committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs







Treatise of Church Discipline



1. The names or titles appropriated to those officers in the New Testament, are either such as seem to belong to them, in virtue of their office, as common names, while they have not taken the charge of any particular church, and then they are called teachers or preachers. Acts xiii. 1. I Cor. xii. 28. Rom. x. 14.; or they are such as arise from their taking the charge of some church, and then they obtain relative titles, and are called pastors. Eph. iv. 11. Overseers or bishops, Acts xx. 17, 28. Elders, I Tim. v. 17. Stewards, I Cor. iv. 1. Ministers, Col. iv. 7. I Tim. iv. 6.

2. The qualifications for this office are pretty clearly pointed out, both in a positive and negative way, natural, moral, and evangelical. Luke xxi. 15. I Tim. iii. 2?6. Tit. i. 5?9. 2 Tim. ii. 24. iii. 15, 17. Acts xviii. 24. Rom. ix. 3. xi. 14.

3. To this office persons must be called: First, of God, styled the inward call, which is a zeal for the glory of God in the salvation of the souls of men, and a strong desire to be made useful in that way, with a persuasion of God?s designation of the person for the office. This is the voice of God in his conscience. Is xlix. 5. Jer. i. 5. xxiii. 21. Heb. v. 4. I Cor. ix. 16, 17. Rom. x. 15. Secondly, They must be called of the church, whose duty it is to look out for useful gifts; and when they have reason to hope that they discover some appearance thereof in any, they should move such to the trial of their gifts; or the person, whose mind is impressed, may offer himself, I Tim. iii. 1.

4. If, after any one has been on trial some time, the appearances are promising, the church ought to give him a letter of licence,4 for the exercise of his gifts abroad, his encouragement and further improvement, and to obtain the opinion of others concerning his gifts. "Lay hands suddenly on no man," I Tim. v. 22.

5. After he has been on trial a longer or shorter time, according to circumstances, the church should proceed to invest him more fully with, and confirm him in, the ministerial office, by ordination.

6. The essence of ordination consists in the call of the church, in their voting in his favour, and designating him by said vote to the ministerial work, which power it was necessary should be lodged somewhere, with a view to maintain order; that no person who deems himself called and qualified for the office, might enter upon it without the approbation of others, and this power was lodged in the church. But nevertheless, it is expedient and necessary, in order to give the designation weight and solemnity, that there should be a public and formal procedure, when we instate a person in the ministerial office, Luke x. 1. Acts xiv. 23. Mark iii. 14.

7. For this purpose, having called one or more ministers to their assistance and all met fasting, a sermon should be preached suited to the occasion. Then, a fter seeing the person?s licence, and the vote for his ordination, one of the ministers should interrogate him respecting his call of God, his motives, his doctrinal knowledge, his soundness in the faith, and his resolution to persevere with diligence. Having given satisfaction, he is desired to kneel, and the ministers present lay their hands on his head, accompanied with suitable words, and one prays. Then he rises up, and they address him in terms of congratulation, bid him a welcome to take part with them of the holy ministry, and give him the right hand of fellowship. After this a charge is delivered, and prayer, with singing, having been introduced in their proper places through the whole, a benediction closes the solemnity. "With the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, or eldership," I Tim. iv. 14. "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting," Acts xiv. 23. "Lay hands suddenly on no man," I Tim. v. 22.

8. The ministers ought to give him, a certificate of his ordination.5

9. We should now proceed to treat of the duties of the ministerial office. But although a person, in virtue of his ordination, is fully instated in the office, and has a right to discharge every part of it, when called thereto, yet while he remains only a teacher or preacher, and is not connected with any church as their pastor or minister, he can have but little to do besides preaching. It will therefore be proper to defer the confederation of the duties of the pastoral office, until we have treated of his acquiring that title, by means of taking the oversight of some church, which will much enlarge his sphere of action.

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