Willison’s Testimony: Prefatory Statement by the Transcriber

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Christian nations. That our national covenanting was unwarrantable and is not obligatory on us; That our martyrs, who suffered for adhering to our covenants, were so far unenlightened. That, Christian magistrates have no more power in religious matters than others, and ought not to employ their power to advance religion, to make laws with penalties favours of it, nor to restrain or punish heretics or false teachers, nor to give encourage­ment to good Christians more than other good subjects; That the Christian religion ought not to be defended by arms; That the example of the reforming kings of Judah in punishing idolatry and false worship, or encouraging true religion, is not to be imitated. These and a great many other new and strange doctrines they spread; and would by no means be reclaimed, nor forbear venting them.—At length the church did process them both for their singular doctrines and practices. It was the opinion of many, that seeing they were both very pious men acting according to their light, and had been and might be further useful in the church, they should not be severely dealt with, but only

brought under prohibitions and restraints; and if they could be engaged to stay with their own congregations, and no more to spread their new opinions, they might be connived at. Likewise many had greater sympathy with Mr. Archbald than with the other, in regard he was led off by him in his sim­plicity to these new things, neither did he vent himself so against our covenants as he did: but, seeing none of them would promise to forbear, they were both suspended; and, upon their contemning the church's sentence, they were afterward deposed. Yet the church shewed much regard to them both; for, sometime after, they took off the sentences,

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and reponed [replaced, restored] them both to the ministry in general, though not to their churches.—They did all they could to shake the established church‑government, by setting up Independent churches in several places of the land, and ordaining several mechanics and illiterate persons to be their ministers: and they preached and wrote for Independencey: but their pamphlets are confuted, the Divine right of Pres­bytery established, and the absurdities of the Inde­pendent scheme laid open, by Mr. Aytone in his Original Constitution of the Christian church, and by several others: so that we need add no more to what is already written, but our approbation thereof.

At the same very time the Lord was pleased to visit this church with a far more terrible rebuke, by permitting Professor Simson to vent Arian error's among his students at Glasgow, for which a process was commenced against him by the presbyte­ry of Glasgow; and after some time it came to the assembly, and continued before them, assemblies 1727, 1728 and 1729. And though the process was drawn out to a great length, by the ex­traordinary methods he took to defend himself; yet it must be acknowledged that all the three fore­said assemblies manifested their zeal and concern

for the orthodox faith against any thing that tend­ed to Arianism, as appears from the long process in print. At length the assembly found proven that Mr. Simson had denied the necessary existence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the numerical oneness of the three Persons of the Trinity in sub­stance or essence; and had utterred several other

words derogatory to the supreme Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding the Pro­fessor still refused that he taught these opinions as

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he calls them (the assembly in their act calls them gross errors) and said, They were contrary to the sentiments of his mind; and, if he uttered such words, they must be only a slip of his tongue. He likewise came to give it under his hand that he dis­claimed and renounced all these erroneous expres­sions, and made an orthodox confession of his faith concerning the glorious Trinity and the supreme Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Ass. 1728 and 1729. And whereas he had said that Chris­tus est summus Deus, is to be taken cum grano salis; and that summus Deus, and the only true God, may be understood in a sense as including the Father's personal property, and so not applicable to the Son; he declared he was exceeding sorry for giving any offence by such ways of speaking, and said, That summus Deus, and the only true God, are equally applicable to the Father and the Son, and not in any lower sense to the Son than to the Father; and that he adhered to the truth of Christ’s necessary existence, and the numerical oneness in essence of the blessed Trinity. But notwithstanding of all these renunciations and declarations (which came so very late) many in the assembly declared that he deserved deposition, because at the beginning of the process he refused to answer questions for clearing himself, and had neglected many opportu­nities for two years time of giving satisfaction to the judicatories as to the soundness of his faith concerning these important articles, when called upon to do it. But the assembly 1728, because of his confessions and orthodox declarations, and for other considerations, proceeded no further than to suspend him from preaching and teaching, and all exercise of any ecclesiastical power or function and delayed the finishing of the process till next
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assembly, that they might know the mind of Presbyteries concerning him.—When the assem­bly 1729 met, he made a long moving speech be­fore them, declaring his orthodoxy; which was printed. The assembly finished the affair, by con­firming the sentence of suspension formerly past, and giving it as their judgment, “That it is not fit nor safe that he be further employed in teach­ing divinity, and instructing of youth designed for the holy ministry.” The generality of Presbyteries, notwithstanding of his confessions and declarations, had sent up to this assembly their in­structions for his deposition, with which they ought to have complied; especially seeing by a former process in the year 1717 he had been found teach­ing Arminian doctrine, which the assembly dis­charged him to do for the future: and yet, con­trary to that prohibition, it was found proven by a committee of assembly, that he persisted to teach the foresaid doctrine. This the assembly knew very well, and might have called for that other process.—Some alledged, it would be better to keep it over his head undiscussed, to prevent after de­signs of reponing him to teach.—And some said, it would be safer for truth to bind up his pen by a suspension, and by keeping him under it, than by a deposition to provoke a man of his learning to make open attacks upon the most important truths of our holy religion. And it must be owned that he replied nothing to all that was written against him, but continued silent under the suspension for ma­ny years until the day of his death, without any motion or mint by any to get it taken off. It is desirable also to find the assembly, in their last act concerning him, expressing
their thankfulness to God, for directing all the judicatories of this
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church which had this process under their con­sideration (which includes all the Presbyteries thereof ) so happily, that there hath not appeared the least difference of sentiment; but on the con­trary, there hath been the most perfect and un­animous agreement among them, as to the doc­trine of the glorious Trinity, and the proper supreme Deity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, according as the same is revealed in the holy Scriptures, and contained in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms.
It was much feared that the seeds of Arianism were sown in this church by Professor Simson and others: wherefore there were many excellent books written at this time against Arianism and Socinianism, and in defence of the foresaid doctrine of the glorious Trinity, and the proper supreme Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ; and, being so well written, we need add nothing, but join our testimony therewith, and pray that Arianism may never more set up its head in this land. Amen.

Although God was thus visibly contending the judicatories of this church, for their disregarding his flock and remnant in the land; yet it is matter of deep regret, that, in stead of reforming they proceeded to greater heights in their arbitrary decisions relating to them: for in the, years 1729, 1730, 1731, and afterwards, we find the complaints of worthy ministers, elders, and bodies of Christian people, concerning intrusions upon congregations greatly increased; which occasioned many remonstrances, dissents and protestations in the assemblies, commissions, and inferior judicato­ries. In the assembly 1730, when the stream of violence began to run very high, many entered their dissents against the settlements of Sutton and

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Old Machir, but were denied liberty to record them; which made a great noise, and increased the ferment among the people, but, instead of yielding or doing any thing to quiet them, that assembly did summarily make an act, discharging the recording (as usual) of reasons of dissent a­gainst the determination of church‑judicatories; without remitting the affair to presbyteries to know their mind about it, according to former acts of assembly.—There were several remonstrances and petitions presented by numbers of people to the synods of Merse and Lothian, but not regard­ed. Likewise they gave in a paper, signed and adhered to by great numbers, to assembly 1731, complaining of violent settlements; but got no hearing.—All which proceedings did awaken ma­ny honest and zealous ministers to correspond and meet for drawing up a representation and petition to the assembly 1732, concerning the intrusions and other grievances; which was accordingly drawn up, signed and adhered to by 42 ministers and three elders; wherein: they expressed, not only their own sense of these evils but also the sense of many officers through the church, who had not access to sign the said paper. And

seeing we think ourselves called to adhere to the honest testimony given therein against many of the evils of the present time, we shall, as an evidence of our approba­tion and adherence, briefly insert the contents of it in this our testimony.

In their petition offered to the assembly 1732, they humbly move that the assembly should address the king and parliament concerning several griev­ances of this church, which they only can redress such as the imposing of the sacramental test, and conformity to the English liturgy mid ceremonies,
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upon the members of this church, when serving the king in England and Ireland: The, toleration established in Scotland, whereby error, superstition and profaneness are greatly encouraged, and church discipline weakened:—The establishing of patron­ages, subversive of the right of congregations to chuse their pastors:—The not receiving addresses from this church to the house of peers, because not directed to the Lords Spiritual:—The introducing from England into some courts in Scotland a new form of swearing, by laying the hands and kissing the gospels. Also, they represent, that notwithstanding it is the undeniable right of Christian congregations to have the free choice of their own pastors, and their call and consent is ne­cessary to found the pastoral relation betwixt min­isters and them, according to the word of God, our book of discipline, acts of the general assem­bly, and the concurring suffrages and unanswerable arguments of the most eminent divines both at home and abroad; yet many ministers have been imposed and forced upon Christian congregations when dissenting and reclaiming, and that especi­ally by sentences of the commission, for several years past; and not only where presentations were insisted upon, but also where there was none, but the right fallen into the presbytery’s hands. And the commission have appointed committees to try and ordain ministers for vacant congregations, not only without the concurrence of Presbyteries and synods concerned, who have best right, and are fittest to, Judge therein, but in direct opposition to their minds: and calls have been received, not mo­derated in Presbyteries, but attested only by notars public. Likewise the commission have repealed several sentences of synods, when they had but a
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scrimp quorum of ministers, much inferior in number to these who past them: and of late years especially in the years 1729, 1730 and 1731, there were many supernumerary elders named to be members of commissions, beyond the proportion allow­ed by acts of assembly, many, whereof reside at Edinburgh, and are brought in to vote upon occasions; and there is ground to question if they be qualified according to acts of assembly­.—Wherefore, for remedying and preventing such intrusions, the they humbly move, that the assembly should repeal the commission's sentences appoint­ing them, such as may come regularly before them; and discharge in time coming all settlements with­out the consent of elders and, Christian people and enact, that no call or subscriptions for ministers be sustained but such as are attested by order of Presbyteries, or verified before them or their committees; and, if the commission shall in

time coming appoint committees to try or ordain ministers without consent of the congregation and Presbyteries immediately concerned, that the said committees shall be discharged to proceed, until the assembly give their judgment, in case the causes are sisted [summoned] before the assembly by com­plaint or protestation: and that appeals from sen­tences of synods be not referred in time coming to the determination of the commission, but reserved for the assembly's decision, unless it be provided that the sederunt [meeting of the court] of the commission judging there­ in be supernumerary to the synod in ministers as well as elders; it being disagreeable to our principles, that a greater number of ministers should be subjected to the authority of a lesser: and that the commission be better regulated both as to the number and qualifications of elders therein

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than at present: and that the assembly enact, at appointing of their commission, that if any of their actings shall be found contrary to the acts, constitutions and known principles of this church, that they shall not only be censured for the same, but their said acts shall also be reversed; and, if any protestation or complaint be entered against their sentences, it shall be sufficient to gist all parties concerned before the general assembly.—Also they plead, that the assembly may repeal the 7th act of assembly 1730, discharging the recording reasons of dissent, as being past irregularly with­out consulting Presbyteries, and which must prove a very heavy grievance to many, if it stand in force.

They complain likewise, that sonic judicatories who have testified their just displeasure against ministers and Probationers for their unworthy and offensive practice in accepting presentations con­trary to our known principles, have been condemn­ed by the commission for it. And therefore desire the assembly may give an effectual check to such dangerous practices, and that none be licensed or ordained that favour this course.—Also they complain of several innovations in the method and strain of preaching introduced of late by some preachers and young ministers, which are very offensive to many of God's people, and an obstruc­tion to spiritual edification. And, though some former assemblies have referred it to their commissions to bring in an overture thereanent [in reference to], no­thing is yet done; therefore they humbly move that the assembly may provide an antidote against these evils.—They also desire the assembly to e­mit a solemn warning against Professor Simson's errors, and others which are spread through the

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land, in order to prevent the infection of them.

As to the act of assembly 1732, concerning the method of planting vacant churches

(which was then but an overture) they shew their dislike to it, as it gives much power to

Jacobite and disaffected heritors in the settling of parishes, which is not agreeable to the

Scriptures and our known principles: but (say they) it cannot be turned to a stand­ing act,

unless the generality of presbyteries con­sent to it, which they hope is not to be expected

in this case.

Now, though the evils above complained of were manifest grievances, and the brethren's represen­tation concerning them was drawn up in a humble­ and modest strain, and signed by 42 worthy mi­nisters, and several of them old reverend fathers, and was presented in a dutiful manner accord­ing to order; yet it is to be regretted that it was not allowed so much as hearing by the assembly; which obliged the petitioners to protest, and pub­lished their paper to the world. Likewise there was a petition of the same nature from many hundreds of elders and Christian people given into that assembly, which had the same fate. This strange conduct of that and preceding assemblies towards many godly ministers and people, did exceedingly stumble many, lessen the regard which wont to be paid to general assemblies, and pave the way to the schism which soon followed upon it. Yet the assembly 1732 did not stop here, but proceeded to turn the overture anent [regarding] planting of churches into a standing act, tho' evidently disagreeable to the mind of presbyteries, and the general opinion of the church: which increased the ferment thro' the land to a higher pitch than ever. Alas! this was not like the conduct of our old suffering fathers,

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who dreaded a schism in the church like fire, and were careful to prevent and crush it at the first ap­pearance. But when God hath a controversy with a church or people, and designs to bring a stroke upon them, he ordinarily leaves their leaders to infatuate measures, so as they have neither skill nor will to take any wise step to ward off the blow.

That act of the ass. 1732 did greatly inflame this poor church for two or three years: but seeing at that time unanswerable arguments were brought against it in several pamphlets and sermons then published, to which we adhere, and seeing like­ wise it was repealed by a subsequent assembly, as contrary to the mind and rules of this church, and prejudicial to it; we shall not here insist much upon the evil of it. Only in regard there are ma­ny dissatisfied with the repealing of it, and alledge it was the same with the act of parliament 1690, for which the church had great regard for many years, we shall shew the manifest difference that is betwixt them, both in the words, and the sense

which was put upon them.—The act 1690, runs thus;
That in case of the vacancy of any particular church, and for supplying the same

with a minister, the heritors of the said parish (being protestants) and the elders are

to name and pro­pose the person to the whole congregation, to be either approven or

disapproven by them; and, if they disapprove, that the disapprovers give their

reason, to the effect the affair may be cognosced [pronounced] upon by the

presbytery of the bounds, at whose judgment, and by whose determination, the calling and entry of a particular minister is to be ordered and concluded.

The act 1732 being notour, we shall not resume the words, but observe the difference in these things;—1mo, The act 1690
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is by a civil court, the act 1732 by an ecclesiastical; and tho' it might be expected that the latter would in their acts keep closer by the rule of the word than the former, yet the act 1732 is more distant from that rule than the act of 1690, in regard the act 1732 tends more to spoil congregations of their ­rights, and countenance intrusions upon them, than the act 1690 doth.—2do, By the act 1690, the he­ritors and elders are only impowered to name and propose a person to the whole congregation; but, by the act 1732, they are impowered to elect and call one to be minister of the parish.—3tio, Accord­ing to act 1690, the election was not to be held as finished until the man was proposed to the congregation and their approbation had; and, if they disapproved, the affair was to stop as unfinished until the presbytery give their judgment whether to proceed further in it or not; but the act 1732 holds the election as finished by the votes of the heritors and elders, and the man to be legally elected and called to be minister of the parish, before the consent of the people be asked.—4to, By the act 1690, and another soon past after to explain it, all unqualified or disaffected heritors were excluded from voting; but, by act 1732, all heritors whatsomever, whether hearers or not, were allowed to vote, if they were not professed Papists: so that, in many parishes where the disaffected heritors were supernumerary to the other, they had power to thrust in a minister upon a well affected congregation.—5to, For what appears from the words of the act 1690, the heritors and elders might have acted as distinct bodies in the nomination, and the bone might have had a negative upon the other therein, and so the heritors’ nomination would not be valid without the concurrence of the body
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of the elders; for by the act the man was to be na­med by the elders as well as by the heritors: but, by act 1732, it was expressly provided that the he­ritors and elders should elect in a conjunct body; so that, considering the superior number and influ­ence of heritors in most places, ministers might be chosen where the eldership and whole body of the congregation reclaimed, as frequently has happen­.—6to, The act 1790 and the act 1732 differed prodigiously as to the sense and meaning put upon the words thereof. The execution of the act 1690 being intrusted to presbyteries, the sense they then put

upon the approbation of the congregation, and the Reasons of the disapprovers, was far from the late sense put upon them: by their approbation the church then understood their judgment con­cerning the candidate's gifts of preaching and pray­er, that they judged them suitable to their capaci­ties, and adapted to their edification; and if the body of the congregation disapproved the man no­minate, and gave for their reasons, that his gifts were not edifying to them, nor suited to their ca­pacities, and that they could not in conscience con­sent to his being their minister: such reasons, gi­ven by a knowing well disposed people, were then judged sufficient to stop the affair, lay aside compe­ting candidates, and to proceed to a new election. But, by the sense put upon the act 1732, no reasons or objections could be received but against the man’s life or doctrine; and, if the people did not prove er­ror or immorality against him by witnesses, they must receive him as their pastor: so that by this sense the people had no more interest or concern in

the settlement of their pastor, than these of any other congregation; which is most absurd, and different from the sense of the act 1690.
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Our noble patriots at the revolution being sensi­ble of the violent intrusions which had been made ­upon parishes under Prelacy and Patronage, they did in the year 1690 restore Presbyterian govern­ment, abolish patronages, and put the peoples' rights under the guardianship of Presbyteries, who then took special care of them, according to our known principles; so that their settlements gave general satisfaction. Our judicatories then under­stood the act 1690 as designed to deliver parishes from the intrusions made upon them under patron­ages, and to restore them to their primitive liberty according to the word of God. This is evident from the assembly 1712 their approving the commission's address to the queen against patronages, in which are these words: Whereby your majesty may plainly perceive the act 1690 abolishing patronages must be understood to be a part of our Presbyterian constitution, secured to us by the treaty of union for ever; and that the parliament 1690 was sincerely desirous only to restore the church to its just and primitive liberty in calling ministers in a way agreeable to the word of God. That this was the sense put upon the act 1690, ap­pears also from the form of calls then constantly made use of by the church, which is printed in our larger overtures, and runs thus: We the heritors and elders of the parish of have agreed, with the advice and consent of the parishioners, to invite, call &c. No call could then be received without that clause, of the consent of the parishon­ers. No doubt the words of the act 1690 might have been perverted to the peoples’ hart in some hands: but the church being allowed to explain and execute that act agreeably to their known principles as they then did; the people continued easy

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