« PreviousContinue »
them what is essentially required thereunto; and therefore a Believer living with others in such a Precinct may join himself with any Church for his edification.
XXIV. For the avoiding of differences that may otherwise arise, for the greater Solemnity in the Celebration of the Ordinances of Christ, and the opening a way for the larger usefulness of the Gifts and Graces of the Holy Ghost, Saints living in one City or Town, or within such distances as that they may conveniently assemble for divine Worship, ought rather to join in one Church for their mutual strengthening and edification than to set up many distinct Societies.
XXV. As all Churches and all the members of them are bound to pray continually for the good or prosperity of all the Churches of Christ in all places, and upon all occasions to further it (Every one within the bounds of their Places and Callings, in the exercise of their Gifts and Graces), So the Churches themselves (when planted by the Providence of God so as they may have opportunity and advantage for it) ought to hold communion amongst themselves for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.
XXVI. In Cases of Difficulties or Differences, either in point of Doctrine or in Administrations, wherein either the Churches in general are concerned, or any one Church, in their Peace, Union, and Edification, or any Member or Members of any Church are injured in or by any proceeding in Censures not agreeable to Truth and Order, it is according to the mind of Christ that many Churches holding communion together do by their Messengers meet in a Synod or Council to consider and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the Churches concerned: Howbeit, these Synods so assembled are not intrusted with any Church Power properly so called, or with any Jurisdiction over the Churches themselves, to exercise any Censures, either over any Churches or Persons, or to impose their determinations on the Churches or Officers.
XXVII. Besides these occasioned Synods or Councils, there are not instituted by Christ any stated Synods in a fixed Combination of Churches or their Officers in lesser or greater Assemblies, nor are there any Synods appointed by Christ in a way of Subordination to one another.
XXVIII. Persons that are joined in Church-fellowship, ought not
lightly or withont just cause to withdraw themselves from the commuvion of the Church whereunto they are so joined : Nevertheless, where any person can not continue in any Church without his sin, either for want of the Administration of any Ordinances instituted by Christ, or by his being deprived of his due Privileges, or compelled to any thing in practice not warranted by the Word, or in case of Persecntion, or upon the account of conveniency of habitation; he, consulting with the Church, or the Officer or Officers thereof, may peaceably depart from the communion of the Church wherewith he hath so walked, to join himself with some other Church where he may enjoy the Ordinances in the purity of the same, for his edification and consolation.
XXIX. Such reforming Churches as consist of Persons sound in the Faith, and of Conversation becoming the Gospel, ought not to refuse the communion of each other, so far as may consist with their own Principles respectively, though they walk not in all things according to the same Rules of Church Order.
XXX. Churches gathered and walking according to the mind of Christ, judging other Churches (thongh less pure) to be true Churches, may receive unto occasional communion with them such Members of those Churches as are credibly testified to be godly and to live without offense.
THE DECLARATION OF THE CONGREGATIONAL UNION
OF ENGLAND AND WALES. A.D. 1833.
[This is printed annually in the Congregational Year-Book, London. See Vol. I. p. 730.)
DECLARATION OF THE FAITH, CHURCH ORDER, AND DISCIPLINE OF THE
CONGREGATIONAL OR INDEPENDENT DISSENTERS.
Adopted at the Annual Meeting of the Congregational Union,
May, 1833. The CONGREGATIONAL Churches in England and Wales, frequently called INDEPENDENT, hold the following doctrines, as of divine authority, and as the foundation of Christian faith and practice. They are also formed and governed according to the principles bereinafter stated.
PRELIMINARY NOTES. 1. It is not designed, in the following summary, to do more than to state the leading doctrines of faith and order maintained by Congregational Churches in general.
2. It is not proposed to offer any proofs, reasons, or arguments, in support of the doctrines herein stated, but simply to declare what the Denomination believes to be taught by the pen of inspiration.
3. It is not intended to present a scholastic or critical confession of faith, but merely such a statement as any intelligent member of the body might offer, as containing its leading principles.
4. It is not intended that the following statement should be put forth with any authority, or as a standard to which assent should be required.
5. Disallowing the utility of creeds and articles of religion as a bond of union, and pro testing against subscription to any human formularies as a term of communion, Congregationalists are yet willing to declare, for general information, what is commonly believed among them, reserving to every one the most perfect liberty of conscience.
6. Upon some minor points of doctrine and practice, they, differing among themselves, allow to each other the right to form an unbiased judgment of the Word of God.
7. They wish it to be observed, that, notwithstanding their jealousy of subscription to creeds and articles, and their disapproval of the imposition of any human standard, whether of faith or discipline, they are far more agreed in their doctrines and practices than any Church which enjoins subscription and enforces a human standard of orthodoxy; and they believe that there is no minister and no church among them that would deny the substance of any one of the following doctrines of religion, though each might prefer to state his sentiments in his own way.
PRINCIPLES OF RELIGION.
I. The Scriptures of the Old Testament, as received by the Jews, and the books of the New Testament, as received by the Primitive Christians from the Evangelists and Aposties, Congregational Churches believe to be divinely inspired, and of supreme authority. These writings, in the languages in which they were originally composed, are to
be cousulted, by the aids of sound criticism, as a final appeal in all controversies; but the common version they consider to be adequate to the ordinary purposes of Christian instruction and edification.
II. They believe in One God, essentially wise, holy, just, and good; eternal, infinite, and immutable in all natural and moral perfections; the Creator, Supporter, and Governor of all beings and of all things.
III. They believe that God is revealed in the Scriptures, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that to each are attributable the same divine properties and perfections. The doctrine of the divine existence, as above stated, they cordially believe, without attempting fully to explain.
IV. They believe that man was created after the divine image, sinless, and, in his kind, perfect.
V. They believe that the first man disobeyed the divine command, fell from his state of innocence and purity, and involved all his posterity in the consequences of that fall.
VI. They believe that, therefore, all mankind are born in sin, and that a fatal inclination to moral evil, utterly incurable by human means, is inherent in every descendant of Adam.
VII. They believe that God, having, before the foundation of the world, designed to redeem fallen man, made disclosures of his mercy, which were the grounds of faith and hope from the earliest ages.
VIII. They believe that God revealed more fully to Abraham the covenant of his grace, and, having promised that from his descendants should arise the Deliverer and Redeemer of mankind, set that patriarch and his posterity apart, as a race specially favored and separated to his service: a peculiar Church, formed and carefully preserved, under the divine sanction and government, until the birth of the promised Messiah.
IX. They believe that, in the fullness of the time, the Son of God was manifested in the flesh, being born of the Virgin Mary, but conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit; and that our Lord Jesus Christ was both the Son of Man and the Son of God; partaking fully and truly of human nature, though without sin–equal with the Father and the express image of his person.'
X. They believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, revealed, either personally in his own ministry, or by the Holy Spirit in the ministry
of his apostles, the whole mind of God for our salvation; and that, by his obedience to the divine law while he lived, and by his sufferings unto death, he meritoriously obtained eternal redemption for us;' haring thereby vindicated and illustrated divine justice, 6 magnified the law,' and 'brought in everlasting righteousness.'
XI. They believe that, after his death and resurrection, he ascended up into heaven, where, as the Mediator, he ever liveth' to rule over all, and to make intercession for them that come unto God by him.'
XII. They believe that the Holy Spirit is given, in consequence of Christ's mediation, to quicken and renew the hearts of men; and that his influence is indispensably necessary to bring a sinner to true repentance, to produce saving faith, to regenerate the heart, and to perfect our sanctification.
XIII. They believe that we are justified through faith in Christ, as the Lord our righteousness,' and not by the works of the law.'
XIV. They believe that all who will be saved were the objects of God's eternal and electing love, and were given by an act of divine sovereignty to the Son of God; which in no way interferes with the system of means, nor with the grounds of human responsibility; being wholly unrevealed as to its objects, and not a rule of human duty.
XV. They believe that the Scriptures teach the final perseverance of all trne believers to a state of eternal blessedness, which they are appointed to obtain through constant faith in Christ and uniform obedience to his commands.
XVI. They beliere that a holy life will be the necessary effect of a true faith, and that good works are the certain fruits of a vital union to Christ.
XVII. They believe that the sanctification of true Christians, or their growth in the graces of the Spirit, and meetness for heaven, is gradually carried on through the whole period during which it pleases God to continue them in the present life, and that, at death, their souls, perfectly freed from all remains of evil, are immediately received into the presence of Christ.
XVIII. They believe in the perpetual obligation of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; the former to be administered to all converts to Christianity and their children, by the application of water to the subject, ' in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;'