Willison’s Testimony: Prefatory Statement by the Transcriber



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Willison - Testimony 29:
of Christ… [This section of the text from which this transcription was made has about thirty words either missing or not legible.]
at St. Andrews in the year 1327…[This section of the text from which this transcription was made has about three words either missing or not legible.]
wisdom of God, tended much to the spreading of the truth: for many, enquiring into the cause of this burning, came afterwards to the knowledge and profession of the truth; so that it spread more and more through the land, in spite of all that ene­mies could do against it. Likewise Paul Craw was condemned to be burnt at St. Andrews, in the year 1431, for maintaining the doctrine of John Wickliff and John Huss.

It is most remarkable, that, after the burning of Mr. Hamilton, the favourers of the truth increased to many thousands; and God was pleased to raise up other famous instruments for spreading the light and carrying on his work, such as masters George Wishart, John Rough, John Knox, John Willock, Mr. Craig, John Erskine of Dun, and many others. These polished shafts God was pleased so to endow and furnish with gifts, graces, and zeal for God and his truths, and some of them with a prophetical spirit, that their adversaries were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which they spake; and multitudes of all ranks were by them converted to the Lord: so that in spite of all the power and policy of the popish clergy assisted by our rulers, and all the fiery persecution which they raised against the professors of the gospel, the Lord was pleased with a high hand to ransom this land from popish tyranny, idolatry and superstition; so that the pope's authority was abolished in Scotland by the parliament, the reformation established, and a sound Confession of Faith approven in


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the year 1560. This was the doing of the Lord and most wondrous in our Eyes!

The great rule and pattern of reformation, which our reformers observed, was the word of God, and the practice of the apostolic churches therein recorded, into which they made very narrow and impartial enquiry, their searches being attended with earnest prayers to God for the light and teaching of his Spirit, and communication of counsels with divines of other nations. After all which travel, they came to agree upon a platform of church government and discipline, in a due subordination of kirk sessions, presbyteries and synods unto general assemblies; as appears from our books of discipline, which were very early received and approven by the general assemblies of this church.

Though the civil powers, after the year 1560, were favourable to the reformation; yet our reformers had great and long struggling with many who were addicted to prelacy, and several popish errors and superstitions: but it pleased the Lord so far to countenance and help them, that a National Covenant was framed and entered into for the support of the reformation. This covenant was at first subscribed by the king and his household in the year 1580, and afterwards by persons of all ranks in the year 1581, and again by all sorts of persons in the year 1590; and afterwards presbyterian government and all the pieces of reformation then attained unto, were solemnly ratified by king and parliament in the year 1592. Only the grievance of patronage, under which the church was groaning, was not yet removed.

Here we must take occasion to adore the distinguishing goodness of God to this poor nation of


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Scotland, in bowing and inclining the hearts of the whole nation, as the heart of man, to enter into a solemn national covenant with God; even the hearts of our king, our nobles, barons, gentlemen, citizens, ministers, and professors of all ranks, to make a national surrender of themselves and their posterity to the Lord; and to bind both themselves, and them, to cleave to his truths and ordinances, and promote religion and reformation in their stations. Our histories inform us how this national covenant was afterwards renewed in this early period by our general assemblies, synods, presbyteries and particular parishes, and remarkably attended with much of the Lord's presence and countenance, and great outpourings of his Spirit; at which occasions there were to be seen floods of tears flowing from melting hearts and weeping eyes. Calderwood, in his history, tells us of a wonderful day of this sort at the reviewing of the covenant by the general Assembly at Edinburgh, in the little kirk, upon the 30th March 1596, Mr. John Davidson minister of Salt Prestoun presiding as the chief actor; likewise of another such day at the renewing of the covenant by the Synod of Fife at Dunfermline that same year, where Mr. James Melvil, minister at Kilrenny was moderator and chief actor. Also synods and presbyteries elsewhere had previous melting seasons, when about this work, which proved a special time of reviving to the work of God through the whole land. In this period the church of Scotland enjoyed very glorious days of the Son of man, and was honoured with large testimonies from divines of other churches: For the great pitch of reformation she had attained unto, she was called Philadelphia, and the morning‑star of the reformation.
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But these bright times did not long continue, clouds did soon arise: For king James VI having the view of succeeding to the crown of England, and desirous to gratify the prelatists there, did, contrary to his solemn declarations and engagements, begin to make incroachments upon the church and her liberties, about the years 1597 and

1598; and continuing so to do, there followed a long course of defection in this church, for about the space of forty years; during which time, prelacy that bitter weed was introduced into the government, superstition and popish ceremonies into the worship, and Arminian and Popish errors crept into the doctrine. The king, for accomplishing

his designs, got several packt assemblies convened, as these at Linlithgow in the years 1606 and 1608, that at Glasgow 1610, that at Aberdeen 1616, that at St. Andrews 1617, and that at Perth 1618, wherein, one way or other, he got several corruptions approven, and particular the Five Articles of Perth: prelates were set up, unlawful oaths exacted of intrants into the ministry; several popish ceremonies, with a service‑book, and book of canons, were imposed upon the church, and many sinfully complied therewith; whereby the church's beauty was miserably sullied, and the land greatly polluted.

Yet, during this time of grievous backsliding from a covenanted reformation, it pleased the Lord to raise up several worthies, ministers and professors of religion, to bear testimony to the doctrine, worship, government and discipline of this church,

and to Christ's right of headship over her and her judicatories, and to his power to institute her laws and ordinances, in opposition to the incroachments then made upon the same: upon which account divers pastors were arraigned before the council
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the high commission, and Diocesan synods; some were deprived of their churches and benefices, some were banished, some confined, and others imprisoned, and some were sentenced to death: likewise, several gentlemen and magistrates were sorely persecuted by the domineering prelates, for not conforming to the courses of defection. As for these faithful witnesses, who were suffered to live in their own land, severals of them went up and down in much poverty and affliction, teaching and confirming the people of God, waiting for God's returning in mercy to his oppressed church and people. Nevertheless, in this dark hour, the Lord gave testimony to his word in the mouths of his persecuted servants, through several comers of the land, by accompanying it with more than ordinary power and success; particularly in the year 1625 and afterwards, at Stewartown, Irvine, and many other places of the west of Scotland. A famous instance of that power was given at the solemn communion celebrated at the kirk of Shots the 20th June 1630, which proved a most remarkable sowing of seed through Clidesdale to the glory of free grace.

Afterwards, when the night seemed to be darkest, and the prelates in the height of their power and pride, competing with the nobles for all kinds of civil offices, and honours, and when corruptions in doctrine, worship and government were like to advance more and more; the Lord was pleased to look through the cloud with pity to this distressed church, in the year 1637, and to appear for her relief, first by animating severals of the common people of Edinburgh to oppose the reading of the new service‑book there; and also at the same time exciting several honest ministers and


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professors in other parts of the nation to present supplications to the council, in September 1637, against pressing the Liturgy and canons upon them. But these, after several expresses to and from court, being at last refused, and new orders given for the use of the aforesaid books; a great number of all, ranks, nobility, gentry, ministers, &c. convened at Edinburgh in February 1638, where, after serious deliberation and prayer to God, they resolved upon reviving and renewing of the national covenant, which had almost been buried for forty years before. This they drew up and subscribed with some additions and, explications suitable to their present circumstances, and sent copies thereof through the land, which, being read in churches, was heartily embraced, sworn, and subscribed by all ranks, with many tears and great joy so that the whole land, great and small (a very few excepted) without any compulsion from church or state, did in a few months voluntarily and cheerfully, return to their ancient principles, and subject themselves to the oath of God for reformation; and this they did when both the court and prelates were enraged against them for it. But the Lord from heaven did remarkably countenance them with the extraordinary manifestations of his presence, and downpouring of his Spirit, both upon Judicatories and the worshipping Assemblies of his people, which proved as life from the dead to a poor, withered, backslidden church.

Nay (which is wonderful) things ripened so fast for reformation, that, in November 1638, a free and lawful, general assembly, indicted by the king, convened at Glasgow, the very place where prelacy was restored in the year 1610. There the general assembly, (notwithstanding of the former backslidings


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of the Ministry) came to agree with wonderful harmony, to condemn and annul six pretended corrupt assemblies who had changed the government and corrupted the worship of this church, together with the high commission court, the service book, the book of canons, and the book of ordination, as also the unlawful oaths imposed upon intrants into the ministry: they likewise deposed and excommunicated the Prelates (except two) for oppression and gross scandals. They approved the national covenant, and declared Prelacy with the five articles of Perth to be adjured by it; and made sundry other worthy acts for purging the church, and promoting reformation and appointed the time of their next meeting, for carrying on what was so happily begun. And though the Prelates with their abettors made great opposition to their godly intentions, yea, run to court, and stirred up the king to make war against Scotland; yet the Lord was pleased so to countenance his servants and people, that the begun reformation was carried on, and at last ratified both by king and parliament in July 1641. Thereby Prelacy was abolished, and Presbytery established by law; and the king being personally present, he for himself and his successors promised in verbo principis never to come on the contrary of that settlement; which occasioned great joy through all the land, and was followed with much of the Lord's power and presence in his ordinances: So that the land, that formerly was like a wilderness, was now by the divine blessing turned into a fruitful field.

The Lord having thus prospered the nation of Scotland in her reforming work, her neighbours in England professed a desire to join with them for carrying on the like work of reformation through


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the whole three kingdoms; and the English parliament sent their commissioners to Scotland for that effect. And accordingly there was a solemn league and covenant agreed upon, and sworn in the year 1643, for maintaining, advancing, and carrying on a work of reformation in the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland. In this covenant, all ranks engaging bound themselves to personal reformation, and in their several stations to endeavour national reformation; to preserve the protestant religion, abolish Popery, Prelacy, superstition, schism, profaneness, an whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness; and to endeavour to bring the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, as to doctrine, worship and government, according to the word of God, and the example of the best reformed churches; that so they and their posterity after them might as brethren live in faith and love that the Lord might be one, and his name one through the three kingdoms.—This indeed was a glorious design, had the English parliament and people been truly and heartily sincere in it, as the Scots nation both parliament and general assembly were, who with one voice approved and swore this covenant themselves, and did recommend it to all others through the land, who generally received it with great enlargements of heart and expressions of gladness, as they had done the national covenant in the year 1638. It is true, the parliament of England took the covenant, as did the city of London, the Westminster assembly and many others in England, though there were but few of them who seemed to mind it much afterwards. Some good things indeed were thereupon done; for in consequence of this covenant,
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and the uniformity in religion engaged unto therein, the English hierarchy and liturgy were laid aside for a time, our present confession of faith was agreed upon by the assembly of divines at Westminster with commissioners from this church, together with the larger and shorter catechisms, the directory for worship, with a directory for church government, church-censures, and ordination of ministers. As all these were agreed upon by the Westminster assembly as a part of the covenanted uniformity in religion which was to be settled through the three kingdoms, so they were received after examination, and approven by our general assemblies and parliaments in Scotland. It is true, there were several acts and ordinances of the English parliament for establishing these in England: but they took little effect, because of the opposition which was made to the form of Presbyterial government by the Independents and Sectaries there.

Notwithstanding of this defection in England, the nation and church of Scotland pursued reformation according to their covenant engagements, and got several laws enacted both by church and state for carrying on the same: and particularly they got an excellent act past by the Parliament, for abolishing the patronages of kirks, which is worthy to be written in letters of gold, a part whereof we shall here transcribe.

At Edinburgh, March " 9th 1649. The estates of Parliament being sensible of the

great obligation that lies upon them by the national covenant, and by the solemn league and covenant, and by many deliverances and mercies from God, and by

the late solemn engagement unto duties, to preserve the, doctrine, and maintain and vindicate the liberties of the kirk of Scotland, and to advance the work of


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reformation therein to the utmost of their power: and considering that patronages and presentations of kirks is all evil and bondage under which the Lord's people and ministers of this land have long groaned, and that it hath no warrant in God's word, but is founded only on the common law, and is a custom Popish, and

brought into the kirk in time of ignorance and superstition; and that the same is contrary to the second book of discipline, in which, upon solid and good ground,

it is reckoned among abuses that are desired to be reformed, and unto several acts of general as­semblies; and that it is prejudicial to the liberty of the people, and planting of kirks, and unto the free calling and entry of ministers unto their

charge: and the said estates, being willing and desirous to promote and advance the reformation foresaid, that every thing in the house of God may be ordered according to his word and com­mandment; do therefore from the sense of the

former obligations, and upon the former grounds and reasons, discharge for ever hereafter all pa­tronages and presentations of kirks, whither be­longing to the king, or to any laick [lay] patron, Pres­byteries, or others within this kingdom, as being unlawful and unwarrantable by God's word, and contrary to the doctrine and liberties of this kirk.
Afterwards they say,

—And it is further declared and ordained, That if any presentation shall hereafter be given, procured or received, that the same is null and of none effect; and that it is lawful for Presbyteries to reject the same, and to refuse to admit any to trials thereupon; and, notwithstanding thereof, to proceed to the plant­ing of the kirk, upon the suit and calling or with the consent of the congregation, on whom none


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is to be obtruded against their will, &c.
—By which excellent act it is evident, that our reforming nobility and gentry, many whereof were Patrons themselves, looked upon themselves as under strong obligations, both from the Word of God and their covenant engagements, to abolish patronages, and restore the liberty of congregations in calling of their ministers.

Thus our reforming ancestors were helped to many excellent things from 1638 to 1650 for promoting reformation in the land, though at the same time (it must be owned) they were not free of mistakes and wrong steps in their management.—There is no period here, the church can be said to be without spot or wrinkle.



After this a mournful scene opened by breaking division that entered into the

church, which ended to stop the progress of reformation-work, and make way at length for restoring Prelacy. This was occasioned by some ensnaring questions put to the commission in December 1650 by the king and parliament (which they had better declined to answer) concerning the admission of persons into places of public trust civil and military, who formerly had been opposers of the covenanted reformation, upon their making public profession of their repentance; these who were for admitting them being called public resolutioners, and these against it being called protestors. There were many eminently good and great men upon both sides, and some as eminent who joined neither side. The point seemed narrow for the church to carry the difference to such a height as to suspend and depose one another upon it as they did, according as parties had the upper hand in Synods and Presbyteries: for Cromwell the usurper


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would not then allow them to meet in general assemblies, by which the division possibly might have been healed. But this fatal division looked like a judicial stroke from heaven upon the church for their other sins: the Lord's judgments are a great deep. Possibly there might be too great compliances in this matter with court‑measures, and the hurnours of great men, as there were afterwards in the matter of indulgences, tolerations, and other ensnaring things brought in by the court upon the church. It is certain, that the greatest number of the strict and zealous ministers were on the protestors' side, who afterwards made a noble stand against Prelacy. And it appeared afterwards, the protestors' fears which they expressed, that these men, when taken into places of trust, would soon act the old game, were but too well founded. It must also be acknowledged, that though the most part of the public resolutioners submitted to Prelacy, yet several worthy men among them did not, and were exposed to sufferings for it as well as others.

At the time of the breaking out of these fatal divisions among us, an army of Sectaries under Cromwell invaded and oppressed us. These Sectaries had grown to such a height in the English army, that they invaded the parliament of England their masters, put away the house of peers, modeled the house of commons according to their pleasure, and erected a new court called the high court of justice, before which they impanelled king Charles I and violently took away his life, January 30th 1649; against which our commissioners both from church and state in Scotland, then at London, did protest, and were therefore hardly used. Immediately thereupon Scotland proclaimed


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his son Charles II their king, and out of conscience to their covenant sent for him, and crowned him at Scoon, where he solemnly swore the covenant, January 1st 1651. All which drew down the wrath of the Sectarian army upon us, who invaded the land, shed much blood, conquered us, and kept us in bondage ten years. During which time a sinful toleration of Sectarian errors was granted, by Cromwell and his council in Scotland, which brought in great looseness both in principle arid practice; which toleration was faithfully witnessed against both by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and a good number of ministers in the provinces of Perth and Fife, as appears by their testimonies published in the year 1659.

Soon after this the yoke of the oppressor was broken, and the king peaceably restored in the year 1660, to the joy of the whole land, who thereupon expected good days both to church and state. (And, alas, the most part went to dreadful excess in jollity and drunkenness upon this event.) But, ah! soon was their joy turned to mourning, soon was their oppression in conscience doubled, the late glorious work of reformation razed, and all its carved work broke down with axes and hammers, as it were, all at once. For king Charles II after his restoration having called a parliament in England, they restored abjured Prelacy with the service book and ceremonies, which had been laid aside: whereupon about two thousand ministers there, who could not in conscience conform thereunto, were cast out at Bartholomew day, August 24th 1662.—He likewise called a parliament in Scotland who in the years 1661 and 1662, removed all the legal securities of the church of Scotland, and work of reformation therein. By that unparalleled act recissory,


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they annulled all the parliaments which had met from 1640 to 1651; they asserted the king's supremacy in all causes civil and ecclesiastic, and declared all meetings and assemblies, leagues and covenants without the king's authority to be unlawful and unwarrantable, and devolved the power of settling the government of the church upon the king; they declared the national covenant, as sworn in the year 1638, and the solemn league and covenant to be unlawful oaths, and all men to be free from the obligation of them; and they declared all that was done from 1638 to 1650, in prosecution of a covenanted reformation, to be rebellious and treasonable.

The king's prerogative and supremacy in church affairs being thus screwed up, he by proclamation declared his royal pleasure to be for restoring the government of the church by archbishops and bishops, as it was exercised in the year 1637. In the mean time Mr. James Sharp minister at Craill, (who had formerly been intrusted to act for the church, but now betrayed her) went to London with other three ministers, and were consecrated bishops in the Prelatic sense, having first been ordained deacons, and after that Presbyters, according to the form of the church of England. (This the Prelates set up by king James VI would not submit to.) Thereafter ­these, returning from London to Edinburgh, consecrated the rest of the bishops. Then they all took their seats in Parliament, where they got new acts made in their favours, commanding all ministers to obey them, and attend their Diocesan meetings. A little before this, the meetings of Synods, Presbyteries and kirk sessions had been discharged by the privy council, until they should be authorized by the

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