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of Church-Masters. These are annually elected by the Consistory, and may be continued where it has been customary, and is approved or the Consistory may appoint two or more of their own body, as a standing committee for that purpose, at their own discretion, and as they shall find to be most convenient.
II. OF ECCLESIASTICAL ASSEMBLIES.
ALL ECCLESIASTICAL ASSEMBLIES possess a right to judge and determine upon matters within their respective jurisdictions, and which are regularly, and in an ecclesiastical manner, brought before them. As every individual, who judges himself aggrieved, has a right of appealing from the decision of a lower Assembly to an higher; so it is permitted to lower Assemblies, when difficult or important cases are brought before them, to postpone a final determination, until they have laid the whole before an higher Assembly. In all such references from a lower Assembly to an higher, the latter may remit the case, with proper advice, back to the former, to be there decided; or, if it shall appear to be very important, and what may affect in its consequences, the general welfare of the churches, the higher Assembly may take the case under its own immediate cognizance, and proceed in the same, either de novo, or upon the evidence produced in the records of the lower Assembly.
1. OF CONSISTORIES.
THE particular spiritual government of the con
gregation is committed to the Consistory. It is therefore their duty at all times to be vigilant, to preserve discipline, and to promote the peace and spiritual interest of the congregation. Particularly, before the celebration of the Lord's Supper, a faithful and solemn inquiry is to be made, by the president of the Consistory; whether to the knowledge of those present, any member in full communion has departed from the faith, or in walk or conversation has behaved unworthy the Christian profession? that such as are guilty may be properly rebuked, admonished, or suspended from the privilege of approaching the Lord's Table, and all offences may be removed out of the Church of Christ.
Every Consistory shall keep a record of its own acts and proceedings. And in every congregation, a distinct and fair register shall be preserved by the Minister, of every baptism and marriage there celebrated, and of all who are received as members in full communion.
Consistories possess the right of calling Ministers for their own congregations. But in exercising this right they are bound to use their utmost endeavours, either by consulting with the great Consistory, or with the congregation at large, to know what person would be most acceptable to the people.
A neighbouring Minister (if there is none belonging to the Consistory) must be invited to superintend the proceedings, whenever a Consistory is desirous of making a call. The instrument is to be signed by all the members of the Consistory, or by the president, in the name of the Consistory; and if the church is incorporated, it is proper to affix the seal of the corporation. When the call is completed, it must be laid by the Consistory before the Classis, and he approved by the same, before it can be presented to the person called.* And if the call be accepted, the approbation of the people must be formally obtained by the Consistory (agreeably to Art. iv. of the Church Orders) before the Minister may be ordained.
The forms of calls have hitherto varied. In many it has been customary to enumerate all the particular duties to be performed by the Minister: but as those duties are sufficiently ascertained, it is judged unnecessary to burthen the instrument with a repetition of what the very office of a Minister implies. For the sake of propriety therefore, as well as uniformity, it is recommended to the churches, the future to adopt the following form of a call: viz.
* In the United-States of America, where civil and religious liberty are fully enjoyed, and where no ecclesiastical establishments can be formed by civil authority; the approbation of magistrates in the calling of Ministers, is not required or permitted. It was therefore judged proper in the translation of the Church Orders, to omit every paragraph which referred to any power of the magistrate, in ecclesiastical affairs, as a matter merely local, and peculiar to the European establishments.
To N. N.
Grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father, and JESUS CHRIST our LORD.
"WHEREAS the Church of Jesus Christ at at present destitute of the stated preaching of the word, and the regular administration of the ordinances, and is desirous of obtaining the means of grace, which God hath appointed for the salvation of sinners, through Jesus Christ his Son: AND WHEREAS the said Church is well satisfied of the piety, gifts, and ministerial qualifications of you N. N. and hath good hope that your labours in the Gospel will be attended with a blessing: Therefore, we [the stile and title of the said Church,] have resolved to call, and we hereby solemnly, and in the fear of the Lord, do call you the said N. N. to be our pastor and teacher, to preach the word in truth and faithfulness, to administer the holy sacraments agreeably to the institution of Christ, to maintain Christian discipline, to edify the congregation, and especially the youth, by catechetical instructions; and, as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, to fulfil the whole work of the Gospel ministry, agreeably to the word of God, and the excellent rules and constitution of our Reformed Dutch Church, established in the last National Synod, held at Dordrecht, and ratified and explained by the ecclesiastical judicatory, under which we stand, and to which you, upon accepting this call, must with us remain subordinate.
"In fulfilling the ordinary duties of your ministry, it is expressly stipulated, that besides preaching upon such texts of scripture as you may judge proper to seJect for our instruction, you also explain a portion of the Heidelbergh Catechism on the Lord's days, agreeably to the established order of the Reformed Dutch Church; and that you farther conform in rendering all that public service, which is usual, and has been in
constant practice in our congregation. The particular service which will be required of you, is [here insert a detail of such particulars, if any there be, which the situation of the congregation may render necessary; especially in case of combinations, when the service required in the respective congregations, must be ascertained; or when the Dutch and English languages are both requisite, the proportion of each may be mentioned, or left discretionary as may be judged proper.]
"To encourage you in the discharge of the duties of your important office, we promise you in the name of this Church, all proper attention, love and obedience in the Lord; and to free you from worldly cares and avocations, while you are dispensing spiritual blessings to us, we [the Elders and Deacons, &c. the stile and title of the Church.] do promise and oblige ourselves to pay to you the sum of in " payments, yearly and every year as long as you continue the Minister of this church, together with [such particulars as may refer to a parsonage or other emoluments.] For the performance of all which, we hereby bind ourselves, and our successors firmly by these presents. The Lord incline your heart to a cheerful acceptance of this call, and send you to us in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace!
Done in Consistory, and subscribed with our names, this day of in the year
Attested by N. N. Moderator of the call.
Consistories which have hitherto combined with one or more neighbouring Consistories, in making calls and having a Minister to serve in common, may not at pleasure break such combination; but whenever their situation and circumstances render them capable of severally calling a Minister, a representation thereof