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“tery, to the next General Assembly of the Pri's" byterian Church in the United States of “ America, to meet at “ day of
or wherever, 6 and whenever the said Assembly may happen “to sit; to consult, vote, and determine, on all "things that may come before that body, according to the principles and constitution of this “ church, and the word of God. And of his “diligence herein, he is to render an account at “ his return. Signed by order of the presbytery,
Clerk." And the presbytery shall make record of the appointment.
III. In order, as far as possible, to procure a respectable and full delegation to all our judicatories, it is proper that the expenses of ministers and elders in their attendance on these judicatories, be defrayed by the bodies which they respectively represent.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF DISCIPLINE.
I. DISCIPLINE is the exercise of that authority, and the application of that system of laws, which the Lord Jesus Christ hath appointed in his church.
II. The exercise of discipline is highly important and necessary. Its ends are, the removal of offences; the vindication of the honour of Christ; the promotion of the purity and general edification of the church; and also the benefit of the offender himself.
III. An offence is any thing in the principles or practice of a church member, which is contrary to the word of God; or which, if it be not in its own nature sinful, may tempt others to sin, or mar their spiritual edification.
IV. Nothing, therefore,ought to be considered by any judicatory as an offence, or admitted as matter of accusation, which cannot be proved to be such from Scripture, or from the regulations and practice of the church, founded on Scripture; and which does not involve those evils, which discipline is intended to prevent.
V. The exercise of discipline in such a man. ner as to edify the church, requires not only much of the spirit of piety, but also much prudence and discretion. It becomes the rulers of the church, therefore, to take into view all the circumstances which may give a different character to conduct, and render it more or less offensive; and which may, of course, require a very different mode of proceeding in similar cases, at different times, for the attainment of the same end.
VI. All baptized persons are members of the church, are under its care, and subject to its government and discipline : and when they have arrived at the years of discretion, they are bound to perform all the duties of church members.
VII. Offences are either private or public to each of which, appropriate modes of proceeding belong
OF PRIVATE OFFENCES.
I. PRIVATE offences are such as are known only to an individual, or, at most, to a very few.
II. Private offences ought not to be immediately prosecuted before a church judicatory, because the objects of discipline may be quite as well, and, in many cases, much better attained, by a different course; and because a public prosecution, in such circumstances, would tend unnecessarily to spread the knowledge of offences, to exasperate and harden offenders, to
extend angry and vexatious litigation, and thus to render the discipline of the church more injurious than the original offence.
III. No complaint or information, on the subject of personal and private injuries, shall be admitted, unless those means of reconciliation, and of privately reclaiming the offender, have been used, which are required by Christ, Matt. xviii. 15, 16. And in case of offences, which, though not personal, are private, that is, known only to one, or a very few, it is pro per to take the same steps, as far as circumstances admit.
IV. Those who bring information of private and personal injuries before judicatories, without having taken these previous steps, shall themselves be censured, as guilty of an offence against the peace and order of the church.
V. If any person shall spread the knowledge of an offence, unless so far as shall be unavoidable, in prosecuting it before the proper judicatory, or in the due performance of some other indispensable duty, he shall be liable to censure, as a slanderer of his brethren.
OF PUBLIC OFFENCES.
I. A PUBLIC offence is that which is attended with such circumstances as to require the cognizance of a church judicatory. Il. This is always the case when an offence cial process.
is either so notorious and scandalous, as that no private steps would obviate its injurious effects; or when, though originally known to one, or a few, the private steps have been ineffectual, and there is, obviously, no way of removing the offence, but by means of a judi.
III. An offence, gross in itself, and known to several, may be so circumstanced, that it plainly cannot be prosecuted to conviction. In such cases, however grievous it may be to the pious, to see an unworthy member in the church, it is proper to wait until God, in his righteous pro vidence, shall give further light; as few things tend more to weaken the authority of discipline, and to multiply offences, than to com mence process without sufficient proof.
IV. When any person is charged with a crime, not by an individual, or individuals, coming forward as accusers, but by general rumour, the previous steps prescribed by our Lord in case of private offences, are not necessary; but the proper judicatory is bound to take immediate cognizance of the affair.
V. In order to render an offence proper for the cognizance of a judicatory on this ground, the rumour must specify some particular sin or sins; it must be general, or widely spread; it must not be transient, but permanent, and rather gaining strength than declining: and it must be accompanied with strong presumption o? truth. Taking up charges on this ground, of course, requires great caution, and the exercise of much Christian prudence.