« PrécédentContinuer »
congregations; we think it not improper that they who choose it may continue in this practice.
OF THE ADMISSION OF PERSONS TO SEALING ORDINANCES.
1. CHILDREN, born within the pale of the visible church, and dedicated to God in baptism, are under the inspection and government of the church; and are to be taught to read and repeat the catechism, the apostles' creed, and the Lord's prayer. They are to be taught to pray, to abhor sin, to fear God, and to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. And, when they come to years of discretion, if they be free from scandal, appear sober and steady, and to have sufficient knowledge to discern the Lord's body, they ought to be informed it is their duty and their privilege to come to the Lord's supper.
II. The years of discretion, in young Christians, cannot be precisely fixed. This must be left to the prudence of the eldership. The officers of the church are the judges of the qualifications of those to be admitted to sealing ordinances; and of the time when it is proper to admit young Christians to them.
III. Those who are to be admitted to sealing
ordinances, shall be examined as to their knowledge and piety.
IV. When unbaptized persons apply for admission into the church, they shall, in ordinary cases, after giving satisfaction with respect to their knowledge and piety, make a public profession of their faith, in the presence of the congregation; and thereupon be baptized.
OF THE MODE OF INFLICTING CHURCH CENSURES.
I. THE power which Christ hath given the rulers of his church is for edification, and not for destruction. As, in the preaching of the word, the wicked are, doctrinally, separated from the good; so, by discipline, the church authoritatively makes a distinction between the holy and the profane. In this, she acts the part of a tender mother, correcting her children only for their good, that every one of them may be presented faultless, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
II. When any member of the church shall have been guilty of a fault deserving censure, the judicatory shall proceed with all tenderness, and restore their offending brother in the spirit of meekness; considering themselves, lest they also be tempted. Censure ought to be inflicted with great solemnity; that it may be the means
of impressing the mind of the delinquent with a proper sense of his danger, while he stands excluded from the privileges of the church of the living God; and that, with the divine blessing, it may lead him to repentance.
III. When the judicatory has resolved to pass sentence, suspending a member from church privileges, the moderator shall address him to the following purpose:
"Whereas you are guilty [by your own con'fession, or convicted by sufficient proof, as the "case may be] of the sin of [here mention the "particular offence] we declare you suspended "from the sacraments of the church, till you "give satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of "your repentance." To this shall be added such advice, admonition, or rebuke, as may be judged necessary; and the whole shall be concluded by prayer to almighty God, that he would follow this act of discipline with his blessing. We judge it prudent, in general, that such censures be inflicted in the presence of the judicatory only; but, if any church think it expedient to rebuke the offender publicly, this solemn suspension from the sacraments may be in the presence of the congregation.
IV. After any person hath been thus suspended from the sacraments, it is proper that the minister, and elders, and other Christians, should frequently converse with him, as well as pray for him in private, that it would please
God to give him repentance. And it may be requisite, likewise, particularly on days preparatory to the dispensing of the Lord's supper, that the prayers of the church be offered up for those unhappy persons who, by their wickedness, have shut themselves out from this holy communion.
V. When the judicatory shall be satisfied as to the reality of the repentance of any offender, he shall be admitted to profess his repentance; and be restored to the privileges of the church. Which restoration shall be declared to the penitent in the presence of the session, or of the congregation, and followed with prayer and thanksgiving.
VI. When any offender has been adjudged to be cut off from the communion of the church, it is proper that the sentence be publicly pronounced against him.
VII. The design of excommunication is, to operate upon the offender as a means of reclaiming him; to deliver the church from the scandal of his offenee; and to inspire all with fear, by the example of his punishment.
The minister shall give the church or congregation a short narrative of the several steps which have been taken with respect to their offending brother, and inform them, that it has been found necessary to cut him off from the communion and shall in the presence of the church or congregation pronounce this sentence, in the following or like form: viz.
He shall begin by showing the authority of the church to cast out unworthy members, from Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17, 18; 1 Cor. v. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; and shall briefly explain the nature, use, and consequences of this censure; warning the people to avoid all unnecessary intercourse with him who is cast out.
Then he shall say,
"Whereas A. B. hath been, by sufficient "proof, convicted of, [here insert the sin] and "after much admonition and prayer, obsti66 nately refuseth to hear the church, and hath "manifested no evidence of repentance; there
fore, in the name, and by the authority of "the Lord Jesus Christ, I pronounce him to "be excluded from the communion of the "church."
After which, prayer shall be made that the blessing of God may follow his ordinance, for the conviction and reformation of the excommunicated person, and for the establishment of all true believers.
VIII. When one who hath been excommunicated shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be re-admitted to the privileges of the church; the session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall, with the advice and concurrence of the presbytery, restore him. In order to which, the minister shall, on two Lord's days previous thereto, inform the congregation of the measures which have been