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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,