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meet together on the Lord's day at one or more places, for the purpose of prayer, singing praises and reading the Holy Scriptures, together with the works of such approved divines as the Presbytery, within whose bounds they are, may recommend, and they may be able to procure; and that the elders or deacons be the persons who shall preside and select the portions of Scripture, and of the other books to be read; and to see that the whole be conducted in a becoming and orderly manner.
1. Vacant Congregations to Meet for Worship on the Lord's Day. In consequence of an overture which was brought in, the Synod earnestly recommend to all vacant congregations under their care to meet together every Lord's day, at one or more places, for the purpose of prayer and praise and reading the holy Scriptures, together with the works of such approved divines as they may be able to procure, and that the elders be the persons who shall pray and select the portions of Scripture and other books, to be read by any proper person whom they may appoint.1786, p. 526.
2. Elders of Vacant Congregations should be Interrogated as to the Observance of the Rule.
An overture from the Presbytery of Mississippi requesting the General Assembly to recommend to the Board of Publication to issue suitable books of sermons and helps for devotion, to be used by vacant congregations, and to inquire whether ruling elders representing such congregations should be interrogated concerning the observance of the recommendation contained in chap. xxi. of the Form of Government. Answered affirmatively.-1847, p. 401, O. S.
3. Right of Ruling Elders, in the Absence of the Pastor, to Explain the Scriptures and to Exhort.
The records of the Synod of Mississippi approved, except "that on page 10 of these minutes Synod takes exception to the minutes of the Louisiana Presbytery, because that Presbytery considered it not inconsistent with the principles of our Church for ruling elders, in the absence of the pastor, to read the Scriptures and explain them, and to endeavor to enforce the truth upon the conscience by suitable exhortations. The Assembly believe the Presbytery of Louisiana was right according to chap. xxi. of our Form of Government."-1856, p. 538, O. S.
[Next year the Assembly refused to modify the above.-1857, p. 41.]
OF COMMISSIONERS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
I. THE commissioners to the General Assembly shall always be appointed by the Presbytery from which they come, at its last stated meeting immediately preceding the meeting of the General Assembly, provided that there be a sufficient interval between that time and the
meeting of the Assembly for the commissioners to attend to their duty in due season; otherwise the Presbytery may make the appointment at any stated meeting, not more than seven months preceding the meeting of the Assembly. And as much as possible to prevent all failure in the representation of the Presbyteries, arising from unforeseen accidents to those first appointed, it may be expedient for each Presbytery, in the room of each commissioner, to appoint also an alternate commissioner to supply his place, in case of necessary absence.
1. The Rule not Enforced in case of Missionary Presbyteries. a. The Committee on Elections reported that Rev. James W. Moore had been nominated or selected by the Presbytery of Arkansas at their meeting in last September, but that the Presbytery had been prevented by high waters from meeting since then, and consequently there could be no election. On motion, Mr. Moore was admitted to a seat.-1846, p. 197, O. S.
b. In reply to a protest on this case, the Assembly says: "The member admitted to a seat represents a body occupying the remote confines of our ecclesiastical territory-a body whose delegates must travel fifteen hundred miles to reach the usual place of meeting of the General Assembly; a body too whose meetings are liable to be interrupted by insurmountable. difficulties, and in whom a technical irregularity, occasioned by such dif ficulties, may justly plead exemption from a rigorous application of the letter of the law. To exclude from a participation in the privileges of this body one who had surmounted so many and such formidable obstacles to reach our place of meeting because of an informality in his title, which does not, as this Assembly judges, violate the spirit of the Constitution, would be to subject a zealous and self-denying minister and a whole Presbytery to a serious grievance, and to discourage the zeal of those who of all others most need our sympathy and fostering care."-1846, p. 215, O. S.
c. A reference to the Minutes of the General Assembly of 1844 will show that the Rev. William S. Rogers, a commissioner from the Presbytery of Lodiana, in Northern India, was admitted without scruple to a seat in that body, though it is evident that his appointment must have been made beyond the limits of time prescribed by the Constitution. The peculiar circumstances of the case no doubt influenced, and we believe authorized, that Assembly to act as they did in the premises.-1846, p. 214, O. S.
d. Mr. Joseph B. Junkin, ruling elder of the Presbytery of the Creek Nation, produces such evidence that it is the desire of his Presbytery that he should represent it as a commissioner in this Assembly, that, considering the remote situation of the Presbytery, the difficulty of his position, and the whole bearing of the case, Mr. Junkin may be safely allowed to take his seat, without the Assembly thereby establishing any precedent to operate beyond the immediate case. The Committee is therefore of opinion that, though he was not regularly elected, he ought to be allowed to take his seat as a member of the body.-1853, p. 426, O. S.
e. In the following case it appeared from the evidence that the brethren of the mission designed to make the appointment. No communication, however, had been received from them since the meeting of the Presbytery.
The Rev. J. L. Scott, missionary in Northern India, being present from the Presbytery of Furrukhabad without a commission, but with evidence of having been duly appointed, was, on motion of Dr. R. J. Breckenridge, from the Committee on Elections, admitted to a seat, and regularly enrolled.-1853, p. 430, O. S.
2. No Election through Presbytery Failing to Meet.
a. The Committee on Elections further reported, in the case of Mr. David M. Smith, that it appeared to their satisfaction that the Presbytery of Columbia failed to form a quorum at the time at which their stated spring meeting should have been held according to adjournment; that there were present two ministers and ruling elders from a majority of the churches, the Presbytery consisting only of five ministers; that those present requested that the Assembly would receive Mr. Smith as a commissioner from their Presbytery, in which request two of the absent members have expressed their concurrence in writing; and that it is believed that the appointment of Mr. Smith would have been unanimous had the Presbytery formed a quorum; and further, that the Committee are divided upon the question whether, under these circumstances, Mr. Smith ought or ought not to be admitted to a seat. It was moved that Mr. Smith be admitted to a seat. After debate the question was decided in the negative.-1843, p. 171, O. S.
b. The same Committee also reported that Hamilton Smith, a ruling elder from the Presbytery of Upper Missouri, had appeared without a commission, but with a written request from several ministers and ruling elders of that Presbytery, which had been able to secure no quorum for two years past, that he be allowed to sit as commissioner. Admitted.1865, p. 538, O. S.
c. The Rev. L. M. Miller, D. D., Chairman of the Committee on Elections, presented the following report, which was adopted, and the Rev. George W. Chamberlain was ordered to be enrolled:
The Committee on Elections would report that the Rev. George W. Chamberlain, of the Presbytery of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is present without a commission. Mr. Chamberlain asks admission to the Assembly on this ground: He was appointed a commissioner regularly to the Assembly of last year, and attended. He has remained in this country ever since, doing work in behalf of his mission in that country. Only three ministers belonging to that Presbytery remained in Brazil. A meeting was appointed in which it was intended to recommission Mr. Chamberlain. Just previous to the time indicated, the Rev. Mr. Simonton, one of the Presbyters, died, and thus prevented organization. The members remaining desire that he may be permitted to represent that Presbytery in this Assembly. The only principle which bears upon the case is found in the Digest on page 286, sec. 129. The Committee recommends that the Assembly act upon the question of his admission without discussion.1868, p. 620, O. S.
d. That Rev. Ira M. Condit, of the Presbytery of Canton, is bearer of an informal appointment, signed by all the members of Presbytery who were in Canton at the time; when, however, a quorum could not be assembled on account of the absence of several members in this country. He was admitted to a seat.-1869, p. 890, O. S.
3. Commissioners should Attend to the Close of the Session.Presbyteries to Call their Commissioners to Account.
a. Whereas, Many members of the General Assembly are, from year to year, in the habit of asking leave of absence long before its sessions are closed; and whereas, in receiving and acting upon these applications, much of the time of the Assembly is consumed, and much of the most important business has to be transacted by few members; therefore,
Resolved, 1. That the Presbyteries be directed to pay particular attention to the following minute, found in vol. i., p. 308, of Printed Extracts, and also in Digest, p. 76, viz.: "The Presbyteries are informed that their commissioners should attend with the expectation that the sessions will be of two weeks' continuance, and that arrangements should be made accordingly.
Resolved, 2. That it be recommended to the Presbyteries to inform their commissioners, when they accept an appointment, that it is expected they will continue in the Assembly until the close of its sessions, unless some unforeseen and imperious reason should require them to ask leave of ab
Resolved, 3. That each Presbytery require their commissioners to report whether they attended the sessions of the Assembly the whole time, and that the report of the commissioners on this subject be recorded on the minutes of the Presbytery.-1824, p. 119.
b. The Committee on Leave of Absence beg leave to submit to the General Assembly that, whereas it both fulfills the requirements of our excellent Church polity, and facilitates the business of the Assembly, and also should be regarded as both a duty and a privilege, for elders as well as ministers to attend its sessions; therefore be it
Resolved, That elders and ministers who from time to time may represent the Presbyteries in General Assembly be earnestly requested to ar range their business, as far as possible, before leaving home, that they may remain to the end of its sessions, and thus fulfill their high commissions, and enjoy the valued privileges as members of the highest judicatory of our Church.
The resolution was adopted.-1862, p. 38, N. S.
c. On the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Leave of Absence, it was
Resolved, That the General Assembly earnestly recommend to its Presbyteries, as far as possible, the appointment as commissioners of those only who are able and willing to remain to the close of its sessions, to the end that all the work of the Assembly may be performed by all its members.-1867, p. 499, N. S.
[See under Form of Government, chap. xii., sec. ii.]
4. Commissioners from New Presbyteries.
a. The Committee to which was referred an overture on the subject of admitting commissioners from newly-formed Presbyteries to seats in this house reported the following resolutions, which were adopted, viz.:
1. Resolved, That it be adopted as a standing rule of this house that commissioners from newly-formed Presbyteries shall, before taking their seats as members of this body, produce satisfactory evidence that the Presbyteries to which they belong have been regularly organized according to the Constitution of the Church, and are in connection with the General Assembly.
2. Resolved, also, That such commissioners shall be entitled to furnish
the evidence required in the foregoing resolution before the house shali proceed to the choice of a moderator.-1822, p. 48.
b. Resolved, 1. That no commissioner from a newly-formed Presbytery shall be permitted to take his seat, nor shall such commissioner be reported by the Committee on Commissions, until the Presbytery shall have been duly reported by the Synod and recognized as such by the Assembly, and that the same rule apply when the name of any Presbytery has been changed.
2. When it shall appear to the satisfaction of the General Assembly that any new Presbytery has been formed for the purpose of unduly increasing the representation, the General Assembly will, by a vote of the majority, refuse to receive the delegates of Presbyteries so formed, and may direct the Synod to which such Presbytery belongs to reunite it to the Presbytery or Presbyteries to which the members were before attached. -1837, p. 446.
5. Commissioners not Ruling Elders under the Plan of Union. [Under the "Plan of Union" in several cases members of "Standing Committees" not ordained elders were admitted as commissioners to the Assembly.-1820, pp. 721-724; 1826, pp. 164, 178, 181; 1831, p. 318. Growing out of the last case was the following:]
Resolved, That in the opinion of the General Assembly the appointment by some Presbyteries, as has occurred in a few cases, of members of Standing Committees to be members of the General Assembly, is inexpedient and of questionable constitutionality, and therefore ought not in future to be made.
The yeas and nays on this resolution were taken and required to be recorded, and are as follows, viz., yeas 81, nays 54.-1831, p. 338.
The next year the commissions of two "members of Standing Committees, instead of ruling elders, from the Presbytery of Grand River," were referred to the Committee on Commissions, and by it reported to the Assembly as withdrawn by the person presenting them.-1832, pp. 354–356.
The Committee also reported that Mr. Erastus Upson, a Standing Committee-man from the Presbytery of Oswego, had been appointed a member of this body. A motion was made to refer this case to the Committee on Elections, which was negatived.
It was then resolved that Mr. Upson have leave to withdraw his application.-1833, p. 392.
6. A Commissioner, having taken his Seat, may not Resign it to his Alternate or Principal.
[From the origin of the General Assembly, it was frequent usage for the principal to resign his seat to the alternate, and vice versa. But in 1827 the following act was adopted :]
The Committee to whom were referred Overtures Nos. 4 and 5, containing resolutions of the Presbyteries of Richland and Charleston Union, disapproving the practice of permitting members of the General Assembly "at various stages of the sessions to resign their seats to others called alternates," made the following report, viz.:
These overtures present two points of inquiry:
1. Whether the Constitution of the Church, according to a fair interpretation, permits the practice complained of by these Presbyteries.
2. If this practice is allowed by the Constitution, whether it is expedient that it should be continued.