1. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it unfettered
by the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any
thing contrary to his word. The right of private judgment, therefore, in respect to religion, is universal and inalienable. No
religious organization should be aided by the civil power further than may be necessary for protection, and this should be
afforded to all alike.
2. Our Blessed Saviour, for the edification of the visible
Church, has appointed officers not only to preach the gospel and
administer the sacraments, but also to exercise discipline; and it is incumbent upon these officers, and upon the whole church in
whose name they act, to censure or suspend for the privileges of the church the disorderly, or to excommunicate the heretical
and scandalous--observing in all cases the rules contained in the word of God.
3. No error can be more pernicious or more absurd than that
which represents it as a matter of but little consequence what
man's opinions are; for there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and holiness; otherwise it would be
of no consequence to discover truth or to embrace it. Our Saviour has said, "A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit."
4. While it is necessary that all who are admitted as teachers
should be sound in the faith, nevertheless there are doctrines
forms with respect to which men of good character and principles may differ; and in all these it is the duty of all private
Christians and religious bodies to exercise forbearance toward one another.
5. Though the character, qualifications, and authority of church-officers
are laid down in the Holy Scriptures, as well as the
proper method of their investiture, yet the right to select the persons who shall exercise this authority, in any particular body,
belongs to that body.
6. All church-power however exercised, is ministerial and declarative
only; that is, the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule
of faith and practice. No church-judicatory ought to assume, by virtue of its own authority, to make laws to bind the conscience; and all its decisions should be rounded upon the revealed will of God. Ecclesiastical discipline is altogether distinct from the civil magistracy, and church-judicatories do not possess any civil jurisdiction--cannot inflict any civil penalties, nor have they any jurisdiction in political or civil affairs. Their power is wholly moral and ecclesiastical. They possess the right of requiring
obedience to the laws of Christ, may frame articles of faith, may bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in
practice, and may exclude the disobedient and disorderly from the privileges of the church. They possess the power requisite for obtaining evidence and inflicting censure. They can call before them any offender against the order and government of the
church. They can require members of their own body to appear and give testimony, and also introduce other witnesses when
necessary. But the highest punishment to which their authority extends is to exclude the contumacious and impenitent from the
communion and fellowship of the church.
7. Every Christian church, or union, or association of particular
churches, has the right to declare the terms of admission into
communion, and the qualifications of its ministers, officers, and members as well as the whole system of its internal government.
In the exercise of this right, the Cumberland Presbyterian
Church, adhering to the foregoing general principles, adopts the
following as its system of faith and internal government, consisting: 1. Of the Confession of Faith. 2. Of the Catechism. 3. Of the
Constitution. 4. Of the Rules of Discipline. 5. Of the General Regulations. 6. Of the Directory of Worship. 7. Of the Rules of