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THE

FORM

OF THE

GOVERNMENT AND DISCIPLINE

OF THE

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

IN THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Philadelphia :

PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1806.

INTRODUCTION.

THE

HE Synod of New-York and Philadelphia,

judging it expedient to ascertain and fix the system of union, and the form of Government and Discipling of the Presbyterian Church in these United States, under their care; have thought

, proper to lay down, by way of introduction, a few of the general principles by which they have been hitherto governed, and which are the ground work of the following plan. This, it is hoped, will, in fome measure, prevent those raso misconstructions, and un. candid reflections, which usually proceed from an ime perfect view of any subject; as well as make the several parts of the system plain, and the whole plan perfpicuous and fuliy under

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

mandments of men, which are in any thing con"trary to his word, or before it in matters of faith " or wor lip:" Therefore, they cor hier the rights of private judgment, in all matters that repeat religion,

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

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

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

IV. That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holihefs ; according to our Saviour's rule," by their fruita

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ons are.

ye fhall know them.

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

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

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

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

VII. That all church power, whether exercised by the body in general, or, in the way of representation, by delegated authority, is only ministerial and declarative ; That is to say, that the boly scriptures are the only rule of faith and manners; that no church judicatory ought ta pretend to make iaws, to

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