to glorify his own name, by awakening, convincing, humbling, converting, comforting, reviving, strengthening and confirming many souls through the land; and our reasons for it are these; 1mo, The convictions and comforts of the people of Cambuslang, and other awakened parishes, have come to them in a scriptural way, by Christ's ordinances, and particularly the word preached, and passages of Scripture carried in upon their minds, suited to their cases and circumstances.—2do, The fruits and effects of that work in the people’s lives and conversations, do evidence themselves to be from the holy Spirit, according to the Scripture account of these fruits; for these who formerly were blind and ignorant, have soon come to advance in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and Divine things; and the tongues which were dumb in the things of God, have soon learned to speak the language of Canaan.—They who formerly were given to cursing, swearing, drunkenness, Sabbath breaking, scoffing at sacred things, and other immoralities, have presently changed their course into sober living, godly conference, reading, praying, and singing psalms.—They who formerly were trusting to their own performances, attainments and self-righteousness, have presently renounced all these for the righteousness of Christ only, imputed to them for their justification before God.—They who formerly were glewed to the
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world, and to the love of sensual and sinful things, are made willing to part with all these for the love of Jesus Christ their Saviour, desiring earnestly to be conformed to him in his contempt of the world, self-denial, humility and holiness both in heart and life.—They who before thought it an unmanly thing to shed tears for sin, and piercing of Christ, have been made to mourn as for an only son, and be in bitterness as for a first born.—These who have been guilty of secret acts of injustice, have been filled with remorse for them, and made restitution to the persons injured or their children.—They who halted and mocked the people of God, have their hearts warmed with love to them, and account them the excellent ones of the earth.—They who before were contentious, malicious and revengeful, do presently drop their quarrels, forgive their enemies, wish well to their souls, and the salvation of all around them.—They who before minded only their own things, are highly concerned for the interests of Jesus Christ, and for the declarative glory of God in the world.—Swearers have dropt their oaths, and with reverence mention the name of God. And they who loved carnal company, merry jests, profane songs, and foolish talking, seek after the company of those who will join with them in prayer, praises, and talking about their soul-concerns.—They who before complained of nothing but bodily ailments, worldly losses, crosses, and disappointments, now complain mainly of unbelieving hearts and indwelling corruptions. They who before ascribed their virtues and good things to themselves, do now exalt Christ and free grace for every attainment, and in the whole of their salvation: and yet, while they ascribe all to free grace, the aim in Christ's strength at universal
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holiness, at the subduing of every sin, and the practice of every duty and good work, according to both the first and second table of the law, and make conscience of stational and relational duties as well as others.—Families that formerly were synagogues of Satan, are now temples where God is devoutly worshipped: and many of all ages and sexes do form themselves into little societies for prayer, praise, and religious discourse. And though tares are mixed among the wheat, and several hypocrites discovered, yet the body of the awakened persevere, as to what can be seen, in the ways of religion.
Notwithstanding of all these gracious changes, which are clear evidences of the operations of the holy Spirit; yet this blessed work is mightily opposed and reproached, and that not only by atheistical and profane men, but even by many of those who have long been praying for the diffusion of the Spirit, and the coming of Christ’s kingdom, particularly our seceding brethren, who have (alas!) preached, prayed and printed against this good work, and even kept fasts in all their meetings, for putting a stop to it, as a delusion and work of the devil, who hath transformed himself into an angel of light (as they say;) and have thereby given their followers very frightful notions of it, and stopt them from going near the places where they might have got full satisfaction: And also they have hindered many from giving praise to God for his wonderful goodness, and from praying for the continuance and spreading of the work. May the Lord lay all this to their hearts, but not to their charge! Their main quarrel with the work seems to be, that it is begun and carried on by the instrumentality of ministers of the national church, and some whom they judge accessory to the defections
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therein; and because it is attended with outcryings, trembling, falling down and fainting, in many of these who are awakened; which (they say) are not symptoms of a work of the Spirit.
Concerning which we shall observe these few things;
1mo, Our brethren had certainly acted much more the part of wise and unbiassed judges, if in obedience to Christ's commands to try the Spirit, and prove all things, they had used all proper means of enquiry, such as going themselves to the places conversing with the ministers, and with the subjects wrought upon, before they had pronounced a judicial sentence in such a weighty case, and intimated it from their pulpits; and not have proceeded to a decision so hastily upon hearsays, or the malicious reports of profane spirits, and these who were enemies of the work. They also had done wisely, to have waited some time to see the issue of the work before they had past such a terrible sentence upon it: for they might have remembered that it is not an easy thing for clergymen, after doing a bad thing, to own their mistake.
2do, It cannot he denied but there have been many eminent godly ministers employed in promoting this work; and, though there had been some not so remarkable that way, we must not find fault with a holy sovereign God for making use of what instruments he pleases. Our brethren cannot but know that it is a most provoking sin to limit the Holy one of Israel, who frequently thinks fit to employ mean and despised instruments to do his work, that so he may stain the pride of our glory, and shew that he is not beholden to any.
3to, We are grieved in our very hearts that our brethren adventured upon such a
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daring step, as by a judicial sentence to ascribe to the devil such a gracious Godlike work, as that before described; when they cannot bring an instance from Scripture, or any other history, of the Devil's being permitted to work in the like manner before. Surely it may make us tremble to think what kind of sin it must be to make the devil the reprover of sin, and minister of righteousness, and so to assign the office and work of the Holy Ghost to that wicked one! Doth it not Iook like a fearful limiting of God, for a few men to act as if they would confine the holy Spirit's workings to themselves, and give up the ministry of all their brethren through the Island to the devil? As Jesus Christ himself, so his ministers, Moses, John Baptist, the apostles Peter and Paul, were of quite different tempers and dispositions; they rejoiced to see the Spirit poured down upon others, and to see Christ preached, sinners brought in to him, and his kingdom enlarged, whoever were the instruments of it.
4to, As for the effects of this work upon the bodies of some of the awakened, such as outcrying, trembling, falling down, or fainting; these are not at all new in this land; for many instances of such like symptoms in persons under piercing convictions of sin, or under ravishing views of Christ, can be given, even since our happy Revolution, as well as in former times; as is evident from Messieurs Robe, Currie and Webster's writings on this subject. And yet we hear not of any heretofore ascribing the work in these people to the devil, nor condemning it as contrary to Scripture, upon account of these symptoms: No; for the Scripture gives frequent instances of such impressions made on the body, by the great inward exercise
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and concern of the mind.—The sharp convictions of the three thousand, Acts ii. brought them great agonies, being pricked as with a sword in their hearts, and forced to cry out, and say to the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? The auditory being great, they must have cried in such a manner that the apostles heard them; for Peter was forced to cry aloud, that they might hear him, Acts ii. 14.—So Paul, when he was thoroughly convinced of his sin of persecuting Christ, and the wrath due to him for it, he was seized with trembling and astonishment, and fell to the ground, Acts ix.4,6.—Also the jailor, when awakened to see his sinful and lost state under wrath trembled and fell down, saying, What must I do to be saved? Acts xvi. 29, 30. And it appears to have been usual in the apostles' days for sinners to fall down before God, when they were first convinced, and got the secret wickedness of their heart laid open to them by the Word, I Cor. xiv. 24, 25. Even that great man, Felix, was made to tremble under his conviction of sin and apprehension of wrath, while Paul preached to him, Acts xxiv. 25. And that mighty king, Belshazzar, was strangly affected when he saw the hand-writing on the wall, which he took to be a presage of wrath against him, Dan. v.6. His countenance was changed, his joints loosed, and his knees smote one against another. A view of the wrath of a sin-revenging God, is enough to throw the stoutest sinner into the most terrible disorder, and to overwhelm all his senses and faculties. We see Baruch, when in danger of the wrath of man, was so overwhelmed with grief, that he fainted under it, and cries out, Jer. xiv. 3. Wo is me now, for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow: I
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fainted in my sighing, and had no rest. And how much more would he have been distressed with the immediate views and approaches of the wrath of God; for, Who knoweth the power of his anger ? Job, when under the apprehension of God being his enemy, and his terrors pursuing him, he was so little master of himself, that he stood up, and cried in the congregation, Job xxx. 15—28. King David says, he roared by reason of the disquiteness of his heart, Psal. xxxviii. 8. Nay he had such impressions of the wrath of God upon his soul, that they made all his flesh to tremble, Psal. cxix. 120. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of they judgments. Heman saith, While I suffer they terrors, I am distracted, Psal. lxxxviii. 15. We see also how the prophet Habakkuk, was seized with the greatest bodily distress, with quivering of lips, and trembling over all his body, at the view of approaching wrath, Hab. iii. 16.—Again, it ought to be remembered, that God hath told us, that in the New Testament days he would pour out his Spirit upon people in such a manner, that they should look upon him they pierced by their sins, and mourn, and be in bitterness, as parents for an only son or first born. Now, it is well known that some parents will not only cry out bitterly, but also faint, upon such occasions; nay, some will be brought to such agonies and faintings by the mere apprehension and prospect of man’s wrath and of temporal difficulties: and have they not much greater cause for them, who get a clear and manifest discovery of the heinous guilt of their sins, and of the wrath of an angry God hanging over them? Who can paint forth the distress of these poor creatures, whose spirits are wounded by the amazing apprehensions of God’s wrath for sin, and
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the fearful expectations of judgments and fiery indignation, without having view of relief?—Such a wise man as Solomon would not have been surprised to see such persons tremble, cry out, or faint; for, saith he, A wounded spirit who can bear! Prov. xviii. 14.
We read also in Scripture of persons fainting upon other occasions. Jacob fainted for joy, when he heard that his son was alive and highly exalted; so Daniel, after singular manifestations from God, fainted and was sick certain days, Dan. viii. 27. and x. 8, 9. And the apostle John, when he saw the Lord in his glory, fell at his feet as a dead man. So it is no wonder that a poor soul that was like to sink in despair under a sense of sin and wrath, when coming out of this plunge to a surprising view of Christ's mercy, loveliness and fulness, should in like manner be overwhelmed and faint for love and joy.—Wherefore it is our duty to put favourable constructions upon the various cases of awakened and exercised souls, when thereby, they are thrown into extasies, faintings, or bodily distresses. The holy Spirit is a free sovereign agent; and, in times of large effusions, he may, for his own wise ends, take an uncommon latitude in his way of dealing with sinners, for bringing them in to Christ. And as their discoveries of sin and wrath, and the commotion in their affections, prove very different; so the impressions upon their bodies in must be either less or more, and exceeding various, according to the measure and degree of inward exercise and concern of their minds; for as their sorrow for piercing Christ by their sins is compared to that of parents for an only son, which admits of many different degrees, and produceth very different effects in different persons; so it must be
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reasonable in any to require instances in Scripture for every minute circumstance of the innumerable various cases of persons brought in to Christ; for then the Spirit of God must have enlarged the Scriptures into very many different volumes, which had not been convenient for us. If we read the accounts given us of the conversions of Augustine, Luther, Junius, Beza, Latimer, Bolton, Professor Halyburton and many other eminent saints, we will find particular circumstances in them for which no Scripture precedent can be shewn; but no wise man will say upon that account, that the work in them was delusive or diabolical. But let some object what they will against the conversions in the West, because of the outward impressions attending them in severals (for in many the changes are wrought without any noise at all;) It is our judgment, if these bitter throes and agonies of some, have a merciful issue in landing them in Jesus Christ and true holiness, as it is visible they do in the most part; then there is great matter of praise whatever way the Lord take for awakening and humbling them before-hand.—But seeing worthy Mr. Edwards of Northhampton hath written two treaties concerning this extraordinary work of the Spirit of God, and hath taken notice of all the prejudices and objections of adversaries, we judge it unnecessary to add any more to what he hath written so fully and to such excellent purpose.—May the Lord, by new showers from above, continue, revive, increase, and spread this blessed work through the land and all corners of the earth! Amen and Amen.
That we may draw to a conclusion, we shall briefly sum up the principal sins, errors, evils and defections in the church and land, which we think
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ourselves bound to lament and mourn over, declare, warn, and bear testimony against, in order to promote reformation, and healing in the land: for although God, in his boundless sovereignty and rich grace, be pleased in a backsliding time to grant some remarkable reviving to his work in paticular corners, to shew his willingness to return to his ancient dwelling place; yet we despair of any general reviving or national reformation, until we are made sensible of public sins, errors and defections, as well as these of a more private nature. Wherefore we desire to be humbled for, declare and testify against, all doctrines and practices which are opposite to the Bible, and to our Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Directories for Worship and Church government, which we judge drawn out of, and founded upon the Scriptures of truth.
And particularly, against all Deistical and Socinian errors, and doctrines, which tend to decry the necessity of supernatural revelation, and cry up the sufficiency of reason or the light of nature to guide men to eternal happiness.
And against all Arian errors, and these doctrines which any ways disparage the Christian revelation, or derogate from the scheme of salvation through the mediation and righteousness of Jesus Christ our only Saviour;—Or from the doctrine of the glorious Trinity, and the oneness of the Godhead; Or from Christ's true supreme Deity, his self existence, necessary existence, independence, and equality with the Father;—Or from the true Deity of the Holy Ghost, and his equality with the Father and the Son;—Or from the truth of Christ's manhood, and of his Priestly office, and the necessity of his death as a real and proper sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice for our sins.
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All Popish errors, idolatry and superstition, maintained either by professed Papists, or by Protestants who are making advances towards Popery, by pleading for middle state for souls departed; prayers for the dead; the Eucharist’s being a proper sacrifice for sin; the necessity of confessing sin to the priest, and of the priest’s absolution in order to the forgiveness of sin; of mixing the sacramental wine with water;—Of bowing to the altar, to the East, and at the name of Jesus; of kneeling at the sacrament, observing saints’ days and uninstituted festivals, and putting them on a level with the Lord’s day; the cross in baptism, the organ in praise, the reading of prayers, and other human inventions in God’s worship and service.
All Pelagian and Arminian doctrines, which derogate from God’s efficacious free grace in saving sinners, or put in the power of man’s own free will or natural abilities to repent, believe, or convert himself; and make a necessary connection betwixt a man’s moral seriousness and his obtaining of saving grace.—Also all these doctrines which tend to exalt self, or any ways place it in God’s room; and these which make self love, and the desire of our own happiness, the proper spring and principle of all virtuous and religious actions.
The magistrate’s assuming the power of the keys, and all Erastian incroachments upon the intrinsic power of the church, or upon Christ’s headship and supremacy over her.—The granting an almost boundless toleration to all sects, errors, heresies and innovations.—The imposing the sacramental test upon others civil and military when out of Scotland, as a necessary qualification for there offices; whereby the holy sacrament is much
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debased and profaned.—The multiplying of oaths without necessity; introducing the new form of swearing by kissing the gospels, the Yule-vacance, the repealing of the laws against witchcraft, &c.
The imposing the yoke of patronage upon the church, and spoiling Christian congregations of their right to chuse their own pastors, and obtruding pastors upon them.—As also the practice of these ministers or preachers, who contribute to encourage, strengthen or bind the yoke of patronage upon the church, by allowing their friends to apply to patrons and procure presentations for them; or by accepting these presentations, and cleaving to them when obtained.—And the practice of these ministers or judicatories, who encourage or support these Accepters in this pernicious course, or who obtrude them or any other persons upon parishes against their consent. The denying the lawfulness or obligation of our national covenant engagements, the warrantableness of national churches, Confession of Faith, subordination of church judicatories one to another; the maintaining the independency of single congregations upon any superior church-judicatory; the lodging the power of the keys, not in the hands of church-officers, but in the community of the faithful.
The prosecuting or censuring of ministers for preaching or protesting against any of the evils or defections of the time, such as the despising of Christ's flock, making intrusions upon them, incroaching upon the rights and liberties of the church, or Christ's Headship over her, &c. The neglect and unfrequent administration of the Lord's supper, and the abuse and profanation of it by admitting ignorant or ungodly persons to it.
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As also the neglect of appointing national fasts, and days for humiliation and extraordinary prayer, in a time of national defections, and of abounding sins and provocations, when many spiritual judgments are inflicted, and other great judgments are impending over us. And, when such fasts come to be appointed, alas! what an aversion is there to a particular condescendence of the sins and defections which are the true cause of the Lord's controversy with the land!
Likewise we judge ourselves bound to bewail, lament, and witness against, all these God-dishonouring sins and evils which universally abound and prevail among all ranks and sorts of men; such as ignorance and forgetfulness of God their Creator and Preserver; Atheism, infidelity, and enmity to God; ingratitude to God for mercies; putting the creatures, the world and self in the room of God; consulting with necromancers, wizards and charmers; ascribing our mercies to fortune or second causes, rather than to God. Self love, self-seeking, unbelief, distrust of God, hatred of him and of his image in others. Pride, presumption, carnal security, loving pleasures more than God. Restraining of prayer before God in secret; neglect of family worship; tempting God by neglecting means, using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means. Superstition and false worship; giddiness and unsettledness in religion, and drinking in error. Mean and low thoughts of Christ, and of the infinite love of God in providing Christ to be a Surety and Sacrifice for us. Contempt of the glorious gospel, and the glad tidings it brings and men's unfruitfulness under it. Not receiving and loving of Jesus Christ; not relying on Christ as all our hope; not making use of Christ in all his
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offices; not rejoicing in Christ and him crucified. Men’s resting upon their duties and frames for acceptance with God: their joining something of their own with Christ's righteousness for their justification before God, and not accounting all things loss and dung for Christ, that they may be found in him, not having their own righteousness, which is nothing but filthy rags.—Grieving of the holy Spirit, sinning him away from ordinances; not lamenting the withdrawing of the Spirit, nor wrestling for his return. Opposing and reproaching the work of the Spirit in awakening and convincing sinners; calling it Enthusiasm, delusion, or ascribing it to Satan. Blind and intemperate zeal; discontent and impatience under the dispensations of Divine Providence. Backslidings from God, and the decay of the life and power of godliness. Setting our affections upon earthly enjoyments and sensual satisfactions; and neglecting these things wherein our chief happiness doth consist, namely, the enjoying of God, and communion with him.—Our unthankful forgetting of the many signal deliverances which God hath wrought for his church and land; and our unthankfulness for and abuse of the valuable mercies we still enjoy, such as health, peace, plenty; freedom from pestilence, sword and famine; and the continuance of the gospel and pure ordinances with us.—Our minding our own things, more than the things of Jesus Christ. Our little praying for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, and for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem.
Our neglecting the ordinances of God’s appointment, careless attending upon them, and not regarding them as trysting-places [meeting-places] for meeting with God, and as means of communion with him. Our being wise above what is written, and advancing men’s
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devices before Divine appointments. Our resting upon outward attending of ordinances, and a name to live, without the new birth, and a work of grace in our souls.—Our contenting ourselves with man's teaching, without the teachings and influences of the Spirit with the Word. Our being little affected or afflicted with the blasting of ordinances, and the suspending of the Spirit's influences.—Our unworthy communicating, and formal approaches to God, at his holy table; neglecting due preparation, by self examination, secret humiliation, renewing covenant with God, and wrestling with him for his presence. Our loosing soon the impressions of Christ's sufferings, his precious blood, and matchless love, set forth in that ordinance; and not living answerably thereto. Our putting our hearing, praying, communicating, charitable acts, just dealing or moral honesty in the room of glorious Christ, who alone is the Lord our righteousness.
We also lament and witness against the abounding profanation of God's holy name, by the irreverend use of it in common discourse, by formal and hypocritical addresses to him, by customary and rash swearing, cursing, blaspheming, perjury, swearing falsely in matters of trade or taxes, bribing, and tempting others to do so. By perfidious dealing with God, in breaking both national and personal covenants, sacramental vows, and sickbed resolutions.—Decay of zeal for maintaining of truth, purity and piety, in opposition to abounding error, superstition and profanity. The profaning and abusing of God's titles, attributes, ordinances, Scriptures, servants and providences; by many scoffing at sacred things, jesting upon the Scriptures, mocking the professors of religion,
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misconstructing God's providences, wresting and misapplying his word to favour their corrupt sentiments and practices; vain jangling and disputing about smaller points, and taking up their thoughts and time therewith, to the neglecting and eating out the life of religion. Slighting, aspersing and reviling many of God's faithful servants, thereby marring the success of their ministry, and scattering their flocks, to the prejudice and ruin of many precious souls.—Many taking up a profession of greater strictness in religion than others, while strangers to humiliation for sin, regeneration, heart-holiness, tenderness of walk, humbleness of mind, meekness, and the true spirit of Christianity. Alas! many are so puffed up with pride, vanity, self conceit, and contempt of others, that they cast out of their charity and communion every one that agrees not to their sentiments and practices in all respects, though some of these have more evident marks of the image of God upon them than they themselves! And many are hereby tempted to infidelity, even to mock, hate, and cast off all religion, because of the divisions among the professors of it.—Ah! many professed Christians shew a great propension to exalt natural reason, and decry supernatural revelation; to magnify the religion of nature, and disparage the religion of Jesus! to ascribe such to man’s freewill and natural powers, and overlook the free grace of God, and preventing work of his Spirit.—Many speak more of their own moral performances, than of Christ's imputed righteousness; and seem to regard Christ more as a pattern than as a propitiation; exalt their natural powers and self righteousness, through ignorance of the righteousness of God; cry up the preaching of morality, while they themselves
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remain immoral, and ignorant of their own corrupt natural estate, and of the nature and necessity of regeneration. Alas! There is ground to fear that many outwardly assent to our Confession of Faith, who scarcely read it, consider it, or believe it; and it is to be feared that severals, even preachers, may come to subscribe it, as these of the church of England do their 39 articles, rather as vinculum pacis, than as vinculum veritatis.
We also bewail and testify against the profanation of the Lord’s day which sadly abounds, as being a nursery of, and an inlet to, all manner of sin and corruption: by many speaking their own words on this day, and discoursing of worldly affairs and business;—By many doing their own works, such as unnecessary pieces of servile labour, or travelling about worldly business;—By many finding their own pleasures, by idle walking, needless visits, and other worldly diversions and recreations:—While in the mean time few make conscience of setting apart and spending this day as a day of sacred rest, according to its institution, for entertaining serious thoughts of the works of God and redeeming love, for attending religious worship without distractions, for promoting spirituality and heavenly mindedness, for holding communion with God through Jesus Christ, and for loosing their hearts from the world, and preparing for death and heaven. Alas! many, instead of such exercises, do dedicate this holy day to profanity; and, in place of serving God the Author of it, they serve the devil and their lusts upon it, by gaming, drinking, swearing, uncleanness, filthy speeches, jesting upon sacred things, and reproaching the devout worshippers of God! And so they go faster to hell upon the Lord’s day, than upon any other day of the week.
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We likewise bewail and testify against the stational and relational sins which abound in the land, among parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, magistrates and subjects, ministers and people; superiors, inferiors and equals. Alas! many superiors are guilty of contempt of their inferiors, of proud and imperious carriage towards them, of oppressing them, or ruling them with rigour, of discouraging them from what is good, and encouraging them to what is evil.—Many inferiors are guilty of despising their superiors envying their situation, disobedience to their commands and counsels, and not imitating their good examples; and particularly many children are thus dreadfully guilty with respect to their godly parents.—And, among equals, there is little brotherly love, mutual esteem and good offices to be seen; but, instead thereof, very much appears hatred, anger, malice, envy, evil-speaking, reproaching and backbiting, and also of tempting and encouraging one another to sin.—Ah! Many parents forget their engagements at baptism, and neglect to instruct and pray for their children, to admonish and reprove them when needful, and either do not correct them at all, or do it unduly, provoking them to wrath.—Oh! many heads of families neglect family religion, prayer, praises, and catechising of children and servants, and requiring an account of the sermons they hear; or at best they perform family prayer and other duties in a cold and formal manner. Oh how many have no more care of the souls of their families than if they had none! They seek only their own things, pursuing the business of a present animal life, and not the things of Jesus Christ, or what concerns their spiritual or eternal life!—And many who have formerly come
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a good length, and kept good order in their families, have sadly declined, lost their wonted liveliness and spirituality in God’s service, and let their duties dwindle away into a dead formality, contenting themselves with external performances, ordinances and communions, without any communion with God in them.
We must also regret the untenderness and looseness of the walk and conduct of some in the ministry, whereby not a few are tempted to abhor the offerings of the Lord; and a Gallio like indifferency in others about the public interest of Christ, if it go well with their own private affairs. And few, alas! are lamenting after a departing God, and searching into, or mourning for, the causes as they ought, or wrestling for a returning God, and a returning glory. Many preachers are running unsent, and using means to thrust themselves into the vineyard, not waiting for God’s call, nor regarding the prayers or inclinations of his people; and who in their sermons generally confine themselves to subjects of natural religion and moral virtue, and neglect the doctrines of Christ and the Spirit, the peculiar glories of Christianity; and do not preach the absolute freeness of grace through Christ, as the spring of a sinner’s justification and salvation.—Likewise, not a few ministers and Christians want love and due forbearance to others who differ from them in some lesser matters; entertain harsh thoughts, and break out into uncharitable censures, and severe reflections one against another, to the hindrance of that sweet fellowship and social prayer which they should have together, and to the taking them off in a great measure from the vitals and essentials of religion, and from pure ordinances, which God continues still to own.
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We lament the malicious and revengeful thoughts of many, and the frequent sallies of their ungoverned passions, which sometimes break out into provoking language and acts of violence, and even into bloodshed and murders; and often the law is not dully executed against murderers.
We testify against the prevailling sins of tippling, [habitual drinking of alcoholic beverages] drunkenness, gluttony, chambering, wantonness, fornication, adultery, unnatural lusts, and all sorts of uncleanness, wanton gestures, obscene talk, immodest apparel, lascivious songs and dancings, lottery games, balls, assemblies, and stage-plays, which, however fashionable they may be, we look upon as unbecoming the gravity, seriousness, faith and hope of true Christians, who profess to place all their happiness in the enjoyment of God, and to be careful abstain from all appearance of evil, and wait for the coming of their Lord and Saviour from heaven.
Likewise, we bear witness against the prevailing evils, of stealing, robbing, extortion, defrauding, prodigality, simony, bribery, running of goods, men's using unlawful occupations, living above their incomes, undertaking vexatious law suits, pleading for causes manifestly unjust;—Lying, slandering, spreading evil reports, aggravating smaller faults, rash censuring, suborning false witnesses, backbiting, scolding, scoffing, misconstructing the actions, words or intentions of others:—Men's discontent with their lot and condition in the world: envying or grieving at the prosperity or credit of their neighbours being glad at their adversity, miscarriage, or disgrace; coveting or entertaining inordinate motions and affections to these things which belong to their neighbours.
Moreover we bewail and testify against all the
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foresaid sins, evils and defections of the land, as bring highly aggravated in the sight of God, being committed against clear light, the Spirit's strivings, manifold warnings, alluring mercies, solemn covenants, and wonderful deliverances;—against great pains taken by God upon the land to reclaim and reform them, such as reproofs, challenges, exhortations, expostulations, invitations, promises, threatenings and lesser judgments.—And these our sins and defections have been long continued in, until very many are become secure, senseless, and hardened in them, nay, even bold and impudent, so far as to avow and justify them, to despise admonitions, and mock at reproofs. Likewise they are turned very universal; all, ranks and degrees of persons are involved in the guilt of them, rich and poor, great and small, nobility, gentry, magistrates, ministers, commons, &c. Alas! our nobility and persons of distinction, who once appeared with zeal for God's truths, and for advancing reformation, are sadly degenerated, and generally corrupted, either with erroneous principles, or vicious practices. Our commons, many of them are destroyed with ignorance, profanity, or earthly-mindedness. Our professors of religion, alas! carnality and formality prevail among them, and lively piety is like to dwindle away. Oh how desperate doth our case appear when under such terrible aggravations of guilt! How ripe do we seem to be for desolating strokes, and sweeping judgments! What cause have we to look out for them every day, and to fear and tremble before a holy, just, and provoked God! according to these awful texts of Scripture, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16, Isa. xxii. 12. &c. Jer. vi. 15—viii. 12.—xi. 10, 11.—xxii. 7, 8, 9. Amos.viii. 2, 3. &c. Micah iii.
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11, 12. Hos. xiii. 5, 6, 7. which is very applicable to our case.
But is there no hope in Israel concerning this thing? Is there not balm in Gilead? Is there not a Physician there? Is there not virtue in Christ's blood for the most desperate cases that churches can be in? Oh if ministers and people were applying to him by faith, there would be hope. Should we not then plead with our mother to consider her defections from God, and to be deeply humbled and mourn for them, and to turn from them to the Lord by true repentance and reformation, and to pray and plead his promises of mercy through Jesus Christ, such as that in Jer. iii. 22. Return, ye backslidden children, and I will heal your backslidings!—We have very lately had a surprising evidence of the Lord’s willingness to return and heal us; what a wonderful step has he made towards it, by pouring out his Spirit upon several congregations of the land! O what encouragement doth this give the whole land to apply to him for mercy, and to set about reformation! particularly to our general assemblies and all inferior judicatories to go but and meet a merciful returning God, who, has no delight in our ruin, and that in the way of faith, humiliation and prayer; essaying sincerely to do all in their power to remove the grounds of the Lord's controversy, redress grievances, amend what is wrong, and take every stumbling-block out of the way of serious well meaning people, which is improven as an occasion of our lamentable divisions. For these ends, let us humbly plead with our Mother.
I. In as much as the church is and ought to be the pillar and ground of the truth, and her judicatories are bound to assert, maintain and defend