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Besides the Sabbath day, the congregations shall likewise observe Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, with the day succeeding each : and whereas in most of the cities, and provinces of the Netherlands, it is moreover customary to observe the day of the circumcision, and ascension of our Lord, the Ministers where such practice has not been adopted, shall endeavour to prevail with the Civil Authority to establish a conformity with the other churches.
Every Minister shall, in the ordinary afternoon service on the Lord's day, briefly explain the system of the christian doctrine comprehended in the catechism, adopted by the Reformed churches; so that if practicable, the explanation may be annually completed, according to the sections made for that purpose in said catechism.
The 150 psalms of David; the ten commandments; the Lord's prayer; the 12 articles of the christian faith; the songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, versified, only, shall be sung in public worship. The churches are left at liberty to adopt, or omit that entitled, “ O thou, who art our Father God!" All others are prohibited; and where any have been already introduced, they shall be discontinued as soon as possible.
In matters relating to matrimony, the churches shall abide by those usages, which they have hitherto observed, conformably to the word of God, and former ecclesiastical ordinances, at least until the civil government shall institute some general ordinance for that purpose.
IV. OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLINE.
AS CHRISTIAN DISCIPLINE is spiritual, and exempts no person from the judgement and punishment of the civil power, so it is requisite that without any reference to civil punishment, ecclesiastical, or spiritual censure should be exercised; in order to reconcile the delinquent with the church, and with his neighbour, and that offences may be removed out of the church of Christ.
When any person offends either against purity of doctrine, or of morals, and such offence is private, and has given rise to no public scandal ; in such case the method shall be pursued which is pointed out by our Lord, in the 18th. chapter of Matthew.
Secret sins shall not be brought before the consistory, when the offender has discovered proofs of repentance, on being admonished by a single person in private, or before two or three witnesses.
If any person, guilty of a private offence, shall reject the friendly admonition given him before two or three witnesses, or shall have committed a crime publickly known, the same shall be reported to the Consistory.
The satisfaction for such offences, which are in their own nature public, or are become notorious by the contempt of ecclesiastical admonitions, shall, when evident proofs of repentance are given, be made in a public manner, at the discretion of the Consistory. In the country, and in villages where there is but one Minister, the satisfaction shall be made with the advice of two neighbouring Churches, in such manner and form as shall appear most edifying.
Such as obstinately reject the admonitions of the Consistory, or have committed a public, or otherwise gross offence, shall be suspended from the Lord's supper ; and being suspended, and repeatedly admonished, without discovering marks of repentance, the church shall then proceed to the last remedy, namely, Excommunication, agreeably to the adopted form, and conformably to the word of God. But no person shall be excommunicated without the previous advice of the Classis.
Before the church proceeds to Excommunication, the obstinacy of the offender shall be publickly notified to the congregation, declaring his offences, together with the particular care, and attention bestowed on bin, by admonition, suspension from the Lord's table, and by repeated remonstrances. The congregation shall also be exhorted farther to admonish the delinquent, and to pray for him. This procedure shall be comprised in three several steps. In the first instance, the name of the offender shall not be mentioned, that he may in some measure be spared. In the second, with the advice of Classis, his name shall be expressed. In the third, the congregation shall be informed, that unless he
repenteth, he will be excluded from the communion of the church; so that if he remain obstinate, his excommunication may take place with their tacit approbation. The interval between these notifications shall be at the discretion of the Consistory.
When an excommunicated person becomes penitent, and is desirous of being again reconciled to the church, such desire shall be publickly declared to the congregation, either before the administration of the Lord's supper, or at some other seasonable opportunity ; that if no objections are offered, he may, on declaring his repentance, be publicly readmitted to a participation of the Lord's supper, agreeably to the form appointed for
If Ministers of the word, Elders or Deacons, have committed any public gross sin, which is scandalous to the church, or punishable by the civil magistrate; the Elders, or Deacons shall immediately be removed from their office, by the previous determination of the consistory of their own, and next adjacent church. But the Ministers shall be suspended, and it shall be left to the decision of the Classis, whether they shall be wholly deposed, or not.
The following are to be considered as the principal offences that deserve the punishment of suspension, or removal from office, viz. False Doctrine or Heresy, public schisms, open Blasphemy, Simony, faithless desertion of Office, or intruding upon that of another, Perjury, Adultery, Fornication, Theft, acts of Violence, Brawlings, habitual Drunkenness, and scandalous Traffic ; in short, all such sins, and gross offenoes which render the perpetrators infamous before the
world, and which in a private member of the church would be considered as deserving excommunication.
The Ministers, Elders, and Deacons shall exercise christian discipline amongst themselves, and exhort one another in a friendly manner, respecting the discharge of their offices.
ART. LXXXII. The Minister, with the approbation of Consistory, shall furnish those members, who remove out of the congregation with a certificate of their behaviour, sealed with the seal of the church ; or where there is no seal, signed by the Minister, or by two of the Elders.
When indigent members, for sufficient reasons, remove out of the congregation, they shall be assisted by the Deacons in such measure as they shall think proper; taking care however that the place to which they are going, and the assistance which has been afforded them, be endorsed upon their testimonials.
No church shall exercise authority over another, nor any Minister over his brethren in the ministry; nof shall Elders and Deacons rule over other Elders and Deacons.
In things indifferent, foreign churches shall not be rejected, whose customs and usages vary from ours.
These articles, relating to the regular government of the church, have been formed, and adopted by common consent in such manner, that if the interest of the church should require it, they may and ought to be altered, enlarged, or diminished : this however shall