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XXIII. In recording the proceedings, in cases of judicial process, the reasons for all decisions, except on questions of order, shall be recorded at length; that the record may exhibit every thing which had an influence on the judgment of the court. And nothing but what is contained in the record, may be taken into consideration in reviewing the proceedings in a superior court.
OF PROCESS AGAINST A BISHOP OR MINISTER.
I. As the honour and success of the gospel depend, in a great measure, on the character of its ministers, each presbytery ought, with the greatest care and impartiality, to watch over the personal and professional conduct of all its members. But as, on the one hand, no minister ought, on account of his office, to be screened from the hand of justice, nor his of fences to be slightly censured; so neither ought scandalous charges to be received against him, by any judicatory, on slight grounds.
II. Process against a gospel minister shall always be entered before the presbytery of which he is a member. And the same candour, caution, and general method, substituting only the presbytery for the session, are to be observed in investigating charges against him, as are prescribed in the case of private members.
III. If it be found that the facts with which a minister stands charged, happened without the bounds of his own presbytery, that presbytery shall send notice to the presbytery within whose bounds they did happen: and desire them either (if within convenient distance) to cite the witnesses to appear at the place of trial; or (if the distance be so great as to render that inconvenient) to take the examination themselves, and transmit an authentic record of their testimony: always giving due notice to the accused person of the time and place of such examination.
IV. Nevertheless, in case of a minister being supposed to be guilty of a crime, or crimes, at such a distance from his usual place of residence, as that the offence is not likely to become otherwise known to the presbytery to which he belongs; it shall, in such case, be the duty of the presbytery within whose bounds the facts shall have happened, after satisfying themselves that there is probable ground of accusation, to send notice to the presbytery of which he is a member, who are to proceed against him, and either send and take the testimony themselves, by a commission of their own body, or request the other presbytery to take it for them, and transmit the same, properly authenticated.
V. Process against a gospel minister shall not be commenced, unless some person or fersons undertake to make out the charge; or unless common fame so loudly proclaims the scandal, that the presbytery find it necessary,
for the honour of religion, to investigate the charge.
VI. As the success of the gospel greatly depends upon the exemplary character of its ninisters, their soundness in the faith, and holy conversation; and as it is the duty of all Christians to be very cautious in taking up an ill report of any man, but especially of a minister of the gospel; therefore, if any man knows a minister to be guilty of a private, censurable fault, he should warn him in private. But if the guilty person persist in his fault, or it become public, he who knows it should apply to soine other bishop of the presbytery for his advice in the case.
VII. The prosecutor of a minister shall be previously warned, that if he fail to prove the charges, he must himself be censured as a slanderer of the gospel ministry, in proportion to the malignancy or rashness that shall appear in the prosecution.
VIII. When complaint is laid before the presbytery, it must be reduced to writing; and nothing further is to be done at the first meeting, (unless by consent of parties) than giving the minister a full copy of the charges, with the names of the witnesses annexed; and citing all parties, and their witnesses, to appear and be heard at the next meeting; which meeting shall not be sooner than ten days after such citation.
IX. When a member of a church judicatory is under process, it shall be discretionary with the judicatory whether his privileges of de
liberating and voting, as a member, in other matters, shall be suspended until the process is finally issued, or not.
X. At the next meeting of the presbytery, the charges shall be read to him, and he shall be called upon to say whether he is guilty or not. If he confess, and the matter be base and flagitious; such as drunkenness, uncleanness, or crimes of a higher nature, however penitent he may appear, to the satisfaction of all, the presbytery must, without delay, suspend him from the exercise of his office, or depose him from the ministry; and, if the way be clear for the purpose, appoint him a due time to confess publicly before the congregation offended, and to profess his penitence.
XI. If a minister accused of atrocious crimes, being twice duly cited, shall refuse to attend the presbytery, he shall be immediately suspended. And if
, after another citation, he still refuse to attend, he shall be deposed as contumacious.
XII. If the minister, when he appears, will not confess; but denies the facts alleged against him; if, on hearing the witnesses, the charges appear important, and well supported, the presbytery must, nevertheless, censure him; and admonish, suspend, or depose him, according to the nature of the offence.
XIII. Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to infer deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered; whether they strike at the vitals of religion, and are industriously spread; or, whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much injury.
XIV. A minister under process for heresy or schism, should be treated with Christian and brotherly tenderness. Frequent conferences ought to be held with him, and proper admonitions administered. For some more danger ous errors, however, suspension may become necessary.
XV. If the presbytery find, on trial, that the matter complained of amounts to no more than such acts of infirmity as may be amended, and the people satisfied; so that little or nothing remains to hinder his usefulness, they shall take all prudent measures to remove the offence.
XVI. A minister deposed for scandalous conduct, shall not be restored, even on the deepest sorrow for his sin, until after some time of eminent and exemplary, humble and edifying conversation, to heal the wound made by his scandal. And he ought in no case to be restored, until it shall appear, that the sentiments of the religious public are strongly in his favour, and demand his restoration.
XVII. As soon as a minister is deposed, his congregation shall be declared vacant.
I. JUDICATORIES ought to be very carefu. and impartial in receiving testimony. All per