The Form of Government of the American Presbyterian Church
Of the Church
SECTION I : Jesus Christ, who is now exalted far above all principality and power, has erected, in this world, a visible body which is his Church.
SECTION II : The universal church consists of all those persons, in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ and of submission to his laws.
SECTION III : As this immense multitude cannot meet together, in one place, to hold communion, or to worship God, it is reasonable, and warranted by Scripture example, that they should be divided into many particular churches.
SECTION IV : A particular church consists of a number of professing Christians, with their offspring, voluntarily associated together for divine worship and godly living, agreeable to the Holy Scriptures and submitting to a certain form of government.
Of the Officers of the Church
SECTION I : The officers which Christ has appointed for the edification of his church and the perfecting of the saints, are, some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased.
SECTION II : Others ordinary and perpetual, built upon the foundation of Christ and the apostles, are two classes of presbyters (teaching and ruling elders) and deacons.
Of Bishops or Pastors or Teaching Elders
SECTION I : The pastoral office is first in the Church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills the office has, in scripture, obtained different names expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed pastor. As he serves Christ in his Church, he is termed minister. As he instructs them in the way of the Lord, he is termed teacher. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example of the flock, and to govern well in the house of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners and to sent to declare the will of God to sinners and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. And, as he dispenses the manifold grace of God and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God, and in humility he is the servant of Christ, separated unto the gospel of God.
Of Ruling Elders
SECTION I : Ruling elders are the particular representatives of the people, chosen by them from their own number, for the purpose of joining with the pastors or ministers in the government and discipline of the Church.
SECTION I : The Scriptures clearly point out deacons as distinct officers in the Church, whose business it is to take care of the poor and to distribute among them the collections which may be raised for their use. To them also may be properly committed the management of the temporal affairs of the Church.
Of Ordinances in a Particular Church
SECTION I : The ordinances established by Christ, the head, for orderly worship in a particular church which is regularly constituted with its proper officers, are prayer, singing praises, reading, expounding, and preaching the word of God; administering baptism and the Lord’s supper; public solemn fasting and thanksgiving, catechising, tithing, making collections for the poor, and other pious purposes; exercising discipline; and blessing the people.
Of Church Government and the Several Kinds of Judicatories
SECTION I : It is absolutely necessary that the government of the church be exercised under some certain and definite form. And we hold it to be expedient and agreeable to Scripture and the practice of the primitive Christians, that the church be governed by congregational, presbyterial, and synodical assemblies.
SECTION II : These assemblies ought not to possess any civil jurisdiction nor to inflict any civil penalties. Their power is wholly moral or spiritual, and that only ministerial and declarative. They possess the right of requiring obedience to the laws of Christ and of excluding the disobedient and disorderly from the privileges of the church. To give efficiency, however, to this necessary and Scriptural authority, they possess the powers requisite for obtaining evidence and inflicting censure. They can call before them any offender against the order and government of the church; they can require members of their own society to appear and give testimony in the cause; but the highest punishment to which their authority extends, is to exclude the contumacious and impenitent from the congregation of believers.
Of the Church Session
SECTION I : The church session consists of the pastor or pastors, and the ruling elders of a particular congregation.
SECTION II : Of this judicatory, two elders, if there be as many in the congregation, with the pastor, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum.
SECTION III : The pastor of the congregation shall always be the moderator of the session, except when, for prudential reasons, it may appear advisable that some other minister should be invited to preside, in which case the pastor may, with the concurrence of the session, invite such other minister as they may see meet, belonging to the same presbytery, to preside in that case. The same expedient may be adopted in case of the sickness or absence of the pastor.
SECTION IV : It is expedient at every meeting of the session, more especially when constituted for judicial business, that there be a presiding minister. When, therefore, a church is without a pastor, the moderator of the session shall be either the minister appointed for that purpose by the presbytery or one invited by the session to preside on a particular occasion. But where it is impracticable, without great inconvenience, to procure the attendance of such a moderator, the session may proceed without it.
SECTION V : The church session is charged with maintaining the spiritual government of the congregation; for which purpose, they have power to inquire into the knowledge and Christian conduct of the members of the church; to call before them offenders and witnesses, being members of their own congregation, and to introduce other witnesses, where it may be necessary to bring the process to issue, and when they can be procured to attend; to receive members into the church; to admonish, to rebuke, to suspend or exclude from the sacraments those who are found to deserve censure; to concert the best measures for promoting the spiritual interests of the congregation; and to appoint delegates to the higher judicatories of the church.
SECTION VI : The pastor has power to convene the session when he may judge it requisite, and he shall always convene them when requested to do so by any two of the elders. The session shall also convene when directed to do so by the presbytery.
SECTION VII : Every session shall keep a fair record of its proceedings; which record shall be, at least once in every year, submitted to the inspection of the presbytery.
SECTION VIII : It is important that every church session keep a fair register of marriages, of baptisms with the times of the birth of the individuals baptized, of persons admitted to the Lord’s table, and of the deaths and other removals of church members.
Of the Presbytery
SECTION I : The church being divided into many separate congregations, these need mutual counsel and assistance in order to preserve the soundness of doctrine and regularity of discipline, and to enter into common measures for promoting knowledge and religion, and for preventing infidelity, error, and immorality. Hence arise the importance and usefulness of presbyterial and synodical assemblies.
SECTION II : A presbytery consists of all the teaching and ruling elders from each congregation within a certain district. Each congregation is permitted to be represented in presbytery by at least one ruling elder. Congregations having from eleven to twenty families are permitted to be be represented by two, and larger congregations in the same ratio thereafter.
SECTION III : Every ruling elder who shall represent a congregation for the first time shall produce a certificate from that congregation.
SECTION IV : Any two teaching elders and at least one ruling elder belonging to the presbytery, being met at the time and place appointed, shall be a quorum competent to proceed to business.
SECTION V : The presbytery has power to receive and issue appeals from church sessions and references brought before them in an orderly manner; to examine and license candidates for the holy ministry; to ordain, install, remove, and judge ministers; to examine and approve or censure the records of church sessions; to resolve questions of doctrine or discipline seriously and reasonably proposed; to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the church; to visit particular churches for the purpose of inquiring into their state and redressing the evils that may have arisen in them; to unite and divide congregations at the request of the people or to form or receive new congregations; and in general to order whatever pertains to the spiritual welfare of the churches under their care.
SECTION VI : It shall be the duty of the presbytery to keep a full and fair record of their proceedings and to report to the synod, every year, licensures, ordinations, the receiving or dismissing of members, the removal of members by death, the union or division of congregations or the formation of new ones, and, in general, all the important changes which may have taken place within their bounds in the course of the year.
SECTION VII : The presbytery shall meet on its own adjournment, and, when any emergency shall require a meeting sooner than the time to which it stands adjourned, the moderator, or, in case of his absence, death, or inability to act, the stated clerk shall with the concurrence or at the request of two teaching and two ruling elders, the elders being of different congregations, call a special meeting. For this purpose he shall send a circular letter, specifying the particular business of the intended meeting, to every teaching elder belonging to the presbytery and to the session of every vacant congregation, in due time previous to the meeting, which shall not be less than ten days. And nothing shall be transacted at such a special meeting besides the particular business for which the judicatory has been thus convened.
SECTION VIII : At every meeting of presbytery a sermon shall be delivered, if convenient, and every particular session shall be opened and closed with prayer.
SECTION IX : Teaching and ruling elders in good standing in other presbyteries or in any sister churches, who may happen to be present, may be invited to sit with the presbytery as corresponding members. Such members shall be entitled to deliberate and advise but not to vote in any decisions of the presbytery.
Of the Synod
SECTION I : As a presbytery is a convention of the teaching and ruling elders within a certain district, so a synod is a convention of teaching and ruling elders within a larger district, including two or more presbyteries. The ratio of the representation of ruling elders in the synod is the same as in the presbytery.
SECTION II : Any five teaching elders, belonging to the synod, who shall convene at the time and place of meeting, with as many ruling elders as may be present, shall be a quorum to transact synodical business, provided not more than three of the said teaching elders belong to one presbytery.
SECTION III : The same rule as to corresponding members, which was laid down with respect to the presbytery, shall apply to the synod.
SECTION IV : The synod has power to receive and issue all appeals regularly brought up from the presbyteries; to decide on all references made to them; to review the records of presbyteries and approve or censure them; to redress whatever has been done by presbyteries contrary to order; to take effectual care that presbyteries observe the constitution of the church; to erect new presbyteries and unite and divide at their request those which were before erected; generally to take such order with respect to the presbyteries, sessions, and people under their care, as is in conformity with the word of God and the constitution of the church and which tend to promote the edification of the church; and, finally, to propose to the general assembly, for their adoption, such measures as may be of common advantage to the whole church.
SECTION V : The synod shall convene at least once in each year; at the opening of which a sermon shall be delivered by the moderator or, in case of his absence, by some other member; and every particular session shall be opened and closed with prayer.
SECTION VI : It shall be the duty of the synod to keep full and fair records of its proceedings, to submit them annually to the inspection of the general assembly, and to report to the assembly the number of its presbyteries and of the members and alterations of the presbyteries.
Of Electing and Ordaining Ruling Elders and Deacons
SECTION I : Having defined the officers of the church and the judicatories by which it shall be governed, it is proper here to prescribe the mode in which ecclesiastical rulers should be ordained to their respective offices, as well as some of the principles by which they shall be regulated in discharging their several duties.
SECTION II : The Holy Scriptures require that officers of the church be called of God and that the call be confirmed by the people directly by an examination of their qualifications, that this sacred office may not be degraded by being committed to weak or unworthy men and that the churches may have an opportunity to form a better judgment respecting the talents of those by whom they are to be governed and served. We deem it beneficial and proper that a list of sessionally approved candidates be posted, and that there be a period of time of four to six weeks for the members of the congregation to observe and evaluate the candidates before their voting. The persons are to be selected by the popular suffrage of the heads of families.
SECTION III : When any person shall have been elected to either of these offices and shall have declared his willingness to accept thereof, he shall be set apart in the following manner:
SECTION IV : After the sermon, the teaching elder shall state, in a concise manner, the warrant and nature of the office of ruling elder or deacon, together with the character proper to be sustained and the duties to be fulfilled by the officer elect; having done this, he shall propose to the candidate in the presence of the congregation the following questions:
Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice ?
Do you sincerely subscribe the confession of faith of this church as scriptural in all its doctrines ?
Do you approve the government, discipline, and worship of this church ?
Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this congregation, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof ?
Do you promise to study the peace, unity, and purity of the church ?
The elder or deacon elect having answered the questions in the affirmative, the teaching elder shall address to the heads of families of the church the following questions:
Do you, the heads of families of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon ), and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement, and obedience, in the Lord, to which his office, according to the word of God and the constitution of this church, entitles him ?
The heads of families of the church having answered this question in the affirmative by holding up their right hands, the teaching elder shall proceed to set apart the candidate by prayer to the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) and shall give to him and to the congregation an exhortation suited to the occasion.
SECTION V : Where there is an existing session, it is proper that the members of that body, at the close of the service and in the face of the congregation, take the newly ordained elder by the hand, saying in words to this purpose,” We give you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of this office with us.”
SECTION VI : The offices of ruling elder and deacon are both perpetual and cannot be laid aside at pleasure. No person can be divested of either office but by deposition on account of either heresy, immorality, or lack of scriptural gifts necessary to the office. Yet an elder or deacon may become, by age or infirmity, incapable of performing the duties of his office, or he may, though chargeable with neither heresy nor immorality, become unacceptable in his official character to a majority of the congregation to which he belongs. In either of these cases, he may, as often happens with respect to a teaching elder, cease to be an acting elder or deacon.
SECTION VII : Whenever a ruling elder or deacon, from either of these causes or from any other not inferring crime, shall be incapable of serving the church to edification, the session shall take order on the subject and state the fact, together with the reasons of it, on their records. Provided always, that nothing of this kind shall be done without the concurrence of the individual in question, unless by the advice of presbytery.
Of Licensing Candidates or Probationers to Preach the Gospel
SECTION I : The Holy Scriptures require that some trial be previously had of them who are to be ordained to the ministry of the gospel, that this sacred office may not be degraded by being committed to weak or unworthy men and that the churches may have an opportunity to form a better judgment respecting the talents of those by whom they are to be instructed and governed. For this purpose presbyteries shall license probationers to preach the gospel, that, after a competent trial of their talents and receiving from the churches a good report, they may in due time ordain them to the sacred office.
SECTION II : Every candidate for licensure shall be taken on trials by that presbytery to which he most naturally belongs, and he shall be considered as most naturally belonging to that presbytery within the bounds of which he has ordinarily resided. But in case any candidate should find it more convenient to put himself under the care of a presbytery at a distance from that to which he most naturally belongs, he may be received by the said presbytery, on his producing testimonials, either from the presbytery within the bounds of which he has commonly resided or from any two ministers of that presbytery in good standing, of his exemplary piety and other requisite qualifications.
SECTION III : It is proper and requisite that candidates applying to the presbytery to be licensed to preach the gospel produce satisfactory testimonials of their good moral character and of their being regular members of some particular church. And it is the duty of the presbytery, for their satisfaction with regard to the real piety of such candidates, to examine them respecting their experimental acquaintance with religion and the motives which influence them to desire the sacred office. This examination shall be close and particular and, in most cases, may best be conducted in the presence of the presbytery only. The candidate is required to produce evidence of his having gone through a regular course of learning.
SECTION IV : Because it is highly reproachful to religion and dangerous to the church to entrust the holy ministry to weak and ignorant men, the presbytery shall examine each candidate in order to make trial of his talents to explain and vindicate and practically to enforce the doctrines of the gospel and require of him:
An experimental knowledge of religion.
A thorough knowledge of the scriptures.
A thorough knowledge of the constitution.
A thorough knowledge of ecclesiastical history.
A working knowledge of the original languages.
An exegesis of a critical or difficult text.
A lecture, or exposition of several verses of scripture.
A popular sermon.
SECTION V : These or other similar exercises, at the discretion of the presbytery, shall be exhibited until they shall have obtained satisfaction as to the candidate’s piety, literature, and aptness to teach in the churches. The lecture and popular sermon, if the presbytery think proper, may be delivered in the presence of a congregation.
SECTION VI : If the presbytery be satisfied with his trials, they shall then proceed to license him in the following manner: The moderator shall propose to him the following questions:
Do you believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice ?
Do you sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord declare by this, your subscription, that you heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the confession and catechisms of this church do fully agree with the word of God ?
Do you promise therefore diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine, without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same, by your public teaching or writing ?
Do you declare, moreover, that you not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine, but that you are disposed to refute and contradict these and to exert yourself in keeping the church free from such errors ?
And if hereafter any difficulties or different sentiments respecting the doctrine, worship, discipline, or government of this church should arise in your mind, do you promise that you will neither publicly nor privately propose, teach, or defend the same, either by preaching or writing, until you have first revealed such sentiments to the presbytery and synod, that the same may be there examined, being ready always cheerfully to submit to the judgment of the presbytery and synod, under penalty in case of refusal to be, by that very fact, suspended from the office ?
And further, if at any time the presbytery or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion, and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, may deem it proper to require of you a further explanation of your sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechisms, the Directory of Worship, the Book of Discipline, or the Form of Government, do you hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition, under the penalty above mentioned, reserving for yourself, however, the right of appeal, whenever you shall believe yourself aggrieved by the judgment of the presbytery or synod, and until a decision is made upon such an appeal, you will acquiesce in the determination and judgment already passed ?
Do you promise to study the peace, unity, and purity of the church ?
Do you promise to submit yourself, in the Lord, to the government of this presbytery or of any other presbytery in the bounds of which you may be called ?
SECTION VII : The candidate having answered the questions in the affirmative and the moderator having offered up a prayer suitable to the occasion, he shall address himself to the candidate to the following purpose: ” In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by that authority which he has given to the church for its edification, we do license you to preach the gospel, wherever God in his providence may call you, and for this purpose may the blessing of God rest upon you and the Spirit of Christ fill your heart. Amen! ” and record shall be made of the licensure in the following or like form:
At __________________ the ______ day of _______________ the Presbytery of ____________________ having received testimonials in favor of _________________________ of his having gone through a regular course of literature, of his good moral character, and of his being in the communion of the church, proceeded to take the usual parts of trial for his licensure, and he, having given satisfaction as to his accomplishments in literature, as to his experimental acquaintance with religion and as to his proficiency in divinity and other studies, the presbytery did and hereby do express their approbation of all these parts of trial, and he, having adopted the Confession of Faith of this church and satisfactorily answered the questions appointed to be put to candidates to be licensed, the presbytery did and hereby do license him, the said ______________________ to preach the Gospel of Christ, as a probationer for the holy ministry, within the bounds of this presbytery or wherever else he may be orderly called.
SECTION VIII : When any candidate for licensure shall have occasion, while his trials are going on, to remove from the bounds of his own presbytery into those of another, it shall be considered as regular for the latter presbytery, on his producing proper testimonials from the former, to take up his trials at the point at which they were left, and conduct them to a conclusion, in the same manner as if they had been commenced by themselves.
SECTION IX : In like manner, when any candidate, after licensure, shall, by the permission of his presbytery, remove without its limits, an extract of the record of his licensure, accompanied with a presbyterial recommendation signed by the clerk, shall be his testimonials to the presbytery under whose care he shall come.
SECTION X : When a licentiate shall have been preaching for a considerable time and his services do not appear to be edifying to the churches, the presbytery may, if they think proper, recall his license.
Of the Election and Ordination of Teaching Elders or Pastors
SECTION I : When any probationer shall have preached so much to the satisfaction of any congregation as that the people appear prepared to elect a pastor, the session shall take measures to convene them for this purpose, and it shall always be the duty of the session to convene them, when a majority of the persons entitled to vote in the case, shall, by a petition, request that a meeting may be called.
SECTION II : When such a meeting is intended, the session shall proceed under the direction of the moderator appointed by the presbytery.
SECTION III : On a Lord’s day, immediately after public worship, it shall be intimated from the pulpit that all the members of that congregation are requested to meet, on ______________ ensuing at the church or usual place for holding public worship, then and there, if it be agreeable to them, to proceed to the election of a pastor for that congregation.
SECTION IV : On the day appointed, the moderator invited to preside, if he be present, shall, if it be deemed expedient, preach a sermon; and after the sermon he shall announce to the people that he will immediately proceed to take the votes of the electors of that congregation, for a pastor, if such be their desire, and when this desire shall be expressed by a majority of voices, he shall then proceed to take votes accordingly. In this election, no person shall be entitled to vote who refuses to submit to the censures of the church, regularly administered, or who does not contribute his just proportion, according to his own engagements or the rules of that congregation, to all its necessary expenses.
SECTION V : When the votes are taken, if it appears that a large minority of the people are averse from the candidate who has a majority of the votes, and cannot be induced to concur in the call, the presiding moderator shall endeavor to dissuade the congregation from prosecuting it further. But if the people be nearly or entirely unanimous, or if the majority shall insist upon their right to call a pastor, the moderator, in that case, after using his utmost endeavors to persuade the congregation to unanimity, shall proceed to draw a call, in due form, and to have it subscribed by the electors, certifying at the same time, in writing, the number and circumstances of those who do not concur in the call; all which proceedings shall be laid before the presbytery, together with the call.
SECTION VI : The call shall be in the following or like form:
The congregation of _________________ being, on sufficient ground, well satisfied of the ministerial qualifications of you ______________ and having good hopes, from our past experience of your labors, that your ministrations in the gospel will be profitable to our spiritual interests, do earnestly call and desire you to undertake the pastoral office in said congregation, promising you, in the discharge of your duty, all proper support, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord. And that you may be free from worldly cares and avocations, we hereby promise and oblige ourselves to pay you the sum of _________________ in regular weekly (or bi-weekly or monthly) payments, during the time of your being and continuing the regular pastor of this church. In testimony whereof, we have respectively subscribed our names, this day of __________________ A.D.
Attested By: ______________________________
(Moderator of the Meeting)
SECTION VII : But if any congregation shall choose to subscribe their call by their elders, they shall be at liberty to do so. But it shall, in such case, be fully certified to the presbytery by the moderator that the persons signing have been appointed for that purpose, by a public vote of the congregation, and that the call has been, in all other respects, prepared as above directed.
SECTION VIII : When a call shall be presented to any teaching elder or candidate, it shall always be viewed as a sufficient petition from the people for his installation. The acceptance of a call, by a teaching elder or candidate, shall always be considered as a request, on his part, to be installed at the same time. And when a candidate shall be ordained in consequence of a call from any congregation, the presbytery shall, at the same time, if practical, install him pastor of that congregation.
SECTION IX : The call, thus prepared, shall be presented to the presbytery under whose care the person called shall be, that, if the presbytery think it expedient to present the call to him, it may be accordingly presented, and no teaching elder or candidate shall receive a call but through the hands of the presbytery.
SECTION X : If the call be to the licentiate of another presbytery, in that case the commissioners deputed from the congregation to prosecute the call shall produce, to that judicatory, a certificate from their own presbytery, regularly attested by the moderator and clerk, that the call has been laid before them and that it is in order. If that presbytery present the call to their licentiate and he be disposed to accept it, they shall then dismiss him from their jurisdiction and require him to repair to that presbytery into the bounds of which he is called and there to submit himself to the usual trials preparatory to ordination.
SECTION XI : Trials for ordination, especially in a different presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed, shall consist of a careful examination. The presbytery, being fully satisfied with his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought to be, if convenient, in that church of which he is to be the minister. It is also recommended that a fast day be observed in the congregation previous to the day of ordination.
SECTION XII : The day appointed for ordination being come, and the presbytery convened, a member of presbytery, previously appointed to that duty, shall preach a sermon adapted to the occasion. The same, or another member appointed to preside, shall afterward briefly recite from the pulpit, in the audience of the people, the proceedings of the presbytery preparatory to this transaction; he shall point out the nature and importance of the ordinance and endeavor to impress the audience with a proper sense of the solemnity of the transaction. Then addressing himself to the candidate, he shall propose to him the following questions:
Do you believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice ?
Do you sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord declare by this, your subscription, that you heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the Confession and Catechisms of this church do fully agree with the word of God ?
Do you promise therefore diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine, without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same, by your public preaching or writing ?
Do you declare, moreover, that you not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine, but that you are disposed to refute and contradict these and to exert yourself in keeping the church free from such errors ?
And if hereafter any difficulties or different sentiments respecting the doctrine, worship, discipline, or government (of this church) should arise in (your mind ), do you promise that you will neither publicly nor privately propose, teach, or defend the same, either by preaching or writing, until you have first revealed such sentiments to the presbytery and synod, that the same may be there examined, being ready always cheerfully to submit to the judgment of the presbytery and synod, under penalty in case of refusal to be, by that very fact, suspended from the office ?
And further, if at any time the presbytery or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government may deem it proper to require of you a further explanation of your sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechisms, the Directory of Worship, the Book of Discipline, or the Form of Government, do you hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition, under the penalty above mentioned, reserving for yourself, however, the right of an appeal, whenever you shall believe yourself aggrieved by the judgment of the presbytery or synod, and until a decision is made upon such an appeal, you will acquiesce in the determination and judgment already passed ?
Do you approve of the worship, government, and discipline of the American Presbyterian Church ?
Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord ?
Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son ?
Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel and the purity and peace of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account ?
Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all relative duties and the public duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your conversation and walking with exemplary piety before the flock over which God shall make you overseer ?
Are you now willing to take the charge of this congregation, agreeably to your declaration at accepting their call ? And do you promise to discharge the duties of a pastor to them, as God shall give you strength ?
SECTION XIII : The candidate having answered these questions in the affirmative, the moderator shall propose to the electors the following questions:
Do you, the electors of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive ___________________ whom you have called to be your minister ?
Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline ?
Do you promise to encourage him in his arduous labor and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification ?
And do you engage to continue to him, while he is your pastor, that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised and whatever else you may see needful for the honor of religion and his comfort among you ?
SECTION XIV : The electors having answered these questions in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the candidate shall kneel down in the most convenient part of the church. Then the moderator shall, by prayer and with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, according to the apostolic example, solemnly ordain him to the holy office of the gospel ministry. Prayer being ended, he shall rise from his knees, and the moderator shall first, and afterwards all the members of the presbytery in their order, take him by the right hand, saying, in words to this purpose,” We give you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of this ministry with us.” After which the moderator or some other appointed for the purpose shall give a solemn charge in the name of God to the newly ordained bishop and to the people, to persevere in the discharge of their mutual duties, and shall then, by prayer, recommend them both to the grace of God and his holy keeping, and finally, after singing a psalm, shall dismiss the congregation with the usual blessing. And the presbytery shall duly record the transaction.
Of Translation, or Removing a Teaching Elder From One Charge to Another
SECTION I : No teaching elder shall be translated from one church to another, nor shall he receive any call for that purpose, but by the permission of the presbytery.
SECTION II : Any church, desiring to call a settled teaching elder from his present charge, shall, by commissioners properly authorized, represent to the presbytery the ground on which they plead his removal. The presbytery, having maturely considered their plea, may, according as it appears more or less reasonable, either recommend to them to desist from prosecuting the call or may order it to be delivered to the minister to whom it is directed. If the parties be not prepared to have the matter issued at that presbytery, a written citation shall be given to the minister and his congregation, to appear before the presbytery at their next meeting. This citation shall be read from the pulpit in that church by a member of the presbytery appointed for that purpose, immediately after public worship, so that at least two sabbaths shall intervene between the citation and the meeting of the presbytery at which the cause of translation is to be considered. The presbytery being met and having heard the parties shall, upon the whole view of the case, either continue him in his former charge or translate him, as they shall deem to be most for the peace and edification of the church, or refer the whole affair to the synod at their next meeting, for their advice and direction.
SECTION III : When the congregation calling any settled teaching elder is within the limits of another presbytery, that congregation shall obtain leave from the presbytery to which they belong to apply to the presbytery of which he is a member, and that presbytery, having cited him and his congregation as before directed, shall proceed to hear and issue the cause. If they agree to the translation, they shall release him from his present charge and, having given him proper testimonials, shall require to repair to that presbytery within the bounds of which the congregation calling him lies, that the proper steps may be taken for his regular settlement in that congregation; and the presbytery to which the congregation belongs, having received an authenticated certificate of his release, under the hand of the clerk of that presbytery, shall proceed to install him in the congregation as soon as convenient. Provided always, that no teaching elder or pastor shall be translated, without his own consent having been previously obtained.
SECTION IV : When any teaching elder is to be settled in a congregation, the installment, which consists in constituting a pastoral relation between him and the people of that particular church, may be performed either by the presbytery or by a committee appointed for that purpose, as may appear most expedient, and the following order shall be observed therein:
SECTION V : A day shall be appointed for the installment at such a time as may appear most convenient, and due notice thereof shall be given to the congregation.
SECTION VI : When the presbytery or committee shall be convened and constituted on the day appointed, a sermon shall be delivered by some one of the members previously appointed thereto; immediately after which, the teaching elder who is to preside shall state to the congregation the design of their meeting and briefly recite the proceedings of the presbytery relative thereto. And then, addressing himself to the teaching elder to be installed, shall propose to him the following or similar questions:
Are you now willing to take the charge of this congregation, as their pastor, agreeably to your declaration at accepting their call ?
Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that in taking upon you this charge, you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of his church ?
Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the gospel of Christ, agreeably to your ordination engagements ?
To all these having received satisfactory answers, he shall propose to the people the same or like questions as those directed under the head of ordination, which, having been also satisfactorily answered by holding up the right hand in testimony of assent, he shall solemnly pronounce and declare the said minister to be regularly constituted the pastor of that congregation. A charge shall then be given to both parties, as directed in the case of ordination, and, after prayer and singing a psalm adapted to the transaction, the congregation shall be dismissed with the usual benediction.
SECTION VII : It is highly becoming that, after the solemnity of the installment, the heads of families of that congregation who are then present, or at least the elders and those appointed to take care of the temporal concerns of that church, should come forward to their pastor and give him their right hand, in token of cordial reception and affectionate regard.
Of Resigning a Pastoral Charge
SECTION I : When any teaching elder shall labor under such grievances in his congregation as that he shall desire leave to resign his pastoral charge, the presbytery shall cite the congregation to appear, by their commissioners, at their next meeting to show cause, if any they have, why the presbytery should not accept the resignation. If the congregation fail to appear or if their reasons for retaining their pastor be deemed by the presbytery insufficient, he shall have leave granted to resign his pastoral charge, of which due record shall be made; and that church shall be held to be vacant till supplied again, in an orderly manner, with another teaching elder, and if any congregation shall desire to be released from their pastor, a similar process, mutatis mutandis, shall be observed.
Of Vacancies and New Churches
SECTION I : When vacancies become so numerous in any presbytery that they cannot be supplied with the frequent administration of the word and ordinances, it shall be proper for such (a) presbytery or any vacant congregation within their bounds with the leave of the presbytery, to apply to any other presbytery or to the synod, for such assistance as they can afford. And, when any presbytery shall send any of their pastors or probationers to distant vacancies, they shall be ready to produce their credentials to the presbytery or presbyteries through the bounds of which they may pass, or at least to a committee thereof, and obtain their approbation. And the synod may, of their own knowledge, send such to any part to plant churches or to supply vacancies and, for this purpose, may direct any presbytery to ordain pastors without relation to particular churches, provided always that such appointments be made with the consent of the parties appointed, and that the judicatory sending them makes the necessary provision for their support and reward in the performance of this service.
SECTION I : It is equally necessary in the judicatories of the church, as in other assemblies, that there should be a moderator or president, that the business may be conducted with order and dispatch.
SECTION II : The moderator is to be considered as possessing, by delegation from the whole body, all authority necessary for the preservation of order, for convening and adjourning the court, and directing its operations according to the rules of the church. If the court be equally divided on any question he shall possess the casting vote. If he be not willing to decide, he shall put the question a second time, and if the court be again equally divided and he decline to give his vote, the question shall be lost.
SECTION III : The moderator of the presbytery shall be chosen from year to year or at every meeting of the presbytery, as the presbytery may think best. The moderator of the synod shall be chosen at each meeting of those judicatories, and the moderator or, in case of his absence, another member appointed for the purpose shall open the next meeting with a sermon and shall hold the chair till a new moderator be chosen.
SECTION I : Every judicatory shall choose a clerk to record their transactions, whose continuance shall be during pleasure. It shall be the duty of the clerk, besides recording the transactions, to preserve the records carefully and to grant extracts from them, whenever properly required.
Of Vacant Congregations Assembling For Public Worship
SECTION I : Considering the great importance of weekly assembling the people for the public worship of God, in order thereby to improve their knowledge, to confirm their habits of worship and their desire of the public ordinances, to augment their reverence for the most high God, and to promote the charitable affections which unite men most firmly in society, it is recommended that every vacant congregation meet together on the Lord’s day, at one or more places, for the purpose of prayer, singing psalms, and reading the holy Scriptures, together with the works of such approved divines as the presbytery within whose bounds they are may recommend and they may be able to procure; and that the elders be the persons who shall preside and select the portions of Scripture and of the other books to be read, and to see that the whole be conducted in a becoming and orderly manner.
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