And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
—1 Tim. 3.16.

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A

TESTIMONY

AND

WARNING

Of the Presbyterie of

EDINBURGH,

Againſt a late

PETITION,

Tending

(In the Scope and Design thereof)

to the Overturning of the Ordi-

nances and Truth of CHRIST

in this Church.

Octob. 5.  Anno Dom. 1659.


Printed in the Year, 1659.

A

TESTIMONY and WARNING

of the Presbyterie of Edinburgh,

Againſt a late PETITION, tending (in the

ſcope and deſign thereof) to the Overturning

of the Ordinances and Truth of CHRIST

in this Church.

October 5. 1659.

IT cannot but sadly afflict all tender-hearted Christians, and lovers of the interests of Christ, that the Lord having for divers years set the beauty of His Ornament in majesty among us, and afterward having set up His fire in Zion and His furnace in Jerusalem, to take a proof of our proficiency under His Ordinances, there should so much dross and scum appear among us; that our outward chastisements should be attended with so many spiritual judgments, and that the licentiousness of the times hath not only loosed the reins to Atheism, irreligion, and profanity in many, and opened the door to Seducers from without, to break-in upon this Church; but that even from among ourselves some have arisen, speaking perverse things, who have spit in their Mother’s face in the day of rebuke, and made defection from the Doctrine of Christ and His precious Ordinances, which she in mercy enjoyeth.  As these things (in the holy and righteous dispensation of God) have bred us no small exercise and grief of heart in our stations; So it cannot but augment our sorrow, when we find that distemper not only continuing to be a snare and trial to the Lord’s people under our charge, but that it is upon the growing hand: And that now some men are not contented to make apostasy themselves, and to do what they can, by their example and activity in seduction, to ensnare others; But they will also bend their utmost endeavours to pull down the hedge about the Lord’s Vineyard, and to overturn all settlement of Religion among us, that so a liberty may be proclaimed, and encouragement held forth, to all who please to run wild (under a pretence of new light) in all abominations {4} of errours and delusions, until (if mercy prevent it not) the Lord’s Plantation here be turned into an howling wilderness, and so the way be prepared for Antichrist (who is not asleep in these times, and whose hand is, not without cause, suspected by the sober godly in these actings) to make a prey of us, Or the minds of people be so plagued with Atheism, by reason of their own and others reeling in the matters of God, that they will prove as capable of an impression of Heathenism as of Christianity.

Of these pernicious practices, we have of late met with a sad instance, (which calls us forth to give our Testimony at this time) in that some, upon designs best known to themselves, have projected, and (as we have the charity to believe) ensnared others to join with them in a Petition, for making void and abolishing all Civil Sanctions establishing the Doctrine, Discipline, and Government of this Church, (the fruits of the many prayers and sad sufferings of the Godly in this and former ages) that so they may enjoy a vast Toleration and encouragement in embracing vilest errours, which they are pleased to set off under the specious names of just Liberties and Gospel-priviledges.  This unnatural practice, proceeding from among ourselves, and from some of these who once pretended to speak of a great blessedness in building up what now they would destroy, and in enjoying what now they abominate; though we believe it will not signify much, upon the account of those who prosecute it, with discerning men who know them, and whom they grieve in this matter; And in that respect we could very easily have passed it as a matter of little moment: Yet we could not but tremble to find such a Spirit among us.  And as we are called of God to stand in the gap, in our station, wherever any hazard to Truth and Religion appears in this Church: So we held ourselves more nearly concerned in this business, seeing it is asserted to be the Petition of some within our bounds and charge.  And though we have hitherto contented ourselves with bearing testimony against their way in our ordinary Ministry, if peradventure God might be pleased to reclaim them from the errour of their way; Yet being informed of the uncessant activity of some of them to have their design effectuated, we could not satisfy ourselves, as having sufficiently exonered ourselves to their consciences, or done our duty to these of our respective charges, without the superadding of this joint Testimony.

If we should insist to descant upon the Title and Subscribers of that Petition, we might say many things, which neither would be pleasant to them to hear, nor have we any delight to rake into.  While they design themselves well-affected persons, if they mean in reference to piety and Religion, it would be but little pleasing if we should give the true characters of sundry of them who are known to us, and within our bounds, what some of them have been in all the turnings of these late times, and what they yet are; This will (we trust) make our pains needless as {5} to this purpose, that as it is known, how the body of the truly godly, Ministers and people, throughout the land, do abominate and mourn over their way, however they have differed in other things among themselves; So we are confident, wherever they are known, their piety (whatever it be) will not be persuasive to commend this course in the esteem of any discerning godly men.  We wish they had given a greater proof of tenderness and piety, than to assert in that very Title, that they are persons in and about Edinburgh.  For, unless they make most of the corners of this Land to be in and about it, this will be found a manifest untruth; There being but a few of the Names we have seen at that Petition within all our bounds, and the most of them gathered in the Country, many miles from this place.  That which we think most strange in this conveighance, is, That divers persons, professedly opposite to the way of the Quakers, whose principles and way have been already laid open to the world, in their true colours; yet do join with them in signing that Petition, to which the hands of most of that Sect are gathered through the Country.  This as it gives us cause to believe the truth of what is credibly informed, of their gathering hands to several Copies of that Petition in several parts of the Country (some of the Petitioners little knowing with whom they joined in it) which at last they put together in one paper: So it gives us to understand what a liberty the designers of that Petition intend, even no other than what will comprehend these Quakers who join with them, some of whom have published in print under their hands, not only vile reproaches against the Ministry of this Church, but gross errours against the truth of God, as namely (to instance in some particulars) That the godly in this life are without sin; That the light whereby every man that cometh into the world is enlightened, is not the light of nature, but a perfect light sufficient to save them who will follow it; yea, Christ himself; That it is not a natural man’s duty to pray; That men are able to fulfill the law of God; and that it is a Doctrine of Devils to say, God commandeth men that which they are not able to perform; That the Scriptures are not the word of God, but the declaration of the word, and the words.

These and divers other gross errours about Election and Reprobation, Universal Redemption, &c. published by some of the Petitioners, do abundantly clear what a deluge of abominations they plead to be secured in.  And albeit they have endeavoured to conveigh their design more closely in their Petition; Yet their Agents have spoken their mind more fully in their Proviso: wherein they crave, that none dissenting from the National Profession of the Doctrine and Church-discipline here established, be debarred or molested, but enjoy equal protection and encouragements in the exercise of their Church-profession, provided they profess faith in Jesus Christ, and do not make use of this liberty to colour any licentious practices, and it be not extended to Popery or Prelacy: and {6} all this notwithstanding any laws made to the contrary.  This is indeed a Toleration as large as any that ever hath been pleaded-for by the wildest of Hereticks, and very far from that modesty that hath appeared in any judicious and sober men, though otherwise enclining to moderation in some differences.  Here they would cut the sinews of all coercive power or censure in matters of Religion, either by the Magistrate, or by the Church, and are not content to be secured against any Civil restraint to be laid on, unless also all Civil Sanctions establishing the Reformed Religion and exercise of Church-discipline be abrogated, or made void.  They do not content themselves to plead for Toleration in matters of Church-constitution and Government, but in matters of Doctrine also, and that in such a latitude, that if they profess faith in Christ, they must go free; And, what Hereticks, how vile soever, will not profess so much, if they turn not Heathens, Turks, or Jews?  All these other cautions, wherewith former concessions of liberty to dissenters, are guarded (as, that they must profess faith in the holy Trinity, acknowledge the holy Scriptures to be the revealed Word of God, that they publish not horrid Blasphemies, that they revile not the Ministry or their Assemblies, nor disturb them in the worship of God, &c.) all these are here passed over in a general of professing faith in Christ, and being free of licentious practices.  And we might very justly enquire of them, upon their principles, why they would seclude Popery and Prelacy, more than the rest, and that not only considering how the very body of Popish Doctrine may consist with professing faith in Christ, aswell as other damnable errours; And learned men before us have demonstrated what a progress Popish opinions have already made under the colour of new lights (if not also by Popish Emissaries their insinuating themselves among several Sects for that effect)  But we would gladly know what arguments they can bring from the Word of God for secluding those as corrupt Opinions and Religions, which will not militate aswell against other errours, even owned by some of them.  This also may further discover the design of these Petitioners, and the iniquity of their desires, that they are not contented to plead for forbearance, or protection only, in their way, but that they, though never so erroneous, enjoy equal encouragement with the Sound and Orthodox.  A thing condemned even by those who yet in many cases plead for a Toleration, and most unjust in itself, that those who profess the Truth, should not only extend pity to spare deluded men, but encourage and maintain them in their pernicious ways.

We cannot but be confident, that, through the blessing of God, the very discovery of the iniquity of this course, will break the snare to all those who are not given up to wantonness of mind, for not receiving the Truth in love, and are not driving designs to root the true Reformed Religion out of this Land.  And indeed, if men turn not Scepticks and void {7} of all Religion, but do acknowledge there is truth and errour in the world, and that men ought to be established in the present Truth, and not to reel every day, 2 Pet 1.12, (for, how else could men either preach anything as a truth, or how could they die with comfort, or suffer for any truth, as not knowing but a new day might produce new light?) then it must certainly be an iniquity to let men run loose to do what is right in their own eyes, and to give no less encouragement to the grossest of Hereticks than to the faithful friends of Truth.  If Heresy be a work of the flesh no less than Adultery, Murder, &c. Gal. 5.19-21; If erroneous Doctrines be damnable in themselves, 2 Pet. 2.1, and no less prejudicial to the souls of others than a Gangrene in any member is to the body, 2 Tim. 2.17,18; And if Seducers by these doctrines be no less dreadful to the Church than grievous wolves are to flocks, Acts 20.29; [then] It must be great cruelty, not only to suffer, but to encourage such to run on to their own perdition, and to seek the perdition of others, provided they hold fast a general profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  If unity in Doctrine and Worship be a mean of establishing and multiplying the Church; (as the practice of the Apostles makes clear, who finding the Disciples troubled, and their souls subverted with disputes and errours brought-in among them, Acts 15.24, do establish them and contribute to their encrease; by their Decree suppressing the errour, Acts 16.4,5,) And if, upon this account, a Ministry be appointed to bring the people of God to unity in the truth, and keep them in it, Eph. 4.5,8,11, with 12-14; It must be an unquestionable cruelty to seek encouragement to set up that which cannot but retard the progress of the Gospel, and frustrate the labours of the Ministry.  In the days, wherein God hath promised that he will give his people not only one heart, but one way, Jer. 32.39, And that not only the Lord, but His Name also, (or Ordinances and way of profession) shall be one, Zech. 14.9, and wherein Christ hath prayed, that His people may be one, as a special mean to prove the truth of the Christian Religion, John 17.20-23; They must be very sinfully imployed, who instead of mourning over, or seeking to repair the too many breaches that already are, or being sensible of the sad prejudices redounding thereby to the work of the Gospel, do bestir themselves so actively to multiply them, and to be encouraged in so doing.  And if such a Toleration hath produced sad fruits, even in Churches where Religion is not settled, How much more abominable is it, to seek it in this Church, which, in the great mercy of God, is settled in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government, to the preservation whereof, both Nations are engaged by the Oath of God?  This certainly is nothing else but to endeavour to pluck up the hedge planted by God about His Vineyard, and to open a door to the atheistical and profane under pretence of new lights, publickly to avow their contempt of all Ordinances and Truths of the Gospel, to the grief and saddening of all the truly godly. {8}

It is neither necessary nor possible, in this brief Testimony, to descend particularly into this Controversy, or to condescend upon the many qualifications necessary for the right stating thereof, or to propound and vindicate the arguments confirming the truth.  These are extant in the learned Writings of others before us, to be perused by all who desire satisfaction, and these Petitioners have saved us a labour, in propounding their desires in so large terms that they seclude nothing that bears the name of Christianity, except only the names of Popery and Prelacy: Nor will it suffice them that any should plead for a permission or forbearance to them, unless they be encouraged and countenanced also.  Therefore we shall only give a brief hint of our principles and grounds in this Truth of God, for the Establishing of the souls of his people.

We are not ignorant what an odium is cast upon us and the Government of Christ established in this Church, as if it were full of rigidity, and tyrannically executed by us against all who dissent from us.  But as we have been very sparing to censure any who have made defection from the Doctrine and Government of this Church; So the world, and the consciences of these who at any time have been censured, will bear witness for us, that these Censures have been drawn forth with all meekness and long-suffering, after the use of all previous means enjoined us by Christ.  And as to our principles, we profess we are very far from that rigour which some would charge upon us, as if we held that every lesser difference should bring men presently under the lash either of Civil or Ecclesiastick Censure, and that no difference of opinion can be suffered by us.  We are clear that in many things of common practice in a Church, there may be an agreement by Accommodation, though difference of judgment remain about the things themselves.  We acknowledge also that men’s opinions do not fall under this Question, so long as they do not spread and divulge them to infect others, nor endeavour to propagate them by schismatical and scandalous ways: We are also convinced, that all matters of difference are not of alike weight and importance, so that men must either renounce their opinions, or else incur Censure, or be denied protection: We do readily yield that (as we all prophesy but in part, so) men in a Church may compose debates, by putting an end to contentions, though they be not all of one judgment; and herein we judge the Apostle hath set the rule before us, 1 Cor. 11.16.  We yield also, that as severest Censures and Punishments are not to be inflicted for every offence; So a great difference is to be put betwixt active Seducers, and them who in simplicity are misled.  But (judging it needless, in dealing with these Petitioners, to dip any further in this business) this we hold to be agreeable to the Word of God: That Christian Magistrates and Church-judicatories, ought to be so far from conniving at, or encouraging, that they ought in their respective places, and with that prudence and meekness that becometh, endeavour {9} to restrain such gross and damnable errours, as are already vented by some of these Petitioners, and may be comprehended under the general terms of their desire, and the promoters thereof; and that whether they err in the matters of faith, or in what relateth to the standing of a visible Church, which is the pillar upon which truth hangeth, and which being overturned, exposeth the truth to hazard.

That this duty is incumbent to every Church in reference to her own members, is most clearly asserted in Scripture, where stopping the mouths of Hereticks, their rejection and excommunication are recommended by precept and example, Titus 1.10,11, and 3.10.  1 Tim. 1.19,20.  We find Churches censured by Christ himself for the neglect of Discipline against false Teachers, Rev. 2.14,20, and others commended for their zeal in this particular, though found faulty in other things, Rev. 2.2,4.  And seeing there are no Churches within these Nations, though of a different Constitution and Government from ours, who do not claim and exercise a power of Discipline over their own members; we see not how the like liberty can be denied to this Church over her own members, when they make defection from her.  As for Civil Powers, we are sorry to find, that however the Scriptures promise them, as Nursing Fathers to the Church; Yet many now would turn them mere Spectators of the wrongs done to Christ and His truth, so long as their civil peace is not disturbed, as if they should be Gallio’s to care for none of those things, and as if equal protection and encouragement, of errour as well as truth, were the only duty of Christian Magistrates, which Histories record to have been the great engine of Julian the Apostate for overthrowing the Christian Religion.  A principle this is contrary to the very light of nature in the most refined Nations, none of which would admit Innovations in Religion, though some did otherwise upon politick considerations, making Religion a slave to their interests.  And though they erred in the application, Yet in that and the like general principles the Lord leads them as witnesses against His people in their way of serving the true God, Jer. 2.10,11: [For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.  Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.]  That the Law of Moses was expressly contrary to this Toleration, is, we suppose, denied by none, and yet the most of these pleas now urged for it, taken from the fallibility of men, liberty of conscience, &c. were of as great force then as now.  Nor will they persuade conscientious men that these do not oblige us now, till they make it out that moral transgressions, (such as these are) punishable then by God’s command, must have a law of immunity and encouragement now, and that what is enjoined in the fourth Command, is not moral and perpetual, that Parents and Masters in their families, and Magistrates within their gates, should see to the Sanctification of the Sabbath, and consequently to the Worship of God publickly performed on that day.  And this we conceive doth so much the more strongly conclude, that we find Law and {10} Practice for this, before the judicial Laws were published; Not only Abraham commanding his children and household to keep the way of the Lord, Gen. 18,19, and Jacob suppressing false worship in his family, Gen. 35.2-4, But even in Job’s time and Country, it was a received Maxim, that Idolatry (as well as Adultery) was punishable by the Magistrate, Job 31.9-11.  It is not to any purpose to except, that these Laws of Moses did chiefly strike (if not only) against gross Idolatry and blasphemies: For neither do we urge that every errour should be punished, nor do we know what height of Blasphemies men may come unto (as we see by too sad experience) who yet may profess all that is required by these Petitioners, in men to be encouraged.  And withall, we find godly Kings of Judah have extended these Laws further than to such gross abominations: for, godly Josiah did not only cut off the Priests who sacrificed to Idols on the high places, 2 Kings 23.20, but degraded these who sacrificed there even to the Lord only, 2 Kings 23.8,9, as these differences of high places may be further cleared, from 2 Chron. 14.3,5, with chap. 15.17, and chap. 33.17.  As for the days of the Gospel, albeit Magistrates were not Christians when the New Testament was written, yet we find sufficient ground to clear us yet further, that these Laws given of old by God are still in force.  For, it is fore-prophesied, that the Kings of the earth shall destroy Antichrist, Revel. 17.16:  And why ought they not also suppress other errours, which are but limbs of Antichristian Doctrine, and the promoters thereof little Antichrists? 1 John 2.18.  And we find, that in times when Christian Magistrates were wanting, it did please the Lord to interpose, in a more immediate way, for punishing obstinate offenders, whether in the matter of faith or manners. [Acts 5.5,10; 12.23; 13.11.]  We find also that the Magistrate’s power under the New Testament, is given him for the punishment of evil doers, Rom. 13.3,4.  Now, Seduction being an evil deed, 2 John 10,11, and the Text speaking indefinitely of all such, we would take heed of obtruding our distinctions upon it; And that so much the rather as Christians are to pray for this benefit by Magistrates, that they may live under them not only in all honesty, but in all godliness also, 1 Tim. 2.1,2, which can never be without soundness in Doctrine, and purity in Worship.  And whereas some except, that unbelief and covetousness are also evil deeds, and yet not punished by the Magistrate; We grant, that unbelief and covetousness in the heart, do not fall under the cognition of the Magistrate (as neither is he to cognosce on simple opinions in the mind) Yet, unbelief professed and propagated, and covetousness put in practice to the prejudice of others, ought to be punished by him.

We know this truth of God is traduced, as a persecuting of men for their conscience, and an encroachment upon the liberty purchased them by Christ.  But as we disclaim troubling men for the simple light of {11} their Consciences, if it break not forth in Doctrine and Practice; So the Scripture hath taught us, that persecution is only a putting men to suffer for righteousness, and not the restraining of abominable errours.  And as we know men’s consciences are not their supreme rule, nor lawless things; So liberty to err and seduce, to vent lies and father them upon the God of truth, &c. is no part of that liberty purchased to us by the death of Christ; But it is in effect a captivity and snare to be entangled therewith, 2 Tim. 2.25,26, and chap. 3.6,7, and to be servants to corruption under pretence of liberty, 2 Pet. 2.19.  Yea, to father this upon Christian liberty, savoureth rankly of that old way of turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.  We are not insensible, how this truth of God hath been abused and put to the rack by Antichrist and his followers, to crush the professours of truth: But we have learned, that no truth, though abused, must be cast away; nor yet because truth is suppressed by the enemies of the Gospel, must therefore errours be spared by the friends of Christ?  We acknowledge also it is a mercy, if in sad times truth get, were it but a Toleration; Yet we cannot therefore allow, that errour should have so much.  Nor do we look upon it as any convincing argument, to tell us, that were ourselves at the like disadvantage with our Profession [of beliefs], we might be as ready to plead for a Toleration as others: For, we find Christ and his Apostles, when convened before Magistrates, never made use of that defence, That a Toleration in Religion (be what it will) was due from the Civil Magistrate, but pleaded still the truth of their Doctrine: And though Paul was frequently under persecution; yet we find him against Toleration, Gal. 5.11, with 12.  Nor was Elijah the less zealous against false Prophets, 1 Kings 18.40, that there was a Jezebel ready to persecute himself, 1 Kings 19.2.  And though we be encompassed with infirmities; yet, insofar as we have obtained mercy, we are ready to say (as Paul did, Acts 25.11,) That if we followed any errour, we refuse not to be restrained in it, and should count ourselves most unhappy if we were instrumental to propagate any errour, and set ourselves to overturn a blessed work of Reformation in the prosecution thereof.[1]

Having thus briefly pointed at the sinfulness of this course, We do in the fear of the Lord warn all these (especially within our charge) who have an hand in this matter, to consider from whence they have fallen and to repent; and do exhort them in the bowels of Christ, that they do examine impartially what their designs are, upon which they have engaged in this course, so destructive to their Mother-Church, and the Truths of Christ established in her; and that they forbear to prosecute the pulling down of an hedge, to let in Popery and Atheism, lest a Serpent bite them.  We are not ignorant {12} how pleasing licentious liberty is to the flesh; yet their consciences will easily tell them, that it was none of Adam’s happiness to have more room out of Paradise than within it, And that it is no mercy for men to have liberty to do every one what is right in his own eyes, which hath been the plague and sad posture of the Church of God in her declining times.  We do likewise exhort all the Lord’s people within our bounds, as to mourn before the Lord in behalf of those who have declined, and that such abominations should find any to own them among us; So also rightly to improve such humbling dispensations; That they study sobriety of mind, the want whereof hath miscarried so many; That they receive the love of the Truth, for the neglect whereof, God is provoked to send strong delusions, [2 Thess. 2.10,11]; That they converse more in the study of their own sinfulness, and the sufficiency of Christ, which being still savoury, will keep them from gadding after novelties in Religion; That they improve Ordinances as becometh, lest rested-in formality draw on contempt of Ordinances; That they would unite among themselves in matters of inferiour differences, that so they may jointly lay forth themselves, in their stations, for obstructing the progress of this deluge, which is ready to swallow up all Religion; And that they imploy Christ much, who is the King and Head of his own Church, that by His own Spirit he would interpose to stop the current of these Delusions and Defections, that Truth, and Peace, and Holiness may yet flourish in the midst of us.  Even ſo, Come, Lord Jesus.


FINIS.


Footnotes:

1. Another example of faithful Christians bearing the yoke of persecution, and yet explicitly opposing the offences and dangers of Toleration, may be found in the case of James Renwick and others, who, later in this same century, during the tyranny of James VII, published a Testimony against the Toleration then granted and proclaimed, 1687.—JTKer.