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favor of the excluded party, this would not reinstate him in the church which excluded him for no outside body can reverse the act of a church-but it would leave any other church at liberty to admit him.
The independence of the individual church in all such cases must needs be held inviolable: no action of outside ecclesiastical bodies can impair the validity and authority of its acts, as binding on its own membership. But when its acts affect, not itself only, but also the common name and welfare of the whole community of churches, it is obvious they have the right of self-vindication and protection, and may refuse to recognize
acts as binding on themselves, or to be held responsible for them before the world.
V. THE EXTERNAL RELATIONS OF CHURCHES ARE MAINTAINED THROUGH ASSOCIATIONS, COUNCILS, AND BENEVOLENT SOCIETIES.
The constitution of these bodies has not been divinely prescribed, but is evidently left to the wisdom of the churches, as, in their varying circumstances, they shall be guided from age to age by the Spirit and providence of God. The duty, however, of combining for evangelical and benevolent work is not only the dictate of reason, but is also plainly recognized in Scripture; as in the united movement of the Gentile churches for the relief of the Judean Christians, and the common support of Paul and other missionary laborers by different churches. These organizations have no ecclesiastical power; they are simply agencies through which the churches put forth efforts for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ.
ASSOCIATIONS. An Association is composed of pastors and delegates from churches occupying a particular district. Its purpose is twofold—the promotion of the welfare of the churches connected with it, and the spread of the gospel, especially through the region occupied by them. It has a constitution defining its objects, organization, and duties, and usually containing an outline of the leading articles of faith and practice as held in common by the churches connected with the body. This last is not always formally stated, but is in all cases distinctly implied. At its annual session officers are elected for the year, letters are read from the several churches giving a statement of their condition, and subjects of common interest to the churches are considered. The proceedings are afterward published, with the statistics of the churches, for the information of the churches and the general public.
The Association is a purely voluntary body; no church is compelled to join it. Churches are admitted on application, if found to conform in character, doctrine, and practice to the principles stated in the constitution; and they are at liberty to withdraw from it whenever, in their judgment, their welfare requires it. It has no ecclesiastical authority, but its official acts are strictly limited to the objects and methods prescribed in the constitution. If any church belonging to it has departed from the common faith and practice of the churches in the body, the Association may seek fraternally to recover it from the error; and, failing in this, it may dissolve the relation of the Association to the erring church. But it has no power to discipline or to dissolve the church, or in any way to act as a court of review, to put on trial the character and acts of a church, except as its character and acts affect its relation to the Association. No church can delegate to another body the rights and functions Christ has committed to it; hence, an Association is not a repre
sentative body in any such sense that it can perform any properly ecclesiastical act, such as admitting, disciplining, or excluding members of a church, electing or displacing the officers of a church, or administering church ordinances.
COUNCILS. A Council is composed of delegates from several churches, usually the pastor and one or more laymen from each, called, ordinarily, by some church to give advice on a subject proposed. The letters by which it is called specify the time and place of meeting, the subject to be considered, and the churches invited to participate ; and the Council is, in all cases, strictly limited in its scope to the subject thus named and to the churches thus invited. It has no power to enlarge its scope, nor to increase or diminish or alter its membership.
It elects its own officers, usually a moderator and clerk, determines its own mode of procedure, gives its opinion or advice on the subject proposed, and is then dissolved. Councils are of four kinds :
1. Council for the recognition of a church. When a number of persons propose to organize as a church, it is customary to seek the advice and co-operation of neighboring churches by means of a Council. Before this body they present their reasons for organizing a church, the letters and Christian standing of those who propose to form it, the means they possess for the support of public worship, and the articles of faith and the covenant they propose to adopt. The Council then gives its advice in regard to the desirableness of the step proposed; and, if it approves, the church is then constituted by the public adoption, on the part of those entering it, of the articles of faith and covenant, and by public services of recog
nition on the part of the Council, consisting usually of a sermon, a prayer, a charge, and the giving of the hand of fellowship. Sometimes the organization of the church is consummated previous to the call of the Council; in such cases, the Council is not called to give advice as to the propriety of organization, but only to give a public recognition of the body as a regularly-organized church. In all cases the essential act of organization is the adoption of the articles of faith and covenant by those forming the body: the Council only advises and gives public admission to the fellowship of other churches. A church self-organized, without a Council, would be a church, and its church acts would rightfully claim validity among its own members; but it would stand isolated, with no rightful claim to recognition as a church by other churches, and with no moral right to assume the common name of the churches. For the distinctive name of a Christian denomination is the symbol of a certain character and of certain ideas, perhaps the inheritance of ages of heroic conflict and suffering; it is, therefore, as truly the exclusive right of that denomination as a trade-mark is the exclusive right of the man of business using it. No church has a right to use it without the consent of the churches to whom it belongs; and to attach it to a body having a different character and holding different ideas from those churches would be a gross act of fraud. In constituting a church, therefore, a Council of recognition, whenever possible, should always be called, that the newly-formed body may have an ascertained standing in the fellowship of the churches.
2. Council for the ordination of a minister. An ordaining Council is called to examine a candidate for the ministry, and to give advice in regard to his public ordination. After organizing, the Council receives a report from the church as to the steps taken in regard to the proposed ordination. The candidate then submits a statement of his Christian experience, his call to the ministry, and his views of Christian doctrine and practice. Full opportunity is given for questions on all these. The Council then decides whether to recommend his ordination; but as, according to Scripture example, none but ordained persons confer ordination, a majority of the ordained ministry present ought to concur in a vote to ordain, and only ordained ministers may perform the proper ordaining acts—the laying on of hands and prayer. The functions of the Council consist, therefore, in two really distinct acts—the examination of the candidate and the public recognition of his divine call to the ministerial office by the whole Council, and the act of ordination by the laying on of hands and prayer of the presbyters. In the former, he is publicly recognized as called of God to the sacred office; in the latter, he is publicly set apart to that office, under divine authority, by the presbytery.
3. Council for the trial of a minister. As a Council is called to induct a minister into his office, it is evidently proper that one should be had to depose him from it. When, therefore, grave charges have been preferred against a minister, and the church, on examination of them, has found the evidence such as either to create a presumption of his guilt, or to render a public investigation and vindication essential to his further usefulness, a Council is called to investigate the case. Great care is to be taken that it be composed of men recognized by the public as reliable and impartial. A committee of the church lays before the Council the charges and evidence, aided sometimes by a minister acting as counsel. The accused has the right to similar assistance. The rules of evidence are necessarily the same as in a court of justice, except that