General Association of Connecticut.

The ancient platforms of the Congregational churches of New England; with a digest of rules and usages in Connecticut, and an appendix, containig notices of congregational bodies in other states online

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Online LibraryGeneral Association of ConnecticutThe ancient platforms of the Congregational churches of New England; with a digest of rules and usages in Connecticut, and an appendix, containig notices of congregational bodies in other states → online text (page 1 of 20)
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Columbia 5Knit)trs^itp


Bequest of

Frederic Bancroft










Published by direction o'Paiej'Gron&rrfAiso<^a!lQi of jCtJa^iecticut.





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1842, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Connecticut.


Stereotyped by


Hartford, Conn.


The General Association of Connecticut, at New Milford,
in 1837, appointed a committee of one from each district
association, " to collect from the different associations and
consociations the various rules and usages vv-iich modify the
application of the Platform ; and to report to vue next General
Association a summary or digest of the same, which may be
incorporated with a new edition of the Platform.

By the labors of that committee, a beginning was made in
the work now completed. But the contemplated edition of
the Say brook Platform having been published without the
proposed "summary or digest," the committee supposed that
they were released from the service ; and by the General
Association at Norwalk, in June, 1838, they were, at their
request, discharged from the further consideration of the sub-

The design, however, was felt to be too important to be
abandoned ; and at the same meeting, the subscribers were
appointed a committee " to collect from the different associa-
tions and consociations, their various rules and usages, and to
report a digest of the same to the next General Association."

At Danbury, in 1839, and at New Haven, in 1840, this
committee reported the progress they were making in the
work, and were directed to proceed. At New Haven, in
1841, they made a final report as follows: —

" That in attending to the duty assigned to them, it seemed
proper to inquire, first, into the origin and history of the associa-
tions and consociations, — secondly, to inquire how far the several


articles of the Saybrook Platform are now observed by those
bodies and by the churches, — and thirdly, to combine and arrange
the existing rules and usages in the form of a Digest."

" The committee further report, that it seemed to them conve-
nient to distribute these three parts of the work among the three
members of the committee j and that, accordingly, the Historical
Account of the origin and progress of our ecclesiastical confeder-
ation has been prepared by the Rev. Dr. Field, — the account of
the degree in which our ecclesiastical order is now conformed to
the principles of the Saybrook Platform, has been prepared by
the Rev. Mr. Gillelt, — and the Digest has been drawn up by the
chairman of the committee."

This report, and the accompanying documents, having been
received and accepted, the Rev. Edward R. Tyler and Mr.
Samuel Porter immediately made liberal proposals to the Gen-
eral Association, for the publication of the work thus prepared.
Whereupon the following resolutions were adopted.

"1. That the documents presented to this body by the com-
mittee on rules and usages, be published under the superintend-
ence of the committee.

" 2. That the committee be authorized to make corrections ancj
additions as ii; r, '"•:rther inquiry they may find requisite; and
that to this er ' be requested to cause a copy of the Digest

at least, to be ^^i.t to one or more ministers in each district,
before publication, for their revision.

"3. That the publication include the Confession of Faith,
assented to by the synod at Saybrook, with the Heads of Agree-
ment and Articles of Discipline, and also the Cambridge Plat-

" 4. That the committee be authorized to append to the Cam-
bridge Platform any notes and illustrations which may be in their
judgment expedient.

" 5. That our delegate to the general association of Massachu-
setts, be requested to inform that body, of our intention to publish
the Cambridge Platform, in connection with our own rules and
usages, and that they be respectfully invited to render to our
committee any assistance in their power, which may make the
work more complete, and more extensively useful.

" 6. That the proposals of Rev. E. R. Tyler, and Mr. Samuel
Porter be accepted, it being understood that the said proposals
refer to the volume as described in the preceding resolutions."

The General Association of Massachusetts, atWestfield,
in June, 1841, adopted the following resolutions :


" That we approve of the publication of the Cambridge Plat-
form, in its simple form, in the volume about to be published by
that body (the General Association of Connecticut,) consisting of
the Saybrook. Platform, with notes, and a Digest of rules and
usages ; and that this resolution be communicated to the com-
mittee of the Connecticut Association."

In completing their task, the committee have thought best
to include, in an appendix, some account of the origin, con-
stitution, and rules of the General Association of Massachu«
setts, and of similar bodies in other states.

We may add, that while each member of the committee
has devoted his chief attention to his own particular task, ho
has been aided by the suggestions of his colleagues ; and the
entire work has been repeatedly and carefully examined by
the whole committee.

From this statement, the reader will learn, not only the
character of the work, and the manner in which it has been
produced, but also the nature, and degree of its authority in
respect to the opinions, and practice of the Congregational
cnurches and ministers. It is a work undertaken at the
appointment, and crowned with the favorable acceptance of
the General Association of Connecticut. It proceeds from no
legislative or judicial power. The General Association can-
not prescribe to the churches, or to the ministry, either opin-
ions to be maintained, or rules to be obeyed. Each church,
each consociation of churches, each association of pastors,
acts for itself in its own sphere, and will continue to do so
hereafter. Among ministers and churches, there always
have been, and will still continue to be, different opinions, and
different practices. Unity without uniformity, is better than
uniformity without unity.

But if this book has no legislative or judicial authority,
what is it good for ? We reply, the immediate design of the
work is simply to present an outline, as complete as possible,
of the actual polity and usages of the Congregational churchei



of New England, and particularly of Connecticut. Such an
outline is hardly to be found in any other work ; and our ex-
pectation is, that the work now offered to the public may
serve :

1. To furnish that sort of knowledge, for the want of
which the transaction of business in churches and in other
ecclesiastical bodies, is often retarded and embarrassed, and
which Congregationalism makes it necessary, not only for
every church officer, but for every brother hi the church, to
acquire :

2. To be a convenient text-book for theological students,
who may wish to become acquainted with the details of the
Congregational church order.

3. To guide those in other parts of our country who may
wish to organize churches, and other ecclesiastical bodies, on
the Congregational model either of Connecticut or of Massa-
chusetts; and to afford some of the benefits of our New
England experience where such churches have already been

To our brethren in the ministry, to the Congregational
churches, and above all to Him who hath said, that so trivial
an offering as a cup of cold water given to a disciple in the
name of a disciple shall not lose its reward, we present this
result of our united labors.

Leonard Bacon,
David D. Field,
Timothy P. Gillett



Preface, 3

FORM, 11

Notes to Historical Account, 53


Preface, 75

Of the form of church government : and that it is one, immu-
table, and prescribed in the word, 95

Of the nature of the catholic church in general, and in spe-
cial of a particular visible church, 97

Of the matter of the visible church, both in respect of qual-
ity and quantity, 99

Of the form of a visible church, and of church covenant, . 102
Of the first subject of church power, or, to whom church

power doth first belong, 106

Of the ofllcers of the church, and especially of pastors and

teachers, 107

Of ruling elders and deacons, 1 10 _

Of the election of church officers, 113

Of ordination, and imposition of hands, 116

Of the power of the church, and its presbyter)', . . . .118

Of the maintenance of church officers, 124

Of the admission of members into the church, 126

Of church members ; their removal from one church to ano-
ther, and of recommendation and dismission, . . . .131

Of excommunication and other censures, 134

Of communion of churches one with another 139


Of synods, 145

Of the civil magistrates' power in matters ecclesiastical, . 148


Preface, 155

Of the Holy Scriptures, 165

Of God, and the Holy Trinity, 170

, Of God's eternal decrees, 173

Of Creation, 176

Of Providence, 177

Of the fall of man, of sin, and of the punishment thereof, . 180

Of God's covenant with Man, 182

Of Christ the Mediator, 184

Of Free Will, 189

Of Effectual Calling, 190

Of Justification, 193

Of Adoption, 195

Of Sanctification, 196

Of Saving Faith, 198

Of Repentance unto Life and Salvation, 199

Of Good Works, 202

Of the Perseverance of the Saints, 205

Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation, 207

Of the Law of God, 210

Of the Gospel, and of the extent of the Grace thereof, . .213
Of Christian Liberty, and liberty of Conscience, . . . 216
Of Religious Worship, and of the Sabbath-day, .... 218

Of Lawful Oaths and Vows, 222

Of the civil Magistrate, 224

Of Marriage, 227

Of the Church, 228

Of the Communion of Saints, 231

Of the Sacraments, 232

Of Baptism, 234

Of the Lord's Supper, 236

Of the state of Man after Death and of the Resurrection of

the Dead, 240

Of the Last Judgment, 241



Preface, 245

Heads of Agreement, 251

Of Churches and Church Members, 251

Of the Ministry, 254

Of Censures 256

Of Communion of Churches, 258

Of Deacons and Ruling Elders, 260

Of occasional rr.eetings of Ministers, &c 260

Of our demeanor towards the civil Magistrate, .... 261

Of a Confession of Faith, 262

Of our Duty and Deportment towards them that are not in

Communion with us, 262

Articles of Discipline, w-ith Notes, 264


Part First.— Of Churches, 289

I. The completeness of particular Churches, .... 289

II. The communion of Churches, 289

Part Second. — Of Consociations, 291

I. The matter of a Consociation, 291

II. The mem.bers of a Council of the Consociated

Churches, 291

III. The officers of a Consociation, 292

IV. Meetings of the Council, 293

V. Business belonging to the Council, 2S3

VI. The form of proceeding in cases of difficulty, . . . 295

1. The case of an offending Pastor, 295

2. The case of an offending Church, 296

3. The Organ of Com-T/anication with the CouncD, . 297

4. Citation, 297

5. Limitation of the right of appeal, 298

6. Censure of scandalous contempt, 299

VII. Method of voting in a Council, 299

VIII. Result, or decision of the Council, 300

IX. The right of parties to be heard by Counsel, . . . 300



X. The union of two Consociations, 301

XI. Proceedings when the Church refuses to abide by the

judgment of the Council, 302

XII. Select Councils, 303

Part Third.— Op Particular Associations, .... 304

I. Membership in the Associations, 304

II. Duties of the Association, 305

III. Officers of the Association, 306

IV. Meetings of the Association, 306

V. The examination and recommendation of candidates for

the Ministiy, 307

Part Fourth. — Of the General Associations, . . 311
I. Its Constitution and Order of Proceedings, .... 311
System of Rules for the regulation of business before the
General Association, 313

II. Officers and Standing Committees, 315

III. The General Association as a Missionary Society, . 317

1. Constitution of the Missionary Society of Connecti-

cut, auxiliary to the Home Missionary Society, . 317

2. Constitution of the Missionary Society of Conn., . 320

General Association of Massachusetts, .... 325

Rules of the Association, 326

By Laws, 330

General Convention of Vermont, 332

Constitution, 332

By Laws and Permanent Regulations, 333

Recommendations, 335

Rules to be observed in transacting business, .... 337
General Association of New Hampshire, . . . 339
Standing Rules, 340

General Conference of Maine, 343

Constitution, 344

Evangelical Consociation of Rhode Island, . . 346

General Association of New York, 347

Constitution, 349

Articles of Faith, 350





The Congregational churches of Connecticut
have had pubhc and known standards of their
common faith and disciphne, from nearly the
time of their earliest organization. Though the
Saybrook Platform was not formed until 1708,
" yet the ministers and churches of Connecti-
cut and New Haven, [colonies] were present
and united in the formation of the Cambridge
Platform in 1648, which, with the ecclesiasti-
cal laws, became thenceforward the religious
constitution of these, as well as of the other
New England colonies."* The synod which
framed this Platform, unanimously adopted the
Westminster Confession of Faith, in the fol
lowing words: "This synod having perused
and considered, with much gladness of heart
and thankfulness to God, the confession of faith,
pubhshed of late by the reverend assembly in
England, do judge it to be very holy, orthodox,
and judicious in all matters of faith, and do
therefore freely and fully consent thereunto, for

* Trumbull's History of Connecticut, Vol. I, page 289.



the substance thereof. Only in those things
which have respect unto church government
and disciphne, we refer ourselves to the Platform
agreed upon by the present assembly."* The
things excepted were of a Presbyterian charac-
ter, and points of controversy, contained in some
sections in the twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and thirty-
first chapters. For sometime previous, the New
England churches, "next unto the Bible (which
was their professed, perpetual and only directo-
ry,) had no platform of their chnrch government,
more exact, than their famous John Cotton'^s
well known book of the Keys." This contains
the principles of the Cambridge Platform ; but
being the production of an individual, "it was
convenient the churches of New England,"
being increased in numbers, "should have a
system of their discipline, extracted from the
word of God, and exhibited unto them, with a
more effectual, acknov^ledged and established
recommendation. t" While this was in use,
the churches were not, strictly speaking, with-
out a public Confession of Faith. The early
Puritans of New England, particularly of Con-
necticut, were non-conformists, and not separa-
tists, and known to be strongly attached to the
doctrinal articles of the Church of England.
They loved them after they adopted the
Westminster Confession, and beheved the doc-

* Boston Ed. Cambridge and Saybrook Platform, p. 14. f Mag'
nalia, B. 5, pp. 20, 21, London Ed. 1702.


trinal articles in this Confession to be the same
with them in meaning.

The Saybrook Platform consists of two
parts: "A Confession of Faith;" and "Heads
of Agreement, and Articles for the administra-
tion of Church Discipline."

The Confession of Faith was not new to the
Connecticut churches. It is the Savoy Con-
fession, consented to by the elders and messen-
gers of the Congregational churches in Eng-
land, who met at the Savoy in London in 1658,
and which was probably circulated in New Eng-
land from nearly that period. "A general Synod
of the elders and messengers of the churches in
New England,''^ at Boston, "in 1680, approved
of and consented to this Confession, and the
General Court" of Massachusetts, "ordered it
to be printed for the benefit of the churches in the
present and after times."* It was printed about
that time in connection with the Cambridge Plat-
form ; and afterwards it was republished, in
the same connection, by Cotton Mather, in
his Magnalia. The compilers at Sa^'brook did
not alter this at all, but subjoined to each
section proof-texts from the scriptures. Tiiis,
too, is the Westminster Confession substan-
tially, those things being omitted which have
been already mentioned, and some expres-
sions altered. The Boston vSynod "made some
little variations from one of these Confessions
in compliance with the other, but chose to

*■ See the Act in the Platform.


express themselves in the main in the words of
those reverend assembhes, that so they might,
not only w^ith one heart, but with one mouth"
(with those who had previously assented to
this Confession) "glorify God and our Lord
Jesus Christ."* They in fact adopted both Con-
fessions in one. This regard to harmony was
probably one reason why the Synod of 1648
adopted the Westminster Confession, instead of
forming a new Confession. After the example of
the Synod of 1680, the churches and ministers
of Connecticut in 1703 "met in a consociated
council and gave their consent to the Westmin-
ster and Savoy Confessions both. This was
done upon a circular issued by the trustees of
Yale College, then just established. "It seems
that they also drew up certain rules of ecclesi-
astical union in discipline."! After the adop-
tion of the Saybrook Platform , "the ministers
of Connecticut, in their public conventions,
several times renewed their consent to this
Confession of Faith,"| which remains as it
was when it first received their approbation,
and as it was when it was approved by the
New England churches.

The far greater part of the sections in the
Savoy and Westminster Confessions appear
precisely in the same dress. In some of the
sections which vary, the variations extend mere-

* Pref. of Cambridge and Saybrook Platform, pp. 9, 10.
_t Trumbull, vol. I. p. 478. J Pres. Clapp's Defence of tha
hew England Churches, pages 17, 18.


iy to the change, omission or supply of a word,
phrase, or clause in a sentence ; lo the transpo-
sition of the parts of a sentence, or to the re-
construction or division of a section : in some
the alterations are grea,ter.

From these statements and references, it is
clear the churches of Connecticut have had
either the Savoy or the Westminster Confession
for nearly tv/o hundred years, and that these
are for the mxost part one and the same, in lan-
guage as well as signification. Our ancestors
regarded the three Confessions which have
been named as meaning the same, so far as
doctrines are concerned, and all, of course, as
agreeable to the sacred oracles. Accordingly
it is said in the ninth head of agreement : "As
to what appertains to soundness of judgment
in matters of faith, we esteem it sufficient that
a church acknowledge the Scriptures to be the
Word of God, the perfect and only rule of faith
and practice, and own either the doctrinal part
of those commonly called the Articles of the
Church of England, or the Confession, or Cate-
chisms, shorter or larger, compiled by the As-
sembly at Westminster, or the Confession
agreed on at the Savoy, to be agreeable to said

Agreeably to these views. Cotton Mather, in
his preface to the " Faith professed by the
churches of New England," says: "It was
once an unrighteous and injurious aspersion



cast upon the churches of New England, that
the world knew not their principles : where-
as they took all the occasions imaginable to
make all the world know, that in the doctrin-
al part of religion they have agreed entirely
v/iththe Reformed Churches of Europe. And
that they desired most particularly to maintain
the faith professed by the churches of Old
England, whereunto was owing their original.
Few pastors of mankind ever took such pains
at catechising as have been taken by our New
English Divines : now let any man living read
the most judicious and elaborate catechisms
published, [of which a large number are refer-
red to] and say whether true divinity was ever
better handled, or whether they were not the
truest sons of the Church of England, who thus
maintained its fundamental articles."*

The New England ministers proclaimed their
faith in various ways ; and the churches of Con-
necticut have had general and coincident Con -
fessions of Faith from the beginning.

It should, however, be said here, that these
churches, when the Saybrook Platform was
adopted, did not consider their general Confes-
sion as setting aside their particular Confessions ;
these were retained : nor did they, nor their sis-
ter churches before, consider their general Con-
fessions as superseding particular ones. All
that could have been claimed was, that the par^

* Magnalia, Book V. page 3.


ticular confessions should not clash with those
which were general. Dr. Mather, in the preface
just referred to, says : " It is true that 'particular
churches in the country have confessions by
themselves, drawn up in their own forms ;
nor indeed were the symbols in the most primi-
tive times ' ipsissimis verbis' [in precisely the
same language.] It is also true that few learned
men have been admitted as members of our
churches, but what have, at their admission, en-
tertained them with notable confessions of their
own composing; insomuch that if the Protes-
tants have been by the Papists called the Con-
fessionists, the Protestants of New England
have of all, given the most laudable occasion to
be called so. Nevertheless all this variety has
been the exactest unity : all those confessions
have been but so many derivations from, and ex-
planations and confirmations of that confession,
which the Synod had voted for them all : for
ut plures rivuli ab uno fonte, ita plures fidei
confessiones ab una eademque fidei veritate ma-
nare possunt : [many confessions may be form-
ed from one and the same system of truth, as
many little streams may flow from a single

The churches in Connecticut have generally
had particular confessions, though the associa-
ted churches in Litchfield South, in 1828, adopt-
ed common articles of faith, and a common cov-
enant. And assuredly, if particular churches


may have a brief confession of their own, asso-
ciated churclies may have a common confes-
sion of this description.

It has been mentioned that the compilers at
Saybrook appended to the articles of faith
which they adopted, proof- texts from the Scrip-
tures; and here seems to be the place for noti-
cing that they did not consider these articles,
nor any other formularies, binding, as the pro-
ductions of men, by their own authority, but as
expressing concisely and happily the great
truths of the Word of God. They counted it the
glory of their fathers, "that they heartily pro-
fessed the only rule of their religion, from the
very first, to be the Holy Scriptures, according, so far as they were persuaded, upon
diligo-il inquiry, solicitous search and faithful
prayer, conformed w^as their faith, their worship,
together with the w^hole administration of the
house of Christ, and their manners ; allowance
being given to human failures and imperfec-

In offering the Savoy Confession, they doubt-
ed not that the same had been " the constant
faith of the churches of Connecticut from the
first foundation of them." They offered it as
being, in their firm persuasion, "well and fully
grounded upon the Holy Scriptures," and they
commended the same unto all, and particularly
the people of Connecticut, "to be examined,
accepted and constantly maintained." They


did not assume that any thing should be taken

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Online LibraryGeneral Association of ConnecticutThe ancient platforms of the Congregational churches of New England; with a digest of rules and usages in Connecticut, and an appendix, containig notices of congregational bodies in other states → online text (page 1 of 20)