February 10: The Form of Presbyterial Church Government (1645)

An Auspicious Date Indeed

It was on this day, February 10th in 1645 that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland officially adopted the Westminster Assembly’s document titled The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government.

In Charles Hodge’s Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church, he states “In this directory it is declared, that the ordinary and perpetual officers of the church are pastors, teachers, and other church governors and deacons.” Certainly the Presbyterian form of government was already in place and practiced in Scotland before this date, but by the adoption of this Westminster document, the Kirk of Scotland endeavored to bolster a uniformity of church government among the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland.

While not exactly easy reading, here below is the text of the 1645 General Assembly’s resolution:

The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government

ASSEMBLY AT EDINBURGH, February 10, 1645,
Sess. 16. ACT of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the KIRK of SCOTLAND, approving the Propositions concerning Kirk-government, and Ordination of Ministers.

THE General Assembly being most desirous and solicitous, not only of the establishment and preservation of the Form of Kirk-government in this kingdom, according to the word of God, books of Discipline, acts of General Assemblies, and National Covenant, but also of an uniformity in Kirk-government betwixt these kingdoms, now more straitly and strongly unite by the late Solemn League and Covenant; and considering, that as in former time there did, so hereafter there may arise, through the nearness of contagion, manifold, mischief to this kirk from a corrupt form of government in the kirk of England: like as the precious opportunity of bringing the kirks of Christ in all the three kingdoms to an uniformity in Kirk-government being the happiness of the present times above the former; which may also, by the blessing of God, prove an effectual mean, and a good foundation to prepare for a safe and well-grounded pacification, by removing the cause from which the present pressures and bloody wars did originally proceed: and now the Assembly having thrice read, and diligently examined, the propositions (hereunto annexed) concerning the officers, assemblies, and government of the kirk, and concerning the ordination of ministers, brought unto us, as the results of the long and learned debates of the Assembly of Divines sitting at Westminster, and of the treaty of uniformity with the Commissioners of this kirk there residing; after mature deliberation,, and after timeous [i.e., in good time or sufficiently early] calling upon and warning of all, who have any exceptions against same, to make them known, that they might receive satisfaction; doth agree to and approve the propositions aforementioned, touching, touching Kirk-government and Ordination; and doth hereby authorized the Commissioners of this Assembly, who are to meet at Edinburgh, to agree and to conclude in the name of this Assembly, an uniformity betwixt the kirks in both kingdoms, in the afore-mentioned particulars, so soon as the same shall be ratified, without any substantial alteration, by an ordinance of the honourable Houses of the Parliament of England; which ratification shall be timely intimate and made known by the Commissioners of this kirk residing at London. Provided always, That this act be no ways prejudicial to the further discussion and examination of that article which hold forth, That the doctor or teacher hath power of the administration of the sacraments, as well as the pastor; as also of the distinct rights and interests of presbyteries and people in the calling of ministers; but that it shall be free to debate and discuss these points, as God shall be pleased to give further light.

Words to Live By:God has ordained that the Church should be overseen, first at the local level, by spiritually mature men. Local congregations in turn are connected one to another and represented by these same elders, first regionally, and then on a wider scale, most commonly nationally. See Acts 15 for an example of this wider court of the Church. Pray for the Church. Pray that our leaders in the Church would study to carefully maintain God’s intended order for the Church. Pray that both we and our elders would remain humble and obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ, in all things seeking His will and not our own.

And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. — (Acts 14:23, KJV)

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— (Titus 1:5, ESV)


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