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ministers and churches in their treatment of said excommunicated member or deposed minister, to carry into effect the sentence of said church or council. And in general, it is obligatory upon all Congregational ministers and churches to sustain and encourage each other in the discharge of their respective duties, and to do what in them lies, to give efficacy to each other's regular ecclesiastical acts.
5. It is one of the principles of Congregationalists, to cultivate the spirit of Christian candor and charity, and to maintain cordial fellowship and communion with other denominations, who hold the essential truths of revelation and give evidence that they belong to Christ's spiritual kingdom, however different from them in regard to the mode of church government, or the particular manner of observing the ordinances of the gospel.
6. The church has, in itself, power to choose its own officers; to establish its own by-laws; to admit and dismiss members; to admonish, and excommunicate ; to restore penitents; and to transact all other business, appertaining to its own peculiar interests.
7. A pastor being by office both teacher and ruler, the legitimate freedom of the church is not to be understood as interfering with his authority, any more than freedom in civil society interferes with the authority of its rulers.*
MAINTENANCE OF THE MINISTRY. 1. A sufficient maintenance is due to those who devote themselves to the work of the ministry. And he
* Mr. Cotton in his “Keys,” thus illustrates the harmony between the authority of ministers, and the power and privilege of the brotherhood.
Objection. “ If elders have all this power to exercise all these acts of rule, partly over the private members, and partly over the whole church; how shall ihey be called the serrants of the church.”
Answer. • The elders are to be both servants and rulers of the church, and both of them may stand well together. For their rule is not lordly, as if they ruled of themselves, or for themselves; but stewardly and minisierial as ruling the church from Christ, and also from their call; and withal ruling the church for Christ, and for the church, even for their spiritual good. A queen may call her servants, her mariners, to pilot and conduct her over the sea to such a haven; yet, they being called by her to such an office, she must not rule them in steering their course, but must submit herself to be ruled by them, till they have brought her to her desired haven. So is the case between the church and her elders."
that is taught should communicate in all good things to those who teach.'
2. This maintenance is not a matter of gift or alms ; but the people are clearly bound in duty to render it, as a just debt, or as a matter of equity.
3. Not only members of churches, but all who are taught, are in duty bound to contribute to the support of the teacher; although it is more especially the duty of the church to see that such support is provided. 3
4. If any member of the church refuses to contribute his proportion, according to the rule adopted by the church, for the support of the ministry, that refusal should be counted a breach of his obligation, and a just ground for complaint.
il Cor. ix. 9–14: Matt. x. 9, 10:1 Tim. v. 18: Gal. vi. 6: Gen. xlvii. 22. 2 Rom. xv. 27:1 Cor. ix. 11-14: Num. xviii. 21: Deut. xii. 19. 3 Gal. vi. 6 : Neh. xiii. 10–12: 2 Cor. viii. 13, 14:2 Thess. iii. 1. 4 1 Cor. xvi. 2:2 Cor. viii. 22 : Mal. iii. 9.
ADMISSION OF MEMBERS.
1. Before members are admitted to the church, satisfactory evidence should be had, by examination and other means, of their having been renewed in heart by the divine Spirit
2. After examination, and before admission to the church, the candidate should stand propounded for a reasonable time, to give all the members an opportunity to bring objections, if they have any, to his admission.
3. Members of churches changing the place of their residence, ought to join a church in their new location as soon as the providence of God may permit; and, unless for special reasons, it shall not be deemed proper for such persons to remain disconnected from the church over one year.
4. As the fellowship of Congregational churches implies that they shall ordinarily acknowledge the validity of each other's regular acts, it is proper that any church should ordinarily receive into fellowship members of other churches on the ground of the customary dismission and recommendation, and after opportunity to form an acquaintance with them, provided they assent to the church's
Confession of Faith and Covenant. But if doubt exist in regard to their qualifications, it is the duty of the church to suspend action on the subject, till by examination, or in other ways, they obtain satisfaction.
5. It shall be the duty of a church to extend a faithful watch and care over its non-resident members. And if any church is acquainted with delinquencies in members of other churches, seasonable information of such delinquencies should be given to those churches.
6. The better to maintain the order of the churches and the watch and care due to their members, it shall be the duty of any church admitting to fellowship a member on recommendation from another church, to give immediate information of such admission to the latter.
DISMISSION OF MEMBERS.
1. Church members may not dissolve their relation to the church to which they belong, without just and weighty
In case of difference of judgment between them and the church, recourse shall be had to a regular ecclesiastical council.
2. It is manifestly unlawful and sinful to separate from a church, through a contempt for the pastor or brethren, or an unwillingness to bear a just proportion of the burden of supporting the ordinances, or through a desire of greater liberties than are allowed by the church and the word of God, or through a spirit of contention and schism, or because evils exist in the church which demand meekness and forbearance that they may be healed.
2 Tim. iv. 10: Rom. xvi. 17: Jude 19 : Gal. vi. 1, 2: Eph. iv. 2, 3: Col. ij. 13: Prov. vi. 16: I Cor. i. 10.
1. The object of discipline is, the benefit of offending members, the removal of scandals, and the purity and edification of the church. 2. As far as the offender is concerned, the first object
of discipline should be, to restore him to a proper spirit. The end of discipline is secured, as soon as he gives a suitable manifestation of such a spirit; and hence all the steps taken with him, should be characterized by meekness and love. But if all the efforts made for this purpose fail, he should be excommunicated.
3. In the act of excommunication, it is proper for the church particularly to set forth the offence or offences, of which the person accused has been found guilty, and to declare, that, on account of such offence or offences, the church, in obedience to the command of Christ, exclude him from their fellowship, commending him to the mercy of God, and praying that he may be brought to repent
4. Any thing in the principles or practice of a church member, which is plainly contrary to the word of God, any thing which is a serious injury to his example, and to the spiritual edification of others, is a just ground for discipline. But nothing should be treated as a disciplinable offence, which is not a manifest violation of some moral precept found in the Scriptures.
5. It is the duty of individual members of the church, kindly to deal with their brethren in relation to many minor faults of character which cannot properly be brought before the church.
6. None may withdraw from the communion of the church, on the ground of private prejudice or oljection against any brother or sister; though all are bound, in every proper way, to seek the removal of such prejudice or objection.
7. Offences are either private or public. Private offences are those committed against an individual, or those which are known only to a few, and which are of such a nature, that satisfaction rendered to the individuals offended, oor privy to the offence, would heal the scandal occasioned by it, and leave no occasion for the action of the church.
8. In the case of a private offence, no complaint should be made to the church, till the means prescribed, Matt. xviii., for reclaiming the offender, shall have been pursued in vain. And the spirit of the same direction of Christ
should, as far as practicable, be observed in regard to offences which are more or less public.*
9. In case of a gross public offence, or one which has been made public by a course of discipline, the evidence of repentance should be exhibited publicly, at least before the whole church, as no private confession or satisfaction can heal the wound occasioned by it.
10. However gross an offence may be, it is not to be made a subject of discipline before the church, unless it can be proved by suitable evidence.
11. When any person is charged with an offence, by general rumor, in order to justify the action of the church, the rumor must specify some particular sin or sins; it must be widely spread, and generally credited; not transient, but of some continuance; and must be accompanied with strong evidence of its truth.
12. It may sometimes come to pass, that a church member, not otherwise scandalous, may wholly withdraw himself from the communion of the church to which he belongs. In which case, when all due means for reclaiming him prove insufficient, he having thereby cut himself off from that church's communion, the church may justly withdraw fellowship from him, and esteem and declare itself discharged of any further watch and care over him.
13. Any member of the church, who is charged with immoral conduct, shall be regarded as innocent till he is proved to be guilty. And if any one charges a church member with immorality, but is not able to support the charge by any proper and satisfactory evidence, he shall be deemed guilty of false accusation, and shall answer to the church for his offence; the church taking care to judge of the degree of the offence from all the circumstances of the case.
14. When a church member is under trial, or when the church are in doubt concerning one who has been an offender, and are waiting for evidence to satisfy them what course they ought to pursue towards him; they may, for
* The Cambridge Platform says, ch. 14,5.3, “ If the offence be more public at first, and of a more heinous and criminal nature, to wit, such as is condemned by the light of nature; then the church, without such gradual proceedings, is io cast out the offender from their holy communion for the mortifying of his sins and the healing of his soul.”