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The Elders and Deacons shay serve two years, and the one half be changed annually, and others appointed in their room, unless the situation or advantage of some particular churches should otherwise require.
As it is the duty of Christian Magistrates to countenance the worship of God, to recommend religion by their example, and protect the members of the community in the full and regular exercise of religious liberty; so it is the duty of Ministers, Elders, and Deacons, zealously and faithfully to inculcate upon all their congregations, that obedience, love, and homage, which they owe to the Magistrates. All ecclesiastical persons shall, by their own good conduct, in this respect, give an example to the congregations; and, by a becoming reverence, endeavour to excite and maintain the favourable attention of government to the churches; to the end that each mutually fulfilling their respective duties in the fear of the Lord, all suspicion and jealousy may be prevented, and a happy confidence, conducive to the welfare of the churches, be preserved.
II. OF ECCLESIASTICAL ASSEMBLIES.
HE ECCLESIASTICAL ASSEMBLIES, which shall be maintained, are of four kinds, viz.
In those Assemblies, ecclesiastical matters only shall be transacted, and that in an ecclesiastical manner. A greater Assembly shall take cognizance of those things alone which could not be determined in a lesser, or that appertain to the churches or congregations in general, which compose such an assembly.
If any person conceive himself aggrieved by the decision of a lesser Assembly, he shall have the liberty and right of appealing to a higher; and that which is determined by a majority of voices in such Assembly, shall be held decisive and binding, unless it can be demonstrated to be contrary to the word of God, and these articles.
ART. XXXII. The transactions of all Ecclesiastical Assemblies shall begin with prayer, and conclude with thanksgiving.
Those who are delegated to attend the Assemblies, shall bring with them credentials, and instructions, signed by those who send them ; and such only shall be entitled to a decisive vote.
In all Assemblies there shall be a President, and Secretary. The business of the Secretary shall be to register whatever is deemed worthy of being entered on the minutes.
The office of the President is to state and explain the business which is to be transacted; to preserve order; to silence the captious, and those who are too vehement in debate, and to inflict upon them proper censure in case of disobedience. The office of President shall cease when the Assembly rises.
A Classis hath the same jurisdiction over a Consistory, which a Particular Synod hath over a Classis, and a General Synod over a Particular.
ART. XXXVII. In all churches there shall be a CONSISTORY composed of the Ministers and Elders, who shall meet together at least once every week; and when met, the Ministers shall preside and moderate the business. If there be a plurality of Ministers, they shall preside and direct in rotation.
No new Consistory shall be constituted in any particular place, without the previous advice and concurrence of the Classis; and where the number of Elders is too small, the Deacons may be admitted as members of the Consistory.
In places where a Consistory hath not yet been formed, the duties otherwise imposed by this constitution upon the Consistory, shall in the mean while, be performed by the Classis.
The Deacons shall likewise meet together every week, in order to transact the business relating to their office ; and shall open, and close their meeting with prayer. The Minister shall carefully inspect their proceedings ; and, if necessary, attend in person.
The CLASSICAL ASSEMBLIES shall be composed of neighbouring churches; each of which shall send one Minister, and one Elder, with proper credentials, to the place, and at the time agreed upon at the rising of the preceding Classis : provided always, that the intervals between the Classical Meetings shall not exceed three months. In those Assemblies the Ministers shall preside in rotation, or otherwise a Præses shall be appointed by the Members, so that the same person, however, be not chosen twice successively. The Præses shall moreover enquire of the Members respectively, whether they observe their Consistorial Meetings ; whether Church Discipline be exercised; whether the Poor, and the Schools are properly taken care of; and, whether they stand in need of the advice and assistance of the Classis, in any thing respecting the regulation of their churches. The Minister, who was appointed by the last preceding Classis, shall, at the openilig of the session, deliver a sermon, of which the other Members are to judge, and to point out its defects, if any there be. Lastly, the Classis shall, at their meeting next preceding that of the Particular Synod, appoint Delegates to attend the said Synod.
In churches where there are more Ministers than one, each Minister shall have liberty to appear in the Classis, and be entitled to a deciding voice ; such cases excepted, which particularly affect their persons, or congregations.
At the close of the Classical, and other higher Assemblies, a censura morum shall be held with respect to those who have been guilty of any censurable conduct in the Assembly, or who have despised the admonitions of the lesser Judicatories.
Each Classis shall authorize two or more of the eldest, most experienced, and best qualified of its members, annually to visit all the churches belonging to its jurisdiction, both in the cities, and in the country; whose business it shall be to enquire, whether the Ministers, Consistories, and School-masters do faithfully discharge their offices; whether they adhere to sound doctrine; whether they observe, in all things, the received discipline; and promote, as much as possible, by word and deed, the edification of the congregation in general, and of the youth in particular: that so they may seasonably, and in a brotherly manner, admonish those who, in either of these particulars, may be found negligent; and, by their counsel and conduct, assist in directing all things to the edification and prosperity of the churches and schools. Each Classis may continue their Visitors in office during pleasure, except when the Visitors themselves (for reasons of which the Classis shall judge) request to be üismissea,