Willison’s Testimony: Prefatory Statement by the Transcriber



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Willison - Testimony 99:
to his having a right to the maintenance; which is contrary to Christ's stated order, and the nature of things.

7mo, By accepting presentations, ministers do sadly prejudge the success of the gospel and their own ministry, by offending and stumbling the pa­rishes concerned, besides many others, at their conduct. And is it any wonder though a parish he offended with a man for going about to secure a title to their stipend, before they have access to know him, or shew any inclination for him; and for his binding the yoke of patronage upon them, and spoiling them of their just right of chusing their own pastor; and for hindering them to get another worthy pastor whom they dearly love? What must they think of a man that tells a reclaiming parish by word or deed, I'll be your minister in spite of your teeth, I'll have the charge of your souls whe­ther ye will or not ; and, if ye refuse ordinances and means of salvation from me, ye shall have none? Nay, come of your souls what will, though they should perish in a state of ignorance and pre­judice, I'll possess the kirk, manse and benefice, and hold out another minister from you. Have they not too good ground to suspect such a man, of earthly‑mindedness, greed of filthy lucre, or of being more concerned for his own things, than for the, things of jesus Christ, and the salvation of their souls? Which apprehensions are suffi­cient to stuff the breasts of people with prejudice against him at his entry, and to blast his ministra­tions to them for many years thereafter. For it is no wonder, though they think such language or practice is not like that of one who sincerely de­signs to advance Christ's kingdom, and win souls to him, as a faithful minister ought to do ; but


Willison - Testimony 100:
rather of one that hath base worldly ends in view! The language of a pastor, whom Christ sends, is that in 2 Cor. xii. 14. I seek not yours, but you; whereas that of an accepter seems to be the very re­verse, I seek not you, but yours.

8vo, It increaseth the prejudice of many against such accepters, when they see there is no necessity for their accepting of presentations. Indeed, if there were no coming to a church or stipend but by the Patron's right, something might be said to alleviate the

crime: but at present there is no necessity from the law to accept of them; nay, on

the contrary, the law leaves an open door, by which ministers and preachers may have an orderly gospel access, both to churches and benefices, without having any dealing with Patrons at all, if they would but exercise a little patience till six months elapse. Now, how can people think charitably of these who refuse to enter by the safe gospel‑door, and chuse, rather to climb up by the window of presentations and violence, when they cannot but see their so do­ing tends to blast their own ministry, and bring a,

heavy yoke on their mother‑church, after she was in effect freed of it by the tenderness of the legislature in 1719? Now, seeing these acceptances were unnecessary, and of the most pernicious consequence to the church and the interest of the gospel, it cannot but be surprising that our general assemblies were at so little pains to discourage or

prevent them, when it might have been easily done at the beginning. We find indeed that the assembly 1724, referred it to their commission, to think of an overture thereanent [concerning or in reference to anything], and lay it before the next assembly; but it doth not appear that there was any more done, notwithstanding of repeated in­structions from Presbyteries concerning the same.


Willison - Testimony 101:
We know no reason can be assigned for the assem­bly's indolence in this matter, but their pusillani­mity [cowardice], or sinful fearfulness of offending the government: but this fear of man hath brought a woeful snare upon the poor church. Several synods indeed shewed a willingness to restrain these accept­ances but, Presentees knowing where to have recourse, their acts were soon disregarded. At first one or two probationers began to mint at accepting presentations; but the outcry against them was so great, that they soon retracted, and past from them again. But sometime after, when Principal George Chalmers adventured to accept a presentation to the church of Old‑Machir, several young men took courage and followed his example; and though at first they qualified their acceptances with having the peoples' consent, yet they would not retract them after the people shewed their aversion to them; which occasioned many intrusions and vio­lent settlements through several places of the church, contrary to our known principles, these intru­sions came gradually into the church, but were act commonly practised, nor countenanced by superior courts, till after the year 1728. For we find the assembly 1725, after a great struggle about calling a minster to Aberdeen, appointing, that besides the voting of the magistrates, town-council and el­ders in the call, the inclination of heads of families shall be consulted about it. And the assembly 1725 censured the commission for proceeding to transport Mr. James Chalmers from Dyke to Aberdeen, without having due regard to the inclinations of the people of that city, who opposed his call. But, alas! our assemblies did not continue long in such a dispostion; for they and their commission began soon afterwards to pay more regard
Willison - Testimony 102:
to patrons and heritors in planting of churches, though few of these were hearers, than they did to the whole body of the people that attended ordinances. The crown having the patronage of most of the churches of Scotland, this melancholy turn of affairs was thought to be brought about by strong court influence, and by the activity of several leading ministers, who had their dependence upon or expectations from that airth [probably “direction”]. These be­gan to vent themselves in judicatories against the rights of the Christian people and to assert that there were no stated rules nor directions in Scrip­ture about the calling of ministers, or who should be the electors. Some of them wrote pamphlets a­gainst the peoples' rights, pretending to answer the Scripture‑arguments for them; and maintained that the clergy or judicatories were the proper electors. These were sufficiently answered by Mr. Currie, Mr. Hill and others; but their opponents had the ascendant in judicatories, and carried things there as they pleased.

At this time the church of Scotland was in a most lamentable condition, and the wrath of the Almighty seemed to be kindled against her, in let­ting loose many adversaries at once to attack and destroy her: for at the same time we find her ma­ny ways dreadfully tossed and shaken: as by pa­tronages, and intrusions pushed on by the court and great men;—By Independent schemes and constitutions of churches zealously promoted by Mr. Glas and Mr. Archbald;—By Arian errors taught and propagated by Professor Simson;—By many gross errors vented by others, both Presbyterian and Episcopal;—And by legal sermons and moral harangues (to the neglect of preaching Christ) in­troduced by many of the young clergy. All these
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evils, working and fermenting through the land at once, occasioned dreadful shocks and convulsions in this national church, likely to rend her in many pieces. Yet, alas! We were not sensible of, nor suitably affected with our danger and misery, nor with the sins which were the procuring cause of all.—Turn us, 0 God of our salvation, and cause thine anger towards us to cease. Oh, wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?—Whatever the Lord think fit to do with this backsliding church and land, we Judge it incumbent upon us to bear wit­ness against the foresaid evils.

As to the impugning and invading the rights which congregations have to chuse and call their own ministers, and the intrusions made upon them, which, alas! still continue to be practised; we shall give our reasons for testifying against them, and for the rights of the people. And the first and great reason is, because by the rule and pattern of God's word, and by the dictates of sound and sober reason, the Christian people have an unques­tionable interest in the choice of these pastors to whom they are to intrust the care of their souls: and particularly, this right of the people is esta­blished by several passages of the Acts of the Apos­tles, a book intended to give us the apostolical practice and pattern in the settlement of the Chris­tian church.

1 mo, In Acts i. 13, 14,15, &c. when the eleven apostles met for the choice of an apostle, the laity present with them, were allowed a share in the election of two, of which God did chuse one to fill the vacancy of the apostolical college. From which we infer, That ministers should much more consult them in the choice of ordinary pastors, who
Willison - Testimony 104:
are to have the stated inspection of their souls, and that this condescension of the apostles to the people in this case, doth condemn their practice who violently impose ministers upon Christian congre­gations, while they are dissenting and reclaiming against them, and willing to receive others every way as fit for them. And we find our reformers

and Protestant divines, such as Calvin, Beza, Junius, Zanchy, Chamier, Voetius, Amesius, Turretine, Cartwright, Calderwood, Gillespie, Forrester, Lauder, and many others, improving this passage for the, peoples’ rights against Papists, Pre­latists and patronages.

2do, In Acts vi. the apostles called the multi­tude, or body of the disciples to the choice of first standing church‑officers which they appointed, viz. the deacons for taking care of the poor; from which we infer, If the disciples have a right to chuse these officers who are to dispose of their charity, then much more these who are to oversee their souls. And if these apostles reckoned the people competent to judge who had the qualifications for deacons which they prescribe, viz. who were most eminent for honesty, wisdom, and the gifts of the Holy. Ghost;. why are they not competent to give their judgment of the like qualifications in those who are to be their pastors? The apostles

being under immediate Divine direction, were abundantly capable to chuse these officers without the people; yet they will needs have them concur­ring in it, as a pattern to the church in their after chusing of church‑officers. And it is observable, the apostles took this method, to silence the com­plaints among the people about providing for the

poor. Which loudly calls upon judicatories to follow their example, in order to silence
Willison - Testimony 105:
peoples' complaints of violent intrusions made upon them, contrary to the apostles practice and our ac­knowledged principles, to the great hindrance of the gospel and the edification of souls. Likewise we have the forecited Protestant divines concur­ring to improve this passage of the deacons for the peoples rights: and it might be expected that the ministers of the church of Scotland would not op­pose them, or join with the Papists in this question.

3tio, The apostles practice in the election of church‑officers being sufficiently evident by the foresaid two instances, the sacred penman of the Acts insists no more upon this subject, save that he hints at their known practice in ordinations. Acts xiv.23. In cur version it is, And when they had ordained them elders in every church. Now, the word here rendered ordained, is but half trans­lated; for in the original it is Cheirotonesantes, which Erasmus renders cum suffragiis creassent; and Beza, agreeing with him, hath it per suffragia creassent: So that according to these learned men, and many others, the passage should have been rendered, When they had by suffrages appointed to them elders in every church. So it is in all old English translations, and so it was brought in by our last translators, until the version was committed by king James to some of the English bishops to be revised, who altered no less than fourteen passages of the New Testament, and this among the rest, to make them speak the language of the church of England; but the original language, be­ing that of the Holy Ghost, is to be our rule. The word here is not Cheirothesia, which signifies the action of ministers in ordaining; but it is Cheiro­ tonia, which is expressive of the peoples act in electing of pastors, by stretching or lifting up the


Willison - Testimony 106:
hand, as was the custom: and in this sense doth the apostle make use of the word Cheirotonia, and ascribe it to the people, 2 Cor. viii. 19.

4to, The spoiling congregations of their right of calling their ministers, and imposing pastors upon them, is not only against the example of the apos­tles, but also contrary to the commands of our glo­rious Head, to our own prayers, and to the very spirit of the gospel. Doth not Christ enjoin us in his word to glorify him in all things, to do all to the glory of God, and to do all things to the edification of his people! to condescend to men of low estate, and to be gentle towards all men ? Doth he not forbid us to exercise dominion over the church, to set at nought our brother, and rule over his people with rigour? Doth he not command all Christians to judge of what they hear, to try the spirits, to beware of false prophets? Are not all ministers and others bound to pray that God's name may be hallowed, that his kingdom may come, and that the whole earth may be filed with his glory? And do not they act the very reverse of these com­mands and prayers, who would in a magisterial way intrude ministers upon Christian congrega­tions, and thereby stop the spreading of his gospel, the conversion of souls, and the increase of his kingdom upon earth? Are forced settlements a­greeable to the meekness and gentleness of Christ our Master and Pattern? Or are they like the mild disposition and condescensions of the apostle Paul, who used the most tender, soft and condescending methods to advance the gospel among men, and was willing to become all things to all menfor their spiritual good? and, when he saw it needful to for the winning of their souls, he laid aside his au­thority, and fell to intreaties and beseechings with them, Rom. xii. 1. 2 Cor. v. 20.—x. 1. Philemon


Willison - Testimony 107:
9, 10. And observe what he says, I Thess. ii. 7, 11. We were gentle among you as a nurse cherish­eth her children; And (saith he) we exhorted you as a father doth his children. Now, as a tender nurse or father will not impose any upon weak chil­dren to feed them at whom they have the greatest aversion, nor tell them that they shall have no food unless they take it from such hands; so neither ought judicatories to intrude pastors upon dissent­ing or reclaiming parishes. They pray for the spreading of Christ's glory and kingdom, and therefore should not counteract their prayers, as they manifestly do by violent settlements; for thus they lay the foundations of strong prejudices in peoples breasts against ministers and the success of the glorious gospel, and frequently drive people quite away from the gospel‑net, to the great in­crease of ignorance and immorality. This course is directly against the Bible, that forbids us to give any occasion of stumbling or prejudice unto others, whereby their edification may be hindered, Rom. xiv. 13, 19, 21. Alas! people have naturally strong enough prejudices against the gospel itself, be the pastor never so acceptable; and what a pity it is that occasion should be given them to conceive prejudice also against the preacher of it? seeing thereby the strong holds of Satan are rendered more impregnable. For how can it be expected that a parish will be free of stumbling or prejudice against a man, that makes it his first business to obtain a right to their stipend, and will not part with it when they shew the utmost aversion to him, but gets himself viis & modis thurst [sic] in upon them? Will they not be ready to look upon him as an earthly‑minded man, greedy of filthy lucre, that thrusts himself into the priest's office for a piece of
Willison - Testimony 108:
bread, that seeks the fleece more than the flock, and minds his own things more than the things of Jesus Christ? Is not this the way to bring both the person and ministry of such a man into con­tempt among the people, to shut their ears against his admonitions, and render his labours among them unsuccessful? Whereas, should a minister come among a people by their call, he has a fair door opened to him to promote their salvation: they think themselves bound to attend his minis­try, receive him into their houses, hearken to his counsels, and submit to his reproofs; and so the gospel hath free course among that people.

5to, Seeing the right of Christians to judge for themselves in matters of religion, is undeniably se­cured to them both by the light of nature and of re­velation; they must consequently have an interest in the choice of their teachers. For if a man may judge for himself concerning the schemes of doc­trine and ways of salvation laid before him, and

may prefer one to another; it must follow, that he hath also a right to judge who is fittest to in­struct him according to it; otherwise he might fall into the hands of these who would lead him into schemes quite opposite to what he hath chosen. It is evident that both Scripture and reason allow men a judgment of discretion about the pastors to whom they are to commit the instructing, guiding, and edifying of their precious souls. That text is

plain for it, in I John iv. 1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world, Likewise that text, Mat. vii. 15, 16. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. And that in


Willison - Testimony 109:
2 John,ver.10. If there come any to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not. From all which texts it is evident, that Christians have right to judge concerning these who bring them true gos­pel doctrine, and whom they are to receive, and whom

not. The Bereans are highly commended for their using this right, Acts xvii. 11. And

Christ declares it to be the privilege of his people to distinguish the voice of a stranger or

hireling from the voice of a true shepherd, and to flee from the one, and follow the other,

John x. 4. 5.

6to, The consent of parishes to the settlement of a minister is requisite to constitute

the pastoral re­lation betwixt him and his flock, and the obligation of mutual offices and

duties one to another. It was anciently a received maxim among Presbyte­rians, That the

consent of the flock is as necessary to fix the pastoral relation, as the consent of the

minister; seeing the tye is mutual and reciprocal.

7mo, The apostles' example in ordaining pastors by the choice and consent of the people, was fol­lowed by the primitive church for many centuries after them, as Eusebius and others testify. And the learned Turretine, vol. 3. ques. 24. De jure vocationis, quotes many of the ancient fathers and councils as maintaining the peoples' right. And Mr. Petrie in his church history, pag. 63, 65. ob­serves, That the church of Rome in the 7th centu­ry had not given up with this principle of Christi­anity. It hath been the fixed principle of this church, and of our reformers from the very dawn­ing of the reformation, That congregations ought to have ministers settled among them with their own consent. This can be made evident from our books of discipline, and many acts of assemblies; and this is confirmed by assembly 1736, act 14. Wherein


Willison - Testimony 110:
in they declare, that it is and hath been since the reformation, the principle of this church, that no minister shall be intruded into any parish contrary to the will of the congregation; and therefore they seriously recommend to all the judicatories of this church, to have a due regard to the said principle in planting vacant congregations, as they regard the glory of God, and the edification of the body of Christ.—But it is to be regretted, that neither the ancient principles of this church, nor the recommendation of assembly, 1736, are much regarded in the settlement of churches at this day, more than the Scriptural arguments aforementioned for the peoples' right. O how great ground hath this back­sliding church to imitate that famous general as­sembly 1596, who made the thrusting of men into congregations one special cause of their keeping a day for solemn fasting and humiliation before the Lord! Likewise it is to be noticed, what they ob­serve of these intruders, That they manifest there­after, that they were not called of God. O that judicatories would keep in mind the apostle’s warning against being Partakers of other mens’ sins, by laying hands suddenly upon them; and would consider how far they may be accountable for these souls, who may perish in an ignorant and Christless condition during the scatterings and prejudices of congregations intruded upon! Surely that text hath an alarming sound to all concerned in intrusions, Jer. xxiii. 1, 2. Wo be unto the pas­tors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pas­tures, saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, against the pastors that feed my people, Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them; behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the
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Lord. Likewise the 34th chapter of Ezekiel hath some very awful things relative to this case. O that the Spirit of God would carry them home to the hearts of men, with such power and efficacy, that their eyes may be opened in time; so that intrusions, scatterings, and contempt of Christ’s flock, may not issue in the destruction of vital religion, and of this once famous national church!

This woful contempt and disregarding of the flock of Christ, by intruding pastors upon them, neglecting their petitions, and otherwise, could not but be very provoking to a holy God: wherefore he was pleased to visit this church with several aw­ful rebukes, and particularly with violent attacks upon her beautiful constitution, running it down, and promoting Independent schemes of govern­ment, and setting up new models of congregational churches with new improvements. This was first attempted by Mr. John Glas minister at Tealing, and Mr. Francis Archbald minister of Guthrie.—After a while's more secret management, they came at length to vent their principles openly, and

go about preaching them in the streets, fields, &c. and printed several pamphlets in favours of their new opinions. They found fault with our Confession of Faith and Formula, and refused to subscribe them.—They maintained, That there is no warrant for national churches under the New Testament, but only for congregational; That single congregations are not subject to any superior judicatory, nor censurable by them: That they may ordain their own pastors, and that all the members have right to govern. That the church of Israel was but a typical church, and their kings were ecclesiastical officers; That their national covenant­ing with God was typical, and not to be imitated by

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