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Minister shall habitually neglect to catechise the children and youth of his congregation, it shall be the duty of the Elders to urge him to it; and if he shall without a sufficient reason, notwithstanding the remonstrance of his Elders, continue to neglect the same for one whole year, he shall be reported by his Elders to the Classis; that measures may be taken to oblige him to fulll, what the Reformed Dutch Church has always considered, a very important and necessary part of the ministerial duty.
ART. LXII. None can be received as members in full communion, or be suffered to partake at the Lord's Table, unless they first shall have made a confession of their faith, or have produced a certificate of their being members in full communion of some Reformed Church, All such shall be reported by the Minister to the Consistory, and be approved by them, and published to the congregation, before they can be registered as regular members in the Church. Members, who are known to be such from other congregations, may be admitted to occasional communion, upon application to the Minister.
In article 23, of the Church Orders, it is mentioned as a duty incumbent upon Ministers and Elders, to visit the members in full communion of their respective congregations, previous to the administration of the Lord's Supper. These visitations, when performed with prudence and proper solemnity, have been found to be productive of many good and happy consequences. It is therefore expected that every Minister, accompanied with an Elder, will (unless it be judged impracticable by the Consistory) at least once in every year, visit all the members of his Church, and endeavour to remove all animosities that may have arisen, and excite them to peace and proper exercises of faith and holiness. Ministers and Elders who shall habitually neglect this duty, shall be called to account in their respective Classes, and be prompted to attend to the same. And all Classes are enjoined to make particular inquiry whether this duty is punctually fulfilled in the respective congregations within their district. ART. LXVIII.
If any member of the Reformed Dutch Church, shall choose to submit any book or writing on religious subjects, previous to its publication, to the approbation of Synod, and makes application, for that purpose; the Synod may appoint the Professors of Theology, or any numher of their members, as a special committee for revising such book or writing, and approving and recommending the same, if it shall be deemed proper. The 55th Art. of the Church Orders is to be no further extended, nor is it in any other mode practised upon by the Reformed Dutch Church in America.
No Psalms or Hymns may be publicly sung in the Reformed Dutch Churches, but such as are approved and recommended by the General Synod. [Church Orders, Art. 69.] In the Reformed Dutch Church in America, the following are approved and recominended, viz.
In the Dutch language, the version of Dathenus, and the new version of Psalıns and Hymns, compiled and adopted in the Netherlands, in the year 1773. In the English language, the Psalms and Hymns compiled by Professor Livingston, and published with the express approbation and recommendation of the General Synod, in the year 1789. In the French language, the Psalms and Hymns, compiled by Theodore De Beza and La Moret. And in the German language, the
Psalms and Hymns, published at Marburgh and Amsterdam, and now used in the Reformed Churches in Germany, in the Netherlands, and in Pennsylvania.
The Church of Christ is the best discerner of the times, and of the duties, to which the providence of God may call his people. The Church ought there. fore, when it is judged proper, not only to request the civil rulers to set apart days of fasting and prayer or thanksgiving, but it may in its respective judicatories, call the people to those duties, either within the limits of a congregation, a Classis, or a Synod.
That the Reformed Church does not believe the days usually called holy-days, are of divine institution, or by preaching on those days (see Art. 67, of Church Orders) intends any thing more than to prevent evil, and promote the edification of the people, is evident from the contents of the 53d Art. of the Synod of Dordrecht, held in the year 1574. “ With regard to feastdays, upon which, besides the Lord's day, it has been customary to abstain from labour, and to assemble in the Church, it is resolved that we must be contented with the Lord's day alone. The usual subjects however of the birth of Christ, of his resurrection, and sending of the holy Spirit, may be handled and the people be admonished, that these feast-days are abolished.” In the National Synod, held at Middleburgh, in Zealand, in the year 1581, Art. 50, it is said, “In places where the feast-days are celebrated, the Ministers shall endeavour, by preaching at such times, to change the unnecessary and hurtful idleness of the people into holy and edifying exercise,
In consequence of abuses which have frequently arisen from the practice of preaching funeral sermons, the 65th Art. of the Church Orders is strictly adhered to; but as it is often found to answer a good purpose, to speak a word of exhortation at the time of funerals, the right of addressing the people upon such occasions, is left to be exercised by every Minister at his own discretion.
O accusation or process is admissible before an ecclesiastical judicatory, but when offences are alleged, which, agreeably to the word of God, deserve the censure of the Church. Nor shall any complaint of a private nature be noticed, unless the rules prescribed by the Lord Jesus, Mat. xviii. have been strictly followed. Neither shall complaint in cases of scandal bę admitted, unless such complaints are brought forward within the space of one year and four months after the crime shall be alleged to have been committed ; excepting, when it shall appear that unavoidable impediments prevented the bringing an accusation sooner.
To establish an accusation against any member of the Church, the testimony of more than one witness is required. Their witness shall be given under a 80lemn declaration upon the faith and credibility of a Christian, or of an oath taken before a magistrate, at the discretion of the judicature. Every trial, in all judicatories, from the highest to the lowest, shall be deliberate and impartial. The sum of the evidence shall be faithfully minuted. The sentence shall always be entered at large on the records. And all the parties shall immediately be allowed copies of the testimony and sentence, and of the whole proceedings, if they demand the same.
Ministers of the gospel must be an example to believers, and much of their success will usually depend upon their good character, and their holy walk and conversation. Their conduct must therefore be watched over with great attention, and their crimes punished with impartiality and severity. In admitting accusations against a Minister, the rule prescribed by the Apostle, 1 Tim. v. 19, shall always be observed; and accusers must come forward openly to support the charge, unless where common fame has rendered a scandal so notorious, that the honour of religion shall require an investigation.
When it is said (Art. 79 of Church Orders) that Ministers guilty of atrocious crimes shall be suspended from the exercise of their office by the Consistory, until they are tried by the Classis, it is only intended, that in certain public and notorious offences, which would render the appearance of a Minister in the pulpit in such a situation, highly offensive; it shall be the duty of the Consistory, in order to prevent scandal, to shut the door against such criminal, and refer him to be tried by the Classis, as soon as possible. The proceedings of the Consistory in such cases, is at their peril, and is not to be considered as a trial, but only a prudent interference, and binding over the person accused, to the judgment of his peers.
The forms and proceedings in the respective judicatories shall always be, as far as possible, agreeable to