Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[ocr errors]

bled, they are to deliberate and act, and by a majority of votes to decide every question which properly comes before them.

8. Congregational churches, though they are distinct, and therefore may not be confounded one with another, and equal, and therefore have no dominion one over another, yet are not separate bodies, but sustain a mutual relation, as servants of the same Lord, and branches of the same spiritual kingdom, and are bound to maintain Christian fellowship with each other, to watch over each other in love and faithfulness, and to do all in their power to protect each other's rights, to encourage each other in the discharge of duty, and in all proper ways to promote each other's peace and prosperity.

ģ. In order that the fellowship existing among the churches may effectually accomplish its objects, it is important that the churches should agree upon a definite plan of intercourse, and should determine in what manner they are to watch over each other, in what respects they are responsible to each other, and in what ways they are to protect each other's rights, and promote each other's welfare ;-and also what shall be the conditions of their fellowship, and when and how it shall be ended.

10. As the community of churches is interested in the character and influence of gospel ministers; every Congregational minister, whether he is a pastor or not, is to be considered as having a real and responsible connection with Congregational churches and pastors. Accordingly, either the members or the pastors of Congregational churches, after properly dealing with him in private, may, in a regular manner, prefer charges against him before an ecclesiastical council, convened according to rule, for his trial.

11. Any member of a church, who feels himself aggrieved by any act of the church, shall have the right to appeal to a mutual council.

12. Synods, duly assembled, and rightly proceeding according to the Scriptures, are an ordinance of God. And it belongeth unto synods and councils to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience; to clear

* See Platform ch. 15, and Upham's Ratio Disciplinæ, pp. 37, 43, 174-6, and 206.

from the Scriptures directions for the worship of God and the government of the church; to bear testimony against mal-administration and corruption in any particular church, and to take proper measures for the reformation thereof.* (See Platform, ch. 15, Sec. 1 and 4.)

* Synods, or larger councils, here spoken of nearly in the words of the Platform, are ecclesiastical bodies constituted l'astors and Delegates of churches in a State, or some large extent of country, and assembled for the purpose of consulting the more general interests of the churches.

But we

In present circumstances, Congregationalism must be expected to undergo a rigorous examination. We are surrounded by various denominations, whose zeal to advance themselves will prompt them to search out whatever is faulty or imperfect in our system. But the essential principles of Congregationalism have no occasion to shrink from scrutiny. Though in many respects we agree with the other branches of Protestant Christendom ; in some respects we differ from them.

are not aware of any reason why we should wish to avoid a careful comparison between them and ourselves. We have no fear that the most thorough sifting and weighing of the essential principles of Congregationalism would be otherwise than advantageous to that system. What seems to be necessary is, that the genuine principles of our denomination, together with the rules of discipline, should be definitely stated, and arranged in proper order, and that ministers and churches should unitedly adopt and maintain them. This, with the divine blessing, is what is wanted to give increasing prosperity to Congregational churches, and to recommend their peculiar principles to the approbation of intelligent and candid men.

It is in compliance with the wishes of many, that we have taken pains to prepare the following draft of a Manual of Church Discipline.

We consider it as very imperfect; and our design in laying it before our brethren is to call their attention to the subject, and to leave it with them, by additions and other alterations, to complete what we have begun. There has been a decided opinion expressed by many associations, of the desirableness and importance of such a manual. And in the present draft we have made various modifications of the one before submitted to our brethren, in conformity with their free

suggestions ; so that they will find here none of the passages which were considered as particularly exceptionable in the unfinished report. Our object has been to prepare a Manual, which, when completed, will have a prospect of being adopted by the united act of Congregationalists in Massachusetts, and if it may be, beyond Massachusetts.

A MANUAL

OF

CHURCH PRINCIPLES AND DISCIPLINE.

CHAPTER 1.

PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT.

1. The essential principles of church government are found in the word of God, and are intended to be perpetual. And it is not left in the power of man to alter them.

2. Besides these essentials, there are necessary circumstantiuls, as that of time, place, &c., which are left to be ordered by the sober judgment of Christians; though not in such a way, as to allow men to thrust their own inventions upon the church. They are to be guarded by general limitations, in that they must be done decently and in order, and to edification.

* Acts xv. 28: Matt. xv. 9: 1 Cor. xiv. 26, 40.

CHAPTER II.

NATURE OF THE CHURCH.

1. The church of Christ, taken in the large sense, embraces all those that are effectually called, and renewed in the spirit of their minds, all that have died in faith, all real Christians now living, and all who shall hereafter live upon earth.

2. The visible church embraces the whole number of those, who maintain a profession of faith in connection with the followers of Christ.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »