Willison - Preface xiv: already defaced, and corrupted and likely to be corrupted more and more, by patronage and presentations; when it is plainly in their power to deliver their Mother church from this woful corruption and bondage! Oh what hard and cruel hearts must many ministers and preachers now have!
There, is one thing to be lamented, which tends to bring in a set of clergy, who have no scruple to encourage patronage, intrusions, error and looseness; namely, the planting of our universities with masters, who are either suspected as to their principles or morals, or who have little zeal for orthodoxy or piety. When such men are appointed to be heads of colleges, professors of sciences, languages, or divinity, for training up of young men for the ministry; what is to be expected from the students, under their care, but that many of them will be leavened with bad principles and inclinations? And how can better masters in colleges or professors of divinity be looked for, while these are chosen by statesmen, magistrates, or regents, severals of whom have no real concern for Christianity, but may be even tinctured with error or infidelity? Alas! whilst matters stand thus with us, if private measures be not taken by friends of the church to get sound and pious men to teach divinity besides these, in colleges, this church may soon be overrun with corruption, looseness and error of all sorts; which I pray the Lord in mercy to prevent.
Some, may object, “Why do ye insist so much against patronage, seeing this was in the church in former times, of the presbytery, and now accepting of presentations is become common and fashionable, and the judicatories connive at it?”
Answ. 1. Our circumstances now differ vastly from theirs in former times. Why ? In former
Willison - Preface xv: times the law laid them under a necessity of entering to churches by the patron's leave, there being no other way of entry; but now we are under no such necessity, there being a gospel door still left open to us.—In former times they were never delivered from patronage nor, sensible of the happiness of freedom from it.—but we have been set at liberty, and known the happiness of it.—They did not voluntarily submit to patronage after they were freed from it; but this, alas, is what we are doing: we have chosen this bondage, and subjected ourselves to it without any necessity from the law; so that our compilers with patronage are far more inexcusable than these in former times; our misery now is undeniable from ourselves, we are plainly self destroyers. O that our help may come from God in Christ, who even pities them who destroy themselves!
2. However common the accepting of presentations be at this time, the accepter's sin is not lessened thereby, nor is he the safer from the wrath of God. A just God hath common punishments for common sinners: witness the flood that he brought upon a world of sinners at once. The accepter makes himself directly a partner with the patron in his sinful usurpation over the church of God, and becomes in some respects more guilty than he; as is evident from the Testimony, p. 51 and 52.—Now if this practice be sinful (as certainly it is) the commonness of it will not at all loose us from, obedience to God's command, that injoins us to hate and abhor that which is evil, and as God's witnesses to bear our testimony against it. Surely the commonness of this evil is one ground of the Lord’s controversy with this church and land for which we ought to fast and mourn.
Willison - Preface xvi: 3. As to the church's conniving at these acceptances, Iheartily bewail it: Alas! the fear of man hath brought them into this snare, as is observed in the Testimony, p. 51. But, whatever be the temptation, the word of God holds it as a sin in any church to bear with these members who are evil, or do evil, without duty testifying against the evil, yea, and censuring these who are impenitent and obstinate in an evil course. Wherefore I am afraid that our keeping silence so much at this sinful connivance, may come to involve us into the guilt of it. O what need have we to be humbled under a sense of this and other shortcomings, and to cry with the Psalmist, Who can understand his errors?Cleanse thou me from secret faults. May the Lord bring the whole church, and every member of it to a sense of what is sin, and what is duty, in this matter!—As for my part, I must declare my opinion, That all these who are erroneous, immoral, intruders, supporters of patronage, and spoilers of Christian congregations of the rights which Christ hath purchased for them, ought to be testified against, and dealt with to bring them to repentance; and, if they remain impenitent and obstinate they ought to be purged out of the church.—And, if they still be connived at in the church notwithstanding of impenitence, I cannot but look upon the society as dangerous, infectious and hurtful. Likewise I must own, that the word of God makes it the duty of these who would keep their garments clean, to mark them, avoid them, and turn away from them, at least as to imitate fellowship and familiarity; for, if we should continue familiar with them, we will be ready to lose that abhorrence of their evil courses which God commands, and also to encourage and harden them
Willison - Preface xvii: in them. Wherefore it seems needful for these who would keep conscience while attending judicatories where such members are, that they protest or declare that their presence ought not to be constructed as giving any sort of countenance or encouragement to their evil courses, but rather as designed to testify against them, stop and prevent them, and to excite and promote reformation as much as in their power.
I make no question but sundry will be offended with this plain dealing, and especially these who would fain be at ease in Zion,though in a time of grievous provocations and backslidings, and of the Lord's judgments both inflicted and impending: but if I know my own heart, it is truly conscience not humour, love to the church not hatred, that prompt me to this plainness. I see no way to put an end to the Lord's controversy with us, but by a sincere turning to God in Christ, in the way of faith, repentance and reformation. Now, if we would behave as true penitents, make peace with an offended God, we must fall in with the revealed will of God in every thing: wemust be far from pleading for sin, bearing with or conniving at it; that we must forsake sin, yea, hate and abhor what is evil, reprove the works of darkness, and have no fellowship with them. This being the express will of God to us, how can we think he will be it Peace with us, until we sincerely fall with it! I acknowledge it is not easy to keep up the impressions of sin’s evil, and a due abhorrence of it, when sin turns common and fashionable; it is not easy to keep clean garments when the examples of sin are always before our eyes, and especialy when we see these who are reported pious drawn into it; but these things should weigh but
Willison - Preface xviii: little with us, when we see it is the express will of God that they who bear the vessels of the Lord must be Clean, must keep themselves pure, and not so much as touch the unclean thing; and these who, would take the kingdom, must do violence to their carnal ease and interest, when they, interfere with the will and glory of God. These considerations have moved me to use this plainness, and to join in the following Testimony against sin; and that not only keep myself pure, but also to preserve others, if possible, from the prevailing sins and evils of the day, which are more infectious and dangerous than, any plague whatsoever: and, this I think is the greatest act of charity that can be done to the precious souls of men.
The common Objection against emitting this or the like Testimony is,“That it may have bad consequences, make new divisions and distinctions in the church, give advantage to her adversaries, &c.”
Ans. 1. The subscribers of this Testimony testify against the ill-grounded divisions and unscriptural separations among Presbyterians which now prevail; and they design not to alter their respects or conduct towards other godly ministers, who may not be clear about every thing contained in this Testimony, seeing they never intended it as the badge of a party, or a term of communion either ministerial or Christian, but only to be an exoneration to conscience, a witness against corruption, and a prompter to reformation.
2. This argument, taken from the fear of division, strikes, equally against all testimonies whatsoever, against these emitted by our ancient worthies in times of defection, against the representation of the 42 ministers in the year 1732, and
Willison - Preface xix: against all dissents and protestations in judicatories: for it may be pretended, that these testimonies or publick appearances tend also to make divisions in the church: nay, the same argument may be made use of against our giving a testimony against Prelacy, or the English service, or any gross error, were they coming into the church.
3.We must neglect present duty for fear of bad consequences which possibly may never happen; especially when we evidently see that the neglect will have far worse consequences.—In my view, by our omitting to give a testimony against error and corruption when it is called for, and all to prevent the evil of division which is uncertain; we bring on evils far greater and more certain, viz. the loss of truth and purity, and the sinful neglect of duty, both to God, and the generations present and to come. We see that great man, Luther, reckoned the loss of any of God's truths to be the greatest of evils; Ruat calum (said he) potius quam una mica veritatis pereat. And holy David
says, Psal. cxix. 72. The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.
4. We ought to observe the order laid down in that Divine precept, Ezek. viii. 19. Love the truth and peace; where the Spirit of God gives truth to the precedence of peace. Peace indeed is a thing very lovely in itself, but truth is far more amiable and precious, and must never be sacrificed to preserve peace. Union or peace is no real blessing to a church, if she be in a state of lukewarmness, or sliding back into corruption or error. Peace, in such a state, is rather a judgment than a mercy.
5. A most lamentable division and schism broke in amongst us a few years ago, when no testimony was in the field. Nay, in all probability, if a free
Willison - Preface xx: and faithful testimony had been essayed by a great body of ministers sometime before it happened, instead of making a schism, it had prevented one, and might also have stopt judicatories from going such lengths as they have done.
6. As to adversaries getting advantage by this Testimony; the subscribers, as they had no such view, so they expect no such event, but rather the contrary, viz. that they will lose by it. But, whatever happen, if truth and holiness get any advantage by it, as is honestly designed; that gain will countervail any other damage.
But it is in vain to multiply answers to some, who will by no arguments be reconciled to a fair and honest testimony to truth, when the stream of opposition is strong against it. I now see by the discouragements I have met with in this attempt, that these who will be faithful to the truth, must be valiant for it also, and not daunted by the fear of faces, power or numbers of these who oppose it, or who shift appearing for it. It is one of the characters of God's servants, which he takes pleasure in, to be valiant for the truth upon the earth, especially when it is run down, Jer. ix. 3. And indeed it is sometimes run down with such violence, that there is no lifting up a testimony for it, without something of this Christian valour. It is truly afflicting to me, to find that there are so many of my brethren whom I love and esteem, who privately own they are of the same mind with the following testimony concerning the defections and corruptions of the times, and yet have not the resolution to declare this under their hand to the world. I would be very loth [loath] to say they are of these whom the Scripture calls the Fearful, because of the society I see them classed with, Rev. xxi. 8. But I
Willison - Preface xxi: have freedom to say, that the present dangerous state of this church, of the truths of God, and of true Christianity, in this day of backsliding, is such, as requires more courage and resolution for preserving true religion, and reviving a work of reformation, than what the most part of good men appear at this time to be possessed of. May the Lord himself spirit and qualify men for his own work!
As I join with the Testimony in other things, so especially in the humble pleadings with our Mother, with which it concludes; intreating that she would call all ranks to lay to heart the sins abounding and judgments impending, and to set about extraordinary fasting, humiliation, prayer, repentance and reformation. The present dangerous situation these nations are in from the combination of cruel Popish adversaries, who have destroyed other Protestant churches, and multitudes of their fellow‑creatures, doth loudly, call upon us to these duties. Very lately we were like to have been surprised with a formidable invasion from France, when unprovided for it; but the Lord of Hosts, in his astonishing mercy, pitied our naked defenceless condition, stept in himself, and fought for us; he caused his winds and stormy seas to oppose the enemy and dash many of them in pieces, and so brake the attempt for that time: Surely our deliverance about the end of February last 1744, by God's own immediate hand, together with others of the same kind, should not be forgot by us. But though he hath hereby allowed us a further breathing time, and space to repent, our danger is not over; for now France as well as Spain have declared war against us. Now the "kings of the earth do set themselves, and the
Willison - Preface xxii: princes take counsel together, against the Lord," and these Protestant nations. Now there is a more formidable conjunction of Popish powers against us, than ever we saw before. Now France, Spain, Rome, Naples, Sicily, &c. these cruel and bloody nations, seem all to be combined against our Protestant king, and his royal family(whom God long preserve) seeking and plotting how to destroy them, together with our religion, laws, and liberties; and, instead thereof, to set up among us a Popish Pretender, an arbitrary government, and a blasphemous, idolatrous and bloody religion. And may not the numerous hosts of these nations, and the cruelty of a Popish party, wherever they get the upper hand of Protestants, as manifested in the dreadful burnings in queen Mary's reign the inquisition in Spain and Italy, the massacres in Ireland, in Paris, and other towns of France; I say, may not these alarm us, and sufficiently convince us of our danger, if the Lord permit them, for our sins to plot and effectuate a new invasion upon us? These days wherein we live, are surely perilous times upon sundry accounts, and call us not only to join in fervent prayer to God for mercy mid help for Christ's sake, and to be deeply humbled for, and to mourn over, the procuring causes of God's wrath; but also to bear free and open testimony against these evils which are the Achans in our camp, and Jonah's under deck, that raise such terrible storms against this poor church and land. It cannot but make deep impression, when sometimes we call to mind the fore‑thoughts and predictions of several of God's worthies in this land, from scaffolds, and also from the pulpit and press, that “God would at length proceed to terrible judgments, in resentment of his controversy with
Willison - Preface xxiii: covenant‑breaking Scotland, before the return of his wonted glory and presence in the sanctuary; yea, that our land should be made to swim with blood for the blood of God's saints that hath been shed therein." Now, the oftner that God delivers us from Popish enemies, and the longer we unthankfully abuse and misimprove God's mercies and deliverances, our guilt and danger still become the greater. As the cup of our iniquity fills up, so doth the cup of God's wrath proportionably.
Ought not then these awful dispensations to move and quicken us to act a faithful part, both for God's glory and our own safety, even to pray, dissent, declare and testify, against these evils which we cannot stop? Were we helped to do this sincerely, we might hope, through our Redeemer's mediation, that they would not be charged upon us in the day of count and rekoning, and that we should even be hid in the day of the Lord's anger. For we find the angel of the covenant doth hold the winds, until the servants of the living God be sealed for preservation, in a time of danger: nay, an upright witnessing remnant might, through Divine mercy, be the happy means of preserving the whole land from the invasion of cruel and bloody enemies, and of getting the poor decayed church of Scotland interested in that promise, Jer. xxx. 11. ” I am with thee, to save thee: and though I make a full end of all nations about thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and not leave thee altogether unpunished." May the Lord himself direct ministers and others to proper measures for turning away the fierceness of God's anger from us; and open the eyes of men to discern the true grounds and causes, of God's
Willison - Preface xxiv: controversy with the land! And if it should please the Lord to bless the following testimony for promoting these ends, in any measure, yea, though it were but to convince one minister or preacher of the evil of intrusions, of supporting patronage, and of the neglect of preaching Christ, it would contribute to support me, under all the, discouragements I have met with in making the Essay to lift up a testimony against these evils. That the mighty Lord, who can accomplish great things by small means, may succeed this honest design, is the prayer of
A FAIR AND IMPARTIAL TESTIMONY,
ESSAYED IN THE NAME OF
A NUMBER OF MINISTERS, ELDERS
AND CHRISTIAN PEOPLE OF THE
CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.
ACCORDING to ancient historians, our gracious God was pleased to visit Scotland very early with his glorious gospel, by means of some preachers and other Christians, who were forced to flee to Scotland to be out of the reach of Roman cruelty under the second persecution raised by the emperor Domitian about the year of our Lord 95, which was before the death of the apostle John; where they propagated the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which at length conquered Pagan darkness and idolatry so far, that in the beginning of the third century, about the year 203, king Donald I, did publicly, profess the faith of Jesus Christ; and he himself, his queen, his family, and diverse of' the nobles, were solemly baptized. After which, the king used his best endeavours to root out idolatry and heathenish superstition from his dominions, and to settle a gospel ministry in every corner thereof. But, this religious king being much hindered in his good designs by his continual wars with the Romans under the emperor Severus, this blessed
Willison - Testimony 26: work was afterwards greatly neglected by following princes until the reign of king Crathilinth, who about the year 277 set about the glorious work of advancing Christianity after the example of king Donald the first Christian king, but was greatly hindered by the heathenish priests named Druids, called so (as some think) because of their sacrificing groves under oaks. These idolatrous priests had got great interest and credit among the people, by reason of their sense‑pleasing worship, and of their having drawn into their hands the determining of civil affairs; wherefore the people reckoned them so necessary, that they knew not how to live without them. But the Lord in mercy seconded the intentions of the good king, by sending several worthy men, both ministers and private Christians, from the south parts of Britain, and other parts of the Roman empire, who were obliged to flee in the time of the ninth persecution under Aurelius, and of the tenth under Dioclesian, from the terrible slaughter then made among the Christians. And these retiring to Scotland for refuge, as others had done long before them, were very helpful in turning the people from idolatry.
King Crathilinth, finding among these Refugees many men of eminent piety and
learning, did kindly entertain them, and employ them in opposing the Druids, and further settling of Christianity through his kingdom. These holy men being settled in several places of the land, and choosing retirement from all civil and worldly affairs, and giving up themselves wholly to the service of God in the ministerial work were called Culdees, or Cultores Dei. These Culdees, through the divine blessing, got the better of the Druids, and were great instruments of advancing true piety and Christianity in
Willison - Testimony 27: Scotland ? so that from these uttermost parts of the earth were songs heard, even glory to Jesus Christ the righteous: and thus were accomplished in part tile ancient promises made to our Redeemer, That the heathen should be given to him as his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession; that the isles should wait for his law, and their kings bring presents to him; that he should be the confidence of the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar of upon the sea.
These blessed instruments, the Culdees, were strict in their lives, and in governing the church of Christ. They allowed no higher order among them than presbyters or parochial bishops, and so continued for many years, until Paladius was sent thither by pope Celestine about the year 452, who by his subtile insinuations did gain so far upon the simple people, as to bring them to consent to a change of the government of the church into prelacy, and he himself became the chief Prelate among them. Both the historians of our own and other nations, such as Fordun, Boethius, John Major,
Buchanan, Sir Thomas Craig, Prosper, Baronius, Beda, Baleus, &c. do all agree that the Scots for several hundred years after Christ, were taught and governed by priests and monks without bishops, and that Paladius was the first bishop or prelate that ever Scotland saw. John of Fordun in his Scots Chronicle, lib. 3. cap. 8. Saith, “Before the incoming of Paladius, the Scots had for teachers of the faith and ministers of the sacraments, presbyters only, or monks, following the rites and customs of the primitive church." And who questioned but the Scots were as sincere Christians, their ministers as real ministers, and their sacraments as true sacraments all these 400
Willison - Testimony 28: years, as they were in after ages ? Yea, Baleus is his history of the Britons, cent. 14. cap. 6.saith more, Ante Paladium Scoti, &c. Before Paladius came, the Scots had their bishops and ministers, according to the ministry of the word of God, chosen by the suffrage of the people, after the custom those of Asia; but these things did not please the Romans, who hated the Asiatics.
So that we see the ancient Scots maintained presbytery, without either prelacy or patronage, till the Romans or church of Rome introduced both. And surely the Scots have still good reason to be zealous for their ancient church government and privileges, which they long enjoyed, in opposition to these Romish corruptions.
But Paladius having got our government changed, and our acquaintance made with Rome, then the mistress of the world; the church fell into a decaying condition, and popish corruptions increased more and more, till at length gross darkness overspread this whole land, as well as other nations; under which she lay for many ages (for what we read) until the year 1494, in the reign of king James IV when the Lollards of Kyle, to the number of thirty persons, were summoned before the king and his council for holding many of the protestant articles of faith, though they were dismissed at that time. So that God had his witnesses in Scotland, who bore testimony to his truths,against the errors and idolatries of Rome, even in the darkest times.
Not many years after, that eminent man, Mr. Patrick Hamilton abbot of Fern, went abroad to the university of Wittemberg, where he became acquainted with Luther and Melanchton, and made great progress in learning and in the knowlege