Willison’s Testimony: Prefatory Statement by the Transcriber



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bishops, who were soon to enter upon the government of their respective sees: Whereupon, at the time of the meeting of provincial synods in April thereafter, several noblemen and gentlemen were sent to raise them by force. It is to be regretted, that synods at this time so readily dismissed, and that Presbyteries and kirk‑sessions were deserted also, without any suitable testimony or remonstrance against these fearful encroachments and alterations.

One thing that contributed much to hinder any joint testimony, and to strike terror into many, was the severe treatment which some faithful ministers met with, when essaying a testimony of this sort: For Mr. James Guthrie minister at Sterling, with some few other ministers, having met in a private house in Edinburgh, soon after the king's return, to draw up a supplication to him, wherein, after congratulating his return, they humbly put him in mind of his oaths unto and covenants with God, for maintaining the true Protestant religion as established by acts of parliament and general assembly, &c. for this they were apprehended and imprisoned 23rd August 1660, and all such meetings and petitions were discharged as seditious. And, to strike the greater terror, Mr. James Guthrie was indicted before the parliament of high treason; and, being singularly faithful and zealous for carrying on reformation, he was condemned to die, and his head to be set upon one of the ports of the city of Edinburgh. He was accordingly executed the first of June 1661, and his head set up on the Nether bow port, which continued there till the revolution, as a public witness against the woful defections of a cruel perfidious generation. Likewise the worthy and renowned marquis of Argy II


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was five days before executed upon the same account, and his head set up upon the tolbooth of Edinburgh, to the great reproach of the nation: and sometime after Lord Waristoun suffered in the same manner; three eminently great and good men, who died with the resolution and Christianity of the ancient martyrs. Now, what could be expected from a reign and a government, whose foundation was laid in cruelty, and soaked with the precious blood of God's saints?

After this the parliament and council went on in their cruel and persecuting designs against faithful ministers who would not conform to antiscriptural Prelacy, take presentations from Patrons, and collations from bishops, and also take an oath to the king, which they called an oath of allegiance, wherein they behoved to own his supremacy in all causes civil and ecclesiastic: some of these ministers they banished out of all his majesty's dominions: these generally went to Holland, and were kindly received there. Besides these, several hundreds were summarily ordered to leave their churches, and remove from their congregations: With which orders (it must be owned) they did too easily comply upon proclamations by the council, before they were thrust out by force; thereby leaving their poor flocks to corrupt teachers that were afterwards thrust in upon them, and not giving a due testimony against such a tyrannical act and encroachment upon the spiritual kingly power and headship of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of our ministry, and of the exercise thereof. Likewise, by an act of parliament, all the subjects were required to attend these who were thrust into their parishes, and other conformists, in their meetings for worship and that in acknowledgment of,


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and hearty compliance with his majesty's govern­ment ecclesiastic; which indeed the far greatest part did, whereby all degrees of persons through the land were miserably involved in the breach of the covenant, and defections of the time. Nay, the wickedness of this period came to such a pitch, that our national covenant, and the solemn league, were ordered by public authority to be most igno­miniously burnt at several market‑crosses, to the fearful dishonoring of the great tremendous God, with whom these covenants were made.

After some time silence, the ejected ministers began to be convinced it was their duty to preach the gospel, at the earnest desire of their people, who declined to hear the curates who were thrust in up­on them, though sorely harassed for it: and that they ought to preach, notwithstanding the prohibi­tions of the magistrate, especially when they saw

what sort of men were thrust in upon the people. At first they had worship only in private houses in the most peaceable and harmless manner; but the cruel prelates and rulers would not bear with any such meetings; so that at length, by their se­verities, they were driven from houses to the fields for more safety. But still severer laws were made against all such meetings, whether in the houses or fields. Nay, they came even to that height to enact, Charles II Par. 2. Sess. 2. 1670, “That if any man shall preach or pray in the fields, or in any house, where there shall be more hearers than the house contains, so as some of them be without doors, he shall be punished with death and confiscation of goods." So that, by this terrible law, two or three hearkening at honest men's doors or windows in time of family‑worship, [t]hough posted there out of malice or mere curiosity
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did expose the worshippers of God to a cruel death. These and such like laws tended to banish family‑worship out of the land, and were too suc­cessful that way. Likewise severe punishments were enacted against the hearers of ejected minis­ters, and these who did not hear the parish‑minis­ters, or employed others to baptize their children. And they proceeded to incredible barbarities against Non‑conformists, both ministers and

people. Yet, in these cruel persecuting times, the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace, and blessed his ordinances (though prohibited by men) with very remarkable success; and the more pains the persecuting Prelates and their instruments were at to suppress these assemblies, the more nu­merous they grew, and the parish‑churches were the more deserted.

When methods of force and cruelty could not prevail to stop these assemblies, they

fell upon more crafty ways, by granting indulgence to some of the ejected ministers to preach in vacant churches, under certain limitations: such as, Their being confined within their parishes, and not encouraging these of other congregations to resort to them; their forbearing to lecture before sermon; their not preaching in church‑yards; their not admitting ministers who were not indulged to assist them, &c. This indulgence, and prescribing rules to ministers, being ordered by the king and his council by virtue of his ecclesiastic supremacy, now established by law, was on the magistrate's part a sinful incroachment upon Christ's headship over his church. And though poor harassed ministers might be glad of any little breathing time for the exercise of their ministry in the midst of heavy suf­ferings, yet, if any of them did accept of the magistrate's­


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indulgence upon the conditions and re­strictions prescribed, they cannot be justified there­in—But for these worthy ministers who left all for Christ and their conscience, and suffered greatly for not complying with Prelacy, and other defections of their time, and who always refused that they accepted the indulgence upon the terms of the king and council (though they preached in the churches they assigned) neither did observe

these terms while they enjoyed the benefit, and were afterwards turned out again upon that account; it were hard to charge them with approving of the king's usurped supremacy: Though, at the same time, we wish they had given a more full and ex­plicit testimony against the Erastian incroachments of the magistrate, than we can learn they did. Yet notwithstanding hereof, God was pleas­ed to glorify his sovereign grace in giving remark­able success to the labours and ministry of these indulged in churches, as well as these who preach­ed in the fields, betwixt whom there continued much love and peace for many years; until once some began to condemn the indulged so far, as to preach up separation from them; upon which fol­lowed very sad and mournful divisions among the people of God, even while under violent persecu­tion, the fruits whereof continue to this very day.



At this time many conscience‑debauching oaths, declarations and bonds were imposed upon the people of this land, for engaging them to own the king's supremacy over all persons, and in all causes; to renounce our covenants, with defensive arms, and alI the former steps taken for carrying on reformation. Among others, that self contradictory oath of the Test was imposed, and made a handle for persecuting many of all ranks and sta­tions.
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They who refused these oaths, and did not conform to Prelacy as required, were exposed to the greatest cruelties, being put to wander about in deserts and mountains, and to lodge in dens and caves of the earth. Multitudes were banished their native country; many suffered long impri­sonment, and that in the most miserable and unheathful places; others were fined and spoiled of their goods, and many pillaged and plundered by merciless soldiers and barbarous Highlanders let loose upon them; husbands were exorbitantly fin­ed, and entirely ruined, for their wives absenting from the parish‑churches, though it was not in their power to help it; preaching, praying, or even hearing at meetings not authorised by law, was made death: Yea, refusing to witness against these guilty of the crimes of preaching, praying, or hear­ing, was also punishable with death. Simple con­versing with persons forfeited or intercommuned, though our nearest relations, husbands, wives, pa­rents, children, &c. or the giving them any supply when starving, or the not revealing the giving or demanding of it, was declared treason; so that men were exposed to a cruel death for pure acts of charity. The privy council in those days assumed a parliamentary power, and made acts and laws even more bloody than those of the parliament: And though these were most cruel and barbarous in themselves, yet they were often more barbarous­ly put in execution; so that this poor land became a miserable field of blood, cruelty and defection. Many of all ranks, noblemen, gentlemen, ministers, citizens, and commons, had their blood shed on scaffolds, as if they had been the greatest malefac­tors, and their heads and members set up on pinnacles to the view of the world. Many were tortured


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with boots, thumbkins [thumbscrew], fire matches, &c. to force them to discover their secret thoughts of state matters, accuse themselves or others, and answer such questions as judges pleased to ask at them. To such a height of cruelty and tyranny were things carried, that full power was given to merciless soldiers both to be judges and executioners of innocent people; so that in time of peace, without any witnesses or form of law, they cut off many in the open fields and high ways, and dragged severals out of their houses, and murdered them, if they did not take such oaths or answer such questions as they put to them; and sometimes would not give them so much time, before killing them, as to pray to God for mercy. Thus was the land soaked with blood, for the planting and growth of the bitter root of Prelacy therein. Ah! have we not cause to fear that the Lord plead a controversy with us, as he did with Judah many years after, for the sins of Manasseh, and the innocent blood that he shed, which (it is said) the Lord would not pardon? 2 Kings xxiv. 3, 4. O that the land were purged from it!

After king Charles’s death, king James a professed Papist, succeeded to him in the year 1685, when not only our civil liberties, but the Protestant religion, was ready to be sacrificed; for he was admitted to the government without taking the coronation‑oath, which binds the king to maintain it: And our parliament, when they met, made an officer of duty to the king, wherein they openly declare for the king's absolute power and authority, and promise to give him entire obedience without reserve. This engagement surely was blasphemous, being only proper to the sovereign majesty of God. Upon such encouragement the king took upon him by virtue of his absolute power and prerogative


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royal, to dispense with laws at his pleasure, and, particularly to suspend all penal laws against Pa­pists, and to allow them the free exercise of their religion. Sometime after, viz. 28th June 1687, he by his proclamation suspended all penal and san­guinary [bloodthirsty] laws made against other Nonconformists, viz. Presbyterians: and gave them leave to wor­ship God in their own way in houses, injoining them to take care that nothing by preached or taught among them that might any wise tend to a­lienate the hearts of his people from him or his government; and to signify to the next magistrate what places they make use of, with the names of the preachers. Presbyterian ministers did gene­rally accept of this liberty, and these who were a­broad returned home, and got meeting houses fitted up for them, and multitudes flocked to attend their ministry, and found it remarkably blessed to them. This toleration indeed proceeded from a vile spring, viz. the king's absolute dispensing power; yet, Divine Providence made use of it, contrary to the design of the granter, as a mean to bring home the banished, and prepare the way for the happy revolution that soon followed upon it. There is in the proclamation an injunction upon ministers to preach nothing that tended to alienate the hearts of the subjects from the king and his government. If the meaning of that was, that, in their sermons they should give no testimony against Popery or the toleration of it, it was sinful in any minister to comply with it: But we ought in charity to believe that these faithful ministers, who had long given proof, by their sufferings, of their zeal for Christ and his cause, had no regard to the injunction in that sense, but exonerated their consciences in testifying a­gainst the errors and corruptions of the day, and
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for which some were imprisoned at that time. No doubt those who had been long oppressed in their consciences, had their blood mingled with their sa­crifices, and wanted ordinances, would be glad of a breathing time to serve the Lord. But, alas, we have it to regret, that in every thing we offend, and come short of the glory of God. Ah! we and our fathers have sinned, and we have great cause to be deeply humbled both for their sins and our own.

But behold how the mercy of God appeared for us, after innumerable provocations, and when all ranks had made fearful defections from God and their engagements to him. And after this church had lien under oppression for near twenty eight years, and Popery was far advanced, and the civil power in the hands of Papists, and there was but little wanting to accomplish the ruin both of our civil and religious liberties; the mighty Lord

stept in, and in made a wonderful appearance for us, by sending over the Prince of Orange (afterwards proclaimed king) in November 1688, to rescue us from Popery and tyranny, and that at a time after several attempts for our relief had misgiven, and the hearts of all true Protestants were beginning to faint within them, and the Popish faction had a numerous army to support them. Yet now, when God's time was come, our deliverance was brought about with great facility, through the wonderful working and concurrence of Divine Providence: So that it was not our own arm, but the Lord's right

hand, that wrought this salvation for us; a salva­tion never to be forgotten by the friends of religion and liberty.—In particular, the church of Scotland ought always to commemorate the glorious deli­verance and revolution in 1688, whereby she was

raised out of the dust, and to be thankful to the


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great God the Author thereof, and to have a savoury remembrance of the name of king William the happy instrument of it under God. Since which time the Lord has granted her fifty five years freedom from persecution, and peaceable enjoyment of gospel-ordinances and church judicatories, such as she never had since the reformation. Though, alas! we must acknowledge with shame, that we have not improven such noble opportunities for God and his glory, as we ought to have done.

The Prince of Orange having, in his declaration for Scotland, shewn a great concern for our religious and civil liberties, and for the persecuted Presbyterians in Scotland, whose sufferings he was well informed of by our refugees in Holland from time to time; the Presbyterian ministers met and addressed him, congratulating his arrival in Britain, and thanking him for his declaration; wherein they complain of the overturning of Presbyterian government which was generally received as of Divine right, and of the establishing of Prelacy contrary to solemn engagements. When the prince came to the throne, and had the government in his hands, he acted agreeably to his declaration; And though he did not all for us we could have wished, yet we have good ground to be assured of king William's hearty inclination to serve the church of Scotland, and his willingness to have done much more for her than he did.—But it was our, unhappiness, as well as his, that he had a Prelatic church in England to manage and gratify among

whom the Scots Prelatists wanted not abundance of friends to agent daily for them: These Proved great clogs and hindrances to the king's gracious intentions: yet notwithstanding he did a great deal to raise up a poor sinking church from imminent ruin, which we ought never to forget.
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Through the encouragement of his declaration, and call to our states, a convention of states met at Edinburgh in April 1689, who formed a claim of right, setting forth the grievances and privileges of the nation, and among the rest declaring, That “Prelacy, and the superiority of any office in the church above Presbyters, is and hath been a great and insupportable grievance and trouble to this na­tion, and contrary to the inclinations of the generality of the people ever since the reformation (they having reformed from Popery by Presbyters) and therefore ought to be abolished." And the said convention being afterward turned into a parliament, the king and queen, with their advice and consent, in July 1689, did formally abolish Prelacy, and rescind all acts and statutes formerly past in favour of it.—There was also the draught of an act brought in, and twice read in parliament, for excluding all these from places of public trust, who had a share in the oppressions of the former reigns; but the more zealous part in the parliament had not strength to carry it, and therefore it was dropt, to the great prejudice of both church and state.—The earls Melvill, Crawfurd, and several others, were very friendly to Presbyterians: yet they could not this session of Parliament carry an act for restoring Presbyterian government, partly be­cause several leading members were either incli­ned to Episcopacy, or pretended to dread the ty­ranny of Presbytery; and partly because the ene­mies of this church had so much interest in seve­rals about the king to cast remora's in the way.—Yet a good many episcopal minister were by the council turned out of their churches for not pray­ing for king William and queen Mary, and for other acts of disloyalty.
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Next year, April 1690, an act of parliament was past for restoring all the surviving Presbyterian ministers to their churches, who had been thrust from them since. January 1661 for not conforming to Prelacy and the courses of the time. Likewise they rescinded the act for the king's supremacy in ecclesiastick causes.—June 7th 1690, they past an

act for received among us, after it was read in their pre­sence: also they established Presbyterian govern­ment and discipline, as it was settled by 14th act, James VI Parl. 12. 1592. except that part of it relating to patronages; they rescinded many acts which were made against Presbytery, and for Pre­lacy, and for the five articles of Perth, the test, &c. and appointed the first meeting of the general as­sembly to be, in October 1690. It is to be observed, that, in the act establishing Presbyterian government, they establish it, not only as agreeable to the inclinations of the people as in the claim of right, but also as agreeable to the word of God, and most conducive to the advancement of true piety and godliness. And by that act they expressly rescind all other acts; laws, sta­tutes and proclamations, in so far as they are con­trary to, or inconsitent [sic] with, the Protestant reli­gion and Presbyterian government now establish­ed; which includes all the unrighteous acts of the late reigns against the church. By their 23rd act they abolished patronages, and gave liberty to parishes to call their own ministers—By act 27th and 28th, they rescinded the persecuting laws of the former period; whereby men's consciences were delivered from the thraldom of ensnaring oaths, and of attending any worship against their light.—Likewise they past an act for rescinding the fines and forfeitures of the former reigns; which was a


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public condemnation of the oppression and cruelty thereof.—Surely then we must own that these were not small things which king William and his parliament did for this poor church when lying in the dust. Some at a distance may make light of them, because every thing was not done they would have had; but surely Christians of solid judgment, and these who groaned so long under the heavy bondage and sufferings of those times, were made to acknowledge with thankfulness, that it was the Lord's right hand that turned again the captivity of our Zion. Our restored captives were then surprised with their liberty; they were like men that dreamed, amazed at the works of the Lord, and obliged to say, The Lord hath done great things for us.

In consequence of the act of parliament, the first general assembly met at Edinburgh October 16th 1690, after about forty years interruption, where was a great gathering of old banished suffer­ing ministers, who had survived the long storm of persecution that lay upon this tossed afflicted church. These ministers had several general meetings before this: in one of them they agreed that the first day of the Assembly's meeting should be kept as a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, which was observed accordingly by prayer and preaching both before and after noon, their majesties high commissioner Lord Carmichael joining with them in that good work. Afterwards king William's letter to the Assembly was pre­sented, in which he expresses his affection to them, but presses calmness and moderation in their pro­ceedings in very strong terms; yea tells them, that his authority should never be a tool to their irregular passions.—In answer to this letter, the Assembly say,

They received his letter with all
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the joy and thankfulness that the rising and shinning again of the royal favour upon this long afflicted and distressed church could possibly inspire.—The God of love, the Prince of Peace with all the providences that have gone over us, and

circumstances that we are under, as well as your majesty's obliging pleasure,

require of its a calm and peaceable procedure. And if after the violence for conscience sake, that we have suf­fered and so much detested, and these

grievous abuses of authority in the late reigns, (whereby, through some men's irregular passion, we have so sadly smarted) we ourselves should lapse into

the same errors, we should certainly prove the most unjust towards God, foolish towards ourselves, and ungrate towards your majesty, of all men upon earth.
Afterwards they say, “Desiring in all things to approve ourselves unto God, as the true disciples of Jesus Christ, who, though most zealous against all corruptions in his church, was most gentle towards the persons of all men.”—But, notwithstanding of all this moderation of the Assembly, the Prelatical party raised great clamours against them at court, and through England, for their severity.—But, as the Assembly observe in their foresaid answer to the king—“Great revolutions of this nature must be attended with occasions of complaint; and even the worst of men are ready to cry out of wrong for their justest deservings."

This assembly was much concerned, to get Presbyterians united among themselves, who, under the late persecution had been wofully divided by means of the indulgences and toleration granted by the civil government: and to compass this design, they received into fellowship with this church and her

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