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Q. 2. What is an ecelesiastical offence?
A. It is any thing in the principles and practice of a church member, or of any baptised person which is contrary to the word of God. Private offences are such as are known but to one, two, or a few persons public, those which are known to many, and in order to constitute any thing as an offence, it must be that which can be provedto be contraryto the Scriptures. Mat. xviii. 7. Rev. ii. 14. They are such as heresy, Rom xvi. 17. immorality, 1 Cor. v. 11. and contempt of church order, 2 Thes. iji. 6.
Q. 3. What are the first measures to be taken with an offender in case of a private offence?
A. Those steps mentioned by our Saviour, Mat. xviii. 15, 16. are to betaken, and to bring forward to the jue dicatory of the church, or spread the knowledge of such an offence before these steps are taken, exposes the person doing it, to censure, as offending against the peace of the church, and slandering a brother.
Q. 4. When all previous means to remove either kind of offences have proved ineffectual, and when they can be prosecuted to the conviction of offenders, how is process to be commenced?
A. Common fame may sometimes be considered as the accuser--at others, an individual, or individuals present to the session or other judicatory, the charges which they undertake to substantiate, and in all possible cases they ought to mention the times, places, and circumstances of the offence, and the witnesses by whom (for more than one witness is always necessary) they are to be established.
Q. 5. When such charges are entered, how is the judicatory to proceed?
A. They are to send a copy of the charges and a list of the witnesses to the accused party, and cite him to appear before them for trial. If he do not appear after a second or third citation, he is to be censured for contempt of the laws of Christ. If he appear, he is to plead guilty or not ; his trial is to be fair and impartial, all witnesses are be examined in his presence, and
to be questioned by him if he choose, after which he may make his defence, and if he be dissatisfied with the judgment of the court, he may appeal to the next higher judicatory. If the crime be notorious the decision is to be published in the presence of the congregation; but. if it be known only to a few, it is to be confined to the ju.licatory alone.
6. Before whom and in what manner is process against a minister to be commenced?
The Presbytry to which he belongs is the proper court in which a minister is to be tried. When a com. plaint is entered against a minister, nothing more can be done at the first meeting than to give him a copy of the charges; and at the next meeting. if he plead hot guilty, the trial is to proceed as before, and if the party accusing fail in this case or in the former, to establish the charges preferred, he or they shall be made liable to censure for slandering a fellow-christian or the gospel ministry, as the case may be.
Q. 7. Where the crime in either case is confessed before the judicatory, and is of a base and heinous cláracter, what is to be done!
A. In all cases, if the crime be such an one as drunkenness, profaneness, falsehood, fraud, or the like, notwithstanding the profession of repentance, the person in question is to be suspended, and time given for the exhibition of contrition and reformation.
Q. 8. How are all ecclesiastical trials to be conducted?
A. Charges are always to be admitted with the greatest caution. The credibility and competency of the witnesses to be attentively inquired into, and their testimony recorded and read to them; the time and place of the alledged offence to be fully established, and every indulgence given to accused brethren to defend themselves, and great care taken if they appear innow cent to remove from them all ungenerous suspicions and ill reports. It is the duty of church-judicatories, and church-members to labour to remove all different ..ces and disputes among the members of the church,
and for all concerned in them, to confess their faults, one to another, in the spirit of meekness and love.
Q. 9. What are the different degrees and the designs of church censure?
A. Admonition, and rebuke, 1 Tim. v. 20. Suspension and excommunication, or in ministers deposition, in which case their churches are declared vacant. The designs of censure are to glorify God in maintaining the purity of the church, reforming the offender, 1 Cor. y. 5. and restraining others from similar transgressions. In very flagrant crimes, persons may be suspended before their trial can be begun and issued.
Q. 10. Is it the duty of chuch members, whether called as witnesses or accused as offenders, to submit to the authority of the church?
A. It is, John XX. 23. 2 The ii. 14. Heb. xii. 1..7 and they are liable to church censure for contumacy. if they do not, though husbands or wives ought not to be required to bear testimony against each other in any case; nor condemned perosns to be denied the privilege of appealing to higher judicatories, that their sentence may be reversed or a new trial ordered. It is the prerogative of all higher judicatories, also, to examine the proceedings and judge of the correctness and constitutionality of those next inferior to them, and to grant a rehearing, where new testimony on the part of the accused can be offered.
Q. 11. “Wherein consists the awfulness of the sens tence of excommunication?
A. The sentence of excommunication, pronounced according to God's law, iš ratified in heaven John XX. 23; Satan receives power over the excommunicated! person, 1 Cor. V. 5. he is given up to terrors of conscience, or to what is still more alarming, blindness of mind and hardness of heart, 2 Cor. ii. 6, 11. church members cease from communion with him; for, although the discharge of natural duties is not supended, Christians are to avoid all familiar fellowship with the excommunicated sinner. Mat. xvij. 17. Eph. iv. 18." MʻLeod
Q. 12. “Is an excommunicated person ever after to be restored to church fellowship?
A. An excommunicated person is not to be restored without evident marks of humiliation, repentance and reformation, for a sufficient length of time to satisfy the church that his habits of virtue are confirmed.” do. Q. 13.
Which are the only three ways in which church members can have their relation to a church dissolved?
A. By death, removal to some other church, and excommunication.
Q. 14. In what manner can they be removed from one church to another?
It is the privelege of all members in good standing when they remove, to ask a certificate of their good conduct, and a recommendation from the Session to a sister church; but they are answerable to the one church until they have actually presented it, and are received by the other; and every such certificate ought to be presented within one year after it is given. The same rule applies to ministers leaving one preshy'ery to be connected with anoth r, except that there is no limitation of time.
Q. 28. Is a connexion with the visible church a very solemn, as well as interesting relation?
Å. It is; and all who sustain it ought to study the peace and prosperity of Zion, to avoid themselves, and endeavour to prevent others from all scandalous oftences--to pray for its prosperity-love all its members, and “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace,
;* since the church is the flock and the spouse of Christ-the family of God, and the temple of the Holy Ghost.
Q. 29 How ought we to conduct toward other branches and denominations of the visible church?
A. We ought to approve what is good, and lament what is evil in them to avoid a sectarian spirit, and to he willing to allow them the free exercise of the liber
ty of conscience, and pray for their purity, edification and salvation-while we shun all unreasonable and unjust aspersions, and all vain glorying and party prejudices in the maintenance of the truth as it is in Jesus.
NOTE--It will form no objection in the estimation of those who may use tois little v plume, to see that a very considerable pori tion of the matter contained in this part is taken from the form of government, and the forms of process of the Presbyterian church.
END OF PART IV.,