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IV. GENERAL SYNOD.
A GENERAL Synod represents the whole body. It is the highest judicatory, and the last resort in all questions, which relate to the government, peace, and unity of the church. To this is committed the superintending the interests of religion, the maintaining harmony, and faithfully preserving the Churches in the principles and practice of their holy religion.
To the General Synod alone shall appertain the power of nominating and appointing Professors of 'Theology ; of constituting them emeriti, and declaring their places vacant; of calling them to an account for their doctrines or conduct, and when found guilty, of punishing them by admonition, suspension or total removal, as the case may require.
To the General Synod is referred the right of corresponding with other Churches; and particularly of superintending and preserving the correspondence which has long been maintained between the Reformed Church in the Netherlands and this Church. pose a copy of the letters sent by the Particular Synod, and those received by them, with the state of the correspondence since the last recess of every General Synod, shall be reported by the Particular Synod, at every ordinary session of the General Synod.
To the General Synod belongs the receiving and issuing all appeals from Particular Synods; and proceeding and determining in all references which are regu
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larly brought, agreeably to such regulations and restrictions, as shall for that purpose be made and determined.
Finally, To the General Synod belongs the forming of new Particular Synods, and properly organizing the same; the ascertaining their boundaries, and judging and determining all disputes that may arise at any time respecting such boundaries.
As the holding a General Synod (agreeably to Art. 50 of the Church Orders) has been found to be inconvenient in the Netherlands, and the Churches there have adopted a mutual correspondence from the Particular Synods as a substitute; so the situation and particular circumstances of the Reformed Dutch Church in America, render an alternative in the organization of a General Synod, equally necessary. It is, therefore, resolved, that, instead of being composed of Delegates from the Particular Synods, the General Synod shall continue as heretofore, to consist of all the Ministers, with each an Elder; and also, an Elder from every vacant congregation. This mode of constituting a General Synod shall remain, until some other substitute, or the obtaining a sufficient number of Delegates from Particular Synods shall be found practicable, and by a formal resolution of the General Synod for the time being shall be regularly adopted. And all the powers and rights before recited, are and shall continue to be vested in the General Synod organized agreeably to the present form.
The General Synod shall assemble once every three years, on such days, either in the months of May or June, and at such place, as shall, at every preceding ordinary General Synod be determined. Any ten' Ministers, and ten Elders or more, from a majority of
the several Classes being met on the day, and at the place appointed, shall be deemed sufficient to form a General Synod and proceed upon business.
The General Synod shall keep a regular and distinct record of all its proceedings; and may adjourn or make such regulations from time to time, for calling an extraordinary session as shall be judged convenient and pecessary.
III. OF USAGES AND CUSTOMS.
THE zeal of the Reformed Church, for initiating children early in the truth, [expressed, Art. 54th of the Church Orders, where care is taken that Schoolmasters shall be of the Reformed religion) cannot be evidenced in the same manner in America, where many denominations of Christians, and some who do not even profess the Christian religion, inhabit promiscuously ; and where School-masters can seldom be found who are members of the church. In such a situation, it is recommended to parents to be peculiarly attentive to the religious education of their children, not only by instructing them, and daily praying with them at home, but by never employing School-masters whose characters are unascertained or suspicious, and especially none who scoff at the holy scriptures or whose conduct is immoral.
It is also further recommended, that parents endearour to prevail upon School-masters to make the children belonging to the Dutch Church, commit to memory, and publicly repeat in the school, one section of the Heidelbergh Catechism, at least once every week.
As a register must be kept by every Minister of all the baptisms celebrated in his church, [See Exp. Art. 33.] it is necessary for all who desire to have their children baptised, previously to apply to their Minister for that purpose.
Such applications also afford an opportunity to the Minister of explaining the nature of the ordinance of baptism, and pressing upon the corscience of the parent, the duties incumbent upon
him as a professing Christian ; and to which, in particular, by this holy sacrament, he is obliged. The custom which has prevailed in some congregations of applying to the clerk of the Church, for registering infants who are to be baptised, shall be abolished; and for the future, none but Ministers shall perform that service.
The sacrament of baptism ought always to be administered in the Church, at the time of public worship [See Church Ord. Art. 56.] and the forms adopted for baptism, consider it as celebrated in public. Baptising in private families, is therefore to be diseountenanced; and as much as possible avoided. In cases however, of the sickness of the parents, and especially of the infant, it is lawful to administer this sacrament in private. In other cases which may have something singular in their circumstances, it is left to the conscientious discretion of the Minister, to comply with the requests of parents for private baptism or not, as he shall judge proper. In this however, he is to consider himself responsible to his Consistory, if questioned thereon. But no private baptism shall be administered without the presence of at least one Elder, who shall accompany the Minister for that purpose, and the same form and solemnity shall be always used as in public baptism.
In the Church there is no difference between bond and free, but all are one in Christ. Whenever therefore, slaves or black people shall be baptised or become members in full communion of the Church, they shall be admitted to equal privileges with all other members of the same standing; and their infant children shall be entitled to baptism, and in every respect be treated with the same attention that the children of white or free parents are in the Church. Any Minister, who upon any pretence, shåll refuse to admit slaves or their children to the privileges to which they are entitled, shall, upon complaint being exhibited and proved, be severely reprimanded by the Classis to which he belongs.
With respect to god-fathers and god-mothers, or witnesses, as they are called, '[See Art. 57, Church Orders] the meaning of the Reformed Church is sufficiently explained in the Synod, held at Wisel, in the year 1568, Chap. i. Art. 10. “ We hold it among matters which are to be accounted indifferent whether any witnesses are taken in baptism, or whether to the parents alone, together with the whole congregation, the charge of baptised children is committed.” And again, Chap. vi. Art. 3. “ The custom of having particular witnesses who are called god-fathers and god-mothers, is left to be followed or not, as each one shall choose."
Great attention shall always be paid by all the Ministers of the gospel to the instruction of youth and others, in their respective congregations, in order to prepare them to make a confession of their faith, and from proper principles and right views, as members in full communion, to approach the Lord's Table. If any