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Treatise of Church Discipline



1. An Association consists of delegates, or Messengers from different particular churches, who have agreed to associate together, at stated times, to promote their own interest, and the good of the common cause.

2. This practice is recommended by the reason of things, the spirit of religion, and apostolic practice, Acts xv.

3. The meeting thus of churches by their delegates is of special use; to gain acquaintance with, and knowledge of one another?to preserve uniformity in faith and practice, Phil. iii. 16.?to detect and discountenance heresies?to curb licentiousness in the wanton abuse of church power?to afford assistance and advice in all difficult cases?to contribute pecuniary aid when necessary?to make appointments of supplies for destitute churches?And every way advance and secure the interest of religion, and strengthen and draw closer the bonds of union and fellowship.

4. Other churches, besides those that enter at the original constitution, may be admitted, on making application, and giving satisfactory evidence in regard to their faith and practice, regular order and good standing.

5. The delegates thus assembled are, properly speaking, only an advisory council. They are not armed with coercive power, to compel the churches to submit to their decisions, nor have they any controul over the acts or doings of the churches. Every church still remains independent.

6. Nevertheless, the associated body may exclude from their connection any church that may act an unworthy part. This our association did some years ago as also, virtually, last association. Indeed it would be absurd to examine churches at their admission, if afterward they are to be continued in the connection, let their principles and practice be what they may, see Chap. X. ver. 22. vide also Confession of Faith, Chap. XXVII. 15. Our late discipline, p. 61. Dr. Owen on the nature of a gospel church, p. 254.

7. Let it not be thought, that this power of the association over the churches in connection with it disannuls or destroys the independence of those churches: for if any church of the associated body should become unsound in their principles, or act irregularly and disorderly, and will not do, what may be just and right; such a church will still remain an independent church, though an heterodox and irregular one; but it would be inconsistent and wrong in the association, to suffer such a church to continue among them, since, besides other confederations, they would hereby become partakers of their evil deeds. The association can take nothing from them, but what it gave them. This, in such circumstances, it certainly may and ought to do.

8. From what we have said, as well as from considering, that the union of churches in an association, is a voluntary act, a voluntary union or confederation, like the voluntary confederation of members into a church, it follows that every church stands in the same relation to its association, as a member does to his church, and therefore is examined in the same manner on admission. Hence

9. Complaints may be received by the association, against any church belonging to it, especially when the complaint is brought in by another church. Hence also,

10. The association has a right to call any delinquent church to account, whether for a wanton abuse of its power towards or over any of its members, neglect of attendance at the association, disregard of those things recommended to them, or any material defect in principle or practice; and if satisfactory reasons are not given therefore, nor reformation, then to exclude them.

11. At the first formation of an association, or afterwards, there should be a set of rules, conditions and regulations drawn up, as the ground on which the churches agree to associate together.

12. For the maintenance of good order, the associated body when met, should choose a Moderator, to regulate, and bring forward what is to come before them, and to preside in their deliberations: as also, a Clerk, to take minutes of their proceedings.




1In 1805 this treatise was reprinted in Lexington, KY by T. Anderson. The only change was in the first line. The 1805 edition removed the beginning Greek word ?Ecclesia? and simply read ?The Greek word, in the original, for Church and then it goes on as the 1798 edition read.

2We learn from history, that a church never thrives unless the minister lives among them. The practice of pluralities may suit the minister?s pride, and save the pockets of the churches, but starves their souls.

We, whose names are under written, being desirous to be constituted a church of Jesus Christ, in this place, and having all due knowledge of one another in point of a work of grace on our hearts, religious principles, and moral characters, and being desirous of enjoying the privileges that appertain to the people of God in a church relation, do, in the name of the Lord Jesus, voluntarily an d freely give ourselves up to the Lord, and to one another, according to his word, to be one body under one head, jointly to exist and act by the bands and rule s of the gospel, and do promise and engage to do all things, by divine assistance, in our different capacities and relations that the Lord has commanded us, and requires of us: particularly to deny ourselves, take up our cross, follow Christ, keep the faith, assemble ourselves together, love the brethren, submit one to another in the Lord, care one for another, bear one another?s burdens, endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, and, finally, to honour, obey and maintain them that may have the rule over us in the Lord. This is the Covenant we solemnly enter into, in the fear of God, humbly imploring the Divine assistance and blessing that we may be built up and established to the glory of God, the advancement of the Redeemer?s interest, and the comfort and edification of our own souls, through the infinite riches of free grace, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord: and now, to the only wise God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be worship, honour, power, glory, dominion, and obedience rendered, now and ever more, Amen.

Done at       in the county of       

and the state of       on the        day of        in the year of our blessed Lord and saviour,

4To all people, to whom these presents shall come; The Baptist church at , sendeth greeting. The bearer hereof, our beloved brother , being a man of good moral character, real piety, and sound knowledge of divine things; and having been called to the exercise of his ministerial gifts, whereof we have now had considerable trial, both in private and public; we have judged him worthy; and do therefore hereby licence and authorise him to preach the Gospel wherever he may have a call; not doubting, but that in due time circumstances will lead on to a more full investiture of him in the ministerial office, by ordination. In the mean time, we recommend him to favour and respect, praying the Lord may be with, and abundantly bless him.

Done at our meeting at             .

5To all people, to whom these presents shall come the subscribers send Greeting.?Being convened at         on the        of       1789, at the influence of the Baptist church of aforesaid, for the purpose of setting apart, by solemn ordination, the bearer hereof to the sacred office of the ministry; and being, by sufficient testimonials, fully certified of his moral character, real piety, and found knowledge in divine things, as well as ministerial gifts and abilities, whereof we had otherwise due knowledge: WE DID THEREFORE, on the said day of in the presence of said church, and a full assembly met, solemnly ordain and set apart, to the said sacred office of the ministry, by imposition of hands, prayer, and other rituals among us in that case in use, the said bearer, our worthy and reverend brother whom we therefore recommend, as such, to favour and respect.

6It has been thought by some, that a minister cannot warrantably administer the ordinance of the Lord?s supper in or to a church, where he is not a member and settled. But why he may not do it occasionally, as persons are admitted to occasional communion, where they are not members, it is hard to say, when he has the call of the church to do it. It should seem that the call of the church to an occasional act, must be equivalent to its call to stated acts.

7See Joshua Thomas?s History of the Baptists in Wales, p. 169.

8It is thought that Matt. xviii. 17. I Cor. v. 3, 5. refer not to excommunication.

9See Dr. Owen on the nature of a Gospel Church, p. 109, 225.

10See the Confession of Faith, Chap. XXVII. 15. Also Keach?s Glory of a True Church, p. 18.

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