March 1646: An Ordinance for Keeping of Scandalous persons from the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the enabling of Congregations for the choice of Elders and Supplying of Defects in former Ordinances and Directions of Parliament concerning Church Government.

Pages 833-838

Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.

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March, 1646

[14 March, 1645/6.]

That the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, Being very sensible of the great Duty which lieth upon them to settle matters concerning Religion, and the Worship of Almighty God; And having continually before their Eyes, the Covenant which they have so solemnly taken for the performance thereof, and the manifold motives and incouragements thereunto, by a special hand of Providence, pouring forth daily mercies upon them: In discharge of their Duty, and in pursuance of the said Covenant, and in thankefulnesse to God for all his Mercies having diligently applied themselves to that Work of his House by his Grace and assistance, they have made some progresse therein, notwithstanding the exigency of other Affaires, accompanied oftentimes with great and imminent dangers; And notwithstanding the great difficulty of the Work itself in divers respects, and particularly in the right joynting of what was to be settled with the Laws and Government of the Kingdom, the want whereof hath caused much trouble in this and other States; yet by the merciful assistance of God, having removed the Book of Common Prayer, with all its unnecessary and burdensome Ceremonies, and established the Directory in the room thereof; and having abolished the Prelaticall Hierarchy by Archbishops, Bishops, and their Dependants, and instead thereof laid the foundation of a Presbyterial Government in every Congregation, with Subordination to Classical, Provincial, and National Assemblies, and of them all to the Parliament; Although it cannot be expected that a present Rule in every particular should be settled all at once, but that there will be need of Supplyments and Additions, and haply, also of alterations, as experience shall bring to light the necessity thereof; yet were the Fundamental and Substantial parts of that Government long since settled in persons, by and over whom it was to be exercised, and the nature, extent, and Subordination of their power was limited, and defined; onely concerning the Administration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, how all such persons as were guilty of notorious and scandalous Offences, might be suspended from it, some difficulty arising, not so much in the matter itself, as in the Manner how it should be done, and who should be the Judges of the Offence: The Lords and Commons having it alwayes in their purpose and intention, and it being accordingly Declared and Resolved by them, That all sorts of notorious scandalous Offenders should be suspended from the Sacrament; For the preventing of an indefinite, and unlimited power in the Eldership, they held it fit for the present, That the particular Cases of such scandalous Offences should be specified and enumerated with expresse Declaration, That further provision should be made by Authority of Parliament, for such Cases as were left out of the said enumeration, which, accordingly, having since taken into their serious consideration, and having had several debates thereupon as the difficulty of the Matter required, which hath taken up much time, for the avoiding as far as possible may be all Arbitrary power; and that all such cases wherein persons should be suspended from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, might be brought to the cognizance, and passe the Judgement of the Parliament, who were bound in Justice as well to take care that none be injuriously detained from that Ordinance, as to give power whereby such may be kept away who are unfit to partake therein: And to the intent also that a full and speedy course may be settled to enable the several Elderships to suspend all such Offenders, from the Lords Supper, without having recourse to the Parliament itself from all parts of the Kingdom upon every such emergent Case, which might prove troublesome and tedious, and give liberty to such notorious and scandalous Offenders to communicate a long space in the said Ordinance; And to the Intent likewise, That all such Cases coming first from the particular Elderships, may, after they have passed the Judgement of Parliament, return again to all the severall Elderships within the Kingdom, to proceed upon them from time to time in like manner as in the Cases enumerated. For the ends and purposes aforesaid, and also for supply of some defects in the former Ordinance, and Direction of Parliament, concerning the choice of Elders, and some other Matters;

Election of Elders to be made throughout England and Wales.

I. Be it Ordained, That there be forthwith a choice made of Elders throughout the Kingdom of England, and Dominion of Wales, in the respective Parish Churches and Chappels, according to such Directions as have already passed both Houses, bearing date August the nineteenth, One thousand six hundred fourty and five, and since that time; and all Classes and Parochial Congregations, are respectively hereby Authorised and required forthwith effectually to proceed therein accordingly.

Notice to be given by Minister next Lord's day but one before.

II. That notice of the Election of Parochial and Congregational Elders, and of the time when it shall be, be given by the Minister in the Publike Assembly, the next Lords day but one before; and that on the said Lords day a Sermon be preached preparatory to that weighty businesse.

Who shall elect.

III. That such Elections shall be made by the Congregation, or the major part of them then assembled, being such as have taken the National Covenant, and are not persons under Age, nor servants that have no Families.

Triers of Elections to examine charges of undue election, scandal, etc., and put Witnesses on Oath.; Persons excepted against may have witnesses examined in like manner.

IV. That the Tryers of Elections of Elders, shall have power to receive, hear, and determine all exceptions brought in to them concerning undue Elections; and to that end to call before them all such persons so elected, and accepting such Election, and to send for such Witnesses as shall be nominated unto them by such persons as shall bring in such exceptions; and shall have power to examine upon Oath, both the persons bringing in such exceptions, and the said witnesses, concerning any undue proceedings in the manner of the said Election, and concerning all matters of Ignorance, or scandal objected against the party elected, and expressed in any Ordinance of Parliament, to be a sufficient cause of suspension from the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (and of which, any Eldership by any Ordinance of Parliament hath cognizance and jurisdiction) and that shall be proved to have been committed within one whole yeare before the exceptions exhibited; and that the persons against whom the exceptions are taken, shall have like liberty to produce Witnesses to be examined in like manner on their behalfe.

Triers may examine Elders' qualifications.

V. That the Tryers shall have power to examine, Whether the Elders that are to be chosen be so qualified as is expressed in the Ordinance or Directions which hath passed both Houses.

In case of undue election may make fresh choice.

VI. That in case the Election of any Elder of a Congregation upon just proof and examination, be found by the Tryers appointed for that purpose, to be unduly made; The said Tryers may order such Elder to be remouved, and another to be chosen in his place.

Service in Royal Chapels.

VII. That the Chappels or places in the Houses of the King and his Children, shall continue free for the exercise of Divine Duties to be performed according to the Directory and not otherwise.

Chapels in Peers' Houses.

VIII. That the Chappels or places in the Houses of the Peers of this Realm, shall have the like freedom.

Savoy parish.

IX. That the Savoy Parish shall be reckoned within the leventh Classis of London.

Chapels of the Rolls, Inns of Court, etc.

X. That the Chappel of the Rolls, the two Serjeants Inns, and the four Inns of Court, shall be a Province of themselves.

That the Presbytery of the Chappel of the Rolls, the two Serjeants Inns and the four Inns of Court, shall be divided into two Classes.

That Lincolns Inn, Grays Inn, Serjeants Inn in Chancery Lane, and the Rolls, shall be one Classis; that the two Temples and Serjeants' Inn in Fleet Street, shall be the other Classis.

Classical Assemblies when to meet.

XI. That the Classical Assemblies in each Province, shall assemble themselves within one month after they shall be constituted and this Ordinance published, and shall thenceforth hold their meetings monthly by adjournment, or oftener if need be, in such a certaine place as shall be most convenient for the ease of the people.

Composition of each Classis.

XII. That out of every Congregational Eldership, there shall be two Elders or more, not exceeding the number of four, and one Minister sent to every Classis.

What persons may besuspended from the Sacrament.

XIII. That all persons guilty of notorious scandalous offences, and more particularly, all renouncers of the true Protestant Religion professed in the Church of England; and all persons that shall by preaching or Writing, maintain any such errours as do subvert any of those Articles, the ignorance whereof do render any person excluded from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper: And all persons that shall make any Images, or Pictures of the Trinity, or of any person thereof: And all persons in whome malice appeares, and they refuse to be reconciled; and the same appearing upon just proof, all such persons may be suspended from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper.

Commissioners to be chosen by Parl. in every province to judge of certain scandalous offences.

XIV. That in every Province persons shall be chosen by the Houses of Parliament, that shall be Commissioners to judge of scandalous offences (not enumerated in any Ordinance of Parliament) to them presented; And that the Eldership of that Congregation where the said offence was committed, shall upon examination and proof of such scandalous offence (in like manner as is to be done in the offences enumerated) certifie the same to the Commissioners, together with the proof taken before them, and before the said certificate, the party accused shall have liberty to make such defence as he shall thinke fit before the said Eldership, and also before the Commissioners, before any certificate shall be made to the Parliament. And if the said Commissioners after examination of all parties, shall determine the offence so presented and proved to be scandalous and the same shall certifie to the Congregation, the Eldership thereof may suspend such person from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper in like manner as in cases enumerated in any Ordinance of Parliament.

Qualifications of such; Commissioners.

XV. That such persons as shall be chosen for Commissioners to judge of notorious and scandalous offences as aforesaid, shall be men of good understanding in matters of Religion, sound in the faith, prudent discreet, grave, and of unblameable conversation, and such as do usually receive the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, as Members of a Presbyterial Congregation.

Minister may deal with scandalous offence in face of congregation.

XVI. That if any person shall commit any scandalous offence (not enumerated in any Ordinance of Parliament) upon the day of the Administration of the Sacrament of the Lords Supper in the face of the Congregation after it is assembled, the Minister of that Congregation may forbear to administer the Sacrament to such a person for that time, and he shall within eight dayes after certifie the said offence and forbearance unto the Commissioners aforesaid, and upon certificate so made, the said Commissioners shall proceed thereupon as in other cases not enumerated, and shall make certificate of the case or cases, with their opinions, to both houses of Parliament with all speed: And thereupon the Parliament shall proceed to a final determination of the case, and send the same determination thereof to the Parish where such offence shall have been committed; and as often as the like case shall fall out in any Congregation, the Eldership thereof having notice of such determination, shall proceed thereupon as in the case of offences enumerated in any Ordinance of Parliament.

Meetings of Commissioners.

XVII. That the said Commissioners upon notice given to them or any two of them, of any case of scandal befaln (Wherof they ought to have cognizance by vertue of any Ordinance of Parliament) shall assemble themselves in such certain place within that Province, as may be most convenient for the ease of the people: And thereof shall give timely notice to the Ministers of that Province whereof they are Commissioners, and being met, shall adjourn their meeting from time to time, for such time as the case shall require.

Power of Assemblies to call witnesses.; Penalty for witnesses that refuse to appear.

XVIII. That the Eldership of each Congregation, or the major part of them, as also the Classes of each Province or major part of them, and also the Provincial Commissioners or the major part of them after they shall be assembled, shall have power by Warrant under their hands (in all cases whereof they have cognizance, by any Ordinance of Parliament) to convent before them all persons, against whom any complaint shall be brought by vertue of any such Ordinance, and all such Witnesses as shall be named according to any such Ordinance for the discovery of the Truth of such complaint; and in case any such person shall refuse to appear, not being a Peer of this Realm, Member of the House of Commons, or Assistant of the House of Peers, or Officer of either of the Houses of Parliament, then, upon complaint made to the next Justice of the Peace, the party refusing shall be brought before him; and in case of obstinate persisting, shall be committed by the said Justice of the Peace till he submit to order.

Persons suspended in one Congregation not to be admitted in another.

XIX. That if any Member of a Congregation shall by vertue of any Ordinance of Parliament for any offence of scandal, be suspended from the Sacrament of the Lords Supper; and being so suspended, shall offer himself to any other Congregation to receive the Sacrament of the Lords Supper together with them, such Congregation having notice of such suspension, shall not without certificate from the Congregation whereof he is a Member, admit him unto the Sacrament.

Suspension of Ministers and Elders.

XX. That any Minister of a Congregation may be suspended from giving or receiving, and any Elder from receiving the Sacrament of the Lords Supper for the same causes, and in the same manner, and have the like benefit of Appeal as any other person may by any Ordinance of Parliament; and after such suspension of the Elder from the Sacrament, the Elder that is suspended, shall not execute that Office during his suspension until the Appeal be determined; and if, upon Appeal the suspension appear to have been just, then another to be chosen in his place.

Cases of appeal.

XXI. That in all cases of Appeal to the Classical, Provincial, or National Assembly, they shall have power respectively to proceed thereupon by examination of Witnesses and otheswise in such manner as the Congregational Eldership from which the Appeal ariseth are enabled to do by any Ordinance of Parliament, and shall certifie such their proceedings unto the said Eldership.

Classis may appoint substitute for suspended minister.

XXII. That in case of such suspension of any Minister, the Classis Whereunto the said Congregation doth belong, shall appoint some fit person or persons for the supply of that place during such suspension, and shall have power to allow convenient maintenance for that end, out of the profits belonging to the Minister so suspended, and have hereby power te sequester and imploy the same for that purpose.

Persons suspended to be readmitted on repentance.

XXIII. That in all cases of suspension of any person from the Sacrement, the party suspended (upon manifestation of his or her repentance before the Eldership by whom the party was suspended) shall be addmitted unto the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, and the suspension thenceforth shall be void.

Provided, That if the said Commissioners or any two of them shall not determine the case so certified as aforesaid to them from the Eldership within six weeks after the Certificate to them made. The party is hereby enjoyned to forbear coming to the Sacrament until the cause shall be determined, or until he give satisfaction to the Eldership.