Willison’s Testimony: Prefatory Statement by the Transcriber



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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
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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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