CHURCH ARTICLES OF THE DISSENTING CHURCH AT ST. JOHN'S (1781)

(From: From: THE DISSENTING CHURCH OF CHRIST AT ST. JOHN'S 1775-1975: A HISTORY OF ST. DAVID'S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND [St. John's: St. David's Presbyterian Church, 1975], 213-15)

                                       St. John's, Newfoundland
                                   in the year of our Lord 1781

The Preface

WE, whose Names are hereunto Subscribed Being in some degree made sensible of the many and the great spiritual advantages we have received from Almighty God by hearing of the Word, and other Means of Grace; and Believing the Discipline in use in this Dissenting Church to be agreeable to the Institution of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles, without any addition of will, Worship, or known and wilfull omission of Gospel Commands (Revelations 22:18,19) as we find it well pleasing to God for his People to enter into Covenant with each other to serve him (II Chron. 15:12,13,14,15) do, for our private and mutual agreement and the Preservation of Order and Purity in the Enjoyment of our Privileges, make and Sign the following Articles, solemnly engaging ourselves (with a humble Dependence on divine Grace) Strictly to observe the same excepting any unforeseen Case wherein the Glory of God shall render it expedient to dispense with the Observation thereof--

I. Concerning Qualifications of Admission

THAT no person is to be admitted without evident Holiness of Life in obeying the Truth; that being a visible Sign of the new Birth (I Peter 1:22,23) and Soundness of Truth in respect to the Trinity & our justification before God, namely that in the Unity of the Godhead there are three Persons, One in Substance, Power & Eternity (1st. John 5:7) and that by Grace we are saved, through Faith in the Atonement, Righteousness and Intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8).

II. Order of Admission

THAT each Candidate must be proposed and recommended by the Minister, from such Authority as he shall judge sufficient, he being the Steward of the Mysteries of God (1st. Corinth. 4:1) consequently it is his duty to examine into such matters. And for the Satisfaction and approbation of the Church he shall declare the Experience of such Candidate from his own writing if it may be convenient before the Body of the Church, at least fourteen days before the Administration of the Lord's Supper, during which time each Member has liberty to make what inquiry or objections he thinks necessary, and there be no objections made such Persons to be admitted are to subscribe to these Articles. (1st Corinth. 1:10, Phil. 3:16).

Ill. Opportunities of Public Worship

WHEREAS the Public Preaching of God's Word has an immediate tendency to the enlarging of Christ's Kingdom in this world, and consequently for the universal Benefit of Souls, and we find it was the practice of our Lord and his Apostles to preach and teach upon convenient Seasons on working days (Mark 14:49, Acts 5:42) and as this pious method is still continued more or less in almost all Christian communities, we agree to continue the usual opportunities of public worship, namely on the Sabbath forenoon, afternoon and Evening and on one other Evening in the Week; at which Seasons it is expected that each Communicant will attend, except a lawful Reason can be produced to the contrary.

IV. Church Meetings

As there are unforeseen occurrences of Business belonging to the Church which ought to be settled by the joint Consent of the community and are (as we judge) necessarily included in the Fellowship of the Saints (I John 1:7) such Business having a Spiritual tendency and it having been the practice of this Society to meet one Night in the week to adjust any necessary Matters and also to fill up a certain Space of Time agreed upon with experimental Conversation which the example of those that feared God in former Ages (Psalms 66:16, Matthew 3:16, Hebrews 10:25), we judge the continuation of these Meetings to be expedient and profitable. Howbeit since pious People may differ in modes of worship, as we find in the Apostles' Day (Romans 14), yet without censure, so our method of Conversations may be disappointed by some through Scruple of conscience, nevertheless this, if apparently sincere, shall not be a bar to the Communion of the Lord's Supper (Romans 14:13) provided always that in their respect they demean themselves according to the Precepts of the Gospel, and acknowledge themselves to be Members of this Church by Signing and Submitting to the Rules contained in these Articles. Such Persons are notwithstanding to attend meetings upon Church Business when requested, or if anything shall of Necessity be settled by the Body of the Church in the stated meetings the absent Persons shall consent thereunto (anything contrary to God's word or the good of the Church excepted). Neither shall it be allowed for such Persons at any time or in any Place to ridicule or speak lightly of those who think it their duty and find it their Privilege to practise this Godly Conversation nor shall any that do attend repeat to any of those without what they hear, it being our Lord's Command not to cast out Pearls before Swine (Matthew 7:6).

V. Political Conduct

THAT no Member shall by actions or Words endeavour to Subvert the Constitution of the Realm to which we belong (Proverbs 24:21, Jeremiah 29:7 and 1st. Peter 2:13).

VI. Worldly Diversions

NOTWITHSTANDING dancing and other moderate Recreations were practised (as we conceive) in former ages by pious and good Men and are not condemned in some Places of Scripture where they were mentioned, yet we find that when these things were used in an unholy Manner the lord expressed his Displeasure thereat, and threatened the Partakers of them with his judgements (Isaiah 5:11,12 and Amos 6:5). We therefore judge according to St. Paul-- that all things which are lawful are not expedient (Corinthians 6:12)--that to be found in the Practice of such Exercises or even wilfully to be present at them, as public or promiscuous Worldly Diversions, in this day of great dissipation must be contrary to' the will of God, prejudicial to his Cause, and hurtful to the Soul, for the following Reasons:--

(1) WE are commanded whatever we do all to the Glory of God (I Corinth. 10:31) and we conceive that in promiscuous Dancing, Card Playing and such kind of entertainments God cannot be Glorified, inasmuch as the generality of those whom we should thereby associate, and join in practice, are Strangers or Enemies to God, and therefore cannot do it in His Name (I Thess. 5:22).

(2) THE conscience is liable to be defiled thereby, consequently the Soul endangered--hence we are commanded to come out from among them that fear not God lest we are Partakers of their Iniquity (Isaiah 52:11, II Corinthians 6:17 and Revelation 18:4).

(3) WE are forbidden to be near the Company to walk in the Councils, to stand in the way or sit in the Seat of the ungodly or Scornful, which certainly includes the joining in their Assemblies of public Entertainments (Psalm 1:1 and Proverbs 4:14,15). From all this we conclude such Practices to be unfit for those who Profess themselves to be followers of Christ, and Pilgrims and Strangers in this world.

VII. Watchfulness, Reproof & Church Censure

THAT the Members shall carefully watch not only over their own hearts and Actions but over the Conduct of each other for good, and upon apparent Occasion shall with meekness and tenderness Reprove-- AND should the offenders refuse to hear the Brother or Sister that in such manner reproves them, he or she is to speak to him before one or two more; and if they refuse to hear them, they are to be brought before the Church, and should they continue inflexible such Persons shall be excluded from Christian Fellowship pursuant to the Commands of our Lord and his Apostles (Matthew 18:15 and I Corinthians 5:5).

VIII. Restoration of Penitent Offenders

IF it shall please God to give the offender Repentance to the Acknowledgement of the Truth then is he or she to be restored, and their fault not to be mentioned in accusation against them lest they Should be swallowed up with overmuch Sorrow, and the ways of Christ be reproached with Severity (11 Corinthians 2:7,8,11).

IX. Church Expenses

AS it is very evident from St. Paul's Doctrine in 1st Corinthians 9:9-14 and Galatians 6:6--that all necessary Expenses are to be supplied by the Members of the Church, it is therefore agreed upon that every Member contribute according to his Abilities, and in such method as the Church shall think expedient for the furtherance of the Gospel.

X. The Purport & Authority of the Foregoing

THAT no master of Family shall be admitted into or continued a Member of this Church if he does not keep the constant practice of Family Devotions in his House morning and Evening at such hours as the nature of his business will admit of according to Jeremiah 10:25 nothing hereby being meant to burden the minds those whose occupation call them abroad before their Families can be called together


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