The original title of Mr. Willison’s Testimony is transcribed below following this preface in its entirety. The title states that the Testimony is a “Fair and Impartial Testimony.” As such, Mr. Willison presents an account of the events that took place in the history of the Church of Scotland. Not only does he write of the events that took place between the men involved, he also inserts proclamations of praise to God and alludes to the Lord’s providential care over His Church. Mr. Willison demonstrates a highly practical understanding of God’s providence as he demonstrates the infallibility of God’s word in connection with history. He applies the eternal truths of the Holy Writ to the events that took place in a most appropriate manner. Also, as Mr. Willison recounts the sins of the Church, he not only exposes those who promoted error, but also demonstrates that those who stood for truth had a tendency to sin in a way peculiar to individuals who strive to maintain purity in doctrine. The reader may note that the parallels between the Church of Scotland then and the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of today seem strikingly similar. There is nothing new under the sun.
Concerning the transcribed version, certain changes have been made. These changes are minor and were made primarily for ease of reading. They are as follows. In the original text, references made to a king such as Charles I would have a period after the “I.” (ie. king Charles I. did so and so…) . The period has been eliminated after such references so that the text reads “king Charles I did so and so…” in order to prevent the appearance of a sentence ending in mid sentence. Also, all hyphenations placed in hyphenated words have been eliminated and the words kept in tact. Another change was made with quoted data. The original text placed quoted data with quotation marks at the beginning of each line. If a quote was longer than one line, each line would begin with a “ mark. These multiple quotation marks have been removed and modern methods for quoting data have been used in their place. In addition, archaic spellings have not been changed so there are words that appear misspelled according to modern spellings. Finally, when archaic words or words peculiar to Scottish language are used, definitions in brackets often follow. These definitions were derived from Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd ed., (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983). The scanned transcribed version of the text below may still have errors.
The overall layout of the book is as it was originally printed. In chronological order, the reader will find the Title Page, Preface, Testimony, Advertisement, Adherence, Postscript, Contents, Postscript and a list of Subscribers Names. In addition, the transcriber has added a Subject Index in the Appendix. The reader will please note that the Contents and Subject Index in the Appendix are found at the end of the book. Page numbers for the Contents of the book, Preface, Testimony etc., can be found listed in the Subject Index. Ron Creech, Transcriber.
stop defection, and promote reformation. attested & adhered unto by sundry ministers. By the Rev. JOHN WILLISON,
Minister of the Gospel at Dundee, Scotland, Psal. ci 3. I hate the work of them that turn aside, it shall not cleave to me.
Isa. xliii. 10 Ye are my Witnesses saith the Lord.
Ezek. Xliii. 11. Shew them the form of the house, and write it in their sight.
Isa. Lviii. 1. Shew the house of Jacob their sins.
published by zadok cramer and sold at his
bookstore, market street. from the press of cramer and spear—1808 THE
THOUGH I be far less fit for framing a Testimony to the principles, wrestlings and attainments of this church, and against the corruptions, defections and evils of the times, than many of my brethren; yet being encouraged by some whom I highly valued to undertake it, and finding none else inclined to it, I have essayed it through Divine strength, hoping to see a witnessing Body appear within this Church, as well as without it, at least some who would desire to testify against the evils of the day with just zeal, impartiality and meekness.
No sooner I set my face to it, but I saw it to be a matter of great difficulty to steer a straight course, without swerving to the right or left hand, in these reeling and shaking times, when such different opinions are vented, provocations are given, calumnies are spread, and men’s passions are stirred on each side, so that even the meekest and wisest are ready to stagger: I found also the difficulty increase, from the divided sentiment of godly ministers with respect to some particular occurrences, and the strong inclination of many live at ease, enjoy quiet, and even to sit down Issacar like and couch under the burden, when hopes of relief does not appear. These things greatly discouraged me to proceed in the design.
But when I dailyweighed and considered the growing dangers of the church, the backsliding
Willison - Preface iv: disposition that still prevailed, and the unsuccessfulness of all other methods to recover her from it such as Dissents, Protests, Instructions, Representations, Petitions, Separations, Secessions, &c. and that the only mean now left to be tried for giving check to corruption and exciting reformation, seemed to be that of an honest Testimony of some within the church: I determined at length to go on through all difficulties and discouragements, to prepare and publish the following Essay, with a sincere intention to preserve my Mother church, and promote her interests: looking to Heaven for a blessing on it, that it may be of use to excite judicatories to put a stop to some evils, and reform some things amiss: And though it should have little effect on the present backsliding age, yet hoping it may be useful to, the rising generation when God shall send a general revival of true Christianity in the land; at such a time the subscribers of this testimony will continue, when dead, thus to speak, to the glory of the ever living Redeemer.
I considered also within myself, that our old suffering ministers were all gone off the stage, and many other worthy brethren were going time to time, and that I myself get frequent warnings to prepare for going: and at the same time, that numbers of eminent good men drop into the silent grave, without leaving any testimony behind them; so that in a short time it may be called in question what their mind was concerning the principles and attainments of our fathers, and the corruptions of present and former times; and if I continued to linger a little longer, this would be my own fate also. Wherefore I resolved to expose this Essay, and myself likewise, to the censure
Willison - Preface v: of the world: and though I should be charged with mean and selfish views in it, as affecting Singularity, a Name, Applause fromsome, &c. if the Lord call me to bear reproach in carrying on a good design, why should I not submit to it? Surely it may be thought that one of my age should be dead to these vanities, and that it is high time for me to be seeking the approbation of my great Judge, more than that of all the world. May I ever mind this!
Quest.. It is like it may be asked, “What warrant have ye for emitting such a Testimony?”
Answ. The reasons and grounds of it seem so plain both from Scripture and sound reason, that we may adventure to submit them to all thinking persons to judge of them.
I. The servants of God, and especially ministers of the gospel, are frequently in Scripture called his Witnesses; in regard they are called to give testimony to his truths and ways, and to bear witness against what is prejudicial or contrary thereunto, Rev. xi. 3, 7. Luke xxiv. 48. John v. 33. and xv. 27. Acts i. 8.and xxii. 15, 18. and xxvi. 19. It is by such faithful witness hearing that we must hold fast the truths of God when ready to be plucked from us, and to contend for the faith which he hath delivered to his saints, Rev. iii. 11. Jude verse 3. And in this way we are to wrestle with and overcome truth's adversaries, Rev. xii. 11. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony. The character which God gives his servants three times in the compass of a few verses should make very deep impression upon us, Isa. xliii. 10, 12. and xliv. 8. Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord. And it is in that capacity he calls
and requires us to confessChrist before men, to bear
Willison - Preface vi: witness to Christ and to his truths, to stand fast is the faith, to quit ourselves like men, to be strong, to be steadfast, to be zealous and valiant for the truth, to be faithful unto death.—To contend earnestly for the faith and set ourselves for the defence of the gospel.—To plead with our Mother; to keep the charge of the Lord, and the charge of his sanctuary; to keep that which is committed to our, trust; to be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord, and not to touch the unclean thing.—To save ourselves from an untoward generation: to keep our garments clean and unspotted from the world, to hate the work of them that turn aside, that it may not cleave to us; to keep ourselves pure, and not to be partakers of other mens sins; to flee from sin, and deliver every man his own soul; to abhor what is evil, to cleave unto the Lord and to that which is good; to keep ourselves from the accursed thing.—To be watchmen to the house of Israel, and give them warning from God; to cry aloud and not spare, to shew the house of Jacob their sins; to reprove the works of darkness; not to suffer sin upon our brother; to be pure from the blood of all men, and not to shun to declare all the counsel of God.—Now these multiplied Scripture texts and Divine precepts afford us clear and plain warrant to make an open appearance and declaration for our Lord Jesus Christ, and for his truths and ways when injured; and against the evils and corruptions of the times, especially when they are avowed and infectious, and like to infect more and more.
II. Writing and leaving a testimony behind us to true religion, and against error and corruption, is necessary and useful for the instruction, conviction, and confirmation both of the present and future generations, and a very proper mean for handing
Willison - Preface vii: down God's truths and institutions pure from age to age; which is a debt that one generation owes to another, as God declares in his word; Psal. lxxviii‑5,6,7.He established a testimony in, Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of Cod, but keep his commandments. Psal. cxlv. 4. One generation shall praise thy works to another and shall declare thy mighty acts. And according to Psal. cii. 18. God's works of grace and mercy are to be written for the generations to come, that the people which are to be created may praise the Lord. And we are enjoined, Psal. xlviii. 13. to walk about Zion, to tell her towers, mark her bulwarks and palaces, viz. the institutions and ornaments of the gospel church, that we may shew them to the generation following. And we are appointed, Ezek. xliii. 11. to shew to the house of Israel the form and fashion of the house of God, with the ordinances and laws thereof, and to write it in their sight, that they may keep them and do them. All these do plainly demonstrate our Scripture warrant for leaving such written testimonies behind us.
III. Writing and emitting faithful testimonies for God and his ways, is necessary and seasonable especially in times of corruption and backsliding, even when true religion is in danger. In such times Christ doth kindly accept and reward our open confessing of him and his truths before men, Rev. ii. 2. Matth. x. 32. And, on the other hand, he severely threatens our conniving at error and
Willison - Preface viii: impiety, and notbearing testimony against them when they abound, Rev. ii. 14, 15, 16.Now, isnot the backsliding day in which we live a proper season for such open confessions and faithful testimonies, when errors of all kinds are tolerate, approven truths are run down, and manifold corruptions prevail, to the dishonour of God and our holy religion; and when applications to judicatories for redress are unsuccessful? Surely it must be in such a time as this, that God calls his servants and witnesses to rise up for him (by faithful testimonies) against the evil‑doers, and stand up for him against the workers of iniquity, Psal. xciv. 16.
Object. Some perhaps will say, “The corruptions and grievances of the times are not so great as some are ready to make them."
Answ. No doubt some do aggravate them beyond what is true and just. But, if what these say be fact, who use to speak within bounds, viz. 1. That a spirit of infidelity and error greatly prevails in the land, and open attacks are made upon the holy Scriptures and the Christian religion.—2. That a free toleration is given to all kinds of error, Arminian, Socinian, Arian, Popish, Deistical, &c. which are spreading more.—3. That sundry of the clergy are suspected of, and charged more than formerly, not only with looseness and immoralities in their lives, but also with laxness and unsoundness in their principles; and some of these are allowed to possess eminent posts in colleges, and even to teach divinity, and train up young men for the holy ministry.—4. That many of these have no regard to act 7th assembly 1736 with respect to evangelical preaching, but take up with legal doctrine, and a sort of heathenish morality, instead of preaching Christ to sinners, which
Willison - Preface ix: ought to be the main business of every gospel minister.—5. That many of them give great encouragement to patronage, that woful usurpation over the church of God, when they are under no necessity from the law to do it.—6. That gross intrusions are continued upon Christian congregations, who are thereby spoiled of their right to call their own pastors, contrary to the word of God and our known principles.—7. That there are now most unreasonable divisions, ill grounded and unscriptural separations, among sound and godly Presbyterians; contrary to Christ's royal law of love, and precepts of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.—8. That there are strange liberties taken by many (of whom better things might have been expected) in reproaching the work of God's holy Spirit, in awakening, convincing, and bringing lost sinners home to himself.—9. That the Episcopal clergy are forsaking the Protestant cause, licking up old Popish errors and superstitions which their fathers cast out, and sliding gradually back again to Rome——Now, if these things be true (as many alledge with too much ground) Christ’s witnesses have a plain call from him to stand up against these defections by faithful testimonies, and to give free warning of the evil and danger of them before it be too late.
IV. A written subscribed testimony seems necessary in obedience to the Ninth Commandment, for preserving and clearing the names and characters of honest ministers and elders in times of defection, and for vindicating them from the common charge of the corruptions and wrong steps of the societies whereof they are members. As they are often loaded unjustly with these evils, so their giving a subscribed testimony against them is a proper
Willison - Preface x: way to wipe off aspersions from their names while they live, to prevent blackning of their memories when dead, and also to yield them much inward peace when dying. Wherefore in my humble opinion, the call seems to be pretty clear to them who desire to, keep their garments unspotted, and to hate the work ofthem that turn aside, that it may not cleave to them, and who would embalm their names to posterity as witnesses for God in an evil time, to declare their minds by joining in such a testimony as this, and thereby exoner their consciences with respect to the backsliding and defections under which they have been long groaning. And whatsoever their hands finds to do in this matter, it is fit they do it without loss of time, seeing their standing is so slippery every day upon the brink of the grave.
V. Emitting testimonies in time of defection hath been the approven practice of God's worthies in former times. They judged their giving written testimonies against growing errors and corruptions to be the lifting up, a banner for truth, and the proper means to stop the current of defection, and to excite and plead with their Mother to use her best endeavours for that effect.—We have still extant such faithful testimonies given by sundry ministers in the years 1658 and 1659, when a toleration was granted by law to the sectaries and errors which then prevailed: and namely, that famous testimony drawn up against these errors, and to the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of
this church, subscribed by Mr. Samuel Rutherford, Mr. James Wedderburn, Mr. James Guthrie, Mr. Alexander Moncrieff, Mr. Thomas Lundie, and many others.—Likewise a testimony against toleration by the presbytery of Edinburgh,
Willison - Preface xi: 5th October, 1659.—One by the ministers of Lancashire, 3d March, 1648.—One by Mr. George Gillespie, two days before his death.—One by the ministers of London, 14th December, 1647.—One by Mr. Rutherford on his death‑bed, February, 1661.—One by, Dr. Horneck against stageplays, &c. And, lastly, what are all the dying speeches which our martyrs have left written behind them, but so many testimonies to the truths and ways of God, and against the errors and corruptions of their times? And these testimonies, however much despised by the world, God hath blessed as means for continuing truth and gospel purity among us to this day. And who knows but the Testimony now essayed in imitation of the foresaid worthies, may likewise be of use for preserving truth, and exciting reformation, when many of the present backsliding generation are laid in the dust? A new turn of affairs, and a general revival, may yet come; (The Lord himself hasten it!) Now it will be highly useful at such a time, for the generation to know something of the sentiments and practices of ancient wrestlers against corruption. Were there no testimonies of this kind, both the knowledge of truth, and the sense of duty and of sin in sundry cases, would be lost to the rising ages, towards whom we of the present age are indispensibly bound to act a kind and faithful part, viz. to give them just information.
Object. It may be alledged, “That the dissents and contendings of honest ministers, recorded in the books of synods and presbyteries, and other judicatories, are sufficient to inform after ages."
Answ. These Testimonies commonly lye dormant in church‑records, and are little known in the world: and frequently these, registers are quite
Willison - Preface xii: lost, by their going from hand to hand, or by the death of their keepers; which indeed is a very great loss to after ages. Were all the testimonies of ministers and judicatories relating to patronages and accepting of presentations published, they might be of very great use; and particularly the acts of synods thereanant [with reference to the acts of synods], mentioned p. 54. of the Testimony. The synods of Aberdeen, Ross, Angus, Perth, Fife, &c. they made acts of that kind, severals of which I have seen, which well deserve, to be published. The substance of them being comprehended in the act of the synod of Fife, I shall insert it here.
Coupar, April 2nd 1735. The synod of Fife taking into their serious consideration,
that patronages, with power of presenting men to take the oversight of souls, is a
manifest encroachment upon the rights and liberties of the church of Christ, which the judicatories and faithful members of this church from its reformation have always complained of, and struggled against, as what deprives Christian congregations of that interest they ought to have in calling their own pastors, and which is claimed and asserted by the assemblies of this church. And further considering, that some do accept of presentations before any call from the vacant congregations, and without the advice and consent of the presbytery of the bounds, and sometimes even before the parishioners have occasion to hear them, or shew their inclinations to them; and adhere to their presentations notwithstanding the aversion of the congregations, and thereby give great offence, in shewing so little regard to the weighty ends of a gospel‑ministry, the glory of the great and chief Shepherd, and the edification of his
Willison - Preface xiii: flock, and in affording too much occasion to people to look on them as seeking
more a living to themselves than to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the synod of Fife do hereby give warning to all ministers and preachers of the gospel within their bounds, of the evil and danger of such undue acceptance of presentations; earnestly exhorting and admonishing to beware thereof, as they would not mar the edification of Christ's flock, and continue this heavy grievance upon this church, and expose themselves to the just censure of its judicatories. And, to the intent this admonition may, be the more regarded, the synod appoints a copy thereof to be recorded in all the presbytery‑books within that bounds;
and the presbyteries, at their first meeting after the minutes of the synod come to their hands, cause read the same judicially, and also give copies thereof to all the ministers and preachers within their bounds, and likewise such students of divinity as may be presently under their trials, or hereafter may be taken on trials by them; and that hereafter, before they enter any upon trials either for preaching the gospel, or for the holy ministry, they endeavour to understand their sentiments anent [regarding] presentations being a grievance to this church, and their resolution to observe the recommendation of this act.—
But it must be told with deep regret, that these acts of synods, not being supported by superior judicatories, came soon to be disregarded, and so the door of patronage is still kept open, whereby a corrupt ministry enters into the church: May the Lord in mercy shut that door! Alas, how sad and mournful a thing is it, that ministers and preachers have no pity on this once famous church, which is