|« Prev||The Preface||Next »|
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 daily weighed and considered the growing dangers of the church, the backsliding ivdisposition 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.g 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 cenure vof the world: and though I should be charged with mean and selfish views in it, as affecting Singularity, a Name, Applause from some, &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 confess Christ before men, to bear viwitness to Christ and to his truths, to stand fast is the faith, to quit ourselves like men, to be strong, to be steadfast, tobe 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 viidown 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 viiiimpiety, and not bearing testimony against them when they abound, Rev. ii. 14, 15, 16. Now, is not 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 ixought 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 xway 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 of them 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, xi5th 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 xiilost, 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 xiiiflock, 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 xivalready 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 xvtimes 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.xvi
3. As to the church’s conniving at these acceptances, I heartily 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 xviiin 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: we must 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 xviiilittle 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, g&c.g”
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 xixagainst 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 xxand 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 xxihave 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 xxiiprinces 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 xxiiicovenant-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 xxivcontroversy 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
|« Prev||The Preface||Next »|