Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33









To be examined againſt the next

Generall Aſſemblie.

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Printed by Evan Tyler, Printer to the

Kings moſt Excellent Majeſty.


TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

Readers familiar with Presbyterian history and the Form of Presbyterial Church Government and Ordination of Ministers, will find interesting the following “Directory for Church Government and Ordination of Ministers,” prepared by the Westminster Assembly after presenting to the English parliament the collection of “Propositions” now known as the above-said “Form.”  Although this was not directly adopted by the English parliament, it supplied material for the 1648 “Form of Church Government” finally ordered by Parliament.

The substantial additions provided by this document, above what was contained in the “Form” received by the Church of Scotland in 1645, include additional details on church assemblies of all sorts, especially congregational assemblies; paragraphs against sinful separation; and a Directory for Church Censures.  The text is presented here as a comparison with the better known “Form” by indicating additions (in green) and revisions (in blue.)











To be examined againſt the next


The Preface.

JEsus Christ, upon whose shoulder the Government is, whose Name is called [Isa. 9.6,7,] Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace; of the encrease of whose Government and Peace there shall be no end, who sits upon the Throne of David, and upon his Kingdom to order it, and to establish it with Judgment {2} and Justice, from henceforth even for ever: Having all power given unto him in Heaven and Earth by the Father who raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand, far above all Principalities, and Power, and Might, and Dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his Body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all; He being ascended up far above all Heavens, that he might fill all things, received gifts for his Church, and gave all Officers necessary for the edification of his Church, and perfecting of his Saints.

Of the Church.

THere is one General Church visible held forth in the New Testament, unto which General Church visible, the Ministry, Oracles, and Ordinances of the New Testament, are given by Jesus Christ, for the gathering and perfecting of the Saints in this life until his second coming.

Particular visible Churches, members of the General Church, are also held forth in the New Testament: which particular Churches in the Primitive times, were made up of visible Saints, viz. of such as being of age, professed Faith in Christ, and obedience unto Christ (according to the rules of Faith and Life taught by Christ and his Apostles) and of their Children. {3}

Of the Officers of the Church.

APostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, were extraordinary Officers in the Church, and are ceased.

The Pastor is an ordinary and perpetual Officer in the Church; To whose Office it belongeth to pray for, and with his Flock; To read the Scripture publicly in the Congregation, which is an holy Ordinance in God’s Church, although there follow no immediate explication of what is read; To preach the Word, to be instant in season, & out of season; To reprove, correct, instruct, rebuke, exhort, convince, and comfort:  One especial way of discharging which work of Preaching, is, by a plain laying down the first principles of the Oracles of God, which is commonly called Catechising; to administer the Sacraments; In the Name of God to bless the People; To take care for the poor: And he hath also a ruling power over the Flock as a Pastor.

In the Scripture we also find the name and title of Teacher, who is a Minister of the Word, and hath power of administration of the Sacraments and Discipline, as well as the Pastor.[1]

The Lord having given different gifts, and divers exercises according to those gifts in the Ministers of the Word, though these different gifts may meet in, and accordingly be exercised by one and the same Minister: yet where there be several Ministers in the same Congregation, they may be designed to several imployments, according to the different gifts wherein each of them doth excel; And he who doth more excel in exposition of Scripture, in Teaching sound Doctrine, and in convincing {4} gainsayers, than he doth in application, and is accordingly imployed therein, may be called a Teacher or Doctor.  Nevertheless, where there is but one Minister in a particular Congregation, he is to perform, so far as he is able, the whole work of the Ministry.

A Teacher or Doctor is of most excellent use in Schools and Universities, as of old in the Schools of the Prophets, and at Jerusalem, where Gamaliel and others taught as Doctors.

It is likewise agreeable to, and warranted by the Word of God, that some others beside the Ministers of the Word, be Church Governours, to join with the Minister in the Government of the Church, which Officers Reformed Churches commonly call Elders.

These Elders ought to be such as are men of good understanding in matters of Religion, sound in the faith, prudent, discreet, grave, and of unblameable conversation.

Deacons also are distinct Officers in the Church: To whose office it belongeth not to preach the Word, or administer the Sacraments, but to take special care for the necessities of the poor, by collecting for, and distributing to them with direction of the Eldership, that none amongst the people of God be constrained to be beggars.

The Deacons must be wise, sober, grave, of honest report, and not greedy of filthy lucre.

Of Church Government, and the severall sorts of Assemblies for the same.

CHrist hath instituted a Government, and Governours Ecclesiastical in the Church; And to that {5} purpose the Apostles did immediately receive the keys from the hand of Jesus Christ, and did use and exercise them in all the Churches of the World, upon all occasions: And Christ hath from time to time furnished some in his Church, with gifts for Government, and with Commission to exercise the same when called thereunto.

It is agreeable to, and warranted by the Word of God, that some others besides the Ministers of the Word, be Church Governours, as was mentioned before.

It is lawful and agreeable to the Word of God, that the Church be governed by several sorts of Assemblies, Which are Presbyteries and Synods, or Assemblies, Congregational, Classical, and Synodical.

The Scripture doth hold out a Presbytery in a Church; which Presbytery consisteth of Ministers of the Word, and those other Church Officers who are to join with the Ministers in the Government of the Church.

The Scripture doth hold out another sort of Assemblies for the Government of the Church, besides Classical and Congregational, which we call Synodical.

Of the power in Common of all these Assemblies, and the order to be observed in them.

IT is lawful and agreeable to the Word of God, that the several Assemblies before mentioned do convent and call before them any person within their several bounds, whom the Ecclesiastical business which is before {6} them doth concern, either as a party, or a witness, or otherwise, and to examine them according to the nature of the business.  And that they do hear and determine such causes and differences as shall orderly come before them, and accordingly dispense Church censures.

It is most expedient that in these meetings, one whose Office is to labour in the Word and Doctrine, do moderate in their proceedings, who is to vote as well as the rest of the members; To begin and end every meeting with prayer; To propose questions, gather the votes, pronounce the Resolves: But not to do any act of Government, unless in and jointly with the Assembly whereof he is Moderator.

All the members of these Assemblies respectively, are to attend on the appointed days of their meetings, or to send the reason of their absence to be judged by the Assembly where they ought to meet.

The final resolutions shall be by the Major part of the votes of those members who are present.

Of Particular Congregations.

IT is expedient that particular Congregations be fixed, both in their Officers and members, which are to meet in the same Assembly ordinarily for public Worship.

When their number is great that they cannot conveniently meet in one place, it is expedient that they be divided according to the respective bounds of their dwellings into distinct and fixed Congregations, for the better administration of such Ordinances as belong unto {7} them, and the discharge of mutual duties, wherein all, according to their several places and callings, are to labour to promote whatever appertains to the power of Godliness and credit of Religion, that the whole Land in the full extent of it, may become the Kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ.

Parochial Congregations in this Kingdom, consisting of Ministers and People, who profess faith in Christ, and obedience unto Christ, according to the rules of Faith and Life taught by Him and his Apostles, and join together in the public Worship of Hearing, Praying, and administration of the Sacraments, are Churches truly constituted.

[ Defects in Church Order, and Sinful Separation. ]

If any Person or Persons in the Congregation, do not answer his or their profession, but by open sin and wickedness cross and deny it: or if there be a want of some Officers, or a sinful neglect of Officers in the due execution of Discipline: yet this doth not make that Congregation cease to be a Church: but requires that there should be a supply of Officers which are wanting; and a careful endeavour for the Reformation of the offending Person or Persons, and of negligent Officers by just censures, according to the nature of the cause.

Communion and Membership in Congregations thus constituted, notwithstanding the forementioned defects, is not unlawful.  And to refuse or renounce membership and Church-communion, or to separate from Church-communion with Congregations thus constituted, as unlawful to be joined with, in regard of their constitution, is not warranted by the Word of God.

Separation from a Church thus constituted, where the Government is lawful, upon an opinion that it is unlawful, {8} and that therefore all the godly are also bound to separate from all such Churches so constituted and governed, and to join themselves to another Church of another Constitution and Government, is not warranted by the Word of God, but contrary to it.

To gather Churches into an independent form of Government out of Churches of a Presbyterial form of Government, upon an opinion that the Presbyterial Government is unlawful, is not lawful or warranted by the Word of God; Nor is it lawful for any member of a Parochial Congregation, if the Ordinances be there administered in purity, to go and seek them elsewhere ordinarily.

Of ordinances in a particular Congregation.

ORdinances in a particular Congregation, are Prayer, Thanksgiving, singing of Psalms, reading of the Word, Preaching and Catechising, administering the Sacraments, blessing the People in the Name of God, and collection for the Poor.  As for Discipline, we refer ourselves to what we have elsewhere expressed.

Of the Officers of a particular Congregation.

IN the Congregation there must be some who are set apart to bear Office: One at the least to labour in the Word and Doctrine, and to rule: And let others be {9} chosen ruling Elders to join with him in Government.

When any ruling Elder is to be chosen, where an Eldership is constituted, let it be done by them, with the consent and approbation of the people of that Congregation, and that not for a limited time: Yet the exercise of their Office may be so ordered by the Eldership, as that their civil employments be least hindered thereby.

Where there are many ruling Officers in a particular Congregation, let some of them more especially attend the inspection of one part, some of another, as may be most convenient; and let them at fit times visit the several Families for their spiritual good.

Let there be also Deacons to take special care for the relief of the poor, who are likewise to be chosen by the Eldership, with the consent of the people of that Congregation; and the continuance of them in that Office is to be determined by the Eldership, with the consent of the Congregation, so as may least hinder their civil employment.

These Officers are to meet together at convenient and set times for the well ordering of the affairs of that Congregation, each according to his Office.

The number of Elders and Deacons in each Congregation, is to be proportioned according to the condition of the Congregation. {10}

Of Congregationall Elderships, or Assemblies for Governing in a particular Congregation.

THe Congregational Eldership consisting of the Minister, or Ministers, and the other ruling Officers of that Congregation, hath power as they shall see just occasion to enquire into the knowledge and spiritual estate of any member of the Congregation: To admonish and rebuke; To suspend from the Lord’s table; though the person be not yet cast out of the Church.  All which is agreeable to the Word of God: Although the truth of conversion and regeneration be necessary to every worthy communicant for his own comfort and benefit, yet those only are to be by the Eldership excluded, or suspended from the Lord’s Table, who are found by them to be ignorant or scandalous.

Where there are more fixed Ministers than one in a Congregation, it is expedient, that they moderate by course in that Eldership.

Of Classical Assemblies.

[Of Presbyteries.]

WHen Congregations are divided and fixed, they need all mutual help one from another, both in regard of their intrinsical weakness, and mutual dependence: as also in regard of Enemies from without.

The Scripture doth hold forth, that many particular Congregations may be under one Presbyterial Government. {11}

A Classical Presbytery is an Assembly made up of Ministers of the Word, and other ruling Officers belonging unto several Neighbouring Congregations, and doth ordinarily consist of all the Pastors and Teachers belonging [to] those several Congregations so associated, and of one of the other ruling Officers at the least from every of these Congregations, to be sent by their respective [congregational] Presbyteries. [i.e. Elderships, or Sessions.]

Let them meet once every Month, or oftner, as occasion shall require, in such places as they shall judge most convenient.  And before they sit about other business, let there be a Sermon or exposition of Scripture made by some Minister of that Classis or Expectant, as they shall agree amongst themselves.

For the more orderly managing of such affairs as come before them, let there be one Moderator chosen by the Classis at every meeting out of the Ministers of the Word, who shall continue till the next meeting.

To the enabling them to perform any Classical act of Government or Ordination, there shall be there present a major part at least of the Ministers of the whole Classis.

It belongeth unto Classical Presbyteries.

To consider of, to debate and to resolve according to God’s Word such cases of conscience, or other difficulties in Doctrine, as are brought unto them out of their association, according as they shall find needful for the good of the Churches.

To examine and censure according to the Word any erroneous Doctrines, which have been either publicly or privately vented within their association, to the corrupting {12} of the judgments of men, and to endeavour the converting and reducing of Recusants, or any others in Errour or Schism.

To order all Ecclesiastical matters of common concernment within the bounds of their association.

To take cognizance of causes omitted or neglected in particular Congregations, and to receive appeals from them.

To dispense censures in cases within their cognizance, by Admonition, Suspension, or Excommunication.

To admonish or further to censure scandalous Ministers whether in Life or Doctrine, according to the nature of the offence, and that not only for such offences, for which any other Member of the Congregation shall incur any censure of the Church (in which case he is to be censured by the Classis with the like censure for the like offence) but likewise particularly for Simony, entering into any Ministerial charge, without allowance of authority, false Doctrine, affected lightness and vanity in Preaching, wilful neglect of Preaching, or slight performance of it, wilful Non-residence from his Charge without call or cause approved by the Classis, neglect of administration of the Sacraments or other Ministerial duties required of him in the Directory of Worship, depraving and speaking reproachfully against the wholesome orders by authority settled in the Church, casting reproach upon the power of Godliness, which he by his office ought chiefly to promote.  Yet so as that no Minister be deposed, but by the resolution of a Synod.

To examine, ordain, and admit Ministers for the Congregations respectively therein associated, according to {13} the advice formerly sent up to the honourable Houses of Parliament.

Of Synodical Assemblies.

SYnodical Assemblies do consist of Pastors, Teachers, Church-Governours, and other fit Persons (when it shall be deemed expedient) where they have a lawful calling thereunto.

These Assemblies have Ecclesiastical power and authority to judge and determine controversies of Faith and cases of Conscience according to the Word.

They may also lawfully excommunicate and dispense other Church censures.

Synodical Assemblies are of several sorts, viz. Provincial, National and Oecumenical.

Of Provincial Assemblies.

LEt Provincial Assemblies generally be bounded according to the civil division of the Kingdom, into Counties: and where any very great Counties are divided within themselves, let the Provincial Assemblies follow these divisions, as in the Ridings of Yorkshire.

Provincial Assemblies consist of Delegates sent from Several Classes within that Province; whose number shall exceed the number of any one Classical Presbytery within that Province: And to that end, there shall be at the least two Ministers, and two ruling Elders out of every Classis, and where it shall appear necessary to encrease the number, let it not exceed six of each from any one Classis. {14}

Let these Assemblies meet twice every year: And for enabling them unto any act of Government, let there be a major part at least of the Ministers delegated from the several Classes.

Of the National Assembly.

THe National Assembly consists of Ministers and Ruling Elders delegated from each Provincial Assembly.  The number of which delegates shall be three Ministers and three Ruling Elders out of every Province, and five Learned and Godly Persons from each University.

Let this Assembly meet once every year, and oftner if there shall be cause.

The first time to be appointed by the Honourable Houses of Parliament.

Of the subordination of these Assemblies.

It is lawful and agreeable to the Word of God, that there be a subordination of Congregational, Classical, Provincial, and National Assemblies for the Government of the Church, that so appeals may be made from the inferiour to the superiour respectively.

The Provincial and National Assemblies, are to have the same power in all points of Government and censures, brought before them within their several bounds respectively, as is before expressed to belong to Classical Presbyteries within their several associations. {15}

Church censures

CHurch censures and Discipline, for judging and removing of offences, being of great use and necessity in the Church, that the Name of God, by reason of ungodly and wicked persons living in the Church, be not blasphemed, nor his wrath provoked against his people; that the Godly be not leavened with, but preserved from the contagion, and stricken with fear; and that the sinners who are to be censured, may be ashamed, to the destruction of the flesh, and saving of the Spirit in the day of the Lord Jesus; We judge this course of proceeding therein to be requisite.

The order of proceeding with offenders who before excommunication manifest Repentance.

WHen the offence is private, the order of admonition prescribed by our Lord, Mat. 18.15, is in all wisdom and love to be observed, that the offender may either be recovered by Repentance; Or, if he add obstinacy or contempt to his fault, he may be cut off by Excommunication.

If the sin be publicly scandalous, and the sinner being examined, be judged to have the signs of unfeigned {16} Repentance, and nothing justly objected against it, when made known to the people, let him be admitted to public confession of his sin, and manifestation of his Repentance before the Congregation.

When the penitent is brought before the Congregation, the Minister is to declare his sin, whereby he hath provoked God’s wrath and offended his People, his confession of it, and possession of unfeigned Repentance for it, and of his resolution (through the strength of Christ) to sin no more, and his desire of their Prayers for mercy, and grace to be kept from falling again into that or any the like sin: Of all which the penitent also is to make a full and free expression, according to his ability.

Which being done, the Minister, after prayer to God for the penitent, is to admonish him to walk circumspectly, and the people to make a right use of his fall, and rising again; And so, to declare that the Congregation resteth satisfied.

The order of proceeding to Ex­communication.

EXcommunication being a shutting out of a Person from the Communion of the Church (and therefore the greatest and last censure of the Church) ought not to be inflicted without great and mature deliberation, nor till all other good means have been assayed.

Such errors as subvert the Faith, or any other errors which overthrow the power of Godliness, if the party who holds them, spread them, seeking to draw {17} others after him; and such sins in practice, as cause the Name and Truth of God to be blasphemed, and cannot stand with the power of Godliness; and such practices as in their own nature manifestly subvert that Order, Unity, and Peace, which Christ hath established in his Church; Those being publicly known, to the just scandal of the Church, the sentence of Excommunication shall proceed according to the Directory.

But the Persons who hold other errours in judgment about points wherein Learned and Godly men possibly may, or do differ, and which subvert not the Faith, nor are destructive to Godliness; Or that be guilty of such sins of infirmity, as are commonly found in the Children of God; Or, being otherwise sound in the Faith and holy in Life (and so not falling under censure by the former Rules) endeavour to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace, and do yet out of Conscience not come up to the observation of all those Rules, which are or shall be established by Authority for regulating the outward Worship of God, and Government of his Church, we do not decern to be such against whom the sentence of Excommunication for these causes should be denounced.

When the sin becomes public and justly scandalous, the offender is to be dealt with by the Eldership, to bring him to Repentance, and to such a manifestation thereof, as that his Repentance may be public as the scandal: But if he remain obstinate, he is at last to be Excommunicated, and in the mean time to be suspended from the Lord’s Supper.

And whereas there be divers and various judgments touching the power of Excommunication and the proper {18} subject thereof, we conceive that for clearing of difficulties, avoiding of offences, preservation of Peace and such like, these following Directions are fit to be observed.

In the great and difficult cases of Excommunication, whether concerning Doctrine or conversation, the Classical Presbytery upon the knowledge thereof, may examine the person, consider the nature of the offence, with the aggravations thereof: and as they shall see just cause, may declare and decern that he is to be excommunicated, which shall be done by the Eldership of that Congregation whereof he is a member, with the consent of the Congregation, in this or the like manner.

As there shall be cause, several public admonitions shall be given to the offender (if he appear) and prayers made for him.

When the offence is so heinous that it cries to Heaven for vengeance, wasteth the conscience, and is generally scandalous, the censures of the Church may proceed with more expedition.

In the admonitions, let the fact be charged upon the offender, with the clear evidence of his guilt thereof; Then, let the nature of his sin, the particular aggravations of it, the punishments and curses threatened against it, the danger of impenitency, especially after such means used, the woeful condition of them cast out from the favour of God and communion of the Saints, the great mercy of God in Christ to the penitent, how ready and willing Christ is to forgive, and the Church to accept him upon his serious repentance; Let these, or the like particulars be urged upon him, out of some suitable places of the holy Scriptures. {19}

The same particulars may be mentioned in Prayer, wherein the Lord is to be intreated to bless this admonition to him, and to affect his heart with the consideration of these things, thereby to bring him unto true Repentance.

If upon the last admonition and Prayer there be no evidence nor sign of his Repentance, let the dreadful sentence of Excommunication be pronounced, with calling upon the name of God, in these or the like expressions.

[ Speak this in the third Person, if the party be absent. ]

Whereas thou N. hast been by sufficient proof convicted of (here mention the Sin) and, after due admonition and prayer remainest obstinate, without any evidence or sign of true Repentance; Therefore, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and before this Congregation, I pronounce and declare thee N. Excommunicated, and shut out from the communion of the Faithful.

Let the prayer accompanying Sentence be to this effect.

That God who hath appointed this terrible Sentence for removing offences, and reducing of obstinate sinners, {20} would be present with this his ordinance, to make it effectual to all these holy ends, for which he hath appointed it, that this retaining of the offender’s sin, and shutting him out of the Church, may fill him with fear and shame, break his obstinate heart, and be a means to destroy the flesh, and to recover him from the power of the devil, that his Spirit may yet be saved, that others also may be stricken with fear, and not dare to sin so presumptuously, and that all such corrupt leaven being purged out of the Church (which is the house of God) Jesus Christ may delight to dwell in the midst of them.

After the denunciation of this Sentence the people are to be warned, that they hold him to be cast out of the communion of the Church, and to shun all communion with him.  Nevertheless, Excommunication dissolveth not the bonds of civil or natural relations, nor exempt from the duties belonging to them.

This Sentence is likewise to be made known, Not only to that, but to any other Classis or Congregation, as occasion shall require, by reason of his abode or conversing with them.

The order of proceeding to Absolution.

IF after excommunication, the signs of Repentance appear in the Excommunicated Person, such as godly sorrow for sin, as having thereby incurred God’s heavy displeasure, occasioned grief to his brethren, and justly provoked them to cast him out of their communion; together with a full purpose of heart to turn from his sin unto God, and to reform what hath been amiss in him; with an humble desire of recovering his peace {21} with God and his People, and to be restored to the light of God’s countenance, & the communion of the Church; He is to be brought before the Congregation, and there also to make free confession of his sin with sorrow for it, to call upon God for mercy in Christ, to seek to be restored to the communion of the Church; promising to God new obedience and to them more holy and circumspect walking as becometh the Gospel: He is to be pronounced in the name of Christ absolved and free from the censures of the Church, and declared to have right to all the ordinances of Christ, with praising of God for his Grace, and Prayer that he may be fully accepted to his favour and hear joy and gladness, to this effect.

To Praise God who delighteth not in the death of a sinner, but that he may repent and live, for blessing the ordinance of Excommunication, and making it effectual by his Spirit to the recovering of this offender, To magnify the mercy of God through Jesus Christ in pardoning and receiving to his favour, the most grievous offenders, whensoever they unfeignedly repent and forsake their sins.

To pray for assurance of mercy and forgiveness to this Penitent, and so to bless his Ordinance of Absolution, that he may find himself loosed thereby, and that the Lord would henceforth so uphold and strengthen him by his Spirit, that being sound in the Faith, and holy in all manner of Conversation, God may be honoured, the Church edified, and himself saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. {22}

Then shall follow the sentence of Absolution, in these or the like words.

Whereas thou N. hast for thy sin been shut out from the Communion of the Faithful, and hast now manifested thy Repentance, wherein the Church resteth satisfied, In the Name of Jesus Christ, before this Congregation, I pronounce and declare thee absolved from the sentence of Excommunication formerly denounced against thee, And do receive thee to the Communion of the Church, and the free use of all the Ordinances of Christ, that thou mayest be partaker of all his benefits to thy eternal salvation.

After this Sentence of Absolution, the Minister speaketh to him as to a Brother, exhorting him to watch and pray, or comforting him if there be need; the elders embrace him, and the whole Congregation holdeth communion with him as one of their own.

Although it be the duty of Pastors and other ruling officers to use all diligence and vigilancy both by Doctrine {23} and Discipline respectively for the preventing and purging out such Errors, Heresies, Schisms, and scandals, as tend to the detriment and disturbance of the Church: Yet because it may fall out through the pride and stubbornness of offenders, that these means alone will not be effectual to that purpose; It is therefore necessary, after all this, to implore the aid of the Civil Magistrate, who ought to use his coercive power for the suppressing of all such offences, and vindicating the discipline of the Church from contempt.[2]

Of Ordination of Ministers.

BEcause no man ought to take upon him the office of a Minister of the Word without a lawful Call, therefore, Ordination which is the solemn setting apart of a person, unto some publick Church office, is always to be continued in the Church.

When he who is to be ordained Minister, hath been first duly examined touching his fitness, both for life and Ministerial abilities, according to the rules of the Apostle, [1 Tim. 3.2-6, and Titus 1.5-9,] by those who are to ordain him, and hath been by them approved, He is then to be ordained by imposition of hands and prayer with fasting.  But if any person be found unfit he is not to be ordained.

It is agreeable to the Word and very expedient, that such as are to be ordained Ministers, be designed to some particular Church, or other Ministerial charge. [Acts 14.23. Titus 1.5. Acts 20.17, and 28.]

Ordination is the act of a Presbytery unto which the power of ordering the whole work belongs; yet so as that the preaching Presbyters orderly associated either in Cities, or in neighbouring villages, are those to whom the {24} imposition of hands doth appertain, for those Congregations within their bounds respectively. [1 Tim. 4.14.]  And therefore it is very requisite that no single Congregation which can conveniently associate, do assume to it self, all and sole power in Ordination.

No Person or Persons may or ought to nominate, appoint, or choose any man to be a Minister for a Congregation, who is not fit and able for that work: And if any unfit man be nominated to the Classical Presbytery, they are to refuse to admit him.

When any Minister is to be ordained for a particular Congregation, or translated from one place to another, the people of that Congregation to which he is to be ordained or admitted, shall have notice of it, and if they shew just cause of exception against him, he is not to be ordained or admitted.  And in the mean time till one be admitted, the Presbytery shall provide for the supply of the Congregation.

The Congregation, if they conceive themselves wronged by any act of the Presbytery, shall have liberty to appeal to the next Synod, which upon hearing of the matter shall judge as the cause shall require.

The Directory for Ordination of Ministers.

IT being manifest by the word of God, that no man ought to take upon him the office of a Minister of the Gospel until he be lawfully called and ordained thereunto; and that the work of Ordination is to be performed with all due care, wisdom, gravity, and solemnity; {25} we humbly tender these Directions as requisite to be observed.

  1. He that is to be ordained, being either nominated by the people, or otherwise commended to the Presbytery for any place, must address himself to the Presbytery, and bring with him a testimonial of his taking the Covenant of the three Kingdoms, of his diligence and proficiency in his Studies, what degrees he hath taken in the University, and what hath been the time of his abode there, and withal of his age, which is to be four and twenty years, but especially of his life and conversation.

  2. Which being considered by the Presbytery, they are to proceed, to enquire touching the Grace of God in him, and whether he be of such holiness of life as is requisite in a Minister of the Gospel:  And to examine him touching his learning and sufficiency, and touching the evidences of his calling to the holy Ministry, and in particular his fair and direct calling to that place.

The Rules for Examination are these:

1. That the party examined be dealt withal in a Brotherly way, with mildness of spirit, and with special respect to the gravity, modesty, and quality of every one.

2. He shall be examined touching his skill in the Original tongues, and the trial to be made by reading the Hebrew and Greek Testaments, and rendering some portion of them into Latin; And if he be defective in them, enquiry shall be made the more strictly after his other learning; And whether he hath skill in Logic and Philosophy.

3. What Authors in Divinity he hath read, and is best acquainted with; And trial shall be made in his knowledge in {26} the chief grounds of Religion, and of his ability to defend the Orthodox Doctrine contained in them, against all unsound and erroneous opinions, especially those of the present age; of his skill in the sense and meaning of such places of Scripture as shall be proposed to him, in cases of Conscience, in the Chronology of Scripture, and the Ecclesiastical History.

4. If he hath not preached in public, with approbation of such as are able to judge, he shall at a competent time assigned him, expound before the Presbytery such a place of Scripture as shall be given him.

5. He shall also within a competent time, frame a discourse in Latin upon such a Common-place or Controversy in Divinity as shall be assigned him, and exhibit to the Presbytery such Theses as express the sum thereof, and maintain a Dispute upon them.

6. He shall Preach before the People, the Presbytery or some of the Ministers of the Word appointed by them, being present.

7. The proportion of his gifts in relation to the place unto which he is called shall be considered.

8. Beside the trial of his gifts in Preaching, he shall undergo an examination in the premisses two several days, or more, if the Presbytery shall judge it necessary.

9. And as for him that hath formerly been ordained a Minister, and is to be removed to another charge, he shall bring a Testimonial of his Ordination, and of his abilities and Conversation, whereupon his fitness for that place shall be tried by his Preaching there, and (if it shall be judged necessary) by a further examination of him.

  1. In all which he being approved, he is to be sent to the Church where he is to serve, there to Preach three {27} several days, and to converse with the people, that they may have trial of his gifts for their edification, and may have time and occasion to inquire into, and the better to know his life and conversation.

  2. In the last of these three days appointed for the trial of his gifts in Preaching, there shall be sent from the Presbytery to the Congregation a public intimation in writing, which shall be publicly read before the people and after affixed to the Church door, To signify, that such a day a competent number of the Members of that Congregation nominated by themselves, shall appear before the Presbytery, to give their consent and approbation to such a Man to be their Minister: Or otherwise to put in with all Christian discretion and meekness, what exceptions they have against him.  And if upon the day appointed, there be no just exception against him, but the People give their consent, then the Presbytery shall proceed to Ordination.

  3. Upon the day appointed for Ordination, which is to be performed in that Church where he that is to be ordained, is to serve, A solemn fast shall be kept by the Congregation, that they may the more earnestly join in prayer for a blessing upon the ordinance of Christ, and the labours of his Servant for their good.  The Presbytery shall come to the place, or at least three or four Ministers of the Word shall be sent thither from the Presbytery, of which one appointed by the Presbytery, shall Preach to the people concerning the office and duty of the Ministers of Christ, and how the people ought to receive them for their work’s sake.

  4. After the Sermon, the Minister who hath Preached shall in the face of the Congregation demand of him {28} who is now to be ordained concerning his faith in Christ Jesus, and his persuasion of the Truth of the Reformed Religion according to the Scripture; his sincere intentions and ends in desiring to enter into this Calling; his diligence in Prayer, Reading, Meditation, Preaching, Ministering the Sacraments, Discipline and doing all other Ministerial duties towards his charge; his zeal and faithfulness in maintaining the Truth of the Gospel and Unity of the Church against Errour and Schism; his care that himself and his Family may be unblameable and examples to the flock; his willingness and humility in meekness of Spirit to submit unto the admonitions of his Brethren and Discipline of the Church, and his resolution to continue in his duty against all troubles and persecution.

  5. In all which having declared himself, professed his willingness, and promised his endeavours by the help of God; The Minister likewise shall demand of the people concerning their willingness to receive and acknowledge him as the Minister of Christ, and to obey and submit unto him, as having rule over them in the Lord, and to maintain, encourage, and assist him in all the parts of his office.

  6. Which being mutually promised by the people, the Presbytery, or the Ministers sent from them for Ordination, shall solemnly set him apart to the Office and Work of the Ministry, by laying their hands on him, which is to be accompanied with a short Prayer, or Blessing to this effect. {29}

    Thankfully acknowledging the great mercy of God, in sending Jesus Christ for the Redemption of his People, and for his ascension to the right hand of the Father, and thence pouring out his Spirit, and giving gifts to Men, Apostles, Evangelists, Prophets, Pastors, and Teachers, for the gathering and building up of his Church, and for fitting and inclining this man to this great Work;  To entreat him to fill him with his holy Spirit, to give him (whom in his Name we thus set apart to this holy Service) to fulfil the Work of his Ministry in all things, that he may both save himself, and the People committed to his charge. [1 Tim. 4.16.]

  7. This or the like form of Prayer and Blessing being ended, let the Minister who Preached, briefly exhort him to consider the greatness of his Office and Work, the danger of negligence both to himself and his people, the Blessing which will accompany his faithfulness in this life, and that to come;  And withal exhort the People to carry themselves to him as to their Minister in {30} the Lord, according to their solemn promise made before.  And so by Prayer both commending Him and his Flock to the grace of God, After the singing of a Psalm, let the Assembly be dismissed with a Blessing.

  8. If a Minister be designed to a Congregation, who hath been formerly ordained Presbyter according to the form of Ordination which hath been in the Church of England, which we hold for substance to be valid, and not to be disclaimed by any who have received it; Then, there being a cautious proceeding in matter of examination, let him be admitted, without any new Ordination.

  9. And in case any Person already ordained Minister in Scotland or in any other Reformed Church, be designed to another Congregation in England, he is to bring from that Church to the Presbytery here, within which that Congregation is, a sufficient Testimonial of his Ordination, of his life and conversation while he lived with them, and of the causes of his removal;  And to undergo such a trial of his fitness and sufficiency; And to have the same course held with him in other particulars, as is set down in the rule immediately going before touching examination and admission.

  10. That Records be carefully kept in the several Presbyteries, of the Names of the Persons ordained with their Testimonials, the time and place of their Ordination, of the Presbyters who did impose hands upon them, and of the charge to which they are appointed.

  11. That no Money or Gift of what kind soever shall be received from the Person to be ordained, or from any on his behalf for Ordination or ought else belonging {31} to it, by any of the Presbytery, or any appertaining to any of them, upon what pretence soever.

Thus far of ordinary rules and course of Ordination in the ordinary way.  That which concerns the extraordinary way, requisite to be now practised, followeth.

  1. In these present exigences, while we cannot have any Presbyteries formed up to their whole power and work, and that many Ministers are to be ordained for the Service of the Armies and Navy, and to many Congregations where there is no Minister at all, and where (by reason of the public troubles) the people cannot either themselves enquire out and find one, who may be a faithful Minister for them, or have any with safety sent unto them, for such a solemn trial as was before mentioned in the ordinary rules, especially when there can be no Presbytery near unto them, to whom they may address themselves, or which may come or send to them a fit man to be ordained in that Congregation, and for that People.  And yet notwithstanding it is requisite that Ministers be ordained for them, by some who being set apart themselves for the Work of the Ministry, have power to join in the setting apart of others who are found fit and worthy:  In those cases, until by God’s blessing the aforesaid difficulties may be in some good measure removed, let some godly Ministers in or about the City of London, be designed by public authority; who being associated may ordain Ministers for the City, and the Vicinity, keeping as near to the ordinary rules forementioned as possibly they may.  And let this association be for no other intent or purpose, but only for the work of Ordination. {32}

  2. Let the like association be made by the same authority in great Towns, and the Neighbouring Parishes in the several Counties, which are at the present quiet and undisturbed, to do the like for the parts adjacent.

  3. Let such as are chosen or appointed for the service of the Armies or Navy be ordained as aforesaid by the associated Ministers of London, or some others in the Country.

  4. Let them do the like when any man shall duly and lawfully be recommended to them for the Ministry of any Congregation, who cannot enjoy liberty to have a trial of his parts and abilities, and desire the help of such Ministers so associated, for the better furnishing of them with such a Person, as by them shall be judged fit for the service of that Church and People.

Cornelius Burges Prolocutor, pro tempore.

Henry Roborough, Scrib.

Adoniram Byfield, Scrib.


[ The above text of the Directory for Church-Government and Ordination of Ministers, was prepared by taking the text of the Propositions Concerning Church-Government, etc. published in 1647, and revising the text with additions and alterations to conform to the 1647 Edinburgh printing of the Directory for Church-Government, etc.  Alterations were marked in blue, and additions in green.  Items omitted are not presented here, as they are many, and not represented in the printing of the Directory.  The reader may see them, however, by examining the HTML source of this document, where they will be found in HTML-comments, along with other notes from the present editor, describing differences between the text of the Form and the text of the Directory.

This document was never received as an official part of the Covenanted Reformation to which the Churches of Scotland, England, and Ireland are committed by the Solemn League and Covenant, but it does represent their resolved effort to reform religion in England and Ireland, in matters of government and discipline, as also the Lord’s assistance of his Church in pursuing this end.  It has been, and will yet be of value to churches pursuing the ecclesiastical and religious duties involved in these Covenanted obligations.  And it represents the true spirit of Established Presbyterianism, in times of reformation, as aimed at the formation of a Church consisting of authentic disciples, required to live a life of practical holiness and intelligent religion.—JTKer. ]


1. See the related adopting act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and chapter 5 of the Church of Scotland’s Second Book of Discipline, for further information on the difference between the office of Doctor and Pastor.

2. This provision in the Directory is in accordance with the doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 23, section 3, and with the practice of Presbyterian Scotland, where Excommunication was followed with civil consequences for excommunicate persons who refused to reconcile with the Church of Jesus Christ.  A demonstration of the Biblical and Christian character of these provisions may be found in David Dickson’s Truth’s Victory Over Error, chapter 20, and chapter 23; as well as the RPCNA’s Overture On the Magistrate’s Duty Circa-Sacra.