Willison’s Testimony: Prefatory Statement by the Transcriber

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Willison - Testimony 57
judicatories, three ministers, Masters Linning, Shields, and Boyd, who had carried the point of separation on the foresaid accounts to too great a height; but now promised to live in union with, and subjection to, the judicatories of the church for the future; having at the same time given in a long paper for the exoneration of their consciences, bearing testimony to what they judged right, and against what they took to be wrong. These three ministers afterwards proved eminently useful in the church and in the judicatories, and contributed greatly to heal the schism that was among us.

This church having been long overwhelmed with ruins, this assembly 1690 had much work to do, to remove some of the rubbish, and establish some order: They had civil rulers urging a coalition with, or comprehension of, many of them; they had rents among themselves to heal, and many other difficulties to grapple with. Amidst all these they did a great many good things, such as appointing all ministers, elders and probationers to subscribe the Confession of Faith; making acts for keeping the Lord's day, and for applying the parliament to alter markets from Saturdays and Mondays, for erecting schools in the Highlands, providing them with Irish Bibles, for rescinding the sentences past by the publick resolutioners and protestors against one another. They appointed large committees or commissions for visiting several parts of the national church, with instructions how to manage; they also appointed two of their number to repair to London, to wait upon the king concerning the affair of this church. And for further healing of their rents, turning away the wrath of God, and

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imploring his mercy, they appointed a national fast to be observed on the second Thursday of January thereafter: In the causes whereof, they enumerate a great many

sins of the land, both in the former land present times; such as,

Ingratitude for mercies treacherous dealing with God, unsteadfastness in his

covenant, falling from their first love, open defection of all ranks from the ways of

God, by horrid immoralities, and sacrificing the interest of Christ and privileges of

his church to the will and lusts of men, introducing Prelacy, imposing and, taking

unlawfull oaths, shedding innocent blood, the general fainting under the late

perse­cutions and even of eminent ministers, by either yielding to the defections

and evils of the time, or not giving seasonable and necessary testimo­ny against them; ignorance and neglect of Christ, and of living by faith on him; contempt of

the gospel, and barrenness under it; want of holiness and piety towards God,

and of love and charity towards men; the most part being, more ready to censure

the sins of others, than to re­pent of their own.

These and a great many other evils they mention as a ground of fasting. It has indeed been complained of, that the hints given of some of these evils are too general. No

doubt, if the drawing of the act had been put in some hands, these had been more particularly and fully express­ed, and the Assembly would not have scrupled to have approven the act in that shape. It is wished the act had been more full and explicit with res­pect to the shedding of the blood of God's saints and martyrs under prelacy, the king's ecclesiastic su­premacy then advanced to a most blasphemous height, the self-contradictory oath of the abominable test, and the fearful indignities done to our covenants,

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which we find mentioned by subsequent assemblies, and for which their is cause of mourning and hu­miliation to this day. Likewise we wish they had done more to retrieve the honour of these broken and burnt Covenants, by openly asserting the law­fulness and obligation of them, and applying to the civil powers for their concurrence to renew them, or rather of one made up of both, with accommo­dation to their times and circumstances. No doubt they were well apprised of the opposition that would be made to such a motion, as they found made to other such designs, and particularly to that of purging the church, and keeping out of judica­tories these who were enemies to it; in which they met with strenuous opposition from statesmen and great men in power, and even from the throne it­self; as appears from two letters from the king to the commission of assembly 1690, and his letter to assembly 1692, wherein he presses strongly their uniting with the Episcopal ministers then in churches. His commissioner the earl of Lothian seconded the king's letter; and because they fell not in with it, he said he had orders to dissolve the Assembly, which he did, without naming a diet for another.

And here we cannot but observe the noble spirit and disposition of the Assembly 1692, which they shewed upon that occasion. The moderator Mr. William Crichton, in his speech to the commis­sioner, delivered himself as follows:

May it please your grace, this Assembly, and all the members of this national

church are under the greatest obligations possible to his majesty: and, if his majesty's commands to us had been in any or all our concerns, in the world, we would have laid our hands upon our mouth and been silent ;

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but they being for a dissolution of tbis assembIy without indicting another to a certain day, therefore having been moderator to this assembly, I in their name, they adhering to me, humbly crave leave to declare, that the office bearers in the house of God have a spiritual intrinsic power from Jesus Christ, the only Head of his church, to meet in assembly about the affairs thereof, the necessity of the same being first represented to the magistrate; and further I humbly crave, that the dissolution of this assembly, without indicting a new one to a certain day, may

not be to the prejudice of our yearly general assemblies granted us by the laws of the kingdom.

Here the members rose up, and with one voice declared their adherence to what the

moderator had said. Whereupon the moderator turning himself to the assembly, as if he

was to pray, the members by a general cry pressed to name a diet for the next general

assembly. The moderator thereupon said, That, if they pleased, the next general

assembly might meet here at Edinburgh upon the third Wednesday of August 1693

years. And the members did again with one voice declare their approbation

whereof.—Wherefore these who knew the difficulties our ancestors had then to struggle

with, will rather be inclined to pity than censure them, and to bless God that helped them

to do so well; though still it must be owned, it would have been much for the church's

exoneration, that matters had been more plainly and closely laid to the door of the state,

that the world might have seen, where the stop was.

Nevertheless, by that wonderful Revolution, all persecution was stopt, and the

church enjoyed the freedom of gospel ordinances; the Lord gave large
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testimony to the word of his grace, and there were great days of the Son of man in many places of the land, and multitudes of souls were brought in to Jesus Christ their Saviour. Likewise judicatories did many good things some of which we shall instance.

The general assembly, in the years 1694, 1697,1698, and subsequent years shewed great zeal for suppressing profaneness and immorality, by making many acts to that purpose, and by applying to the parliament to concur with them by the civil au­thority; who were pleased to revive former acts, and make several excellent new acts in that end, which the assembly appointed to be read, together with their own acts, frequently from the pulpits. Likewise it was the care and business of the gene­ral assembly for many years to get the North and Highlands supplied and planted with proper ministers; they sent diverse committees of the most experienced ministers to purge and plant the North, and transported many of the best ministers of the South to that country.

These first assemblies, and severals since, have made strict laws with respect to licensing preachers, not only about their learning, orthodoxy and prudence; but have appointed presbyteries
to make narrow inquiry into their moral character and piety, and what sense and

impressions they have of religion upon their own souls; and they declare that

such as are esteemed to be vain, imprudent, proud, or worldly minded, by the

generality of sober intelligent persons who converse with them, shall be kept back

from that sacred work.
Happy were it for the church, if these excellent rules were strictly observed by all the presbyteries of this church.
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They made acts against the atheistical opinions of the Deists and others. They condemned the errors of Madam Bourignon, and deposed Dr. Garden for espousing them. They strictly appoint­ed all ministers and preachers to subscribe the Confession of Faith. And for preserving of truth, and for preventing the corrupting of youth with error and immorality, they appointed all school­masters, chaplains and governors of youth to sub­scribe the Confession of Faith: and these who do not so, or are guilty of negligence, error or immo­rality, they appointed presbyters to apply to magistrates, heritors, &c. to get them removed from their offices.—They also enacted, That these who should receive licence or ordination from any of the late prelates, should be incapable of ministerial communion with this church, till they gave evi­dence of their repentance.

They made excellent barrier acts, for preventing all innovations in our doctrine, worship, or govern­ment, by appointing that all these acts which are to be binding rules and constitutions to the church, shall first be proposed as overtures to the assembly, and be transmitted by them to the several presby­teries of this church, that they may send their opi­nions or consent to the next assembly, who may then pass the same into acts, if the more general opinion of the church, thus had, agree thereunto.—They made many acts and frequent applications to the government for suppressing and preventing the growth of popery; and encouraged students and preachers having Irish, that they might be useful in those parts; and do still continue to send such to assist the ministers where popery abounds, by preaching catechising, and instructing of the peo­ple, for counteracting the trafficking priests among

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them: in which design our sovereigns now concur by their yearly bounty of a thousand pounds ster­ling.—Also the assembly have been at great pains to get schools erected in every parish through the land, and appoint ministers to see that none be suf­fered to neglect the teaching of their children to read, and that the poor be taught upon charity.

The commission of assembly 1690, according to their instructions, sent four worthy ministers, Masters Shields, Boreland, Stobo, and Dalgliesh, with the Scots colony to America; and one great design was for propagating the gospel and convert­ing the Heathen in those parts. The assembly 1700 appointed a national fast, and one special ground was for their success. Of which they ac­quainted them by a letter, in which they directed them, upon their landing and settling in America, “to keep a day with all the people for solemn prayer and fasting, bewailing former sins, renewing baptismal engagements, and with the greatest se­riousness dedicating themselves and the land unto the Lord." The assembly 1704 set on foot that noble project of propagating Christian know­ledge in the Highlands, Islands, and foreign parts of the world, by erecting charity schools and o­therwise, which they began by a voluntary sub­scription and contribution through the nation, instructing their commission to encourage and carry

on the said design, which was done from time to time, until they obtained letters patent from the sovereign, anno 1709, for erecting the subscribers into a society and corporation for managing that af­fair; and many collections have our assemblies

appointed for that blessed design, whereby, and by donations from pious persons both at home and abroad to the society, their stock is greatly increa­sed,

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and they are now enabled to maintain above 130 charity schools in our Highlands and Islands at home, besides several missionaries in America, for propagating Christianity among the Heathen. And we have certain information of the happy suc­cess of these schools at home; thousands of igno­rant and barbarous people have been civilized and

reformed, and many of them, we hope, have become truly religious. Likewise the assembly have been at great pains to get new impressions of the Bible in Irish, and also to get the Psalms, Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms translated

into Irish, and dispersed through the Highlands; and by the help of piously disposed persons, both in this and our neighbour nation, they have got to the number of 80 libraries settled in particular places through the Highlands and Islands. And what reason have we and all Scotsmen to give thanks to God for directing, countenancing and

prospering this noble design so far in our land?—They also established an excellent form of process in church judicatories with relation to scandals and censures, by act 11. Ass. 1707; likewise an useful method for ministerial visitation of families, by act

  1. Ass. 1708.

These, and many other good things, have our old suffering ministers and our general assembly been instruments, under God, to set on foot and promote, since the revolution; for which we desire always to offer up our hearty thanksgiving and praises to Almighty God, for helping them so far in advancing of our holy religion.

It has been indeed complained by some, that after the revolution they did not pass distinct re­cissory acts, for Christ's headship over his church, the Divine right of Presbytery, the church's intrinsic­

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power, the obligation of our covenants, &c.—No doubt it might be some stop to them, that the magistrate entertained a jealous eye then upon the church, with respect to these points, lest they should have carried matters to too great heights against those who differed from them; and therefore the king and parliament, parl. 1. sess. 2. rescinded all the old acts in favour of the church which enjoined civil pains upon their sentences of excommunication. Yet notwithstanding, we wish they had done more, if possible, for asserting these principles which they held, than they did, immediately after the revolution. Had they foreseen what a handle their not doing it would have given to some to promote a separation from this church, we persuade ourselves they would have essayed to have done more. These old sufferers indeed might reckon that the world was sufficiently apprised of their principles with respect to the foresaid points, and that no man would question them, seeing they had hazarded the loss of all things for adhering to them; for it was upon that very account they were cast out of their houses and benefices, imprisoned, fined, banished, and hunted as partridges in the mountains. And although they past not distinct Assertory Acts with respect to these points, yet we have plain declarations of their mind about them in several public acts and deeds. It was upon their solicitation that the parliament, June 7 1690, past an act for establishing Presbyterian government among us, as being agreeable to the word of God; and at the same time ratified our Confession of Faith, and inserted it verbatim in their public records, in which Confession it is expressly asserted, chap. 30. sect. 1, 2. The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed
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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. And chap. 26. sect. 6, There is no head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. And chap. 23. sect. 3. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, &c.—Likewise they rescinded the act for the king's supremacy in church affairs.—Our first, assembly, by many acts, have, approven our Confession with all the aforesaid articles, and appoint­ed all the members of this church to adhere there­to; also ministers, elders, and intrants to the ministry, are bound to make solemn profession there­of, and subscribe the same; and parents at bap­tism are daily required to train up their children according to it.

Likewise the moderators of all our assemblies, at the close of every assembly, do publicly assert, and declare before the king's high commissioner, that as the assembly met in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ the only King and Head of his church, so they part in the same name; and also they named the diet of the next assembly.—And when

the commissioner dissolved the assembly 1692 abrupt­ly, without naming a diet for another; the mode­rator did in his face, with consent of the whole assembly, remonstrate against it, and declare, That the office-bearers in the house of God have a spiritu­al intrinsic power from Jesus Christ, the only Head of his church, to meet in assemblies about the affairs thereof; and he named a diet for another assembly. All this is recorded in the assembly’s books. In like manner did the assembly re­monstrate, when dissolved in the year 1703. And
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the very next assembly 1704, in their answer to the queen’s letter, do plainly tell her, that they were now again met in a national assembly in the name Of our Lord Jesus Christ. Also, they approved the several synod‑books through Scotland, which had Assertory Acts recorded in them, for Christ's Headship, the Divine right of Presbytery, the church's intrinsic power, &c. To prevent which approbation, was the reason (as then generally believed) why the commissioner dissolved the preceding assembly. Again, the assembly 1705, in their 7th act concerning Mr.. Hepburn, do assert in plain words, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the alone King and Head of, the church. And Ass. 1707, act 11, declare, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath instituted a government, and governors ecclesiastical in his house, with power to meet for the order and government thereof.—And as for the Divine right of Presbytery, the assembly 1711 do expressly declare for it in their 10th act, when they appoint all intrants to the ministry, both when li­censed and ordained, to subscribe and declare, not only that our Confession of Faith and purity of

worship are founded upon the word of God, but also that the Presbyterian government and disci­pline of this church are founded upon the word of God, and agreeable thereto; and also solemnly to engage that that they will firmly and constantly adhere to the said doctrine and worship, and to the utmost of their power, in their station, assert, maintain

will defend the discipline and Presbyterian govern­ment of this, church, by kirk‑sessions, presbyteries, provincial synods, and general assemblies, during all the days of their lives. Whereby all ministers and preachers do plainly renew our covenants.—And that ministers in former Years were of the
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same mind appears by the church's declaration by their commission in the year 1698, published in their Seasonable Admonition, p. 5. in which they say, We do believe and own that Jesus Christ is the only Head and King of his church: and that he hath instituted in his church, officers and ordinances, order and government, and not left it to the will of man, magistrate or church, to alter at their pleasure. And we believe this government is nei­ther prelatical nor congregational, but presbyterian, which now, through the mercy of God, is esta­blished amongst us; and believe we have a better foundation for this our church‑government, than the inclination of the people, or laws of men, &c. And that commission's whole actings and conclusions were ratified and approven by Ass. 1699, act 12­.—Besides all which, our assemblies and commissions have frequently owned the obligation of our covenants by mentioning the breaches of them among our causes of fasting. Ass. 1700, act 5. they la­ment our continued unfaithfulness to God, notwith­standing of our solemn covenants and engagements to the contrary. Again, Ass. 1701, act 9. they say, Our sins are the more aggravated, that they are a­gainst so many solemn repeated vows and engage­ments, and covenants with our God, which have been openly violated and broken by persons of all ranks, and treated with public contempt, indigni­ties and affronts, &c.—We bless God, that has determined our church to own these truths so openly, over the belly of all their difficulties and discouragements; and we desire heartily to join with them in declaring for the Headship of our Lord Jesus Christ over his church, in opposition to the pope, magistrate or any other; likewise for the spiritual intrinsic power of the church to chuse [choose] her
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officers, meet in her judicatories, inflict censures, and govern the church, in opposition to all Erastian opinions or practices promoted by any party or person whatsoever; as also for the Divine right of Presbyterian government in the church, in opposition to Prelacy, independency, &c. and for the lasting obligation of our covenants, seeing they bind us to nothing but what we are antecedently bound to by the Scriptures of truth.

Thus the church of Scotland continued owning and adhering to her ancient principles and doctrines, and using means to promote religion through the land for many years after the revolution, without any visible declension. But, alas! her degeneracy and defection hath of late years become too visible; and our union with England in 1707 may be looked upon as the chief source thereof, next to the corruption of our hearts. When this transaction came to be laid before the Scots parliament in 1706, the nation was most intent about it, not knowing the nature or articles, whether it was a federal or incorporating union: but when it was seen to be the latter, and the majority of the house disposed to agree to it, both the church and the body of the people were vastly uneasy, great numbers of addresses came up against it, and insurrections were much feared. The commission by appointment sat during the whole session, and was exceeding numerous; members attending by turns. They presented three addresses to the parliament, the first was for an unalterable security of the established religion, to the people of this land and all succeeding generations, so far as human laws can go. To satisfy them, the parliament enacted, That the establishment of the doctrine, worship, discipline and Presbyterian government of this church

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should be held as an unalterable, fundamental and, essential condition of the union of the two kingdoms, if concluded. This seemed to quiet many, reckoning the security of the church not so precarious and uncertain, when thus established by the mutual agreement of both parliaments in a solemn treaty of union, that when settled by acts of the Scots parliament only; for the faith of the English in keeping treaties was at this time much spoken of. But the most part of the church continued still averse to an incorporating union, and their coming under the jurisdiction of a British parliament, in which the English members, being prelatical would be ten to one of Scots members wherefore the commission presented a second address, declaring this aversion. They indeed met with great opposition from noblemen and gentlemen, elders in the commission, who had views of temporal offices and advantages from court by being for the union; yet they represented the grievances the church and her members might fall under by the union, such as oaths, tests and impositions inconsistent with their principles. And in their address they plainly testified against the subjecting of this nation to a British parliament, in which twenty six prelates would be constituent members and legislators; For (say they) it is contrary to our known principles and covenants, that any churchman should bear civil offices, or have power in the commonwealth. To this they got no answer, save a clause put in the act for securing the church, that no oath, test or subscription shall ever be imposed within the bounds of this church and kingdom contrary to our Presbyterian establishment. By which (it is to be regreted) the parliament neither shewed regard to the principles of Scotsmen when out of the kingdom,
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