The Directory for the Worship of God of the American Presbyterian Church

Chapter 1

General Directions

SECTION I : Christian worship is the expression of the soul’s love for God, dependence on God, and joy in God. God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, is the object of worship. Worship is to be offered only in accordance with His appointment and in harmony with the Scriptural principle that whatsoever is not commanded in the worship of God is forbidden. Worship is acceptable only as it is offered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

SECTION II : The worship of God is the highest act of the human soul. It is essential to spiritual life and growth and should be regularly and thoughtfully performed. Individuals and families should engage in family and private worship for their own growth in grace. They should also meet together in public assemblies, for God has promised special blessings when his people unite in worship.

SECTION III : The soul should always be filled with love for God and with joy in Him. There are, however, times for worship appointed in the word to be diligently observed. From the resurrection of Christ, God hath appointed the first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, to be kept holy and to be devoted to his worship.

Chapter 2

The Sanctification of the Lord’s Day

SECTION I : It is the duty of every person to remember the Lord’s Day and to prepare for it before its approach. All worldly business should be so ordered and seasonably laid aside, as that we may not be hindered thereby from sanctifying the Sabbath, as the Holy Scriptures require.

SECTION II : The whole day is to be kept holy to the Lord and to be employed in the public and private exercises of religion. Therefore, it is requisite that there be a holy resting all the day from unnecessary labors, and an abstaining from those recreations which may be lawful on other days, and also from worldly thoughts and conversations.

SECTION III : Let the provisions for the support of the family on that day be so ordered that servants or others be not improperly detained from the public worship of God, nor hindered from sanctifying the Sabbath.

SECTION IV : Let every person and family, in the morning, by secret and private prayer for themselves and others, especially for the assistance of God to their minister and for a blessing upon his ministry, by reading the scriptures and by holy meditation, prepare for communion with God in his public ordinances.

SECTION V : Let the people be careful to assemble at the appointed time, that, being all present at the beginning, they may unite with one heart in all the parts of public worship, and let none unnecessarily depart until the blessing be pronounced.

SECTION VI : Let the time after the solemn services of the congregation in public are over be spent in reading, meditation, repeating of sermons, catechising, religious conversation, prayer for a blessing upon the public ordinances, the singing of psalms, visiting the sick, relieving the poor, and in performing such like duties of piety, charity, and mercy.

Chapter 3

Of the Assembling of the Congregation and Their Behavior During Divine Service

SECTION I : When the time appointed for public worship is come, let the people gather together and take their seats in a decent, grave, and reverent manner.

SECTION II : In time of public worship let all the people attend with gravity and reverence, forbearing to read anything except what the teaching elder is then reading or citing, abstaining from all whisperings, from salutations of persons present or coming in, and from gazing about, sleeping, and all other indecent behavior.

Chapter 4

Of the Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures

SECTION I : The reading of the Holy Scriptures, in the congregation, is a part of the public worship of God and ought to be performed by the ministers and elders.

SECTION II : The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments shall be publicly read from the most approved translation, in the vulgar tongue, that all may hear and understand.

SECTION III : How large a portion shall be read at once is left to the discretion of every minister; however, in each service he ought to read at least one chapter, and more when the chapters are short or the connection requires it. He may, when he thinks it expedient, expound any part of what is read, always having regard to the time, that neither reading, singing, praying, preaching, or any other ordinance be rendered too short or too tedious.

Chapter 5

Of the Singing of Psalms

SECTION I : It is the duty of Christians to praise God by singing publicly in the congregation and privately in the family.

SECTION II : In singing the praises of God, we are to sing with the spirit and with the understanding also, making melody in our hearts unto the Lord. It is also proper that we cultivate some knowledge of the rules of music, that we may praise God in a becoming manner with our voices, as well as with our hearts.

SECTION III : The psalms of the Bible by reason of their divine appointment are to be sung in the worship of God, to the exclusion of all hymns of human composition. They are to be sung without accompaniment, in as much as instruments are not authorized in the New Testament, since they were a part of the ceremonial law.

Chapter 6

Of Public Prayer

SECTION I : It seems very proper to begin the public worship by a short prayer, humbly adoring the infinite majesty of the living God, expressing a sense of our distance from him as creatures and unworthiness as sinners, and humbly imploring his gracious presence, the assistance of his Holy Spirit in the duties of his worship, and his acceptance of us through the merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

SECTION II : Then, after the singing of a psalm, it is proper that before the sermon there should be a full and comprehensive prayer. FIRST, adoring the glory and perfections of God, as they are made known to us in the works of creation, in the conduct of providence, and in the clear and full revelation he has made of himself in his written word. SECOND, giving thanks to him for all his mercies of every kind, general and particular, spiritual and temporal, common and special, and above all for Christ Jesus, his unspeakable gift, and the hope of eternal life through him. THIRD, making humble confession of sin, both original and actual, acknowledging and endeavoring to impress the mind of every worshiper with a deep sense of the evil of all sin, as such as being a departure from the living God, and also taking a particular and affecting view of the various fruits which proceed from this root of bitterness, as sins against God, our neighbor, and ourselves; sins in thought, in word, and in deed; sins secret and presumptuous; sins accidental and habitual. Also, the aggravations of sin arising from knowledge or the means of it, from distinguishing mercies, from valuable privileges, from breach of vows, etc. FOURTH, making earnest supplication for the pardon of sin and peace with God, through the blood of the atonement, with all its important and happy fruits; for the Spirit of sanctification and abundant supplies of the grace that is necessary to the discharge of our duty; for support and comfort under all the trials to which we are liable, as we are sinful and mortal; and for all temporal mercies that may be necessary in our passage through this valley of tears. Always remembering to view them as flowing in the channel of covenant love and intended to be subservient to the preservation and progress of the spiritual life. FIFTH, pleading from every principle warranted in scripture, from our own necessity, the all-sufficience of God, the merit and intercession of our Savior, and the glory of God in the comfort and happiness of his people. SIXTH, intercession for others, including the whole world of mankind, Christ’s church universal, the church or churches with which we are more particularly connected, the interest of human society in general and in that community to which we immediately belong, all that are invested with civil authority, the ministers of the everlasting Gospel, and the rising generation, with whatever else more particular may seem necessary or suitable to the interest of that congregation where divine worship is celebrated.

SECTION III : Prayer after sermon ought generally to have a relation to the subject that has been treated of in the discourse, and all other public prayers to the circumstances that gave occasion for them.

SECTION IV : It is easy to perceive that in all the preceding directions there is a very great compass and variety, and it is committed to the judgment and fidelity of the officiating pastor to insist chiefly on such parts or to take in more or less of the several parts as he shall be lead to by the aspect of Providence, the particular state of the congregation in which he officiates, or the disposition and exercise of his own heart at the time. But we think it necessary to observe, that, although we do not approve, as is well known, of confining ministers to set or fixed forms of prayer for public worship, yet it is the indispensable duty of every minister, previously to his entering on his office, to prepare and qualify himself for this part of his duty as well as for preaching. He ought, by a thorough acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, by reading the best writers on the subject, by meditation, and by a life of communion with God in secret, to endeavor to acquire both the spirit and the gift of prayer. Not only so, but when he is to enter on particular acts of worship, he should endeavor to compose his spirit and to digest his thoughts for prayer, that it may be performed with dignity and propriety, as well as to the profit of those who join in it, and that he may not disgrace that important service by mean, irregular, or extravagant effusions.

Chapter 7

Of the Preaching of the Word

SECTION I : The preaching of the word, being an institution of God for the salvation of men, great attention should be paid to the manner of performing it. Every minister ought to give diligent application to it and endeavor to prove himself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

SECTION II : The subject of a sermon should be some verse or verses of Scripture, and its object to explain, defend, and apply some part of the system of divine truth or to point out the nature and state the bounds and obligations of some duty. A text should not be merely a motto but should fairly contain the doctrine proposed to be handled. It is proper also that large portions of Scripture be sometimes expounded and particularly improved, for the instruction of the people in the meaning and use of the Sacred Oracles.

SECTION III : The method of preaching requires much study, meditation, and prayer. Ministers ought, in general, to prepare their sermons with care and not to indulge themselves in loose, extemporary harangues, nor to serve God with that which cost them nought. They ought, however, to keep to the simplicity of the Gospel, expressing themselves in language agreeable to scripture and level to the understanding of the meanest of their hearers, carefully avoiding ostentation, either of parts or learning. They ought also to adorn, by their lives, the doctrine which they teach and to be examples in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

SECTION IV : As one primary design of public ordinances is to pay social acts of homage to the most High God, ministers ought to be careful not to make their sermons so long as to interfere with or exclude the other important duties of prayer and praise.

SECTION V : The sermon being ended, the minister is to pray and return thanks to Almighty God, then let a psalm be sung, a collection raised for the poor or for other purposes of the church, and the assembly dismissed with the apostolic benediction.

SECTION VI : It is expedient that no person be introduced to preach in any of the churches under our care, unless by the consent of the pastor or church session.

Chapter 8

Of the Administration of the Sacraments

SECTION I : A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his Church wherein significant symbols and acts represent Christ and the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant. A sacrament becomes a means of grace and a seal of the benefits of the covenant, not by a mere formal observance nor by any virtue in the person administering it or in the symbols used, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of his Spirit in those who by faith receive it. Such observance develops the spiritual life, pledges to new obedience, and binds the partakers together in Christian fellowship, separate from the world.

SECTION II : The sacraments are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and these are of perpetual validity. They are to be administered according to Christ’s appointment and only by ordained ministers of the church. Although it is proper that Baptism be administered in the presence of the congregation, yet there may be cases when it will be expedient to administer this ordinance in private, of which the minister is to be the judge.


SECTION III : Baptism is a mark of entrance into the visible church and a sign of entrance into Christ. The water used is a symbol of the Spirit who regenerates and is set apart by prayer to the sacramental purpose. The act performed is the application of the water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The water is applied by sprinkling or pouring. The act signifies and seals cleansing from sin by the blood of Christ, regeneration by his Spirit, adoption into the family of God and title to all the privileges of his children, and, on the part of the believer, his solemn promise to be the Lord’s.

SECTION IV : Baptism is to be administered to those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ and to their children. Although baptism is not to be repeated, previous baptisms are invalid where the word had not been preached or discipline had not been observed or the sacraments had not been understood. Adults take vows based upon the Terms of Communion or the Covenant of Church Membership. Parents who present their children renew these vows, take them in behalf of their children, and pledge the faithful performance of their duties as Christian parents.

SECTION V : The minister shall give a brief explanation of the meaning and purpose of the sacrament. Those who are to be baptized shall come forward either before or after this address, and stand for the administration of the sacrament. The vows required of adult persons or parents may include the following:

  1. Their profession of faith…

There should be no departure from the true significance of the Terms of Communion, but they may be summarized as follows:

A. Do you believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and life, and promise that you will endeavor to study them that you may grow in grace and in truth ?

B. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only Redeemer of men, and do you receive him as your Savior and Lord ?

C. Do you believe that the standards of the church with respect to doctrine, form of church government, and manner of worship, as much as you understand them, are agreeable unto and founded upon the Scriptures, and will you endeavor by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine, to reject all heresies repugnant thereto, and to lead a new and godly life ?

D. Do you promise to live an obedient life in the service of Christ with due submission in the Lord to the courts of the church and, in case you should become delinquent ( which may God graciously forbid ), to church discipline ?

E. Do you promise to maintain this church covenant until lawfully dismissed from its obligations ?

  1. Their vows in relation to their child…

A. Do you promise to regard this child as a gift of your Heavenly Father entrusted to your care ?

B. Do you promise to pray with and for your child in private and family worship, to provide for his temporal well-being and for his education as God enables you, to acquaint him with his lost condition and need of a Savior, and to instruct him in the plan of salvation and the principles of our covenanted profession ?

C. Do you promise to bring him to the house of God and to attend the appointed services of worship with him, to teach him to reverence the institutions of religion, and when he shall have arrived at years of discretion, do you promise to encourage him to seek full membership in the church ?

D. Do you promise to set before him a godly example, to use parental authority together with love and tenderness, and do you promise to do all in your power to secure his present and eternal salvation ?

SECTION VI : When the vows have been taken, the minister shall say, ” Remember that the vows of God are upon you” and may add, ” and for the same you shall answer to Christ our Judge.” The congregation shall rise, and the minister shall consecrate the sacramental element with prayer, using the formula:

“Bless so much of the element of water as shall be used upon this occasion, which we hereby, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, set apart from a common to a sacramental use.”

Without closing his prayer, the minister shall leave the pulpit and shall place the water on the head of each person to be baptized, pronouncing the name and saying, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”

SECTION VII : The clerk of the session should keep an accurate record of all persons baptized, with the date, and, in the case of a child, with the names of the parents and the date of birth. A certificate of baptism should be given to the person baptized.

The Lord’s Supper

SECTION VIII : The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of his atoning death and signifies abiding in Christ and feeding spiritually upon him. Its observance marks continuance in and loyalty to the visible church on the part of those who have been baptized. This sacrament, therefore, is to be observed frequently, as often as the session may decide.

SECTION IX : The symbols are the bread and the cup. The sacramental acts performed by the minister signify the incarnation of Christ, his atoning death, and his resurrection. The acts performed by the communicants signify their acceptance of Christ, the Savior, and their feeding upon Him who is the bread of Life, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

SECTION X : The Lord’s Supper is to be administered to those who have been baptized and are of years and ability to examine themselves and are members of the church in good standing, either of the congregation which is observing the sacrament or of other congregations of the church. This standard of admission to the sacrament is that commonly referred to as “Close Communion.”

SECTION XI : It is the privilege and duty of every member to observe the Lord’s Supper regularly and with careful preparation.

SECTION XII : All services connected with the Lord’s Supper should reverently present the Lord Jesus and his redeeming love. The psalms, the scripture, and the sermon should center in Christ and his death upon the cross and in the blessings which flow therefrom. The words of institution (I Corinthians 11: 23-27) should be explained showing the authority of Christ, the purpose of the supper, and the significance of the symbols and of the sacramental acts.

SECTION XIII : The people should be reminded of the duty of self-examination (I Corinthians 11: 27-32) and warned against partaking of the supper unworthily. Passages of warning and invitation may be read from the Scriptures. The people should be invited to come to the Lord’s table in their customary manner, during the singing of an appropriate psalm, such as the twenty-fourth or the one hundred and sixteenth.

SECTION XIV : The minister shall take his place beside the table bearing the elements. When all is ready he shall lift the bread and the cup and exhibit them to the communicants using words such as these:

“The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread and also the cup, a sacramental act significant of his taking a human nature into union with his divine person. Following his command and example, I take this bread and this cup and exhibit them to you as the sacramental symbols of the body and blood of the Lord”.

Replacing the elements, the minister shall say:

“After the Lord Jesus had taken the bread and the cup, he blessed them, a sacramental act which signifies the consecration of his human nature to the work which he came to do. Let us engage in prayer and consecrate the elements”.

The form to be used is:

“Bless so much of the elements of bread and wine as shall be used on this occasion, which we hereby set apart from a common to a sacramental use, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church”.

The minister shall take the bread and break it, saying:

“After the Lord Jesus had blessed the bread he brake it, a sacramental act significant of his suffering and death upon the cross. Following his example I break this bread (here the bread is broken) and give it to you his disciples, saying as He said (here the bread is offered) `Take; eat; this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.'”

He shall then take the cup and give it to the communicants, saying:

“After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, `This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.'”

After a brief pause he shall continue:

“For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”

The service shall be concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving, praise, and the benediction.

SECTION XV : Special sermons may fittingly follow the communion, to deepen its impressions and to guide to more definite Christian obedience. These should deal with the great issues and objectives of the Church of Christ.

Chapter 9

Of Fasting and of the Observation of the Days of Thanksgiving

SECTION I : There is no day under the Gospel commanded to be kept holy except the Lord’s Day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

SECTION II : Nevertheless, to observe days of fasting and thanksgiving, as the extraordinary dispensations of divine providence may direct, we judge both scriptural and rational.

SECTION III : Fasts and thanksgivings may be observed by individual Christians or families in private, by particular congregations, by a number of congregations contiguous to each other, by the congregations under the care of a presbytery or of a synod, or by all the congregations of our church.

SECTION IV : It must be left to the judgment and discretion of every Christian and family to determine when it is proper to observe a private fast or thanksgiving, and to the church sessions to determine for particular congregations, and to the presbyteries or synods to determine for larger districts. When it is deemed expedient that a fast or thanksgiving should be general, the call for them must be judged of by the synod.

SECTION V : Public notice is to be given a convenient time before the day of fasting or thanksgiving comes, that persons may so order their temporal affairs, that they may properly attend to the duties thereof.

SECTION VI : There shall be public worship on all such days, and let the prayers, psalms, portions of scripture to be read, and sermons be all in a special manner adapted to the occasion.

SECTION VII : On fast days let the minister point out the authority and providences calling to the observation thereof, and let him spend more than a usual portion of time in solemn prayer, particular confession of sin, especially of the sins of the day and place, with their aggravations, which have brought down the judgments of heaven. And let the whole day be spent in deep humiliation and mourning before God.

SECTION VIII : On days of thanksgiving he is to give the like information respecting the authority and providences which call to the observance of them and to spend a more than usual part of the time in the giving of thanks, agreeably to the occasion, and in singing psalms of praise. It is the duty of people on these days to rejoice with holy gladness of heart, but let trembling be so joined with our mirth, that no excess or unbecoming levity be indulged.

Chapter 10

The Directory for Secret and Family Worship

SECTION I : Besides the public worship in congregations, it is the indispensable duty of each person, alone, in secret, and of every family, by itself, in private, to pray to and worship God.

SECTION II : Secret worship is most plainly enjoyed by our Lord. In this duty everyone, by himself, is to spend some time in prayer, reading the scriptures, holy meditation, and serious self-examination. The many advantages arising from a conscientious discharge of these duties are best known to those who are found in the faithful discharge of them.

SECTION III : Family worship, which ought to be performed by every family, daily consists in prayer, reading the scriptures, and singing praises.

SECTION IV : The head of the family, who is to lead in this service, ought to be careful that all members of his household duly attend and that none withdraw themselves unnecessarily from any part of family worship and that all refrain from their common business while the scriptures are read, and gravely attend to the same, no less than when prayer or praise is offered up.

SECTION V : Let the heads of families be careful to instruct their children and servants in the principles of religion. Every proper opportunity ought to be embraced for such instruction.

Chapter 11

Of the Visitation of the Sick

SECTION I : When persons are sick, it is their duty, before their strength and understanding fail them, to send for their minister and make known to him, with prudence, their spiritual state or to consult him on the concerns of their precious souls. And it is his duty to visit them, at their request, and to apply himself, with all tenderness and love, to administer spiritual good to their immortal souls.

SECTION II : He shall instruct the sick out of the scriptures, that diseases arise not out of the ground, nor do they come by chance, but that they are directed and sent by a wise and holy God, either for corruption of sin, for the trial of grace, for improvement in religion, or for other important ends; and that they shall work together for good to all those who make a wise improvement of God’s visitation, neither despising his chastening hand nor fainting under his rebuke.

SECTION III : If the minister finds the sick person to be grossly ignorant, he shall instruct him in the nature of repentance and faith, and the way of acceptance with God, through the mediation and atonement of Jesus Christ.

SECTION IV : He shall exhort the sick to examine himself, to search his heart, and try his former ways by the word of God, and shall assist him by mentioning some of the obvious marks and evidences of sincere piety.

SECTION V : If the sick person signify any scruple, doubt, or temptation under which he labors, the minister must endeavor to resolve his doubts and administer instruction and direction, as the case may seem to require.

SECTION VI : If the sick appear to be a stupid, thoughtless, and hardened sinner, he shall endeavor to awaken his mind, to arouse his conscience, to convince him of the evil and danger of sin, of the curse of the law and the wrath of God due to sinners, to bring him to a humble and penitential sense of his iniquities, and state before him the grace and mercy of God in and through the glorious Redeemer, the absolute necessity of faith and repentance, in order to his being interested in the favor of God or his obtaining everlasting happiness.

SECTION VII : If the sick person shall appear to have knowledge, to be of a tender conscience, and to have been endeavoring to serve God in uprightness, though not without many failings and sinful infirmities, or if his spirit be broken with a sense of sin, or through apprehensions of the want of the divine favor, then it will be proper to administer consolation and encouragement to him, by setting before him the freeness and riches of the grace of God, the all-sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ, and the supporting promises of the Gospel.

SECTION VIII : The minister must endeavor to guard the sick person against ill-grounded persuasions of the mercy of God without a vital union to Christ, and against unreasonable fears of death, and desponding discouragements, against presumption upon his own goodness and merit, upon the one hand, and against despair of the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ, on the other.

SECTION IX : In one word, it is the minister’s duty to administer to the sick person instruction, conviction, support, consolation, or encouragement, as his case may seem to require. At the proper time, when he is most composed, the minister shall pray with and for him.

SECTION X : Lastly, the minister may improve the present occasion to exhort those about the sick, to consider their mortality, to turn to the Lord and make their peace with him, and in health to prepare for sickness, death, and judgment.

Chapter 12

Of the Burial of the Dead

SECTION I : When any person departs this life, let the corpse be taken care of in a decent manner and be kept a proper and sufficient time before internment.

SECTION II : When the season for the funeral comes, let the dead body be decently attended to the grave and interred. During such solemn occasions let all who attend conduct themselves with becoming gravity and apply themselves to serious meditation or discourse, and the minister, if present, may exhort them to consider the frailty of life and the importance of being prepared for death and eternity.

Chapter 13

Of the Mode of Inflicting Church Censures

SECTION I : The power which Christ has given the rulers of his church is for edification and not for destruction. As, in the preaching of the word, the wicked are doctrinally separated from the good, so, by discipline, the church authoritatively makes a distinction between the righteous and the profane. In this, she acts the part of a tender mother, correcting her children only for their good, that every one of them may be presented faultless in the day of the Lord Jesus.

SECTION II : When any member of a church shall have been guilty of a fault deserving censure, the judicatory shall proceed with all tenderness and restore their offending brother in the spirit of meekness, considering themselves, lest they also be tempted. Censure ought to be inflicted with great solemnity, that it may be the means of impressing the mind of the delinquent with a proper sense of his danger, while he stands excluded from the privileges of the church of the living God, and that, with the divine blessing, it may lead him to repentance.

SECTION III : When the judicatory has resolved to pass sentence, suspending a member from church privileges, the moderator shall address him to the following purpose:

Whereas you are guilty (by your own confession or convicted by sufficient proof, as the case may be) of the sin of (here mention the particular offense) we declare you suspended from the sacraments of the church, till you give satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of your repentance.

To this shall be added such advice, admonition, or rebukes as may be judged necessary, and the whole shall be concluded by prayer to Almighty God, that he would follow this act of discipline with his blessing. We judge it prudent, in general, that such censures be inflicted in the presence of the judicatory only, but if any church thinks it expedient to rebuke the offender publicly, this solemn suspension from the sacraments may be in the presence of the congregation.

SECTION IV : After any person has been thus suspended from the sacraments, it is proper that the minister and elders and other Christians should frequently converse with him, as well as pray for him in private, that it would please God to give him repentance. And it may be requisite likewise, particularly on days preparatory to the dispensing of the Lord’s Supper, that the prayers of the church be offered up for those unhappy persons who, by their wickedness, have shut themselves out from this holy communion.

SECTION V : When the judicatory shall be satisfied as to the reality of the repentance of any offender, he shall be admitted to profess his repentance and restored to the privileges of the church, which restoration shall be declared to the penitent in the presence of the session or of the congregation and followed with prayer and thanksgiving.

SECTION VI : When any offender has been adjudged to be cut off from the communion of the church, it is proper that the sentence be publicly pronounced against him.

SECTION VII : The design of excommunication is to operate upon the offender as a means of reclaiming him, to deliver the church from the scandal of his offense, and to inspire all with fear by the example of his punishment. The minister shall give the church or congregation a short narrative of the several steps which have been taken with respect to their offending brother and inform them that it has been found necessary to cut him off from the communion and shall in the presence of the church or congregation pronounce this sentence in the following or like form:

He shall begin by showing the authority of the church to cast out unworthy members, from Mat. 18: 15,16,17, and 18; I Cor. 5: 1,2,3,4, and 5, and shall briefly explain the nature, use, and consequences of this censure, warning the people to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with him who is cast out.

Then he shall say,

“Whereas A. B. has been by sufficient proof convicted of (here insert the sin) and after much admonition and prayer obstinately refuses to hear the church and has manifested no evidence of repentance; therefore, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pronounce him to be excluded from the communion of the church.”

After which prayer shall be made that the blessing of God shall follow his ordinance, for the conviction and reformation of the excommunicated person and for the establishment of all true believers.

SECTION VIII : When one who has been excommunicated shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance and to desire to be re-admitted to the privileges of the church, the session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall, with the advice and concurrence of the presbytery, restore him. In order to which the minister shall, on two Lord’s days previous thereto, inform the congregation of the measures which have been taken with the excommunicated person and of the resolution of the session to receive him again to the communion of the church.On the day appointed for his restoration, when the other parts of divine service are ended, before pronouncing the blessing, the minister shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him, in the presence of the congregation, the following questions:

“Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God and in refusing to hear his church, and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the saints?” Answer, “I do”. “Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and deep contrition for your sin and obstinacy, and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and of his church?” Answer, “I do.” “Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection and to endeavor to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, by having your conversation as becomes the Gospel?” Answer, “I do.”

Here the minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, addressing him in the bowels of brotherly love, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration, in the following words:

“Whereas you, A. B. , have been shut off from the communion of the faithful but have now manifested such repentance as satisfies the church, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by his authority, I declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly denounced against you, and I do receive you into the communion of the church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus, to your eternal salvation.”

The whole shall be concluded with prayer, and the people dismissed with the usual blessing.

Chapter 14

Of the Solemnization of Marriage

SECTION I : Marriage is not a sacrament, nor peculiar to the church of Christ. It is proper that every commonwealth, for the good of society, make laws to regulate marriage, which all citizens are bound to obey.

SECTION II : Christians ought to marry in the Lord; therefore it is fit that their marriage be solemnized by a lawful minister, that special instruction may be given to them and suitable prayers made when they enter into this relation.

SECTION III : Marriage is to be between one man and one woman only, and they are not to be within the degrees of consanguinity of affinity prohibited by the word of God.

SECTION IV : The parties ought to be of such years of discretion as to be capable of making their own choice, and, if they be underage or live with their parents, the consent of the parents, or others under whose care they are, ought to be previously obtained and well certified to the minister, before he proceeds to solemnize the marriage.

SECTION V : Parents ought neither to compel their children to marry contrary to their inclinations nor to deny their consent without just and important reasons.

SECTION VI : Marriage is of a public nature. The welfare of civil society, the happiness of families, and the credit of religion are deeply interested in it. Therefore the purpose of marriage ought to be sufficiently published a proper time previously to the solemnization of it. It is enjoined on all ministers to be careful that, in this matter, they neither transgress the laws of God, nor the laws of the community; and, that they may not destroy the peace and comfort of families, they must be properly certified with respect to the parties applying to them, that no just objections lie against their marriage.

SECTION VII : Marriage must always be performed before a competent number of witnesses and at any time, except on a day of public humiliation. We advise that it be not on the Lord’s day. The minister is to give a certificate of the marriage when required.

SECTION VIII : When the parties present themselves for marriage, the minister is to desire if there is any person present who knows any lawful reason why these persons may not be joined together in the marriage relation, that they will now make it known, or ever after hold their peace.

No objections being made, he is then severally to address himself to the parties to be married, in the following or like words:

“You, the man, declare, in the presence of God, that you do not know any reason, by pre-contract or otherwise, why you may not lawfully marry this woman.”

Upon his declaring he does not, the minister shall address himself to the bride in the same or similar words:

“You, the woman, declare, in the presence of God, that you do not know any reason, by pre-contract or otherwise, why you may not lawfully marry this man.”

Upon her declaring she does not, he is to begin with prayer for the presence and blessing of God. The minister shall then proceed to give them some instruction from the Scriptures, respecting the institution and duties of this state, showing:

“That God has instituted marriage for the comfort and happiness of mankind, in declaring a man shall forsake his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and that marriage is honorable in all; that he has appointed various duties which are incumbent upon those who enter into this relation, such as a high esteem and mutual love for one another, bearing with each other’s infirmities and weaknesses to which human nature is subject in its present lapsed state, to encourage each other in the various ills of life, to comfort one another in sickness, in honesty and industry to provide for each other’s temporal support, to pray for and encourage one another in the things which pertain to God and to their immortal souls, and to live together as the heirs of the grace of life.”

Then the minister shall cause the bridegroom and bride to join their hands and shall pronounce the marriage covenant first to the man, in these words:

“You take this woman, whom you hold by the hand, to be your lawful and married wife, and you promise and covenant, in the presence of God and these witnesses, that you will be unto her a loving and faithful husband, until you shall be separated by death.”

The bridegroom shall express his consent by saying, “Yes, I do.”

Then the minister shall address himself to the woman, in these words:

“You take this man, whom you hold by the hand, to be your lawful and married husband, and you promise and covenant, in the presence of God and these witnesses, that you will be unto him a loving, faithful, and obedient wife, until you are separated by death.”

The bride shall express her consent by saying, “Yes, I do.”

Then the minister is to say:

“I recognize that you are husband and wife, according to the ordinance of God; whom therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder.”

After this the minister may exhort them in a few words, to the mutual discharge of their duty. Then let him conclude with prayer suitable to the occasion. Let the minister keep a proper register of the names of all persons whom he marries and of the time of their marriage, for the perusal of all who it may concern.

Chapter 15

Of Associations in This World

SECTION I : There are three institutions ordained of God: the family, established in Eden to provide a suitable help for man; the civil state, established after the Deluge to restrain the wickedness of men; the church, established by the call of Abraham to provide a visible society of professors.

SECTION II : It is therefore sinful to associate with any lodge teaching secret doctrines and ancient mysteries of pagan or Babylonian origin, or with any business organization, professional association, labor union, political party, etc., that seeks to maintain or promote itself by sin, or with any organization that professes aims of a religious character but does not recognize the utter impossibility of doing any good apart from the grace of God, causing men to trust in princes and to place their hope in the kingdom of men.

Chapter 16

The use of Alcoholic Beverages

SECTION I : In the light of the growing abuse of Christian liberty, the American Presbyterian Church repudiates the insidious attempt to justify social drinking from the Scripture, that consistently condemns the use of fermented drink, and warns against its seductive and soul destroying effects.

SECTION II : Drunkenness is among the sins that lead men to everlasting perdition ( I Cor. 6:9,10 ; Gal. 5:19-24 ). The prudent are not to be deceived by its harmless appearance ( Proverbs 23:29-32 ).

SECTION III : The commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, forbids the use of toxic drinks, which impair the health and destroy the vitality of mind and body, which alcohol is known to do under even moderate use ( Ex. 20:13 ; Deut. 32:33 ).

SECTION IV : Since the words “yayin” ( O.T. ) and “oinos” ( N.T. ), usually translated wine, are generic terms, the condemnation or the approbation of its use in each text must be determined from the context.

SECTION V : When the scriptures present drinking wine as a blessing from God or an acceptable and moral social custom of the Hebrews, it is always non-fermented ( Ps. 104:14,15 ; Acts 14:17 ; Jn. 2:10 ).

SECTION VI : Two kinds of wine are spoken of in the Scripture, the non-fermented, which is always approved, and the fermented, which is always forbidden.

SECTION VII : Since the word “shechar”, usually mistranslated strong drink, is also strictly a generic term, the condemnation or the approbation of its use in each text must be determined from the context ( Deut. 14:26 ; Prov. 20:1 ; Num. 6:3 ).

SECTION VIII : Every minister and ruling elder shall teach and exhort our constituent members to refrain from and oppose the drinking of alcoholic beverages. As to membership in the American Presbyterian Church, no one shall be admitted, nor shall any member go undisciplined, who is given to alcoholic drink.


To download a copy of this file with footnoted scripture proofs click here – Directory of Worship