« AnteriorContinuar »
thereof to the latter: if they do not, the latter, on knowledge thereof, shall, if proof cannot otherwise be had, make speedy application to the former, who shall either cite the witnesses before the said Judicatory, or shall themselves hear the testimony, and transmit it to the applicants, as circumstances may require.
9. When such an application is received by a Judicatory, and the distance is too great tor the witnesses conveniently to repair to the other, the Judicatory applied to shall appoint a day for hearing the cause, at such an interval as shall afford the offender an opportunity of appearing iu his own defence, if he be so minded: of which time information shall be given to the moderator of the Judicatory applying, and by him seasonably notified to The offender.
1. The records of a Judicatory, or any part thereof, whether original or transcribed, if authenticated by the moderator and clerk, or either of them, shall be deemed good and sufficient evidence in every other Judicatory.
2. Testimony taken before a Judicatory, and certified as above, shall be received by every other as no less valid, than if it had been taken before themselves.
. 3. Genuine private papers, such as letters, &c. shall be admitted in proof, unless just cause can be shewn for refusing them.
4. Although conviction cannot be grounded on presumptions alone, yet they are always to be taken in connexion with the testimony, as they are frequently of essential importance in establishing or destroying its credibility; and' less or more stress is to be laid upon them, as they are trivial, probable, or violent.
1. The accused hath always a right to exculpate himself, and for this purpose to adduce every kind of proof which is admitted against him.
2. In the case of contradictory evidence, the Judicatory is carefully to consider the nature, number, respectability, and circumstances of the different proofs.
3. After the severaf proofs have been heard, the accused shall hare the privilege of commenting on them.
1. The accused having finished his remarks or defence, if any be offered, the Judicatory shall seriously ponder the libel, and the proofs, together with the exculpation, in order to prepare their sentence.
2. It is not, however, to be understood, that Judicatories are bound to give sentence at the same meeting at which the cause is tried, or even to finish the trial at one meeting. Herein they must use their discretion, being careful, at the same time, that a process be not needlessly protracted.
3. Sentences are either absolutory, which acquit the accused; or condemnatory, which pronounce him gniltv of the scandal libelled; or mixed, which partly acquit, and and partly condemn.
Of Processes against Ministers.
1. ALL processes against ministers are to commence before the Presbyteries to which they belong.
2. The honour and success of the gospel being intimately connected with the unblemished reputation of ministers, both as to doctrine and conduct, scandalous charges are not to be received by any Judicatory upon slight grounds ; nor, when received, to be negligently examined; nor, if found true, to be slightly censured.
3. That the faults of ministers may not be indiscreetly spared, nor rashly made the subject of judicial cognizance, the same candour, caution, and method, substituting only the Presbytery for the Session, are to be observed in investigating charges against them, as are prescribed in the case of private members.
4. If a minister be convicted of such principles or conduct as are clearly and grossly scandalous, the Presbytery, whatever be his repentance, or however manifested, is immediately to depose him, and to assign him a day fer the public confession of his sin, and profession of repentance.
5. A minister, accused of atrocious crimes, and refusing, after three regular citations, to appear at the bar of the Presbytery, shall be suspended from the exercise of his office; and if he persist in his contumacy, may be deposed and excommunicated,
6. Presbyteries are to be extremely careful of involvin; in the shame and severity of a judicial process, those irregularities which appear to be merely acts of infirmity; ani those errors which do not strike at the vitals of doctrinal or practical godliness; which are not pertinaciously adhered to, nor mischievously propagated to the subversion of the order, unity, purity, and peace of the church. They are, therefore, thoroughly to sift accusations against ministers, and to be well satisfied respecting the criminal and pernicious nature and tendency of the scandal charged, before they allow a libel to be grounded thereon. And tbey are to use special diligence for removing those uneasinesses and complaints which arise from causes that will not warrant a process.
7. Calumniators of ministers are to be severely censured, and in proportion to the malignity or rashness which shall appear in the prosecution.
1. CHURCH CENSURES, being entirely of a spiritual nature, cannot operate any civil effect.
2. As they are among the most important means by which the Lorb Jesus reigns in his church, they are to be employed with much caution, reverence and solemnity; nor can there be a greater indignity offered to his majesty, than to prostitute them to any carnal purposes.
3. Although the contempt which the world pours upon ecclesiastical censures should call forth the exercise of prudence, yet church-officers, being clothed with the authority of their King, are not thereby to be deterred from the faithful discharge of their duty; they are rather to be stimulated to double vigilance, lest the barriers which Christ hath erected to separate his church from the world, be swept away by the torrent of evil opinion and evil example.
4. The Lord Jesus Christ having promised that ho will ratify in heaven, those censures which, in his name, and according to bis appointment, are inflicted by his officers upon earth,a they cannot be despised but at the utmost peril; and will be found to have a serious influence on the spiritual condition of those who fall under them.
Church censures are rive fold: admonition, rebuke, suspension, deposition, and excommunication.
1. Admonition is the lowest degree of censure. It consists in gently reproving an offender, for his sin and scandal; warning ram of his guilt and danger; and exhorting bim to be more watchfuland circumspect for the future. It supposes the offence to be known only to a few, or to be less aggravated in its circumstances.
2. It ought to proceed on a certain knowledge of the sin and scandal having been committed; and is the first step which should be taken towards the offender's reformation.
3. Admonition, in the case of a private church-member, or ruling elder, ought to be administered in private by one or more members of Session: in the case of a minister, by one or more members of Presbytery.
1. Rebuke is a higher degree of censure, and should be administered by an ecclesiastical court in a judicial capacity. When it can be done without injuring the public credit of religion, Judicatures may find itfor edification to rebuke the offender in private This is particularly necessary in cases of private scandal, and it must always be done in the name of the Head of the church. •
2. When the scandal is public, and the sin more aggravated, it is proper that the rebuke be publicly administered. But it is generally expedient that rebukes, whether private or public, be preceded by private admonition.
1. Suspension relates either to the private members, or to the officers of the church. With respect to the former, it is a temporary judicial exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances.b With respect to the latter, it is a temporary judicial exclusion from, the exercise of iffice.0
2. This censure is attached to scandals which cannot be removed by admomtion or rebuke, and which render it
a Mat. rviii. 18. b Appendix I. No. 15. c Appendix I. No. 16.
improper for the scandalous person to remain in the actual enjoyment of sacramental privilege, or in the exercise 01 office.
3. Suspensions are generally indefinite in their duration, continuing till the person suspended afford signs of penitence which may warrant their repeal. But Judicatories are to consider how far it may be expedient, in certain cases, to limit their operation to a fixed period.
4. Suspension, unless of ministers, may be either private or public. The former is oftentimes indispensible, when bringing the scandal to public view, would be unnecessary, yea, highly injudicious.
5. Sessions may find it their duty to keep back from sealmg ordinances, by a private resolution, members of whom scandalous reports are corroborated by strong presumptions, even though they have not been, or cannot be legally convicted.
6. When a scandal, or the charge of a scandal is made public so near the time of celebratmg the sacrament of the supper, that there is not leisure for a due examination, the accused person, provided his offence, if proved, require such a censure, is by all means to be restrained from communicating.
7. Suspension, after public rebuke, is always to be public.
8. As the maintenance of the honour of Christ, the exoneration of church officers, and the warning of others, are principal ends of censure, it is not necessary to the propriety of a public suspension, that the person suspended be actually present. But this does not absolve the offender from his obligation to appear; and he is to be strictly required thereto by the Judicatory censuring.
1. Deposition is the judicial degradation of .an officer from his officeA Probationers, though they may be suspended or discharged, having never been invested with office, cannot, properly, be deposed.
2. An act of deposition is not to be passed but with the greatest deliberation; and for the most important reasons. It is ordinarily to be preceded by suspension. It is not, if possible, to be inflicted on ministers, without Synodical ad
i Appendix I. No. 16.