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THE

FOR M

OF THE

GOVERNMENT AND DISCIPLINE

OF THB

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

IN THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Philadelphia :

PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1806.

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INTRODUCTION. .

THE Synod of New York and Philadelphia,

judging it expedient to ascertain and fix the Syftem of union, and the form of Government and Disciplin. of the Presbyterian Church in these United States, under their care; have thought proper to lay down, by way of inıroduction, a few of the general principles by which they have been hitherto governed, and which are the ground work of the following plan. This, it is hoped, will, in some measure, prevent those rash misconstructions, and und candid reflections, which usually proceed from an ima perfect view of any subject; as well as make the several parts of the system plain, and the whole plan perspicuous and fully underflood.

The Synod are unanimously of opinion ; 1. That God alone is Lord of the conscience ; " and hath left it free from the doctrine und com. mandments of men,

which in any thing con trary to his word, or before it in matters of fuith

or worship:" Therefore, they cor.hiler the rights of private judgment, in all matters that rcfpect religion,

are

as univerfal, and unalienable : They do not even wish to see any religious conftitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necesary for protection and security, and, at the same time, equal and common to all others.

Il. That, in perfelt confiftency with the above principle of common right, every Christian church, or union or asociation of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualification, of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Chrif bath appointed : That, in the exercise of this right, they may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow : yet, even in this case, they do not infringe upon the liberty, or the rights of others, but only make an improper ufe of their own.

III. That our blessed Saviour, for the edification of the visible church, which is his body, hath appointed officers, not only to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments; but also to exercise dissi. pline, for the preservation both of truth and duty and, that it is incumbent upon these officers, and upon the whole Church, in whose name they act, to cenfure, or cast out, the erroneous and fcandalous ; observing, in all cases, the rules contained in the word

:

of God.

IV. That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holihefs

; according to our Saviour's rule," by their fruita

Ons are.

"ye fball know them.

And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd, than that which brings truth and falflcod upon a level, and represents it as of no conf:quence what a man's opini

On the contrary, they are persuaded, that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth, or to einbrace it,

V. That while under the conviction of the above principle, they think it neceffury, to moke .effectual provision, that all who are admitted as Teachers, be found in the faith; they also believe, that there are truths and forms, with respect to which men of good characters and principles may differ : And in all these, they think it the daty, both of private Christians and societies, to exercise mutual forbearance towards each other.

VI. That though the character, qualifications, and authority of church-officers, are laid down in the koly fcriptures, as well as the proper method of their investiture and institution; get the election of the perfons to the exercise of this authority, in any particular fociety, is in that fociety.

VII. That all church power, w.bether exercised by the body in general, or, in the way of representa

tion, by delegated authority, is only ministerial and s-declarative ; That is to say, that the boly Scriptures

are the only rule of faith and manners; that no church judicatory ought ta pretend to make iuws, to

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