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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 20 - The Directory For The Ordination Of Ministers (part 1).

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

The Directory For The Ordination Of Ministers (part 1). 

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, 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 twenty-four 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 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 his trial to be made by reading the Hebrew and Greek Testaments, and rendering some portion of some into  Latin;  and  if  he  be  defective  in  them,  enquiry  shall  be  made  more  strictly  after  his other learning, and whether he hath skill in logick and philosophy. (3.) What authors in divinity he hath read, and is best acquainted with; and trial shall be made in his knowledge of the grounds of religion, and of his ability to defend the orthodox doctrine contained in them against all unsound and erroneous opinions, especially these of  the  present  age;  of  his  skill  in  the  sense  and  meaning  of  such  places  of  scripture  as shall be proposed unto him, in cases of conscience, and in the chronology of the scripture, and the ecclesiastical history. (4.) If he hath not before preached in publick 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  to  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 premises two several days, and 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. 3. In all which he being approved, he is to be sent to the church where he is to serve, there to preach three 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 enquire into, and the better to know, his life and conversation. 4. In the last of these days appointed for the trial of his gifts in preaching, there shall be sent from the presbytery to the congregation a publick intimation in writing, which shall be publickly read before the people, and after affixed to the church-door, to signify that such a day a competent number of the members of the 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 exceptions they have against him, but the people give their consent, then the presbytery shall proceed to ordination.

Question 1.—What are the things manifest by the Word of God that move the divines to offer these directions which they require to be observed? Answer.—There are two considerations for offering these directions which they require to be observed; first, the church has an obligation, by the Word of God, to see that none take  upon  himself  the  office  of  minister  without  being both  called  of  God,  Heb.  5:4;  and ordained  by  the  presbytery,  1  Tim.  4:14.   Second,  this  work  of  ordination  must  be performed with due care, wisdom, gravity and solemnity as becomes the house of God, 1 Tim. 3:15; 5:22; Acts 14:23. Question 2.—What are the prerequisites for those to be ordained? Answer.—There  are  several  prerequisites  for  those  who  are  to  be  ordained:  1.)  They are to be those either nominated by the people, Acts 6:3; 1 Cor. 16:3; or, they should in some other way be commended to the presbytery, Acts 15:22; Tit. 1:5.  2.) They are to be taken  from  among  those  who  belong  to  that  particular  church,  including  its  attainments and obligations, Deut. 1:13; Acts 6:3; 1 Tim. 4:6.  3.) They are to be examined concerning their diligence and proficiency in any previous education, 2 Tim. 2:2.  4.) They are to be of sufficient age to demonstrate a stable maturity, 1 Tim. 3:6.  5.) They are to be examined with respect to both life and conversation, 1 Tim. 3:2-4. Question  3.—What particular enquiries ought the presbytery to make concerning those being considered for ordination? Answer.—The presbytery ought to make enquiry concerning: 1.) The work of the grace of  God,  in  those  under  consideration,  Gal.  2:9;  especially  whether  or  not  they  are possessed of a requisite amount of holiness for the ministry, Tit. 1:6-9.  2.) The learning, and  sufficiency  of  that  learning,  of  those  under  consideration,  2  Tim.  2:24.    3.)  The evidence  of  calling,  Neh.  7:2;  Jer.  23:28;  as  well  as  a fair  and  direct  call  to  a  particular congregation, Col. 1:7. Question  4.—What are the rules that are laid down for the examination of those being considered for ordination? Answer.—The  rules  for  examination  are:  1.)  Those  under  consideration  are  to  be examined in a brotherly way, 1 Cor. 14:29, 30; shunning the passions of men and taking care to observe the special respect due to the gravity, modesty and quality of each one, 
Lev. 19:32; 1 Tim. 5:19.  2.) They are to be examined in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, Luke 23:38;  which,  if  defective,  is  to  be  augmented  by  other  learning,  especially  logic  and philosophy, Dan. 1:4, 17-20.  3.) They are to be exercised in the matters of the faith, Heb. 5:12-14; able to defend the true religion against heresies and errors, Phil. 1:17; especially those errors and heresies which are most current, 2 Pet. 1:12.  Additionally, they should exhibit  some  skill  in  the  interpretation  of  scripture, cases  of  conscience  and  matters  of ecclesiastical  history,  2  Tim.  2:23-26;  Acts  2:29-36;  7:2,  10,  11,  22.    4.)  They  shall  be examined  with  respect  to  the gift  of  preaching,  1  Cor.  14:29,  32.    5.)  They  shall frame  a Latin  discourse  upon  some  common-place,  or  controversy,  in divinity  and  demonstrate ability to maintain a dispute upon that point, Tit. 1:9; 3:10.  6.) They shall make a display of the gifts of teaching and preaching before people and presbytery, 2 Tim. 1:6, 7.  7.) They are  to  be  considered  with  respect  to  the  proportion  of  gifts  possessed,  particularly  with relation to the place wherein they are called to serve, Rom. 12:6; because not all gifts are to be exercised at all times in all places and a general call is different from a specific call to one place, Acts 16:7.  8.) Beside the gifts in preaching, they should be examined in the premises for several days, or more, if adjudged necessary, Acts 14:22, 23.  9.) Those who have  formerly  been  ordained,  should  they  be  removed  from  one  place  to  another,  need simply  bring  a  testimonial of  his  ordination, 1  Cor.  16:3; only if  judged  necessary  should there be further examination, Gal. 2:2. Question 5.—What should be done, if the candidate is approved? Answer.—The candidate is to be sent to the place and amongst the people, to whom he is to minister, so that they can ascertain his gifts for their edification, John 10:4, 5.  In addition,  they  are  to  be  given  opportunity  to  become  acquainted  with  his  life  and conversation, 1 Thess. 1:5. Question 6.—What process should be utilized prior to ordination? Answer.—The  candidate,  finding  a  general  acceptance  amongst  the  people,  the presbytery is to send, in writing, an intimation of their intent to ordain the candidate, 1 Cor. 11:34;  Tit.  1:5.    This  ought  to  be  read  in  the  church,  so  that  none  who  should  hear  be neglected in this purpose, 1 Cor. 14:8.  Even affixing the intent publicly that it may become a matter of record, Acts 15:23; 16:4.  The presbytery is to seek the consent of the people in their proposed action, Ex. 18:21; with a willingness to accept the delegation of some by the  whole,  1  Cor.16:3.    The  presbytery  should  make  provision  for  any  complaints  to  be heard,  and any  cause  against  their  proposal to  be  considered,  1  Tim.  3:2;  5:22.    On  the appointed day, if there be found no just cause, Acts 25:16; then the presbytery is directed to proceed to the actual ordination, Acts 13:3.