1.--THE NAME OF THE ASSOCIATION.
In the age contemporary with the apostles "Christian" was a name unappropriated by any religionists, other than the true believers who were "first called Christians at Antioch." But in the nineteenth century, this is not the case. Every ecclesiastical association in "Christendom," from "the Mother of Harlots" to Mormonism, the most recent of her Babylonish and adulterous generation, now appropriates the once distinctive and unblemished appellation to itself. For this reason, we conclude not to attempt to distinguish our Association by a name so universally misapplied; differing also, as we do, so essentially in faith and hope from all modern "Christian" names, sects, and denominations.
The" one faith" and "hope" we confess as "the children of the kingdom," are royal. We believe in a Messiah, even Jesus, who shall subdue unto himself, and for his brethren, a royalty, bounded only by "the uttermost parts of the earth;" in which royalty we hope to participate, when, as Micah testifies, The first dominion shall come to the stronghold of the daughter of Zion; and the kingdom to the daughter of Jerusalem." The apostle Peter, in writing to his Christian brethren dispersed through the provinces of Asia Minor, who also believed in this royalty, saith, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that ye should publish the goodness of him that hath called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." Besides this, the Apocalypse affirms that the Lord Jesus has made such "kings and priests, for God to reign upon the earth;" and adds in another place, "They sat upon thrones, and judgment was given unto them: and they lived, * * * and they shall be the priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
Seeing then that it is fit that a society, or association, of whatever kind, should have a designation, and deprecating strongly the imposition of a name by which we should be characterized as the adherents of any person, however esteemed; we agree that the title of our confederacy shall express the great subject-matter of the gospel, i.e. ROYALTY. Our decision, therefore, is that our ecclesiastical union shall be entitled "THE ROYAL ASSOCIATION OF BELIEVERS* in New-York.
* This title is nearly equivalent to the Scripture phrase "ROYAL PRIESTHOOD," used by Peter; that is, A Royal Order of Priests. "Royal" is a French word, from roi, a king. Anything pertaining to a king is royal. Hence an Association composed of "children of the kingdom," who are "sons of God," and therefore brethren of Jesus Christ, Jehovah's first born and Israel's King, believing also the glad tidings of the kingdom, is royal; and therefore named as in the text above.
2. --THE ASSOCIATION DEFINED.
The Association is an aggregation of persons who believe "the things" covenanted to Abraham and to David, "concerning the kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ," and have therefore been "immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
3.--OBJECTS OF THE ASSOCIATION.
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, whose scriptural position is defined in No. 2, DO HEREBY confederate ourselves into a visible association, for the weekly remembrance of the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread; for the celebration of the high praises of God; for the reading of the Scriptures; for the support and proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom; and for mutual assistance in time of need.
4.--WH0 ARE INVITED TO MEMBERSHIP.
"The wisdom from above being first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" -we cordially invite all immersed believers of the gospel preached to Abraham, Israel, and the Gentiles, by the Angel of Jehovah, Moses, Jesus, and the apostles, who are disposed to illustrate this "wisdom from above" in word and deed, to unite with the undersigned for the purposes set forth in No. 3.
5.--WHO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP WITHOUT MEMBERSHIP.
Being the Lord's table, and not the table of the Association, all of good report within the city or without it, who, believing the gospel of the kingdom, have been immersed, are cordially invited to worship with us; the only privileges withheld being a participation in the direction of our affairs, and speech without previous invitation.
6. --WHO ARE INADMISSIBLE TO MEMBERSHIP.
"The kingdom of God" believed being "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit," we hereby disallow the membership of our Association to any immersed believers who cannot prove that they walk as becomes the kingdom of God and of Christ.
7.--ADMISSION TO MEMBERSHIP.
Immersed believers of the gospel of the kingdom are admissible to membership by the unanimous consent of the Association, the absence of any objection privately stated in the presence of the applicant, who will make his application for admission to a presiding brother, or silence, being taken for consent.
The immersion of a believer of the gospel of the kingdom by a brother of our society, appointed to administer it, of itself constitutes the baptized person a member of our Association.
8.--THE EXECUTIVE OF THE ASSOCIATION.
Our Executive is for the maintenance of decency and order in the meetings of the Association; the administration of the Supper and Baptism; attending to the admission of applicants to membership; the removal of any misunderstandings or difficulties that may arise to the hindrance of the objects of the Association; the disbursement of its contributions; and for whatever else needs to be attended to in behalf of the society.
In the heritages of God, planted by the apostles - these functions, with teaching, were distributed to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers," "helps and directors," endowed with certain specified natural qualifications, and appropriate spiritual gifts, "for the perfecting of them for the work of the ministry, and the edifying of the body of Christ." These perfected saints, or holy ones perfected for the work, were the many- branched candlestick of the heritage to which the belonged. They were, collectively, the eldership or presbytery of the association, and classified by Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, as "the bishops and deacons," or, in another place, "members in particular." We acknowledge the desirableness of an exactly similar institution as the Executive of the Association; and could we avail ourselves of brethren possessed of the natural qualifications, specified by Paul to Timothy and Titus, in whom "the word of Christ dwelt richly in all wisdom," we should be disposed to submit ourselves to them as "over us in the Lord;" but, seeing that at present such are not available, we agree that the executive functions of our Association shall be discharged as follows:
Three, four, or more, as the necessity of circumstances may demand in the unanimous estimation of the brethren, shall be selected because of their scriptural intelligence, good qualities and report. These select brethren shall not be regarded as "officers," but simply as brethren in particular, specially interested in promoting the objects and welfare of the Association. After speaking of elders, called episcopoi, or bishops, i.e., overseers-Paul then proceeds to speak of others, called -diakonoi, or deacons, i.e., overseers of the poor, and of secular affairs, almoners, &c.
Of the latter, he says: "Let these ALSO first be proved," implying by "also" that the episcopoi, or overlookers of the flock, should be proved as well as the diakonoi, or superintendents of secular affairs. These select brethren of our Association may therefore be considered, not as "bishops and deacons," but as probationers, who may or may not become official.
¶4. One of these brethren shall preside in rotation at the meetings of the Association for the breaking of bread and mutual edification. He will regulate the meeting for breaking of bread, according to No. 11, and will be careful to see that "all things be done decently and in order," as there prescribed.
If any applications for admission to membership, or for baptism, be made upon his day, or during the ensuing week, it will be his duty to ascertain the candidates' fitness in the presence of one or more. He will then make report of such fitness to the Association at its ordinary session, and during the "contribution;" and, if there be no objection, admission to membership shall be expressed on the following Lord's day, by the presiding brother extending to the accepted the right hand of fellowship for the whole. If the application be for baptism, then the subject's fitness being ascertained, the presiding brother shall administer it, or provide for its administration. At the conclusion of the meeting, he will announce the brother whose turn it will be to preside at the next assembly.
9.--EXPOSITION OF THE WORD TO THE EDIFICATION OF THE ASSOCIATION.
In Ecclesiastes it is written, "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools; for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few."
The Apostle James also saith: "Be swift to hear, and slow to speak, slow to wrath." Yet it was said to certain of old time "perfected for the work" by the Spirit: "Ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted." "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." Exhortation is, therefore, a part of prophesying, and, in being attempted, must be done without debate "to the edifying of the Church," or not at all. Hence, the Apostle saith, speaking to the prophesiers, "Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church;" and to all members in particular, "Let all things be done unto edifying."
We understand from these and other portions of the Word, "that it inculcates much thought and few words. Exhortation is hortatory instruction of a consoling character, founded on the testimony of God. We expect therefore, that those who "exhort" will first call our attention to some portion of Scripture by reading it, then show us the interpretation of what he has read, and afterwards bring it home to us in words of kindness, for our edification and comfort. To open a masked battery upon brethren is not "exhortation," and, being neither courteous nor christian, wilI not be allowed, but will be the duty of the presiding brother to stop it immediately, by rising and politely inviting such offender against good manners to take a seat. "Let thy words be few." In consenting, therefore, to suffer prophesying from uninspired men of ordinary talents and information, brethren will be expected to restrict themselves to fifteen minutes at most, unless at the discretion of the brother who presides.
10.--OF DIFFICULTIES AMONG MEMBERS.
If "Christ dwell in our hearts by faith," the Spirit of Christ will be there; and "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," or freedom from the dominion of the flesh, which is sin. Difficulties arise from the absence of this Spirit in one or both. It is the duty of brethren not to burden others with their misunderstandings, but to settle them before sundown by themselves. But if this cannot be effected, let them invite a brother to assist them in a return to oneness of mind. If the matter can by no means be reconciled, the case may then be referred to one of the select brethren, who, alone, or assisted by the other select brethren, shall labor to restore harmony without laying it before the Association. If this cannot be effected, the case may be reported to the Church, and we agree to withdraw the privileges of our society from the party who shall be manifestly in the wrong.
11.--THE ORDER OF WORSHIP.
After the custom of those instructed by the Apostles, the Association will convene for worship on the first day of the week. The members being assembled, the brother whose turn it is to preside will take the chair, and invite us to unite with him in invoking the blessing of the "Father of Lights," and his acceptance of our spiritual sacrifices in the name of Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. After this the presiding brother will invite us to sing a portion selected from the Psalms of David or the "Paraphrases," which may be proposed by himself, or by some other of the brethren, as he may prefer. The singing being ended, Scripture-reading will commence. A portion should be read from each of these four divisions: First division, from Genesis to Job, inclusive; second, from Psalms to Malachi, inclusive; third, from Matthew to Acts, inclusive; and fourth, from Romans to Revelation, inclusive. The presiding brother may distribute the reading among the best readers, reading a portion also himself according to his discretion. The four divisions are each to be read continuously to the end, beginning with the first chapter of Genesis, the first Psalm, the first chapter of Matthew, and the first chapter of Romans. After the reading, singing as before. A contribution will then be taken up, to defray whatever expenses may be incurred in carrying out the objects of the Association. The admission of members will be attended to at this juncture, according to Nos. 7, 8, ¶4.
The presiding brother will then proceed to the breaking of bread,
any brother he may call upon being the medium of its distribution,
he will remind the brethren of what it celebrates-as, the love
of God, the self- sacrifice of Jehovah's King for the saints,
and for the world of which Abraham and He, and we with them, are
all the heirs, &c. He will then give thanks for the things memorialized
by the bread, or invite some other so to do. After its distribution,
he will proceed in like manner with the wine.
When the wine is returned to the table, he will state how much time remains for the continuance of the session, and that it can now be occupied by expositions of the Word to edification according to No. 9. When these are finished, the meeting may be concluded with singing and prayer. This order may be succinctly Stated as follows:
1. Prayer by the presiding brother.
a. From Genesis to Job.
b. From Psalms to Malachi.
c. From Matthew to Acts.
d. From Romans to Revelation.
5. Contribution, and Reception of Members, if any.
6. Breaking of Bread, &c.
7. Exposition of the Word to edification.
HENRY 0. BENNETT.
***The four with this sign affixed to their names consented to act as "select brethren" to carry out the constitution they have subscribed.
FORM SUBSCRIBED BY MEMBERS ADMITTED SUBSEQUENTLY TO THE FORMATION OF THE ASSOCIATION.
We, the undersigned, having duly examined the Constitution recorded in this book, in subscribing our names do thereby attest, that the position defined in No. 2 is ours; and that we approve and accept of its provisions, and are determined to abide by them, and to use our influence in causing them to be respected.
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