(Liturgy, Reformed Churches, Part 6) And when he gives the cup: The cup of blessing, which we bless, is the communion of the blood of Christ. (During the communion, there shall or may be devoutly sung, a psalm, or some chapter read, in remembrance of the death of Christ, as the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th chapters of John, or the like.) After the Communion the Minister shall say: Beloved in the Lord, since the Lord has now fed our souls at this table, let us therefore jointly praise his holy name with thanksgiving, and every one say in his heart, thus: Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Who forgives all thine iniquities; who heals all thy diseases. Who redeems thy life from destruction, who crowns thee with loving kindness and tinder mercies. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him. Who has not spared his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, and given us all things with him. Therefore God commends therewith his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more then, being now justified in his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him: for, if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Therefore shall my mouth and heart show forth the praise of the Lord from this time forth forever more. AMEN. Let every one say with an attentive heart: Thanksgiving O! Almighty, merciful God and Father, we render thee most humble and hearty thanks, that Thou hast of thy infinite mercy, given us thine only begotten Son, for a Mediator and a sacrifice for our sins, and to be our meat and drink unto life eternal, and that Thou give us lively faith, whereby we are made partakers of such great benefits. Thou hast also been pleased, that thy beloved Son Jesus Christ should institute and ordain his Holy Supper for the confirmation of the same. Grant, we beseech thee, O faithful God and Father, that through the operation of thy Holy Spirit, the commemoration of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ may tend to the daily increase of our faith, and saving fellowship with him, through Jesus Christ thy Son, in whose name we conclude our prayers, saying: Our Father which is in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. Form of Excommunication Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ; it is known unto you, that we have several times, and by several methods declared unto you the great sin committed, and the heinous offense given by our fellow-member
, to the end that he, by your christian admonition and prayers to God, might be brought to repentance, and so be freed from the bonds of the devil (by whom he is held captive), and recovered by the will of the Lord. But we cannot conceal from you, with great sorrow, that no one has yet appeared before us, who has in the least given us to understand that he, by the frequent admonitions given him, (as well in private as before witnesses, and in the presence of many), is come to any remorse for his sins, or has shown the least token of true repentance. Since then he daily aggravates his sin, (which in itself is not small), by his stubbornness, and since we have signified unto you the last time, that in case he did not repent, after such patience shown him by the Church, we should be under the disagreeable necessity of being further grieved for him, and come to the last remedy; wherefore we at this present are necessitated to proceed to this excommunication according to the command and charge given us by God in his holy Word; to the end that he may hereby be made (if possible) ashamed of his sins, and likewise that we may not by this rotten and as yet incurable member, put the whole body of the Church in danger, and that God's name may not be blasphemed. Therefore we, the ministers and rulers of the Church of God, being here assembled in the name and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, declare before you all, that for the aforesaid reasons we have excommunicated, and by these, do excommunicate from the Church of God, and from fellowship with Christ, and the holy sacraments, and from all the spiritual blessings and benefits, which God promises to and bestows upon his Church, so long as he obstinately and impenitently persists in his sins, and is therefore to be accounted by you as a heathen man and a publican, according to the command of Christ (Matt. 18), who says, that whatsoever his ministers bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven. Further we exhort you, beloved Christians, to keep no company with him, that he may be ashamed; yet count him not as an enemy, but at all times admonish him as you would a brother. In the meantime let every one take warning by this and such like examples; to fear the Lord, and diligently take heed unto himself, "If he thinketh he standeth, lest he fall"; but having true fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, together with all faithful Christians, remain steadfast therein to the end, and so obtain eternal salvation. You have seen, beloved brethren and sisters, in what manner this our excommunicated brother has begun to fall, and by degrees is come to ruin; observe therefore, how subtle Satan is, to bring man to destruction, and to withdraw him from all salutary means of salvation: guard then, against the least beginnings of evil, "and laying aside," according to the exhortation of the apostle, "every weight and the sin which does so easily beset us, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; be sober, watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. Today, if you will hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts, but work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;" and every one repent of his sins, lest our God humble us again and that we be obliged to bewail some one of you; but that you may with one accord, living in all godliness, be our crown and joy in the Lord. Since it is God who works in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure, let us call upon his holy name with confession of our sins, saying: O! Righteous God and merciful Father, we bewail our sins before thy high majesty, and acknowledge that we have deserved the grief and sorrow caused unto us by the cutting off of this our late fellow-member; yea, we all deserve, should Thou enter into judgment with us, by reason of our great transgressions, to be cut off and banished from thy presence. - But O Lord, Thou art merciful unto us for Christ's sake; forgive us our trespasses, for we heartily repent of them, and daily work in our hearts a greater measure of sorrow for them; that we may, fearing thy judgments which thou executes against the stiffnecked, endeavour to please thee; grant us to avoid all pollution of the world, and those who are cut off from the communion of the Church, that we may not make ourselves partakers of their sins; and that he who is excommunicated may become ashamed of his sins; and since thou desires not the death of a sinner, but that he may repent and live, and the bosom of thy Church is always open for those, who turn away from their wickedness; we therefore humbly beseech thee, to kindle in our hearts a pious zeal, that we may labour, with good christian admonitions and examples, to bring again this excommunicated person on the right way, together with all those, who, through unbelief or dissoluteness of life, go astray. Give thy blessing to our admonitions, that we may have reason thereby to rejoice again in him, for whom we must now mourn, and that thy holy name may be praised, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has taught us to pray: Our Father which is in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. Form of Readmitting Excommunicated Persons Beloved in the Lord, it is known to you, that some time ago our fellow member , was cut off from the Church of Christ; we cannot now conceal from you, that he, by the above mentioned remedy, as also by the means of good admonitions and your christian prayers, is come so far, that he is ashamed of his sins, praying us to be readmitted into the communion of the Church. Since we, then, by virtues of the command of God, are in duty bound to receive such persons with joy, and it being necessary that good order should be used therein, we therefore give you to understand hereby, that we purpose to loose again the aforementioned excommunicated person from the bond of excommunication, the next time when by the grace of God we celebrate the Supper of the Lord, and receive him again into the communion of the Church; except any one of you, in the meantime, shall show just cause why this ought not to be done, of which you must give notice to us in due time. In the meantime, let every one thank the Lord, for the mercy shown this poor sinner, beseeching him to perfect his work in him to his eternal salvation. Amen. Afterwards, if no impediment be alleged, the Minister shall proceed to the readmission of the excommunicated sinner, in the following manner: Beloved Christians, we have the last time informed you of the repentance of our fellow-member to the end, that he might with your foreknowledge be again received into the Church of Christ: and whereas no one has alleged anything why his readmission ought not to take place, we therefore at present purpose to proceed to the same. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 18), having confirmed the sentence of his Church, in the excommunicating of impenitent sinners, declares immediately thereupon, "that whatsoever his ministers shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven"; whereby He gives to understand, that when any person is cut off from his Church, he is not deprived of all hopes of salvation; but can again be loosed from the bonds of condemnation. Therefore, since God declares in his word, that he takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but that he turn from his wickedness and live, so the church always hopes for the repentance of the backslidden sinner, and keeps her bosom open to receive the penitent; accordingly the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 5), commanded the Corinthian (whom he had declared ought to be cut off from the Church) to be again received and comforted, since being reproved by many, he was come to the knowledge of his sins: to the end that he should not be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow (2 Cor. 2). Secondly. Christ teaches us in the aforementioned text, that the sentence of absolution, which is passed upon such a penitent sinner according to the Word of God, is counted sure and firm by the Lord; therefore, no one ought to doubt in the least, who truly repents, that he is assuredly received by God in mercy, as Christ says (John 20), "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them." But now to proceed to the matter in hand: I ask thee, , whether thou do declare here with all thine heart before God and his Church; that thou are sincerely sorry for the sin and stubbornness, for which thou has been justly cut off from the Church? Whether thou do also truly believe, that the Lord has forgiven thee, and does forgive thy sins for Christ's sake, and that thou therefore are desirous to be readmitted into the Church of Christ, promising henceforth to live in all godliness according to the command of the Lord? Answer. Yes, verily. Then the Minister shall further say: We then, here assembled in the name and authority of the lord Jesus Christ, declare thee, , to be absolved from the bonds of excommunication; and do receive thee again into the Church of the Lord, and declare unto thee that thou are in the communion of Christ and of the holy sacraments, and of all the spiritual blessings and benefits of God, which he promises to and bestows upon his Church: may the eternal God preserve thee therein to the end, through his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Amen. Be therefore assured in thy heart, my beloved brother, that the Lord has again received thee in mercy. Be diligent henceforward to guard thyself against the subtlety of Satan, and the wickedness of the world, to the end, that thou may not fall again into sin: love Christ, for many sins are forgiven thee. And you, beloved Christians, receive this your brother, with hearty affection; be glad that he was dead and is alive, he was lost and is found; rejoice with the angels of heaven, over this sinner who repents: count him no longer as a stranger, but as a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God. And whereas we can have no good of ourselves, let us, praising and magnifying the Lord Almighty, implore his mercy, saying: Gracious God and Father, we thank thee through Jesus Christ, that thou hast been pleased to give this our fellow-brother repentance unto life, and us cause to rejoice in his conversion. We beseech thee, show him thy mercy, that he may become more and more assured in his mind of the remission of his sins, and that he may receive from thence inexpressible joy and delight, to serve thee. And whereas he has heretofore by his sins offended many, grant that he may, by his conversion, edify many. Grant also that he may steadfastly walk in thy ways to the end: and may we learn from this example, that with thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared; and that we, counting him for our brother and coheir of life eternal, may jointly serve thee with filial fear and obedience all the days of our life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in whose name we thus conclude our prayer: Our Father which is in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. Form of Ordination of the Ministers of God's Word The sermon and the usual prayers being finished, the Minister shall thus speak to the congregation: Beloved brethren, it is known unto you, that we have, at three different times, published the name of our brother , here present, to learn whether any person had aught to offer concerning his doctrine or life, why he might not be ordained to the ministry of the Word. And whereas no one has appeared before us, who has alleged anything lawful against his person, we shall therefore at present, in the name of the Lord, proceed to his ordination; for which purpose, you , and all those who are here present, shall first attend to a short declaration taken from the word of God, touching the institution and the office of pastors and ministers of God's Word; where, in the first place, you are to observe, that God our heavenly Father, willing to call and gather a Church from amongst the corrupt race of men unto life eternal, does by a particular mark of his favour use the ministry of men therein. Therefore, Paul says, that the Lord Jesus Christ has given some apostles and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and ministers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Here we see that holy apostle among other things says that the pastoral office is an institution of Christ. What this holy office enjoins, may easily be gathered from the very name itself; for as it is the duty of a common shepherd, to feed, guide, protect and rule the flock committed to his charge; so it is with regard to these spiritual shepherds, who are set over the Church, which God calls unto salvation, and counts as sheep of his pasture. The pasture, with which these sheep are fed, is nothing else but the preaching of the gospel, accompanied with prayer, and the administration of the holy sacraments; the same word of God is likewise the staff with which the flock is guided and ruled, consequently it is evident, that the office of pastors and ministers of God's word is, First. That they faithfully explain to their flock, the Word of the Lord, revealed by the writings of the prophets and the apostles; and apply the same as well in general as in particular, to the edification of the hearers; instructing, admonishing, comforting and reproving, according to every one's need; preaching repentance towards God, and reconciliation with him through faith in Christ; and refuting with the Holy Scriptures, all schisms and heresies which are repugnant to the pure doctrine. All this is clearly signified to us in Holy Writ, for the Apostle Paul says, "that these labour in the Word"; and elsewhere he teaches, that this must be done "according to the measure or rule of faith"; he writes also, that a pastor "must hold fast and right divide the faithful and sincere word which is according to the doctrine": likewise, he that prophesieth (that is, preacheth God's Word), speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort. In another place he proposes himself as a pattern to pastors, declaring that he has publicly, and from house to house, taught and testified repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. But particularly we have a clear description of the office, and ministers of Gods Word (2 Cor. 5:18, 19, 20), where the apostle thus speaks, "And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and has given to us (namely, to the apostles and pastors) the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ as though God did beseech you by us we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Concerning the refutation of false doctrine, the same apostle says (Titus 1:9): "That a minister must hold fast the faithful Word of God, that he may be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convince the gainsayers." Secondly. It is the office of the Ministers, publicly to call upon the name of the Lord in behalf of the whole congregation; for that which the apostles say, we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word, is common to these pastors with the apostles; to which St. Paul alluding, thus speaks to Timothy: "I exhort therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority," etc. (1 Tim. 2:1 and 2). Thirdly. Their office is to administer the sacraments, which the Lord has instituted as seals of his grace: as is evident from the command given by Christ to the apostles, and in them to all pastors: "Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Likewise: "for I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed," etc. Finally, it is the duty of the Ministers of the Word, to keep the Church of God in good discipline, and to govern it in such a manner as the Lord has ordained; for Christ having spoken of the Christian discipline, says to his apostles, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. And Paul will have the ministers to know how to rule their own house, since they otherwise neither can provide for, nor rule the Church of God. This is the reason why the pastors are in Scripture called stewards of God, and bishops, that is, overseers and watchmen, for they have the oversight of the house of God, wherein they are conversant, to the end that everything may be transacted with good order and decency; and also to open and shut, with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, committed to them, according to the charge given them by God. From these things may be learned what a glorious work the ministerial office is, since so great things are effected by it; yea, how highly necessary it is for man's salvation, which is also the reason why the Lord will have such an office always to remain. For Christ said when he sent forth his apostles to officiate in his holy function, Lo, I am always with you, even unto the end of the world; where we see his pleasure is, that this holy office (for the persons to whom he here speaks, could not live to the end of the world) should always be maintained on earth. And therefore Paul exhorts Timothy, to commit that which he had heard of him, to faithful men, who are able to teach others, and he also, having ordained Titus minister, further commanded him to ordain elders in every city. (Titus 1:5.) Forasmuch, therefore as we, for the maintaining of this office in the Church of God, are now to ordain a new minister of the Word, and having sufficiently spoken of the office of such persons, therefore you , shall answer to the following questions, which shall be proposed to you, to the end that it may appear to all here present, that you are inclined to accept of this office as above described. First. I ask thee, whether thou feelest in thy heart that thou art lawfully called of God's Church, and therefore of God himself, to this holy ministry? Secondly. Whether thou dost believe the books of the Old and New Testament to be the only Word of God and the perfect doctrine unto salvation, and dost reject all doctrine repugnant thereto? Thirdly. Whether thou dost promise faithfully to discharge thy office, according to the same doctrine as above described, and to adorn it with a godly life: also, to submit thyself, in case thou shouldest become delinquent either in life or doctrine, to ecclesiastical admonition, according to the public ordinance of the churches? Answer. Yes, truly, with all my heart. Then the Minister, who demanded those questions of him, while he and other Ministers who are present, shall lay their hands on his head, shall say: God our heavenly Father, who has called thee to his holy ministry, enlighten thee with his Holy Spirit, strengthen thee with his hand, and so govern thee in thy ministry, that thou mayest decently and fruitfully walk therein, to the glory of his name, and the propagation of the kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ. Amen. Then the Minister shall, from the pulpit, exhort the ordained Minister, and the congregation in the following manner: "Take heed, therefore, beloved brother, and fellow-servant in Christ, unto thyself and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made thee overseer, to feed the Church of God which he has purchased with his own blood: love Christ and feed his sheep, taking the oversight of them not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as being lord over God's heritage, but an example to the flock. Be an example of believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, meditate upon those things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all; take heed to thy doctrine, and continue steadfast therein. Bear patiently all sufferings, and oppressions, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, thou shalt receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." "And you likewise, beloved Christians, receive this your minister in the Lord with all gladness, 'and hold, such in reputation.' Remember that God himself through him speaketh unto and beseecheth you. Receive the Word which he, according to the Scripture, shall preach unto you, 'not as the word of man, but (as it is in truth) the Word of God.' Let the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things, be beautiful and pleasant unto you. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. If you do these things, it shall come to pass, that the peace of God shall enter into your houses, and that you who receive this man in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward, and through his preaching, believing in Christ, shall through Christ, inherit life eternal." Since no man is of himself fit for any of these things, let us call upon God with thanksgiving. Merciful Father, we thank thee that it pleaseth thee by the ministry of men, to gather a Church to thyself unto life eternal, from amongst the lost children of men; we bless thee for so graciously providing the Church in this place with a faithful minister; we beseech thee to qualify him daily more and more by the Holy Spirit, for the ministry to which thou hast ordained and called him; enlighten his understanding to comprehend thy holy Word, and give him utterance, that he may boldly open his mouth, to make known and dispense the mysteries of the gospel. Endue him with wisdom and valour, to rule the people aright over which he is set, and to preserve them in christian peace, to the end that thy Church under his administration and by his good example, may increase in number and in virtue. Grant him courage to bear the difficult ties and troubles which he may meet with in his ministry, that being strengthened by the comfort of thy Spirit, he may remain steadfast to the end, and be received with all faithful servants into the joy of his master. Give thy grace also to this people and Church, that they may becomingly deport themselves towards this their minister; that they may acknowledge him to be sent of thee; that they may receive his doctrine with all reverence, and submit themselves to his exhortations. To the end that they may, by his word, believing in Christ, be made partakers of eternal life. Hear us, O Father, through thy beloved Son, who has taught us to pray: Our Father which is in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. Form of Ordination of Elders and Deacons When ordained at the same time. But if they are ordained separately this form shall be used as occasion requires. Beloved Christians, you know that we have several times published unto you the names of our brethren here present, who are chosen to the office of elders and deacons in this Church, to the end that we might know whether any person had aught to allege, why they should not be ordained in their respective offices; and whereas no one has appeared before us, who has alleged anything lawful against them, we shall therefore at present, in the name of the Lords proceed to their ordination. But first, you, who are to be ordained, and all those who are here present, shall attend to a short declaration from the word of God concerning the institution and the office of elders and deacons. Of the elders is to be observed, that the word elder or eldest (which is taken from the Old Testament, and signifies a person who is placed in an honorable office of government over others), is applied to two sorts of persons who minister in the Church of Jesus Christ: for the apostle says, "the elders that rule well, shall be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the Word and doctrine." Hence it is evident that there were two sorts of elders in the Apostolic Church, the former whereof did labour in the Word and doctrine, and the latter did not. The first were the ministers of the Word and pastors, who preached the gospel and administered the sacraments; but the others, who did not labour in the Word, and still did serve in the Church, bore a particular office, namely, they had the oversight of the Church, and ruled the same with the ministers of the Word. For Paul, Rom. chap. 12, having spoken of the ministry of the word, and also of the office of distribution or deaconship, speaks afterwards particularly of this office, saying, "he that ruleth let him do it with diligence"; likewise, in another place he counts government among the gifts and offices which God has instituted in the Church: 1 Cor. 12. Thus we see that these sorts of ministers are added to the others who preach the gospel, to aid and assist them, as in the Old Testament the common Levites were to the priests in the service of the tabernacle, in those things which they could not perform alone: notwithstanding the offices always remained distinct one from the other. Moreover, it is proper that such men should be joined to the ministers of the Word in the government of the Church, to the end, that thereby all tyranny and lording may be kept out of the Church of God, which may sooner creep in, when the government is placed in the hands of one alone, or of a very few. And thus the ministers of the Word, together with the elders, form a body or assembly, being as a council of the Church, representing the whole Church; to which Christ alludes when he says, "Tell the Church" which can in no wise be understood of all and every member of the Church in particular, but very properly of those who govern the Church, out of which they are chosen. Therefore, in the first place, the office of elders is, together with the ministers of the Word, to take the oversight of the Church, which is committed to them, and diligently to look, whether every one properly deports himself in his confession and conversation; to admonish those who behave themselves disorderly, and to prevent, as much as possible, the sacraments from being profaned: also to act (according to the Christian discipline) against the impenitent, and to receive the penitent again into the bosom of the Church, as does not only appear from the above mentioned saying of Christ, but also from many other places of Holy Writ, as 1 Cor. chap. 5, and 2 Cor. chap. 2, that these things are not alone intrusted to one or two persons, but to many who are ordained thereto. Secondly. Since the apostle enjoins, that all things shall be done decently and in order, amongst Christians, and that no other persons ought to serve in the Church o Christ, but those who are lawfully called according to the christian ordinance, therefore it is also the duty of the elders to pay regard to it, and in all occurrences, which relate to the welfare and good order of the Church, to be assistant with their good counsel and advice, to the ministers of the Word, yea, also to serve all Christians with advise and consolation. Thirdly. It is also the duty particularly to have regard unto the doctrine and conversation of the ministers of the Word, to the end that all things may be directed to the edification of the Church; and that no strange doctrine be taught, according to that which we read, Acts 20, where the apostle exhorts to watch diligently against the wolves, which might come into the sheepfold of Christ; for the performance of which, the elders are in duty bound diligently to search the Word of God, and continually be meditating on the mysteries of faith. Concerning the deacons: of the origin and institution of their office we may read, Acts 6, where we find that the apostles themselves did in the beginning serve the poor, "At whose feet was brought the price of the things that were sold: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. But afterwards, when a murmuring arose, because the widows of the Grecians were neglected in the daily ministrations" men were chosen (by the advice of the apostles who should make the service of the poor their peculiar business, to the end that the apostles might continually give themselves to prayer, and the ministry of the Word. And has been continued from that time forward in the Church, as appears from Rom. 12, where the apostle, speaking of this office, says, "he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity." And 1 Cor. 12:28 speaking of helps, he means those, who are appointed in the Church to help and assist the poor and indigent in time of need. From which passage we may easily gather, what the deacon's office is namely, that they in the first place collect and preserve with the greats fidelity and diligence, the alms and goods which are given to the poor: yea, to do their utmost endeavours, that many good means be procured for the relief of the poor. The second part of their office consists in distribution wherein are not only required discretion and prudence to bestow the alms only on objects of charity, but also cheerfulness and simplicity to assist the poor with compassion and hearty affection: as the apostle requires, Rom., chap 12; and 2 Cor., chap. 9. For which end it is very beneficial, that they do not only administer relief to the poor and indigent with external gifts, but also with comfortable words from Scripture. To the end therefore, beloved brethren, , that every one may hear, that you are willing to take your respective offices upon you, ye shall answer to the following questions: And in the first place I ask you, both elders and deacons, whether you do not feel in your hearts, that ye are lawfully called of God's Church, and consequently of God himself, to these your respective holy offices? Secondly. Whether ye believe the books of the Old and New Testament to be the only Word of God, and the perfect doctrine of salvation, and do reject all doctrines repugnant thereto? Thirdly. Whether ye promise, agreeably to said doctrine, faithfully, according to your ability, to discharge your respective offices, as they are here described? ye elders in the government of the Church together with the ministers of the Word; and ye deacons in the ministration to the poor? Do ye also jointly promise to walk in all godliness, and to submit yourself, in case ye should become remiss in your duty, to the admonition of the Church? Upon which they shall answer: Yes. Then the Minister shall say: The Almighty God and Father, replenish you all with his grace, that ye may faithfully and fruitfully discharge your respective offices. Amen. The Minister shall further exhort them, and the whole congregation, in the following manner: Therefore, ye elders, be diligent in the government of the Church, which is committed to you, and the ministers of the Word. Be also, as watchmen over the house and city of God, faithful to admonish and to caution every one against his ruin; Take heed that purity of doctrine and godliness of life be maintained in the Church of God. And, ye deacons, be diligent in collecting the alms, prudent and cheerful in the distribution of the same: assist the oppressed, provide for the true widows and orphans, show liberality unto all men, but especially to the household of faith. Be ye all with one accord faithful in your offices, and hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, being good examples unto all the people. In so doing you will purchase to yourselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus, and hereafter enter into the joy of our Lord. On the other hand, beloved Christians, receive these men as the servants of God: count the elders that rule well worthy of double honour, give yourselves willingly to their inspection and government. Provide the deacons with good means to assist the indigent. Be charitable, ye rich, give liberally, and contribute willingly. And, ye poor, be poor in spirit, and deport yourselves respectfully towards your benefactors, be thankful to them, and avoid murmuring: follow Christ, for the food of your souls, but not for bread. "Let him that has stolen (or who has been burdensome to his neighbours) steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the things which are good, that he may give to him that needeth." Each of you, doing these things in your respective callings, shall receive of the Lord, the reward of righteousness. But since we are unable of ourselves, let us call upon the name of the Lord saying: O Lord God and heavenly Father, we thank thee that it has pleased thee, for the better edification of thy Church, to ordain in it, besides the ministers of the Word, rulers and assistants, by whom thy Church may be preserved in peace and prosperity, and the indigent assisted; and that Thou hast at present granted us in this place, men, who are of good testimony, and we hope endowed with thy Spirit. We beseech thee, replenish them more and more with such gifts as are necessary, for them in their ministration; with the gifts of wisdom, courage, discretion, and benevolence, to the end that every one may, in his respective office, acquit himself as is becoming; the elders in taking diligent heed unto the doctrine and conversation, in keeping out the wolves from the sheepfold of thy beloved Son; and in admonishing and reproving disorderly persons. In like manner, the deacons in carefully receiving, and liberally and prudently distributing of the alms to the poor, and in comforting them with thy holy Word. Give grace both to the elders and deacons, that they may persevere in their faithful labour, and never become weary by reason of any trouble, pain or persecution of the world. Grant also especially thy divine grace to this people, over whom they are placed, that they may willingly submit themselves to the good exhortations of the elders, counting them worthy of honour for their work's sake; give also unto the rich, liberal hearts towards the poor, and to the poor grateful hearts towards those who help and serve them; to the end that every one acquitting himself of his duty, thy holy name may thereby be magnified, and the kingdom of thy Son Jesus Christ, enlarged, in whose name we conclude our prayers, saying: Our Father which is in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen. Liturgy of the Reformed Churches (continued in part 7...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-05: litur-06.txt .