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every one of God's truths when attacked by adversaries, to transmit them in their purity to posterity, and to give their testimony and approbation to them, for upholding them against those teachers who would overturn them; and seeing all the members of the judicatories in this church have subscribed our Confession of Faith, and profess to adhere to the truths therein, we humbly plead that they may shew more concern for the support of these truths than has been done of late years. It is to be regretted, that not only the Episcopal clergy, but several ministers of this church, have taught and vented errors, and recommended erroneous books; and some of them have been arraigned before the general assembly, as Professor Simson, Professor Campbell, and Dr. Wishart; and though we are far from thinking that this church hath adopted or homologated [approved] any of their errors, yet many well-wishers of the church are of opinion they were not sufficiently animadverted upon, but too easily dismissed, which may give encouragement to others to spread error. And the therefore we beg leave to plead, that the general assembly would in the most proper manner testify their abhorrence of these errors whereof the foresaid persons were accused, and these Popish errors which the Episcopal clergy are introducing, and other errors which are propagated through the island; and give warning to all the ministers and members of this church to guard against them, and study to prevent the infection of them: and particularly these errors which strike against the doctrine of the glorious Trinity, and the oneness of the Godhead; or against the supreme Deity of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; or against the doctrines of free grace, in our justification and salvation; and
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of the glory of God being the chief spring and motive of virtue and religion.—And also, that the assembly would declare, that it is not sufficient to assoilzie [absolve] any man processed for error, that he profess his adherence to our Confession of Faith, or explain his words into a sense consistent with it; but that he expressly renounce these errors which are charged upon him from his words, according to the plain and obvious sense of them.
II. We would also plead, That though the precious doctrines of the supremacy and headship of our Lord Jesus Christ over his church, and the church's intrinsic power derived from him, are well asserted in our Confession of Faith, Larger Catechism, Form of Church government approved by assembly 1645, Form of Process 1707, and other public deeds of this church, agreeably to the holy Scriptures; yet, in regard some things have been done both of old and of late which appear not so agreeable to these excellent principles, that the assembly would declare their detestation of every thing, whether in sentiment or practice, that is inconsistent with Christ's Headship, and the church's intrinsic power, asserted in our Confession of Faith, particularly chap. xxx. Sec. 1, 2. in these words; The Lord Jesus Christ, as King and head of his church hath therein appointed a government in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, &c.
III. We must likewise plead with our Mother to cleave closely to our reformation principles, and carry always towards the grievance of patronage as a sinful usurpation upon the church of God, as the church hath frequently declared both of old and of late. And although we know there hath
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been laudable endeavours used by this church to be freed from this usurpation, such is the commission's address in the year 1712, approved by the next assembly; the memorial of assembly 1715; the commission's sending ministers to London in 1717 to seek relief from it; and also the commission 1734, and again the assembly 1735, sending commissioners with addresses for repealing the patronage act; and, when all these endeavours proved unsuccessful, the assembly 1736 did, by their solemn and deliberate resolution, printed to the world, give it as their judgment that it was still most just and fit, upon the first favourable occasion, to apply for redress of this grievance; and did record their weighty grounds and reasons for it: and also the said assembly 1736, act 14. did assert our principles against intrusions, and homologate [approve] our standards and former good acts of assembly relative thereto:—Yet we cannot but lament, that notwithstanding all these deeds, there are many ministers and preachers who still encourage and strengthen the usurpation of patronage, and chuse settlements by presentations rather than by gospel-calls, for which the law still leaves an open door. And the judicatories connive at this their unaccountable practice, and even obtrude severals of them upon reluctant congregations, capable and willing to make a right choice for themselves; which has occasioned a dismal scattering of the flock of Christ, and miserable animosities, disorders, and distractions in many places of the land to the great hinderance of the gospel. For remedying whereof, it is humbly proposed, 1mo, That the general assembly would declare, that Presbyterians having free access to moderate in calls to vacant parishes, and congregations having
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freedom to chuse their ministers, is a part of the discipline and government of this church, which by the Formula 1711 all ministers and preachers are bound to support and maintain, and to do nothing directly or indirectly to the prejudice thereof, as it is there worded.—2do, That the assembly would discharge all ministers and preachers to
take measures to obtrude themselves or others upon congregations against their will, by presentations or any other way; and to declare, if any, by his accepting of or adhering to a presentation, shall stand in the way of a Presbytery’s free moderation, or of a parish's free election, he shall be looked upon as a deserter of the principles of this church,
and treated as guilty of contravening his solemn engagements by the said Formula and otherwise. 3tio, That the assembly would enforce the 14th act of assembly 1736 against intrusions, and take care in all settlements, and in all acts which may be framed concerning them, to maintain our principles, and the just rights of Christian congregations; and expressly discharge all inferior judicatories to plant any parish contrary to the mind of the eldership and Christian people, with certification; seeing their is no ground to expect that the great ends of a gospel ministry can be obtained in
such forced settlements.—4to, That the assembly would enjoin all judicatories and ministers to have a due regard to all the members of Christ's flock, and to all serious praying Christians, and not to despise those of them who are poor and mean in the world, but to esteem and put honour upon them, and seek an interest in their prayers, and have a great regard to their inclinations in planting parishes: and in all decisions about settlements, and cases wherein the glory of God and good of
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souls are highly concerned, to gurad against the fear of man, which brings a snare. And to be ware of all such lax managements, or untender steps, as may drive good men from judicatories or the communion of the church.—5to, That the assembly take care that all concerned in calling of ministers have freedom to act, without any compulsion or undue influence.—6to, That the assembly order that congregations who have been aggrieved by the settlement of ministers without their consent, shall be treated with compassion and lenity; and to fall upon methods to transport or remove such ministers from them, when parishes cannot be brought to submit to them.—7mo, That the assembly appoint, that all appeals from the sentences of synods be only to the general assembly; and, if there be any of them which the assembly cannot overtake, that they be referred to the commission to be judged by them at their meeting immediately after the assembly, when their diets are numerous; it not being agreeable to Presbyterian principles and parity, that a great number of ministers should be subjected to the authority and judgment of a lesser.—8vo, That Presbyteries be strictly enjoined to be most careful and conscientious in licensing men to preach the gospel, and in observing the many good acts of assembly thereanent [in reference to]; and that both presbyteries and synods shall enquire, not only into their literature, but also into their sense and savour of true godliness, and into their acquaintance with the true godliness, and into their acquaintance with the true gospel-scheme of justification, and the way of making use of Christ, and living by faith upon him, and with the work of the Spirit upon their souls, and experimental religion; and also enquire into their sentiments concerning patronage and other grievances of the
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church: And that presbyteries recommend none to synods or other presbyteries to be entered upon trials, but such as they can safely attest in terms of these acts and rules.—9no, That the assembly declare, that as it is the duty of ministers, so they are still at full freedom, to testify in a becoming manner, and upon proper occasions, against the prevailing corruptions of the times, and even against what is wrong in the acts and proceedings of church judicatories.—10mo, That presbyteries be enjoined to be strictly conscientious in attesting ruling elders who are to sit in assemblies or commissions, and particularly that they be qualified in terms of the 9th act of assembly 1722, as their attestation is appointed to bear; and that every presbytery shall cause read the said act every time before they either choose or attest any elder.—11mo, That the assembly make more narrow enquiry into the right and warrant which colleges and royal burghs have to choose ministers or elders to sit in the general assembly.
IV. We humbly plead, that national fasts and thanksgivings may be more frequently appointed, when God in his providence calls unto them; and that no occasion be given to any to say that the church has resigned her power into the hands of the magistrate. And seeing at this time there is a manifest growth of infidelity, error and impiety; of defections, gross sins and abominations; of Contempt of God, perjuries, and unnecessary multiplying of oaths; of woful divisions, breaches, and want of brotherly love and Christian charity; besides grieving of the Holy Spirit, and manifold spiritual plagues every where abounding; and also the terrible judgments of the sword and plague raging in other nations, which may very soon reach
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us; all which are visible tokens of the Lord's anger and indignation gone out against us, and call us loudly to mourning and humiliation before the Lord; Wherefore we think it our duty to plead with all humility, that the general assembly would lay these things to heart, and appoint a solemn national fast to be religiously observed because of them; and that they would be more particular than heretofore, in enumerating the grounds and causes of the said fast, namely, Our own and our forefathers sins and defections, by covenant-breaking, and treacherous dealing with God, and the fearful indignities done to our solemn covenants in the late times, taken notice of by the assembly 1701; the blasphemous advancing the magistrate’s supremacy over the house of God; the imposing and taking of sinful oaths, especially the self-contradictory Test; the shedding the blood of god’s servants and people for not complying with the civil course of these times; the Erastian encroachments made upon the Headship of Christ, and the rights and privileges of his church; the encouragement which is given to all manner of errors; our backsliding from reformation principles, the intrusions made upon congregations, and the scattering of the Lord’s flock; the abounding of all manner of profanity and immorality, Atheism and blasphemy, especially in our armies and fleets, which, alas! Are so great and avowed in them, that instead of serving as hedge and defence to us, their sins may provoke the Lord to bring desolating strokes both on them and us. These, and many other sins, evils and defections before mentioned and witnessed against in this Testimony (to which we refer) may very fitly be brought in among the clauses of a national fast, seeing they greatly abound in the land;
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and especially that sin which may be reckoned the source of all the rest, namely, the undervaluing of redeeming love, and slighting of the Lord Jesus Christ offered to us in the gospel, and our woful misimprovement of the means of grace, and walking unanswerably to them.
V. As we think ourselves bound thus to plead with our mother, to put away her sins and provocations, and put a stop to all her defections; so we think it our duty to plead with her to deliberate upon, and take the most proper and effectual methods for reviving the power of godliness, and the practice of gospel holiness; and particularly that our general assemblies, when they meet, would set apart diets for these ends, and would also recommend it warmly to synods, presbyteries, kirk sessions, and private Christians to consult together for promoting religion and godliness in the bounds where they live, and to have their set times of meeting for spiritual conference, fasting, prayer and wrestling for the down pouring of the Spirit upon the whole church and land, for awakening, convincing, converting and reforming a secure and sinful people; and at these meetings to quicken, excite and exhort one another to all religious duties and Christian offices, looking earnestly to the Lord for his Spirit's influence and special blessing upon all these means and endeavours, and continuing still in the use of means, waiting for a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit, until at length the whole land arrive at the happy frame and disposition of our forefathers, when they with one consent renewed covenant with God, and dedicated themselves and their posterity unto the Lord. And that they recommend it especially to the ministers to be exemplary and actively instrumental
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in such religious projects and designs among their people, and even to travail in birth till Christ be formed in their souls; and carefully to observe the direction of the 7th act of assembly 1736, concerning the preaching of Christ and regeneration to them, and pressing morality in a gospel-strain; and in their ministrations to make a difference betwixt the precious and the vile, between humble, praying circumspect Christians, and formal professors; to honour them that fear the Lord, though they be poor; to speak well of them, support their characters against enemies and scoffers, and carry with them greater familiarity to them than others.
O how pleasant and desirable a sight would it be to see ministers, elders and Christians joining in such noble designs and endeavours! What a promising token of good would it be, if all the ministers and members of this church were setting about wrestling and prayer for the Lord’s returning unto us by his Spirit, and endeavouring a personal and general reformation of all that is wrong among us, and in this way studying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, with all lowliness, meekness and long suffering, forbearing one another in love! These things, if gone into, we hope would tend to the glory of God, the honour and welfare of this church, the credit of the holy ministry, the edification and comfort of the Lord’s people, and the healing of our present miserable rents and breaches.
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IT is fit the Reader should know, that the preceding Testimony was signed and sent to the press before the assembly 1744; otherwise some occurrencies, which have made some noise since that time, had been noticed in it, some of which I shall mention in a Postscript after the Adherence and subscriptions subjoined to this Testimony.
Likewise it is proper to acquaint the Reader, (lest he be surprised with the paucity of the subscribers) that there were not very many who had opportunity to see and peruse the Testimony before it was published; and a great part of these who did see it, though they agreed to the scope and substance of it, in regard it contained their sentiments, yet they thought not proper to subscribe it upon some prudential considerations, which (with all submission) I cannot say have the same weight with me as with them. Yet at the same time l am bound in justice to own, that sundry of these are persons whom I highly value, and reckon to be real friends of truth and reformation as well as others. Wherefore, when I found things turn out in this manner, and not as I expected, I desisted from asking more subscriptions to this Testimony, which (as told in the Preface and in the Adherence) was not designed to be the badge of a party, or a term of communion.—But if any now, upon seeing and considering this Testimony when published, with the reasons for it, shall incline to join with it, and send their subscriptions to the Printer, with such form of Adherence, Exceptions or Amendments, as they think proper, they shall be taken in, and justice done them in a second Edition, if it be called for.
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As for these who have willingly offered their subscriptions to this Essay, I could not warrantably suppress them, though few, without their own consent. God may countenance the honest mints of a small number when he thinks fit. Wherefore I shall annex them here, with the form of Adherence which they agreed unto.
WE, whose names are underwritten, having seen and considered the above Paper, called, A Fair and Impartial Testimony, &c. do hereby declare, That we think the scope and intention of it good, and that it doth express the sentiments of many ministers, elders and Christian people of the church of Scotland, concerning the principles, wrestlings and attainments of the said church, and concerning the defections, corruptions and evils therein mentioned. And in regard the said testimony seems to be drawn up with impartiality, plainness, and uprightness of design, not to be the badge a party, or a term of communion; but a banner for truth, a prompter to reformation, and the means of healing breaches: we humbly judge it needful and seasonable in this day of Backsliding and Division; hoping it may be useful for maintaining and preserving truth, purity and godliness in the present age, and for transmitting the same to posterity; and that it will either be some check to the progress of corruption, or a standing witness against it. Wherefore we join with the said Testimony in witnessing for the truhs, and against the evils therein, specified; and in pleading with our Mother to exert herself to stop Defection, and essay Reformation. And have subscribed these presents.
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Jo. Willison, M.A. Minister at Dundee.
Jo. Gillies, M.A. Minister at Carraldstone.
Jo. Row, M.A. Minister at Navare and Lethnot.
Ja. Small, M.A. Minister at Carmylie.
Dav. Blair, M.A. Minister at Brechin.
Geo. Aitken, M.A. Minister at Montrose.
Geo. Lyon, M.A. Minister at Longforgan.
Geo. Marr, M.A. Minister at Murrose.
George Peter, Elder.
Gideon Rutherford, Elder.
THE reason why some late occurrences are not noticed in the Testimony was given before.—Wherefore I must now add a word relating to some of them. And, 1st, concerning Mr. Leechman's sermon on prayer, first published last year, which was quarrelled by the presbytery of Glasgow, and brought before the synod, and afterwards to the assembly this year 1744. Had Mr. Leechman written what he saith in that sermon by way of a letter to a Deist or an enemy to prayer, in order to prove the reasonableness and advantages of prayer, it might have passed without observation: But for a preacher of Christ to deliver such a sermon to a Christian audience, that perhaps never heard him before, and might never hear him again, and to publish it too, in this form, to the whole world, is to me very surprising and offensive. For when he proposes to teach his Christian hearers and readers the nature of prayer, he presents
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God as the object of it merely as our Creator, without any relation to Jesus Christ the only Mediator betwixt God and man: he never speaks of God as upon a throne of grace, nor of the merit, satisfaction, or intercession of Christ, through which prayer call only be offered acceptably to God, more than the old Heathens; nor speaks he of the influence or assistance of the Holy Spirit, by which the duty is to be performed.—The disposition of mind which he chiefly recommends to his hearers, for acceptance with God, is all assured trust and confidence in the mercy and goodness of their Creator, without once telling them through all the sermon (which is long) of the channel through which God's mercy and goodness doth flow to men, or that he is a consuming Fire to sinners out of Christ. Nay, without noticing the Scripture account of the conveyance of Divine mercy, he asserts that these who pray, trusting in their Creator's mercy, shall be heard and accepted. See sermon, 2d edit. P. 7, 8, 10, 42.—I know it is said, that the preacher, notwithstanding these defects, is orthodox; and that he made sound declarations for the truth before the judicatories.—But in my humble opinion, let his after declarations when in hazard of censure be never so sound, yet the foresaid omissions in a printed sermon are so very culpable, and such a bad example to students of divinity in one that is their teacher, that the sermon ought to have been disapproven, the preacher admonished, all preachers warned against such a Christless way of preaching, and a warm recommendation given them to observe the 7th act of assembly concerning Evangelical preaching: Nay, the presbytery of Glasgow deserve thanks for the pains they had taken to
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enquire into that sermon, in obedience to the said act of assembly, which enjoins all preachers to have special regard and eye to Christ in all their sermons, and presbyteries to see that they do it. Oh how worthless, lifeless, sapless and fruitless must all our preachings and prayers be, if precious Christ be left out of them!—Mr. Leechman's sermon is one instance, among many, to shew how too well grounded these fears are, which are expressed in the Testimony, p. 143, that the said act of assembly is but little regarded, and that the numbers are increasing of these who preach moral duties without relation to Christ, through whose strength all our duties are to be performed, and through whose righteousness they must be accepted.—And alas! it seems to portend little good to this poor church, when men so little versant in the Christian mediatory scheme, or so unaccustomed to evangelical preaching and teaching, are made professors of divinity, and intrusted with the education of young men for the holy ministry. Neither doth it bode well, when men, as soon as they acquire some title to a Professor's chair by the choice of a patron, or of laicks [people in distinction of clergy] of any sort, do straightway demit [resign] their pastoral charge, and push on their own translation to the chair, without any call or concurrence from the church—As that was not the practice of former times, so it looks too like the disallowed practice of these Prophets who ran before they were sent, Jer. xxiii. 21. A running, alas! that greatly abounds in this day! May the Lord in mercy put a stop to it!
Another thing I must here notice: there is something dropt in the Testimony, p. 89. in favour of the 7th act of assembly 1722, relating to the Marrow, &c. which act I see is heavily charged
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by the Associate Presbytery in their act concerning the doctrine of grace, which I had not occasion to read before the Testimony was sent to the press. I have now again read over the assembly’s act, and upon second thoughts I shall not say it is so well worded as could be wished, or that the word causality is fit to be used in asserting the necessity of holiness to salvation: but I truly believe the meaning of the assembly of 1772 was sound, and their intention good, viz. to disapprove every opinion or expression that tended any way to slacken our obligation to the study of holiness; and the brethren have not just ground for their harsh censure of that assembly, because of their saying, in explaining the necessity of holiness for obtaining everlasting happiness, that it is to be meant only of obtaining the enjoyment and possession of happiness, and not of the right and title to it; and that it is dangerous to assert that holy obedience is not a federal or conditional mean, nor has any kind of causality in order to the obtaining of glory, as it seems to exclude all usefulness and influence of holy obedience, in order of means towards possession of heaven.—This last clause of the assembly's words doth plainly limit the sense in which they disapprove the foresaid assertion, viz. in so far as they seem to exclude the usefulness of holiness in order of means to salvation. Yet the brethren, without noticing that explanatory clause, do in their act concerning the doctrine of grace, published this year, declare that the assembly 1722, by their said 7th act, have opened a wide door to Arminian and Socinian errors to overflow the church and land.—It is surprising that this heavy charge against that assembly has lien dormant for 22
years, until the most part of that assembly are in
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their graves; and that they did not openly complain of it at passing the act, but submitted and lived quietly in the communion of the church for many years hereafter. It is uncharitable to charge that assembly with holding opinions contrary to the doctrine of grace, when, in the very act they attack, the assembly profess a close adherence to our standards with respect to the doctrine of grace. And, from their own words, we have all reason to conclude they really did so, and that they held that Believers have complete salvation and happiness, both as to the title to it and possession of it, only through Christ and his purchase; and that their holiness here, which is a part of their begun salvation, is also a part of Christ's purchase, as well as eternal glory; seeing it is Christ that recovers the lost image of God to us, and restores that which he took not away. And that they held, that no believer hath any thing in himself, or of his own doing, to rest upon or glory in; but that he owes all to Christ, who has obtained the whole of our salvation, and every part and degree of it, by his blood and merit. That they held all this, is evident from several places of the said act of assembly 1722, wherein they assert, according to our standards, that "God in the covenant of grace freely offers to a sinner life and salvation by Jesus Christ, and promises and gives his holy Spirit to all the elect, to make them able and willing to believe and give holy obedience."—Also they assert,
That God justifies us freely, not for any thing wrought in us or done by us, but for Christ's sake alone: not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to us as our righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto us only.
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That our repentance doth not make any satisfaction for sin, nor is any cause of the pardon thereof: That our best works can't any way merit eternal life: that it is a precious gospel truth, that believers are free from the law as it is covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned, &c.
From these and several other expressions of assembly 1722, we may justly conclude, that their meaning in the expressions quarrelled was sound,and they intended no hurt to the doctrine of grace: that they did not mean that a believer's holiness hath any causal influence or virtue to purchase heaven; but that it is necessary in order of means (as they speak) towards the possession of it, in regard that God requires holiness in every believer, as the means of preparing, and making him meet for possessing heaven. So that the assembly’s sense is plainly this, That as Christ's righteousness is necessary in the way of merit and purchase for obtaining the believer's right and title to heaven, so holiness in a believer (which also Christ hath purchased) is necessary in the way of preparation and meetness for qualifying him for the possession of heaven. Now, we see, it is God himself that makes it so necessary, by fixing an inseparable connection betwixt holiness and happiness, declaring, Heb. xii. 14. that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Wherefore, that our brethren after all this should pass such a severe censure against the assembly's doctrine, as opening a wide door for Arminian and Socinian errors, is very unjust and unbecoming the duty of children to their mother.
—And it is yet more so, for them to assert (as they do in the same place, p. 41. without any proof for it) that Arminian and Socinian errors have actually
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overflown this church like a flood; whereas they may see a late act of assembly, as well as older acts, condemning all Arminian and Socinian errors, viz.act 7th assembly 1736.—Had they charged some members of the church with such errors, the fault had been less; but to assert that a flood of Arminian and Socinian errors do overflow the church
herself, as if all were covered with them, is a charge most terrible and shocking! I scarce have any words to answer to it, except to regret that any of the reverend and dear brethren, whom I must still regard, should allow themselves to go on in such a Latitudinarian way of speaking and calumniating their brethren. Some may thiink to excuse themselves, that it is from zeal for a good cause, and a design to promote the interest of Christ, that they speak so reproachfully of other ministers: but let such remember what Job said to his three friends when they took the same course, Job xiii. 7. Will you speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for him? After all, however ill-grounded this charge be, yet, seeing it comes from a body of men within the land, the church is called to take some course to vindicate herself and her doctrine, though it were no more but to maintain her credit among foreign churches. Surely such a bold charge from our brethren, with other considerations should at length rouse us, and prevail with the general assembly to fall in with the desire of many ministers and presbyteries, to give a testimony against these errors which abound in the land, to declare their abhorrence of them, and to give warning to all the ministers, preachers, and members of this church, to guard carefully against them, and against every appearance or approach of error.
There is not room here to notice any other thing
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in the brethren's act concerning the doctrine of grace, in which though there be many precious truths, yet there are also some assertions too loose, unguarded, and even bordering too near the doctrine called Antinomian; which should be carefully avoided, as well as that called Neonomian. But notwithstanding of all these uncharitable sallies, unguarded assertions, and extravagant heights, which our brethren's desire to support their interest against the established church may drive them to at present; there is ground to expect, that, after calm and cool thinking, they will not approve themselves in these things, but will come at length to a more charitable temper, and shew regard to others whom they see to be sound in the faith, and zealous for the doctrine of grace as well as themselves. And considering our brethren's great resolution, and their zeal for the purity of doctrine, I would fain hope God will yet honour them to be useful for maintaining his truths, and make them a witnessing remnant for Calvinist principles, and the doctrine of grace, against all kinds of Pelagian and Arminian errors, which this backsliding age seem too much inclined to fall in with. Upon which account I still wish well to them.
There is also joined with the foresaid act, another act for renewing the covenant's national and solemn league, with a new covenant of the brethren's framing, in which some things might be noticed: not that I quarrel the duty itself; No: I approve of covenanting work, whether it be national, presbyterial or congregational, when rightly managed and gone about; and I pray earnestly for a covenanting frame and disposition to the whole land. I likewise own, there are several excellent things in the brethren's covenant, which we are all
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bound to by the word of God and our national engagements; and also in their Confession of Sins, there are many evils enumerate, which all ranks amongst us ought to be deeply humbled for before the Lord: but, alas! they have marred their Confession, by throwing into it several things which either are doubtful, or else plain mistakes or falsehoods; and yet all these must be confessed and condemned as sins and evils, as if they were the most plain and undoubted facts, and that by a solemn oath: For their confession of sins (which is very long) is adopted and sworn to in their covenant. Yea, the Associate Brethren have carried this matter to a prodigious height, by making an act, dated at Edinburgh, February 14th 1744, wherein they agree and determine, that the swearing the foresaid covenant shall be the term of ministerial communion with them, and likewise the term of Christian communion to the people, with respect to their partaking of the seals of God's covenant.—A surprising act indeed! This new oath
and covenant of theirs is called in it, not a term but the term of Christian communion, as if it were the only qualification for admission required, and as if it answered for the want of others; and indeed there is not another qualification besides swearing this covenant mentioned in their act. Now, by this act, let a man be never so well qualified according to the terms Christ hath determined in his word, yet, if he have not freedom to go in to this term of the brethren's making, he must be excluded both from ministerial and Christian communion; that is, he must neither be owned as a minister of Christ, nor allowed any of the Children's bread, so far as their authority can go. Wherefore I cannot but testify against this act, as framing
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new terms and conditions of access to the benefits of Christ's purchase, for which the framers have no warrant in God's word; and therefore it must be a manifest usurpation and encroachment upon the Headship of the King of Zion, and an infringement upon that precious article of our Creed, the Communion of Saints; which is too much for any judicatory or power on earth to adventure upon. Though the foresaid oath were in things indifferent or lawful, yet it were unwarrantable to impose it as a term of communion, but much more when it is in things sinful, doubtful or false.
Ques. How do you make it appear that the brethren's new oath and covenant (which they make the term of communion) is in itself sinful?
Ans.. Because by this oath they adopt and approve a Confession of sins prefixed to it, and swear by the great name of the Lord our God, with their right hand lifted up to the Lord, that they shall testify against the evils named in that confession, sundry of which are false in fact, calumnious, unjust and uncharitable; and yet, by the foresaid solemn oath, the takers own them to be real, just and true. As for instance, they swear that the general assembly dismissed Professor Simson without any censure or express testimony against his errors, p. 104. which is false.—Also, they swear that the taking the oath of abjuration is a national sin, p. 103. which they cannot make out. They swear that assembly 1736 adopted Professor Campbell's error against self love, p. 106. which is false. They swear that assembly 1738 condemned the brethren's testimony in bulk, p. 107. which is not fact.—They swear that assembly 1739 condemned their Declinature, as containing nothing but groundless prejudices, p. 107. Which
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is not fact.—They swear that the kind reception of Mr. Whitefield hath increased the sins of the land, and is a denying any particular form of church-government as being of Divine institution, p. 109. which is false. They swear that a scheme is now laid for uniting parties of all denominations in church-communion, in away destructive of any testimony for Christ's declarative glory, p. 110. which they can never make appear. They swear that the blessed work in the West of Scotland is a delusion, p. 110. though it hath been demonstrate to have the plain Scripture tokens of a glorious work of the Spirit of God.—They also by their oath condemn all the old persecuted Presbyterian ministers, who accepted of the liberty of preaching the gospel, under king James's toleration, as involving the land in henious guilt:—Which is a most rash and uncharitable censure of these worthies, who were honoured to be great sufferers for truth, were men of eminent piety and tenderness of conscience, were signally owned of God in their ministry during that liberty, and never saw cause to repent of their accepting of it to their dying hour. And now, after these glorified saints and sufferers have for many years been triumphing before the throne of the Lamb, a heavy blot and slur must be cast upon their memory by a solemn oath; and they, who have not freedom to join in that calumnious oath, must be denied Christian communion: This indeed seems to be an act exceeding hard and tyrannical. Alas! there are thousands who are appointed to swear this oath, and the things above mentioned, besides many other things in it, who cannot say they know any thing of the truth of them from their own proper knowledge, but only have them by hearsay or by
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information from others: and yet they must swear to the truth of them as fully as if they had been eye or ear-witnesses of them, or had read all the histories concerning them. Now, what is this but to make people swear rashly or inconsiderately, or upon implicit faith? which is contrary to the Bible, that requires us to swear in truth, judgment, and righteousness, Jer. iv. 2. and also contrary to our Confession of Faith, which declareth, chap. 22. That whosoever taketh an oath, must avouch nothing therein, but that he is fully persuaded is the truth. O that God in mercy would open the eyes of those who impose this oath, and these who are drawn in or intend to take it, that they may bethink themselves, repent, and proceed no further! For because of swearing the land mourneth already, and there is no need to add to the grounds of this mourning.
Likewise, in the foresaid oath and covenant, there are some things ambiguous, obscure and doubtful, which great numbers of the takers know not the meaning of, and so cannot swear them in judgment and righteousness; as for instance, when they abjure Independency and Latitudinary Tenets, these are words very general, dark and dubious, to which the imposers may affix any meaning they think proper. Now, seeing it is commonly granted that the words of an oath ought to be very clear and plain, and these which are dubious may be refused; what a cruel thing must it be to excommunicate all these sincere Christians and tender consciences who may scruple to swear either to or against what they know not! I am sure, there are many valuable ministers of Jesus Christ, and precious sons of Zion, whom Christ doth honour and admit to near communion with himself,
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who will not adventure to swear such an oath; and will our brethren, notwithstanding, take it on them to reject them as earthen pitchers, and refuse all communion with them? Oh, where have they their Master's warrant to act so, or to exclude his redeemed ones from his table, and the food he hath provided for them, for refusing an oath of their framing, containing so many things false, uncharitable and dark? when in the mean time these excluded persons appear evidently to be the Friends of Christ, whom he himself invites most heartily, saying to them, Cant. v. 1.—Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
I acknowledge that our brethren appear and declare for many things valuable and excellent, for which I wish there were a true universal zeal throughout the land; but, when they mix so many other things choking with these in their Testimonies and Covenants, how can they expect that people of tender consciences should swallow them. Nay, by this way they give occasion to many to slight and speak evil of the precious things they stand up for.—My reverend brethren may believe (if they please) that I write not these things with any ill will against them, but out of love to them and others, to prevent more sin in the land, and to bring them, if possible, to a more moderate, charitable and Christ like temper, that they may be willing to break down these partition walls they are setting up between themselves and others of Christ’s ministers and people. O how lamentable a thing is it, that orthodox and zealous preachers of Christ should be carried away to such extravagant heights, by the intemperate zeal and headstrong humours of others who join with them! that they should go about this manner to divide
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and distract the flock of Christ, and to rend and tear the members of his body one from another; yea, and to rear up partition walls in the midst of his church so high, that these upon one side cannot get over them to hold communion with the other! Is this good service to the Lord Jesus Christ! Is this the way to promote his cause and interest in the world? Is this the way to heal breaches and promote union among the true friends and lovers of Christ, ,which he makes the duty of all faithful gospel Ministers? Is not our glorious Master the prince of Peace? Hath he not said, Blessed are the peace makers? Was it not he that prayed for the union and peace of his church? Was it not he that recommended peace to us, and enjoined us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Let none mistake me, as if I were for peace on any terms; for they may see by the foregoing Testimony I am for truth as well as peace, and desire through grace to be zealous for both.
Some, who have seen this Testimony, object, That it is not impartial with respect to Mr. Whitefield’s success while he was in Scotland. The plain truth is, several things were said relative to it, where he is mentioned, p. 176, which were dropped to gratify some of the subscribers, who were not then satisfied as to the facts narrated. But, since that time I am well informed of the lasting good effects of his ministry upon not a few in and about Edinburgh and elsewhere, who once were careless and profane, but now are wonderfully changed and reformed, and still living as becometh Christians, persevering in the ways of the Lord; though at the same time I know no reason to make him the instrument of that extraordinary work at Cambulslang, Kilsyth and other places, but to
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ascribe it, under God, to the ministry of their own worthy pastors, whom God made instrumental both to begin and carry on that work a good time before Mr. Whitefield came to preach at any of these places. But seeing God hath honoured Mr. Whitefield's ministry in other nations and countries (though ordained a minister of the church of England) and also had opened his eyes so far, as to become Calvinist and sound in the doctrine of grace, and to witness against several corruptions of the English church, for which he was persecuted and under process; and seeing he had conformed to us in doctrine and worship, professed to lye open to instruction as to our constitution and government, and was come at length to assert openly Christ to be the King and Head of his church, and that the church of Scotland was the best constitute national church in the world; and also had wrote and said some other things that gave ground to hope that his eyes might soon be opened to see the evil of Prelacy; and in the mean time he was most indefatigable in preaching Christ to sinners, and remarkably owned of God in his ministry: To have refused a kind reception to a stranger and persecuted man, in such circumstances when he came among us, had neither been charitable nor generous. Now, for the brethren to make this reception such a sin, that none can be admitted to baptism or the Lord's supper without condemning it by a solemn oath, is most surprising; especially considering they were the first themselves who recommended him to the people of Scotland, and that in very strong terms! Surely it becomes us to be silent, and adore the sovereignty of the great God, in employing whom he will to promote his interest and kingdom in the world. If God think fit to
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make use of Mr. Whitefield or other Methodists to turn sinners from their evil ways, to seek after a Saviour, and God through him, we should not oppose it, but let them alone, lest haply we be found fighting against God. We must not limit an Agent that is infinitely wise and sovereign in his actings, who may raise up the instruments of his glory from churches and societies he pleases, and sometimes glorifies his free grace the more by bringing them from these airths it could have been least expected. And frequently God doth honour and employ some to awaken, convince, convert and reclaim sinners from their evil ways, who yet remain unenlightened all their days as to several points of truth themselves: witness Luther and many of our reformers. To confine an infinitely sovereign Lord to our ways and means of working in advancing his kingdom, is it sin most grieving and provoking unto God.—He makes it one of his greatest quarrels with his professing people in the wilderness, that they tempted God, and limited the holy One of Israel, Psal. lxxviii. 41. It is fit then that we lay our hands upon our mouths, and adore him that doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: And none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou? Dan. iv. 35.
I doubt not but some may quarrel me and this Testimony, for making too free with the Associate Brethren: but they may see I have been as plain and free with others, and even with the established church, relating to things I judge wrong; and this seemed to be necessary to render the Testimony the more impartial. But, after all, when I look inward, and view the sins of my own heart, and the sad corruption of my nature, besides outward
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defects; I have reason to blush and be ashamed to take notice of the sins and failings of others; and even to lie in the dust, and cry, Unclean, unclean; and with much self-abhorrence to look towards the blood of Jesus, that cleanseth us from all sin. May the holy Spirit apply it to me and the whole land!
I shall now conclude with my interest wishes and prayers, that the Lord may excite a praying remnant, to wrestle and be importunate with him for sparing mercy to these guilty nations; and that he would revive a covenanted work of reformation through Britain and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, from which these lands have wofully departed; and uphold and encourage all who breathe after reformation, and the coming of Christ's kingdom in the world; and even countenance more and more these instruments who, according to the light given them, labour with earnestness to awaken perishing sinners from their lost natural estate, to flee to a crucified Jesus for safety from sin and wrath; and, wherein any of them remain unenlightened, that the Lord would send out his light and truth, to lead them, and graciously deliver them from all mistakes, errors and corruptions whatsomever: That what they see not, the Father of lights may teach them, that so they may be honoured more and more to bring multitudes from following sinful courses, to the ways of true religion and gospel-holiness; and from resting on their own righteousness, or a form of godliness, to come and embrace him who is the Lord our Righteousness, and follow him whithersoever he goeth.
And particularly, That the Lord would come
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and revive his work in Scotland, that once was famous through all the churches, and esteemed one of the most bright and shining, Candlesticks of Christ in the world, but now under a lamentable decay of zeal for pure religion and reformation; and that he would cause us remember with godly sorrow from whence we have fallen, repent, and do our first works.—That he would pity these who, Gallio-like, are indifferent and unconcerned about our defections, and the grounds of the Lord’s controversy which he is pleading with the land, and awaken these who are at ease in Zion, in such a time, and would fain sit down, Issachar-like, and couch under the burden.—That he would come suddenly to his temple, even in a national way, and sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver, and purify the sons of Levi, and cast out buyers and sellers out of his house.—That he would in mercy shut that door whereby a corrupt ministry enters into the church, and raise up a faithful, zealous and reforming ministry through the land, and make all ranks among us concerned to attain to the reforming spirits and dispositions of our fathers.—Oh! when shall we come their length in reformation!
That the Lord would help us to bless him for his astonishing kindness to this land, in such a backsliding, withering and decaying time, in vouchsafing to water several spots of his vineyard here and there with the refreshing rain of his Spirit: And that he would continue, increase, and spread the shower, until the whole garden be watered; that so our dry ground may become a green pasture, and our wilderness blossom as the rose.—That in his free mercy he would forgive our ingratitude for former kindness,
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preserve us from the errors, power and cruelty of Papists, and avert these black clouds of wrath which now threaten us; and that, instead of pouring out the vials of indignation on us which we deserve, he would pour out a spirit of repentance and reformation upon all degrees of men from the highest to the lowest.—That amidst the reelings, shakings, backslidings and divisions of these times, he would preserve pure religion, and support all these who desire to cleave to the Lord Jesus, love him in sincerity, and witness for his truths and ways;—That he would encourage them under all their discouragements, and keep them from being carried down the stream of defection with others.—That he would unite the hearts and minds of all that desire honestly to witness against the evils of the day, and help them to temper their zeal with knowledge, wisdom and meekness; and graciously forgive all these who fail in this respect, rectify their mistakes, and honour them to be instruments of his glory in the land.
This is and shall be the earnest prayer of
July 9th, 1744.
This Adherence to this Testimony was signed at Hespieshaw in Teviotdale, on the 26th of July 1744, by
Tho. Hardie, Elder.