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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.