The Government, Disciple and Worship, Associate-Reformed Church in North America.
424New York: Printed by T. &J. Swords, No. 99 Pearl-Street, 1799
BOOK I. Of the Government of the Church.
JESUS Christ, upon whose shoulders the government is, whose name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace, 425Isa 9:6,7 of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end, who sits upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth even for ever; having all power given unto him in heaven and in earth by the Father, who raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all: He being ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things, received gifts for his church, and gave officers necessary for the edification of his church, and perfecting of his Saints. 426Matt 28:18-20; Eph 1:20-23 Compared with Eph 4:8, 11 and Ps 68:18
CHAP. I. Of the Church, its Officers and Judicatories in general.
Sect. I. Of the Church.
- THERE is one general church visible, held forth in the New Testament. 4271 Cor 7:12-13, 28
- The ministry 428Editor Note; ‘miniftry’ in original (possible misprint), oracles, and ordinances of the New Testament, are given, by Jesus Christ, to the general church visible, tor the gathering and perfecting of it in this life, until his second coming. 4291 Cor 7:28; Eph 4:4-5, 10-16
- Particular visible churches, members of the general church, are also held forth in the New Testament. 430Gal 1:21-22; Rev 1:4, 2:1 Particular churches are made up of visible saints, viz. of such as, being of age, profess faith in Christ, and obedience to Christ, according to the rules
of faith and life taught by Christ and his apostles; and of their children. 431Acts 2:38-39, 41; 1 Cor 1:2 with 2 Cor 9:13; 1 Cor 7:14; Rom 11:16; Mark 10:14
Sect. II. Of the Officers of the Church.
- Christ hath instituted a government, and governors ecclesiastical in the church. To that purpose the apostles did immediately receive the keys from the hand of Jesus Christ; and did use and exercise them in all the churches of the world upon all occasions.
- And Christ hath since continually furnished some in his church with gifts of government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereunto.
- The officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of his church, and the perfecting of the saints, are, some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased: others ordinary and perpetual, as pastors, teachers, and other church governors and deacons.
Sect. III. Of Ecclesiastical Assemblies.
- It is lawful and agreeable to the word of God. that the church be governed by several sorts of Assemblies, which are composed of pastors and other elders, and are Congregational, Classical, and Synodical.
- The government of the church, by these several sorts of Assemblies, in a just subordination of the congregational to the classical; and of the classical to the synodical assembly, is called Presbyterial church government; and is the true and only form of government which the Lord Jesus Christ hath prescribed in his word.
- The power which, according to the word of God, belongeth, in common, to all the judicatories of the church, is —
To call before them every person or persons under their inspection, whom the ecclesiastical business which is before them doth concern. 432Matt 28:15-20
To hear and determine such causes and differences as do orderly come before them.
To dispense church censures.
CHAP. II. Of Church-Officers in particular.
Sect. I. Pastors.
THE Pastor is an ordinary and perpetual officer in the church. 433Jer 3:15
It belongs to his office,
- To pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God. Acts 6:2-4, 20:36
Where preaching and prayer are joined as several parts of the same office. The office of the elder, (that is the pastor) is to pray for the sick even in private, to Which a blessing is especially promised; 434James 5:14-15 much more, therefore, ought he to perform this in the execution of his
office, as a part thereof. 4351 Cor 14:15
- To read the scriptures publicly. For the proof of which let it be observed,
1 ft. That the Priests and Levites in the Jewish church
were trusted with the public reading of the word. 436Deut 31:9-11; Neh 8:1-3, 13
2d. That the ministers of the gospel have as ample a charge and commission, to dispense the word, as well as other ordinances, as the Priests and Levites had under the law, which is proved from Isaiah 67:21. Matt. 23:34 where our Saviour entitleth the officers of the New Testament, whom he will send forth, by the same names of the teachers of the old. Which propositions
prove, that therefore (the duty being of a moral nature) it followeth by just consequence, that the public reading of the scriptures belongeth to the Pastor’s office.
- To feed the flock, by preaching of the word, according to which he is to teach, convince, reprove, exhort, and comfort. 4372 Tim 3:16-17; Tit 1:9
- To catechise, which is a plain laying down the first principles of the oracles of God, 438Heb 5:12 or of the doctrine of Christ; and is a part of preaching.
- To administer the sacraments. 439Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:23-25, 10:16
- To bless the people from God. Numb. 6:23-26 with Rev 14:5. (where the same blessings, and
persons from whom they come, are expressly mentioned) Isa. 66:21. where, under the names of Priests and Levites to be continued under the gospel, are meant evangelical Pastors, who are therefore by office to bless the people. 440Deut 10:8; 2 Cor 13:14
- To visit his people from house to house, as often as may consist with the other duties of his office, and the situation of the people among whom he labours; but in closely connected congregations it ought to be essayed once every year. In these visitations he is to inquire into the spiritual condition of his flock; and to give them such counsel, exhortation, warning, and encouragement, as they may respectively need. 441Acts 20:20
- To take care of the poor. 442Acts 4:34-37
- And he hath also a ruling power over the flock as a Pastor. 4431 Tim 5:17; Acts 20:17, 28; Heb 13:7, 17
Sect. II. Teacher or Doctor.
- The scripture doth hold out the name and title of teacher as well as the pastor. 4441 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11
- Who is also a minister of the word, as well as the pastor, and hath power of administration of the sacraments.
- The Lord having given different gifts, and diverse exercises according to these gifts, in the ministry of the word; 445Rom 7:6-8; 1 Cor 7:1-7 though these different gifts may meet in, and
accordingly be exercised by, one and the same minister. 4461 Cor 14:3; 2 Tim 4:2; Tit 1:9 yet, where there are several ministers in the same congregation, they may be designed to several employments, according to the different gifts in which each of them doth most excel: 4474481 Cor 14:3; 2 Tim 4:2; Tit 1:9 And he that doth more excel in exposition of scripture, in teaching sound doctrine, and in convincing gainsayers, than he doth in application, and is accordingly employed therein, may be called a teacher or doctor. Nevertheless, where there is but one minister in a particular congregation, he is to perform, so far as he is able, the whole work of the ministry. 4491 Cor 14:3; 2 Tim 4:2; Tit 1:9
- A teacher or doctor is of most excellent use in schools and universities; as of old in the schools of the prophets, and at Jerusalem, where Gamaliel and others taught as doctors.
- The scripture acknowledged no degrees of rank or dignity among the ministers of the word; but hath established them in a perfect equality of office and authority. The names of pastor, teacher, bishop, and presbyter, are but different names for one and the same office. The distinction of superior and inferior clergy, under whatever form or pretext adopted, is highly unscriptural and antichristian. 450Acts 20:17, 28; Phil 1:1; Tit 1:5, 7
Sect. III. Other Church-Governors.
- As there were in the Jewish church elders of the people joined with the Priests and Levites in the government of the church; 4512 Chron 19:8-10 so Christ, who hath instituted government, and governors ecclesiastical in the church, hath furnished some in his church, beside the ministers of the word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereunto: who are to join with the minister in the government of the church: 452Rom 7:7-8; 1 Cor 7:28 which officers reformed churches commonly call Elders.
- It belongs not to this class of elders to preach the word, or to administer the sacraments; but as far as relates to the government of the church, their voice in judicatories is equal to that of the preaching presbyters. 4531 Tim 5:17
Sect. IV. Deacons.
- The scripture doth hold out deacons as distinct officers in the church. 454Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8
- Whose office is perpetual. 455Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8 To whose office it belongs not to preach the word, or administer the sacraments; or to join in the government of the church, it chiefly to take special care in distributing to the necessities of the poor. 456Acts 6:1-4
Sect V. Of Particular Congregations,
- It is lawful and expedient that there be fixed con<ns; that is, a certain company of Christians to meet in one assembly ordinarily for public worship. When believers multiply to such a number that they conveniently meet in one place, it is lawful and expedient that they should be divided into distinct and fixed congregations, for the better administration of such ordinances as belong unto them, and for the discharge of mutual duties. 4571 Cor 14:26, 33, 40
2- The ordinary way of dividing Christians into distinct congregations, and most expedient for edification, where it is practicable, is by the respective bounds of their dwellings.
First, Because they who dwell together, being bound to all kind of moral duties one to another, have the better opportunity thereby to discharge them; which moral tye is perpetual: for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. 458Deut 15:7, 11; Matt 22:39, 5:17
Secondly, The communion of saints must be so ordered, as may consist with the most convenient use of the ordinances, and discharge of moral duties, without respect of persons. 4591 Cor 14:26; Heb 10:24-25; James 2:1-2
Thirdly, The pastor and people must so nearly dwell together, as that they may mutually perform their duties each to other with most conveniency.
- In this society some must be set apart to bear office.
Sect. V. Of the Officers of a particular Congregation.
- For officers in a single congregation there ought to be one at the least, both to labour in the word and doctrine, and also to rule.
- It is also requisite that there should be others to join in the government.
- And likewise it is proper that there be others to take special care for the relief of the poor.
- The number of each of which is to be proportioned according to the condition of the congregation.
- Officers, not disqualified by misdemeanors in their stations, ought ordinarily to retain their offices for life.
CHAP. III. Of the Election of Church Officers.
Sect. I. Of the Election of Pastors.
- No person can be chosen pastor to any congregation who has not been regularly licensed to preach the gospel.
- The choice of a pastor to a particular congregation belongs to the male members thereof, who, whenever such a choice is necessary, are to be convened, by the elders, for that purpose.
- The members, thus convened, having appointed a moderator of the meeting, shall delegate one or more of their own number to the Presbytery, 460For the form of a commission see under whose inspection they are placed, to apply for the moderation of a call. 461A minister, deputed by the Presbytery to a vacant congregation, presiding in the meeting at which a call is to be made out for a particular person, ascertaining the votes of the people, and certifying the whole proceeding for prebyterial decision, is said to moderate a call.
- The commissioners, thus authorized, appearing before the Presbytery, and, having presented their commission, shall be interrogated concerning the provision which the congregation have already made for a minister, the maintenance they intend to give him, and then prospects of being able to fulfil their engagements. If the presbytery receive such satisfaction on these points,
as, in connection with other circumstances, shall, in their judgment, warrant a moderation, they shall grant it accordingly. If not, they shall deliver their objections in writing, to the commissioners, to be laid before the congregation at their return.
- When a moderation is granted, the Presbytery shall appoint one of their number to preach on a weekday, as soon as convenient, in the petitioning congregation, and to moderate in the preparation of a call.
- The form of a call being drafted, the minister, after concluding public worship, shall, in presence of the congregation, demand the name of the person for whom the call is designed; and, having twice distinctly mentioned it, shall require such members as favour the nomination to hold up their right hands, and afterwards, such as are against it.
- If there be more than one candidate, the moderating minister shall, in the manner now described, take the votes of the congregation on each nomination. The greatest number of votes, not less than a clear majority, constitutes an election.
- Although a majority of votes must be considered as expressing the sense of a congregation, yet it is desirable that their choice should be unanimous, or nearly so: It is, therefore, judged advisable, in cases where the majority is small, that the call be not hastily prosecuted,
unless the minority cordially acquiesce: and, on the other hand, public order and Christian love require a minority, however respectable, not to persist in opposition without weighty reasons.
- If it appear that the members of the congregation have not been duly notified, or that, by any accident, a large proportion of them has been detained from attending, the minister may defer the election another week, without a new order from the Presbytery: nor shall he be obliged to preach on this second day of election, unless he omitted it on the first.
- After the election, the call shall be signed, first by the elders and deacons of the congregation, and then by the electing members respectively. After this, the ordinary hearers, though not entitled to vote, may, if they please, affix their signatures to the call as adherents.
- The call subscribed, witnessed by two or more respectable persons not members of the congregation, if they can be obtained, and attested by the moderating minister, shall be transmitted to the Presbytery by a commissioner or commissioners duly authorized. 462For the form of a call, and of its attestation, see Appendix 1. No. 4, 5.
- The call being now in the hands of the Presbytery, shall be by them proceeded in, as hereafter prescribed.
Sect. II. Of the Election of Elders and Deacons.
- When a vacancy in either of these offices is to be filled, or the number of officers to be enlarged, the existing officers should previously confer among themselves, and, after mature deliberation, nominate such of their brethren as they judge most eminently fitted for
official stations, and as may meet the approbation of the congregation.
- If a congregation be destitute of officers, the oldest and most experienced members should, upon conference with each other, and with the other members, as they have opportunity, agree on a nomination of elders and deacons.
- After due notice given in public, the electing members shall be assembled, some time in the week, days of fasting and thanksgiving excepted, for the purpose of choosing such officers, and the number of them, as shall be necessary.
- At this meeting, the candidates, nominated as aforesaid, shall be publicly proposed. In this nomination, however, the congregation are by no means obliged to concur; but it is lawful for any member to propose any other member in the room of any of the aid candidates.
- When the congregation, on being interrogated, by the minister, shall declare themselves ready to vote, he shall take their sense with respect to each candidate separately. The votes to be given, on both sides of the question, by holding up the right hand.
- The names of the persons elected shall, on the succeeding Sabbath, or as soon after as possible, be publicly intimated to the congregation; together with the day of ordination, which, in settled congregations, shall be at least two weeks after the notification; and all who have any just objections against the ordination of the said officers-elect, shall be required to lay them before the Session previously to the time appointed for ordination.
- It is expedient that a meeting of Session be held before the ordination, to examine the candidates, and hear objections, if any there be.
- If the congregation be vacant, they shall apply, by their commissioner or commissioners duly authorized, to the Presbytery, for one of their number to ordain the said officers-elect; and if there be no officers in the congregation, to depute a committee of Presbytery to act as their Session.
- No valid objections being offered, the candidates, on the day of ordination, presenting themselves before the congregation after the conclusion of sermon, and, agreeably to the annexed formula, engaging to maintain the doctrine, government, worship, and discipline of the church, shall, with solemn prayer, be set apart by the minister to their respective offices. After prayer, the minister is to exhort both officers and people to their several duties.
- An elder or deacon, removing from his own into another congregation, and bringing with him recent testimonials of his personal and official conduct, may, with the consent of the congregation, be added to the Session without a new ordination.
- A list of the ruling elders in every congregation, with the time of their ordination, is to be given by the minister to the Presbytery,
Formula of Questions for ruling Elders and Deacons.
- Do you believe the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of the living God; the perfect and only rule of faith and practice, to which nothing is to be added, and from which nothing is to be taken, at any time, or upon any pretext, whether of new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men?
- Do you receive the doctrine of this church, contained in her Confession and Catechisms, as founded on the word of God, and as the expression of your own faith? and do you resolve to adhere thereto, in opposition to all Deistical, Popish, Arian, Socinian, Arminian, Neonomian, and Sectarian errors, and all other opinions which are contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness?
- Do you approve the form of Presbyterial church-government, and the Directories for worship, received by this church, as agreeable to, and founded on, the word of God? And do you resolve to maintain and observe them accordingly?
- Do you promise to submit, in the spirit of meekness, to the admonitions of the brethren of this Session, in subordination to the Synod? and do you promise to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; and that you will not follow any divisive courses, by complying with the defections of the times, or by giving yourself (or yourselves’) up to a detestable neutrality in the cause of God?
- Are not zeal for the glory of God, and a desire of being instrumental in edifying his Church, the principal motives which induce you to take the office of (ruling Elder or Deacon) to this congregation?
- Have you used any undue method to procure your call to the office of — (ruling Elder, or Deacon?)
- Do you sincerely resolve to rule sour family, (or families,) in the fear of the Lord, and to be circumspect in the whole of your conversation, following after righteousness, faith, charity? and do you also promise to promote the edification of the body of Christ, by endeavouring to perform all the official duties incumbent upon you with zeal and fidelity?
For Ruling Elders.
Do you promise to be faithful and impartial in the exercise of discipline, and to be punctual in attending meetings of Session, and superior judicatories, as you may be called?
Do you promise to attend to the necessities of the poor, with Christian meekness and tenderness, and to manage all such temporalities the church as may be committed to your care with diligence and fidelity, according to the directions which, from time to time, may be given you by the Session?
For Ruling Elders, and Deacons.
Do you make these promises as in the presence of Him, who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins oi the children of men; and as you would desire to give in your account with joy at the great day of the Redeemer’s appearance, when He shall come, and all his saints with him?
CHAP. IV. Of Congregational Assemblies or Sessions.
Sect I. Of the Session in general.
- THE Session consists of the minister or ministers, and elders of a particular congregation.
- They have power to inquire into the knowledge and spiritual estate of the several members of the congregation — to take cognizance of ail scandals which happen in it j and, for this purpose, authoritatively to call before them any member or members of the congregation, and to introduce, as they shall see occasion, witnesses or informants from other congregations or denominations—to admonish and rebuke — to suspend, authoritatively, from the sacraments, persons not yet cast out of the church — to determine the seasons of congregational fasts and thanksgivings — to regulate the hours of service on the Lord’s day, and also on week days, except the regulation be made by a superior judicatory — and generally to make such prudential arrangements respecting the religious circumstances of the congregation as do not contravene the received order of the church.
- The minister has power to convene the Session as often as he shall judge necessary, and shall always do it, when requested by two of the elders. Applications for baptism may be properly intimated to them on the Lord’s day, in the interval, or at the close of public worship, without the formality of a constituted judicatory.
- Deacons, though not members of the Session, ought always to be present, that they may make reports, and receive instructions, on the business of their office. It is expedient that the Session consult them in things belonging to their office; and it may also, at times, be profitable to ask their opinion and advice in matters relating to the exercise of discipline, and other Sessional functions.
- It is incumbent on the members of Session, in cases where their transactions do not require publication, to maintain a prudent reserve, and not communicate, unnecessarily, to others, the facts which come before them, and their consequent proceedings.
- That families may be punctually visited, the conduct of members carefully observed, and discipline effectually exercised, it may be proper that the congregation be divided, by the Session, into as many districts as there are elders: and that a district be committed to each elder for his official inspection.
- Extraordinary cases, in which the due order cannot, in every thing, be observed, may be referred to the Presbytery for direction; but if the emergency require a decision before the Presbytery can be assembled, the Session, after mature deliberation, may proceed.
- Every Session shall take care that an exact register be kept of the members of the congregation, of marriages, and of the births of children baptized.
Sect. II. Principles of Church-Fellowship to be carefully attended to by Sessions.
- Visible membership is solemnly recognized by admission to the seals of the covenant of grace, viz, baptism and the Lord’s supper. 463Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:24
- Sacraments, being seals of the same covenant, and representing the same benefits, 464Acts 2:38; Matt 26:28 cannot be disjoined with respect to the right and the duty of receiving them. Therefore all baptized persons, being, by their baptism, acknowledged members of the visible church, are bound, by the baptismal vow, to shew forth the Lord’s death, when arrived at the years of discretion; and are the lawful subjects of church-government.
- As visible membership, not being inseparably connected with regenerating grace, 465Heb 6:4-6 may be forfeited by open renunciation of Christ’s truth; 4661 Tim 1:19-20 by evident want of acquaintance with its power, 467John15:2 or by unholy conduct; 4681 Cor 5, throughout no person, though baptized, may be admitted to a seat at the table of the Lord, or to baptism for his children, unless his profession and practice afford sufficient reason for the judgment of charity, that he is a member of the church invisible. 469Matt 7:16-20; Acts 8:37
- No unbaptized person can be admitted to the Lord’s table, or to baptism for his children. 470Gal 3:27
- All who dedicate their children in baptism, do thereby avouch the Lord to be their God in Christ; 471Acts 2:38and shall, therefore, on their admission to that privilege, be strictly enjoined to aft consistently in their profession, by celebrating, in the sacrament of the supper, the dying love of the Lord Jesus.
- Such as offer their children in baptism, while they abstain from the sacrament of the supper, and persist in neglecting this ordinance, after solemn and frequent admonition by the officers of the church, do, in effect, renounce their obedience to Christ, 472John 14:15; Luke 22:19, 6:48 and shall be debarred from every sacramental privilege.
- But, as some persons of tender consciences, who find liberty in presenting their children in baptism, may, not withstanding, be deterred by darkness 473Editor note; ‘darknefs’ in original (possible misprint) of mind, distressing fears, or strong temptations, from approaching the table of the Lord, an exception is made in favour of those who give evidence of their labouring under such discouragements; and it is enjoined on the officers, particularly the minister or ministers of the congregation, to use every gentle and persuasive method for removing their difficulties, and for bringing them forward to shew their love to Jesus Christ, by performing the great duty, and improving the unspeakable mercy, of partaking of the communion of his body and blood. 474Heb 12:12-13
- Such as have been at the Lord’s table, and afterward neglect that ordinance, shall, alter admonition duly, but ineffectually, used for their reformation, be judicially excluded from the privileges of the church.
Sect. III. Of the Admission of Members.
- Application for membership from members of other denominations, shall, at all times, be cautiously received: nor shall it be admitted in any case, unless, upon deliberate examination, the applicants shall appear to act from a solid conviction of duty, and shall discover Christian meekness towards the party whose communion is relinquished; The application shall also,
when made by individuals, be accompanied with testimonials, if they can be obtained on a regular request to the Session, or at least minister of the congregation to which they belong. No encouragement shall be given to causeless desertion from other churches, nor the
smallest countenance to fugitives from discipline. 4751 Cor 10:32, 14:33; Heb 10:24
- In ordinary cases, applications for baptism, or for a seat at the Lord’s table for the first time, must be timeously made to the minister, or an elder of the congregation, and by either of them be communicated, without delay, to the Session, that they may have sufficient time to inquire into the characters and conversation of the applicants. The same regulation shall be observed with respect to applications from persons of other denominations, and from members who have been more than a year absent, at a distance from the congregation, and do not produce satisfactory testimonials; or who have been debarred, by a judicial sentence, from the
communion of the church, and are desirous of re-admission.
- It is left to the discretion of Sessions, who are best acquainted with their particular circumstances, to fix the time which ought to intervene between application for church-privileges and the obtaining of them. But in ordinary cases it should not be less than eight days.
- Applicants shall be examined concerning their knowledge, principles, and experience, by the minister or ministers; or by one or more of the ruling elders in conjunction with him, as the Session may judge advisable. Nor shall there be made any distinction between the qualifications requisite for baptism, whether of adults or their infants, and for admission to the table of the Lord.
Sect. IV. Of Testimonials.
- When a member of a congregation is called in providence to remove to another, or to some distant place, he is to apply for testimonials of his character and standing in the church, which, if not more than a year old, shall entitle him to sealing ordinances in any congregation 476Rom 16:1 a under the inspection of the Synod: And without such testimonials, no person, not well known to one or more of the Session, shall be admitted to communion merely on the plea of having been a member of another congregation. In such case, he must either obtain testimonials from the place he last left, or submit to the regulations prescribed in the foregoing Section.
- To members of unexceptionable character, who are about to remove, testimonials shall at all times be granted at their request; but they shall, on no consideration, be given to any person who is known to be corrupt in principle, or immoral in practice, or who is under censure.
- Members removing to a distance, and neglecting to apply for their testimonials) shall not obtain them in virtue of a subsequent application, unless the Session have reason to believe that their conversation, during their absence, hath been as becometh the gospel of Christ.
- In ordinary cases, testimonials must be signed by the minister or ministers of the congregation, or one of them; and by one or more of the elders.
- Testimonials of persons who become resident members, are to be carefully preserved by the minister, and new ones to be given in their stead, whenever removal or other occurrence shall render it necessary. 477Appendix 1. No. 1, 2
CHAP. V. Of Classical Assemblies or Presbyteries.
Sect. I. Of the Presbytery in general.
- The scripture doth hold out a Presbytery in a church. 4781 Tim 1:14; Acts 15:2, 4, 6
- The Presbytery consisteth of all the ministers of the word, within a certain district; each accompanied by a ruling elder commissioned from the Session. An organized congregation that is vacant, but able and willing to support a pastor, hath a right to be represented by an elder, and should never neglect to send one, commissioned by the rest.
- The scripture doth hold forth, that many particular congregations may be under one Presbyterial government.
The proposition is proved by instances:
- Of the church of Jerusalem, which consisted oi more congregations than one; and all these
congregations were under one Presbyterial government.
That the church of Jerusalem consisted of more congregations than one, is mam.
1st. By the multitude of believers mentioned in divers places; both before the dispersion of the believers there, by means of the persecution; 479Acts 1:15; 2:41, 46-47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 7, 8:1 and also after the dispersion. 480Acts 9:31, 12:24, 21:20
2d. By the many apostles and other preachers in the church of Jerusalem. And if there were but one congregation there, then each apostle preached but seldom; which will not consist with Acts 6:2.
3d. The diversity of languages among the believers, mentioned both in the second and sixth chapters of the Ads, doth argue more congregations than one in that church.
Secondly. All those congregations were under one Presbyterial government; because,
1st. They were one church. 481Acts 2:47, 5:11, 8:1, 12:5, 15:4
2d. The elders of the church are mentioned. 482Acts 11:30, 15:4, 5, 22, 21:17-18
3d. The apostles did the ordinary acts of Presbyters, as Presbyters, in that church: which proveth a Presbyterial church before the dispersion. Acts 6.
4th. The several congregations in Jerusalem being one church, the elders of that church are mentioned as meeting together tor acts of government, 483Acts 11:30, 15:4, 5, 22, 21:17-18 which proves that those several congregations were under one Presbyterial government. And whether these congregations were fixed or not fixed, in regard of officers or members, it is all one as to the truth of the proposition. Nor doth there appear any material difference betwixt the several congregations in Jerusalem, and the many congregations now in the ordinary condition of the church, as to the point of fixedness required of officers or members.
Therefore, the scripture doth hold forth, that many congregations may be under one Presbyterial government.
- By the instance of the church of Ephesus; for,
First, That there were more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus, appears by Acts 20:31. where is mention of Paul’s continuance at Ephesus, in preaching, for the space of three years: and Acts 19:18-20. where the special effect of the word is mentioned; and
ver. 10 and 17 of the same chapter, where is a distinction of Jews and Greeks: and 1 Cor. 16:8-9. where it is assigned as a reason of Paul’s stay at Ephesus unto Pentecost, that a great and effectual door was opened unto him; and ver. 19. where is mention of a particular church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, then at Ephesus, as appears from Acts xviii. 19, 24, 26. all which laid together, doth prove that the multitude of believers did make more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus:
Secondly, That there were many ciders over these many congregations, as one flock, appeareth. 484Acts 20:17, 25, 28, 30, 36-37
Thirdly, That these many congregations were one church, and that they were under one Presbyterial government, appeareth. 485Rev 2:1-6, compared with Acts 20:17, 25, 28, 30, 36-37
- The authority of the Presbytery reacheth to all things that concern the particular churches within their bounds, which do not belong to sessional or synodical jurisdiction: such as deciding on appeals from church sessions, and other references brought orderly before them — rebuking gross or contumacious offenders — dicing the censure of excommunication — approving
or censuring the sessional records — appointing supplies preaching and other ordinances to vacancies — examining and taking charge of students of theology — examining and licensing candidates for the ministry — ordaining, installing, removing, and judging ministers — disjoining or uniting congregations — resolving cases of conscience — inquiring into the state of the churches under their inspection; and rectifying any disorders, abuses, or other evils, by which any of them may suffer.
- Although the number of members in Presbyteries cannot be determined by any general rule, yet, that the affairs of the church of Christ may be properly conducted, it is proper that a Presbytery consist of not less than two ministers, with two elders.
- As the office of minister includeth that of elder, a Presbytery, if no elders attend, may be constituted by ministers alone, provided their number be not less than three.
- Presbyteries should meet as frequently as the situation of the ministers will admit: but they are strictly required to meet at least once in six months. Besides their stated meetings, they should meet occasionally, when any urgent business demands immediate attention. In these cases, the moderator hath power to convene the Presbytery, and shall always do it at the request of two members.
- All occasional meetings of Presbytery shall be called by letters addressed from the moderator to the ministers thereof respectively; or by personal information.
Sect. II. The Duty of Presbyteries with respect to Students of Divinity.
- As an able, evangelical, and faithful ministry is of unspeakable moment to the peace, the purity, the prosperity, and the glory of the Christian church, Presbyteries are bound to use their utmost diligence in training up young men for that holy office.
- No person can be admitted as a student of divinity without previous examination, by a committee of Presbytery, as to abilities, education, and piety; and every applicant for such admission must produce, as an essential preliminary, testimonials of his having been in
full communion with the Christian church. 4861 Tim 3:6
- As great literature and abilities, without the sanctifying grace of the Lord Jesus, arc not only useless, but pernicious to vital religion, no person, whatever be his eminence in cither, shall, on any consideration, be admitted by a Presbytery, to study for the ministry,
unless they have ground to believe that he hath some saving acquaintance with the power or godliness. 4872 Cor 1:4 And Presbyteries are enjoined to be particularly careful as well as tender in this inquiry, that the honour of Jesus Christ, and the eternal interests of men, be not betrayed through negligence or partiality.
- Since many whom the Lord hath blessed with excellent endowments, and with the saving grace of his Spirit, are deterred by groundless fears, or disabled by penurious circumstances, from prosecuting theological studies, Presbyteries are especially required to make inquiries after such, and to encourage and aid them to become qualified for the holy ministry.
- Students should attend, if possible, the meet; of judicatories.
Sect. III. Of licensing Candidates.
- In ordinary cases, no student of divinity can be admitted to trials for licence, without a course of theological study, during three full years, after the time of his being received by the Presbytery.
- No student of divinity shall be taken on trials for licence, without producing satisfactory testimonials, as well pf his unexceptionable conduct, as of his proficiency in classical and philosophical literature.
- The candidate must, on examination by the Presbytery, give proof of his skill in the original languages of the scriptures — of his acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, and with the doctrines of our holy religion. He shall be examined, especially, on the Deistical, Socinian, and Arminian controversies; on the nature of the sacraments j on the principles of church government; and, privately, on his own experience of the grace of the Lord Jesus. 4882 Tim 2:15
- In order to afford a specimen of his ministerial talents, the candidate shall perform the following pieces of trial:
1st. A Homily; which is a doctrinal discourse on some text of scripture, and is required to be accurate, perspicuous, and concise.
2d. An Exegesis, or dissertation in Latin, on some topic in divinity; in which, as in the former, the candidate is to confine himself closely to his subject, and to aim at the establishment of truth, or the refutation of error, chiefly by pertinent scriptural reasoning.
3d. A Critical Exercise; which is intended to furnish the candidate with an opportunity of displaying his taste and judgment in sacred criticism, by giving a critical explication of the text; removing its difficulties; solving any important question which may spring from it; detecting misapplications and perversions of it; stating its connection, and summing up its contents
in a brief, energetic paraphrase. This exercise is to close with a short deduction of the doctrines natively arising from the text, and with a concise application.
4th. A Lecture; which is an exposition of several verses of scripture, and the excellence of which consists in elucidating the meaning of those verses, by rigidly following the train of truth contained in them; stating, with clearness and precision, their connection and mutual dependence; and placing, in a strong light, the argument of the inspired writer.
5th. A popular Sermon.
- It is expedient that these pieces of trial be delivered before the Presbytery at different times, that they may be able to judge of the progress of the candidate. The lecture and popular sermon are to be delivered in public immediately before license.
- When the candidate hath finished his trials, the moderator shall take the sense of the Presbytery concerning them; and if they be not satisfied, and refuse to sustain them, the candidate, after having the objections of the Presbytery stated to him, with all possible gentleness and tenderness, shall either be remanded to his studies, or have those parts of trial in which he was defective, again appointed to him on the same, or on different subjects, as the Presbytery shall judge fit.
- If the Presbytery be satisfied with his trials, and sustain them for license, he is to be affectionately and solemnly reminded by the moderator, of the importance, the difficulty, and the excellence of that work on which he is about to enter; and exhorted to a suitable
deportment. He is then, alter taking upon himself
the engagements prescribed in the formula of questions, 489See III. Of the following Section to be licensed, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to preach the everlasting gospel, as a probationer for the holy ministry. 490For the form og licensure see Appendix I. No. 6 The remarks of the Presbytery on trials are always to be private, unless the candidate, in his public discourses, advance such errors, as they judge necessary, for the cause of truth, to be
- All probationers are to be under the direction, and to fulfil the appointments, of the Presbyteries by which they were licensed; and may not, without Presbyterial permission, or unavoidable necessity, desert the boundaries assigned to them.
- Probationers should attend Presbyterial and Syno1 meetings, but have no vote in either, nor any right to dispense the sacraments, or to exercise any part of church discipline.
- In laying appointments on probationers, Presbvteries should consult, as far as possible, their circumstances and inclinations.
Sect. IV. Of the Ordination of Ministers.
Under the head of ordination of ministers, is to be considered, the doctrine of ordination, the power of it, and the manner of performing it.
I. Of the Doctrine of Ordination.
- No man ought to take upon him the office of a minister of the word, without a lawful calling. 491John 3:27; Rom 10:14-15; Jer 14:14; Heb 5:4
- Ordination is always to be continued in the church. 492Tit 1:5; 1 Tim 5:21-22
- Ordination is the solemn setting apart of a person to some public church-office. 493Numb 8:10, 11, 14, 19, 22; Acts 6:3, 5, 6
- Every minister of the word is to be ordained by imposition of hands and prayer, with fasting, by those preaching Presbyters to whom it doth belong. 4941 Tim 5:22; Acts 14:23, 13:3
- It is agreeable to the word of God, and very expedient, that such as are to be ordained ministers, be designed to some particular church, or other ministerial charge. 495Acts 14:23, Tit 1:5; Acts 20:17, 28
- He that is to be ordained minister, must be duly qualified, both for life and ministerial abilities, according to the rules of the apostle. 4961 Tim 3:2-6; Tit 1:5-9
- He is to be examined and approved by those bf whom he is ordained. 4971 Tim 3:7, 10, 22
- No man is to be ordained a minister for a particular congregation, if they of that congregation can shew just cause of exception against him. 4981 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:7
II. Of the Power of Ordination.
- Ordination is the act of a Presbytery. 4991 Tim 4:14
- The power of ordering the whole work of ordination is in the whole Presbytery; which, when it is over more congregations than one, whether those congregations be fixed or not fixed in regard of officers or members, it is indifferent as to the point of ordination. 5001 Tim 4:14
- It is very requisite, that no single congregation that can conveniently associate, do assume to itself all and sole power in ordination.
1st. Because there is no example in scripture, that single congregation, which might conveniently associate, did assume to itself all and sole power in ordi1 in; neither is there any rule which may warrant such a practice.
2d. Because there is, in scripture, example of an ordination in a Presbytery over divers congregations: as in the church of Jerusalem, where were many congregations: these many congregations were under one Presbytery, and this Presbytery did ordain.
- The preaching Presbyters orderly associated in Presbyterial judicatory, are those to whom the imposition of hands doth appertain, for those congregation within their bounds respectively;
III. Of the Manner of ordaining Ministers.
- No call shall be presented or accepted, but from the Presbytery to which the presentee belongs, and at a Presbyterial meeting;
The Presbtery hath power to prevent the ordination of a particular person to a particular congregation, but: not to compel it against the consent of either of the parties;
- When a Presbytery hath so far approved a regular call for a probationer, as to grant thereupon trials for ordination, it shall be put into his hands by the moderator; and he be required to declare his acceptance or refusal; time, however, being, by his desire, granted to him for consideration.
- If the call be accepted by the probationer, the Presbytery shall appoint him two public discourse lecture and a popular sermon, in order to judge of his progress since his licensure, and of the fitness of his gifts to the place to which, he is called.
- Satisfaction being given in these, the Presbytery shall appoint a day for the ordination; and shall also cause the congregation to be assembled at a convenient time previously thereto; and at that meeting a written intimation, termed an Edict, purporting that “the
Presbytery, having received a call for Mr. A. B. preacher of the gospel, to be their minister, and finding nothing to impede his settlement among them, will ordain him accordingly, if no just objection be seasonably offered,” shall be publicly read to the congregation. 501Appendix I. No. 7
- The Presbytery meeting at the time specified in the edict, the person by them appointed to serve it, or, in his absence, the clerk of the congregation, or one of the Session, shall return it, indorsed with his certification, that it has been duly served. If no objections be made, the Presbytery shall proceed to the ordination; if any be made, the Presbytery shall carefully consider them, and either sustain or overrule them, as their nature and proof shall render necessary.
- On the day of ordination a solemn fast shall be observed in the congregation, that they may the more earnestly join in public prayer for the Lord’s blessing upon his ordinances, and on the labours of his servant to whom the administration of them is about to be committed.
- Immediately before ordination, one of the members of the Presbytery, previously appointed, shall preach a sermon concerning the office and duty of the ministers of Christ, and how the people should receive them for their work’s sake. The sermon and prayer being ended, the minister shall briefly state the proceedings of Presbytery relatively to the occasion of the meeting, and shall then desire the candidate to present himself.
- On his appearing, the presiding minister shall, in the face of the congregation, and, according to the annexed formula, interrogate him concerning his faith in Christ Jesus, and his persuasion of the reformed religion according to the scripture; his sincere intentions and ends in desiring to enter into this calling; his diligence in praying, reading, meditation, preaching, ministering the sacraments, discipline, and doing all ministerial duties towards his charge: his zeal and faithfulness in maintaining the truth of the gospel, and unity of the church against error and schism; his care that himself and his family may be unblameable, and example to the flock: his willingness and humility, in meekness of spirit, to submit unto the admonitions of his brethren, and disciplineofthe church; and his resolution to continue in his duty against all trouble and persecution.
- In all which having declared himself, professed his willingness, and promised his endeavours, by the help of God; the minister likewise shall demand of the people concerning their willingness to receive and acknowledge him as the minister of Christ, and to obey and submit unto him, as having rule over them in the Lord, and to maintain, encourage, and assist him in all the different parts of his office.
- Which being mutually promised by the people, the presiding minister shall descend from the pulpit, and the candidate, kneeling, shall be solemnly set apart to the office and work of the ministry, by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, which is to be accompanied with a short prayer or blowing, by the presiding minister as their mouth, to the following
“Thankfully acknowledging the great mercy of God in sending Jests Christ for the redemption ol his people, and tor his ascension to the right hand of God the Father, and thence pouring out his Spirit and giving gifts to men, apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers, for the gathering and building up of his church, and for fitting and inclining this man to this great work: (Here let them impose hands on his head) to intreat him to fill him with his Holy Spirit; to give him, (whom in his great and venerable name they thus set apart to his holy service) to fulfil the work of his ministry in all things, that he may both save himself, and the people com^ mitted to his charge.”
- The prayer to this purpose being ended, the presiding and other ministers are to take the person ordained by the right hand, saying, We give unto you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of the ministry with us. The officers of the congregation should also take him by the right hand, as a testimony of their accepting him as the minister of that congregation.
- After this, the presiding, or some other, minister is briefly to exhort him to consider the greatness of his office and work; the danger of negligence both to himself and his people, and the blessing which will accompany his faithfulness, in this life, and that to come. He is likewise to exhort the people to carry themselves according to their promise, dutifully, respectfully, and kindly to him, as to their minister in the Lord: praying for him, accepting his message in humility and love, and endeavouring to encourage his heart, and strengthen his hands, in the discharge of his weighty ministerial duties. And so, by prayer, commending both him and his flock to the grace of God, after singing a psalm., let him dismiss the assembly with a blessing.
Formula of Questions for Ministers at their Ordination:
- Do you believe the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of the living God, the perfect and only rule of faith and practice, to which nothing is to be added, and from which nothing is to be taken, at any time, or upon any pretext, whether of new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men?
- Do you receive the doctrine of this church, contained in the Confession and Catechisms, as founded on the word of God, and as the expression of your own faith? And do you resolve to adhere thereto, in opposition to all Deistical, Popish, Arian, Socinian, Arminian, Neonomian, and Sectarian errors, and all inions which are contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness?
- Do you approve the form of Presbyterial church-government, and the Directories for worship, received by this church, as agreeable to, and founded on, the word of God? And do you resolve to maintain and observe them accordingly)
- Do you promise to submit, in the spirit of meekness, to the admoriitions of the brethren of this Presbytery, in subordination to the Synod? And do you promise to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; and that you will not follow any divisive courses, by complying with the defections oi the times, or by giving yourself up to a detestable neutrality in the cause of God?
- Are not zeal for the glory of God, and a desire of being instrumental in edifying his Church, the principal motives which induce you to take the office of a pastor to this congregation?
- Have you used any undue methods to procure your call to the office of pastor?
- Do you sincerely resolve to rule your family in the fear of the Lord, and to be circumspect in the whole of your conversation, following after righteousness, faith, charity? And do you also promise to promote the edification of the body of Christ, by endeavouring to perform all the official duties incumbent upon you with zeal and fidelity?
- Do you accept the call to be the pastor of this congregation? And do you promise to preach the gospel, not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the purity and simplicity thereof; not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God; to catechise and exhort from house to house; to visit the sick; and to perform what other duties are incumbent upon you, as a faithful minister of Christ, for convincing and reclaiming sinners, and for building up saints in their most holy faith?
- Do you make these promises as in the presence Him who searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins of the children of men, and as you would desire to give in your account with joy at the great day of the Redeemer’s appearance, when He shall come, and all his saints with him?
Sect. V. Of the Translation of Ministers.
- Since ministers are officers of the church at large, they may, upon weighty reasons, be translated from one pastoral charge to another.
- Translation is the act of a Presbytery; 502Acts 8:1-3 nor may any minister, without such an act, forsake his own congregation.
- Forasmuch as the hasty and causeless translation of ministers may create jealousies and dissentions, and otherwise endanger the peace and comfort of the church, Presbyteries should act, in this matter, with great caution, deliberation, and tenderness, towards all parties concerned,
- A call for a settled minister is to be prepared in the same manner as one for a probationer, or a minister without a charge.
- When such a call hath been regularly laid before a Presbytery, they shall summon the congregation in which the minister is settled, and that by which he is called, to appear, by their commissioners, on a day appointed for that purpose, that the reasons both for and against the translation, may be fairly and fully stated and discussed. If his congregation send no commissioners, they shall be considered as acquiescing in the call. If, by their commissioners, they oppose the call, the Presbytery, after a patient and impartial hearing, and with their view fixed on the general good of the church, shall decide on the propriety or impropriety of
the proposed translation. If they and the minister called accede to it, they shall forthwith dissolve his pastoral relation to his present charge, and proceed to settle him in the congregation whither he is called.
- The Presbytery shall always enter upon their minutes their reasons for translating a minister; and where that measure is likely to give much dissatisfaction to his people, a copy of the reasons shall be extracted from the minutes, and sent to them by their commissioner or commissioners.
- After the translation’ of a minister hath been determined by the Presbytery, his settlement is to be conducted in the same manner as at his ordination; excepting, however, the trials, imposition of hands, the right hand of fellowship by ministers, so much of the formula as doth not relate to his new connection; and the presence of the Presbytery. Though this be desirable, yet a single minister, by Presbyterial appointment, is competent to instal one who hath been formed v ordained.
- When a minister judges it necessary to demit his charge to the Presbytery, he must give his reasons, a copy of which shall be sent by the clerk to his congregation, and they shall be desired, if they have any objections, to represent them to the Presbytery as soon as possible, by an authorized commissioner. The Presbytery shall then proceed and decide as in the case of
translation from one charge to another.
Sect. VI. General Rules concerning Licensures, Ordinations, and Translations.
- Every licensure, ordination, and instalment must be directed by the authority of the Presbytery within whose bounds it takes place; and, therefore, students of divinity, probationers, and ministers must obtain a regular dismission from the Presbytery to which they belong, before they can be licensed, ordained, or foiled, by the authority of another.
- Probationers or ministers must be translated from jurisdiction of one Presbytery to that of another, on the application of the latter to the former, or by the authority of Synod.
- A call from a vacancy in one Presbytery, to a probationer, or minister in another, must be addressed to the former, and by them transmitted to the latter, that lay be presented to the candidate, and he regularly transferred to the Presbytery by whose authority he is to be ordained or installed.
- Students of divinity, probationers, or ministers, removing with the consent of their Presbytery, shall receive a Presbyterial certificate, suited to their respective conditions. 503For the form of these certificates see Appendix I. No 8,9.
- Every Presbytery shall keep exact records of persons licensed, ordained, and installed, with their testimonials, the time and place of their licensures, ordinations, and instalments; as also of the increase of their members, probationers, and students; of removals and deaths; and shall make a report thereof to the Synod at their next meeting.
- No money or gift of any kind shall be received from the person to be licensed, ordained, or installed or from any on his behalf, for licensure, ordination, or instalment, or ought else belonging to them, by any of the Presbytery, or any appertaining to any of them, upon what pretence soever. Only the necessary expences contracted by the members of the Presbytery in attending an ordination or instalment, should be borne by the congregation where the settlement is made.
- In all ordinary cases, the regulations of this, and of the four sections immediately preceding, are to be strictly observed: but in the cases of great and pressing emergency, Presbyteries are to proceed in licensing probationers, and ordaining and installing ministers, as, after mature deliberation, they shall judge prudent; conforming themselves, however, to the order prescribed, as closely as necessity will permit; and making an accurate statement to the Synod of their deviations from it, and of the reasons of such deviations.
CHAP. VI. Of Synodical Assemblies.
These are either particular or general.
Sect. I. Of the Particular Synod.
- This Synod is immediately superior to the Presbytery, and consists of several Presbyteries met
together for their mutual help and comfort, and for managing the affairs of the churches under their inspection.
- The Synod hath power to decide on references and appeals, brought regularly before them from Presbyteries — to examine, censure, or approve their records — to try all causes in which a Presbytery is a party: if found guilty of flagrant misdemeanors in their judicial capacity, to censure them according to the nature of their offence — to erect new Presbyteries — to unite or divide those which are already erected — to appoint days of fasting; and thanksgiving throughout their bounds — to employ members of Presbyteries, or probationers belonging to any of them, in public service — to give advice to Presbyteries — and, generally, to make such regulations, with respect to Presbyteries, Sessions, and people under their care, as do not interfere with the established order of the church.
Sect. II. Of the General Synod.
- When the multiplication of Presbyteries, and their distances from each other, render it impracticable or unedifying to meet all in one Synod, it is proper that they be divided into two or more, as their circumstances may require.
- It is lawful and requisite, for the maintenance of union, and for the promotion of the common interest that all the particular Synods meet together, by Pres bytcrial delegation, in one general Synod. 504Acts 15
- Delegates to the general Synod shall be apportioned as “follows: Every Presbytery containing not more than two ministers, shall be entitled to send one minister and one elder; and for every three ministers above that number, one minister and one elder more. This proportion shall be preserved till the number of delegates exceed thirty; after which each Presbytery
consisting of more than ten ministers, shall, for every four additional ministers, be entitled to send one minister and one elder.
- Delegates to the general Synod must produce commissions signed by the moderator and clerk of the Presbytery by whom they are sent; nor can they, without such commissions, be entitled to a seat. 505For the form of a commission see Appendix I. No. 10 506Editor’s Note; VI.II.5 not in original
- Nine delegates shall constitute a quorum for business.
- The general Synod, thus constituted, is, in every respect, to the particular Synods, what the latter are to the Presbyteries within their bounds. It is also the province of the general Synod, to decide questions respecting doctrine and discipline — to bear testimony against errors and immoralities — to correspond with other churches; and, in general, to preside over the religious interests of the church at large. But no regulations intended to be universal and permanent shall
be established, without previously transmitting them to the several Presbyteries, that they may have time to consider and report their judgment thereon.
- The particular Synods are required to be very strict in calling the several Presbyteries to account, with respect to their punctuality in sending delegates to the general Synod, and censuring such as are found negligent. Presbyteries are to observe equal strictness in
examining their delegates with respect to their attendance, and in censuring delinquents.
CHAP. VII. General Rules to be observed in Judicatories
Sect. I. Of their Constitution.
- Every stated meeting of a Judicatory, church sessions excepted, is, ordinarily, to be introduced with a sermon by the last moderator; who shall also, with solemn prayer, constitute the court in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and shall preside till another moderator be chosen.
- To avoid inconvenience, a substitute shall be appointed to preach before the Judicatory in case of the moderator’s absence.
- If the last moderator be absent, the oldest minister present shall take his place.
- Excepting in church-sessions, moderators are to be elected in the following manner: — The moderator, for the time being, shall nominate two ministers, and out of these one is to be elected by ballot.
- Every Judicatory is to have a clerk, who may either be a member thereof or not, as shall be deemed expedient. He is to be chosen by an open vote, unless two or more members of the Judicatory be proposed; in which case he shall be elected by ballot.
Sect. II. Of the Office of the Moderator.
- The moderator is to begin and conclude every sitting of the Judicatory with a short and pertinent prayer.
- The moderator, as the mouth of the Judicatory, is to propound the subjects of deliberation — to confine speakers to the point under consideration — to put the question when the members are prepared to vote; previously to which he shall give a clear and concise statement of it — to prevent members from leaving the Judicatory without permission from himself — to decide questions of order, subject, however, to the judgment of the Judicatory — to give the casting vote in all equal divisions — to enforce the strict observation of the rules of procedures — and, in general, to maintain the dignified order necessary in a court met in the name of Jesus.
- Although the moderator, from the nature of his office, cannot take a part in the deliberations of a Judicatory, yet he may propose what appears to him the most eligible method of conducting any particular business; and, incases of any intricacy, it is proper and respectful that his judgment be requested by the court.
Sect. III. Of the Office of the Clerk.
- The clerk is to be a person of religious character, and of good reputation for prudence and fidelity. On entering upon his office, he shall promise the faithful discharge of its duties, and is to continue during the pleasure of the Judicatory.
- He is to insert nothing in the minutes but by direction of the moderator; and every minute of importance is immediately to be read for the approbation of the Judicatory.
- He is carefully to preserve the papers and books of the Judicatory; nor is he to give extracts from them (except to members or parties concerned) without their order; nor is he, without such an order, to let the original documents go out of his hands; nor to expose the; records of the private transactions of the court, or any part of them.
BOOK II. Of Discipline.
CHAP. I. General Principles of Discipline.
- In the imperfect and mingled state of the visible church, disorders cannot be altogether avoided. But, from the ungodliness of carnal professors of religion (whom the utmost vigilance of church-officers cannot always exclude) and from remaining depravity even in the truly gracious, offences or scandals do, and must frequently arise. 507Matt 18:7; Acts 8:13
- An offence or scandal is not every thing which displeaseth. It is, in scripture, directly opposed
to edification, and, properly speaking, is something in a professor’s carriage which either in itself, or from its circumstances, may tempt others to sin, or may, in any respect, mar their spiritual edification or comfort. 508Rom 14:13, 20-21; Rev 2:14
- To remove scandals, and to prevent their unhappy effects, is the design of discipline. For this purpose it hath been instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ; 509Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:13 nor can a church, without the faithful and spiritual application of it, hope for his countenance and
blessing. 510Rev 2:5, 16; cf. Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:13
- The exercise of discipline is highly important and necessary,
1st. For vindicating the honour of Jesus Christ, that suffcrcth by the miscarriage of professors. 5111 Tim 8:1
2d. For maintaining the dignity of his ordinances, and chastening disobedience thereto. 5122 Cor 2:6; 10:6
3d. For averting the judgments of God, which are threatened against such churches as are not zealous in purging out scandals. 513Rev 2:5, 16; cf. Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:13
4th. For preserving the purity of the church, that the profane leaven do not spread and infect the whole body. 5141 Cor 5:6-7
5th. For the benefit of the offender himself, that by the impartial administration of this ordinance of Christ, he may, through grace, be humbled, ashamed, recovered from his sin. 5151 Cor 5:5
- Hence it is evident, that nothing ought to be admitted, by any Judicatory, as a ground of censure, which cannot be proved scandalous from the word of God, or from the regulations and practice of the church founded thereon; and which doth not involve those evils, for the prevention of which church discipline is instituted. 516Rom 14:1
- From the ends of discipline it is farther manifest, that scandals of the same kind are not always to be treated in the same manner: since what may edify in one case, may destroy edification in another. Church officers are, therefore, wisely to consider occasion, time, place, disposition of offenders, present state of the church, and other circumstances, which, in different cases, may
greatly vary their manner of proceeding for the attainment of the same end. Nor is this to be accounted partiality, or respecting of persons in judgment, provided nothing be done from carnal considerations. For as the principle is dictated by sound reason; so it is sanctioned by apostolic example, and exhibited, in the scripture, for our direction. 5171 Tim 1:29; Gal 5:12; Jude 1:23
- Exercise of discipline being one of the most delicate and difficult parts of the duty of church-officers, and in which their discretion may be highly salutary, or their indiscretion highly pernicious, it is incumbent on them, in the discharge of it, to use their utmost prudence and
circumspection; to blend tenderness with fidelity, and moderation with firmness; and to implore from the head or the church, both jointly and separately, that wisdom which is profitable to direct.
CHAP. II. Of Private Scandals.
- Private scandals are those which are known only to an individual, or, at most, to a few.
- These are not to be immediately prosecuted before a Church Judicatory; as it would be attended with great and serious evils — it would wear the appearance of personal malice — would alienate the affections of members from each other — would open numerous sources of angry and vexatious litigation — would probably exasperate and harden the offender instead of reclaiming him — would grieve the hearts of the godly — would stumble many who otherwise would not be stumbled — would bring a reproach on the name of Christ— would tend to break the peace of the church — to engender divisions — to render the discipline of Christ’s house contemptible and odious; and would thus become more scandalous than the scandals which it was intended to remove.
- In all cases of private scandal, it is necessary to observe the comely order prescribed by our Lord Jesus Christ.
First, The person offended is to go privately to his offending brother, and, dealing faithfully with his conscience, is to try the effect of serious, affectionate remonstrance. Tell him his fault be thee and him alone. Nor is the duty to be viewed as fulfilled by a single admonition. It is to be so often repeated, and at such intervals, as may give a fair opportunity, to produce the effect. if this succeed, the offence is done away, and a transgressor recovered, without disturbing the quiet, or sullying the reputation, of the church. Thou hast rained thy brother.
Secondly, Due time, after these attempts, being allowed for reflection, and for manifesting some reformation, if the offender continue in his sinful course, the brother who admonished him is to take with him two or three more members of the church, and in the spirit of meekness, to repeat, in their presence, his former expostulations: they are also to join in endeavouring to reclaim the offender; warning him of his danger, and of the necessity which his obstinacy will impose on them, of bringing him before the bar of the church.
Thirdly, If, on due forbearance, it appear that these tender and Christian proceedings are disregarded, the whole affair shall be represented to the Judicatory to which the offender is immediately subject. If he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church. 518Matt 18:15-17
- Informers who have not taken these previous Steps, shall themselves be considered as scandalous, and treated accordingly.
CHAP. III. Of Public Scandals.
- Public Scandals are those which are so circumstanced as to require the cognizance of a Judicatory.
- It often may, and does happen, that a scandal may be gross in itself, and known to several, while yet it cannot be pursued to conviction. In such cases, though it be afflicting to upright men to see the church of Christ profaned with impunity; yet it is proper to forbear, till the Lord shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness: since nothing tends more to weaken the authority of discipline, and to multiply scandals, than Judicatories commencing processes against offenders, and failing in their proof.
- Offences are public, i.e. are to be brought before Church Judicatories for trial:
First, When they are not removed by the method laid down in the preceding chapter. In such cases, a scandal, though at first private, is aggravated, by obstinacy, into an evil which requires, as the last human remedy, the interference of public authority: and it is then the duty of the person offended to lay it, with its evidence, and the means which it hath resisted, before the proper Judicatory. Tell it to the church.
Secondly, When a scandal, gross in its nature, is so notorious and open, that many are in danger of being infected, it is immediately to be inquired into judicially; nor is private admonition at all necessary to ripen it for a process.
Thirdly, When a scandal is rumoured abroad, even though it doth not appear to have been committed before a considerable number or witnesses, it falls under the cognizanceofthe Church Judicatory. It is the duty of members who hear such reports to acquaint the
Judicatory. Nor is previous expostulation, in private, either necessary or proper: because the scandal is not in any sense private; and because the credit of religion, especially in that branch of the church to which the scandal is attached, may greatly suffer before private admonition can produce its effect.
This ground of process is denominated in church discipline, Fama Clamosa , (crying fame) and the management of it requires the greatest prudence.
It is not every tale of scandal which amounts to a fama clamosa. In order to this it is indispensible,
1st. That the report specify some particular sin or sins:
2dly. That it be wide spread:
3dly. That it be not transient:
4thly. That it be accompanied with public
presumptions of its truth.
- When scandals, originally private, are brought before a Judicatory, it may often be expedient to deal with the scandalous person by a deputation of members in order to gain him, without resorting to a formal process.
CHAP. IV. Of Processes in general.
- When all other means of removing a scandal are found ineffectual, the Judicatory which
hath immediate cognizance thereof, is to take it under the most serious judicial consideration.
- No person can be admitted as an accuser, who either is, at the time of accusation, or who hath been recently, at enmity with the person accused; or who is employed by another to accuse; or who is not of intire fame; or who is actually under censure, or process for censure. Judicatories are also to be exceedingly cautious in receiving accusations from any who have the prospect of temporal advantage from the accusation, or of temporal disadvantage, from its failure: as likewise, in receiving them from any who, though not of ill repute, are known to be trifling, officious, querulous, passionate, rash, or imprudent.
- No person can be compelled to become an accuser.
- All processes, raised at the instance of a party complaining, against scandals originally private, must be pursued in the name of the complainer; and he bound to make out, not only the proof of the scandal, but of his previous Christian demeanor with regard to it, on peril of being himself censured as a scandalous person.
- In all other processes for public scandals there is no need of an accuser; nor is the name of the informer, without his consent, to be given up. Yet if the innocence of the party charged be satisfactorily cleared, the Judicatory is to inquire whether the information was lodged through malice, or imprudence, or otherwise, and to deal with the informer accordingly.
- Although a process for scandal be relinquished by the party who commenced it, yet it may not therefore be dismissed by a Judicatory; since the support of discipline, the recovery of the offender, and the edification of the church, are concerned in bringing it to an issue.
- In a judicial process it is requisite that the scandal be libelled — the offender cited — proof adduced — and sentence given.
- A libel is a written charge of scandal preferred against an individual by judicial authority. It consists of two parts, whereof the first contains the scandal itself, and the second charges it in point of fact, on a particular person. Thus, if A. B. were prosecuted for
drunkenness, the libel would set forth, first, the heinousness of the sin, and then, that A. B. hath actually committed it. 519Appendix I. No 11. But, in ordinary cases, it may be sufficient simply to state the charges against the offender.
- Every libel, excepting those grounded on a fama clamosa, 520See Chap III.3 must specify not only the scandal libelled, but also time and place, that the person accused may have the benefit of every circumstance which can contribute to his vindication.
- In the case of fama clamosa, it often happens, that though the scandal be exceedingly flagrant, yet the circumstances of time and place are very difficult to be proved; and, therefore, in such cases the charge in the libel should be couched in more general terms.
When a complaint is, in the judgment of a Judicatory, clearly vexatious and frivolous, they are to endeavour to convince and satisfy the complainer; but, on no consideration to grant a libel.
- When it is judged proper to prefer a libel against an offender, he shall, by a written citation, signed by the moderator and clerk of the Judicatory, or either of them, be summoned, at least eight live days, to appear at the bar of the Judicatory, and put in his answer.
- Every citation must specify, 1st. The Judicatory before which the offender is to appear: 2d. The name of the offender: 3d. The time and place of appearance: and, 4th, The name of the prosecutor, unless the process be instituted by the Judicatory. It must also be accompanied, in the first instance, with a copy of the libel. 521Appendix I. No 12.
- A citation is also to be sent to all who are designed as witnesses, provided they be members of the church; 522Appendix 1. No. 13 other persons, and members of other churches, can only be requested to appear.
- If the offender refuse to obey his summons, he is to be cited again within at least ten free days after the day first appointed for his appearance; but the time allotted him after his second summons, is left to the discretion of the Judicatory, provided it be not less than is fully sufficient for a seasonable appearance before them. A second neglect or refusal shall be followed by
a third citation, with a certification, that if the offender do not appear at the time appointed, the Judicatory, besides censuring him for contumacy, will proceed to try the libel exhibited against him as if he were present.
- That Judicatories may not be rash or unreasonable in this part of the process, they are to be well ascertained, before they order a second or third citation, that the first and second have been duly served; and for this purpose, the person appointed to serve the summons shall certify the Judicatory of its execution.
- If the offender appear, or if, having refused to appear, he be proceeded against in his absence, the first thing to be considered is the relevancy of the libel; that is, whether the thing charged, even supposing it to be proved, is really censurable. To the relevancy, the person accused hath always a right to object: but the Judicatory must judge of the weight of his objections.
- If, on due consideration, the libel be found not relevant, all further proceedings are precluded of comic; but if it be sustained, the offender is to be interrogated respecting the matter of fact. If he acknowledge it, the way is prepared for a decision; but if he deny it, the Judicatory is to examine the proof by which it is supported; and previously to give him a list of the witnesses.
- Witnesses, who, being members of the church, refuse to appear and give their testimony when legally summoned, may be censured for contumacy.
- Children, idiots, those defective in any of the senses on which the accuracy of their knowledge and testimony depends, accusers, persons of infamous character, at enmity with the accused, under censure or process for censure, who expect, directly or indirectly, to reap any temporal advantage, or to avoid any temporal disadvantage, by giving testimony, cannot be admitted as witnesses either for or against an offender. On any of these grounds, he has a right to challenge a
witness, and the Judicatory is candidly to hear and to, decide on his exceptions.
- Two unexceptionable witnesses, at least, whose testimony goes to the precise act charged in the libel, and to the circumstances of time and place under which it is stated to have been committed, are necessary to conviction.
- In those cases, however, of a fama clamosa, in which the libel charges the scandal more generally, although there be not two concurring testimonies as to the same act; yet if unexceptionable witnesses bear testimony to different similar acts, belonging unquestionably to the scandal charged, the Libel shall be considered as proved. Thus, it a person be accused on a fama clamosa, of profane swearing, if several good witnesses testify; one, that he hath heard him swear profanely at such a time or place; another, at such a time or place; another, at such a time or place, &c. it shall be sufficient for conviction.
- Witnesses are to be examined in the presence of the accused, who is at liberty to cross-examine them: the same privilege belongs to every member of the Judicatory; but no questions are to be put or answered, except through the moderator.
- Every witness, before his testimony is heard, must be solemnly purged of malice against the accused, or of receiving any advantage, directly or indirectly, from appearing as a witness; and then is to be solemnly sworn. The oath is to be administered by the moderator, and to be taken by the witness, holding up his right hand; all the members of the Judicatory, and others present, standing. 523Appendix I. No. 14
- The depositions of witnesses are to be taken down in writing, and then read to them, that mistakes may be corrected, or omissions supplied; after which they are to be signed by the deponents, and to be laid up among the papers of the Judicatory.
- When an offence is committed in the bounds of a Judicatory, different from that with which the offender is immediately connected, the former should give intelligence thereof to the latter: if they do not, the latter, on knowledge thereof, shall, if proof cannot otherwise be had, make speedy application to the former, who shall either cite the witnesses before the said Judicatory, or shall themselves hear the testimony, and transmit it to the applicants, as circumstances may require.
- When such an application is received by a Judicatory, and the distance is too great for the witnesses conveniently to repair to the other, the Judicatory applied to shall appoint a day for hearing the cause, at such an interval as shall afford the offender an opportunity of appearing in his own defence, if he be so minded: of which time information shall be given to the moderator of the Judicatory applying, and by him seasonably notified to the offender.
- The records of a Judicatory, or any part thereof, whether original or transcribed, if authenticated by the moderator and clerk, or either of them, shall be deemed good and sufficient evidence in every other Judicatory.
- Testimony taken before a Judicatory, and certified as above, shall be received by every other as no less valid, than if it had been taken before themselves.
- Genuine private papers, such as letters, &c. shall be admitted in proof, unless just cause can be shewn for refusing them.
- Although conviction cannot be grounded on presumptions alone, yet they are always to be taken in connection with the testimony, as they are frequently of essential importance in establishing or destroying its credibility; and less or more stress is to be laid upon them, as they arc trivial, probable, or violent.
- The accused hath always a right to exculpate himself, and for this purpose to adduce every kind of proof which is admitted against him,
- In the case of contradictory evidence, the Judicatory is carefully to consider the nature, number, respectability, and circumstances of the different proofs.
- After the several proofs have been heard, the accused shall have the privilege of commenting on them,
- The accused having finished his remarks or defence, if any be offered, the Judicatory shall seriously ponder the libel, and the proofs, together with the exculpation, in order to prepare their sentence.
- It is not, however, to be understood, that Judicatories are bound to give sentence at the same meeting at which the cause is tried, or even to finish the trial at one meeting. Herein they must use their discretion, being careful, at the same time, that a process be not needlessly protracted.
- Sentences are either absolutory, which acquit the accused; or condemnatory, which pronounce him guilty of the scandal libelled; or mixed, which partly acquit, and partly condemn.
CHAP. V. Of Processes against Ministers.
- All processes against ministers are to commence before the Presbyteries to which they
- The honour and success of the gospel being intimately connected with the unblemished reputation of ministers, both as to doctrine and conduct, scandalous charges are not to be received by any Judicatory upon slight grounds; nor, when received, to be negligently examined; nor, if found true, to be slightly censured.
- That the faults of ministers may not be indiscreetly spared, nor rashly made the subject of judicial cognizance, the same candour, caution, and method, substituting only the Presbytery for the Session, are to be observed in investigating charges against them, as are prescribed in the case of private members.
- If a minister be convicted of such principles or conduct as are clearly and grossly scandalous, the Presbytery, whatever be his repentance, or however manifested, is immediately to depose him, and to assign him a day for the public confession of his sin, and profession of repentance.
- A minister, accused of atrocious crimes, and refusing, after three regular citations, to appear at the bar of the Presbytery, shall be suspended from the exercise of his office; and if he persist in his contumacy, may be deposed and excommunicated.
- Presbyteries are to be extremely careful of involving in the shame and severity of a judicial process those irregularities which appear to be merely ads of infirmity; and those errors which do not strike at the vitals of doctrinal or practical godliness; which are not pertinaciously adhered to, nor mischievously propagated to the subversion of the order, unity, purity, and peace of the
church. They are, therefore, thoroughly to sift accusations against ministers, and to be well satisfied respecting the criminal and pernicious nature and tendency of the scandal charged, before they allow a libel to be grounded thereon. And they are to use special diligence for removing those uneasinesses and complaints which arise from causes that will not warrant a process.
- Calumniators of ministers are to be severely censured, and in proportion to the malignity or rashness which shall appear in the prosecution.
CHAP. VI. Of Censures.
- Church censures, being entirely of a spiritual nature, cannot operate any civil effect.
- As they are among the most important means by which the Lord Jesus reigns in his church, they are to be employed with much caution, reverence, and solemnity; nor can there be a greater indignity offered to his majesty, than to prostitute them to any carnal purposes.
- Although the contempt which the world pours upon ecclesiastical censures should call forth the exercise of prudence, yet church-officers, being clothed with the authority of their King, are not thereby to be deterred from the faithful discharge of their duty; they are rather to be stimulated to double vigilance, lest the barriers which Christ hath erected to separate his church from the world, be swept away by the torrent of evil opinion and evil example.
- The Lord Jesus Christ having promised that he will ratify in heaven, those censures which, in his name, and according to his appointment, are inflicted by his officers upon earth, 524Matt 18:18 they cannot be despised but at the utmost peril; and will be found to have a serious influence on the spiritual condition of those who fall under them. Church censures are five fold: admonition, rebuke, suspension, deposition, and excommunication.
- Admonition is the lowest degree of censure. It consists in gently reproving an offender, for his sin and scandal; warning him of his guilt and danger; and exhorting him to be more watchful and circumspect for the future. It supposes the offence to be known only to a few, or to be less aggravated in its circumstances.
- It ought to proceed on a certain knowledge of the sin and scandal having: been committed; and is the first step which should be taken towards the offender’s reformation.
- Admonition, in the case of a private church member, or ruling elder, ought to be administered in private by one or more members of Session: in the case of a minister, by one or more members of Presbytery.
- Rebuke is a higher degree of censure, and should be administered by an ecclesiastical court in a judicial capacity. When it can be done without injuring the public credit of religion, Judicatures may find it for edification to rebuke the offender in private. This is particularly necessary in cases of private scandal, and it must always be done in the name of the head of the church.
- When the scandal is public, and the sin more aggravated, it is proper that the rebuke be publicly administered. But it is generally expedient that rebukes, whether private or public, be preceded by private admonition.
- Suspension relates cither to the private members, or to the officers of the church. With respect to the former, it is a temporary judicial exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances. 525Appendix I. No 15 With respect to the latter, it is a temporary judicial exclusion from the exercise of office. 526Appendix I. No 16
- This censure is attached to scandals which cannot be removed by admonition or rebuke, and which render it improper for the scandalous person to remain in the actual enjoyment of sacramental privilege, or in the exercise of office.
- Suspensions are generally indefinite in their duraon, continuing till the person suspended afford signs of tipenitence which may warrant their repeal. But Judicatories are to consider how far it may be expedient, in certain cases, to limit their operation to a fixed period.
- Suspension, unless of ministers, may be either private or public. The former is oftentimes indispensible, when bringing the scandal to public view, would be unnecessary, yea, highly injudicious.
- Sessions may find it their duty to keep back from sealing ordinances, by a private resolution, members of whom scandalous reports are corroborated by strong presumptions, even though they have not been, or cannot be legally convicted.
- When a scandal, or the charge of a scandal is made public so near tire time of celebrating the sacrament of the supper, that there is not leisure for a due examination, the accused person, provided his offence, it proved, require such a censure, is by all means to be restrained from communicating.
- Suspension, after public rebuke, is always to be public.
- As the maintenance of the honour of Christ, the exoneration of church-officers, and the warning of others, arc principal ends of censure, it is not necessary to the propriety of a public suspension, that the person suspended be actually present. But this does not absolve the offender from his obligation to appear; and he is to be strictly required thereto by the Judicatory censuring.
- Deposition is the judicial degradation of an officer from his office. 527Appendix I. No 16 Probationers, though they may be suspended or discharged, having never been invested with office, cannot, properly, be deposed.
- An act of deposition is not to be passed but with the greatest deliberation; and for the most important reasons. It is ordinarily to be preceded by suspension. It is not, if possible, to be inflicted on ministers, without Synodical advice; nor on other presbyters, without the advice of a Presbytery.
- When a minister is deposed, his congregation is immediately to be declared vacant.
- Deposition doth not necessarily draw after it the censure of excommunication.
- Excommunication is the judicial excision of an offender, from the visible church of Christ, and a pronouncing him to belong to the kingdom of Satan. 528Appendix I. No 17
- Heinous violations of the law of God in practice, and such errors in principle as unhinge the christian profession, are the only scandals for which the sentence of excommunication shall be passed.
- Even on those enormous scandals, except they be accompanied with aggravations of peculiar atrocitv, this dreadful censure is not to be pronounced till gentler means have failed.
- When private members or officers, not being ministers of the word, fall into such scandals, the Session is to proceed as in the prosecution of other public scandals; and having brought the matter to a public admonition and suspension from sealing ordinances, is to refer the case, and all proceedings therein, to the Presbytery.
- The Presbytery, when there is no appeal, shall resume the process where the Session left it, unless there appear such defects in the Sessional proceedings, or in the proof of the libel, as shall call for a revision; and having fully considered the scandal libelled, the steps taken in the prosecution of it, and the subsequent carriage of the offender, shall give their decision respecting the censure of excommunication.
- The censure being passed, a Presbyterial warrant for the intimation of it shall be directed to the moderator of the aforesaid Session; or, if the congregation be vacant, to some other minister. 529Appendix I. No 19
- At the time appointed for this purpose, the minister, having briefly explained the nature, necessitv, and end of church censures, shall relate the steps of the process in order; shewing the church’s faithfulness and tenderness to the offender; his obdurate impenitence under all the endeavours used to reclaim him; and the duty of cutting him entirely off from the fellowship of
the faithful, as the only remaining means of bringing him to repentance.
- The minister then repeating the Presbyterial warrant for the censure he is about to intimate, is to call upon the congregation to join with him in imploring the Lord’s blessing on this terrible ordinance, that it may be effectual, both to recover the offender, and to edify others.
- Prayer being ended, the minister is, with great gravity and solemnity, to intimate the censure, declaring the scandalous person, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, cut off from the fellowship of the church, and delivered unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
- After this intimation of the censure, all the members of the congregation are to be warned that the person cast out of the church is no longer a brother;
and are to be exhorted and enjoined to shun all intercourse or conversation with him that can be avoided. Nevertheless, excommunication dissolveth not the bonds of natural or civil relations, nor exempteth from the duties belonging to them.
CHAP. VII. Of the Penitence and Restoration of Offenders.
- Our Lord Jesus hath committed to the officers of his church, the power not only of inflicting censures, but of repealing them, and admitting returning offenders to the communion and the privileges of his people.
- As persons are censured not for the want of saving grace, but for outward scandal; so, the penitence required to warrant their restoration is not a really gracious and saving change, but such as will remove the scandal for which they are censured.
- It is not, however, every verbal profession of contrition, nor every promise of amendment, nor. even a partial reformation, that is to be judged satisfying.
- Such persons as, from time to time, profess their sorrow for their sin, and yet live in the practice of it, are doubly scandalous; as they not only dishonour God by their crime, but mock him by their hypocrisy.
- Professions of repentance, accompanied by those circumstances, which are admitted in other cases to be good evidences of moral seriousness, such as freeness, gravity, and apparent humility, in confession of sin, and of the justice of the censure; using the proper means for attaining the desired end; abstaining from such things as may render a profession suspected; and
persevering in diligence and circumspection — such professions are to be deemed satisfactory, and warrant a release from censure.
- An offender may exhibit such tokens of repentance as should induce a Judicatory to forbear censure other than admonition. But this principle is to be applied with great caution in cases where no penitence is evinced, nor any confession made, before the fact is fully proved.
- Where a person is under process for a higher censure, his penitence, on conviction, may be so far satisfying as to require a milder one. Thus, the penitence of a person under process for. excommunication, may render it proper to proceed no farther than suspension.
- The carriage of an offender may be such as that a Judicatory may not have freedom to inflict the censure to which the process would natively lead; nor yet to dismiss him altogether with a gentler one. In these cases it may be proper to censure more lightly than was at first intended, and in the mean time to stay process. This, it is to be observed, does not terminate the prosecution, but merely suspends it; and in the event of an offender’s relapse into his scandal, leaves all that was done formerly in full force; and the Judicatory resumes the process in that stage of it in which it was suspended. Provided, however, that if a suspended process be not resumed, on account of the scandal again breaking out in one year, it shall be considered as finally closed.
- Offenders are to be restored by the same authority which censured them.
- No public censure is to be removed, but in virtue of public satisfaction. For private censures, nothing more than private satisfaction shall be exacted.
- When an offender, who hath been excommunicated, is desirous of re-admission into the church of Christ, he is to lay his request before the Presbytery by whom the censure was passed; and if they, alter close and faithful dealing with his conscience, and a careful inquiry into the tenor of his conversation since censure, be satisfied with his professions of repentance; that the
scandal hath been in a good measure done away by his edifying behaviour; and that there is no danger of reviving it by acceding to his request; they are to absolve and restore him, and order his absolution and restoration to be intimated to the congregation.
- The day appointed for this purpose is to be previously intimated from the pulpit: when it arrives, the offender is to appear before the congregation, and to make a solemn profession of his sense of his misery in being shut out from the fellowship of the saints — of the justice of the censure passed upon him — of his contrition for his sin in dishonouring God; in grieving the hearts of his people, and causing the profane to blaspheme—of his unfeigned desire to flee for pardon to the blood of Christ — and of his resolution, through grace, henceforward to study to adorn the doctrine of God the Saviour.
- This profession being finished, the minister is briefly to unfold the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ towards the returning sinner; and, having read the Presbyterial warrant 530Appendix I. No 20 is to call upon the congregation to join with him in “praising the Lord for blessing the censure inflicted by his church; and in praying that he would mercifully accept this person, who, for his great sin, and for his contempt of all admonition, was cut off from his people; that he would, by his Holy Spirit, give him the grace of unfeigned repentance; would pardon him freely through the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and would grant him increase in all godliness; that Satan may be bruised under his feet, the name of our Lord Jesus magnified, the church edified, and himself saved with an everlasting salvation.”
- After prayer, the minister shall declare the absolution; 531Appendix I. No 18 accompanying it with an exhortation to the person absolved, to double watchfulness in his Christian
profession. He is also to exhort the members of the congregation to receive their brother in the spirit of meekness and of love; rejoicing in his recovery, and endeavouring to strengthen him in the good ways of God.
- Deposed officers, especially ministers, who have also been debarred by suspension or excommunication from sealing ordinances, may often be restored to the latter, when it would be highly injudicious to reinstate them in their offices.
- An officer, deposed for scandalous conduct, may not be restored even on the most convincing evidence of deep sorrow for his sin, without some time of eminent and exemplary, humble and edifying conversation, to heal the wound made by his scandal.
- No scandal, which hath been removed by satisfaction, shall ever be the ground of any other process; nor is the person restored ever to be upbraided with it, either by church-officers or private members. Such as transgress in this respect shall be accounted scandalous, and treated accordingly.
CHAP. VIII. Of Declinatures.
- A Declinature is the refusal of a person under process to submit to trial by a particular Judicatory.
- When a person, in order to evade a process, or without assigning any just reason, declines the authority of his proper Judicatory, such a declinature is not only unwarrantable, but contumacious; and is not to impede the process, unless it be referred to the next higher Judicatory.
- It a judicatory betray unfairness or partiality; it they, before full investigation, by any judicial act, prejudge the cause; if, in conducting the process, they claim to decide on subjects of which they have no cognizance, or otherwise act illegally; if they permit members who are nearly related to, or who are at personal variance with, either of the parties; or who have themselves been active as parties; still to sit in judgment after being duly challenged; in all these cases a declinature is warrantable.
- It is not, however, to be supposed, that even a lawful declinature quashes a process. It only removes it to another Judicatory; and if the declinature be not accompanied with an appeal to the superior Judicatory, the party is to be cited thither by the Judicatory which he declined.
CHAP. IX. Of References.
- A Reference is a judicial representation, made by an inferior Judicatory to the next superior,
of a case not yet decided, and is always to be in writing.
- References are either for advice, or for full discussion and final decision.
- References of the former kind only suspend the determination of the Judicatory from which they come; but do not interfere with the ultimate decision.
- References of the latter kind relinquish the prosecution of the case referred, and leave it implicitly to the judgment of the superior Judicatory.
- Though references, except for special reasons, ought always to procure advice from Judicatories referred to, yet the latter are not necessarily bound, even when desired, to give a final judgment; but may, if they see it, remit the matter, with advice, to the Judicatory referring.
- Cases new, important, difficult, whose decision may establish a principle or precedent of extensive influence, or on which the sentiments of the Judicatory are greatly divided, form some of the principal subject’s of reference.
CHAP. X. Of Appeals.
- An appeal is the removal of a cause from an inferior to a superior Judicatory, by a party
- Appeals are either from a part of the proceedings of a Judicatory, or from a definitive sentence.
- When appeals of the former kind are brought before a Judicatory, it is in their option either to take the whole of the cause under cognizance, or merely to decide on the particular acts excepted against, and remit the cause to the Judicatory appealed from.
- Appeals from a definitive sentence require a revision of the whole cause.
- Every appellant is bound to give his appeal, with the reasons thereof, in writing, to the Judicatory appealed from, at the most in ten days after notice of his intention; which notice is to be made at the time when lie conceives himself aggrieved: and on default, his appeal fills.
- Appeals are always to be carried in regular gradation, from an interior Judicatory to the one immediately superior.
- When an appeal is brought before a Judicatory, they are first to inquire whether it hath been regularly conducted; and if not, to refuse it, without special reasons to the contrary; and never when it contravenes the preceding regulation.
- The Judicatory appealed to is next to inquire into the procedure of that appealed from; and if it shall appear to have been regular and proper, no blame shall be attached to said Judicatory, even though the appeal be sustained, and the sentence reversed.
- If, on due consideration, an appeal from a definitive sentence be sustained, the Judicatory appealed to shall try the libel as though it had been originally ordered by themselves; and if they find cause for over ruling the sentence appealed from, shall use every method of satisfying the injured, as well as of doing him justice.
- When an appeal from a definitive sentence is not sustained, or if sustained, the appellant is cast, the Judicatory appealed to is to ratify the sentence, and direct that appealed from to proceed in the execution of it.
- Litigious appellants are to be censured; but this censure is not to suspend or mitigate the censure attached to the crime libelled.
- If an appellant, after entering his appeal before a superior Judicatory, cease to prosecute it, it shall be considered as indefensible, and the proceedings of the inferior Judicatory confirmed.
- Judicatories appealed from, being parties in the cause, cannot, in the superior Judicatories, vote on any question connected with the appeal.
BOOK III. Of Worship
532For the principle and rule of religious worship, see Larger Catechism, on the second commandment.
CHAP. I. Of the Ordinances in a particular Congregation.
The ordinances in a single congregation are prayer and thanksgiving; singing of psalms; the word
read, (although there follow no immediate explication of what is read) the word expounded and applied; the sacraments administered; dismissing the people with a blessing; catechising; visitation of the sick. 533Confession Chap 21.5
CHAP. II. The Design of the ensuing Directory.
Care hath been taken to hold forth therein such
things as are of divine institution in every ordinance, and to set forth other things according to the rules of Christian prudence, agreeable to the general rules of the word or God: nothing more being meant, than that the general heads, the sense and scope of the prayers, and other parts of public worship, being known to all, there may be a consent of all the churches in those things that contain the substance of the service and worship of God; and the ministers may be hereby directed, in their administrations, to keep like soundness in doctrine and prayer, and may, if need be, have some help and furniture; and yet so as they become not hereby slothful and negligent in stirring up the gifts of Christ in them; but that each one, by meditation, by taking heed to himself, and the flock of God committed to him, and by wisely observing the ways of divine providence, may be careful to furnish his heart and tongue with farther or other materials of prayer and exhortation, as shall be needful upon all occasions.
CHAP. III. The Directory for Public Worship
Sect. I. Of the Assembling of the Congregation, and their behavior in the public worship of God.
- When the congregation is to meet for public worship, the people (having before prepared their hearts thereunto) ought all to come and join therein; not absenting themselves from the public ordinances through negligence, or upon pretence of private meetings. And it is highly requisite, for the decorum of public worship, that both ministers and people use their diligence to attend punctually at the hour appointed.
- Let all enter the assembly, and take their seats or places, not irreverently, but in a grave and seemly manner; avoiding whispering or conversation.
- The congregation being assembled, the minister, after solemn calling on them to the worshipping of the great name of God, may begin with prayer.
“In all reverence and humility acknowledging the incomprehensible greatness and majesty of the Lord, (in whose presence they do then, in a special manner, appear) and their own vileness and unworthiness to approach so near him, with their utter inability of themselves to so great a work; and humbly beseeching him for pardon, assistance and acceptance, in the whole service then to be performed; and for a blessing, on that particular portion of his word then to be read: and all in the name and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
But as it has been, for a long time, the ordinary practice of our church to commence public worship with singing of psalms, it is left to the discretion of congregations to adopt either of these modes which they shall judge best suited to their circumstances. Nor shall a few explanatory remarks upon the psalm previous to its being sung, be construed an infringement of this order: Nevertheless, in this exercise brevity is recommended.
- The public worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read any thing; except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the
minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God.
- If any, through necessity, be hindered from being present at the beginning, they are not, when they come into the congregation, to betake themselves to their private devotions, but reverently to compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand.
Sect. II. Of Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures.
- Reading of the word in the congregation being part of the public worship of God, (wherein we ac knowledge our dependence upon him, and subjection to him,) and one mean sanctified by him for the edifying of his people, is to be performed by the past and teachers, and such as have been regularly licensed to preach the gospel, though not yet ordained.
- How large a portion shall be read at once, and in what order, is left to the wisdom of the person conducting the worship; although usually it should not be less than one chapter; but in this, as in all other public exercises, the season of the year, and state of the weather, and other circumstances, arc carefully to be Praise, considered, that the service may not be unsuitably protracted.
- When the minister who readeth shall judge it necessary to expound any part of what is read, let it not be done until the whole chapter or psalm be ended.
- Beside public reading of the holy scriptures, every person that can read is to be exhorted to read the scriptures privately (and all others that cannot read, if not disabled by age, or otherwise, are likewise to be exhorted to learn to read), and to have a Bible.
Sect. III. Of Singing of Psalms.
- It is the duty of Christians to praise God publicly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation.
- It is the will of God, that the sacred songs contained in the book of Psalms, be sung in his worship, both public and private, to the end of the world: and the rich variety and perfect purity of their matter, the blessing of God upon them in every age, and the edification of the church thence arising, sec the propriety of singing them in a convincing light; nor shall any composures, merely human, be sung in any of the Associate-Reformed Churches.
- These songs should be sung, not barely with the same frame of spirit with which they should be read; but with such an elevation of soul as is suited to. praise as a distinct ordinance: and in singing those parts of them which are expressed in ceremonial style, or describe the circumstances of the writers, or of the church in ancient times, we should have our eye upon the general principles which are implied in them, and which are applicable to individuals, or the church in every age.
- In singing, the voice is to be tunably ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.
- No tunes shall be sung in worshipping assemblies, but such as are grave and simple: and no new time shall be introduced into any of the churches without the knowledge and consent of the church-officers; nor even then, unless it shall be evident, that the introduction of such tune would be acceptable to the congregation, and would promote its real edification.
- No chorus of singers, nor alternate singing shall be introduced into any of the churches, because it is the duty of the whole congregation to praise God with united voices.
- As the use of musical instruments, in public worship, has no sanction in the New Testament, nor in the practice of the Christian church for several hundred years after its erection, it shall not be introduced, under any form, into any of the churches.
- That the whole congregation may the more profitably join in the delightful exercise of praise, it is recommended that every one who can read have a psalm book.
Sect. IV. Of Public Prayer before the Sermon.
The preceding parts of worship being performed, the minister who is to preach is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers’ hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:
“To acknowledge our great sinfulness, First, by reason of original sin, which (beside the guilt that makes us liable to everlasting damnation) is the seed of all of the sins, hath depraved and poisoned all the faculties and powers of soul and body, doth defile our best actions, and (were it not restrained, or our hearts renewed by grace) would break forth into innumcrable transgressions, and greatest rebellions against the Lord that ever were committed by the vilest of the sons of men. And, next, by reason of actual sins, our own sins, the sins of magistrates, of ministers, and oi the whole nation, unto which we are many ways accessary: which sins of ours receive many fearful aggravations, we having broken all the commandments of the holy, just and good law of God, doing that which is forbidden, and leaving undone what is enjoined; and that not only out of ignorance and infirmity, but also more presumptuously, against the light of our minds, checks of our consciences, and motions of his own Holy Spirit to the contrary, so that we have no cloak for our sins; yea, not only despising the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, but standing out against many invitations and offers of grace in the gospel; not endeavouring, as we ought, to receive Christ into our hearts by faith, or to walk worthy of him in our lives.
To bewail our blindness of mind, hardness of heart, unbelief, impenitency, security, lukewarmness, barrenness; our not endeavouring after mortification and newness of life, nor after the exercise of godliness in the power thereof; and that the best of us have not so stedfastly walked with God, kept our garments so unspotted, nor been so zealous of his glory, and the good of others, as we ought: and to mourn over such other sins as the congregation is particularly guilty of, notwithstanding the manifold and great mercies of our God, the love of Christ, the light of the gospel, and reformation of religion, our own purposes, promises, vows, and other special obligations to the contrary.”
“To acknowledge and confess, that, as we are convinced of our guilt, so, out of a deep sense thereof, we judge ourselves unworthy of the smallest benefits most worthy of God’s fiercest wrath, and of all the curses of the law, and heaviest judgments inflicted upon the most rebellious sinners; and that he might most justly take his kingdom and gospel from us, plague us with all sorts of spiritual and temporal judgments in this life, and afterwards cast us into outer darkness in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever more.”
Notwithstanding all which, to draw near to the throne of grace, encouraging ourselves with hope of a gracious answer of our prayers, in the riches and all sufficiency of that only one oblation, the satisfaction and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the right hand of his Father and our Father; and in confidence of the exceeding great and precious promises of mercy and grace in the new covenant, through the same Mediator thereof, to deprecate the heavy wrath and curse of God, which we are not able to avoid, or bear; and humbly and earnestly to supplicate for mercy in the free and full remission of all our sins, and that only for the bitter sufferings and precious merits of that our only Saviour Jesus Christ.”
That the Lord would vouchsafe to shed abroad his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; seal unto us, by the same Spirit of adoption, the full assurance of our pardon and reconciliation; comfort all that mourn in Zion, speak peace to the wounded and troubled spirit, and bind up the broken-hearted: and as for secure and presumptuous sinners, that he would open their eyes, convince their consciences, and turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they also may receive forgiveness of sin, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus.
With remission of sins through the blood of Christ, to pray for sanctification by his Spirit; the mortification of sin dwelling in, and many times tyrannizing over us; the quickening of our dead spirits with the Life of God in Christ; grace to fit and enable us for all duties of conversation and callings towards God and men; strength against temptations; the sanctified use of blessings and crosses; and perseverance in faith and ice unto the end.
To pray for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations; for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles, the fall of Antichrist, and the hastening of the second coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the Antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk; for the blessing of God upon all the reformed churches, especially upon the churches in the United States of America: more particularly for that church whereof we are members, that therein God would establish peace and truth, the purity of all his ordinances, and, the power of godliness; prevent and remove heresy, schism, profaneness, superstition, security, and unfruitfulness under the means of grace; heal all our rents and divisions, and preserve us from declensions in the ways of holiness.
To pray for all in authority; especially the President of the United States; that God would make him rich in blessings, both in his person and administration, establish his rule in religion and righteousness, save him from evil counsel, and make him a blessed and glorious instrument for the conservation and propagation of the gospel, for the encouragement and protection of them that do well, the terror of all that do evil, and the great good of the whole church, and of all these States: for a blessing upon both Houses of Congress (when sitting), upon the Governors and Legislatures of the several States; more especially of the States in which we immediately reside; on the subordinate judges and officers; and on the citizens at large: for all pastors and teachers, that God would fill them with his Spirit, make them exemplarily holy, sober, just, peaceable, and gracious in their lives; sound, faithful and powerful in their ministry; and follow all their labours with abundance of success and blessings; and give unto ail his people pastors according to his own heart: for such as design the holy ministry: for universities, and all schools and religious seminaries, that they may flourish in learning and piety: for the particular city or congregation, that God would pour out a blessing upon the ministry of the word, sacraments and discipline; upon the civil government, and all the several families and persons there in: for mercy to the afflicted under any inward of outward distress: for seasonable weather and fruitful seasons, as the time may require: for averting the judgments, that we cither feel or tear, or are liable unto, as famine, pestilence, the sword, and such like.
“And with confidence of his mercy to his whole church, and the acceptance of our persons, through the merits and mediation of our high priest, the Lord Jesus, to profess that it is the desire of our souls to have fellowship with God in the reverend and conscientious use of his holy ordinances; and, to that purpose, to pray earnestly for his grace and effectual assistance to the sanctification of his holy Sabbath 534Editors note; ‘Fabbath’, the Lord’s day, in all the duties thereof, public and private, both to ourselves and to all other congregations of his people, according to the riches and excellency of the gospel this day celebrated and enjoyed. And because we have been unprofitable hearers in times past, and now cannot of ourselves receive, as we should, the deep things of God, the mysteries of Jesus Christ, which require a spiritual decerning; to pray that the Lord, who teacheth to profit, would graciously please to pour out the Spirit of grace, together with the outward means thereof, causing us to attain such a measure of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and, in him, of the things which belong to our peace, that we may account all things but as dross in comparison of him: and that we, tasting the first fruits of the glory that is to be revealed, may long for a full and perfect communion with him, that where he is we may be also, and enjoy the fulness of those joys and pleasures which arc at his right hand forever more.
“More particularly, that God would, in a special manner, furnish his servant (now called to dispense the bread of life unto his household) with wisdom, fidelity, zeal and utterance, that he may divide the word of God aright, to every one his portion, in evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and power; and that the Lord would circumcise the ears and hearts of the hearers, to hear, love, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save their souls; make them as good ground to receive in the good seed ,of the word, and strengthen them against the temptations of Satan, the cares of the world, the hardness of their own hearts, and whatsoever else may hinder their profitable and saving hearing; that so Christ may be so formed in them, and live in them, that all their thoughts may be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and their hearts established in every good word and work forever.”
We judge this to be a convenient order, in the ordinary public prayer; yet so, as the minister may defer (as in prudence he shall think meet) some part of these petitions till after his sermon, or offer up to God some of the thanksgivings hereafter appointed, in his prayer before his sermon.
Sect. V. Of the Preaching of the Word.
- Preaching of the word, being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him.
- It is presupposed (according to the rules for ordination), that the minister of Christ is in some good measure gifted for so weighty a service, by his skill in the original languages, and in such arts and sciences as are handmaids unto divinity; by his knowledge in the whole body of theology, but most of all in the holy scriptures, having his senses and heart exercised in them
above the common sort of believers; and by the illumination of God’s Spirit, and other gifts of edification, which (together with reading and studying of the word) he ought still to seek by prayer, and an humble heart, resolving to admit and receive any truth not yet attained, whenever God shall make it known unto him. All which he is to make use of, and improve, in his private preparations, before he deliver in public what he hath provided.
- Ordinarily, the subject of his sermon is to be some text of scripture, holding forth some principle or head of religion, or suitable to some special occasion; or he may go on in some chapter, psalm, or book of the holy scripture, as he shall see fit.
- Let the introduction to his text be brief and perspicuous, drawn from the text itself, or context, or some parallel place, or general sentence of scripture.
- If the text be long (as in histories or parables it sometimes must be), let him give a brief sum of it; if short, a paraphrase thereof, if need be: in both, looking diligently to the scope of the text, and pointing at the chief heads and grounds of doctrine which he is to raise from it.
- In analysing and dividing his text, he is to regard more the order of matter than of words: and neither to burden the memory of the hearers in the beginning with too many members of division, nor to trouble their minds with obscure terms of art.
- In raising doctrines from the text, his care ought to be, First, That the matter be the truth of God. Secondly, That it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence. Thirdly, That he chiefly insist upon those doctrines which are principally intended, and make most for the edification of the hearers.
- The doctrine is to be expressed in plain terms; or, if any thing in it need explication, it is to be opened and the consequence also from the text cleared. The parallel places of scripture confirming the doctrine are rather to be plain and pertinent than many, and (if need be somewhat insisted upon, and applied to the purpose in hand.
- The arguments or reasons are to be solid, and as much as may be, convincing. The illustrations, of what kind soever, ought to be full of light, and such as may convey the truth into the hearers’ heart with spiritual delight.
- If any doubt, obvious from scripture, reason, or prejudice of the hearers, seem to arise, it is very requisite to remove it, by reconciling the seeming differences, answering the reasons, and discovering and taking away the causes of prejudice and mistake. Otherwise it is not fit to detain the hearers with propounding or answering vain or wicked cavils, which, as they are endless,
so the propounding and answering of them doth more hinder than promote edification.
- He is not to rest in general doctrine, although ever so much cleared and confirmed, but to bring it home to special use, by application to his hearers: which, although it prove a work of great difficulty to himself, requiring much prudence, zeal and meditation, and to the natural and corrupt man will be very unpleasant; yet he is to endeavour to perform it in such a manner, that his auditors may feel the word of God to be quick and powerful, and a difcerner of the thoughts
and intents of the heart; and that, if any unbeliever or ignorant person be present, he may have the secrets of his heart made manifest, and give glory to God.
- In the use of instruction or information in the knowledge of some truth, which is a consequence from his doctrine, he may (when convenient) confirm it by a few firm arguments from the text in hand, and other places of scripture, or from the nature of that commonplace in divinity, whereof that truth is a branch.
- In confutation of false doctrines, he is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor to mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily: but, if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly, and endeavour to satisfy their judgments and consciences against all objections.
- In exhorting to duties, he is, as he seeth cause, to teach also the means that help to the performance of them.
- In dehortation, reprehension, and public admonition (which require special wisdom), let him, as there shall be cause, not only discover the nature and greatness of the sin, with the misery attending it, but also shew the danger his hearers are in to be overtaken and surprized by it, together with the remedies and best way to avoid it.
- In applying comfort, whether general against all temptations, or particular against some special troubles or terrors, he is carefully to answer such objections as a troubled heart and afflicted spirit may suggest to the contrary.
- It is also sometimes requisite to give some notes of trial (which is very profitable, especially when performed by able and experienced ministers, with circumspection and prudence, and the signs clearly grounded on the holy scripture), whereby the hearers may be able to examine themselves whether they have attained those graces, and performed those duties, to which he exhorteth; or be guilty of the sin reprehended, and in danger of the judgments threatened; or be those to whom the consolations propounded do belong; that accordingly they may be quickened and excited to duty, humbled for their wants and sins, affected with their danger, and strengthened with comfort, as their condition, upon examination, shall require.
- And, as he needeth not always to prosecute every doctrine which lies in his text, so is he wisely to make choice of such uses, as, by his residence and conversing with his flock, he findeth most needful and seasonable; and, amongst these, such as may be most effectual to draw their souls to Christ, the fountain of light, holiness and comfort.
- This method is not prescribed as necessary for every man, or upon every text; but only recommended, as being found by experience to be very much blessed of God, and very helpful for the people’s understandings and memories.
- But the servant of Christ, whatever his method be, is to perform his whole ministry.
1st. Painfully, not doing the work of the Lord negligently.
2d. Plainly, that the weakest may understand; delivering the truth not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect; abstaining also from an unprofitable use of unknown tongues, strange phrases, and cadences of sounds and words; sparingly citing sentences of ecclesiastical or
other human writers, ancient or modern, be they ever so elegant.
3d. Faithfully, looking at the honour of Christ, the conversion, edification and salvation of the people, not at his own gain or glory; keeping nothing back which may promote those holy ends; giving to every one his own portion, and bearing indifferent respect unto all, without neglecting the meanest, or sparing the greatest, in their sins.
4th. Wisely, framing all his doctrines, exhortations, and especially his reproofs, in such a manner as may be most likely to prevail; shewing all due respect to each man’s person and place, and not mixing his own passion or bitterness.
5th. Gravely, as becometh the word of God; shunning all such gesture, voice and expressions, as may occasion the corruptions of men to despise him and his ministry.
6th. With loving affection, that the people may see all coming from his godly zeal, and hearty desire to do them good. And,
7th. As taught of God, and persuaded in his own heart, that all that he teacheth is the truth of Christ; and walking before his flock, as an example to them in it; earnestly, both in private and public, recommending his labours to the blessing of God, and watchfully looking to himself, and the flock whereof the Lord hath made him overseer: So shall the doctrine of truth be preserved uncorrupt, many souls be converted and built up, and himself receive manifold comforts of his
labours even in this life, and afterwards the crown of glory laid up for him in the world to come.
- Where there are more ministers in a congregation than one, and they of different gifts, each may more especially apply himself to doctrine or exhortation, according to the gift wherein he most excelleth, and as they shall agree between themselves.
Sect. VI. Of Prayer after Sermon.
- The sermon being ended, the minister is “To give thanks for the great love of God, in sending his Son Jesus Christ unto us; for the communication of his Holy Spirit; for the light and liberty
of the glorious gospel, and the rich and heavenly blessings revealed therein: as, namely, election, vocation, adoption, justification, sanctification, and hope of glory; and for the admirable goodness of God in casting our lot in a land of civil and religious liberty, where, in nothing terrified by our adversaries, we may serve him in holiness and righteousness, without
fear, all the days of our lives. To pray for the continuance of the gospel, and all ordinances thereof, in their purity, power, and liberty: to turn the chief and most useful heads of the sermon
into some few petitions; and to pray that it may abide in the heart, and bring forth fruit. To pray for preparation for death and judgment, and a watching for the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ: to entreat of God the forgiveness of the iniquities of our holy things, and the acceptation of our spiritual sacrifice, through the merit and mediation of our High Priest and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- And because the prayer which Christ taught his disciples is not only a pattern of prayer, but itself a most comprehensive prayer, it may also be used in the prayers of the church.
- And whereas, at the administration of the sacraments, the holding public fasts and days of thanksgiving, and other special occasions, which may afford matter of special petitions and thanksgivings, it is requisite to express somewhat in our public prayers, every minister is herein to apply himself in his prayer, before or after sermon, to those occasions; but, for the manner, he is left to his liberty, as God shall direct and enable him, in piety and wisdom to discharge his duty.
- The prayer ended, let a psalm, or part of a psalm, be sung, if with conveniency it may be done. After which (unless some other ordinance of Christ that concerneth the congregation at that time be to follow). let the minister dismiss the congregation with the apostolical benediction.
Sect. VII. Of the Administration of the Sacraments.
And, first, of Baptism.
- Baptism, as it is not unnecessarily to be delayed, so it is not to be administered in any case by any private person, but by a minister of Christ, called to be the steward of the mysteries of God.
- Nor is it to be administered in private places, or privately, but in a place of public worship, and in the face of the congregation, where the people may most conveniently see and hear: nor is it to be prostituted to the purposes of worldly gain.
- The child to be baptized, after due notice given to the minister, is to be presented by the father; in case of his death, or necessary absence, or incapacity of taking upon him the requisite vows, by the mother. Those sponsors, commonly called godfathers and godmothers, are utterly disallowed.
- Before baptism, the minister, if he shall judge it necessary, is to use some words of instruction, touching the institution, nature, use, and ends of this sacrament: shewing, “That it is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ: that it is a seal of the covenant of grace, of our in grafting into Christ, and of our union with him; of remission of sins, regeneration, adoption, and eternal: that the water in baptism represented and significth both the blood of Christ, which taketh away all guilt of sin original and actual, and the sanctifying virtue of the Spirit of Christ against the dominion of sin, and the corruption of our sinful nature: that baptizing, or sprinkling and washing with water, signifieth the cleansing from sin by the blood and for the merit of Christ, together with the mortification of sin, and rising from sin to newness of life, by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ: that the promise is made to believers and their scud; and that the seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church, have, by their birth, a visible interest in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the church, under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham, in the time of the Old Testament; the covenant of grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before; that the Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, For of such is the kingdom of God: that children, by baptism, are solemnly acknowledged as members of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against, the devil, the world, and the flesh: that they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized: that the inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reach to the whole course of our life: and that outward baptism is not so necessary, that through the want thereof the infant is in danger of damnation, or the parents guilty, if they do not contemn or neglect the ordinance of Christ, when and where it may be had.”
In these or the like instructions, the minister is to use his own liberty and godly wisdom, as the ignorance or errors in the doctrine of baptism, and the edification of the people, shall require.
- He is also to admonish all that are present “To look back to their baptism; to repent of their sins against their covenant with God; to stir up their faith; to improve and make right use of their baptism, and of the covenant sealed thereby betwixt God and their souls.”
- He is to require the parent “To profess his faith in the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the word of the living God, the perfect, and only rule of faith and practice, to which nothing is to be added, and from which nothing is to be taken, at any time, or upon any pretext, whether of new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men; together with his approbation of the Westminster Confession of- Faith and Catechisms; the form of Presbyterial government, and the directory for public worship, as received by this church — to promise, if it shall please God to spare him with his child, to bring him 535or Her, as the case may be up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; to instruct him, according to his ability, in the knowledge of his miserable condition by nature, and of the way of salvation by Jesus Christ; to press upon him his obligation, in virtue of his baptismal vows, to shew forth the Lord’s death at his table; to set a godly example before his child by praying with him and tor him; by worshipping the Lord regularly, morning and evening, agreeably to the directory for family worship; and by studying, in all things, so to walk even as Christ also walked.”
- This being done, prayer is also to be joined with the word of institution, for sanctifying the water to this spiritual use; and the minister is to pray to this or the like effect: “That the Lord, who hath not left us as strangers without the covenant of promise, but called us to the privileges of his ordinances, would graciously vouch safe to sanctify and bless his own ordinance of baptism at this time: that he would join the inward baptism of his Spirit with the outward baptism of water; make this baptism to the infant a seal of adoption, remission of sin, regeneration, and eternal life, and all other promises of the covenant of grace: that the child may be planted into the likeness of the death and resurrection of Christ; and, that the body of sin being destroyed in him, he may serve God in newness of life all his days.”
- Then the minister is to demand the name of the child; which being told him, he is to say (calling the child by his name),
I baptize thee in the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST.
As he pronounccth these words, he is to baptize the child with water: which, for the manner of doing it, is not only lawful but sufficient, and most expedient to be, by pouring or sprinkling of the water on the face of the child, without adding any other ceremony.
- This done, he is to give thanks and pray, to this or the like purpose: “Acknowledging, with all thankfulness, that the Lord is true and faithful in keeping covenant and mercy: That he is good and gracious, not only in that he numbereth us among his saints, but is pleased also to bestow upon our children this singular token and badge of his love in Christ: that, in his truth and special providence, he daily bringeth some into the bosom of his church, to be partakers of his inestimable benefits, purchased by the blood of his dear Son, for the continuance and increase of his church.
And praying that the Lord would still continue, and daily confirm more and more this his unspeakable favour: that he would receive the infant now baptized, and solemnly entered into the household of faith, into his fatherly tuition and defence, and remember him with the favour that he sheweth to his people; that, if he shall be taken out of this life in his infancy the Lord, who is rich in mercy, would be pleased to receive him up into glory; and if he live, and attain the years of discretion, that the Lord would so teach him by his word and Spirit, and make his baptism effectual to him, and so uphold him, by his divine power and grace, that by faith he may prevail against the devil, the world, and the flesh, till in the end he obtain a full and final victory, and so be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Secondly. Of the Celebration of the Communion, or Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
- The communion, or supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated; but how often, may be considered and determined by the ministers, and other church -governors of each congregation, as they shall find most Convenient for the comfort and edification of the people committed to their charge. And, when it shall be administered, it is convenient to be done after the morning sermon.
- The ignorant and the scandalous are not fit to receive this sacrament of the Lord’s supper.
- Where this sacrament cannot with convenience be frequently administered, it is requisite that public warning be given the sabbath-day before the administration thereof: and that either then, or on some day of that week, something concerning that ordinance, and the due preparation thereunto, and participation thereof, be taught; that, by the diligent use of all means sanctified of God to that end, both in public and private, all may come better prepared to that heavenly feast.
- When the day is come for administration, the minister, having ended his sermon and prayer, shall make a short exhortation, “Expressing the inestimable benefit we have by this sacrament, together with the ends and use thereof; setting forth the great necessity of having our com” forts and strength renewed thereby in this our pilgrim” age and warfare: how necessary it is that we come unto it with knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and with hungering and thirsting souls after Christ and his benefits: how great the danger to eat and drink unworthily.
Next, he is, in the name of Christ, on the one part, to warn all such as are ignorant, scandalous, profane, or that live in any sin or offence against their knowledge or conscience, that they presume not to come to that holy table; shewing them, that he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself: and that the warning may be more particular and pointed, he may either briefly sum up the violations of the several precepts of the moral law, or read a few of such passages of scripture as describe the characters of unregenerated men; as 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Tim 1:9-10, &c. or do both; and, on the other part, he is in an especial manner to invite and encourage all that labour under the sense of the burden of their sins, and fear of wrath, and desire to reach out unto a greater progress in grace than yet they can attain unto, to come to the Lord’s table; assuring them, in the same name, of ease, refreshing and strength, to their weak and wearied souls.”
- After this exhortation, warning and invitation, the table being before decently covered, and so convex niently placed, that the communicants may orderly sit about it, or at it, the minister is to begin the action with sanctifying and blessing the elements of bread and wine set before (the bread in comely and convenient vessels, so prepared, that, being broken by him, and
given, it may be distributed amongst the communicants; the wine also in large cups), having first, in a few words, shewed that those elements, otherwise common, are now set apart and sanctified to this holy use, by the word of institution and prayer.
- Let the words of institution be read out of the Evangelists, or out of the first Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, 5361 Cor 11:23-27, which the minister may, when he seeth requisite, explain and apply.
- Let the prayer, thanksgiving, or blessing of the bread and wine, be to this effect: “With humble and hearty acknowledgment of the greatness of our misery, from which neither man nor angel was able to deliver us, and of our great unworthiness of the least of all God’s mercies; to give thanks to God for all his benefits, and especially for that great benefit of our redemption, the love of God the Father, the sufferings and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, by which we are delivered; and for all means of grace, the word and sacraments: and for this sacrament in particular, by which Christ and all his benefits are applied and sealed up unto us; which, notwithstanding the denial of them unto others, are in great mercy continued unto us, after so much and long abuse of them all.
To profess, that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved, but by the name of Jesus Christ, by whom alone we receive liberty and life; have access to the throne of grace; are admitted to eat and drink at his own table; and are scaled up by his Spirit to an assurance of happiness and everlasting lite. Earnestly to pray to God, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation, to vouchsafe his gracious presence, and the effectual working of his Spirit in us; and so to sanctify these elements, both of bread and wine, and to bless his own ordinance, that we may receive by faith the body and blood of Jesus Christ crucified for us, and so feed upon him, that he may be one with us, and we one with him; that he may live in us, and we in him, and to him who hath loved us, and given himself for us.”
- All which he is to endeavour to perform with suitable affections, answerable to such an holy action, and to stir up the like in the people.
- The elements being now sanctified by the word and prayer, the minister, being at the table, is to take the bread in his hand, and say, in these expressions (or other the like, used by Christ or his apostle upon this occasion): “According to the holy institution, command, and example of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, I take this bread; and, having given thanks, break it, and give it unto you” — (here the minister is to break the bread, and give it to the communicants); “Take ye, eat ye; this is the body of Christ which is broken “for you: do this in remembrance of him.” In like manner the minister is to take the cup, and say, in these expressions (or other the like, used by Christ or the apostle upon the same occasion): According to the institution, command, and cx” ample of our Lord Jesus Christ, “take this cup, and give it unto you” — (here he giveth it to the
communicants); “This cup is the new testament in the of blood of Christ, which is shed for the remission of the sin of many: drink ye all of it.” The minister him is also to communicate.
- After all have communicated, the minister may, in a few words, put them in mind “Of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, held forth in this sacrament; and exhort them to walk worthy of it.”
The minister is to give solemn thanks to God “For his rich mercy, and invaluable goodness, vouch safed to them. in that sacrament; and to intreat for pardon for the defects of the whole service, and for the gracious assistance of his good Spirit, whereby they may be enabled to walk in the strength of that grace, as becometh those who have received so great pledges of salvation.”
- Collections, where made, are so to be ordered, that no part of the public worship be thereby hindered.
Sect. VIII. Of the Sanctification of the Lord’s Day.
- The Lord’s day ought to be so remembered beforehand, as that all worldly business of our callings may be so ordered, and so timely and seasonably laid aside, as they may not be impediments to the due sanctifying of the day when it comes.
- The whole day is to be celebrated as holy to the Lord, both in public and private, as being the Christian sabbath. To which end, it is requisite that there be a holy cessation or resting all that clay from all unnecessary labours; and an abstaining, not only from all sports and pastimes, but also from ail worldly words and thoughts. 537Is 58.13
- That the diet on that day be so ordered, as that neither servants be unnecessarily detained from the public worship of God, nor any other person hindered from the sanctifying that day.
- That there be private preparations of every person and family, by prayer for themselves, and for God’s assistance of the minister, and for a blessing upon his ministry; and by such other holy exercises, as may further dispose them to a more comfortable communion with God in his public ordinances.
- That all the people meet so timely for public worship, that the whole congregation may be present at the beginning, and with one heart solemnly join together in all parts of the public worship, and not part till after the blessing.
- That what time is vacant, between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation in public, be spent in reading, meditation, repetition of sermons; especially by calling their families to an account of what they have heard, and catechising of them; holy conferences; prayer for a blessing upon the public ordinances; singing of psalms; visiting the sick; relieving the poor; and such like duties of piety, charity and mercy, accounting the sabbath a delight.
Sect. IX. Of Catechising.
- Catechising is a plain and familiar method of conveying religious instruction, and is an essential part of ministerial duty.
- For this purpose it is warrantable and necessary, to use concise and judicious abridgements of Christian doctrine, particularly in the form of question and answer.
- The Larger and Shorter Catechisms are to be employed by ministers in their catechetical exercises. The latter, especially, is to be committed to memory, and repeated by the catechumens. As introductory to this, for the help of the young and ignorant, the smaller catechisms, authorized for that purpose, are to be previously learned.
- That this excellent ordinance may be attended with suitable effects, the minister is carefully to adapt his instructions to the capacities and improvements of his catechumens — He is to condescend, visith the utmost tenderness, to the ignorant, the weak, and the timid; studiously avoiding whatever may confound or expose them — He is to lead his catechumens, in a regular and methodical order, from first principles, and the more obvious fundamental points, to a more enlarged view of those truths which necessarily arise out of them, and which, though equally useful, are less evident — He is not to debase the ordinance by using it as an occasion for displaying his own wit; or for indulging in trifling and abstruse speculations; or for promoting the strife of party — And he is, with all fidelity, seriously and solemnly to press the truths which he explains, on the consciences and hearts of those who hear him.
- It is expedient that the catechumens be divided into classes according to their age and knowledge. But the particular arrangement, being materially affected by local circumstances, is left to the discretion of ministers.
Sect. X. Concerning Visitation of Sick.
- It is the duty of the minister not only to teach the people committed to his charge in public, but privately; and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove and comfort them, upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time, strength and personal safety will permit.
- He is to admonish them in time of health to prepare for death; and, for that purpose, they are often to confer with their minister about the estate of their souls; and, in times of sickness, to desire his advice and help, timely and seasonably, before their strength and understanding fail them.
- Times of sickness and affliction are special opportunities put into his hand by God to minister a word in season to weary souls: because then the consciences of men are, or should be, more awakened to bethink themselves of their spiritual estate for eternity; and Satan also takes advantage then to load them more with sore and heavy temptations: therefore, the minister,
being sent for, and repairing to the sick. is to apply himself, with all tenderness and love, to administer some spiritual good to the afflicted, -to this effect:
- He may, from the consideration of the present sickness, instruct him out of scripture, ‘that diseases come not by chance, or by distempers of body only, but by the wise and orderly guidance of the good hand of God to every particular person smitten by them. And that, whether it be laid upon him out of displeasure for sin, for his correction and amendment, or for trial and exercise of his graces, or for other special and excellent ends, all his sufferings shall turn to his profit, and work together for his good, if he sincerely labour to make a sanctified use of God’s visitation, neither despising his chastening, nor waxing weary of his correction.
- If he suspect him of ignorance, he shall examine him in the principles of religion, especially touching repentance and faith; and, as he seeth cause, instruct him in the nature, use, excellency, and necessity, of those graces; as also touching the covenant of grace, and Christ the Son of God, the Mediator of it; and, concerning remission of sins by faith in him.
- He shall exhort the sick person to examine himself, to search and try his former ways, and his estate towards God. And if the sick person shall declare any scruple, doubt, or temptation that are upon him, instructions and resolutions shall be given to satisfy and settle him.
- If it appear that he hath not a due sense of his sins, endeavours ought to be used to convince him of his sins; of the guilt and desert of them; of the filth and pollution which the soul contracts by them; and of the curse of the law, and wrath of God, due to them; that he may be truly affected with and humbled for them: and withal to make known the danger of deferring repentance, and of neglecting solvation at any time offered; to awaken his conscience, and rouse him tip out of a stupid and secure condition, to apprehend the justice and wrath of God before whom none can stand, but he that, lost in himself, layeth hold upon Christ by faith.
- If he hath endeavoured to walk in the ways of holiness, and to serve God in uprightness, although hot without many failings and infirmities; or, if his spirit be broken with the sense of sin, or cast down through want of the sense of God’s favour; then it will be fit to raise him up, by setting before him the freeness and fulness of God’s grace, the sufficiency of righteousness in Christ, the gracious offers in the gospel, that all who repent, and believe with all their heart in God’s mercy through Christ, renouncing their own righteousness, shall have life and salvation in
him. It may be also useful to shew him, that death hath in it no spiritual evil to be feared by those that are in Christ, because sin, the sting of death, is taken away by Christ, who hath delivered all that are his from the bondage of the fear of death, triumphed over the grave, given us victory, is himself entered into glory to prepare a place for his people; so that neither life nor death shall be able to separate them from God’s love in Christ, in whom such are sure, though now they must be laid in the dust, to obtain a joyful and glorious resurrection to eternal life.
- Advice also may be given, as to beware of an illgrounded persuasion on mercy, or on the goodness of his condition for heaven, so to disclaim all merit in himself, and to cast himself wholly upon God for mercy, in the sole merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, who hath engaged himself never to cast oft’ them who in truth and sincerity come unto him. Care also must
be taken that the sick person be not cast down into despair, by such a severe representation of the wrath of God due to him for his sins, as is not mollified by a sensible propounding of Christ and his merit for a door of hope to every penitent believer.
- When the sick person is best composed, may be least disturbed, and other necessary offices about him least hindered, the minister, it desired, shall pray with
him, and tor him, to this effect:
“Confessing and bewailing of sin original and actual: the miserable condition of all by nature, as being children of wrath, and under the curse;- acknowledging that all diseases, sicknesses, death, and hell itself, are the proper issues and effects thereof; imploring Go-d’s mercy for the sick person, through the blood of Christ; beseeching that God would open his eyes, discover unto him his sins, cause him to see himself lost in himself, make known to him the cause why God smiteth him, reveal Jesus Christ to his soul for righteousness and lite; give unto him his Holy Spirit, to create and strengthen faith to lay hold upon Christ, to work in him comfortable evidences of his love, to arm him against temptations, to take off his heart from the world, to sanctify, his present visitation, to furnish him with patience and strength to bear it, and to give him perseverance in faith to the end.
That, if God shall please to add to his days, he would vouchsafe to bless and sanctify all means of his recovery; to remove the disease, renew his strength, and enable him to walk worthy of God, by a faithful remembrance, and diligent observing, of such vows and promises of holiness and obedience, as men are apt to make in times of sickness, that he may glorify God in the remaining part of his life.
And, if God have determined to finish his days by the present visitation, that he may find such evidence of the pardon of all his sins, of his interest in Christ, and eternal life by Christ, as may cause his inward man to be renewed, while his outward man decayeth; that he may behold death without fear, cast himself wholly upon Chris r, without doubting, desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, and so receive the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul, through the only merits and intercession of the Lord, Jesus Christ, our alone Saviour and all-sufficient Redeemer.”
- The minister shall admonish him also (as there, shall be cause), to set his house in order, thereby to prevent inconveniencies; to take care for payment of his debts, and to make restitution or satisfaction where he hath done any wrong; to be reconciled to those with whom he hath been at variance, and fully to forgive all men their trespasses against him, as he expects forgiveness at the hand of God.
Lastly, The minister may improve the present occasion to exhort those about the sick person to consider their own mortality, to return to the Lord, and make peace with him; in health to prepare for sickness, death, and judgment; and all the days of their appointed time so to wait until their change come, that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, they may appear with him in glory.
CHAP. IV. Concerning Extraordinary Days for Public Worship.
- There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian sabbath.
- Festival-days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be
- Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day, or days, for public fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
- The reason of devoting any part of our time to extraordinary religious worship being laid, not in the will of man, but in the will of God, declared in his word, and manifested in the extraordinary dispensations of his providence, no human authority can create any
obligation to observe such days. Nevertheless, whenthe call of providence is clear, civil or religious rulers may, for concentering the general devotion, specify and recommend a particular season to be spent in fasting or thanksgiving. Nor, without very weighty reasons, are such recommendations to be disregarded.
CHAP. V. Concerning Public Solemn Fasting.
- When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently
imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained; public solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expecteth from that nation or people.
- A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint), but also from all worldly labour, discourses and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, (although at other times lawful), rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the last; and much more from whatever is scandalous and offensive, as gaudy attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to. reprove, as at other times specially at a last, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.
- Before the public meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
- So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in public reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect: “Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him: acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him: humbly confessing our sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God’s righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray (according as the present exigency requireth), with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times: applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for” ever unto the Lord.”
- In all these the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their
sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul,
- Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such texts for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance; insisting most on those particulars which each minister’s observation and experience tell him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that
congregation to which he preacheth.
- Before the close of the public duties, the minister is, in his own and the people’s names, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord’s, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been
more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and taithtully with him in new obedience, than ever before.
- He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the public duties of it; but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in inforcing upon themselves and their families, in private, all these godly affections and resolutions which they professed in public, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelled a sweet savour in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.
- Beside solemn and general fasts, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine Providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they belong is to meet for fasting, or other public duties of worship.
CHAP. VI. Concerning the Observation of Days of Public Thanksgiving.
- When any such day is to be kept, let notice be given, and of the occasion thereof, some convenient time before, that the people may the better prepare themselves thereunto.
- The day being come, and the congregation (after private preparations) being assembled, the minister is to begin with a word of exhortation, to stir up the people to the duty for which they are met, and with a short prayer for God’s assistance and blessing (as at other
conventions for public worship) according to the particular occasion of their meeting.
- And, because singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing of joy and thanksgiving, let some pertinent psalm or psalms be sung for that purpose, before or after the reading of some portion of the word suitable to the present business.
- Then let the minister, who is to preach, proceed to further prayer before his sermon, with special reference to the present work; after which, let him preach upon some text of scripture pertinent to the occasion.
- The sermon ended, let him not only pray, as at other times is directed, with remembrance of the necessities of the church and state (if before the sermon they were omitted), but enlarge himself in due and solemn thanksgiving for former mercies and deliverances; but more especially for that which at the present calls them together to give thanks: with humble petition
for the continuance and renewing of God’s wonted mercies, as need shall be, and for sanctifying grace to make a right use thereof. And so, having sung another psalm suitable to the mercy, let him dismiss the congregation with a blessing, that they may have some convenient time for their repast and refreshing.
- But the minister (before their dismission) is solemnly to admonish them to beware of all excess and riot, tending to gluttony or drunkenness, and much more of these sins themselves, in their eating and refreshing; and to take care that their mirth and rejoicing be not carnal, but spiritual, which may make God’s praise to be glorious, and themselves humble and sober; and that both their feeding and rejoicing may render them more cheerful and enlarged, further to celebrate his praises in the midst of the congregation, when they return unto it in the remaining part of the day.
- When the congregation shall be again assembled, the like course in praying, reading, preaching, singing psalms, and offering up of more praise and thanksgiving, that is before directed tor the morning, is to be renewed and continued, so far as the time will give leave.
- At one or both of the public meetings that day, a collection, if necessary, is to be made for the poor (and in the like manner upon the day of public humiliation), that their loins may bless us, and rejoice the more with us. And the people are to be exhorted, at the end of the latter meeting, to spend the residue of that day in holy duties, and testimonies of Christian love and charity one towards another, and of rejoicing more and more in the Lord; as beeometh those who make the
joy of the Lord their strength.
CHAP. Vll. Directory of secret and private Worship.
Besides the public worship in congregations, secret worship of each person alone, and private
worship of families, is carefully to be observed, that the profession and power of godliness, both personal and domestic, may be advanced.
- And first, For secret worship, it is most necessary that every one, by himself, be given to prayer and meditation; the unspeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercised therein: this being the mean whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, and right preparation for all other duties obtained; and, therefore, it beeometh not only pastors, within their several charges, to press persons of all sorts to perform this duty morning and evening, and at other occasions; but also it is incumbent on heads of families to have a care, that both them selves, and all within their charge, be daily diligent
- The ordinary duties to be performed in family worship, morning and evening, are these:
Praise; which is to be done by singing a psalm, or part of a psalm; and wherein all the members of the family should be careful to join.538Col 3:16 Reverent reading of the holy scriptures. 539Deut 6:6-7; John 5:39; Acts 17:11
Solemn prayer, 540Matt 28:20 with Jer 10:25 with reference as well to the public condition of the church, and of the land, as to the present case of the family, and the special circumstances of any of the members thereof.
- These exercises may be profitably introduced with a short and fervent ejaculation to the following effect: “That the Lord, who requireth us to worship him in spirit and in truth, would compose our minds, and fix our attention in the duties now to be entered upon; assist us in every part thereof; and make them subservient to his glory and the refreshment of out souls; by filling us with a sense of his presence; lifting our hearts to things above, and vouchsafing us his gracious communion through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- In the prayer which, succeeds to reading of the scriptures, they who conduct the worship of families should endeavour, as occasion may demand, to spread, before the Lord its special circumstances in their petitions; the substance whereof may, in general, be to the ensuing effect: “Let them confess to God how unworthy they are to come into his presence, and how unfit to worship his Majesty; and, therefore, earnestly ask of him the Spirit of prayer. They are to confess their sins, and the sins of the family; accusing, judging, and condemning themselves for them; and aiming to bring their souls to some measure of true humiliation.
They are to pour out their hearts to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgiveness of sins; for grace to believe, repent, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and that they may serve God with joy and delight, walking before him.
They are to give thanks to God for his many mercies to his people, and to themselves, and especially for his love in Christ, and for the light of the gospel.
They are to pray for such particular benefits, spiritual and temporal, as they stand in need of for the time, whether it be morning or evening; as concerning health or sickness, prosperity or adversity. They ought to pray for the churches of Christ in general, and tor the church and congregation whereof they are members in particular; for the place where they reside; and for magistrates, ministers, and the community at large. The prayer may be closed with an earnest desire that God may be glorified in the coming of the kingdom of his Son, and in doing of his will; and with assurance that themselves are accepted, and their petitions agreeable to his will shall be granted, through the merit and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- These exercises ought to be performed in great sincerity and regularity, neither tediously prolonged, nor slightly passed over; laying aside all worldly business; studiously avoiding and removing every hindrance, and persisting therein with holy firmness, notwithstanding the common and sinful negligence of professors of religion, and the scorfings of ungodly men.
- The head of the family to whom belongeth the ordinary performance of the exercises of family worship, is to see that none of the family withdraw from any part thereof. And that the attendance of all the members of the family may be punctual, and interruptions from
others prevented, it would be profitable to observe, as much as may be, a stated hour, especially in the evening; which should always be so early that the family, when called to the worship of God, may not be disfitted with sleep.
- Where the head of the family is unfit for leading the worship, another, constantly residing therein, may be employed in that service till the former be prepared for taking it upon himself; and, for this end he is diligently to use the means to which he hath access.
- At family-worship, each family is to keep by itself, neither requiring, inviting, nor admitting persons from other families, unless it be those who are lodged with them, or at meals, or otherwise with them upon lawful occasions.
- Besides the ordinary duties above mentioned, extraordinary duties, both of humiliation and thanksgiving, are to be carefully performed in families when the Lord, by extraordinary occasions, private or public, calleth for them.
- For as much as the conscientious observance of family worship hath lamentably fallen into decay among professors, it is enjoined on the officers of the church, to use every exertion that it may be duly maintained by those under their charge; to deal with, and censure, according to their offence, such church-members as shall be found remiss therein; and by no means to admit, either to the table of the Lord, or to baptism for their children, any by whom it is habitually neglected.
No. I. Form of Testimonials to Members on leaving the Congregation.
These certify, that has been in communion with the Associate-Reformed Church, at in the of and State of for immediately preceding the date hereof; that his principles and deportment, as far as known to us, are agreeable to the gospel; and that he may be admitted to the privileges of any Christian church to which the providence of God may direct him.
- D. Minister.
- F. Elder
Given at this day of A. D.
No. II. Testimonial for Members who have been some Time absent.
These certify, that was in communion with the Associate-Reformed Church at in the of and State of for preceding last: that at the time of his departure from this place, his principles and deportment were, as far as known to us, agreeable to the gospel; and that we have heard of nothing since, which ought to preclude him from the privileges of the Christian church.
- D. Minister.
- F. Elder
Given at this day of A. D.
No. III. Form of an Application for the Moderation of a Call.
The Associate-Reformed- Church at in the of and State of under the inspection of the Presbytery of being at present vacant, anxious to obtain the stated administration of the word and ordinances among them, and finding themselves able and willing to support it, assembled at on the day of 18 and agreed to petition, and do hereby most heartily petition, the Presbytery for a moderation of a call, and appoint and their commissioners, to represent them, in this behalf, to the Presbytery at next meeting.
By order of the congregation,
- F. Moderator.
Done at on the day of A. D.
No. IV. Attestation of a Call.
I do hereby certify, that, agreeably to Presbyterial appointment, I preached on the day of in the vacancy of under the inspection of the Presbytery of in the State of and presided at the moderation of a call for a Pastor to said vacancy; winch was made out for Mr. A. B. under the inspection of the Presbytery of
(Signed) C. D. Moderator.
Done at on the day of A. D.
No. V. Form of a Call.
We, the elders and members of the Associate-Reformed Church at in the of and State of being destitute of a fixed Pastor, and being assured by good information, and our own experience, of the ministerial abilities, piety, literature and prudence, as also of the suitableness of the gifts or you, Mr. A. B. have agreed to invite, call, and intreat; and, by these presents, do heartily ini ite, call, and intreat you, to undertake the office of Pastor among lis, and the charge of our souls; and on your acceptance of this our call, promise you all due support, respect, encouragement and obedience in the Lord. In Witness whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names, this day of in the year of our Lord one thousand
Done at in the of and State of
No. VI. Form of an Act of Licensure
The Associate-Reformed Presbytery of in the State of being sufficiently certified of the literature, abilities, and piety of Mr. A..B. student in divinity; and having, thereupon, admitted him to trials tor licence; and he having acquitted himself to their satisfaction in all the 1 they did, at their meeting on the day of at in the of and State of and hereby do, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, allow and appoint him, the said Mr. A. B. to preach the gospel of peace within their bounds, and in ail other places to which the providence of God may call him,
By order of the Presbytery,
- D. Moderator,
- F. Clerk.
Given at in the of and State of this day of
No. VII. Form of an Edict.
The Associate -Reformed Presbytery of in the State of having received a regular call from the congregation at in the of and State of to Mr. A. B. preacher of the gospel, to be their Minister; and the said Mr. A. B. having underaone trials for ordination; and the Presbytery judging him qualified for the ministry of the gospel, and fit to be Pastor of this congregation, the call whereof has been by him accepted, have resolved to proceed to his ordination on the day of unless somewhat occur which may lawfully impede it; and therefore do hereby give notice to all concerned, that it they, or any of them have ought to object, why the said Mr. A. B. should not be admitted Pastor of this congelation, they may repair to the Presbytery, which is to meet at on the day of with certification, that if no objection be then made, the Presbytery will proceed without farther delay.
By order of the Presbytery,
- D. Moderator.
- F. Clerk.
Done at on the day of 18
No. VIII. Form of Testimonials of Ordination.
The Associate-Reformed Presbytery of in the State of having received a regular call from the congregation at in the of and State of to Mr. A. B. preacher of the gospel, took him on trials for ordination, and having judged him to be duly qualified tor the office of the gospel ministry, and, in particular, for the pastoral charge of the congregation at and being presbyterially assembled within the bounds of said congregation, on the day of did then and there solemnly set apart the said Mr. A. B. in the face of the whole congregation there present, to the office of the holy ministry in the said congregation, and did afterwards receive him into ministerial communion. 541When a candidate is ordained at large, or when the Presbytery cannot meet in the congregation to be settled, the form of the testimonals must be varied accordingly.
By order of the Presbytery,
- D. Moderator,
- F. Clerk.
Given at on the day of 18
No. IX. Form of a Transfer, in case of a Call, from one Presbytery to another
The Associate-Reformed Presbytery at in the State of having received from the Presbytery at in the State of a call for Mr. A. E. 542Preacher of the gospel, or minister of the congregation at as the case may require to the pastoral charge of the congregation at under the inspection of the Presbytery abovementioned, and the said call being by them approved, and by him accepted, they did, and hereby do, (dissolve his present pastoral relation and)543The words between the brackets ( ) to be omitted if the candidate be a probationer. transfer and remit him to the Presbytery at for 544Ordination, or installment, as may be neccessary in the pastoral charge of the said congregation at
By order of the Presbytery,
- D. Moderator.
- F. Clerk.
Done at on the day of 18
No. X. Form of a Commission to the General Synod.
It is hereby certified, that the Associate-Reformed Presbytery of in the State of at their meeting on the day of did, and hereby do, appoint Mr. A.B. minister at Mr. C. D. minister at with Mr. E. F. and Mr. G. H. Ruling Elders, their commissioners to the next General Synod of this church, to meet at on the day of next ensuing; or when and where it shall happen to meet; enjoining them to repair thither, and attend at all the sittings thereof; and there to consult, vote, and determine in all matters that come before them, according to the word of God, and the constitution and standards of this church, as they will be answerable; and that they report their diligence herein at their return.
By order of the Presbytery,
- K. Moderator.
- M. Clerk.
Done at this day of
No. XI. Form of a Libel.
Libel preferred against A. B. by order of the 545Session, Presbytery, or other court, as may happen, and if the libel be prosecuted by an individual, add, and at the instance of C.D.
Whereas, (here insert the crime libelled) is heinous sin 546Or are heinous sins and scandals and scandal, contrary to the word of God, and to the profession of this church founded thereon; repugnant to the Christian character, and injurious to the religion of the Lord Jesus:
Yet true it is, that you, (here insert the name and designation of the accused) are guilty of the matter 547or matters of scandal above-mentioned. 548When there are several charges, each must he distinctly laid in the manner, above specified, proceeding in the libel thus: And Whereas, ff . The facts also are to be enumerated so as to correspond with the several charges. -Thus, the facts for supporting the first charge being introduced with, In so far as, ff. for supporting the second, third, ff. will be introduced with, And Further, you the said, ff — till the end. In so far as you the said did at on the , day of or thereabouts, (here insert the facts)549 To be filled up with, which, if there he but one charge, or if more than one, with all which articles or several of them; and if the scandals be each of them censurable independently on the rest, with, all which articles or several, or any of them. Otherwise the words, or any, are to be left-out: since a libel may be found relevant from a combination of articles, none of which taken singly could warrant censure. being found relevant and proved against you, you ought to be proceeded against by the censures of the Lord’s house, according to the nature of your said offence 550Or Offences and scandal.
- F. Moderator.
- H. Clerk.
Done in at this day of
No. XII. Form of a Citation.
BY order of the 551Session of the Associate-Reformed church at or the Associate-Reformed Presbytery of . you, Mr. A. B.552 Member of, or elder or deacon in said congregation: or minister at under the inspection of said Presbytery; and if the accused belong to a different Judicatory, the blank is to be filled up accordingly. are hereby summoned 553If the process be raised at the instance of a party complaining, add after “summoned,” at the instance of C.D to appear before said and answer to the libel herewith presented, at on the day of and at o’clock in the .
(Signed) C. D. Moderator.
- F Clerk.
Done in at this day of .
No. XIII. Form of a Citation to Witnesses.
BY order of the 554Session of the Associate-Reformed church at or the Associate-Reformed Presbytery of . you, Mr. A. B.555 Member of, or elder or deacon in said congregation: or minister at under the inspection of said Presbytery; and if the accused belong to a different Judicatory, the blank is to be filled up accordingly. are hereby summoned 556If the process be raised at the instance of a party complaining, add after “summoned,” at the instance of C.D to appear before said at on the day of and at o’clock in the to give your testimony in the case of C. D. presently under process for censure, by said
(Signed) E. F. Moderator.
- H. Clerk.
Done in at this day of .
No. XIV. Form of the Oath to be administered to Witnesses.
You do swear by the living God, that the testimony which, in answer to questions or otherwise, you are now to give in the case of A. B. under process, before this judicatory, for the sin and scandal of shall be, to the best of your knowledge, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and that as you shall account to God, m the day when he shall judge the world by Jesus Christ.
No. XV. Form of an Act of Public Suspension.
WHEREAS A. B.557Member, or Elder, or Deacon, of this congregation; or minister, elder, deacon, or member of the congregation at hath been convicted before the 558Session of this church, or Session of the church at or Presbytery of of (and whereas the have, from time to time, and in the spirit of meekness, endeavoured, without effect, to reclaim their offending brother)559The clause included in the ( ) to be omitted in case where a public suspension may be necessary without previous steps. and whereas his continuing in his sin, and refusing to listen to the admonitions of his brethren, render it necessary for the honour of Christ Jesus, for the purity of his religion; for a warning to others, -and for his own benefit, to inflict on him a public censure of the Lord’s house; the did, and hereby do, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a court constituted in his name, suspend and exclude the said A. B. from the privileges of the church, till he return from the error of his way, and give solid proofs of unfeigned repentance.
No. XVI Suspension or Deposition from Office.
Whereas A. B. hath been convicted before the of and whereas it is especially needful, that office-bearers in the house of God be sound in the faith, of good report, and, by their blameless conversation, ensamples to the flock; and whereas the continuance of the said A. B. in the station which he presently holds, is, for these reasons, incompatible with the welfare of the church, the aforesaid did, and hereby do, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the powers committed by him unto them as a court constituted in his name, 560Suspend or depose, as case may require the said A. B. from the office of the 561Holy ministry, or eldership, or deaconship, according to his station prohibiting him from all and any exercise of the said office of the 562Holy ministry, or eldership, or deaconship, according to his station in the church of Christ; till he be lawfully restored thereto,
- D,- Moderator.
- ,F. Clerk.
Done in at this day of .
The above form is to be observed in those cases where, according to the discipline of the church, (Book ii. chap. v. 4.) suspension or deposition is necessary, whatever contrition be manifested; but in the event of contumacy, or persisting in the scandal, the following clauses are to be added immediately before the signature of the Moderator and Clerk. “And whereas the said A- B. hath manifested, and doth still manifest contumacious resistance to that authority to which he oweth subjection in the Lord, and refuseth to make just and scriptural satisfation for his offence; the further did, and hereby do, in the same venerable name, suspend and exclude the said A. B. from the privileges of the Christian-Church; with certification, that if he shall not return unto his duty, acknowledging the found proved against him, with his’ contumacious behaviour, and confessing his humiliation and penitence therefor, to the glory of God; and apply to the against 563Here insert the time, &c. of satisfaction. for giving satisfaction with respect to the whole of this his, sinful course and conduct, the will then consider on proceeding against him by some higher censure, as they shall see cause.”
No. XVII. Form of a Sentence of. Excommunication.
Whereas 564Matter of or several matters of as the case may be. heinous sin and scandal proved, at the meeting of the Associate-Reformed, of on the day of against Mr. A. B. and whereas the Lord. Jesus hath especially given it in charge to the Judicatories of his house, not to suffer sin upon a brother, but, in the fear of God, to endeavour to reclaim^ him by authoritatively admonishing, rebuking, and otherwise censuring him: all which hath accordingly been done— and whereas he remained obstinate and contumacious, without any evidence or sign of repentance, or sorrow for his said scandal and offence, notwithstanding ail the reclaiming means which have hitherto beert used with him: Therefore the did, and hereby do, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only king and head of the church, and according to the powers committed by him to them, as a court constituted in his name, actually excommunicate the said A. B. casting him out of the communion of the church of Christ, declaring him to be of those whom the Lord Christ commandeth to be holden by all and every one of the faithful, as heathen meivand publicans; and delivering him unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
- D. Moderator.
- F. Clerk.
Done in at this day of
No. XVIII. Form of an Act of Absolution and Restoration, as it is to be intimated to one who hath been excommunicated.
WHEREAS thou, A. B. hast, for thy sin, been shut out from the communion of the faithful, and hast now manifested thy repentance, wherein the church resteth satisfied: the in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the powers committed by him to them, as a court constituted in his name, did, and hereby do absolve thee from the censure of excommunication, formerly pronounced against thee; and do restore thee to the communion of the church, and the free use of all the ordinances of Christ, that thou mayest partake of all his benefit to thy eternal salvation.
No. XIX. Form of a Presbyterial Warrant for intimating the Censure of Excommunication.
The of having found just cause of excommunication against A. B. on account of and of aggravated contumacy and impenitence therein, and having, at their meeting at on the day of excommunicated him accordingly; did, and hereby do appoint and direct you, Mr. C.D. minister of the gospel at to intimate said censure to the congregation at on day, the day of in the ordinary place of public worship, and immediately after the conclusion of the service, and in the following words: (Here insert the act of excommunication.)
No. XX. Form of a Presbyterial Warrant for intimating the Absoluiton and Restoration of a Penitent.
The of having found just and sufficient cause of absolving A. B. from the censure of excommunication under which he presently lies,’ and of restoring him to the privileges of the Lord’j house; and having at their meeting at on the day of absolved and restored accordingly, did, and hereby do appoint and direct you, Mr. C. D. minister of the gospel at to intimate absolution and restoration to the congregation at on day of in the ordinary place of public worship, and immediately after the conclusion of the service, and in the words following; (Here insert the acl of absolution.)
No. XXI. Form of Marriage-Testimonials from Parents.
We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, viz. A. B. and C.D. of do hereby certify, that our L. M. who hath a purpose of marriage with E. F. of is a single that is not related to said E. F. in any degree of consanguinity or affinity in which it is unlawful to contrail marriage; and that there is no freason known to aj, of what kind soever, why they may not be lawfully married.
No. XXII. Form of Marriage Testimonials from Persons acquainted with the Parties but not near Relations.
WE, whose names are hereunto subscribed, viz. do hereby certify, That we are well acquainted with A. B. of who hath a purpose of marriage with C. D. of that to the best of our knowledge and belief is a single that is not related to said E. F. in any degree of consanguinity or affinity in which it is unlawful to contract marriage; and that there is no reason known lo us, of tv hat kind soever, why they may not be lawfully married.
Of Proceedings in Judicatories, and the Behaviour of Members.
- As the dispatch of business depends greatly upon punctual attendance, diligence is to be used, that the Judicatory assemble precisely at the hour appointed; the roll is therefore to be called immediately after prayer by the moderator, and all absentees to be marked, and if their absence appears not to have been necessary, censured.
- If a quorum be assembled at the hour, and the moderator be absent, the oldest minister shall take his place, and shall moderate during that sitting.
- After calling the roll, the minutes of the last sitting are to be read, and, if need be, corrected.
- Business left unfinished at the last meeting or sitting, is ordinarily to be concluded first.
- All papers presented to the court, shall be filed in the order in which they are read, with proper indorsements, and minutes thereof shall be given to the moderator.
- No motion, excepting for adjournment, shall be admitted for discussion, unless it be committed to writing, and seconded.
- Members are to observe great gravity while judicially convened, and closely to attend, in their speeches, to the subject in debate, avoiding prolix and desultory harrangues.
- Personal reflections are by no means to be tolerated.
- Without express permission, members are not to engage in private conversation; nor are they to address one another, or any person concerned, but through the moderator.
- Every speaker, unless disabled by age or infirmity, is to rise and address himself to the moderator.
- No speaker is to be interrupted, except he be out of order, or to correct mistakes and misrepresentations.
- Without the special permission of the court, no member is to speak more than twice on the same subject, before the rest of the members have had an opportunity of speaking. It any member persist in the breach of this, and of the foregoing regulation, after having been twice admonished by the moderator, he shall lose the priof debate for that sitting.
- In cases of great importance or difficulty, it may be highly proper, before the members have made up their minds, or have committed themselves in their speeches, to employ one of the brethren in prayer for special light and direction.
- Members ought not, without weighty reasons, to decline voting, as this practice might leave the decision of very interesting questions to a very small proportion of the Judicatory: Silent members are reckoned to acquiesce with the majority.
- In cases where a number of members feel themselves perplexed, and unable to come to any settled conclusion, it may be prudent to defer a decision, or to take the previous question, whether they will vote on the main question or not.
- When the members are equally divided, and’the moderator feels himself too much embarrassed to give a casting vote, the question shall be deferred until the next sitting; and if, on a second trials the equal division, and the moderator’s embarrassment remain, it shall lie over for future consideration.
- The votes shall not be recorded unless it be required by one third of the members present.
- As it may sometimes answer valuable ends for the members of Judicatories to confer together on certain subjects, in a manner which would not consist with the regularity and authority of a constituted court; it may be expedient to hold, on such occasions, extra-judicial conferences; when the members, laying aside their judicial character, converse as private individuals.
- All Judicatories have a right to sit in private, on business which, in their judgment, ought not to be matter of public speculation.
- Judicatories are to meet upon their own adjournment, except when assembled occasionally by the moderator, or an act of a higher court.
21 . No business regularly before an ordinary, shall be transacted at an occasional meeting.
- No member is to leave a Judicatory to return home, or for other business, without its consent.
- All Judicatories, Sessions excepted, are to close their meetings, after prayer, with singing the 133d, or some other Psalm, and pronouncing the Apostolical Benediction.
Of the Solemnization of Marriage
[note]Concerning the doctrine of Marriage, see Con. Chap 24.
Although Marriage be no sacrament, nor peculiar to the church of God, but common to mankind, and of public interest in every commonwealth; yet, because such as marry are to marry.in the Lord, and have special need of instruction, -direction, and exhortation from the word of God, at their entering into meh a new condition, aria of his blessing upon them therein, it is expedient that- marriage be solemnized by a lawful minister of the word, that he may accordingly counsel them, and pray for a blessing upon them.
- No marriage is to be solemnized between parties under age/ without the consent of parents; or, if these be dead, of guardians.’ Nor is it lawful for parents or guardians to compel their children or wards. to marry again-t their free-consent; nor should they, without just cause, withhold their own consent.
- And When the parties are of age, or even have been married before, it nevertheless belongeth to the reverence due to parents, to endeavour, if possible, to obtain their consent.
- It is an excellent mean of preventing improper or unlawful marriages, that the purpose of marriage, previously to the solemnization thereof, be published three several sabbaths to the congregation, at the place or places where -the parties usually reside, fiut in extraordinary cases, arising from the diversity of local circumstances, ministers, with the advice ff their Sessions, when necessary; may act as they find for edification. Provided always, that when such cases occur, the parties produce testimonials horn parents or guardians, or, if these be dead, or reside in a place very far distant, from near relatives, or other respectable persons well acquainted with them; that they are both single; are not within the forbidden degrees if consanguinity or affinity; and that no reason is known to the testifiers why they may not be lawfully married. [note]Appendix I. No. 21, 22
- After the purpose or contract oi marriage hath been made known in either of these ways, the marriage is not to be long deferred. Therefore, the minister, having had convenient warning, and nothing been objected to hinder it, is to solemnize it before a competent number of credible witnesses, on any day of the year, excepting the Lord’s day, and days of public humiliation.
6. And because all relations arc sanctified by the word and pfay< the minister is to pray for a blessing on the parties to this effect; “Acknowledging our sins, whereby we have made ourselves less than the least of all the mercies of God, and provoked him to w embitter all our comforts; earnestly, in the name of Christ, to intreat the Lord, whose presence and favour are the happiness of every condition, and sweeten every relation, to be their por” tion, and to own and accept them in Christ, who are now to be joined in the honourable estate of marriage, the covenant of their God; and that, as he hath brought them together by his providence, he would sanctify them by his Spirit, giving them a frame of heart fit for their new estate; enriching them with all the graces u whereby they may perform the duties, enjoy the comforts, undergo the cares, and resist the temptations, which accompany that condition, as becometh Christians.”
- Prayer being ended, let the minister briefly declare unto them, out of the scripture, “The institution, use, and ends of marriage, with the conjugal duties which, in all faithfulness, they are to perform each to other; exhorting them to study the holy word of God, that they may learn to live by faith; and to be content in the midst of all marriage cares and troubles, sanctifying God’s name, in a thankful, sober, and holy use of all conjugal comforts; praying much with and for one another; watching over, and provoking each other to love and good works; and to live together as heirs of the grace of life.”
- After solemnly charging the parties before the great God, who searcheth all hearts, and to whom they must give a strict account at the last day, that if either of them know any cause, by pre-contract or otherwise, why they may not lawfully proceed to marriage, that they now discover it; and no impediment being acknowledged, the minister shall direct them to join their right hands, and shall address himself first to the bridegroom, and then to the bride, as follows:
To the Bridegroom.
You take this woman, whom you have by the hand, to be your lawful and married wife, and do promise and covenant, in the presence of God and of these witnesses, to be a loving and faithful husband unto her, till God shall separate you by death. Answer, I do.
To the Bride.
You take this man, whom you have by the hand, to be your lawful and married husband, and do promise and covenant^ in the presence of God and of these witnesses, to be a loving, faithful, and obedient wife to him, till God shall separate you by death. Answer, I do.
- Then, without any further ceremony, the minister shall pronounce them to be husband and wife, according to God’s ordinance, and conclude with prayer to this effect: “That the Lord would be pleased to accompany his own ordinance with his blessing; beseeching hirn to enrich the persons now married, as with other pledges of his love, so particularly with the fruits and comforts of marriage, to the praise of his abundant mercy, in and through Christ Jesus.”
Concerning Burial of the Dead.
When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial, and there immediately interred, without any ceremony.
And because the customs of kneeling down, and praying by, or towards the dead corpse, and other such usages, in the place where it lies before it be carried to burial, are superstitious; and for that, praying, reading, and singing both in going to, and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living; therefore let no such things be observed.
Howbeit, it is very convenient, that the Christian friends who accompany the dead body to the place appointed for public burial, do apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion; and that the minister, as upon other occasions, so, at tin, time, if he be present, mav put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respetts or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, while he was living.