Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?—Proverbs 20.6

[The Dying Testimony, or Latter Will, of James Howie.]
 
THE DYING TESTIMONY, OR LATTER WILL,
of
JAMES HOWIE,
Who lived in Lochgoin, parish of Fenwick,
And died November 1691.
I AM a poor sinful man, compassed about with many sinful infirmities, which have prevailed over me; and strong corruptions in my wicked nature has kept me slack-handed, and overly formal in the exercises of duty; wanting that tender love and zeal for the honour and glory of God: and self-righteousness often prevailing over me, with many other infirmities: which things provoked the holy Lord to hide the glorious light of his sensible presence from me; for which I beg grace to mourn before him; and that I may get all mine iniquities pardoned, through the blood of him who satisfied divine justice, and is now at the right hand of the holy Father, making continual intercession for them that are his elect people.

Now, it is my advice to all who pretends and wishes to be lovers of the welfare of our Zion, that nothing be so much before your eyes as the glory of God, and the advancing of the buried work and interest of Christ Jesus. But, alas! it is to be feared, that self has been the mark that many aimed at, to suffer, rather than to be an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile, John 1.47. The idol of self has been set up above God’s glory, which has prevailed in many, which once set fair forward, but are now turned back, and have joined those that have not been friends to the interest of Christ, and the covenanted work of Reformation, or else fallen secure or unconcerned in his cause. Therefore, O ye friends of Christ, let nothing be your affliction, or trouble you so much, as the buried work and cause of Christ in these covenanted lands, which was once glorious to the engaging of many thousands that are now in glory. And alas! when I think on the overthrowing and breaking down of that glorious {182} work, the burning of the covenants, the setting up of that idol of prelacy and indulgence, and the shedding so much innocent blood, which is not yet mourned for, nor taken away. What may we look for, but the wrath of God hanging over these lands? which, in all appearance, will fall down when we least expect it, (except speedy repentance prevent it,) when he will come and make inquisition for blood, and hear the cries of the souls under the altar, slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held, saying, with a loud voice, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Rev. 6.9,10.

Many noblemen, gentlemen, and professors, that have not appeared for his persecuted interest, and have shewed no favour or friendship, but rather reproached these who suffered for it, and opened their mouths against them: Whereas they hid themselves in the day of the Lord’s rebuking;—when the Lord shall come and plead with Scotland, for the breach of covenant and innocent blood that have been shed, I shall not speak that which is ground for me to speak; but let them remember that word, Matth. 10.33, Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. And, chapter 16.25, Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, &c. And lest any should think, when I am going to eternity and must soon appear before my Judge, and get another sight of that which I formerly testified against and disowned; therefore I consider these as more grounds and reasons that I have to testify against it, and a more inducement to love and own these broken, burnt, and buried covenants, and glorious work of Christ: And to pray that he would come and darken man’s glory, and come in his power, which is not yet seen, nor faithfully sought after. There is much fasting and praying for the prosperity and establishment of the kingdoms of great men; but there are few or none praying, fasting {183} and mourning for all the abominations that are done in the midst of the land; and that the crown is not set upon the head of King Christ. I therefore testify against keeping of fast-days for man’s interest; and that no days are set apart to get the land purged from its iniquity, and from under the guilt of innocent blood; and also because the covenanted interest is not repaired and built up again.

Therefore, I, as a dying man, do testify against all those that have been enemies to the covenanted cause of Christ, and against all those who have now shewed themselves friends thereto. I testify against all compliances with, and joining in confederacy with the enemies of Christ Jesus, by taking of bonds and oaths, to disown his persecuted cause; and all confederacies and compliances with those that have been open enemies to the very image of Christ.

And especially, I do testify against these three men, Messrs. Shields, Linning, and Boyd, because they have deserted and forsaken that worthy cause which they once owned, and did bear public testimony for in the open fields; and have not only joined themselves with the open enemies of God, and the backslidden ministers, but have drawn with them as many as they could get, as if they had been doing God good service; and have sitten down in ease, with such as have rendered up the keys of Christ’s house to corrupt men, and vindicated their commission from them, though stuffed with so many sinful instructions and injunctions, contrary to diverse places of scripture, and contrary to the testimonies of all his faithful servants that have witnessed against all the horrid indignities done to the Son of God, and his kingly government in and over his own house.

I testify against those that have been carried away with these foresaid three men, and have left their former testimony, without considering better what they were doing, and the way they were going. {184}

I testify against all indulgences, first and last, that have been so hurtful to the church of Christ, and have rent the bowels thereof; and have done more hurt than all the prelates and malignants in the land, by subjecting their ministry to the pleasure of men, which is not according to presbyterian principles, nor never was the practice of the Lord’s faithful servants.

I likewise testify against the deadness, security, and unconcernedness with the low case of the glorious work and interest of Christ that is kept under this gravestone. You that seemed once to be very forward, and zealous for carrying on the cause of Christ, remember that sad word,—If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him, Heb. 10.38.

I testify against those that were called Mountain-Men, (a name given to the persecuted party, when chased on the mountains,) for raising and making up a regiment, called the Angus Regiment, to join in arms with the enemies of God, and such as have overthrown the government of his house, and have been traitors to his covenanted interest; and not only so, but have gone abroad, and have joined with men of a Popish religion: The like was never heard tell of men in all the reformed churches doing so, that professed to be of a presbyterian persuasion.

Next, I testify against the present ministers, who are presbyterians by profession, but are not so in practice. There is a mark of a true presbyterian in the 2nd epistle to Timothy, chapter 1.6-8, Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands: for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be thou not therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God. Let our indulged ministers, with their sinful toleration, compare their practice with this piece of scripture, and they will find themselves {185} to be far short of a true presbyterian principle: For a presbyterian, that is one indeed, must be steadfast, sound, straight, and honest, and that both in judgment and practice, which the time-serving ministers have not been, but have served the pleasures and appetites of corrupt sinful men, in their owning them as civil magistrates, whereas they were but tyrants and usurpers over the presbyterian church and ministry. And they who were approvers of such magistrates, or yet subjects unto them, when many to be pleasers in receiving liberty when such magistrates pleases, and to be restrained when they command, and to preach no doctrines that shall displease them; surely that looks more like an erastian than a presbyterian.

I testify against the present powers and authority, in so far as they are not just men, ruling in the fear of God, 2 Sam. 23.3, and not down-right to rule for Christ, and to build up his ruined work, and for the propagation and advancement of the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, which has been so long wasted, destroyed, and burnt up by the fire of his enemies. Let never the kingdoms of men prosper, and their dominions flourish, so long as they are not for the advancement and propagation of the kingdom of Christ, that is yet travailing, and not delivered, and which none of the powers of the earth have put to their hands to assist. How then can it be thought that these fast-days kept for men’s interest, that are doing nothing but seeking their own glory, and to be great upon the earth, are lawful? and the glory of God, and the advancement of his kingdom is not much sought after; can such fasting days be accepted of the Lord? Isa. 1.13-15, Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts, my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye {186} spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash ye, make ye clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil. This may be applied to such fasts; and I may leave it to the consideration of all such as have shed the blood of the Lord’s people innocently. Are they yet taken away from the earth, according to the law of the Lord? or yet put off from power and trust, and that both in church and state? If such be watchmen, who are called watchmen, or friends to the souls of men, that have not given faithful warning, nor testified against these things, I am mistaken. Can any expect that such fasting and praying will be accepted of God, when ministers disown not the authority of such magistrates as have been open enemies to Christ? Joshua, a godly man, lay on the ground, and cried unto the Lord, with his clothes rent, and dust upon his head; and that for the sin of one man; and the Lord said, He would not be with them any more, except they destroyed the accursed thing from them. And the reason was, that the Lord would not be with them, because they had broken his covenant, even that covenant that the Lord had made with them, Joshua 6.6-16. So then, if the Lord owns such magistrates [as these in our day], or yet them that owns them, that has broken his covenant, and been enemies to his church, in making void the laws thereof; we find it not in God’s word. But the accursed thing behoved to be taken away, and put out of the camp of Israel, before the Lord would hear Joshua, or help Israel. But O sad! that many should think and say, that our fast-days had turned away the Lord’s anger and wrath for all the abominations that have been done in the land against the great God of heaven! and none is now punished in any degree, or laid aside, or deserves (says such) to be punished, by the laws of the land, for the breaking of the laws of God. But magistrates and ministers are so linked and confederate together {187} in one chain and band; that none of them will testify against one another’s defections and abominations, were they never so great against the Lord; for magistrates are not chiding with ministers, as Joash did with Jehoiada, 2 Chron. 24.6, Because the house of the Lord was not repaired. Nor is yet ministers chiding with magistrates; and the reason is, both has had a hand in breaking down the carved work, and glorious fabric of the house of God. O! for a fountain of tears, to weep and mourn, for thinking so little of all the wrongs and injuries done against the great God of heaven and earth!

My advice therefore is, to all who seek and look to be saved by the Lord, to set more time apart for mourning, and to be humbled before him, for all the wrongs that he has gotten in these covenanted lands. And especially that ye strive to be in covenant with God yourselves, and have love and tender zeal for his glory, which is so undervalued. And beware of resting on the external part of religion and godliness, without the substantials and power thereof; for, when you will meet with death, it will try your religion and profession otherwise, than often (it may be) you have thought on; and it will make us get another sight of our sin and duty, than, it may be, we would have believed that it would have done. Therefore study sincerity, and heart reformation, in the sight of an holy and all seeing God, who searches all hearts; and rest not upon light and knowledge, and a profession even of the controverted truths of Christ Jesus; for all these will be casten at God’s bar, without being in Christ, and a serious walking, and endeavouring to walk suitable thereunto. Proud and lofty religion, the flies in the wind, will never be countenanced of the Lord, and have his presence; for it is the humble, he has said, that he will dwell with.

I shall not reflect much upon these who are called sufferers for the persecuted cause of Christ. But alas! {188} that they should have so far countenanced them, that were no friends to the suffering church of Christ in Scotland, but stood on the other side in the time of Jacob’s calamity,—and does join in keeping these set fast-days, that is, for the throne, that may be justly called a throne of iniquity, by law established, which is (and where so many under it is, that has their hands) reeking in the blood of the saints. O! who would ever have thought that the sufferers in Scotland would have sitten down in ease with them that had rent the bowels of their mother-church, and murdered their brethren, without compassion or pity on the young or old, satisfying their erroneous and tyrannical lusts! Oh! it would be, and ought to be, matter of grief, sorrow, and affliction of soul, that a covenanted presbyterian church should have fallen down to the Dagon of supremacy, and that has not had for such conduct the mourning of Hadad-rimmon, and as one that is in bitterness for their first-born, and the land to be mourning every family apart, Zech. 12.9, to the end. O! pray, friends of Christ, for much of that day, that you may get that mourning yourselves, every family apart, and their wives apart, even all the families that remain, for all the wrongs our Lord and his Christ has gotten both from friends and enemies in these lands.

Now, in the last place, I own all the faithful testimonies that have been given for the precious truths of Christ, and the covenanted interest thereof, and all them that have suffered faithfully, in less or in more, either imprisonment, banishment, suffered on scaffolds, fields, seas, or by wanderings, plunderings, oppressions, mocking reproaches, stripes, or whatever any has come under for the cause that has been persecuted, or the interest of Christ. I am a poor unworthy man, to testify against all these abominations, defections, and backslidings that have been in the land. But oh! for a heart to mourn for mine own sins, and for the sins of others as they have dishonoured and provoked God to depart {189} and to go far away from poor covenanted Scotland, (and even from these who professed to be a suffering people for his covenanted work of reformation,) wherein his presence was once seen: But oh and alas! it is not now seen or felt in private or public, as the souls of his people have met with formerly. O! the dispensation of deadness and security upon these lands, may preach unto us a provoked and departed God. There is ground to fear that he is on his way to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquities. I shall but mind you (his professing people) of that word, Amos 3.2, You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities. I shall say no more, but O! friends walk so, and live so, as you may have the glorious supporting presence of God;—For Satan will seek to winnow you, to have you, that he may sift you as wheat, Luke 22.31. Therefore be oft oft at the throne of grace, that Christ may pray for you, that your faith fail not; for you may be sure, that the devil will shoot more arrows at you than many besides; for he knows that the Lord gets more dishonour from the fall of one noted professor, than many hundreds of others. Therefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand; stand therefore, &c. Eph. 6.13,14. And let not the reproaches of the world stumble or offend you; for ye may lay your account with them. And it may be you may meet with the most sharp treatment from these who joined sweet counsel, and went unto the ordinances and house of God with you. And though you should be called Schismatics, Renters, and Dividers, and men of other Strange opinions: Yet of all these be not ashamed, or cause you to desert the good old way, wherein much of the Lord’s presence has been found.

And now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you blameless at his coming, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Sic subscribitur, JAMES HOWIE.