I. The fitness and desirableness of a statement from this Council, describing the polity of the Congregational churches, may appear from these considerations :

1. In issuing such a statement, we only follow the example of ancient Congregational synods. The Cambridge Synod, as it is commonly called, which assembled in 1636, and was continued by successive adjournments till 1638, and to which all the churches of the New England colonies were invited, left, as a perpetual memorial of itself, that statement of Congregational polity which has ever since been called the Cambridge Platform. The synod of Congregational churches which was convened under the patronage of the English government in 1658, at the Savoy in London, issued a “ Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practised in the Congregational Churches of England.” The synod of the churches in the colony of Connecticut, which was convened at Saybrook in 1708, gave out that scheme of a modified Congregationalism, which, though never formally adopted elsewhere than in that State, has had its influence on our churches in almost all parts of our country. And more recently, the meeting in which the Congregational Union of England and Wales was instituted, though it was not properly a synod or council of churches, issued a declaration or statement describing the Faith and Order of the Congregational churches in that country.

2. A document which shall exhibit, with more authority than can belong to any individual or local testimony, the system of order actually held by the Congregational churches in the United States, is greatly needed. The churches need it for their own information and guidance. Pastors and home missionaries, and indeed all our ministers, need it. Young men in theological schools, who are preparing themselves for the service of the churches, need it. Many whose ecclesiastical connection is with other portions of Christ's universal Church need it, that their minds may be disabused of misinformation or of prejudice. Especially is it needed in the new States and Territories where ecclesiastical institutions are yet to be formed; and in the recovered States so lately ravaged by rebellion, where ecclesiastical reconstruction, disembarrassed of all connection with a Christianity apostate from the first principles of righteousness, is hardly less important to the future welfare of society than a new political and social order.

3. No ancient document can be wisely referred to as being in all respects sufficient for our present need. The Cambridge Platform was made more than two hundred years ago, when American Congregationalism was in its infancy; and it is now more valuable as a means of showing how little our churches have departed from the original principles and methods. of their polity, than as a guide to the manner in which those principles are applied and administered in the practice of our churches at the present day. Indeed, there are portions of it which, to readers not versed in our ecclesiastical history, nor familiar with the technical terms of a logic now obsolete, are hardly intelligible without a commentary.

II. What sort of a statement will best supply the existing need, is a question which seems to answer itself. There is no need of an argumentative or rhetorical defence of Congregationalism to be issued by this assembly. Such expositions of our polity may proceed more fitly from individuals than from any representative body. On the other hand, a simple statement of the two or three first principles which constitute the radical difference between Congregationalism and other theories of Church government would not be sufficient. Those first principles are only the points of divergence between differing systems; and how wide the divergence is, cannot be shown but by tracing out the application of the principles. A simple and perspicuous statement, not only of the principles on which our polity is

founded, but also of the usages and arrangements which those principles have established among us, and in which, by common consent, they are applied and made practical, will be, it is believed, of great use to our churches both in their internal administration and in their fellowship with each other.

III. The authority of any document issued by this assembly of elders and messengers is wholly unlike the authority which is claimed for the canons enacted by the various assemblies of clergy and delegates which assume to govern the particular churches under them. It is little more than a truism to say that this Council has no legislative power to ordain a new constitution for the Congregational churches, or to make any new law, and no judicial power to establish precedents which inferior judicatories must follow. All that a Council like this can do is to inquire, to deliberate, and to testify. The testimony of this assembly concerning what is and what is not the Congregational polity cannot but have whatever authority belongs to the testimony of competent witnesses, assembled in a great multitude, well informed concerning the matter in question, and representing all “ those Congregational churches in the United States of America which are in recognized fellowship and cooperation through the general associations, conferences, and conventions in the several States.” Whatever authority the Cambridge Platform has as testifying what the Congregational polity of our fathers was in 1618, just that authority a similar statement proceeding from this assembly will have as. testifying what American Congregationalism is in 1865.

IV. The undersigned therefore respectfully submit the accompanying form or draught of a statement to be issued by this Council, together with a briefer document stating substantially the same points. We have not presumed to insert any novelties, nor to express our individual preferences, but only to state the usages of the churches. A comparison of our draught with the Cambridge Platform will show how closely we have followed that time-honored instrument in the general plan, in the arrangement of topics, and in language, and, at the same time, how freely we have departed from it, whether for the sake of increased perspicuity, or for the sake of exhibiting the Congregational polity as it is in fact to-day, instead of exhibiting it as it was in theory when our fathers, more than two hundred years ago, were beginning to build on this continent the living and ever-living temple of our God.


ALONZO H. QUINT. Boston, June 16, 1865.




1. The first principle from which the polity of the Congregational churches proceeds is that the Holy Scriptures, and especially the Scriptures of the New Testament, are the only authoritative rule for the constitution and administration of Church government; so that no other rules than those which are warranted by Christ and his apostles can be imposed on Christians as conditions of membership and communion in the Church.

2. Ecclesiastical polity, therefore, or Church government and discipline, is that association of believers for united worship and spiritual communion, in order to the visibility, the purity, the advancement, and the perpetuity of Christ's kingdom, which God has prescribed by the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures.

CHAPTER II. — THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, AND A PARTICULAR CHURCH. 1. Christ's catholic or universal Church is the great company of God's elect, redeemed and effectually called from the state of sin and death into a state of reconciliation to God.

2. The Church universal is either triumphant or militant. They who have come out of the great tribulation, and have entered into the joy of their Lord in heaven, are the Church triumphant. They who are still serving Christ on the earth, and contending with the powers that rule the darkness of this world, are the Church militant.

3. The universal Church on earth is not invisible merely, as discerned by God, who searches the hearts and knows the relation of every individual soul to Christ, but is visible, also, as including all who profess to believe in Christ, and do not wholly contradict that profession by ungodliness in their lives, or by denying the essential truths of the gospel.

4. The visible Church catholic, as it includes all visible Christians, comprehends not only such particular churches as are constituted and governed according to the word given in the Holy Scriptures, but also all assemblies of Christian believers and worshippers, even though, in things not essential to the Christian faith, they err through the force of tradition or the infirmity of human judgment; and it is governed, not by the pretended vicar of Christ, nor by any human authority assuming to have jurisdiction over all particular churches, but only by Christ himself through his Word and Spirit.

5. As we renounce the notion of an organized and governed catholic Church, which has no warrant from the Scriptures, so we renounce the equally unwarranted notion of a national Church having jurisdiction over the particular churches in a nation. Under the gospel, the organized and governed Church is not ecumenical, nor national, nor provincial, nor diocesan, or classical, but only local or parochial - a congregation of faithful or believing men, dwelling together in one city, town, or convenient neighborhood.

6. A local or Congregational Church is, by the institution of Christ, a part of the militant visible Church, consisting of a company of saints by calling, united into one body by a holy covenant, for the public worship of God, and their own mutual edification in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus.

7. All particular churches, being the one body of Christ, and having one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, are bound to maintain and hold forth the catholic communion of saints ; endeavoring, in their intercourse and relations one with another, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.



CHAPTER 1.-HOW A PARTICULAR CHURCH IS CONSTITUTED. 1. The visible Church consists of those who belong to Christ, and are therefore, in the phrase of our ancient platform,“ saints by calling,” and who, being holy by their calling and profession, are gathered out of the ungodly world, and united in a holy fellowship.

2. Those who visibly belong to Christ are, first, such as have not only attained a knowledge of the principles of religion, and are free from gross and open scandals, but also do profess their personal faith and repentance, and walk in blameless obedience to the word; and, secondly, their children, who, being children of the covenant, are also holy.

3. The members of one Church ought ordinarily to dwell in such vicinity to each other that they can meet in one place; so that every city, town, or convenient neighborhood, shall have its own Church complete and distinct. And ordinarily the members of one Church ought not to be more in number than can conv

nveniently meet for worship in one assembly and manage their affairs by one administration. Yet if there be many congregations, distinct from each other, in one town or city (whether their several parishes be distinguished by geographical lines or otherwise), they ought to regard themselves and each other as so many branches of Christ's one catholic Church in that place.

4. Those believers who dwell together in one place become a particular and distinct Church by their recognition of each other, and their mutual agreement, express or implied, wherein they give themselves unto the Lord to the observing of the ordinances of Christ in the same society. Such a recognition and agreement is usually called the Church covenant.

5. Different degrees of explicitness in such an agreement do not affect the being of the Church or the duties and responsibilities of membership. The more explicit and solemn the act of covenanting, the more are the members reminded of their common and mutual duties, and the less room is there for uncertainty in distinguishing between those who are members and those who are not. Yet the whole essence and meaning of the covenant are in fact retained, where the agreement of certain believers to meet constantly in one congregation for worship and edification is expressed only by their practice of thus meeting, and their actual use and observance of Christ's ordinances in their assembly. However explicit the covenant may be, it can reasonably and rightfully express nothing more than a mutual agreement to observe all Christ's laws and ordinances as one Church ; and however informal the agreement may be, it can mean nothing less.

6. All believers, having the opportunity, should endeavor to become members, every one, of some particular Church, that they may honor Christ by their professed conformity to the order and ordinances of the gospel, and that they may have the benefits of visible union and fellowship with the Church, which is the communion of the saints. These benefits are, first, a participation in the promise of Christ's special presence with his Church ; secondly, their increased activity and enjoyment in the Christian life by the combination of their affections and their endeavors, and by their inciting each other to love and good works; thirdly, watchful and fraternal help to keep each other in the way of God's commandments, and to recover by due admonition and censure any that go astray; and, fourthly, aid in the Christian nurture and training of their children, that their households may be holy, and their posterity be not cut off from the privileges of the covenant. Should all believers neglect this duty of voluntarily entering into organized Christian fellowship, to which duty they are moved by all the impulses of a renewed and holy mind, Christ would soon have no visibly associated and organized Church on earth.

CHAPTER II. — GOD'S INSTITUTED WORSHIP IN THE CHURCH. 1. Believers joined to each other and to Christ, in a Church relation, are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit, on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple of the Lord.

2. The worship of God in his spiritual temple, the Church, includes prayer, the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the ministry of the word, the sacraments, and the contribution of gifts and offerings for the service of Christ.

3. Prayers offered in the Church should be grave and earnest, lifting up the thoughts and desires of the assembly to God; they should be offered not in any prescribed and inflexible form, but freely, according to the vicissitudes of need and trial, and of joy or sorrow, in the Church or in its households; they should be offered for all men, for those who are in authority, for the welfare of the civil State, and for the universal Church of Christ on earth ; and in the matter and manner they should be conformed to such models as the Scriptures give, and, above all, to that model which Christ himself gave to his disciples, that he might teach them how to pray.

4. Singing in the Church is not for the delight of the sense, as in places of amusement, but for the union of voices and hearts in worship, and for spiritual edification. The Psalms which God gave by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are sanctioned for us by Christ and his apostles, and remain in the Church forever, to be used in praising God. There is warrant also in the New Testament for the use of hymns and spiritual songs, but not to the exclusion or neglect of the Psalms.

5. The ministry of the word in the Church is by the reading of the Scriptures, with such exposition as may aid the hearers in their personal and family searching of the Scriptures; and also by preaching and teaching, that the truths and principles which God has revealed in his law and in the gospel of his grace may be set forth distinctly in their manifestation of the glory and government of God, in their relations to each other, and in all their applications to the duties' of men and to the salvation of sinners.

6. The two sacramental institutions of the New Testament, representing significantly, and commemorating through all ages, the two-fold grace of God offered in the gospel, as they are to be observed by all believers, are also to be administered in every Church. Baptism, wherein the purifying element of water signifies and holds forth the inward washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which God shed on men abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, is most becomingly administered in the Church, whether on converts from without or on the children of the covenant, and should be administered in simplicity, with no addition of vain or superstitious ceremonies. In like manner, the Lord's Supper, wherein his disciples, partaking of the bread and the cup, partake of his body which was broken for us, and of his blood which was shed for many for the remission of sins, is to be celebrated in all simplicity, according to the recorded words of the institution, without any mixture of human inventions.

7. In the place of the tithes and offerings, which were part of God's instituted worship before the coming of Christ, are the free gifts of Christ's disciples to his suffering brethren and to his cause and service. The contribution in the Church is not a secular thing, intruded into the house of God for mere convenience'sake, and adverse to spiritual edification, but is itself an act of grateful homage to Christ as well as of communion with his brethren.

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1. Church power, under Christ, resides primarily, not in the officers of the Church, nor in any priesthood or clergy, but in the Church, and it is derived through the Church, to its officers, from Christ.

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