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od, we promise hereby to be always willing and ready to comply with such demand, under the penalty before mentioned; reserving, to ourselves, the right of rehearing, or a new trial, if we shall conceive ourselves aggrieved in the sentence of the General Synod: during the dependance of which new trial, we promise to acquiesce in the judgment already passed, as well as finally to submit, without disturbing the peace of the churches, to the ultimate decision of the said General Synod."
As no student can be admitted to a public examination before any Classis or Synod, unless he shall produce a document under the hand and seal of a Professor of Theology, appointed by the General Synod; (See expl. art. 3.) so it shall be the duty of every Professor, after repeated private examinations, faithfully, and impartially, to certify the progress and attainments of every student, who has attended the lectures of the said Professor for two years, or may have studied the same term, under some person for that purpose expressly named by the General Synod, and who shall apply to such Professor for a certificate, and recommendation, All regulations respecting any further term for study, or any particular dispensation, which peculiar circumstances may render necessary in the case of any students in Theology shall be formed by the General Synod alone; to which, as well the Professors, as the Classes or Particular Synods shall submit, and always conform themselves.
Every Professor of Theology shall continue in his office during life, unless in case of such misbehaviour as shall be deemed a violation of the obligations entered into at his appointment; or unless he voluntarily deserts or resigns his profession; or from age or infirm
ities becomes incapable of fulfilling the duties thereof; of all which the General Synod alone shall judge; and to that Synod a Professor of Theology shall always be amenable for his doctrine, mode of teaching, and moral conduct.
The General Synod will endeavour to procure and preserve a proper fund for the support of the Professorship of Theology; that the persons set apart for that office, may not be dependant upon any particular congregation, while they are employed for the common benefit of all the churches.
III. ELDERS AND DEACONS.
HE manner of choosing Elders and Deacons, is not rigidly defined: A double number may be nominat ed by the Consistory, out of which the members of the Church may choose those who shall serve. Or, all the members may unite in nominating and choosing the whole number without the interference of the Consistory. Or, the Consistory, for the time being, as repre senting all the members, may choose the whole, and refer the persons thus chosen, by publishing them in the church, for the approbation of the people. This last method has been found most convenient, especially in large churches, and has long been generally adopted. But where that, or either of the other modes has for many years been followed in any church, there shall be no variation or change, but by previous application to the Classis, and express leave first obtained for alter ing such custom.
The Elders, with the Ministers of the word, constitute what the Reformed Dutch Church properly calls, the Consistory. But as the Deacons have always in America, where the congregations were at first very small, (See Synod Dord. Art. 38.) been joined with the Elders; and wherever charters have been obtained, are particularly named, as forming with them one Consistory, it is necessary to define their joint as well as respective powers. From the form of their ordination it is evident, that to the Elders, together with the Ministers of the word, is committed the spiritual government of each church; while to the Deacons belong the obtaining charitable assistance and the distribution of the same in the most effectual manner for the relief and comfort of the poor. When joined together in one board, the Elders and Deacons have all an equal voice in whatever relates to the temporalities of the church, to the calling of a Minister, or the choice of their own successors; in all which, they are considered as the general and joint representatives of the people: but in admitting members to full communion; in exercising discipline upon those who have erred from the faith, or offended in morals; and in choosing delegates to attend the Classis, the Elders, with the Ministers, have alone a voice.
Notwithstanding, as most of the Consistories still remain small, it is resolved that the respective powers may remain blended; and the Elders and Deacons continue to unite in executing the joint rights of a Consistory respecting all the objects of the respective offices as hitherto they have done; and no change in any congregation shall in this matter be introduced, without first making application for that purpose to the Classis, and obtaining an express regulation for the
distinct and separate administration of the respective powers of the Elders and Deacons.
As many difficulties are known to have arisen in the minds of Deacons, respecting the application of monies collected by them in the churches, to any other purposes than those of immediate charity; it becomes necessary to explain this subject, and remove the difficulties, by declaring that the design and object of the collections are not only the relief of the poor, but also the necessities of the congregation.-Charity extends to the souls of men as well as their bodies; and procuring the gospel for the poor is the highest benefit. If the abilities of the congregation therefore, are not adequate to the building of a church, or maintaining a Minister, by means of subscriptions, or any other fund, there is no doubt, but the Deacons may, in good conscience assist from their collections, and bestow as much as can be spared from the immediate wants of the suffering poor. Finally, as the Deacons in every church are to be considered as serving the church, so they are in that service, subordinate to the rule and government of the church which is vested in the Consistory, (See Art. 25, of Syn. Dord.) and they ought to submit to the advice and direction of the same. But where no particular directions interfere, the Deacons must proceed agreeably to their own discretion.
In order to lessen the burthen of a perpetual attendance upon ecclesiastical duties, and by a rotation in office to bring forward deserving members, it is the established custom, in the Reformed Dutch Church, that Elders and Deacons remain only two years in service; after which they retire from their respective offices, and others are chosen in their places; the rotation being always conducted in such a manner, that only one
half of the whole number retire each year. (See Syn. Dord. Art. 27.) But this does not forbid the liberty of immediately choosing the same persons again, if from any circumstances it may be judged expedient to continue them in office, by a re-election.
When matters of peculiar importance occur, particularly in calling a Minister, building of churches, or whatever relates immediately to the peace and welfare of the whole congregation, it is usual (and it is strongly recommended upon such occasions always) for the Consistory to call together all those who have ever served as Elders or Deacons, that by their advice and counsel they may assist the members of the Consistory. These, when assembled, constitute what is called the great Consistory. From the object, or design of their assembling, the respective powers of each are easily ascertained; Those who are out of office, have only an advisory or counselling voice; and, as they are not actual members of the board or corporation, cannot have a decisive vote. After obtaining the advice, it rests with the members of the Consistory to follow the counsel given them, or not, as they shall judge proper. But, unless very urgent reasons should appear to the contrary, it will be prudent and expedient in all cases, to comply with the advice of those, who from their numbers and influence in the congregation, may be supposed to speak the language of the people, and to know what will be most for edification and peace.
An office, the object of which solely respects keeping in repair the churches, the parsonage, and schoolhouses, and executing the orders which the Consistory, from time to time, may make in regard to them, has, in most congregations, been appointed by the title