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The first step towards a Digest of the Acts and Deliverances of the General Assembly was taken by the Assembly of 1809, in its order [Minutes, p. 424], charging the Stated Clerk “ with the business of preparing a book, and having entered therein such decisions of the Assembly as relate to the general government and discipline of the Church, and the duties of judicatures, that such decisions may hereafter be selected and printed for the general use of the churches, if a future Assembly shall so order."
In 1818 the General Assembly appointed Drs. Janeway, Neill (Stated Clerk) and Ely, a Committee to extract from the records of the General Assembly, and of the late Synods of New York and Philadelphia, all such matters as may appear to be of permanent authority and interest (including a short account of the manner in which missions have been conducted, and their success), that the same may be published for the information of ministers and their people in our churches.” This Committee reported to the next Assembly (1819), were empowered to complete the work on the plan reported, and to publish it at the expense of the Trustees of the General Assembly. The Digest thus authorized was published in 1820.
In 1836, the Assembly appointed Dr. John McDowell, Mr. Winchester and Mr. Duffield to prepare a new Digest. Nothing, however, was done, the division of the Church being near at hand. Further action looking to the preparation of a Digest was taken by the respective Assemblies: N. S., 1838 and 1849; 0. S., 1841 and 1848. In 1850 the Presbyterian Board of Publication, O. S., issued a Digest prepared by the Rev. Richard Webster, D.D. In 1856 the Board issued a Digest prepared by the Rev. Samuel J. Baird, D.D. The Assembly voted thanks to Mr. Baird for his labors, and earnestly commended the work “to the attention and patronage of all in our connection.” A new and revised edition was issued by the Board of Publication in 1859. It is still published by it, and is of great value from a historical point of view.
In 1854, the Assembly, N. S., appointed a Committee consisting of Drs. George Duffield, Jr., Henry Darling, and W. E. Moore, with the Stated Clerk, Edwin F. Hatfield, D.D., to prepare and publish a new
Digest. This Digest was prepared by the Rev. W. E. Moore, and published by the Presbyterian Publication Committee, N. S., in 1861. It was accepted with commendation by the General Assembly.—Minutes, 1861, p. 463, N. S.
THE DIGEST OF 1873.
On the Reunion of 1870, the Board of Publication took action for the preparation of a more complete work, which should combine the precedents of the Church in all its branches, and bring them down to the latest date.
The plan suggested was approved by the Assembly of 1871 (Minutes, p. 529), as follows :
“That this Digest contain under each chapter and section of the Form of Government, Book of Discipline and Directory, every decision which defines or explains it.
“Also, a complete Digest of all the rules of the several Boards of the Church as at present existing.
“ That it omit whatever has become obsolete in the usage of the Church -e. g., in its benevolent operations—and all that pertains simply to matters of history.
“That it be requested that a Special Committee be appointed by the General Assembly to examine and approve the book before it be issued, and it was recommended that the Rev. William E. Moore be requested to undertake the preparation of such a Digest."
The Committee to examine and approve the book-Edwin F. Hatfield, D.D., Alexander T. McGill, D.D., LL.D., Robert M. Patterson, D.D., Ruling Elders Hon. George Sharswood, LL.D., and Hon. William Strong, LL.D.—reported the completion of the work with its approval in 1873, and it was issued in the same year.
THE EDITION OF 1886.
Within about ten years after the issue of the Digest of 1873, the need for a new edition was widely felt, and at last took shape in 1885. The Assembly of that year took action as follows:
“ Resolved, That this General Assembly, having heard of the intention of the Board of Publication to publish a new edition of Moore's Digest of the acts and deliverances of the General Assembly, do approve of such publication and hereby recommend the same to the Church,
“ Resolved, That this General Assembly hereby records its sense of obligation to the Rev. William E. Moore, D.D., for his faithful, diligent and skillful services in the preparation of the present Digest.”
In connection with the new edition the following report was made to
the Board of Publication by the Committee requested to examine the manuscript :
PHILADELPHIA, PA., Jan. 14, 1886. To the Presbyterian Board of Publication :
The undersigned, appointed by the Board of Publication as a Commit. tee to Revise the Manuscript of the Presbyterian Digest of 1886, after a minute and careful examination, do hereby signify our approval of the
E. R. CRAVEN,
In the Introduction to the Digest of 1886 the editor said that “the adoption of the Revised Book of Discipline in 1884, with its amend. ments in 1885, and the lapse of twelve years since the publication of the Digest,” had made necessary a new edition.
He also made the following statement:
“ The Book of Discipline has been wholly recast under the sections of the Revised Book. The compiler has been obliged to use his own judgment, not only as to the location of the acts and deliverances of the Assembly under the several sections, but also as to the retaining or rejecting of matter found in former Digests and in the annual Minutes of the Assembly. He gratefully acknowledges his obligations in both respects to Rev. E. R. Craven, D.D., and Rev. William H. Roberts, D.D., the Committee appointed by the Board of Publication to revise his work. The criticism will doubtless be made that many cases quoted are not in accordance with the Revised Book. This is acknowledged in the Digest itself; but good reasons seem to be found for inserting them unless they contradict the Revised Book.”
THE DIGEST OF 1898.
At its sessions in 1894 the General Assembly ordered a new edition of the Digest to be prepared by the Board of Publication and Sabbathschool Work, under the supervision of the Stated Clerk and the Secretary of the Board of Publication, with the Rev. Dr. William E. Moore as editor-1894, p. 89.
The Committee on the New Digest reported its proposed plan for the work to the Assembly of 1895 (Minutes, p. 129), and the report was approved, as follows:
“The Committee on the new edition of the Digest (Minutes, 1894, p. 89), to be prepared by the Board of Publication, under the supervision of the Stated Clerk and the Secretary of the Board of Publication,
with Rev. William E. Moore as editor, propose the following plan of the Digest and ask the approval of the Assembly, viz.:
“1. To print as the first part of the book the Confession of Faith, giving under the appropriate chapters and sections the doctrinal deliverances and decisions of the Assembly.
“ 2. To print the Form of Government, Book of Discipline and Directory for Worship in the same form as in the present Digest, marking the acts and deliverances of the two Assemblies during the period of the separation, which do not come under the terms of the concurrent Resolution No. 4, Digest ('86), p. 92, as reëstablished in the united body, with the letters 0. S. and N. S.
“3. That the Assembly grant to your Committee full discretion to omit such acts and deliverances as in their judgment are trivial, purely personal, obsolete or contradictory, or that have been superseded by amendments of the Form of Government, Book of Discipline and Directory for Worship.
WM. HENRY ROBERTS,
In addition to the
PLAN OF THIS DIGEST
as set forth above, it is to be noted that for convenience of reference it has seemed best to put the Historical Documents by themselves at the beginning of the book, and to place under Section v of Chap. xii of the Form of Government, the Charters, Plans, etc., of the several Boards, Permanent Committees, and Theological Seminaries. The several Digests referred to in the work are: (1), “The Assembly Digest,” 1820; (2), “ Assembly's Digest, Baird's Collection,” Ed. 1858; (3), “ The New Digest,” Moore, 1861, N. S.; (4), “The Presbyterian Digest," Moore, 1873, and (5), “The Presbyterian Digest," Revised Edition,
The references of the dates of the Acts, etc., are: From 1706 to 1788, inclusive, to the volume of Records of the Presbyterian Church; from 1789–1837, inclusive, to the Reprints of the "Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U. S. A.;" from 1838–1869 inclusive, to the annual Minutes of the Assemblies of the two branches of the Church, designated respectively as “Old School ” and “ New School," and since 1870 to the annual Minutes of the reunited General Assembly.
The annual Minutes from 1836-1869, inclusive, have been reprinted. The Minutes for 1836 and 1837 are bound with the volume covering