« PreviousContinue »
the moderator, or, in case of his absence, by some other member; and every particular session shall be opened and closed with prayer.
VI. It shall be the duty of the synod to keep full and fair records of its proceedings, to submit them annually to the inspection of the General Assembly, and to report to the Assembly the number of its presbyteries, and of the members and alterations of the presbyteries.
OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.*
I. THE General Assembly is the highest judicatory of the Presbyterian Church. It shall represent, in one body, all the particular churches of this denomination; and shall bear the title of THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
II. The General Assembly shall consist of an equal delegation of bishops and elders from each presbytery, in the following proportion; viz: each presbytery consisting of not more than twenty-four ministers, shall send one minister and one elder; and each presbytery consisting of more than twenty-four ministers, shall send one minister and one elder for each additional twenty
The radical principles of Presbyterian church government and discipline are:-That the several different congregations of believers, taken collectively, constitute one Church of Christ, cailed emphatically the Church;-that a larger part of the church, or a representation of it, should govern a smaller, or determine matters of controversy which arise therein;-that, in like manner, a representation of the whole should govern and determine in regard to every part, and to all the parts united; that is, that a majority shall govern: and consequently that appeals may be carried from lower to higher judicatories, ti?? they be finally decided by the collected wisdom and united voice of the whole Church. For these principles and this procedure, the example of the apostles, and the practice of the primitive Church, are considered as authority. See Acts xv. 1-29; xvi. 4, and the proofs adduced under the last three chapters.
four ministers, or for each additional fractional number of ministers not less than twelve; and these delegates, so appointed, shall be styled, Commissioners to the General Assembly.
III. Any fourteen or more of these commissioners, one half of whom shall be ministers, being met on the day, and at the place appointed, shall be a quorum for the transaction of business.
IV. The General Assembly shall receive and issue all appeals, complaints, and references, that affect the doctrine or Constitution of the Church, and are regularly brought before it from the inferior judicatories, provided, that cases may be transmitted to The Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly as prescribed in the Book of Discipline. The General Assembly shall review the records of every synod and approve or censure them; it shall give its advice and instruction, in all cases submitted to it, in conformity with the Constitution of the Church; and it shall constitute the bond of union, peace, correspondence and mutual confidence among all our churches.
V. To the General Assembly also belongs the power of deciding in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; of reproving, warning, or bearing testimony against error in doctrine, or immorality in practice, in any church, presbytery, or synod; of erecting new synods when it may be judged necessary; of superintending the concerns of the whole Church; of corresponding with foreign Churches, on such terms as may be agreed upon by the Assembly and the corresponding body; of suppressing schismatical contentions and disputations; and, in general, of recommending and attempting reformation of manners, and the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness, through all the churches under their care.
VI. Before any overtures or enactments proposed by the Assembly to be established as rules regulative of the constitutional powers of presbyteries and synods, shall be obligatory upon the Church, it shall be necessary to transmit
them to all the presbyteries, and to receive the returns of at least a majority of them, in writing, approving thereof, and such rules, when approved, shall be appended to the Constitution of the Church.
VII. The General Assembly shall meet at least once in every year. On the day appointed for that purpose, the Moderator of the last Assembly, if present, or in case of his absence, some other minister, shall open the meeting with a sermon, and preside until a new Moderator be chosen. No commissioner shall have a right to deliberate or vote in the Assembly, until his name shall have been enrolled by the Clerk, and his commission examined, and filed among the papers of the Assembly.
VIII. Each session of the Assembly shall be opened and closed with prayer. And the whole business of the Assembly being finished, and the vote taken for dissolving the present Assembly, the Moderator shall say from the chair,-" By virtue of the authority delegated to me, "by the church, let this General Assembly be dissolved, "and I do hereby dissolve it, and require another General "6 'Assembly, chosen in the same manner, to meet at
"-after which he shall pray and return thanks, and pronounce on those present the apostolic benediction.
OF ELECTING AND ORDAINING RULING ELDERS AND DEACONS.
I. HAVING defined the officers of the Church, and the judicatories by which it shall be governed, it is proper here to prescribe the mode in which ecclesiastical rulers should be ordained to their respective offices, as well as some of the principles by which they shall be regulated in discharging their several duties.
II. Every congregation shall elect persons to the office of ruling elder, and to the office of deacon, or either of them, in the mode most approved and in use in that con
gregation." But in all cases the persons elected must be male members in full communion in the church in which they are to exercise their office.
III. When any person shall have been elected to either of these offices, and shall have declared his willingness to accept thereof, he shall be set apart in the following
IV. After sermon, the minister shall state, in a concise manner, the warrant and nature of the office of ruling elder or deacon, together with the character proper to be sustained, and the duties to be fulfilled by the officer elect; having done this, he shall propose to the candidate, in the presence of the congregation, the following ques tions:-viz.
1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church, as containing the system of doc trine taught in the Holy Scriptures?
3. Do you approve of the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in these United States?
4. Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this congregation, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof?
5. Do you promise to study the peace, unity, and purity of the Church?
The elder, or deacon elect, having answered these questions in the affirmative, the minister shall address to the members of the church the following question :-viz.
Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder, (or deacon) and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord, to which his office, according to the Word of God, and the constitution of this Church, entitles him?
A1 Cor. xiv. 40.
The members of the church having answered this question in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the minister shall proceed to set apart the candidate, by prayer, to the office of ruling elder, (or deacon, as the' case may be) and shall give to him, and to the congregation, an exhortation suited to the occasion.
V. Where there is an existing session, it is proper that the members of that body, at the close of the service, and in the face of the congregation, take the newly ordained elder by the hand, saying in words to this purpose,-" We "give you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of "this office with us."
VI. The offices of ruling elder and deacon are both perpetual, and cannot be laid aside at pleasure. No person can be divested of either office but by deposition. Yet an elder or deacon may become, by age or infirmity, incapable of performing the duties of his office; or he may, though chargeable with neither heresy nor immorality, become unacceptable, in his official character, to a majority of the congregation to which he belongs. In either of these cases, he may, as often happens with respect to a minister, cease to be an acting elder or deacon.
VII. Whenever a ruling elder or deacon, from either of these causes, or from any other, not inferring crime, shall be incapable of serving the church to edification, the session shall take order on the subject, and state the fact, together with the reasons of it, on their records. Provided always, that nothing of this kind shall be done without the concurrence of the individual in question, unless by the advice of presbytery.
VIII. If any particular church, by a vote of members in full communion, shall prefer to elect ruling elders or deacons for a limited time in the exercise of their functions, this may be done; provided, the full time be not less than three years, and the session or board of deacons be made to consist of three classes, one of which
i Acts vi. 5, 6.