Willison - Testimony 168: but because these ministers have not freedom to join in their secession and testimony, &c. yea persuading the people to leave these, and come to them, as they would not fall under the curse of Meroz, &c. and doing this both when they preach at home, and when they invade the parishes or others abroad—We cannot but testify against such flock‑scattering doctrine and practices, as most sinful; and judge it to be a counterfeiting of our Lord's words, He that despiseth you despiseth me, and also great cruelty to go and pluck weak children from the breasts, while sucking strength and nourishment from pure ordinances, and to tell them (as seceders do) that some few occasional meals, like their itinerant sermons, will be better for them; though perhaps they are not so good their daily fare. This doctrine tends to ruin souls, by fostering ignorance, error, infidelity, looseness, carnality, worldliness, Sabbath‑breaking, and all sorts profanity through the land: for thus many thousands of ignorant Christless souls, if they obey them, must sit at home on the Lord's day, and live without the gospel, except when they get a transient sermon of this kind now and then from a seceder.
8vo, We must also bear witness against the brethren their narrowing the terms both of ministerial and Christian communion, so as no reformed church ever did. 1. As to ministerial, they have come that length to refuse communion with the most strict and holy minister in Scotland, if he do not secede and approve of their long act and testimony, notwithstanding of the many visible blemishes that are in it.—And this they do in contradiction to their protestation at their first secession, Nov. 16. 1733, by which they profess still to hold
Willison - Testimony 169: communion with all true Presbyterians, who groan under the evils of the time, and wrestle against them: and again they say the same in their first testimony, page 95. But they continued short while in that moderate disposition; for they soon came to refuse communion with all ministers but these of their own presbytery.—2. As to Christian communion, they go a prodigious length in excommunicating from the Lord’s table all who hear or communicate with any other ministers, although these ministers might possibly be the instruments of their conversion, and signally blessed to them; and men upon whom they can charge no defection or fault but their not seceding from the church, and acceding to their long testimony in all points. Surely, for men to prescribe such new terms of communion to god’s children before they can get their bread, terms not appointed by the Head, is both to incroach upon the headship of Jesus Christ, and break in upon that article of our Creed, The communion of saints.
9no, We must regret their casting slanders on their worthy ancestors, and on their mother church, in their Act and Testimony, and other papers emitted or adopted by them; particularly by alledging, that the assembly 1690 (which consisted of many confessors and old sufferers) made no particular acknowledgment of the backslidings of the land under prelacy;—and that they declared the perfidious prelates were not to be deposed for their treacherous defections.—That the parliament which met at that time imposed the oath of allegiance, to exclude the oath of the covenant.—That Professor Simson and Professor Campbell’s errors, and these favoured by the assembly’s Shorter Catechism revised, have overspread this church like a flood.—That the
Willison - Testimony 170: judicatories have overturned the foundations of the doctrine and government of Christ's church:—That they have subverted both her doctrine and worship:—That they have done what in them lay to pull the crown of Christ's head:—That they have refused to give him the glory of his supreme Deity, and involved themselves in denying the Son of God, which is one epecial mark of Antichrist:—That they have made sinful terms of communion, &c. For all which, see Testimony, first Edit. Pages 51, 53, 59, 105, 109, 143, 144, 145, 148. besides others of their papers. These are but a swatch of the many false aspersions contained in their writings, besides these which they daily cast upon their brethren in their sermons. Alas! that brethren who are concerned for the same gospel interest, should take such methods to slander their own mother's sons, to discredit their persons, and blast their ministry; especially when God is pleased to countenance severals of them remarkably in their work! There are indeed many evils in the national church; but it is sinful to calumniate her, and make her defections greater than they are. But notwithstanding of all these extravagant steps and accusations of our seceding brethren, occasioned through their intemperate party zeal; we still have regard to severals of them, as good men upon the main, and useful preachers of a crucified Jesus; and upon that account we wish well to them; not doubting but they have as good title to our charity as the Donatists and Novatians ofold, and the Brounists and M’Millantes of later years. And we pray God to incline their hearts to unite with other godly ministers. As we have thus endeavoured to give our impartial testimony against the defections and wrong
Willison - Testimony 171: steps of the national church, and likewise of these who have of late separated from her; so we do also bear our testimony against the defections of the Episcopal clergy in meeting houses through Scotland. Ah, how wofully have they degenerated from the principles and practice of their fathers! Of old their fathers did not differ much from the established church except in point of church government, their doctrine and worship being very much the same: but now they are generally said to be Arminian and erroneous in their doctrine.—And upon our incorporating union with England, and the Toleration in 1712, they changed their way of worship, and fell in with the English service and ceremonies which their fathers would never receive, and which many Presbyterian writers have refuted to excellent purpose. Though this was a very great and remarkable change in the Scots Episcopal clergy, yet now it appears to have been introductive to a greater: for, being strongly attached to Jacobite principles and a Popish Pretender, they were thereby induced to entertain favourabIe thoughts of other Popish superstitions and errors, which at length many of them began to vent and stand up for; such as, A middle state for souls after death, and prayers for the dead;—The making the sacrament of the Lord's supper a proper sacrifice or propitiatory oblation for sin, and mixing the sacramental wine with water; pleading for the necessity of absolution by a priest, and confession of sins to him, in order to the forgiveness of sin;—The anointing with oil in baptism and other cases;—The necessity of Episcopal ordination and baptsim to salvation; And the practice of bowing towards the altar, and at the name of Jesus, with other Popish practices, for which they have no
Willison - Testimony 172: foundation nor warrant in the Bible, but to the contrary. Wherefore they do not much encourage their people to read the Scriptures, unless it be with such commentaries as they recommend to them; telling them that they must only receive the sense and meaning of the Scriptures from the church or clergy, and they must have a special regard to ancient liturgies, fathers, councils, traditions, &c. And, because the English prayer book doth not favour some of their new usages, they would have some places of it altered, or a new liturgy composed. In the prayers for the church, they leave out the words in the English Liturgy, Church militant here in earth, to favour prayers for the dead; and also they begin to favour the Arians, by passing over the Athanasian Creed in their worship. These innovations have occasioned in several places very great divisions both among the clergy and people: but still the innovating clergy gain ground against these who are more orthodox: and when they find people offended, or ready to leave them, upon account of their innovations, they either deny them, or artfully palliate them, until they get the people (who are but too tractable) reconciled to them; and thus they are gradually drawing nearer to the superstitions and idolatry of Rome from time to time.—Yea, some of them begin to preface and recommend Popish books, which contain devotions and prayers to the virgin Mary, and to the saints, besides other errors. May the Lord stop their career, and preserve the land from an inundation of Poperry, that Antichristian, tyrannical, bloody, blasphemous, idolatrous and damnable religion!
In such a time of general defection and degeneracy in this and other churches, when infidelity, error, superstition, lukewarmness, deadness, carnality,
Willison - Testimony 173 profaneness, schism and divisions were on the growing hand; what might have been expected from a holy and just God, thus dread fully provoked, but that he would remove our candlestick out of its place, or come against us with some desolating judgment? But, behold! instead thereof, God is pleased to glorify his sovereign mercy and free grace in pitying his forlorn remnant, and to arise and maintain his own cause, by pouring out his Spirit from on high in several parts, to renew the decayed face of the earth. Amazing goodness! when the enemy was coming in as an overflowing flood, and God in justice might have given us all up for prey to him, the Spirit of God was pleased to lift up a standard against him in a very surprising manner, for reviving his own work in many places through the world, and in this land in particular.
In or about the years 1732 or 1733, the Lord was pleased to pour out his Spirit upon the people of Saltzburg in Germany, who were living in Popish darkness, in a most uncommon manner; so that above twenty thousand of them, merely by reading the Bible which they made a shift to get in their own language, were determined to throw off Popery, and embrace the reformed religion; yea, and to become so very zealous for the truth and gospel of Jesus Christ, as to be willing to suffer the loss of all things in the world, and actually to forsake their houses, lands, goods and relations, that they might enjoy the pure preaching of the gospel. And O with what earnestness and tears in their eyes did they beseech Protestant ministers to preach to them in the places where they (when banished from their own country) came in different bodies! For it pleased the Lord to stir up Protestant princes
Willison - Testimony 174: and states to receive them, and provide for them, in many different places.
Near to the same time, or about the year 1735 or 1736, the Lord poured out his Spirit on many, in Moravia, another country in Germany, to enlighten them in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and inspire them with extraordinary zeal to propagate it to others; insomuch that Count Zinzendorf bishop of the Moravian church hath sent forth his missionaries to preach the gospel, not only in Germany and other parts of Europe, but in many places of the Heathen world, where they call the Indians, and the Negroes, the Hottentots and Greenlanders to the knowledge of a crucified Christ; and we are told of the great success of their ministry: and the Count himself travels and preaches in very many different and remote places; though it is matter of regret to hear that these zealous preachers of Christ are tainted with several errors; and so indeed were several of our reformers at the first. May the Lord purge them from all error whatsomever. Likewise, about the year 1736, there was a marvellous outpouring of the Spirit upon the people of Northampton in New England, and neighbouring pIaces, where God displayed the riches of his grace and the power of his Spirit, in the wonderful conversion of several hundreds in a short time, under the ministry of Mr. Jonathan Edwards and others there. O how glorious was that work! as appears by the narrative then published of it.
At the same very time the Lord was pleased to raise up and qualify a number of students at the college of Oxford, in our neighbour nation of England, to be instruments of much good, although not altogether purged from the corruptions of that land. They joined in a religious society, wherein
Willison - Testimony 175: they agreed upon certain methods and rules for spending their time in fasting, praying, communicating, visiting the sick and the prisoners, instructing the ignorant, &c. and hence they were called Methodists. And, being afterwards ordained to the ministry, they preached with great warmth, chusing subjects very much neglected in that church, such as the doctrines of grace, of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, of original sin and the corruption of our nature, of the nature and necessity of regeneration and the new birth, &c. These doctrines being new, they were much admired and followed wherever they preached: they used also a good deal of freedom in speaking against the loose and negligent clergy, for which they were at length denied the use of churches; whereupon they went and preached in the fields, in houses, and wherever they might have access, collecting money for erecting schools, hospitals, and other pious uses; travelling to many places, and preaching every day, and several times in one day, having many thousands to hear them, in London, Bristol, Gloucester, through Wales, and very many places in England. Many of their hearers were brought under great impressions, shedding tears, and crying out, Whatshall we do to be saved? And great changes were made upon very profligate persons, and upon severals who went to scoff and ridicule them. Also many of the clergy were quickened to their work by them. In the year 1740, Mr. Whitefield, one of the foresaid Methodists, went to New England, and Mr. Gilbert Tennent after him, where they preached some months, two or three times every day, with singular and extraordinary success, the people being greatly awakened, especially by Mr. Tennent’s
Willison - Testimony 176: preaching; so that there followed a remarkable change upon their lives, and a wonderful revival and appearance of religion through all that country for several years. The like also was very observable in Pennsylvania, and the Jerseys, about the same time. It is to be regretted, that the work began to be much clouded by some zealous but imprudent ministers, and a set of illiterate exhorters, who went through the country preaching ,and venting errors, and sometimes very rash censures against their brethren, and some of them pretending to visions, prophecy, and great attainments, and running into several extravagancies; upon which account some have endeavored to expose the whole work as Enthusiasm and Delusion. But it being Satan's ordinary way, when he sees Christ's kingdom advancing in a place, to exert himself to bring a reproach upon religion, by leading some zealous professors of it into errors and disorders; this can prove no more against the work in general, than the delusions of the Anabaptists and Fifth monarchy‑men did against the reformation. But these clouds did not long continue. Likewise in the year 1740 and afterwards, in Scotland, even amidst our backslidings and divisions, in some parts promising tokens began to appear of a revival of Christianity: for in Edinburgh and elsewhere, some new praying societies were set up, and sundry students did associate with them, which gave hopes of a further reviving; and for this, many prayers were put up through the land, and that a good time before Mr. Whitefield came to Scotland, which was in the end of July 1741, where he abode some time, and preached many awakening sermons in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other places.
Willison - Testimony 177: In Cambuslang, a small parish four miles from Glasgow, there were several praying societies, who spent much time in prayers and wrestling with God (especially in February 1742) that he might pity them and the whole land, and pour out his Spirit upon them, as on other places. And the reverend Mr. William M'Culloch their minister, who frequently met with them, having at their desire (joined with others in the parish) set up a weekly sermon upon Thursday a little before, and preaching closely to them upon the nature and necessity of regeneration; it pleased the Lord, that, upon Thursday the 18th of February 1742, the holy Spirit so wrought upon his hearers, that about fifty of them, with many attending them came into his house, under alarming apprehensions about the state of their souls, crying, What shall we do to be saved ? The minister, being much affected with their case, spent that day and night with them, either separately or together, in exhortations, instructions, prayers, and singing psalms; being assisted in the work by some preachers and elders. And, the awakened and wounded people daily increasing, he was obliged to preach to and converse with them every day for a great many weeks thereafter; the people filling all the rooms of his house after sermon and, continuing in prayer and singing psalms in different companies till near midnight.—Many ministers came from other places to Mr. M'Culloch’s assistance, with multitudes of people to hear the word, and to be witnesses of that very uncommon work; and there many of them felt the power of the word, and went home with the arrows of God sticking in their hearts; and great numbers of these convinced people attained also to a fair appearance of a hopeful outgate;
Willison - Testimony 178: having their minds filled with peace and joy in believing. This was a wonderful time at Cambuslang for many months in the year 1742, and the pleasant fruits of it continued to appear both in that and the following years.—In Summer same year, viz. 1742, the work began to spread and appear remarkably in Kilsyth, Calder, Kirkintoloch, Campsie, Cumbernauld, Gargunnock, Baldernock, Muthil, and many other parishes; and even in Edinburgh and Glasgow there was a considerable revival in religion. In May 1742 there was published a narrative of the work at Cambuslang, attested by many; and soon after another narrative of the work at Kilsyth and parishes about it, continued in different parts, and published from time to time by the reverend Mr. James Robe. These narratives, being well attested, were spread and reprinted in America and different places of the world; they were translated into Dutch, and had several editions in Holland, and were well received by the ministers and divines there.
The work indeed was very surprising and extraordinary, much resembling that which was in the last century at Stewartoun, Irvine, Kirk of Shots and other places, in the years 1625, 1626, and several years after, though in a very dismal backsliding time; and that work in Ireland, about Antrim, and the Six mile water, about the year 1628; of both which Mr. Robert Fleming, once minister at Cambuslang, gives account, in the Fulfilling of the Scriptures; as do Mr. Robert Blair and Mr. John Livingston in the manuscripts of their lives.—And, there being much said and written about this work in the West of Scotland, we have thought ourselves bound to enquire into the nature, fruits and evidences of it; and from what
Willison - Testimony 179: some of us have seen of that work, and hath been attested by the ministers immediately concerned, and others who have seen it, we judge ourselves warranted to give our testimony to it, as a glorious work of the Spirit of God, which he hath been pleased to send in his sovereign free mercy, in a time of great infidelity, formality and back sliding, to glorify his own name, by awakening, convincing, humbling, converting, comforting, reviving, strengthening and confirming many souls through the land; and our reasons for it are these; 1mo, The convictions and comforts of the people of Cambuslang, and other awakened parishes, have come to them in a scriptural way, by Christ's ordinances, and particularly the word preached, and passages of Scripture carried in upon their minds, suited to their cases and circumstances.—2do, The fruits and effects of that work in the people’s lives and conversations, do evidence themselves to be from the holy Spirit, according to the Scripture account of these fruits; for these who formerly were blind and ignorant, have soon come to advance in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and Divine things; and the tongues which were dumbin the things of God, have soon learned to speak the language of Canaan.—They who formerly were given to cursing, swearing, drunkenness, Sabbath breaking, scoffing at sacred things, and other immoralities, have presently changed their course into sober living, godly conference, reading, praying, and singing psalms.—They who formerly were trusting to their own performances, attainments and self‑righteousness, have presently renounced all these for the righteousness of Christ only, imputed to them for their justification before God.—They who formerly were glewed to the
Willison - Testimony 180: world, and to the love of sensual and sinful things, are made willing to part with all these for the love of Jesus Christ their Saviour, desiring earnestly to be conformed to him in his contempt of the world, self‑denial, humility and holiness both in heart and life.—They who before thought it an unmanly thing to shed tears for sin, and piercing of Christ, have been made to mourn as for an only son, and be in bitterness as for a first born.—These who have been guilty of secret acts of injustice, have been filled with remorse for them, and made restitution to the persons injured or their children.—They who halted and mocked the people of God, have their hearts warmed with love to them, and account them the excellent ones of the earth.—They who before were contentious, malicious and revengeful, do presently drop their quarrels, forgive their enemies, wish well to their souls, and the salvation of all around them.—They who before minded only their own things, are highly concerned for the interests of Jesus Christ, and for the declarative glory of God in the world.—Swearers have dropt their oaths, and with reverence mention the name of God. And they who loved carnal company, merry jests, profane songs, and foolish talking, seek after the company of those who will join with them in prayer, praises, and talking about their soul‑concerns.—They who before complained of nothing but bodily ailments, worldly losses, crosses, and disappointments, now complain mainly of unbelieving hearts and indwelling corruptions. They who before ascribed their virtues and good things to themselves, do now exalt Christ and free grace for every attainment, and in the whole of their salvation: and yet, while they ascribe all to free grace, the aim in Christ's strength at universal
Willison - Testimony 181: holiness, at the subduing of every sin, and the practice of every duty and good work, according to both the first and second table of the law, and make conscience of stational and relational duties as well as others.—Families that formerly were synagogues of Satan, are now temples where God is devoutly worshipped: and many of all ages and sexes do form themselves into little societies for prayer, praise, and religious discourse. And though tares are mixed among the wheat, and several hypocrites discovered, yet the body of the awakened persevere, as to what can be seen, in the ways of religion.
Notwithstanding of all these gracious changes, which are clear evidences of the operations of the holy Spirit; yet this blessed work is mightily opposed and reproached, and that not only by atheistical and profane men, but even by many of those who have long been praying for the diffusion of the Spirit, and the coming of Christ’s kingdom, particularly our seceding brethren, who have (alas!) preached, prayed and printed against this good work, and even kept fasts in all their meetings, for putting a stop to it, as a delusion and work of the devil, who hath transformed himself into an angel of light (as they say;) and have thereby given their followers very frightful notions of it, and stopt them from going near the places where they might have got full satisfaction: And also they have hindered many from giving praise to God for his wonderful goodness, and from praying for the continuance and spreading of the work. May the Lord lay all this to their hearts, but not to their charge! Their main quarrel with the work seems to be, that it is begun and carried on by the instrumentality of ministers of the national church, and some whom they judge accessory to the defections