Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842. Originally published by Edinburgh Printing & Publishing Co, Edinburgh, 1843.
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In this section
- Overtures concerning the discipline and method of proceeding in the ecclesiastical judicatories of the church of scotland:
- CHAPTER I. General Directions.
- CHAPTER II. Of The Proceedings And Methods Of Kirk-Sessions.
- Sect. 6.—Of proceeding with Drunkards, Swearers, Profaners of the Sabbath, and such like Scandalous Persons.
- Sect. 8.—Of Processes which natively begin at the Kirk-Session, but are not to be brought to a final determination by them.
- CHAPTER III. Of the Proceddings and Methods in Presbyteries.
- Sect. 10.—Of Censuring such Scandals which are so gross, that the Kirk-Session does not asbsolve from, as of Adultery, &c.
- CHAPTER IV. Of the Proceedings and Method in Provincial Synods.
- Sect. 5.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for the Examination of the Presbytery Books or Registers.
- CHAPTER V. Of the Proceedings and Methods in General Assemblies.
- Sect. 5.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for Synod Books, and the Commis-sions of former Assemblies.
Overtures concerning the discipline and method of proceeding in the ecclesiastical judicatories of the church of scotland:
transmitted to the several presbyteries to be farther considered, and they to send in their opinions thereanent to the general assembly, or commission thereof.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE EDITION OF 1705.
The first three chapters of these Overtures being drawn up by a private hand, and printed in the year 1696, the General Assembly held the year following appointed what was then printed thereof to be sent to the several Presbyteries, ordaining them to send their animadversions and observations thereupon to the Commission of that Assembly; and some Presbyteries having accordingly sent in their observations, several General Assemblies nominated committees for considering the said overtures, and animadversions made thereupon, and to compare them with the Word of God, Books of Discipline, and Acts of the General Assemblies of this Church, and to consider what was wanting in, or to be added to the said overtures; which committees having had many meetings thereupon, and made some progress in their work, the same is now printed, and ordered to be transmitted to the several Presbyteries, according to the act of the General Assembly, anno 1704. But the reader would remember that these overtures were never read in the General Assembly, nor any of the Commissions thereof, only revised by committees, so that the same is not to be looked upon as the deed of the Church of Scotland, nor any judicatory therein; and yet it may be very useful for advice and direction, though not as a binding rule, and no doubt it will have weight with many, as having come through the hands of so many learned, judicious, grave, and pious ministers, who have been at great pains in that matter; but as to the two last chapters, concerning Synods and General Assemblies, &c., they were never before in print nor transmitted, and so the opinions of Presbyteries were not given thereupon; and besides were not so narrowly examined by the Committees as the other chapters were, so that it can only be looked upon as coming from a private hand.
Seeing there are several things wanting in the overtures now printed, to make the same a complete Book of Discipline, Presbyteries are entreated to continue in adding and amending, and to send their thoughts thereanent in writing to the Clerk of the General Assembly, in order to the perfecting of this work.
CHAPTER I. General Directions.
Sect. 1.—Of the right Manner of Constituting of Church Judicatories.
1. The members constituent of Church judicatories are ministers and elders, called ruling elders, and in parochial sessions deacons are admitted, with respect to their special care and oversight of the poor of the parish.
2. Each meeting of a judicatory is to be begun with solemn prayer, calling upon God in Jesus Christ, in whose name they are to act; and this is to be done by the last Moderator, and in his absence by the preceding; or if none such be present, it is to be done by the eldest minister present for the time, who shall thereafter ask the votes, who shall moderate.
3. These ministers and elders met in order to the constituting themselves a judicatory are to elect a Moderator and a Clerk, and to have attending them a beadle or officer, one or more.
4. The time and place of meeting in ordinary of Church judicatories are to be such as were appointed by the former meeting, except pro re nata the Moderator do call the same, in doing whereof, he should take all the advice of his brethrn, (which the circumstances can allow,) and for the reasonableness andnecessity of is so doing he is to be answerable.
5. After prayer, the Clerk is to call the rolls, and mark the sederunt.
Sect. 2.—Of the Moderator of a Church Judicatory.
1. Every ecclesiastical judicatory is, for order, to elect from among themselves one to be their Moderator or preses, except in kirk-sessions, where there is but one minister, who moderates ex officio.
2. Seeing he is called frequently to exercise the power of order, as solemn public ecclesiastical prayer, authoritative exhortation, rebuke, direction, &c. The Moderator is always to be a minister.
3. In respect of the prejudice that hath arisen, and may arise to the Church, by the constancy or long continuance of this work in one man's hands; therefore, there ought to be frequent changes and elections of fit persons to be Moderators.
4. The Moderator when chosen is to look on himself as the mouth of the meeting, and, therefore, is to act, do, and speak accordingly; otherwise he is censurable by them.
5. The Moderator is to take care that decency and order be exactly observed, as that the members keep in their seats, that but one speak at once, that the younger give way to the elder to speak first, that none speak but to the Moderator, nor without his leave, that none interrupt another in speaking, that there be no private conferences among the members, but that all be attentive, serious, and grave, minding that the things of Christ and his Church are in hand, and that they act in his name; and no modesty of the Moderator, nor partial respect, nor fear of displeasing, is to hinder him from noticing and rebuking any failure herein.
6. He is to acquaint the judicatory of all the affairs that lie before them, and may, for dispatch, lay before them the method to expede them most conveniently; in order to which, the clerk is to give him a list, or note of business from the minutes, and in all or any other thing he speaks to the judicatory, it is always to be with submission to them, and if they think fit.
7. It is his part, before any thing go to the vote, to ask the judgment of a competent number of members, in order to bring the matter to a clear state; and before the vote be stated, to ask if any other member hath any new thing to offer in the affair, to the end that all debate, after the vote is begun, (which is nowise to be admitted of,) may be prevented.
8. If the affair or question in hand be of that weight and difficulty that the members shun to speak or to propose any overture in the affair, then the Moderator himself may propose an overture, and ask the judgment of the brethren concerning it, thereby to hasten the dispatch of affairs.
9. When the members are giving their judgment concerning any overture proposed, though he should hear the objection made against it, yet he should desire the objectors to make a better; but though they have no new overture, the weight of the objection is to be considered.
10. He should likewise restrain the members from deviating to matters alien from the present affair, and should keep them close to the business, obliging them to use few words, to gain time; in all which it will be needful the Moderator himself should be a good example to others.
11. If anything happen to be spoken impertinently by any member, the Moderator is prudently to divert it, and if that cannot be, then calmly to resent the same, according to its demerit, to prevent greater heat.
12. After a matter hath been reasoned and debated on all hands, it will frequently be fit that the Moderator, in few words, resume the question, and the arguments which have been adduced on either hand, with these answers which were given; and in so doing, be faithful, without giving them any bias to that which is his own sentiment, (he having done that in the debate,) thereby to ripen and prepare the members for a more clear vote.
13. When a single member asks the vote of a judicatory, and others do oppose, it is not to be granted, unless one or two more concur in the desire.
Sect. 3.—Of Clerks to Church Judicatories, and their Registers.
1. Every Church judicatory ought to have a clerk of their own election, and either of their own number, or some other fit person, who is to give his oath de fideli.
2. The Clerk is to be a person of a Christian walk and conversation, and entire credit and reputation for fidelity, of prudence, and able to keep the secrets of the judicatory, of competent ability and dexterity, a good hand of writing, his records being to be preserved for after ages.
3. The Clerk is always to have at every meeting lying on the table a fair Bible, the Confession of Faith, the printed Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland; and in Presbyteries, he ought to have the Synod's Acts; and in KirkSessions, such acts of Presbytery and Synod as may concern the Session, together with his minute-book.
4. The register and minute-book being the records of that judicatory, he is to be answerable for them, that therein be nothing recorded but what he did by the order and direction of the Moderator, as the mouth of the judicatory.
5. In the minute-book, (which should be a bound book, and not loose sheets of paper,) the Clerk, at every meeting, and in presence thereof, is to record the names of the members of that sederunt, and mark the absents, except in Synods and General Assemblies, where it is enough to mark the absents; to read the former minutes, and minute the resolutions and determinations of the present meeting as he shall be ordered; and in affairs of any moment or difficulty, he is to read what is minuted before the meeting proceed to any other business.
6. In the fair register, the Clerk is to extend in ample form, and record all the acts, votes, and resolutions of the judicatory, after they are revised by order of the judicatory, and that without any interlinings, blanks, or blottings of words or pages; and that this register be paged, and have a large indexed margin.
7. That registers of all Church judicatories may be better preserved, it were fit that every Session deliver their fair register in to the Presbytery every ten years, and every Presbytery, theirs and the Sessions' into the Synod every fifteen years; and that the Synod every twenty years order all these, and their own fair register, to be laid up in the public library of that university which is next adjacent to them, where they may be safely kept from accidents, for the future benefit of the Church: And that the Church may not want the present benefit of them, let doubles be taken, collated, and attested, whereof one to be sent to the university as aforesaid, and the other to be kept in the Clerk of the judicatory's hands. But it is to be considered upon whose expenses this is to be done.
Sect. 4.—Of Proceedings in all Church Judicatories, and the Members' Behaviour therein.
1. After the judicatory is constituted, the Clerk is to call the roll, and those who were formerly absent are to be censured at the discretion of the judicatory, if their excuse, when heard, be not found relevant; also the absents for the time are to be marked, or such as come sero, or who, being once present, do not attend till the diet be ended, in order to a censure such as the judicatory thinks fit.
2. The Moderator (if the meeting be occasional pro re nata) is to narrate the occasion, and cause of the same.
3. If it be the ordinary time of meeting, it seems most expedient to begin with reading over the minutes and acts of the last meeting, both to know if the same were rightly recorded, and to refresh the memory of the members with what was done.
4. If there were any references from the last meeting to this, these ordinarily come to be the first under consideration, and expeded, unless such necessary emergents come to be discussed which cannot admit of delay.
5. As for any new matter that may come before a Church judicatory, great caution should be used that it be fitly brought thither.
6. When any business is moved in a judicatory, whether by petition or information, the judicatories are, in the first place, to consider, whether the matter in its circumstantiate case be proper at present for them to enter upon, and whether it be regularly and orderly brought in, and whether it be proper for them to discuss it themselves, or prepare it for superior judicatories, and should endeavour to narrow their work as much as with the edification of the Church they can, especially as to the head of scandal.
7. Nothing ought to be admitted by any judicatory as the ground of a process for censure, but what hath been declared censurable by the Word of God, or some act or universal custom of this National Church, according to some special rules given thereanent, Chap. II. Sect. 6th and 7th.
8. In proceeding in all causes wherein there is any person or party concerned, the judicatory is to see that, before they proceed, the person be duly sisted before them, by a legal timeous citation, the execution of which summons is to be returned by the beadle, and the person called at the door.
9. And sometimes it may be fit that the party be privately spoken to, before any public citation be given, or process begun, for their better gaining; if the party appear not, there ought to be a second, and then a third, citation, given by Sessions and Presbyteries, either personally, or left at their dwelling-house, before the judicatory declare the person contumacious; unless the party be cited to appear before a superior judicatory by reference or appeal: In which case, there is not that need of so many citations before the superior judicatory; the party having actually appeared before the inferior judicatory, and by them cited apud acta before the superior, or having been contumacious before the cause was brought before the superior judicatory.
10. All citations apud acta are peremptory, and infer contumacy, if not obeyed.
11. If the person do not appear on the third citation, or upon a citation apud acta, and no relevant excuse of absence adduced, though in that case he be censur able for contumacy, yet it were fit the judicatory proceed to the trial of the scandals delated against him before they censure him for contumacy.
12. If the party appear, then the Moderator is to inform the person of the occasion of his being called.
13. There seems to be no need of accusers or informers in ecclesiastical processes; so that the party, if cited, is to answer the judicatory in what is laid to his charge, yet so, that if the person cited be found innocent and acquitted, those who informed the judicatory ought to be noticed, for either their calumny or imprudence, as the judicatory shall find cause.
14. If there be need of witnesses, a list of their names ought to be given to the defenders, some time before their compearance, and they ought to be timeously cited to give evidence, and if they refuse, after three citations given, and executions returned, may be proceeded with as contumacious, or application made to the civil magistrate, that he may oblige them to appear.
15. Before the witnesses be judicially examined, the accused person is to be called, and if he appear, may object against any of them, and if the objection be relevant, and made evident to the judicatory, the witnesses are to be cast; but a person's being the delator or informer doth not hinder him to be a witness, except in the case of pregnant presumptions of malice at the person accused. (fn. 1)
16. Though there be no relevant objection, yet the witneses are solemnly to be purged of malice and partial counsel.
17. The witnesses are to be sworn and examined in the presence of the accused party if he please; and he may desire the Moderator to propose such questions to the witnesses as may tend for his exculpation, which, if the Moderator think pertinent, are to be proposed; but no accused person is to interrupt or speak during the time of deposition.
18. If the party accused do, before probation, offer grounds of exculpation, to be proven by witnesses, the Moderator and Clerk, if required, are to give warrant to cite the witnesses upon the party's charges; the relevancy of the offered exculpation being first considered and sustained by the judicatory, which, in the first place, is to be discussed; and if the exculpation be fully proven, as to the substance of the scandal, all further proof of the libel or accusation must there sist; as if the libel be special as to the time and place of a fact, and the accused clearly prove alibi; but if the substance of the scandal be once deponed upon, there can be no place for exculpation, unless it be as to some extenuating or alleviating circumstances not inconsistent with the depositions already taken.
19. If witnesses cannot subscribe their names to their depositions, the Moderator is to subscribe the same.
20. After the depositions are ended, the parties being removed, the members of the judicatory are to reason the affair calmly, speaking always to the Moderator, one after another, without interrupting one another; using no reflecting language to or of one another, nor too long harangues or digressions.
21. And as it frequently falls out for a judicatory to appoint committees of their own number for several affairs, so they would be diligent in calling them to an account, and either approve or censure them for their actings.
Sect. 5.—Of the closing of all Church Judicatories.
1. After the judicatory hath ended the affairs they met for, they are (if they have time) to read over their minutes.
2. The time of their next meeting is to be appointed and published.
3. The Moderator is to give orders to the clerk and beadle to prepare the affairs committed to them against the next meeting.
4. The roll of the members is to be called, and again absentees marked.
5. The Moderator closeth the meeting with solemn prayer and thanksgiving.
CHAPTER II. Of The Proceedings And Methods Of Kirk-Sessions.
Sect. 1—Of the Constitution of this Judicatory.
1. This judicatory being the lowest, and which is in every parish, consists of one minister or two, and a competent number of ruling elders, and the deacons of that parish and church are to be present, and have a decisive vote only in matters belonging to their own office, having attending them a clerk and a beadle.
2. All the elders of that church or parish are members of the session, and ought to attend all the meetings thereof, it not being a judicatory made up of delegates.
3. If there be but one minister there, he is Moderator ex officio, and constant out of necessity.
4.Though an elder being once so ordained makes him to be so during life, unless he be censured with deposition, or demit his office, and the demission accepted by a judicatory, yet where there are plenty of persons fit to be elders, and plenty of elders, the actual exercise of the office, as to constant attendance on the session, &c., may be limited for a time, and others take their turn. When an elder changes his residence, he may officiate as an elder in that parish where he comes to, if duly called thereto by the kirk-session, who are to intimate his name to the people, and have their tacit consent thereto, but not otherwise. Annual elections ought to be rectified, and that new elections of elders, expressed in cases of great necessity, should only be within the compass of four years, and that especially in burghs, where there are plenty of persons to choose upon.
Sect. 2—Of the Election and Constituting of Elders and Deacons.
1. In case there be no eldership in the parish, the election is to be managed by the Presbytery, by a list given in to them, made up by the heads of families, out of which the Presbytery (if the church be vacant) is to try and elect, and, if planted, the minister, with the Presbytery's assistance.
2. Even where there is a minister and elders in a congregation constiuting a session, there may be need of more elders to supply the places of some who may be removed by death, or otherwise.
3. It doth most particularly belong to the session to look among the masters and heads of families, and others, (they not being menial servants,) for some persons fit to be elders, being such as are of greatest prudence, gravity, and interest, in the parish.
4. These ordinarily may be expected to be best had from amongst the deacons of the parish, the qualifications of that office not only fitting much for this, but the experienced deacons having, by being present at the session, a further fitting of them for the office of an elder.
5. It will fall out that sometimes it will be fit and necessary that the minister and present elders do, in a prudent and private way, try the inclination of the judicious of the people, especially the heads of families, and of those quarters of the congregation to which the elders wanting belonged, thereby to prevent the elders naming and bringing to public those persons who may be unacceptable, where others can be had, and the edification of the congregation would therein be studied.
6. When the kirk-sessions have agreed on the nomination, wherein they would endeavour to be unanimous, the persons nominated are to be spoken to and dealt with to accept of the office, before their names be brought into public, wherein great tenderness and earnestness should be used, it being frequent with many modest and most fit persons to be most hardly and difficulty prevailed with.
7. Though it may be supposed that none will be named to this purpose but such who will be of competent knowledge, yet examination and trial would be taken of his knowledge in the grounds and principles of religion, in cases of conscience, and about the government, discipline of the Church, and duties of elders, and that before the session, or two or three elders.
8. When there is hope of success therein, if the session judge it fit, the minister, on the Lord's day after forenoon's sermon, is to intimate to the congregation the necessity of more elders, and the session's nomination, and may desire any person that hath any objections against any of the persons named to make the same either to the session, or any member thereof, betwixt and such a day.
9. When the day cometh wherein the objections are to be brought in, the session must meet, and have the elect elders' edict returned, [for which there is to be an interval of nine free days, as in other edicts,] and the beadle is to intimate at the door, if there be any objectors they may appear; if none, then the day is appointed to admit these elders, and the minister is to be condescended upon who is to admit them.
10. When the day is come, it were very fit that the minister choose to preach on such a subject as might relate to that work, showing the duties of elders and people to them.
11. After sermon is ended in the forenoon, the minister is to show the people that he is going about to admit some more elders, and to tell them of all the orderly steps which they have taken preparatory, and that now nothing impedeth his going on.
12. Then the minister calling up the persons chosen to be elders by name, and they standing together in some conspicuous place, as conveniency will allow, are to be interrogated concerning their orthodoxy, and to be taken solemnly engaged to adhere to and maintain the doctrine, discipline, worship, and government, of the Church, and to lay themselves out, both by their example, and in the office of elders, to suppress vice, cherish piety, and exercise discipline faithfully and diligently.
13. Then [the elders chosen still standing up] the minister is next by solemn prayer to set them apart in verbis de presenti.
14. After prayer, the minister is to speak to them now as elders, encouraging them to faithfulness, and threatening, if negligent. 2dly, He is to direct a word of exhortation to the people, showing them their duty to the elders, and exhorting them to obedience in the Lord, and to strengthen their elders' hands.
15. The same method should be followed in the election and ordination of deacons that is in elders, mutatis mutandis.
Sect. 3.—Anent Marriage.
Due caution should be used to observe the acts of the General Assembly anent proclamation of banns, (fn. 2) and inquiry anent forbidden degrees, the persons desiring marriage being single and free persons, and ancent the consent of all concerned.
Sect. 4.—Of the Admission of Infants to Baptism.
1. Children born within the verge of the visible church, of parents one or both professing the Christian religion, have a right to baptism.
2. It being the duty of Christian parents to devote their children to God by baptism, and to covenenant for their education in the faith of Christ, no other sponsor is to be taken unless the parents be dead or absent, or grossly ignorant, or under scandal not removed, such being unfit to stand as sponsors in transacting a solemn covenant with God, in which cases the parent is to be required to provide some fit person, and if it can be, one related as a parent to the child should be sponsor.
3. In cases of children exposed, whose baptism, after inquiry, cannot be known, the session is to order the presenting of the child to baptism, and the session itself is to see to the Christian education of the child.
4. It were fit that the parent speak to the minister of the parish the day before the child be offered to baptism.
Sect. 5.—Of Admission to the Lord's Table, and debarring from it.
1. Seeing none should be admitted to the Lord's Table who are ignorant or scandalous, therefore, they are to be prepared for it by catechising, and instruction in the principles of religion in their younger years; before the first admission of any to partake thereof, the ministers should inquire into and take trial of their knowledge of the principles of the Christian religion, and, particularly, of the nature, uses, and ends, of this ordinance of the Supper.
2. Due care also ought to be used that none be admitted to partake of the Lord's Supper who are of a scandalous life; and for this end, the minister is to inquire at and consult with the elders, especially those of the bounds, whether they know that person to be guilty of any scandal, and that they own and submit to and ordinarily attend the ordinances of Christ, public and private worship of God, and use the others means of knowledge.
3. At the first admission of any to the Lord's Supper, ministers should put the person to be admitted in mind of their parents' engagements for them in baptism, and put them explicitly and personally to renew their baptismal covenant to be the Lord's and to live unto him, and serve him all the days of their lives.
4. When any who liveth in one congregation desireth to partake of the Lord's Supper in a neighbouring congregation, they may and ought to be allowed the same by reason of the communion of saints, if they bring sufficient testimonials of their knowledge and conversation from the minister of their own parish, or from two elders, in the absence of the minister.
5. It were fit when any one removeth from one parish to another, that their testimonials bear account, whether they have partaken of the Lord's Supper; and it were fit for this, that there were a record kept of those who are admitted to the Lord's Supper.
Sect. 6.—Of proceeding with Drunkards, Swearers, Profaners of the Sabbath, and such like Scandalous Persons.
1. The members of the session are wisely to consider the information they get, and consult with the minister even before the same be communicated to others, that thereby the spreading of the scandal may be prevented, that the same may be removed by a private admonition, according to our Saviour's rule, Matthew xviii. 15, &c., which, if amendment follow, it is the far best way of gaining and recovering a lapsed brother.
2. It may fall out that even one single act of either drunkenness, swearing, cursing, or profaning of the Sabbath, may be clothed with such aggravating circumstances, as may found a process, and even bring the parties guilty under the censure of the lesser excommunication, and to appear before the congregation before a relaxation; the weight of all which is to be duly pondered.
3. But in ordinary in all such kind of offences where the frequency makes the crime turn scandalous, the guilty for the first fault should be spoken to in private by the minister or an elder, and admonished; and on promise to amend, the session should sist there.
4. And on the second lapse the person should be called before the session, and if proven, may be there judicially rebuked; where the session, on promise to amend, may again sist.
5. But if they amend not after that, the session should orderly proceed till they inflict the censure of the lesser excommunication, and there leave them till amendment.
6. If the guilty person lie under the censure of the lesser excommunication a considerable time, and yet continues frequently relapsing into those vices of drunkenness, swearing, &c., it may be constructed such a degree of contumacy, and so aggravate the crime, as to found a process of the highest censure of the greater excommunication, which is to be so inflicted as may tend to the reclaiming of the guilty person, or to the edification of the Church.
Sect. 7.—Of Processes for Uncleanness, Fornication, and Adultery.
1. In delations about uncleanness, it is usual, that when the thing is put to the strictest trial, all that can be proven are but presumptions of guilt or scandalous behaviour, and not the act of uncleanness, which should oblige the kirk-session to be very cautious how to admit the public entering a process without good warrant.
2. Many of those actions which give occasion to the raising a scandal of uncleanness, are such as are not themselves alone publicly censurable, but to be passed by with a private rebuke or admonition.
3. Yet some of those actions which come under the name of scandalous behaviour may be so lascivious and obscene, and clothed with such circumstances, as may be as offensive as the act of uncleanness itself, and as censurable.
4. When an unmarried woman brings forth a child, or if married, and her husband notourly absent for any considerably space besides the ordinary time, it being that which ordinarily is known, gives good ground to a kirk-session for a process against her; after she is cited before the session, and appeareth, she is to be interrogated who is the father of that child; and though in other cases the divulging of a secret may be very imprudent, and indeed the raising of a scandal, yet in this case, where there is a child whereby there is an undeniable scandal, and the keeping secret of the father a ground of greater offence, and of suspecting many innocent persons if she discover not the father, she is to be looked upon as contumacious.
5. Prudence may sometimes require that the person she nameth to be the father of the child be informed thereof, and spoke to privately; if he deny the same, he is seriously to be dealt with to confess the same; if he still deny, then the session is to cause cite him to appear before them.
6. In this process, when the delated father compeareth he is to be interrogated, and if he deny he is to be confronted with the woman, and the presumptions as particularly held forth as possible; and if, after all this, he deny, though the woman's testimony can be no sufficient evidence, yet one witness and sometimes only presumptions, such as frequenting her company, or being solus cum sola in loco suspecto, in suspect postures, and such like, which he cannot disprove to the satisfaction of the session, may so lay the guilt upon him as to bring it to his oath of purgation; and that the form of an oath be prescribed.
7. In taking this oath for purgation all tenderness and caution is to be used, nor is the session to press any man thereto, nor is it to be taken in any case but this, when the presumptions are so great, that they create such jealousy in that congregation and session that nothing will remove the suspicion but the man's oath of purgation, and when his oath will indeed remove the scandal and suspicion; in all other cases this oath is in vain, and so should not be admitted, and never but by advice of the Presbytery.
8. This oath for purgation being to be taken judicially, and a part of a process, is to be before a kirk-session; and if it be found needful, it may be intimated to the congregation, that such a person hath taken such an oath, and so is declared clear of the alleged scandal. (fn. 3)
9. Yet so, if the case be extraordinary, and the edification of the congregation require, the kirk-session may, with advice of the Presbytery, commission the minister to take it in the face of the congregation, the members of the session being present; or rather, the oath being taken before the session, the party may be obliged to be present in the congregation, and may be put publicly to own his purging himself by oath.
10. After the delated father hath purged himself by oath, the woman is to be dealt with to give the true father; and if, after all serious dealing, and due diligence, she give no other, she is to be censured according to the quality of the offence confessed by her, without naming the person delated by her; the judicatory reserving place for further censure, upon further discovery.
11. If the woman who hath brought forth the child doth declare she knoweth not the father, alleging she was forced, as in the fields, by a person unknown, or any the like; in these cases great prudence is to be used, the former behaviour of the woman exactly searched into, and she seriously dealt with to be ingenuous; andif she hath been of entire fame she may be put to it to declare the truth on oath, but not without the advice of the Presbytery; and if the woman confess she was not forced, but doth not know the man, nor whether married or unmarried, the same censure is to be inflicted upon her as in the case of adultery.
12. If a person do voluntarily confess uncleanness, and if there be no child, and the case be brought to the kirk-session, the session is to inquire what presumptions there are of the truth of the thing confessed, or what may have moved the person to make that confession, whether it floweth from disquietness of mind, or from sinistrous design, as when a man suing to a woman for marriage is denied, and for revenge, or to obtain his desire, spreads the report that he hath been guilty with her, they are to be dealt with accordingly.
13. If it be found that there is no ground for the confession, and that it is false, the person confessing is to be censured as defaming himself, and likewise as a slanderer of the other party, and withal application is to be made by the session to the civil magistrate, that he may be punished according to law.
14. If there be need of witnesses, the directions, Chap. I. Sect. 4, are to be minded.
15. When persons guilty of uncleanness live one in one parish, and another in another, the process against them and censures are to be before the session of the parish where the woman liveth.
16. If a scandal of uncleanness be committed transiently, as if persons having their fixed residence in one parish do commit uncleanness in another parish, or perhaps in the fields, or at fairs or markets, in these cases they are to be processed and censured where their ordinary abode is, except the place of their abode be at a considerable distance from the place where the scandal was committed, and the scandal be most flagrant where it was committed.
17. When there is a scandal of uncleanness, whereof several persons are guilty, living in different parishes, the session where the scandal is committed is to acquaint the other sessions where any of the persons reside, who are ex debito to cause summon these persons to appear before that session where the scandal is to be tried.
18.When a person is convicted of a scandal by a session of another congregation than his own, and the censure of the lesser excommunication inflicted, the session is to send an account thereof to that session to which he belongs, but there is no need of any other sentence of his own session to fix the censure on him, but only a public intimation thereof to be made in his own parish.
19. When a person is censured and absolved from his scandal in another congregation than where he lives, he is to bring a testimonial of his absolution, which is to be intimated to the congregation he lives in, if the scandal be also flagrant there, otherwise it will be sufficient to intimate the same to the session.
20. With respect to scandals, whose grossness makes it necessary to bring the persons guilty oftener than once before the congregation, it is overtured, that after they are convicted before the session, that it be judicially declared to them that they have rendered themselves incapable of communion with the people of God, in the Supper of the Lord, and that they are not to be allowed to be sponsors themselves in the baptism of their children till the scandal be removed; and that they be appointed to appear in public to be rebuked for their sin, whether they appear penitent or not, conform to the institution, I Tim. v. 20.
21. After a public rebuke the minister and elders be at further pains in instructing the minds of scandalous persons, if ignorant, in endeavouring to convince their conscience, and to bring them to a due sense of their sin, and to an engagement and serious resolution against all known sin, and to the performance of all known duty.
22. That the session, upon satisfaction with their knowledge and sense of their sin, do admit them to the public profession of their repentance, in order to absolution.
23. If after taking pains on them for some competent time, for their instruction and conviction, they still remain grossly ignorant, insensible, and unreformed, the sentence of lesser excommunication is to be publicly pronounced against them, from which they are not to be relaxed, nor admitted to make public profession of their repentance in order thereto, till the session be satisfied with their knowledge, seriousness, and reformation.
Sect. 8.—Of Processes which natively begin at the Kirk-Session, but are not to be brought to a final determination by them.
1. There are some processes which do natively begin at the kirk-session, which, for the atrocity of the scandal, or difficulty in the affair, or general concern, the kirksession having frequent meetings of the Presbytery to have recourse to, do not determine of themselves.
2. Such are the scandals of incest, murder, adultery, trilapse in fornication, schisms, and separations from the public ordinances, processes in order to the highest excommunication, and continued contumacy, error, and heresy, vented and made public by any of the congregation.
3. The Kirk-session, receiving information of such gross scandals, are to weigh the same, according to the rules and directions prescribed them in processes which are their peculiar province.
4. And when the session finds good ground for a process, they are to deal with the guilty to confess that which now cannot be hid nor amended, till satisfaction be made to the Church, which, when done, the session is to refer the same for advice, and to send their reference extracted to the Presbytery.
5. But where there is no confession the session is not to proceed to lead probation, by witnesses or presumptions, till an account of the affair be brought by a reference to the Presbytery, and the Presbytery do thereupon commission and appoint the session to proceed and lead probation; and after probation is led, the Presbytery is again to be advised with, who may appoint the session to inflict what censure they see cause.
6. When persons censured for these grosser scandals do apply to the kirk-session for relaxation, they may both be privately conferred with, and likewise their acknowledgments heard before the session; but they ought not to be brought before the congregation in order to their absolution, nor absolved, but by advice and order of the Presbytery.
Sect. 9.—Of the Privy Censures in the Sessions.
1. In every kirk-session there ought to be, twice in the year, privy censures (as they are called) of the members of the session.
2. At the meeting preceding the same all the members should be warned to be punctually present that day.
3. Seeing the ministers undergo their privy censures in the Presbytery, and that generally there is but one minister in the session who must be moderator, therefore the ministers are not to undergo this privy censure before the session, but only the elders, deacons, clerk, and beadles.
4. The moderator of the session is to cause the clerk read the roll of the members, and beginning at the beginning of the roll, they are one by one after another to be removed, and then the rest of the members are, by the moderator, to be inquired concerning the walk and conversation of the person removed, concerning his diligence and prudence in his station; and whatever any have observed and been informed, worthy the noticing, is freely, and with love and tenderness, to be communicated. Privy censures of the members of a session, as also of a Presbytery, if rightly managed, may be of great use; but we think our Lord's rule, in Matth. xviii., is strictly to be observed in this matter, so that no member or members of a session or Presbytery should inform these judicatories of any thing against another member, until they have first given him private admonition or reproof, a competent time before, and that has proven ineffectual.
5. The session is to judge of all informations concerning the member removed, and. as they judge him deserving, either only the private admonition or reproof of the minister alone, or any one of the elders alone, or of the moderator, in name of the session, coram, as the weight of the matter, the edification of the party, and comfort of the session or congregation requireth, is to be done with all love, tenderness, and freedom.
6. If nothing be observed needful to be amended, but an account from all hands of the faithfulness, prudence, and diligence, of the member removed, then he is to be exhorted to go on, and encouraged, and God to be blessed on his account. And the moderator, when he is called in, to express the session's satisfaction and comfort therein.
7. After all the elders have thus been removed, one after another, and each one after he hath been called in, and got the mind of the session concerning him, and set in his place, the deacons, one after another, are to undergo their censures.
8. Next after the deacons, the clerk of the session is to be removed, and the members inquired concerning his carriage, and the session-books, and other registers of births, baptisms, and burials, should be seen to be exactly kept and put in readiness for the Presbytery, when called for by them.
9. The beadle or officer should likewise, in the same manner, be inquired after, and either admonished or encouraged, as need requireth.
10. Here also the kirk-treasurer's accounts may be taken in, and the whole session put in mind (if need be) of all the duties of their charge, and of the rules of order, when met in judicatories.
CHAPTER III. Of the Proceddings and Methods in Presbyteries.
Sect. 1.—Of the Constitution of this Judicatory.
1. This judicatory is made up and consists of the pastors and elders of a number of particular parochial congregations, associated together for their mutual help and comfort.
2. The number of congregations whose overseers make up a Presbytery are not determined, ten or twelve, rather more than fewer, as the adjacency of the congregatious, their compactness and easiness in travelling, will most ordinarily and conveniently allow.
3. And seeing the minister's office and power doth include that of elders, though it is necessary when they can be had that ministers act in conjunction with them, because of the Divine precept and warrant, yet if, by no fault of the ministers, elders be wanting, they may warrantably exercise Presbyterial jurisdiction there without them.
4. In the meetings of judicatories at the time and place appointed by the former meeting, (unless some sufficiently known stop or hinderance intervene,) any who meet are a quorum, they not being under three ministers; yet it is very expedient that, in this case, matters of importance be referred to a subsequent more frequent meeting; but in meetings pro re nata, it is necessary that more than the one half of the ministers of that meeting be present to make a quorum, and all the members to be advertised.
Sect. 2.—Of Licensing Probationers or Preachers.
1. It is the proper and peculiar work of the Presbytery to look out for, admit to trial, judge and determine thereof, and license probationers and preachers, and the rules laid down thereanent by the acts of the General Assembly under-written are to be observed, particularly the 22nd Act of the General Assembly, anno 1696, Anent Students; the 10th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1694, Anent Probationers; the 13th Act of the General Assembly, 1696, Anent Testimonials; and 10th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1704, Anent Students passing Trials, and the several acts therein mentioned.
2. It would be very contributive to the licentiate's advantage, that every student of theology were some time attending the public profession of divinity in some university, before they entered on their trials.
3. And all such who have been attending any such professions ought to produce testimonials of their behaviour and proficiency at that profession, from those Professors of Theology under whose inspection they were, else not to be admitted; and Professors of Divinity should take care to give testimonials to none for their entering on trials in order to the ministry, but such as, with full freedom, they can declare to be in their judgment fit for the same.
4. In case a student of theology could not have the occasion of attending a public profession of divinity at the university, it were fit he did undergo private trials of his proficiency in all the parts of divinity, by examination, and also have some homilies in presence of two or three members of the Presbytery before he enter on his public trials before the Presbytery.
5. The Presbytery, before they enter any on their trials, are to observe the act of Assembly, requiring twenty-five years of age to a minister, the rather because, after they obtain a licence to preach, they use sometimes to be very soon called to the ministry, unless in case of more than ordinary ripeness of parts and prudence.
6. That the trials of a student, in order to his being licensed, do consist in ordinary in these seven parts: 1. The homily; 2. A lecture on a whole chapter; 3. The common head in Latin, with his maintaining the orthodox doctrine in his thesis, in a dispute; 4. The extemporary trials of his knowledge in interpreting the original languages, of sacred chronology, of ecclesiastical history, especially of our own Church, answering extemporary question of the meaning of hard places of the Scripture, on heads of divinity, polemic or practical, or cases of conscience, on Church government and discipline; 5. The Presbyterial exercise, both making and adding; 6. The lecture, to be the trial immediately preceding the popular sermon; and, 7. The popular sermon, both which are to be in the pulpit, before the people.
7. Immediately after the close of each of these exercises, the moderator is to inquire the judgment of the Presbytery concerning the student on trial, his acquitting himself in that part of his trials, which is to be managed prudently: but if the Presbytery be not satisfied in any piece of his trials, they are to stop there, and either refer him back to his further studies, or give him the same piece of trial again on a different subject, the main of the design being only to have their judgment, whether what is done be so satisfactory as to be admitted for a proof of his fitness to be licensed.
8. When the Presbytery are satisfied with all the pieces of his trials, before they grant him the licence, he is, by the moderator, to be gravely admonished of the weight of the work, and exhorted to a suitable deportment; and, likewise, he is solemnly to promise due obedience to that Presbytery, and other judicatories of the Church; he is to give satisfaction of the orthodoxy of his principles; not only as to the doctrine, but as to the discipline, worship, and government of this Church, and is to subscribe the Confession of Faith, according to the acts of the General Assembly.
9. When he hath been approven and gotten the intimation of his licence, and it be recorded in the Presbytery book, it were fit that he were appointed to preach two or three Sabbaths, one diet at a time, in the audience of and in conjunction with some minister of the Presbytery, before he preach in vacant parishes, (if any there be,) or get an extract of the licence; and he to be indulged, in case of bashfulness, as to his appearence in eminent places.
10. No probationer is to receive any call from a vacant congregation to be minister thereof but from the hands of the Presbytery under whose inspection he is at the time, nor to accept thereof but by their advice, and regard is chiefly to be had to the Presbytery where the vacant parish is; and if more calls than one at once come to a probationer, and these presented by his own Presbytery, he is to follow their advice in closing with or rejecting any of them. (fn. 4)
11. That each bursar of divinity bring yearly testimonials from the professor under whom he is studying, of his punctual attendance and good proficiency, and that he be tried yearly by the Presbytery whose bursar he is.
Sect. 3.—Of Vacant Congregations, and Planting thereof.
1. Vacant congregations are under the peculiar care of the Presbytery of the bounds, both for their present supply and for their planting with a minister.
2. The orderly and ordinary way of supplying a vacant congregation with preaching is and ought to be by the order and desire of the Presbytery, and no other; and the minister that preaches in vacant kirks ought to keep session for the exercise of discipline, to have one diet of catechising, and to visit the sick.
3. That it be recommended to the eldership, or any other within the parish, to be cautious whom they invite to preach, even when occasional unforeseen opportunities offer, and for this to take the advice of the neighbouring ministers, and that in this they study the harmonious consent of the elders, in order to the preserving the peace of the Church.
4. The Presbytery, as they would send the fittest of the probationers to the vacant parish to preach, so, as need requireth, and the Presbytery conveniently can, they are to send ministers of their own number to preach and to baptize the children. If the vacant congregation want an eldership as well as a minister, the Presbytery is to endeavour the appointing of an eldership among them, who may facilitate the congregation's getting a minister.
5. The Presbytery would require the eldership of that parish to meet frequently to consider the circumstances of the parish, and to prepare them for giving a call; and they are to be exhorted to seek God's counsel and direction therein, and to lay a matter of so much concern to their souls seriously to heart, and to attend the Presbytery, to give an account thereof from time to time.
6. The Presbytery should endeavour, by all means, to prevent the vacant parishes calling a minister from another congregation where he is happily fixed and useful; transportations being often a great grievance, and seldom to be practised. (fn. 5)
7. If the eldership of a vacant congregation do, by their commissioner, acquaint the Presbytery that they not only have had their thoughts on a person to supply their vacancy, but have communicated the same to the heritors and other heads of families, and do judge it may be probable that the person will be generally (or to the most part) acceptable, and if the Presbytery be satisfied with the person they design to be minister, then the Presbytery is to proceed.
8. The Presbytery is then to appoint one of their number to preach on a Lord's Day in that vacant congregation, and after forenoon sermon to intimate to them that the Presbytery, considering their circumstances, require the elders and heads of the families, especially the heritors, to meet at the church on such a day, in order to the nominating and electing a fit person to supply their vacancy; and they are to be exhorted to continue in prayer and dependence on God for further direction therein, and to lay a matter of so much concern to their souls seriously to heart.
9. And, indeed, sometimes where difficulties arise in a vacant parish, hindering the plantation thereof, it were very requisite to have some day set apart for solemn fasting and prayer, by order of the Presbytery, which is to appoint one or two ministers to preach then to them.
10. In nominating the time for the parish to meet to elect a minister, such time should be given as not only all the heritors who live within the parish, but those who have interest therein, may have timely advertisement, that the call may be as unanimous as may be.
11. When the day is come, the minister whom the Presbytery hath appointed to moderate at the election (having ended sermon, which he is to have to that congregation, and dismissed the same, except the heritors, elders, and heads of families) is to open the meeting with prayer, and then signify unto them the occasion of their meeting, and his hope that they have been seeking God for light in so weighty a matter.
12. When one (and sometimes, but rarely, more than one) is named before there be any vote, the moderator is to inquire if any there present have any objections to make, and the objections are to be calmly heard and answered, and the affair cleared, to ripen it to a vote.
13. Though a plurality of heritors and elders will always be thought to be the voice of the meeting, and in law and reason is so counted, yet it is most desirable to have the universal consent of the heads of families, and this ought to be endeavoured.
14. And the moderatore and electors are wisely to consider, that, though the objections which any of the heads of families may make against the person whom the electors have named, in order to election, may in themselves be frivolous, and of small moment, yet the weight they have with the prejudicated persons, and the quality of these persons, and their influence in the congregation, are duly to be pondered, and if found considerable, great tenderness is to be used, especially at a time when some other person may be got, against whom neither objection nor aversion can be alleged.
15. If there be no objections against the person named, or, notwithstanding of all that is objected, the plurality of the heritors refuse to delay the affair, and that the objections made seem rather to proceed from the greater favour the objectors have for another, than from any real aversion to or objection against the person himself, the moderator may put the matter to a vote.
16. But after all the reasonings, and especially where there hath been any altercation, it is very fit that the moderator not only give a word of exhortation, but by solemn prayer immediately before the vote prepare them for it, it being not only fit at all such times, but experience teaching that it greatly tendeth to calm men's spirits who have any awe of God on them, and to clear them of the dregs of private affection and interest.
17. The vote thereafter being taken and carefully marked, the moderator is to pronounce the mind of the meeting, and if it be carried that a call be given to any person named; the call being drawn up is to be read and signed in the presence of the moderator, and attested by him; follows the Form of a Call:—
18. "We, the heritors and elders of being destitute of a fixed pastor, and being most assured by good information and our own experience of the ministerial abilities, piety, literature, and prudence, as also of the suitableness to our capacities of the gifts of you preacher of the Gospel, or minister of have agreed, with the advice and consent of the parishioners of the parish foresaid, and concurrence of the reverend Presbytery of to invite, call, and entreat, likeas we, by these presents, do heartily invite, call, and entreat, you to undertake the office of a pastor among us and the charge of our souls. And, further, hoping that upon mature deliberation ye will find this our call, which is carried on with so great sincerity, unanimity, and order, a clear call from the Lord, we do, upon your accepting thereof, sincerely promise you all dutiful respect, faithfulness, encouragement, and obedience, in the Lord, in our several stations and relations. In witness whereof," &c.
19. After the call is signed, the moderator is to propose to the meeting that they appoint one or two of their meeting, and that by a commission under their hands, or the hands of the moderator and clerk, not only to present the same to the Presbytery for their approbation and concurrence, but also to prosecute it.
20. If there hath been any considerable aversion manifested, or objections made against the call, the Presbytery is then prudently to weight the whole affair, wherein the most universal edification of the congregation is to be studied.
21. If the Presbytery find any ground to demur their concurrence, they are to deal prudently with those who were for the call, and rather delay than altogether at first to stop and refuse concurrence, lest, by endeavouring the universal satisfaction of the people of that parish, they disgust the plurality thereof; and a meek and gaining way of prudent reasoning and convincing their consciences, rather than the authoritative condemning their designs, is to be studied, and particularly the proportion of the person's gifts, in relation to the place unto which he is called, is to be considered.
22. If the Presbytery find the call legally and orderly proceeded in they are to record the same, and their clerk is to signify it at the foot or back of the call, and (if need be) to appoint one of their number to concur with the commissioner of the parish in prosecuting the said call.
23. If the person called be a minister in another charge, then the Presbytery is duly to consider the reasonableness of the transportation desired, and if that be not to them evident and clear they are not to concur in that call.
24. If the person called be a probationer, and present in the Presbytery, he ought to be removed during the Presbytery's consultation about the relevancy of the call, and called in again when it is approven; and if approven, the call is by the moderator of the Presbytery to be delivered to him coram, with a suitable exhortation to take the same to his mature consideration.
25. If the person called be a probationer under the insepection of another Presbytery, the commissioner of the parish, with one from the Presbytery, (if the Presbytery think fit to send one,) are to apply to that Presbytery where the probationer resides, and present them the call, and ask their concurrence in offering it to the person called, which that Presbytery are without delay to do.
26. On acceptation of the call, the probationer is to repair to that Presbytery to which he is called, and there, by their direction, to preach frequently to the parish to which he is called, at least thrice, before he be ordained, and, in the meantime, enter upon his trials in order to ordination; in going about whereof, the rules are to be followed prescribed, Chap. III. Sect. 4.
27. If the person called be a minister settled in another congregation, then the commissioners of the vacant parish, and, if need be, the Presbytery, is to appoint one to concur with the vacant parish, who are to proceed with applications to the Presbytery to which he belongs, as is required, Sect. 6, "About Transportation of Minister." And though the minister called be unfixed to any parish, or hath got an act of transportability, yet he is only to receive the call through the hands of the Presbytery of the bounds where the parish calling is; and in this case, there is no need of a process of transportation, nor summoning parties, but only serving an edict, and proceeding to admission in the usual manner.
28. If the parish be remiss and backward, and will not call a minister, at least the greater part be, then, as the law hath wisely fixed the jus devolutum in the Presbytery as to the benefice, so may the Presbytery, by their power from Christ, give a mission to a particular person, and ordain him to labour in the work of the ministry among that people, to reclaim and feed them, wherein great tenderness is to be used, and all other means essayed to prevent its coming thereto.
Sect. 4.—Of the Ordination of a Minister.
1. On a probationer's so far acceptance of the call of a parish as that he is content to submit himself to the Presbytery of the bounds, to undergo his trials in order to ordination, he is, by that Presbytery by whom he is ordained, to be tried as when he was licensed—see Chap. III. Sect. 2, except the homilies; and it is referred to the prudence of Presbyteries whether it be most convenient that the lecture and popular sermon be appointed him at the same time.
2. In the meantime, during the passing of his trials before the Presbytery, he should be ordered to preach frequently to that congregation whose pastor he is to be, not only to give them the greater opportunity of the knowledge of his gifts, and satisfaction with him, but to give him, by converse with them, the better acquaintance with the temper and manner of the people he is to undertake the charge of.
3. If the probationer hath been a stranger to that Presbytery, he being now to be ordained, his whole carriage and conversation in times past is now more narrowly to be searched into, which may be known not only by his testimonials from the university in which he took his degrees, from the Professor of Theology of his carriage under him in the study of theology, from the Presbytery where he was licensed to preach, from that Presbytery where he last resided, and under whose inspection he was, but likewise by other ways, as they in prudence shall see cause.
4. If nothing appear, either in the person or congregation, to the Presbytery, but what is promising that his labours will be useful among them, and his trials ended, the Presbytery are to send one of their number to preach to that congregation, and after the forenoon sermon to intimate unto them that the probationer who is called to be their minister, his edict was now to be served, which edict being read, the minister is to desire the people to notice the same; and after reading, a copy of the edict is to be affixed to the most patent door of the church, by the church beadle thereunto appointed, that none may pretend ignorance. Of this edict the tenor follows:—"This Presbytery having received a call from this parish to Mr A. B., preacher of the Gospel, to be their minister, and finding the same orderly proceeded, and the said Mr A. B. having undergone all the parts of his trial in order to his ordination, and the Presbytery, upon the whole, judging him qualified to be a minister of the Gospel, and fit to be pastor of this congregation, have resolved to proceed, unless something occur which may justly impede the same; and, therefore, do hereby give notice to all persons, especially the members of this congregation, that if they, or any of them, have any thing to object why the said Mr A. B. should not be admitted pastor here, they may repair to the Presbytery, which is to meet at the day of; with certification, that if no person object any thing that day the Presbytery will proceed without further delay."
5. The Presbytery meeting (as it was appointed to meet) to receive the execution of the edict, which ought to be ten free days after the serving of the same, that thereby none may pretend ignorance for want of time, the minister appointed to preach in the vacant congregation is to give an account of his diligence, and the edict to be returned indorsed; and then the Presbytery finding that to be the day appointed to bring in any objections against the person to be ordained, the officer or beadle is three several times, at the most patent door, to give notice, that if there be any there who have any thing to object against his being their minister, they may then come and do it to the Presbytery; with certification as in the edict.
6. If there come any objections, the Presbytery are prudently to weigh them, considering what sort of persons they come from, and on what design, and wherefore they were delayed till the affair came to that length, as well as the nature of the objections; and if the Presbytery find themselves obliged to delay procedure, till a process about these things be orderly had, and if then the person be found innocent and acquitted, those who inmed the judicatory ought to be noticed for their calumny or imprudence, as the judicatory shall find cause.
7. If there be no objections, or those brought be found of no weight, the Presbytery is to name a convenient week-day for the brethren to meet, to ordain him whose edict is thus served at the church of the congregation to whom he is to belong; but here there needs not ten days delay, since that hath been granted already after the serving of the edict.
8. The ordination is to be intimated to the people from the pulpit, inviting all to be present, and telling them that they are to set apart that day as a fast unto that parish, to be by them observed with more than ordinary supplication, for the assistance and blessing of God upon the ordinance of Christ, and the labours of his servant, then to be set apart for their good, a work of so great concernment, and a sermon to be suitable to the purpose. (fn. 6)
9. The congregation and all being thus met, the sermon ended, and prayer after sermon, wherein the special work of the day is again to be remembered, the minister who moderates in the action doth from the pulpit, in a discourse, show the occasion of the day's meeting; that the Church being vacant, a call given to such a person there present, and his edict served and returned, without any relevant objection, and the call orderly proceeded in all its steps, as is above prescribed, the same was come to that issue that he was now to be ordained to be their minister.
10. Then the minister calls on the person to be ordained, who stands up in the face and audience of the congregation, and doth answer, expressis verbis, these following questions, or others to the same purpose. 1mo, If he himself doth believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and the truths therein contained, to be the Word of God. 2do, If he doth own and will adhere to the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, and doctrine therein contained, founded on and consonant to the Holy Scriptures. 3tio, If he will be faithful and zealous in maintaining all the truths of the Gospel, the unity of the Church, and peace thereof, against all error and schism whatsoever, notwithstanding of what trouble and persecution may happen. 4to, If he doth likewise own and will adhere to the worship, discipline, and government, of this Church, as founded on and consonant to the Holy Scriptures. 5to, If he hath been led in his designing the work of the ministry, by a single and sincere love to God, and design to glorify him in the Gospel of his Son, and not by filthy lucre, and the motives of wordly gain, as the great inducement to him to the ministerial work. 6to, If he engage to be diligent and assiduous in praying, reading, meditating, preaching, administering the Sacraments, catechizing, and exercising of discipline, and in performing all other ministerial duties towards the people committed to his charge. 7mo, If he resolves to own his ordination to the holy function of the ministry, and to continue in duty, notwithstanding of any trouble that may arise in the Church hereafter, the people's adherence to this call is to be taken for granted, seeing by their presence they countenance the ordination.
11. The minister moderating in the action and brethren being satisfied with the answers of the person to be ordained, he is, in a few words, to speak to the people of that congregation, reminding them of their having called him to be their minister, that the affair had orderly proceeded, and that there had been no objection made against the same; and that now their coming and staying to be witnesses to the action, and that their universal silence was to be looked upon as their constant adherence to their call to have him to be their minister, and to their engagements therein contained; at which time it were fit also that the ministers preaching should take occasion to put the people in mind of their duty.
12. Then, after a little pause, whereby the universal silence of the people may be discerned, the minister who moderates in the action doth bespeak the person to be ordained, showing him, that seeing he designs to serve God in preaching the Gospel, and that this congregation has given him a call, and the Presbytery was to ordain him minister of that congregation, he was to satisfy the Presbytery and the congregation in the following questions.
13. 1st, If he accepts of the call given him by that congregation, and resolves and engages, through grace, to perform all the works of a faithful minister among them. 2dly, If he will willingly and humbly, in the spirit of meekness, submit himself unto the admonition of his brethren, and the discipline of the Church. 3dly, If he will take care that he himself and his family walk unblameably, be examples to the flock, and adorn the Gospel by their conversation.
14. The brethren being satisfied with the answers and engagements, the minister actor is to come from the pulpit to the place where the person to be ordained and brethren are, he kneeling, and the brethren standing, the actor, as mouth of the brethren, in their Master's name and authority, doth in and by prayer set him apart (not only he who moderates in the action, but all the brethren that conveniently can, laying their hands upon his head) to the office of the ministry, invoking God for his blessing, to this effect:—"Thankfully acknowledging the great mercy of God, in sending Jesus Christ for the redemption of his people, and for his ascension to the right hand of God the Father, and thence pouring out his Spirit, and giving gifts to men, apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, and teachers, for the gathering and building up of his Church; and for fitting and inclining this man to this great work; to entreat Him to fit him with his Holy Spirit, to give him (who in his name is thus set apart to his holy service) to fulfil the work of the ministry in all things, that he may both save himself and the people committed to his charge."
15. The prayer to this purpose being ended, the minister who moderates in the action is to take the person ordained by the right hand, saying unto him, "We give unto you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of the ministry with us;" and likewise all the ministers of the Presbytery, the heritors and elders of the parish present, should take him by the right hand, as a testimony of their acceptance of him as a minister of that congregation.
16. Then the minister who moderates in the action returning to the pulpit, doth first exhort the person who is now ordained to consider the greatness of the office, the diligence, labour, and painfulness required, encouraging him to diligence and faithfulness, and showing him the hazard and prejudices that will attend negligence and unfaithfulness, both to himself and people, in this and the life to come.
17. Then, 2dly, He is to exhort the people to carry themselves dutifully, kindly, and respectfully to their minister, as unto the messenger of God, and according to their solemn promise contained in their call to their minister, and to accept of his message, in receiving of Christ Jesus as he is offered in the Gospel, and giving obedience to his will therein revealed, and which the actor in his brethren's name under whose inspection the parish is, is to enjoin them to.
18. Lastly, The minister actor is by solemn prayer to commend the minister whom they have ordained, and his flock, to God's grace, and, singing a psalm, he is to dismiss the congregation with pronouncing the blessing.
19. The clerk of the Presbytery is to record the day and place of the ordination, with the name of the minister who did moderate in the action, and text he preached from, and the sederunt of the members present, and may give extracts of the minister's ordination when required.
20. That all such things as relate and are essential and peculiar to ordination, be omitted in admitting of ministers formerly ordained. 2do, That all the questions in paragraph 10th may be resumed, and the minister to be admitted desired to declare his consent and adherence to his former answers and engagement at his ordination. 3tio, The questions in the 13th paragraph, anent his relation to the particular congregation to which he is to be admitted, may be proposed as in the overture. 4to, That expression in paragraph 15th, of giving him the right hand of fellowship, and taking him to a part of the ministry, may be omitted, seeing he is received therein before at his ordination.
21. The manse, and office-houses thereto belonging, are, by the Presbytery's appointment, to be visited and valued by faithful and skilful workmen, at the sight of some of the Presbytery, that the condition and value thereof may be known and recorded, lest afterwards it be pretended that the said minister at his entry found them sufficient, and so should be obliged to leave them much better than at his entry; and, upon the other hand, if a free manse, should be obliged to leave it in good repair.
22. Seeing calls bear a promise of all due encouragement to ministers, it may be fit, that at the ordination or admission, or rather before, the Presbytery desire the decreet of locality of the parish to be produced, or if it cannot be done, and that there be no decreet or act securing the stipend, that the heritors give in a subscribed account of their just quotas of the stipend of that parish, which are to be recorded by the Presbytery, that there may be as little debate as possible afterwards about that affair.
Sect. 5.—Of Transportations in general, and the Grounds and Reasons thereof.
1. Seeing every minister is an officer of the Church universal, it cannot be denied but he may be transported from one place to another, upon good and weighty grounds.
2. No minister ought at his own hand to transport himself in ecclesiâ bene constitutâ, et statu ejusdem pacato, seeing he is not sui juris, and at his own disposal.
3. It belongs, therefore, properly to that Presbytery whereof he is a member to manage his transportation, and grant it if they see cause.
4. The end of all transportations is the glory of God, and the greater good of the Church, both which should be expressly eyed by those who crave them, and the judicatories which grant them.
5. In the case, therefore, of transportations, the first step is to see that the call be legally proceeded in, and approven by the Presbytery in whose bounds the vacant parish is, and that there be a commission from the parish to some fit person to deliver and prosecute the call before the Presbytery where the minister desired resideth; and if the minister called do belong to another Presbytery, and if it be desired, the Presbytery may also send one of their number to signify their consent.
6. No call drawn up to any settled minister, desiring his transportation to another congregation, is to be received by him or entertained till it come to him by his own Presbytery.
7. If the commissioners of the vacant parish come to prosecute the transportation in the interval of the ordinary diets of the Presbytery, and their necessity urgent, and distance great, they may apply to the moderator of the Presbytery, that he may call a Presbytery pro re nata.
8. Upon which application the moderator may call a Presbytery, but till it meet, he is not to receive the call offered, or the reasons thereof, or transmit, either to the minister called, or to the parish he belongs unto, or to cite any of them to appear till the Presbytery meet and consider the call, and determine the relevancy of the same.
9. The Presbytery being met, the commissioners who are to appear to prosecute the transportation, are (by a supplication delivered to the clerk of the Presbytery) to acquaint the Presbytery with their desire, and that they may be heard.
10. The Presbytery receiving a supplication, intimating that there is a call to one of the brethren of that Presbytery, are, without making any needless delays, to call the persons applying before them, and inqutire for their commission to represent that parish who desires the minister.
11. If the commissioners have not a written commission, under the hands of the heritors and elders of the vacant parish, or the clerk of their meeting, the Presbytery may refuse to hear them any further, or to receive any call from them; and, in that case, there can be no access to these pretended commissioners, their either appealing or complaining to the next Synod.
12. If they have a written commission, and which the Presbytery sustains, they are to offer the call, and reasons of the same, in writing to the Presbytery, craving that the call may be delivered to the minister desired, and that the reasons may not only be weighed by the Presbytery, but delivered to the minister, and sent to the parish where he doth now reside, that they, within a competent time, may answer the same.
13. The Presbytery, on sustaining their commission, is immediately to receive the call they offer, and read and consider the same; and at the same diet to give their judgment thereanent, as to the relevancy of the same, so far as at present appears to them, in order to the bringing the same to farther consideration; so that it doth not preclude either the Presbytery, or any member thereof, or the minister desired, or his parish, of any just exceptions against the relevancy of the call, which they may after in process adduce.
14. If the Presbytery shall find weight in the reasons, they are then instanter, at least at the same diet, without needless delay, to deliver the call by their moderator to the minister desired to be transported, who is to receive the same out of the moderator's hands, and likewise the reasons of the call; and to be summoned apud acta, to compear before the Presbytery at their next meeting.—See Act 7th, General Assembly, anno 1704.
15. Providing always there be ten days given to the minister and parish where he is, to prepare themselves to answer the reasons of the call.
16. If the minister called be absent from the Presbytery, then the ruling elder from that parish, if present, is to get the call and reasons delivered to him, and to be apud acta obliged to deliver the same to the minister, if at home, within twentyfour hours.
17. If both be absent, the Presbytery is to send the call and reasons to the minister, to be delivered to him by the Presbytery's officer, or one appointed for that ef fect, who is, before witnesses, to deliver the same to the minister, and to give him a citation to appear at the diet prescribed by the Presbytery. If the minister be not at home, that he cannot be personally summoned, then the call, reasons, and copy of the citation, are to be left at the minister's dwelling-house.
18. The Presbytery is likewise to cause cite the heritors and elders of the parish from which the transportation is desired, by issuing out summons, under the moderator or clerk of the Presbytery's hands, directed to the Presbytery officer, who is thereupon obliged to make due intimation thereof, by reading the same audibly at the most patent door of the church of that parish, immediately after the forenoon sermon, when the people are coming out of the church, and thereafter by affixing a copy of the summons on the said door before witnesses.
19. If the officer meet with any molestation or opposition, in his endeavouring to execute the summons, from any of the parish, the summons, notwithstanding, are to be reckoned executed, providing the minister himself had previous knowledge of the call and appointment. But, by the 8th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1704, it is appointed, that the minister himself being summoned apud acta, at the Presbytery, or, if absent, by the Presbytery's letter, to be present at the day appointed for hearing the cause, he also intimate out of the pulpit, to heritors, elders, and others concerned in the parish, that there is such a call, and such a transportation designed, and if any of them have a mind to defend their right to their minister, they are to be present at the Presbytery on such a day, and ready to make their defences; for which end the call and reasons are to be given or transmitted to the minister, to be by him communicated to them. But this method of citations is only to be observed where the Presbytery concerned shall see cause to take that course; and it is in the option of the Presbytery to follow this course, or do it by their officers as formerly.
20. The minister, on his receiving a call and reasons for his transportation, is forthwith to convence the kirk-session, and communicate the same to them, whereby both heritors and kirk-session may have time to consider and answer the reasons of the call.
21. The Presbytery, in appointing the diet for a minister and parish to make their answers to a call, are to consider the minister's circumstances, as if he be not at home, and hath urgent affairs, which may fall out to be by appointment of the Church.
22. The parish who are cited may appear by some of their heritors and elders, and, to avoid confusion, not above seven at most, but these need no commission in writing, because they are defendants, and, being cited, they ought to be heard.
23. The Presbytery meeting at the diet appointed to cognosce upon the process of transportation, are to enter upon it—1. By reading of the minutes of the last meeting, ordaining parties to be cited; 2. By calling for the summons issued to the kirk-officer to summon the parties; and, if they find the summons indorsed and duly executed, then, 3. They are to order the officer to call in the parties.
24. If any of the parties be absent, and excuses made, the Presbytery are to judge the reasonableness of the same, and either proceed or delay the affair as they find cause.
25. But if all parties be present, the moderator acquainting them of the reason of their being called, desireth them to be silent during reading of the following papers which belong to the process, and so the Presbytery doth proceed— 1. By causing read the call given to the minister desired; 2. By reading the reasons given in with the call for the transportation craved; 3. By reading both the minister's and parishioners' answers to the reasons, if they have any, in writing; if not, by hearing these defendants' answers by word, as they themselves think fit.
26. After reading these papers, the moderator of the Presbytery is to inquire at the pursuers if they have any thing farther to add to the reasons of their call, or any thing to reply to the minister's and parishioners' answers; and if they have it, to allow them to do it by word, but not by writing; and after they are heard without interruption, the defendants are allowed to duply to them, being to speak last, without any replying or farther discourse, to prevent needless altercations.
27. If the pursuers desire a delay to the Presbytery's proceeding, or if any of the reasons or answers on which much of the weight of the affair does depend, require the probation of some matter of fact, then, in these necessary cases, the Presbytery may delay determining the process till next meeting, to receive sufficient information in the matter of fact alleged: But if no such reason for a delay be, the Presbytery is to proceed to deliberate upon the whole affair, all parties being removed.
28. If the affair be intricate, and reasons on both sides weighty, after the Presbytery hath among themselves reasoned hinc inde, it may be fit, before the question be put to a decisive vote, to call in both parties, and again inquire if they have any new matter to offer, which hath not fallen under consideration in the case; and likewise, that so momentous a case may be the more conscientiously gone about, it will be fit that a minister of the Presbytery pray to God (all parties being present) that the judicatory may be guided of God in their determination, and thereafter (parties being removed) the question is to be put, "Transport or not," and all the members are to give their vote distinctly, which are to be marked by the clerk, and a member or two taking notice of the right marking of the same.
29. If much of the weigh of the affair, and that part which doth most straiten the Presbytery, in giving their judgement, lie on the minister who is to be transported, his own sentiment, he may be called before the Presbytery alone, or before two or three of their number, and dealt with to gain him to a contented submission to their intended sentence, to prevent his being crushed by it.
30. And the Presbytery, when they are going to transport any minister for the greater good of the Church, are to be tender and condescending to the minister as to the time when he is to remove, or to clothe their sentence with alleviating circumstances.
31. After sentence is passed, and all parties called in, the moderator is to show them the care the Presbytery has taken to do justly in their proceedings, and to entreat them all to a cheerful submission to the sentence which is to be read to them by the clerk, who is to record the same, and the whole process, and to give extracts thereof to those who demand it.
32. If any party appeal, in the case of transportation, before the final sentence, upon alleged injury received, the Presbytery not being conscious of the same, may proceed to determine the affair notwithstanding.
33. All Presbyteries should endeavour not only a speedy determining a process of transportation, but should always determine it themselves without referring the affair to the Synod, it being a duty that the Presbytery is called to, to give their judgment in the affairs that come before them, and nothing but insuperable hesitation of their judgments, as to point of light, should occasion it. (fn. 7)
Sect. 6.—Of Parochial Visitations by the Presbytery.
1. It is the duty of the Presbytery to visit every congregation within the same, by solemn visitations, which are either ordinary and in course, or extraordinary, pro re nata.
2. The ordinary, whereby every congregational church is visited, ought to be once a year if it can be attained, or at least this ordinary visitation should be going round all the parishes in order, till they be visited, before others be revisited in ordinary.
3. The Presbytery is to appoint the day when the visitation is to be, and cause intimation be made by the minister of the parish from the pulpit, immediately after the forenoon sermon on the Sabbath, ten days preceding the day for the visitation, requiring the heritors, elders, and whole congregation, to be present that day to hear sermon; and after that sermon, the heritors, elders, and heads of families, do attend the Presbytery, to acquaint them with the state of that kirk and congregation in every point; and particularly, if any of them have any certain knowledge of any thing amiss in their minister, elders, deacons, precentor, session-clerk, schoolmaster, or beadle, that they bring the same to the Presbytery.
4. The session registers are to be produced to the Presbytery before the visitation, and given to some brethren to be revised, and they to report at the visitation.
5. The minister of the parish in all ordinary visitations is to preach that day before the Presbytery, on his ordinary text or subject he hath been preaching upon to the people.
6. The sermon being ended, the Presbytery constituted, the minister's doctrine he had in his sermon is first to be considered, as in the Presbyterial exercise.
7. The Church Bible, Confession of Faith, Acts of the General Assembly, acts and proclamations against profanceness, and other acts and papers relative to the Church, the session registers, and poor's box, are all to be called for, produced, and laid before the Presbytery.
8. The Presbytery at the entry on the visitation, having removed the minister and all belonging to the congregation, are to cause read over their actings at the last visitation of that congregation, and see if what was then recommended or ordered hath been made effectual; and, if need be, to call in any party for information, or for censure in case of neglect.
9. If nothing arise therefrom to divert the Presbytery from the orderly method, all parties being removed, the Presbytery are to call in the eldership and heads of families, and to inquire at them concerning their minister, and with all gravity and authority to charge them to declare the truth, in the following and such like questions:—
10. The questions inquired by a Presbytery concerning a minister may be these, and such like: 1mo, Hath your minister a Gospel walk and conversation before the people, and does he keep family worship, and is he one who rules well his own house? 2do, Keeps he much at home at his ministerial work, or doth he occasion to himself distractions and unnecessary diversions therefrom? 3tio, Preacheth he sound doctrine, so far as you understand? 4to, Does he preach plainly, or is he hard to be understood for his scholastic terms, matter, or manner of preaching ? 5to, Doth he faithfully reprove sin, especially such as most prevail in that parish? 6to, What time of day doth he ordinarily begin sermon on the Sabbath, and when doth he dismiss the people ? 7mo, Spends he in his sermon too much time in repetition of what he head before? 8vo, Doth he visit the people and families, at least once a year, in a ministerial way, teaching and admonishing from house to house, and doth he visit the sick when it is needful, and pray over them ? 9no, Does he lecture and preach in the forenoon, and preach again in the afternoon on the Lord's Day, and that both summer and winter ? 10mo, Does he read a large portion of Scripture in public, and expound the same, as is enjoined by the Acts of the General Assembly ? 11mo, Does he preach catechetic doctrine ordinarily in the afternoon ? 12mo, Does he administer the Sacrament of Baptism in an orderly way, when the congregation is convened, or does he it privately? 13mo, Doth he frequently catechize his parishioners, and administer the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper to them, and is he careful in keeping from that holy ordinance all who are known to be scandalous, grossly ignorant, or erroneous ? 14mo, Hath he weekday sermons, and at them collections for the poor ? 15mo, Hath he a competent number of elders, and hath the deacons in the parish distinct from elders ? 16mo, If there be a magistrate in the parish for punishing vice, according to Act of Parliament ? 17mo, Doth he read termly the acts against profanencess from the pulpit ? 18mo, Does he keep sessional meetings frequently, and is he impartial in the exercise of discipline against offenders, and is the session's diligence thereanent recorded in a book ? 19no, If there be frequent meetings of the members of session for fasting and prayer, according to the 7th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1699 ?
11. After these questions are asked, the minister is to be called in, and encouraged or admonished as the Presbytery doth see cause.
12. If any thing censurable, and which may occasion a process against the minister, be informed by any, then the Presbytery is to proceed according to the directions given, Sect. 7 of this same Chapter.
13. Then the elders and deacons being removed altogether, the minister and con gregation be inquired concerning them, by the following and such questions:—1mo, If the session be rightly constituted, and all the elders and deacons duly admitted, according to the Acts of Assemblies ? 2do, Do they all attend Gospel ordinances and diets of the session duly ? 3tio, Are they grave, pious, and exemplary in their lives and conversations ? 4to, Do they worship God in their families ? 5to, Are they diligent, careful, and impartial, in the exercise of their offices ? 6to, Do the elders visit the families within the quarter and bounds assigned to each ? 7mo, Have the elders subscribed the Confession of Faith ? 8vo, Have the elders their distinct bounds assigned them for their particular inspection ? 9no, Are they careful to have the worship of God set up in the families of their bounds ? 10mo, Are they careful in calling for testimonials from persons who come to reside in the parish ? 11mo, Does the session always appoint a ruling elder to attend Presbyteries and Synods ?
14. After these questions, the eldership being called in, the Presbytery do commend, exhort, admonish, or reprove, as they think needful.
15. Then the precentor, schoolmaster, and clerk of the session, who in country congregations are generally one and the same, and after them the beadle, being removed, the Presbytery is to inquire at the minister, session, and heads of families, concerning their conversation, their exemplary walk, fidelity and diligence in their offices, and the Presbytery are thereupon to proceed as the matter requireth.
16. After all these inquiries, the Presbytery removing the heads of families, the ministers and elders are to be inquired concerning the congregation, with these and such like questions:—1mo, Doth the body of the people attend ordinances duly and timeously, and stay till the blessing be pronounced ? 2do, Are they diligent in improving the means of knowledge, and are they growing therein ? 3tio, Are they submissive to public and private exhortations, and to the discipline and censure of the Church, by admonitions and reproofs, as need requires ? 4to, Do they, by their words and actions, manifest a suitable respect to their minister and respective elders, and are they encouraging to them in their work ? 5to, Are they careful to educate their children and servants, as well as increase themselves in the knowledge of God ? 6to, What success hath the Gospel and labours of ministers and elders among them in convinc ing and converting, and building them up in their most holy faith ? 7mo, If there be any scandals, or other vices among them, and if on the growing hand ? 8vo, What seeds of heresy, schism, or division is among them ? 9no, How the Lord's Day is observed ?
17. The Presbytery having got from the minister and elders an account of the spiritual state of the congregation, and calling in the congregation, the moderator is to direct to the body of people a word of admonition, rebuke, exhortation, or encouragement, as their need requireth.
18. Then the minister, heritors, session, and heads of families, being present, the Presbytery is to inquire after the state of the church, as to its fabric, the seats therein, and division of the same, the churchyard dykes, the utensils of the church, communion cups, cloths; the minister's manse, if it be in repair, the glebe and stipend; the salary of the schoolmaster, precentor, session-clerk and beadles, and how the communion elements are provided; and inquiry is to be made how much the stipend is, of what nature, how paid, and if there be a decreet of locality therefor.
19. If any of these be not in that order they should, the Presbytery are to deal with the heritors and others. on whom the law layeth the providing and repairing these, that they may provide the same, and are prudently to render them willing to the work, without running needlessly to the last remedy the law alloweth, unless necessity require.
20. The Presbytery are likewise to inquire before all, anent the state of the poor, and whether there be any mortification and legacies for the poor, schools, or other pious uses, and how these are secured and their interests paid, applied, and discharged, and whether the collections at the church door and the poor's money be rightly employed, and be competent to their sustenance, and if need be, the parish exhorted to enlarge their charity, or provide some other way for the poor.
21. Occasional visitations of a parish are made by the Presbytery pro re nata, and according to the weight of the emergency which doth occasion the visitation; the whole Presbytery, or such a delegated number as the Presbytery think fit, do attend the visitation.
22. All the actings and proceedings of the Presbytery at a visitation are punctually to be recorded, and if by delegates, a report made at next meeting of the Presbytery, and recorded both in the Presbytery and Session books.
Sect. 7.—Of Censuring of Ministers.
1. All processes against any minister who hath the charge of a congregation are to begin before the Presbytery to which he belongeth, and not before the kirk-session of his own parish.
2. The credit and success of the gospel, (in the way of an ordinary mean,) much depending on the entire credit and reputation of ministers' sound doctrine and holy conversation, no stain thereof ought lightly to be received, nor when it comes before a judicatory ought to be negligently inquired into, or when found evident, ought to be slightly censured.
3. And because a scandal committed by a minister hath on these accounts many aggravations, and once raised, though it may be found to be without any ground, yet it is not easily wiped off; therefore, a Presbytery should exactly ponder by whose information and complaint it comes first before them, and a Presbytery is not so far to receive the information as to proceed to a citation of a minister, or any way begin the process until there be, 1. Some person who under his hand gave in the complaint, and undertake to make out the libel. 2. Or, at least, do before the Presbytery undertake to make it out, under the pain of being censured as slanderers. Or, 3. That the fama clamosa of the scandal be so great, as that the Presbytery, for their own vindication, see themselves necessitated to begin the process without any particular accuser; but the Presbytery, in this case, should be careful first to inquire into the rise, occasion, broachers, and grounds of this fama clamosa.
4. All Christians ought to be so prudent and wary in accusing ministers of any censurable fault, as that they ought neither to publish nor spread the same, nor accuse the minister before the Presbytery, without first acquainting some of the most prudent of the ministers and elders of that Presbytery, yea, and the minister himself, if they can have access thereto, and their advice got in the affair.
5. Upon such a complaint brought before a Presbytery, the Presbytery having cited the minister, if he be absent, and if the scandal alleged be some one act, is to endeavour to draw the minister to a confession, whereby he doth most glorify God.
6. If the minister do confess the fact, and if it be of a scandalous nature, censurable in others, as uncleanness, the Presbytery, whatever be the measure of his penitence, even in his confession, and that to the conviction of all, is instanter to depose him ab officio, and to appoint him in due time to appear before the congregation where the scandal was given, for the removal of the offence by the public profession of his repentance.
7. If a minister accused of any scandal, and cited to appear before his own Presbytery, do absent himself by leaving the place and be contumacious, without making an excuse or pretext, he is to be held as confessed, and not only deposed and censured instanter with the lesser excommunication; but if, after some time, he do not return and subject himself to the censures of the Church, he is to be proceeded against till he be censured with the greater excommunication.
8. If the minister accused do appear and deny the fact, in the Presbytery's proceeding to find the truth of the matter, all the circumstances are to be exactly canvassed, and the reputation of the witnesses and their hability be regarded, and duly considered.
9. If the matter laid to the minister's charge be unsoundness and heterodoxy in his doctrine, then great caution should be used, and the knowledge and understanding of witnesses much looked unto; and withal, if the errors be not gross and striking at the vitals of religion, and if they be not pertinaciously stuck unto, and industriously and maliciously spread with a visible design to corrupt, and that the errors are not spreading among the people; then lenitives, admonitions, instructions, and frequent conferences, are to be tried to reclaim without cutting off, and the advice of other Presbyteries sought; and unless the thing be doing much hurt, Synods and Assemblies are to be advised with in the affair.
10. If the libel and complaint brought against a minister be a multitude of things laid together, as several acts of negligence, and other unsuitable actions, the Presbytery, in proceeding therein, are to have a Presbyterial visitation of that parish to which the minister belongs, and at the said visitation are first to see if any of these things now laid to the minister's charge were committed prior to the last Presbyterial visitation of that parish; and whether they were then laid to his charge; and if they were not, it should be tried how they come to be laid to his charge now.
11. If the Presbytery find these things laid to his charge to be committed since the last visitation, or find a satisfying reason wherefore they were not then tabled, they are to inquire what diligence hath been used in acquainting the minister with the offence taken at the first of these things committed by him, and how far the minister hath been guilty of giving offence, after he knew offence to be taken.
12. It should likewise in this case be inquired, whether any of the complainers did first in a prudent, private way, inform any of the neighbouring ministers of some of these things committed by their minister, who is now challenged, before these offences came to be so many as to merit a public and solemn trial? And accordingly the Presbytery is to judge.
13. If the Presbytery find upon trial the complaint to resolve on the minister's having committed such acts of infirmity or passion, as, considering all the circumstances, may be either remedied and the people satisfied, and no such offence taken, or at least remain, so as to hinder the minister's profiting the people, and that the offence was taken by the minister's own people only or mainly, then the Presbytery is to take all prudent ways to satisfy and reclaim both minister and people, and do away the offence.
14. When he hath given the Presbytery and people satisfying demonstrations of his penitency, he is to be relaxed from the said censure of the lesser excommunication without proceeding any step to the taking off the sentence of deposition at that time.
15. But before a minister deposed for scandalous carriage can be restored to the exercise of the ministry, there should not only be evident a deep sorrow for sin, but an eminently and exemplary humble walk and edifying conversation, so apparent and convincing, as hath worn out and healed the wound the scandal gave; and hath likewise created in the minds of the godly an earnest desire to have him rendered useful again.
16. Immediately on the back of a minister being deposed by the Presbytery, the sentence is to be intimated in his congregation, the church declared vacant, the planting thereof with another minister hastened, and never delayed on the expectation of his being reponed, it being almost impossible that ever he can prove useful in that parish again. See Act General Assembly, February 13, 1645, Sess. ult. thereanent; as also, Act August 2, 1641, Sess. 8, against sudden receiving deposed ministers.
Sect. 8.—Of Appeals from a Kirk-Session to the Presbytery.
1. When an appeal is brought from a kirk-session to a Presbytery, the Presbytery is to consider, whether the cause is of that nature as it behoved at length to have come to the Presbytery by the course of discipline, before the final determination thereof, as if it be in a process of alleged adultery, or such like. Then the Presbytery, to save themselves time, may fall upon the consideration of the affair without insisting much upon the bene or male appellatum, though it seem to be preposterously appealed.
2. But if the cause be such as the kirk-session are the competent and proper judges of even to its ultimate decision, and if there hath been no cause given by the kirk-session by their breaking the rules of an orderly process, either by the course of the process, or by the incompetency of the censure, the Presbytery is not to sustain the appeal.
3. If the Presbytery do not sustain the appeal, and find there hath been some fault, passion, or culpable mistake in the appellant, the Presbytery is to inflict some censure, such as a reproof before the Presbytery, or appoint an acknowledging of their precipitancy before their own session, or such like, on those appealers they find to have been litigious and malicious, thereby to prevent unnecessary appeals; and that besides remitting them back to the session, either to stand to the censure of the session, if it be already inflicted, or to sist themselves during the process if it be depending.
4. If the appeal be sustained, and yet upon proceeding on the cause, the Presbytery find the appellant censurable, it is always to be minded, that whatever censure be inflicted, to remove the offence the Presbytery hath taken, yet the appellant, if found guilty, isto undergo a censure, either before the kirk-session or congregation he belongs to, such as the Presbytery think he deserveth, else Presbyteries will be always troubled with appeals.
5. If, on the other hand, on trial of the process, the Presbytery find the kirk-session hath unwarrantably proceeded, either in contributing to the raising of a scandal, or inflicting a censure, without a sufficient cause, and thereby the appellant lesed, the Presbytery is not only to assoilzie the appellant, but to take such ways as may be proper and effectual to vindicate the appellant's innocency, and wipe off the scandal taken at him.
6. Herein the Presbytery is to exercise great prudence, doing justice to the innocent, yet so as not to weaken the kirk-session's authority in that congregation, if in justice it can be avoided.
7. But such an emergent may very well occasion the Presbytery's giving the minister and elders of that session suitable injunctions and rules to walk by, or private admonitions, or to call for a repeated visitation of their session register.
8. If the appellant do not give in his appeal, with the reasons thereof, to the moderator or clerk of the Presbytery, within the space of ten days after his appeal, and be present to prosecute it the next Presbytery day thereafter, his appeal should ipso facto cease, and the appellant be held as contumacions, and so proceeded against by the kirk-session.
Sect. 9.—Of References made by the Kirk-Session to the Presbytery.
1. The kirk-session having the opportunity of frequent Presbyteries, do oftentimes make references to the Presbytery, which references are sometimes for advice only, sometimes they are of the cause or process itself, and the full judgment thereanent is entirely referred to the Presbytery.
2. These references for advice are sometimes made, that thereby the kirk-session may get more light in the affair, and sometimes that the opinion which they have may be fortified by the advice of the Presbytery, as persons of greater judgment and weight, whereby the kirk-session's determination may be the more regarded.
3. These references for advice reserve always the cause in the hands of the kirksession, and they only sist their proceeding to a sentence till the advice be had.
4. Sometimes a kirk-session referreth a cause or process entirely to the Presbytery to be finally determined by them, and that the kirk-session doth, either because they find difficulty in point of light, as to what they should do, or because, though they be clear as to what should be done, yet some prudential consideration makes them think it not convenient that they should be the doers themselves.
5. The Presbytery receiving any such references are to give the best advice and assistance they can to the session, thereby to fortify and support their authority, for the bearing down of all disorders; and if the Presbytery find that their passing sentence or censure will have the greatest weight and most true influence, then they are to do it, though the censure be to be intimated in that congregation the kirk-session belongeth to, and the satisfaction taken there if it be a matter of scandal.
6. But sometimes it will fall out, that the Presbytery, even when the reference is to determine entirely, will find it fit to refer back the determination of the affair to the kirk-session, that the sentence may be their act, which should only be done, when it will be more obliging, or for the credit of the session, that the kirk-session pass the sentence; and then likewise the Presbytery should give their opinion as to what the sentence should be.
7. All references being supposed to be matters of moment to the kirk-session, should not only be minuted in the kirk-session register, but should be transmitted in writing to the Presbytery, and by the Presbytery clerk the production thereof when presented should be recorded, as likewise the Presbytery's return.
Sect. 10.—Of Censuring such Scandals which are so gross, that the Kirk-Session does not asbsolve from, as of Adultery, &c.
1. The Presbytery being informed of a reference from a kirk-session by the minister or ruling elder from that session concerning such a scandal, is to inquire what steps have been taken by the kirk-session already in the affair, if all that are requisite for them preparatory to the Presbytery's cognisance, and if so, then the Presbytery is to allow the party to be summoned before them.
2. Sometimes it will fall out that the process is so clear, as in case of a judicial confession of adultery, that the kirk-session will summon the delinquent [when he is before them] apud acta to appear before the Presbytery, without previous acquainting the Presbytery; but where there is any difficulty, the kirk-session should inform the Presbytery, and take their advice before a party be summoned before them.
3. When the party or parties appear before the Presbytery, if they confess and profess repentance, then the Presbytery having gravely rebuked the party or parties, is to prescribe the time of the parties' public appearance in that congregation where the process began, the scandal being there to be taken away, or remit them to the session to receive orders thereanent.
4. That the delinquents be appointed to remove the scandal in the congregation where the offence is most flagrant, rather than in the place where it was committed, if it be not public there, and that intimation of the removing thereof be made in other places, if the judicatory shall find it needful.
5. Besides the rebuke which the Presbytery gives to the confessing penitent at their first appearance before them, it is frequent and very useful that the Presbytery appoint the penitent party to wait on some one or two of the ministers of the Presbytery, who may in conference lay sin home to their consciences, and likewise, in private draw more of the sense which the person hath of their sin, than they can expect in words in public, and this is to be renewed as they find need.
6. If the party cited before the Presbytery deny the fact, then the Presbytery is to follow these rules in their proceeding, given Chap. I. Sect. 4, Chap. II. Sect. 6, &c.
7. Yet the Presbytery may either lead the probation before themselves, or remit it to the kirk-session, as in prudence they will find most convenient.
8. The Presbytery is to give advice to the kirk-session in anything they commit to them in such an affair, especially as to the absolution of the party.
9. That it would be fit in case of adultery that the scandalous person do appear before the Presbytery before absolution.
Sect. 11.—Of a Process in order to the highest Censure of Excommunication.
1. Since there is a distinction betwixt the greater and lesser excommunication, it seems that whatever has been the cause of the first process, yet ordinarily all processes that are in order to the highest censure are to be for obdurate contumacy; and where there is no obdurate contumacy, the lesser excommunication needs only have place; yet in some very extraordinary cases, the Church hath summarily excommunicated persons guilty of notour atrocious scandalous sins, to show the Church's abhorrence of such wickedness.
2. Even where there hath been a scandal committed, and contumacy by not appearing, it should be considered, if the fact hath been proven or not; if not proven, then the scandal hath not weight, and only the simple contumacy is to be proceeded against, wherewith it were hard to go a greater length than the lesser excommunication.
3. If the scandal hath been proven, and the censure of the lesser excommunication intimated, as in the preceding overtures, Chap. I. Sect. 6, it seems most reasonable that there be no farther proceeding, unless the scandal be of such an heinous nature, as that offence is not removed from tender Christians, and that it is spreading and infectious, as in heresies; in which cases, a contumacy is to be proceeded against, in order to the greater excommunication.
4. The kirk-session having brought the process to an intimation of the censure of the lesser excommunication; and finding it will not be sufficient, they are to refer the affair to the Presbytery, bringing their whole proceedings before the Presbytery, that the Presbytery may thereby have a clear and full view of the whole affair.
5. The Presbytery finding the kirk-session hath orderly proceeded, and that the affair is so weighty as to enter on the process, they are to cause their officer to cite the scandalous person.
6. If the party appear, then the Presbytery is to proceed in the inquiry at the accused about the scandal alleged; if he deny it, then they are to proceed to lead probation as in other cases.
7. But if the party appear not, but contemn the citation, the Presbytery causeth renew the same until he hath continued three citations, and after the three citations, that he be cited out of the pulpit, and for the further conviction of all concerned; the judicatory may proceed and inquire into the presumptions or probation of the guilt, and this to be done although the delinquent be absent.
8. Then the Presbytery doth order the minister of the congregation, next Sabbath after forenoon's sermon, to acquaint the congregation what proceeding the kirk-session first, and then the Presbytery, had made in the affair, and how contumacious the party was, and that the Presbytery intendeth to proceed to the highest censure, and the minister is gravely to admonish the party, if present, to repent and submit himself to the discipline of the Church, threatening him, if he continue impenitent, that the Church will proceed; yea, though he be absent, the minister is to acquaint the people that the Church requires him to repent and submit, as is above said, under the foresaid certification.
9. The minister of the parish is to intimate to the congregation after the forenoon's sermon, the dangerous condition the impenitent person is in, how loath the Church is to cut him off from the society and privileges of the faithful, and therefore to admonish that person to repent, amend, and submit to the discipline of the Church, in which there should be three public admonitions, and a Presbytery should intervene betwixt each admonition, and if, after all, that person continue impenitent or contumacious, the same is to be represented to the Presbytery, who are thereupon to appoint three public prayers, in which the minister is to show the congregation, that they are exhorted to join with him in prayer for the scandalous, impenitent, or contumacious person, which he is solemnly and seriously to put up to God, humbly begging that he would deal with the soul of the impenitent, and convince him of the evil of his ways.
10. These public prayers of the Church are to be put up three several Sabbath days, both to show the Church's tenderness towards their lapsed brother, their earnestness to have him reclaimed, and likewise to create a greater regard and terror of that dreadful censure, both in the party and in all the people.
11. If, after all, the scandalous person make no application, but continue impenitent, the Presbytery is then to appoint the minister of that congregation to intimate the same, and to show the Presbytery's resolution to proceed upon such a Sabbath as they shall name, for pronouncing that dreadful sentence.
12. That day being come, it were fit the minister did preach a sermon suited to that solemn occasion, or at least after sermon, the minister should show the congregation what he is going about, introducing the narration of the process, with a discourse concerning the nature, use, and end of Church censures, particularly that of the greater excommunication, if he hath not done it fully in his sermon.
13. Then narrating all the steps of the process in order, showing the Church's faithfulness and tenderness towards the scandalous person, and declaring his obstinate impenitency, and that now, after all other means were used, there remained only that of cutting the scandalous person off from the society of the faithful, and intimating the Church's warrant and order to him so to do.
14. And before the minister pronounce the sentence, he is to pray, and desire all the congregation to join with him therein, that God would grant repentance to the obstinate person, would graciously bless his own ordinance, and make the censure effectual, both to edify others, and to be a mean to reclaim the obstinate sinner.
15. Then after prayer, the minister is with great gravity and authority to pronounce the censure, showing his warrant from our Lord's command, and the Apostle Paul's direction, and recapitulating the Presbytery's warrant in obedience thereunto, and resuming the scandalous and obstinate person's behaviour whom he is to name. He then, in our Lord and Master Christ's name and authority, doth (in verbis de presenti) excommunicate and exterminate him out of the society of the faithful, debarring him from their privileges, and in the words of the Apostle, delivering him over to Satan. (fn. 8)
16. If, after prayer, and before the censure be pronounced, the scandalous person do make any public signification of his penitency, and of his desire to have the censure stopped, the minister, upon any apparent seriousness in the scandalous person (which he showeth to the congregation) may thereupon delay pronouncing the censure, till he report to the Presbytery at their next meeting, who are then to deal with the scandalous person as they shall find cause.
Sect. 12.—Of Presbyterial Exercises.
1. It is a part of the work of a Presbytery to begin every meeting with a sermon by one or two of the brethren, appointed by the former meeting of the Presbytery for that effect, and his text assigned him by the Presbytery, which is called a Presbyterial Exercise.
2. The half of the time allowed for this exercise is ordinarily to be taken up in the explicatory and analytic part of the sermon, and in answering textual and critical questions and difficulties; the other half of the time allowed is to be taken up in raising of observations and doctrines from the text; one of which at least is to be methodically handled, the first whereof is called Exercise, and the other Addition.
3. When Presbyteries have probationers on their trials, and they come to have that part of their trials called the Presbyterial Exercise, they will, and may allot to one of them to have the exercise and the other the addition; or when there is but one probationer, one of the brethren of the Presbytery to have the other.
4. After the exercise is over, and the Presbytery met in their own meeting place, and the meeting constituted, the censure of the exercise they have heard useth always to be the first work of the Presbytery.
5. After the censures have passed round, the Moderator may resume the whole to the admonishing and encouraging of the brother, as the cause requireth.
6. Besides the above exercise they used in Presbyteries frequently to have Common Heads, as they are called by the brethren of the Presbytery, in Latin, with disputes; but if it be coram populo, it should be in the vulgar language. (fn. 9)
7. The Presbyteries are for these exercises to choose some portion of Scripture, and proceed orderly from verse to verse.
Sect. 13.—Of Privy Censures in the Presbyteries.
1. In every Presbytery, at least twice a-year, and ordinarily before each Synod, there ought to be privy censures.
2. It were fit that before any thing be brought to the Presbytery concerning any member in the privy censure, there were previous use of more private admonition, except in the case of open and gross scandals; and when any offers to inform the Presbytery of any thing censurable in another, he is to be inquired whether he has privately and in a brotherly way spoken to the member anent whom he offers to inform, in order to his amendment; and at these privy censures none are to be present but members, who are all to undergo the same.
3. In the censure of the Moderator who hath served (as is ordinary) since the last Synod, his public behaviour as a Moderator is under the Presbytery's consideration and censure, where, after he is removed, his carriage is inquired after, and the judgment of every member inquired, not only for his sake, but for instruction to those who succeed him in the office, and after he is again called in he is to be encouraged, thanked, or admonished, as they find cause.
4. After the Moderator each of the brethren, one after another, are to be removed, and but one at once; and the Moderator is to inquire the judgment of each member, and to take their report of their brother's carriage and behaviour, either in relation to his charge or otherwise, according to the trial at the visitation of the parishes by the Presbytery, and then he is to be called in, encouraged, commended, or reprehended, as they see fit, and he set in his place again.
5. After the ministers and ruling elders the Presbytery clerk is to pass these censures, and the Presbytery book again is to be inspected, and some nominated to revise the minutes, (whereof the Moderator is to be one,) if the same be not already done, that the fair clean register may be filled up, and ready to be presented to the Synod at their next meeting.
CHAPTER IV. Of the Proceedings and Method in Provincial Synods.
Sect. 1.—Of the Constitution and Opening of this Judicatory.
1. The Synod or Provincial Assembly is a Church judicatory immediately superior to the Presbytery, and consists of several Presbyteries met together for their mutual help and comfort, and for managing the affairs of public concerns within their bounds.
2. The number of Presbyteries is not determined, but the National Assembly hath made them up of such adjacent Presbyteries as might most conveniently meet together.
3. All the ministers within the bounds of these Presbyteries do personally meet with a ruling elder from every parish, who are ordinarily those elders that were chosen by the Kirk-Session of every congregation to attend the respective Presbyteries the half year preceding the Synod.
4. The Synods do meet in ordinary twice every year, at such set times as are usual.
5. The last moderator, in the morning before the Synod, doth preach a sermon to the members suited to the occasion, and after sermon doth intimate to all the members that they immediately repair to the Synod-house, which is ordinarily some room or convenient place of the church.
6. When they are met the last moderator doth open the meeting with solemn prayer, then he causeth the clerk to make up the rolls, beginning to call the members by their several Presbyteries.
7. In doing this, it is usual to change the order of the roll every Synod, so that the Presbytery that was first called in the roll in the former Synod is now called last, and that which was in the second place is now called first.
8. The clerk calling the ministers according to the roll of the last Synod is to inquire at every minister, when he hath answered to his name, who is the ruling elder elected by the Session of that parish to attend the Synod, and his name is to be enrolled, whether he be present or absent; as likewise, at the end of calling each Presbytery the clerk is to inquire what ministers are ordained and settled within that Presbytery since the last Synod, and enrol them; and though the minister of a parish be not present, yet the ruling elder for that Session is to be called for and enrolled.
9. But to gain time, the roll of each Presbytery may be presented to the clerk by the moderator of the Presbytery, with the ruling elders therein inserted.
10. Then the moderator acquainteth the Synod that their work is to choose a new moderator, and to facilitate the same, he proposeth to the Synod a list of two or three, out of whom they may choose one to be moderator, and any member of the Synod may add more to the list.
11. When the list is agreed unto, then those persons named therein are called upon, and their own votes are required whom they would have to be moderator, and each of them giving his vote is instantly removed during the time of the members' voting.
12. When the vote is past, the last moderator causeth call in the brethren which were removed, and intimateth to the minister elected that he is chosen moderator, who thereupon doth immediately take the chair.
13. The new moderator being in the chair, he first (if there be a clerk to be chosen) proposes the election of one thereby to constitute the judicatory, but if the Synod have a fixed clerk, and he present, they proceed to their business.
14. The rolls thus made up and called over, and absentees marked, the moderator calls for the correspondents from the neighbouring Synods, and their commissions being read, they are to be enrolled as members having vote; then the moderator proposeth the appointment of committees of the Synod for the preparing of business for them, and these are ordinarily named in the first Session of the Synod.
15. In the committees for overtures and bills there ought to be one at least out of each Presbytery within the bounds of the Synod, to help each committee with the knowledge of the state of those Presbyteries, seeing affairs may come before them belonging to each of them.
16. It is most requisite that the correspondents from other Synods be chosen members of the committee of overtures, seeing there they may be most useful.
Sect. 2.—Of the Committees of Synods.
1. A Synod being a judicatory consisting of a multitude of members, generally above 100, and some above 200, it is very necessary that they have committees of their own number to prepare matters to them, and to lop off unnecessary work, for the gaining of time, and to hinder heats by public debates.
2. These committees are only to prepare and report to the Synods, and, therefore, any affair tabled before them, though by them rejected, may be brought in in full Synods, yet so as the member who bringeth in the affair be sure to have very much reason or necessity for so doing.
3. All Synods may have the following committees for facilitating their work; 1. A Committee for Overtures; 2. A Committee for Bills, References, and Appeals; 3. Committees for revising Presbytery-books, who are to meet at such times and places as the Synods shall appoint.
4. The moderator of the Synod useth always to be both a member and moderator of the committee of overtures, and the Synod clerk attends that committee; all other committees choose their own moderator and clerk.
5. Though these committees be no judicatories for decision, yet they are in a judicial way constituting themselves with a moderator and clerk, passing their opinions and reports by the plurality of votes, but they do not take depositions of witnesses, nor examine them upon oath, unless thereto particularly empowered by the Synod.
6. What matters any of them do prepare for the Synod, their moderator or clerk do report it to the next Session of the Synod, and the same ought to be given in writing.
7. Each committee is to consist of ministers and ruling elders.
8. These committees may, upon occasion to facilitate their work, subcommit any part of their work that lieth before them to a few of their own number.
9. These committees may likewise advise with one another in weighty affairs, even before they make their report to the Synod, thereby the more to prevent debates in affairs when laid before them.
Sect. 3.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for Overtures.
1. This Committee in General Assemblies is counted the greatest Committee, and in Synods it useth to consist of some of the brethren of greatest experience.
2. Before it are to be tabled all things which are desired by any Presbytery of the Synod, or member, to be made acts and orders in the Synod, for regulating any part of the discipline, for preventing of abuses in either discipline, worship, or government of the Church.
3. And the consideration of the state and condition of the whole Church, within the bounds of the Synod, is their work, how either to prevent any hazard thereto, or forward the good thereof, in promoting piety.
4. The overtures which come from any Presbytery are to be considered in the first place, before the overtures of the particular members.
5. This Committee is duly to consider what provision is made already by any acts, either of General Assemblies or of the Synod, concerning any thing proposed, and if a suitable remedy be already fallen upon, and care taken by the Church before, then the Committee is there to rest, and practise what was the determination of the Church in that case, and not needlessly to multiply acts and orders, which imply either an ignorance of what hath been enacted, or culpable negligence in not putting the acts in execution.
6. It is much to be desired and pressed that any overture which is made may be given in writing, to facilitate the Committee's proceedings therein.
7. Though there be some out of every Presbytery in this Committee, yet any other member of the Synod ought to be admitted to deliver in any other overture he hath to make.
Sect. 4.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for Bills, References, and Appeals.
1. This Committee being met, and having constituted themselves, chosen their moderator and clerk, are to receive all such references and appeals, petitions or addresses, which any Presbytery or person hath, and desire to be brought in before the Synod, which they are distinctly to read and consider, in order to their preparing them to the Synod.
2. They are to be careful to lop off all unnecessary work and business from the Synod, and, therefore, if they can so dispatch such work themselves, as to satisfy or silence the appealers by their advice and counsel, they may do it.
3. The references which are regularly brought before a Synod must be, for ordinary, by the Presbyteries, and not from church-sessions immediately, and these references are either for advice and counsel, or of process for decision.
4. If the reference be for advice, the committee is to consider the weight of the case; and withal, if they can satisfy and give such light to the Presbytery who are referring the affair for advice, so as that they acquiesce therein, then there is no need of bringing it in to the Synod.
5. But if both the Presbytery referring, and the committee, find it fit to take the Synod's judgment in the affair, they are to bring it in before the Synod, but yet so prepared, as that they represent it with an overture, giving their opinion in the case, thereby to facilitate the Synod's work; and this is no prelimitation of the Synod's judgment.
6. If the reference be of a process for the Synod's deciding the same, the committee is to consider, first, how it comes before them; for in this and all other references and appeals from a Presbytery to a Synod, the extracts thereof out of the Presbytery books are first to be produced, else it is not to be regarded.
7. The committee are to consider if the parties concerned were by the Presbytery summoned to appear before the Synod, to answer the process, in order to decision, and if cited, they are to be called and heard.
8. In these references, as also in appeals from a Presbytery to a Synod for deci sion, wherein two or more parties are concerned, all the committee's proper work is to see that all the steps of the proceedings are regular, and, if they find it so, they are to lay it before the Synod, without giving any other judgment than that the affair cometh orderly before the Synod.
9. If the committee find an appeal unreasonable in itself, as to the matter, though as to the form it be orderly, they are prudently to deal with the appealers to withdraw the appeal, lest they come to be censured for the same, and to prevent their own being exposed, and the Synod needlessly taken up; wherein, if they prevail, they do good to all concerned.
10. Such prudent care may and ought this committee to take of what petitions, whether of complaints or for charity, come before them, as if they see need to present any of them to the Synod, they may therewith propose some overture that may facilitate the Synod's work, which is always to be done with great submission to the free judgment of the Synod itself.
Sect. 5.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for the Examination of the Presbytery Books or Registers.
1. It is a part of the Synod's work to revise the registers of the Presbyteries within their bounds; and because it cannot be done in a full Synod, therefore it is fit that each Presbytery book be referred to a small committee of four or five ministers, and one or two elders, to revise and examine; and that these be out of other Presbyteries than that to which the book doth belong.
2. This committee is exactly and diligently to read over all the sederunts of the Presbytery, since the last time the book was revised and marked by the Synod clerk, and are to have their animadversions, if they be considerable, in writing, to give in to the Synod; and they are to notice whether the Presbytery book be signed by their moderator and clerk, according to the 11th Act, General Assembly, anno 1698.
3. If they find their remarks material, they are to acquaint the moderator of that Presbytery, that thereby they may get what satisfaction they can, before they give in their animadversions to the full Synod.
4. In their revising, they are not only to notice what they think amiss in any of their proceedings recorded, and that whether as to matter or form, but likewise to see if everything proper and fit to have been recorded be there exactly set down.
5. And they are likewise to notice, by what is recorded, if the Presbytery be guilty of any omissions, particularly in not following out processes, or other affairs, unto a suitable period.
6. This committee is to notice, if by the book it appear that the Presbytery hath been diligent and punctual in obeying all the acts and orders of the General Assembly and former Synods.
7. This committee is to give their report to the Synod of their having perused the said register, and their remarks are to be read, and the Presbytery heard thereanent, and then removed; and here the privy censures of that Presbytery useth to be made by the Synod, (as in section 7th following,) who do thereupon approve or censure the Synod as they see cause, and record the same, according to the 9th Act of the General Assembly, 1700.
Sect. 6.—Of the Synod's Proceedings in Processes.
1. All processes brought before the Synod use to come in to the same, by the moderator or clerk of the committee for bills, references, and appeals, reporting from the said committee the process which was first brought before them.
2. These processes may be brought in either, 1st, by a bill and petition; or, 2dly, by a reference from the Presbytery; or, 3dly, by an appeal from a Presbytery by any party lesed.
3. Sometimes a person or parish, particularly in cases of transportation of a minister sought, will think they have ground to complain to a Synod of the Presbytery's procedure, when they have not appealed from them, and address the Synod to interpose their authority, for either the more speedy dispatch of the depending process, or to put it into another channel.
4. Here the Synod may upon this take a cognition of the Presbytery's procedure in the process, and, if they find that the Presbytery have unduly retarded the process, or in some preliminary gone out of the ordinary road, to the prejudice of the complainers, they are to endeavour to convince the Presbytery thereof, and to give directions how to proceed for the future.
5. And sometimes, if they find the Presbytery tenacious, and find ground to jealouse their future conduct, the Synod may adjoin to the Presbytery a certain number of correspondents from neighbouring Presbyteries to assist them in that process, and require them to call for these correspondents.
6. And if the affair be pressing, sometimes a Synod, though they will not take it presently or immediately out of the Presbytery's hand, yet will appoint a Synod pro re nata, or entrust that power to call a Synod pro re nata in the hands of the moderator, with the advice of some few, to secure the dispatch of the affair.
7. But more frequently affairs and processes come from Presbyteries to the Synod, by references, or sometimes for advice only, and sometimes the decision of a process is by the Presbytery itself referred to the determination of the Synod.
8. A Presbytery will sometimes think it fit to refer for advice some weighty difficult case, and the Synod are seriously to perpend all the circumstances of the affair; and will find it fit, even after the committee of bills have brought the case to the Synod, to refer the more full consideration of all the circumstances to some select experienced brethren.
9. And with them the Presbytery concerned may use a greater freedom in laying out the intricacies of the affair, which prudence might hinder to bring before the open and full Synod, unless the most prudent members of the Synod thought it necessary.
10. In many of those cases wherein prudence is to have the chief place in determining, it should be found many times fit to give the advice rather in a private than in a public way.
11. If the reference come from the Presbytery for decision, then the Synod followeth the same method in considering and determining the process as in the processes which come in before them by appeals.
12. The Synod's first step is to see what the committee hath said to it, however, though they are not to give in their judgement in causa, yet as to its lying orderly before the Synod, they may, else they should lay it before the Synod, but cum nota, the Synod then causeth the appeal to be read, whereby it is seen who are the parties, and how they are sisted before them.
13. So the parties are called, who compearing, both the Presbytery appealed from, and the adverse party to the appealers, (if there be any,) use to object against the appeal itself, and allege that it is male appellatum, and is not in the terms of the 8th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1694, &c.
14. This ordinarily brings in a preliminary debate, which frequently obligeth the Synod to a decision of the question, bene or male appellatum, wherein the Synod used to sustain the appeal, even though no direct act of injustice be done, the appealers being either delayed in getting the Presbytery's sentence beyond what was necessary, or getting another (and not in their opinion so equal a) sentence as they in justice desired, this being thought a sufficient reason for an appeal.
15. Sometimes the Synod will sustain the appeal cum nota, where they proceed to the cause, remembering the precipitancey or other informality.
16. The Synod having sustained the appeal, they proceed to hear the process ab ovo, reading all the papers hinc inde, before they allow the parties to speak viva voce.
17. After all which, if there be written answers given to the appealers' reasons, they are given in with the appeal, they Synod useth frequently, without hearing it, to fall to the consideration of the cause.
18. But if answers be not given in, or that some new matter hath risen to clear the affair, both the appealers, and then the Presbytery and others concerned, are heard viva voce in the cause.
19. The moderator ought here to keep them close to a hearing and reply, without giving them leave to duply, and consume the Synod's time.
20. When the Synod come to deliberate and determine, the parties are removed; and here the Presbytery appealed from are reckoned parties; and if the process be of a transportation of a minister, sought to a place where there is more than one minister, all those who are to be colleagues to the minister, if he be transported, are looked upon as parties, but not the rest of the Presbytery to which he is sought, though they concurred in the call.
21. The Synod, if the affair be of a great weight and intricacy, useth, after they have debated and deliberated thereanent, to call in the parties to see if they have any thing further that is new to say, before they come to a decision, and then causeth one of the members pray for light and guidance of God in their vote, which, when done, and parties removed, they come to a decision by vote.
22. If the affair be a transportation of a minister, and both the parishes where he is, and that to which he is sought, be within the bounds of the same Presbytery or Synod, in that case, the sentence of these judicatories should take effect and be obeyed; seeing these judicatories are equally concerned in both parishes, and may be thought fittest to judge both of the disproportion of the parishes, and the suitableness of the person called for either of these places; yet there is liberty of appeal to superior judicatories allowed to any who think themselves lesed, in order to have redress, by taking off the sentence, or censuring the judicatory complained of, if they be found to have malversed; but if any be found to appeal or complain unnecessarily they should be severely censured. See the 6th Act, General Assembly, anno 1694.
Sect. 7.—Of the Privy Censures of Presbyteries.
1. It is a part of the Synod's work to keep a watch over one another, and for that end to have privy censures of Presbyteries each Synod, and ordinarily at the close of the Synod, or when the report anent the Presbytery book comes in.
2. At these censures the Synod useth to remove all persons, except the members of the Synod, from being present, that the members may speak the more freely; and that because several things come there to be inquired into which are not fit to bring to public, at least till maturely considered.
3. At these censures each Presbytery are removed by themselves, and all its members present, both ministers and elders, beginning at the Presbytery which was first called in the roll during that Synod.
4. The moderator of the Synod doth likewise remove with his own Presbytery, and the last moderator of the Synod belonging to another Presbytery doth take the chair.
5. When the Presbytery is removed, the moderator of the Synod useth to inquire at the Synod, if any have heard of the behaviour of that Presbytery, or any member thereof, that it was in any thing offensive, either in their personal walk or doctrine, or in the exercise of any part of their ministerial office, or in the exercise of Church discipline in Kirk-Sessions or in the Presbytery. These, and such like things, the moderator doth not only inquire in general of the whole Synod, but he doth more particularly inquire by name at some of the brethren of the Presbyteries next adjacent to the removed Presbytery.
6. At this time it is usual and proper to the Synod to call for the committee's report, which was appointed for the revising the register of that Presbytery, inquiring at the moderator of that committee what they have observed censurable in their book or register? What is not recorded which should have been inserted? What is recorded which is irregular or unsuitable?
7. According as the Synod finds these reports, so their moderator doth behave to the Presbytery when called in; if nothing but a savoury report of it, and of their diligence, faithfulness, and harmony, amongst themselves, and successfulness in the work of the Gospel, then the moderator doth, in the Synod's name, encourage and com mend them, bless God on their account, and exhort them to go on in their Master's service.
8. If there hath been any thing informed which is any way amiss, the moderator doth inform the Presbytery called in thereof; and if it be any thing alleged to have been done in or by the Presbytery itself, then the moderator of that Presbytery useth to answer, informing the Synod of that affair, which, if it take off the accusation, the Synod rests satisfied.
9. But if the Synod do not rest satisfied, then, after a full hearing, the Synod gives their opinion and orders to that Presbytery, as the case requires.
10. If the accusation concern any particular member of the Presbytery or session, then the moderator of the Synod doth inform the Presbytery thereof; and the moderator of the Presbytery having given an answer, showing their diligence in it, or ignorance of it, do receive the Synod's advice and instructions how to behave themselves.
11. Here, likewise, in this case, first, the person accused hath liberty and occasion to answer for himself, though the case be not taken by the Synod to be determined, but only inquired into, that thereby they may know what care the Presbytery has taken therein.
12. At their privy censures, likewise, the minutes of the former Synod's censures of that Presbytery are to be read, thereby to see if any thing was committed to them, and their diligence called for.
13. The moderator of the Synod doth likewise inquire at the Presbytery called concerning the state of that Presbytery—what vacancies are therein—what diligence they are using to get them supplied—what difficulties the Presbyteries meet with in their endeavours to plant church vacancies;—how frequent the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is administered in the congregations in their bounds—and what bursars of theology they do entertain—how the acts and orders of the Assemblies, especially of the immediately preceding General Assembly, are put in execution—what number of Papists or other hereties are in their bounds, and what means are used to suppress and prevent the same—what discipline is exercised against profaneness and scandalous persons, especially those of any note and quality? and such like questions; and according as the censures are, so the Synod doth either commend, advise, admonish, or rebuke and censure.
14. After the first Presbytery hath passed their censure, and they set in their places, then the next, and so round, every Presbytery is removed, the rest judging and censuring.
Sect. 8.—Of the Closing of the Synod.
1. All affairs which lie before the Synod being considered, before they dissolve they take notice of the attendance of those sent by them to attend other Synods, and of correspondents from other Synods to them, and makes choice of persons to correspond again with other Synods; and then the whole minutes of all the sederunts of that Synod are read, and the moderator ordered to see that the clerk fairly record their acts and proceedings in the register, which the moderator is to sign, and the clerk likewise, and the same ordered to be presented to the next General Assembly, according to the 11th Act of the General Assembly, 1698.
2. Then the Synod doth nominate and appoint the time and place of meeting to the next Synod.
3. The roll of all the absentees are marked and recorded, in order to be censured by the next Synod.
4. The moderator doth close the Synod with solemn prayer and thanksgiving.
CHAPTER V. Of the Proceedings and Methods in General Assemblies.
Sect. 1.—Of the Constitution and Opening of this Judicatory.
1. The General Assembly is a judicatory superior immediately to all Synods, and, being National, is the supreme ecclesiastical judicatory in this National Church.
2. The time and place of meeting of the General Assembly is such as was appointed by the former, except when they meet pro re nata, or that the supreme magistrate do call the same to consult therewith.
3. This judicatory is constituted of ministers and elders delegated from each Presbytery within the Church, each Presbytery being allowed to commission two, three, four, or more, proportionally to the largeness of the Presbytery, so that they delegate not less than a sixth part, nor more than a fifth part of the ministry, according to the 5th Act of the General Assembly, 1694.
4. Each of the universities of the kingdom used to commission one of the professors or members of their university, being either a minister or ruling elder, who is thereby likewise a member of the Assembly.
5. The day before the Assembly meet, the commissioners nominated are to give in their commissions to the clerk of the Assembly, that thereby the roll of the members may be drawn up against the time they meet, according to the 8th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1698.
6. The day of meeting being come, the members being met, the moderator of the last Assembly doth preach to the Assembly a sermon suited to the occasion, after which he doth from the pulpit intimate to the members of the Assembly to repair to the Assembly-House.
7. When the members of the Assembly are met in the Assembly-House, the last moderator doth take the chair, and open the Assembly with prayer.
8. After prayer, the moderator ordereth the clerk to call the rolls, and begins with the Synod which in the former Assembly was called in the second place, leaving the Synod which was then first called now last, by which rotation the equality is better preserved.
9. At the calling of each Presbytery the commission is read, and in case there be any difficulty in any commission, or controversy concerning it, it is referred to a committee of controverted commissions to try and report.
10. Their commissions being read, their next work is to choose a moderator, which they fall to do immediately that same session, if some particular contingent reason move them not to delay.
11. The moderator is chosen out of a leet made up by the old moderator, naming three of the Assembly, with freedom to any member of the Assembly to and if the Assembly think fit.
12. When the leet is agreed to, those named in it are removed, and as they remove, do give their votes in election of some one or other of those upon the leet.
13. The votes being carefully marked, on whom by majority of votes the election doth fall, he is declared moderator; and he and the others being called in, the old moderator doth declare the minister chosen to be moderator, and calling him to the chair, he doth immediately take his place.
14. The new moderator being now in the chair, his first work is to mind the Assembly to choose a clerk, if there be not a fixed one; and then to choose their committees, which useth to be done that same first session, especially the committee for overtures, and another for bills, references, and appeals.
15. It hath been the laudable custom of the Assemblies at their first sederunt to set apart the next day for prayer in the Assembly-House, for a blessing on their meeting and actings, and to adjourn the Assembly for two or three days, that both prayer may be gone about, and committees may sit, in the meantime, to prepare the work for the Assembly.
16. In adjourning the Assembly from one session to another, it should always be done so as that time may be allowed for committees to meet to prepare business for the Assembly, that no session be without work prepared for them.
17. The moderator, before the rising of the Assembly, doth not only intimate the time of the meeting of the next Assembly, but likewise of the several public committees, and the beadle or officers do publish the same at the door of the AssemblyHouse.
Sect. 2.—Of the Committees of the General Assembly.
1. The General Assembly consisting of so great a body of members, and the affairs which come before them being of the greatest and most universal concern to the whole Church, makes committees very necessary.
2. And though committees have no negative over the Assembly, yet no business ought to come in directly to the Assembly till it be proposed to and prepared by some committee to whom it properly belongs.
3. The ordinary committees used in Assemblies are, 1. The Committee for Overtures; 2. The Committee for References, Bills, and Appeals; 3. The Committee for Elections, and of Commissions; 4. The Committees for Revising Synod Books and Registers, and of Commissions of General Assemblies; 5. A Committee for Censuring of Absentees, and nominating Ministers to preach before the King of Queen's Commissioner if present.
4. The moderator of the Assembly is always moderator of the Committee of Overtures, and the principal clerk of the Assembly doth attend it; and the other committees doth choose their moderator and clerk, but the sub-clerk of the General Assembly doth attend the Committee for Bills, &c.
5. As the Assembly finds its business, so it may, for dispatch of the same, commit the preparing of any particular affair to a new committee to be appointed by the Assembly, and that sometimes even after the business hath been tabled before the Assembly by some committee, when the Assembly finds difficulty therein.
6. And likewise, any committee of the Assembly may sub-commit any overture or affair which comes before them to a few of their own number, to prepare it for their own more easy consideration and preparation of it for the Assembly.
7. It is very reasonable and frequent in important and difficult cases for the Assembly, after they have first heard an affair brought before them from a committee, to remit it back to the same committee, and to desire any of their members, who are difficulted as to their judgment therein, to repair to that committee, that they may there debate the matter freely, with less danger and more decorum, than to altercate and debate in plain Assembly.
8. As the judgment and opinion of a committee which they may propose in any affair they prepare for the Assembly, is nowise to preclude the Assembly from its full freedom, so it doth not even tie up the votes and judgments of those members of the committee who voted for giving such opinion to the Assembly, to continue in the same sentiments, if the reasonings in plain Assembly to convince them to be of another mind, seeing they may receive further and new light, and walk conform thereunto.
9. All committees of Assemblies are to consist of members of several Synods, and in the more numerous committees some out of every Synod.
10. All committees of Assemblies are to consist both of ministers and ruling elders.
11. All reports from committees are to be given in to the Assembly in writing.
Sect. 3.—Of the Proceedings in the Committee of Overtures.
1. This being the most considerable committee of the Assembly, some of the most prudent members fittest for foresight and deliberation of what is fit to be brought to the Church as an act, rule, and constitution, are to be nominated in this committee.
2. The first work of this committee, in ordinary, ought to be the inquiry into the opinion and judgment of the several Presbyteries, as to what passed in the last preceding Assembly as to overtures, that thereby the several Presbyteries of the Church might have opportunity to consider ripely of the same, and send their opinion to the Assembly.
3. If this committee find they have not sufficient information from their own members, which useth to be one at least from every Presbytery in the Church, the committee is to call for more members out of every Presbytery, thereby to know exactly the sentiments of the Presbyteries as to those overtures passed in the last preceding Assembly.
4. If this committee find the plurality of the Presbyteries against any of the overtures passed by the former Assembly, the committee cannot prepare that overture to the Assembly, to be by them passed as a binding rule and constitution to the Church. See the 9th Act of the General Assembly, 1697.
5. But if this committee, by the opinion of the Presbyteries sent by their commissioners, find light how to solve their objections, or to explain or alter the overtures made, so as it may appear to them that the overture may pass when amended, and the matter seem of weight and use, this committee may prepare the same to the Assembly as a new overture, to be by them passed and transmitted again to the several Presbyteries for their consideration.
6. If the committee in this inquiry find that many Presbyteries have neglected to take under their consideration these overtures made the last Assembly, that is not to hinder the committee to proceed in preparing these overtures into acts, to be considered and passed in the Assembly; and if the committee shall find those Presbyteries who took the same under their consideration to be for them, and that the major part of the Presbyteries be for it, they are to report the same, but the number of members of each Presbytery should be seriously considered.
7. If the committee in this inquiry find the smaller number of the Presbyteries who have considered the overtures to be against passing of the same, though the committee thereby are not bound to sist from preparing the same into acts, yet they should and ought deliberately to consider the weight of the reasons which induced these (though smaller) number of Presbyteries to be against the overtures, which may induce them likewise to lay aside thoughts of the same.
8. It belongs likewise to this committee to consider all overtures for new acts and rules to be brought in before them by any Presbytery, or other particular persons, and to prepare the same for the Assembly as overtures.
9. It belongs also to this committee to make inquiry how the acts of former Assemblies have been obeyed and put in practice, and to make overtures thereanent.
10. It belongs to this committee to hear and consider the general grievances of the Church, and to propose to the Assembly remedies for the same.
11. And in effect, the state of the Church is under the consideration of this Committee, and what is fit to be done by the Assembly, in order to the advantage of the Gospel, is to be by this committee proposed to the Assembly.
Sect. 4.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for Bills, References, and Appeals.
1. This committee being very considerable, some of the most prudent members, fittest for discipline, and most accurate in the punctual exercises thereof, and known in all the forms of proceeding, are to be nominated on this committee.
2. This committee makes no work to themselves, but only receives all references or appeals, or petitions, and bills directed to the Assembly.
3. These references come properly from the several Synods, whether for advice or of a process for decision; in managing and preparing whereof, this committee are to act as hath been directed in the Committee of Bills in Synods, in relation to other references from Presbyteries, Chap. IV. Sect. 4.
4. And such likewise should be this committee's method in preparing appeals, which most properly come from Synods to the Assemblies, as is there directed.
5. But as appeals are allowed from a Presbytery to a General Assembly, in case it fall out to meet before the next Synod of that bounds, so references may be admitted to the General Assembly from the Presbytery, in the same case of the Assembly's intervening.
6. Yet neither appeal nor reference from a kirk-session to an Assembly, per saltum, is to be admitted.
7. This committee uses to cause enrol affairs and to consider the same, according to the order of tabling thereof, (except in some extraordinary cases;) which is a great case to those concerned, and prevents debates anent preference in discussing affairs; and, besides, it frees parties of much needless attendance.
8. As the committee in Synods, so much more in Assemblies, ought to study to lop off all unnecessary business from the Assembly, which they may do when they find either some gross escape in bringing the affair to the Assembly, or of no need, use, or advantage to bring the business to public, by dealing with the parties concerned to let it fall, and to satisfy them privately in the committee; but if those concerned will not be persuaded to lay it aside, the committee should transmit the same with their opinion to the General Assembly.
9. This method will have frequent success in laying by many idle, impertinent bills, petitions, and addresses to Assemblies, which, if publicly read, would necessitate the Assembly to inflict censures on the addressers, and which is therefore better prevented.
10. In petitions and addresses it may facilitate the Assembly's work, and nowise impeach upon their freedom, for this committee to give their opinion what answer the same should have; and either hint the reason of their opinion in the written report the committee makes, or for their moderator to show the same to the Assembly speedily to give them light.
11. When this committee hath prepared any affair to the Assembly, it is the part of the moderator, or clerk of the committee, to acquaint the Moderator of the Assembly thereof, before it be brought in plain Assembly; and all processes or other papers to be considered by the General Assembly, should be delivered to the clerk in the intervals betwixt the diets of the Assembly's meeting, according to the 7th act of the General Assembly, 1694.
Sect. 5.—Of the Proceedings of the Committees for Synod Books, and the Commis-sions of former Assemblies.
1. It being a part of the General Assembly's work to visit Synod books, the Assembly useth in the beginning to call for these books from the commissioners of the Presbyteries in the bounds of the said Synods, and appoint a committee of some few brethren out of other Synods to revise the several books.
2. These Committees are carefully to observe the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, and 6th directions given to the committees of Synods for revising Presbytery books, Chap. IV. Sect. 5.
3. And the General Assembly being the greater and more solemn judicatory, these committees are to be more cautious as to what they bring publicly before the Assembly of their animadversions; imprudent publishing whereof, in any thing which may be otherwise remedied, being always prejudicial to the Church; and, therefore, the members of the Synod to whom the work belongs, moderator and clerk, or such of them as can be had, should be present at the revising of their book, or at least heard as to any remarks that may be made, before the same be brought into the General Assembly.
4. Seeing there can be no private censures of Synods in a General Assembly, the commissioners being from Presbyteries, not Synods; and that only a small number of the members of a Synod are present, these committees may bring in their report so soon as they are ready to the Assembly, and not leave them all to the close of the Assembly.
5. It is likewise a part of an Assembly's work for revising of the records of the commissioners appointed by the former Assembly; or of any other Assembly not yet approven, and that committee is to proceed as the other above committee, taking still the more narrow inspection, as they are of more universal concern and greater weight.
Sect. 6.—Of the General Assembly's Methods of Proceedings.
1. The General Assembly being constituted, and its committees having prepared the work for it, they fall to prosecute the same in full Assembly, whereof the Mo derator doth first give an account of what the Committee of Overtures have prepared for the Assembly.
2. Yet so, as likewise daily bills and processes, prepared by the Committee of Bills, and affairs from other committees, may be called for, and brought in according to the weight and necessity of these affairs, and conveniency of the Assembly.
3. When any thing is proposed by the Committee of Overtures, in order to its being made an act, rule, and constitution of the Church, the Assembly uses deliberately to weigh and reason the equity, conveniency, and expediency of the proposal.
4. If the Assembly be clear in these, it is to be considered whether any former Assembly hath determined any thing concerning that matter, and if there be any act already made, then it is not only needless but inconvenient to multiply acts.
5. Yet so, that if the acts be obsolete, the renewing thereof, with any new amendment or addition, may be proper for the consideration of the Assembly.
6. In renewing any act of the former Assemblies, the Assembly is duly to consider the circumstances of the Church at the time when it was made, which may be called for the act in that dress in which it passed; and if the present circumstances of the Church do not quadrate with the former, the act, if it be found necessary to be revived, is to be renewed in such a manner as may best suit the present exigency and juncture.
7. Due consideration of all the circumstances of the Church, and ordering all their acts, with a reference thereunto, is absolutely necessary for a faithful and prudent Assembly, and will require alterations in methods and rules of prudence, without any imputation of unfaithful receding from the commendable practice of predecessors.
8. What is proposed in the form of an act from the Committee of Overtures is to be considered by the Assembly, and that not only whether it be reasonable or not, but whether it was proposed and passed by the former Assembly as an overture, and by them committed to the consideration of the several Presbyteries of this Church.
9. And if it was remitted or not, the Assembly is not only to inquire if the Committee of Overtures did distinctly try at the brethren of all the different Presbyteries of the Church what their Presbyteries' opinion was therein; but though the committee hath done that, yet the Assembly is at least to give leave and opportunity to the commissioners from any Presbytery to inform the Assembly of the judgment of their Presbytery in the affair.
10. In the Assembly's making the calcula whether the more general opinion of all the Presbyteries hath been for the overtures passing into an act, no other consideration is to be had of those Presbyteries who neglected to consider the overture at all, or to instruct their commissioners thereanent, than to look on them as non liquets; and so, likewise, in case any Presbytery do not send their commissioners to the Assembly, or that they be not present.
11. When the Assembly hath made the computation, that it find that the plurality of the Presbyteries, who have taken the overtures under consideration, do relish the same, yet if any considerable number of Presbyteries do not only not relish it, but if some of them be stiff and peremptory in their dislike or refusal, the Assembly is wisely to consider whether the grieving a fewer number of Presbyteries may not be more prejudicial to the Church than the pleasing a greater number, and rather delay the passing an act that may be grievous to some.
12. And this is to have the greater weight if the overture desired to be made an act may without considerable prejudice be delayed, and that the Assembly find that those Presbyteries who are reluctant be unclear in point of light; an Assembly being always called to be compassionate to tender consciences.
13. Though the Assembly find no such difficulty from the opinion Presbyteries generally give, yet it is to be considered if any encroachment hath arisen, or be by any proposed, which hath not occurred to the several Presbyteries, if it be found to be material, the act is to be delayed or laid aside, though they have the consent of the several Presbyteries to pass it.
14. That even albeit the instructions of the commissioners from the several Presbyteries be to pass the overtures, yet these instructions, which are negative, are to have greater weight with commissioners than those that are positive; and commissioners in this are to walk according to their own light, their votes being personal.
15. Though no such difficulties do occur on the reading of the act, or be by any proposed, yet the Assembly should, for the greater solemnity, and to evidence the full deliberation, after reading one day, let the act proposed and debated lie on the table till another sederunt, according to the 16th act of the General Assembly, 1700, that nothing of precipitation may be alleged in the Assembly's exercise of their power.
16. If the act pass nemine contradicente, that unanimity is to be marked and recorded by the clerk.
17. No such act is to pass without a solemn and distinct vote, by calling the full roll of the Assembly.
18. If an overture be proposed to be transmitted to the several Presbyteries, the Assembly is to take it under their serious consideration, and to deliberate upon it with the same concern as if it were to pass for a standing and binding rule, and that the rather, because, when once an overture is passed in an Assembly, it will be reputed to be in some measure the judgment of the Church, and the Church will meet with the same reflections as if it were made an act.
19. In considering these overtures, the Assembly should make them as complete and clothed with all the provisions, limitations, explications, or restrictions, that they would desire the act itself to have, that after it hath been remitted to the consideration of the several Presbyteries, and returned approven to the ensuing Assembly, it may not be found in any part defective, and therefore tempt that Assembly either to lay it wholly aside or add some new thing to it, which had not been remitted to the consideration of the Presbyteries, which is always to be carefully seen to.
20. These overtures passed in the Assembly are always to be printed, that thereby they may be published, and in the title to bear not only the title they are to bear when acts, drawn from the subject-matter, but that they are overtures remitted to be considered by Presbyteries.
21. It may fall out that overtures are made in an Assembly that come not from the Committee of Overtures, as when an overture hath been made in the Committee of Overtures, and by them rejected, and yet the proposers resolve to know the Assembly's mind thereanent, or when any member, on occasion of any affair which lieth before the Assembly, doth, when it occurreth, mention a new overture as relating to the subject in hand. In this last case the Assembly ought to remit it to the consideration of the Committee for Overtures without any farther debate about it.
22. But if the former fall out, the Moderator of the Assembly, upon the overtures being proposed which were rejected in the committee, is to give account of the reasons which moved the committee so to do, which, if they satisfy the Assembly, the proposer is to acquiesce, but if they do not satisfy, and that any member of the Assembly second the overture, it is to be maturely weighed.
23. Though no committee have a negative, yet the Assembly in this case will find it fit to remit the farther consideration and preparation of that overture for the Assembly, either to the Committee of Overtures, or to a particular committee whom for that end they may appoint.
24. The Assembly, in their proceeding concerning any process which is brought from the Committee of Bills, doth follow the same method which Synods take, Chap. V. Sect. 6; and so likewise they may do when the process comes by a reference, as is directed in that same section.
25. The Assembly will sometimes, on occasion of any complaint of the remiss execution of any act of former Assemblies, find it sufficient that the moderator, in the name of the Assembly, do exhort all to amend what is neglected, without making any new act thereanent, unless what is complained of be growing and of dangerous consequence.
26. If acts be neglected, and growing to a disuse, that danger is both to be prevented and remedied by fortifying the former, not only by a renewal, but by adding more severe censures.
27. A General Assembly may have business frequently laid before them by the King or Queen, either communicated to them by the King or Queen themselves, or by a letter, or by their High Commissioner, representing their royal person and authority in the Assembly.
28. If by a letter, which is to be opened and read with all honour and respect in plain Assembly, and then the Assembly uses to remit the consideration or answering of the same to the Committee of Overtures, or to nominate a particular committee for that effect, which usually brings in a draught thereof to the Committee for Overtures, and they use to prepare it farther, and transmit it to the General Assembly.
29. When the committee brings in the draught of an answer to the King's or Queen's letter to the Assembly, it is there considered and amended, if need be, and, being passed by a vote, is signed in plain Assembly by the Moderator in their presence and name, and at their appointment, and this as soon as can be.
30. If, on the consideration of the said letter, the Committee of Overtures bring in any overtures in answer to the contents of that letter, they are considered by the Assembly ut supra.
31. And so, likewise, are any affairs which are laid before the Assembly by the supreme magistrate, or the High Commissioner.
32. And it falleth out frequently that letters from other persons or judicatories, and sometimes from foreign churches or divines, doth furnish work for the Assembly's consideration, which are all to be suitably pondered and discussed.
33. The Assembly hath likewise frequent occasions to address and make representations, and give several recommendations to the King or Queen, and some civil judicatories, and those in the government.
34. In these and all other their actings the Assembly are to be very exact and cautions, and keep within their own proper sphere, not meddling with things that do not belong to them in an ecclesiastical manner.
Sect. 7.—Of the Commissions appointed by General Assemblies.
1. It is very ordinary for Assemblies to find a necessity to remit several processes which come before them to a Commission, either for their weight craving greater time to deliberate, or because of some circumstance in the affair requiring some delay, or because the Assembly find it not convenient to stay together so long as to overtake them all. But it should be considered, if it may not be more expedient, that the Assembly determine in cases of appeals from Synods where they have been unanimous in their sentence, than to refer the final decision to a Commission, who may be of a smaller number than the Synod.
2. The Commissioners of the General Assembly can never have the power of the Assembly lodged in them, as to making acts, in any case, though they may have the ripening and preparing of rules and constitutions for an ensuing Assembly.
3. It is frequent that they have the ultimate and final determination of processes for transportation of ministers, for censures, or such like, communicated to them from the Assembly, and from whose sentence in these there is no appeal to the ensuing Assembly, though a complaint may be tabled before the next Assembly, against the Commission's proceedings, for which the Commission may be censured, if the Assembly find they deserve it.
4. All such Commissions ought to consist of ministers and elders, not only out of the different parts and Synods of the Church, but some out of every Presbytery, that there may be no ground of complaint, that some parts of the Church are not represented therein.
5. These Commissions use to be ordered to meet monthly, both for dispatch of affairs, and likewise ne quid detrimenti Ecclesia capiat, or any emergency, yet so as the more weighty and considerable business use to be delayed till their quarterly meetings; and it is generally thought fit that their power continue till the meeting of the ensuing Assembly. And no Commission ought or can be granted by an Assembly to continue any longer than till the meeting of the next Assembly.
6. The Commission of the General Assembly is always not only to be subject to the censure of the next ensuing Assembly, but likewise the proceedings and register of their actings are to be cognosced by a committee of the ensuing Assembly, that upon their report, the Assembly may approve or annual their actings, though no particular complaint be made by any person lesed by them.
7. The Commission, in affairs committed to them for decision, are to proceed in the same method and way which Assemblies take in trying and judging any affair.
8. It is the frequent work of Commissions to take care to see that due regard be had, and obedience given, to the actings and resolutions of the former Assemblies, particularly the last.
9. They are frequently required to give advice, and sometimes assistance to Synods and Presbyteries, in urgent and difficult cases, and sometimes for that end, to send some of their number to several parts of the Church, as they are allowed to do by the Assembly who did commission them.
10. It the Assembly do not appoint their moderator and clerk to attend them in these stations, they may nominate their own moderator and clerk.
11. All such Commissions are to be diligent and careful to keep within the bounds of their Commissions, though sometimes, on extraordinary occasions, they have given advice, or done some act of necessary for the present good of the Church, and which could admit no delay, which an ensuing Assembly hath approven of.
12. But herein Commissions should take care and be sure that it be in materia necessaria, and that their resolution be clearly the known mind of the Church; and that therein they take all the advice they can get of their brethren, and judicatories of the Church, though not of their number.
Sect. 8.—Of the Closing of the General Assembly.
1. All the affairs which the Assembly could overtake being brought to a close, some few brethren are to be nominated to assist the moderator and clerk in revising the minutes and proceedings of that Assembly, before the same be recorded in their registers, and to determine what of their acts are fit to be printed, and to give orders thereanent; and then the moderator causeth read the minutes of the last sederunt, which being done, he may discourse to the Assembly concerning the good Providence of God, that brought them together, and in allowing them the countenance and protection of the supreme magistrate, and this he is to signify the Assembly's sense of, and then the moderator is to exhort the brethren to faithfulness, loyalty, and diligence in their station, and such like.
2. The moderator having understood the mind of the Assembly, as to the particular time and place of the next Assembly's meeting, he doth, in their name, represent the same to the King or Queen, or their Commissioner, if present, and, upon their agreeing thereto, it is to be recorded by the Assembly's order.
3. Then the moderator closeth the Assembly with solemn prayer, singing of Psalms, and pronouncing of the blessing.