Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
The Heads of Agreement
By The Saybrook Platform
[Assented to by the United Ministers of Connecticut in 1708. The Heads of Agreement. 1710.]
I. OF CHURCHES AND CHURCH MEMBERS.
WE acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ to have one Catholic Church or Kingdom, comprehending all that are united to him, whether in heaven or earth. And do conceive the whole multitude of visible believers, and their infant seed (commonly called the Catholic visible Church), to belong to Christs spiritual kingdom in this world. But, for the notion of a Catholic visible Church here, as it signifies its having been collected into any formed society under a visible common head on earth, whether one person singly or many collectively, we, with the rest of Protestants, unanimously disclaim it.
2. We agree that particular societies of visible saints who, under Christ their head, are statedly joined together for ordinary communion with one another in all the ordinances of Christ, are particular churches, and are to be owned by each other as instituted churches of Christ though differing in apprehensions and practice in some lesser things.
3. That none shall be admitted as members, in order to communion in all the special ordinances of the Gospel, but such persons as are knowing and sound in the fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion; without scandal in their lives; and, to a judgment regulated by the word of God, are persons of visible holiness and honesty, credibly professing cordial subjection to Jesus Christ.
4. A competent number of such visible saints (as before described) do become the capable subjects of stated communion in all the special ordinances of Christ, upon their mutual declared consent and agreement to walk together therein according to Gospel rule. In which declaration different degrees of explicitness shall no ways hinder such churches from owning each other as instituted churches.
6. That each particular church hath right to choose their own officers, and, being furnished with such as are duly qualified and ordained according to the Gospel rule, hath authority from Christ for exercising government and of enjoying all the ordinances of worship within itself.
7. In the administration of church power it belongs to the Pastors and other Elders of every particular church, if such there be, to rule and govern; and to the brotherhood to consent, according to the rule of the Gospel.
8. That all professors as before described are bound in duty, as they have opportunity, to join themselves as fixed members of some particular church; their thus joining being part of their professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ, and an instituted means of their establishment and edification; whereby they are under the pastoral care and, in case of scandalous or offensive walking, may be authoritatively admonished or censured for their recovery, and for vindication of the truth and the church professing it.
9. That a visible professor, thus joined to a particular church, ought to continue steadfast with the said church; and not forsake the ministry, and ordinances there dispensed, without an orderly seeking a recommendation unto another church; which ought to be given, when the case of the person apparently requires it.
2. They who are called to this office ought to be endued with competent learning and ministerial gifts, as also with the grace of God, sound in judgment, not novices in the faith and knowledge of the Gospel; without scandal, of holy conversation, and such as devote themselves to the work and service thereof.
5. That after such advice the person consulted about, being chosen by the brotherhood of that particular church over which he is to be set, and he accepting, be duly ordained and set apart to his office over them; wherein tis ordinarily requisite that the pastors of neighboring congregations concur with the preaching Elder or Elders, if such there be.
6. That, whereas such ordination only is intended for such as never before had been ordained to the ministerial office; if any judge that, in case also of the removal of one formerly ordained to a new station or pastoral charge, there ought to be a like solemn recommending him and his labors to the grace and blessing of God, no different sentiments or practice herein shall be any occasion of contention, or breach of communion among us.
7. It is expedient that they who enter on the work of preaching the Gospel be not only qualified for the communion of saints, but also that, except in case extraordinary, they give proof of their gifts and fitness for the said work, unto the Pastors of churches, of known abilities, to discern and judge of their qualifications; that they may be sent forth with solemn approbation and prayer; which we judge needful, that no doubt may remain concerning their being called unto the work; and for preventing (as much as in us lieth) ignorant and rash intruders.
1. As it can not be avoided but that, in the purest churches on earth, there will sometimes offences and scandals arise by reason of hypocrisy and prevailing corruption; so Christ hath made it the duty of every church to reform itself by spiritual remedies, appointed by him, to be applied in all such cases, viz.: Admonition and Excommunication.
2. Admonition, being the rebuking of an offending member in order to conviction, is in case of private offences to be performed according to the rule in Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17; and in case of public offences openly before the church, as the honor of the Gospel and the nature of the scandal shall require; and if either of the Admonitions take place for the recovery of the fallen person, all further proceedings in a way of censure are thereon to cease, and satisfaction to be declared accordingly.
3. When all due means are used, according to the order of the Gospel, for the restoring an offending and scandalous brother, and he, notwithstanding, remains impenitent, the censure of Excommunication is to be proceeded unto; wherein the Pastor and other Elders (if there be such) are to lead and go before the church; and the brotherhood to give their consent in a way of obedience unto Christ, and to the Elders, as over them in the Lord.
4. It may sometimes come to pass that a church member, not otherwise scandalous, may fully withdraw and divide himself from the communion of the church to which he belongeth. In which case, when all due means for the reducing him prove ineffectual, he having thereby cut himself off from that churchs communion, the church may justly esteem and declare itself discharged of any further inspection over him.
1. We agree that particular churches ought not to walk so distinct and separate with each other, as not to have care and tenderness towards one another. But their Pastors ought to have frequent meetings together that by mutual advice, support, encouragement, and brotherly intercourse, they may strengthen the hearts and hands of each other in the ways of the Lord.
2. That none of our particular churches shall be subordinate to one another, each being endued with equality of power from Jesus Christ. And that none of the said particular churches, their officer or officers, shall exercise any power or have any superiority over any other church or their officers.
3. That known members of particular churches constituted as aforesaid may have occasional communion with one another in the ordinances of the Gospel, viz.: the Word, Prayer, Sacraments, Singing of Psalms, dispensed according to the mind of Christ: unless that church with which they desire communion hath any just exception against them.
5. That one church ought not to blame the proceedings of another until it hath heard what that church charged, its elders or messengers, can say in vindication of themselves from any charge of irregular or injurious proceedings.
6. That we are most willing and ready to give an account of our church proceedings to each other, when desired, for preventing or removing any offences that may arise among us. Likewise we shall be ready to give the right hand of fellowship and walk together according to the Gospel rules of communion of churches.
We agree, the office of a Deacon is of divine appointment, and that it belongs to their office to receive, lay out, and distribute the churchs stock to its proper uses, by the direction of the Pastor and brethren, if need be. And, whereas divers are of opinion that there is also the office of Ruling Elders, who labor not in word and doctrine, and others think otherwise, we agree that this difference make no breach among us.
1. We agree that in order to concord, and in other weighty and difficult cases, it is needful and according to the mind of Christ that the Ministers of the several churches be consulted and advised with about such matters.
3. That, if at any time it shall be their pleasure to call together any number of us, to require an account of our affairs and the state of our congregations, we shall most readily express all dutiful regard to them herein.
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 Catechisms, shorter or longer, compiled by the Assembly at Westminster, or the Confession agreed on at the Savoy, to be agreeable to the said rule.
2. As for such as may be ignorant of the principles of the Christian Religion, or of vicious conversation, we shall in our respective places, as they give opportunity, endeavor to explain to them the doctrine of life and salvation, and to our utmost persuade them to be reconciled to God.