Imatges de pÓgina
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xviii. 17, and the apostolic injunction respecting the incestuous person, 1 Cor. ver. 1-5. But as this is the highest censure of the church, and of the most folemn nature, it is not to be inflicted without the advice and consent of, at leaft, the presbytery under whose care the particular church is, to which the offender belongs; or the advice of a higher judicatory, as the case may appear to require.

16. All processes in cases of scandal shall commence, within the space of one year after the crime shall have been committed; unless it fhall have become recently flagrant.

17. When any member shall remove from one congregation to another, he shall produce proper testimonials of his church-membership, before he be admitted to church-privileges; unless the church, to which he removes, has other fatisfactory means of information.

c H A P.

II.

Of Process against a Bishop or

Minister.

S the success of the gospel, in a great mea.

sure, depends upon the credit and good report of its ministers, each presbytery ought,

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with the greatest attention, to watch over all its members; and be careful to censure them, when neceffary, with impartiality; either for personal crimes, which they may commit in common with other men; or those that are vocational, arising from the manner in which they may discharge their important office,

1. Process, against a gospel minister, fhall al ways be entered before the presbytery of which he is a member. And, in case it shall be found that the facts with which he shall be charged happened without the bounds of his own presby. tery, they shall send notice to the presbytery within whose bounds they did happen: and defire that presbytery, either (if within convenient distance) to cite the witnesses to appear at the place where the trial began, or, if otherwise, to take the examination themselves, and transmit an authentic record of their testimony. Always giving due notice to the accused person of the time and place of such examination.

2. Nevertheless, in case of a minister being supposed to be guilty of any crime, or crimes, at such a distance from his usual place of residence, as that the offence is not likely to become otherwise known to the presbytery to which he belongs; it shall, in such case, be the duty of the presbytery within whose bounds the facts shall have happened, after satisfying themselves that there is probable ground of accusation, to fend

notice to the presbytery of which he is a member; who are to proceed against him, and to take the proof by commission, as above directed.

3. Process, against a gofpel minister, shall not be entered upon

unless fome person, or persons, undertake to make out the charge; or when common fame so loudly proclaims the scandal, that the presbytery find it necessary to profecute, and search into the matter, for the honour of religion.

4. As the success of the gospel greatly de. pends on the unblemished character of its ministers; their foundness in the faith, and holy, and exemplary conversation; and as it is the duty of all Christians to be very cautious in taking up an ill report of any man ; it is especially fo of a minister of the gospel. If, therefore, any man know a minister guilty of a private censurable fault, he should warn him in private. But if he persist in it, or it become public, he should apply to some other bishop of the presbytery, for his advice in the matter.

5. When complaint is laid before the presbytery, it must be reduced to writing, and nothing farther is to be done at the first meeting, unless by consent of parties, then giving the minister a full copy of the charges, with the names of the witnesses annexed thereto ; and citing all par. ties, and their witnesses, to appear and be heard

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at the next meeting: which meeting 1.all not be sooner than ten days after such ciration.

6. Ai the next meeting of the presbytery, the charges must be read to him, and his answers beard. "If it appear necessary to proceed farther, the presbytery cught to labour to bring him to feonfellion. And if he confess, and the matter be base and flagitious; such as drunkenness, un. cleanness, or crimes of a higher nature, however penitent he may appear, to the satisfaction of all, the presbytery must, without delay, fus. pend him from the exercise of his office, or depose him from the ministry; and appoint him a due time to confefs publicly before the congregation offended, and to profess his repentance.

7. The prosecutor shall be previously warned, that, if he fail to prove the charges, he must himself be censured, as a slanderer of the gospel ninistry, in proportion to the malignity, or Tashness, that shall appear in the prosecution.

8. If a minifter, accused of atrocious crimes, bcing twice duly cited, fiall refuse to attend the presbytery, he must be immediately sufpended And if, after another citation, he still refuse to attend, he thall be deposed as contumacious.

9. If the minister, when he appears, will 1100 confess; but denies the facts alledged against him; if, on hearing the witnefles, the charges appear impor ant and well supported, the presbytery

mult, nevertheless, censure him ; and fuspend or depose him, according to the nature of the offence.

10. Herefy and schism may be of such a nature as to infer deposition : but errors ought to be carefully confidered; whether they ítrike at the vitals of religion, and are industrioully spread; or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much hurt.

11. A minifter, under process for herefy or fchism, should be treated with christian and bro. therly tenderness. Frequent conferences ought to be held with him, and proper admonitions administered. Yet, for some more dangerous errors, suspension becomes necessary. But a fynod should be consulted in such cases.

12. If the presbytery find, on trial, that the matter complained of amounts to no more than such acts of infirmity as may be amendest, and the people fatisfied; fo as little or nothing re. mains to hinder his usefulness; they shall take all prudent measures to remove the offence.

13. A minister, deposed for fcandalous conduct, may not be restored, even on his deepest sorrow for fin, without some time of eminent and exemplary, humble, and edifying conversation, to heal the wound made by his fcandal. ,'

14. As soon as a minister is depofcd, his congregation fhall be declared vacant.

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