Historic, Reformed Books of Church Order, Discipline & Minutes


Order of Contents

Geneva / Switzerland

Church of Scotland
Secession Church
Free Church of Scotland
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)

Westminster Assembly
English Presbyterians
Irish Presbyterians
Bohemian Church
French Reformed Church
Dutch Reformed Church

American Presbyterian Church
Presbyterian Church in America  PCA
American Dutch Reformed Church
American German Reformed Church




In addition to below, see James Dennison’s Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries  Buy  which has a number of confessions that contain material on the form of government and church discipline.

Some secondary sources and related items that include otherwise inaccessible primary sources are also included below.





Durel, John – A View of the Government & Public Worship of God in the Reformed Churches Beyond the Seas, wherein is showed their Conformity & Agreement with the Church of England, as it is Established by the Act of Uniformity…  (London, 1662)  318 pp.

Durel (1625–1683) was an Anglican, Erastian, clergyman and academic, here seeking to support the Anglican practices.  Hickman, below, qualifies and corrects numerous claims of Durel.

Henry Hickman – Bonasus Vapulans [A Bull being Whipped], or, Some Castigations given to Mr. John Durell for Fouling Himself & Others in his English & Latin Book by a Country Scholar  (London, 1672)  150 pp.

Hickman (bap.1629-1692) was an English puritan who was ejected in 1662.  This is a correction to Durel’s work above, from one who is not so sympathetic with the mainline Anglican church.



Heppe, Heinrich – ‘The Church’  1861  37 pp.  being ch. 27 of Reformed Dogmatics  Buy  pp. 657-94

Heppe’s work is an anthology of quotes arranged in systematic fashion from many of the leading reformed theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries.  The first half of this chapter deals with more general theological issues regarding the church, but the second half covers some of the more detailed points.  Many of these writers have not otherwise been translated into English.



Ainslie, J.L. – The Doctrines of Ministerial Order in the Reformed Churches in the 16th & 17th Centuries  Buy  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1940)  285 pp.  ToC

ed. Hall, David W. & Joseph H. Hall – Paradigms in Polity: Classic Readings in Reformed & Presbyterian Church Government  (Eerdmans, 1994)



Geneva & Switzerland

Calvin, John

The Service, Discipline & Form of the Common Prayers & Administration of the Sacraments, used in the English Church of Geneva, as it was Approved by that Most Reverend Divine, Mr. John Calvin & the Church of Scotland  (1564)  188 pp.

The Ecclesiastical Ordinances  1541

‘One reason John Calvin acceded to the request of the Genevan city government to return from Strassburg to Geneva was the agreement that a set of ordinances would be written to govern the church of Geneva.  this was provided in 1541 and ratified by the Little Council.  Thus was provided one of the first Reformed church orders.’ – editors of ‘Paradigms in Polity’

‘The Ecclesiastical Ordinances’  Buy  1561 in Paradigms in Polity, ed. Hall & Hall, pp. 140-55

‘While the 1561 Ecclesiastical Ordinance includes a large amount of the material included in the 1541 Ordinance, it is a new document that provides further insight and improvement over the one of 1541.  For example, the 1561 work clearly indicates the congregation will have a part in the manner of electing ministers.  Moreover, ministerial visitation, the manner in which elders should be elected and excommunicated, communion regulations, and, most interestingly, the manner of treatment given higher class Genevan citizens are all treated in this new document.’ – editors of ‘Paradigms in Polity’

The Genevan Company of Pastors & Genevan Civil Code


Fills, Robert – The Laws & Statutes of Geneva as well concerning Ecclesiastical Discipline, as Civil Regiment, with certain proclamations duly executed, whereby God’s religion is most purely maintained & their common wealth quietly governed, translated out of French into English  (1562)



Hughes, Philip E. – The Register of the Company of Pastors of Geneva in the Time of Calvin  Buy  (Eerdmans, 1966)  396 pp.  ToC

Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice  Buy  transl. Benjamin Farley, forward John H. Leith  (1991)  188 pp.



Manetsch, Scott – Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care & the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609  Buy  (2012)  448 pp.

Witte, John & Robert Kingdon – Sex, Marriage & Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva: Courtship, Engagement & Marriage  Buy  (2005)  544 pp.


Beza, Theodore

The Judgment of a Most Reverend & Learned Man from beyond the Seas concerning a Threefold order of Bishops [‘one of God, another of men, and another of the Devil; the two latter must be plucked up, the former only must continue’], with a declaration of certain other weighty points concerning the Discipline & Government of the Church  (1585)

Maruyama, T. – The Ecclesiology of Theodore Beza  Buy  (1978)

Wollebius, Johannes – ‘Of the Outward Administration of the Church’  (d. 1629)  16 pp. being ch. 26 of his An Abridgment of Christian Divinity, pp. 214-230





The Church of Scotland

The First Book of Discipline  (1560)

The Service, Discipline & Form of the Common Prayers and Administration of the Sacraments, used in the English Church of Geneva: as it was approved by that most reverend divine, Mr. John Calvin & the Church of Scotland  (1564)  188 pp.

A Collection of Confessions of Faith, Catechisms, Directories, Books of Discipline, etc. of Public Authority in the Church of Scotland, vol. 2  ToC  including, amongst other things:

‘A Short Sum of the Book of Discipline for the Instruction of Ministers & Readers in their Office’  (n.d.), p. 608 ff.

John Knox, ‘The Form & Order of the Election & Admission of the Superintendent, which may serve in the Election of All Other Ministers’  (1560), p. 625 ff.

‘The Election of Elders & Deacons in the Church of Edinburgh’  (1569), p. 636 ff.

John Knox & John Craig, ‘The Order & Doctrine of the General Fast’  (1565), p. 643 ff.

‘The Order of Excommunication & Public Repentance’  (1569), p. 701 ff.

The Second Book of Discipline  (1578)

Kirk, James – Patterns of Reform: Continuity & Change in the Reformation Kirk  Buy  (2000)  512 pp.  ToC

‘Some think that Kirk in this work definitively settles the question of influence in the Scottish church in favor of a Calvin-Geneva influence rather than an Anglican-British sway.’ – David W. Hall

ed. Fleming, David H. – Register of the Minister, Elders & Deacons of the Christian Congregation of St. Andrews: comprising the proceedings of the Kirk session & of the Court of the Superintendent of Fife, Fothrik & Strathearn, 1559-1600, pt. 1 (1559-1582), pt. 2 (1582-1600)  (1889)  570 pp.  Publications of the Scottish History Society, vols. 4 & 7

Henderson, Alexander – The Government & Order of the Church of Scotland  (1641)

Rutherford, Samuel – A Defense of the Government of the Church of Scotland  (1642)

A Directory for Church Government & Ordination of ministers, to be examined against the Next General Assembly  (1647)

A Directory for Church Censures, to be examined against the Next General Assembly  (1647)

The Form of Process  (1707)

Morthland, Charles – An Account of the Government of the Church of Scotland as it is Established by Law & of the Discipline and Worship Presently Practiced by that Church  (1708)

Steuart of Pardovan, Walter – Collections & Observations Concerning the Worship, Discipline and Government of the Church of Scotland…  (1709)

Edgar, Andrew – Old Church Life in Scotland: Lectures on Kirk Session & Presbytery Records, vols. 1, 2  (Alexander Gardner, 1885)

Table of Contents

Volume 1

1. Churches, Manses & Churhyards in Olden Times  1
2.  Public Worship in Olden Times  55
3.  Communion Services in Olden Times  117
4-6.  Church Discipline in Olden Times  182
Appendices  345
Index  363

Volume 2

1.  Provision for the Poor in Olden Times  1
2.  Provision for Education in Olden Times  63
3.  Marriage in Olden Times  134
4.  Baptisms & Burials in Olden Times  204
5.  Ministers & Ministerial Life at Mauchline, 1650-55  267
6.  Ministers & Ministerial Life at Mauchline, 1656-1800  335
Appendix – Burns’s Marriage  399
Index  411

Extracts from Principal George Hill’s ‘View of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland’  (1818)  23 pp.  See here for the whole of Hill’s ‘View of the Constitution’ 155 pp. from Part II of his Theological Institutes

Edgar, Andrew – ‘The Discipline of the Church’  in ed. Story, Robert, The Church of Scotland, Past and Present, vol. 5  1890 ff.

Fleming, David Hay – The Discipline of the Reformation, pt. 1, 2, 3  Also in his Shorter Writings

Mair, William – A Digest of Laws & Decisions Ecclesiastical & Civil Relating to the Constitution, Practice & Affairs of the Church of Scotland, with Explanatory Notes & Forms of Procedure  (Edinburgh: Blackwood & Sons, 1887)  ToC



Acts, Proceedings & Minutes of the Church of Scotland

The Book of the Universal Kirk of Scotland [1560-1616], wherein the Heads & Conclusions Devised by the Ministers & Commissioners of the Particular Kirks Thereof, are Especially Expressed & Contained  620 pp.

On the interesting account of the stealing (by an Episcopalian) and destruction of the original edition of this work, see Johnston, Treasury, p. 294.

Acts & Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, vols. 1 (1560-1577), 2 (1578-1592), 3 (1593-1618)  BHO

The Intervening time between 1618 and 1638 were the dark days of the unlawful, imposed prelatical assemblies.

Records of the Kirk of Scotland, containing the Acts & Proceedings of the General Assemblies from the Year 1638 Downwards [to 1649], as authenticated by the Clerks of Assembly, with Notes & Historical Illustrations, with documents of the Church till 1654,  696 pp.  See here for a similar, but improved edition of this work.

Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1638-1842  (1843)  1280 pp.  BHO

An Abridgment of the Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, 1638-1810, Alphabetically Arranged, with an Appendix containing an Abridgment of All the Acts of [Civil] Parliament relating to the Church of Scotland 

The convenience of this volume is that the principle acts are abridged and organized alphabetically by topic.  Also note the valuable material in the Appendix.

ed. Morren, N. – Annals of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, from the Final Secession in 1739 to the Origin of the Relief in 1752  (1838)  450 pp.


Select Topical Acts

Directions of the General Assembly concerning Secret & Private Worship, & Mutual Edification, for cherishing Piety, for Maintaining Unity & Avoiding Schism & Division, with an act for observing these directions, & censuring such use to neglect family worship. & an act against such as withdraw themselves from the public worship in their own congregations  (1648)  20 pp.

A Collection of Some Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland since the year 1690, for Promoting of Piety & Virtue, & for Suppressing of vice, profaneness & immorality, & censuring delinquents, together with her Majesty’s Proclamation, & an Abbreviate of the Laws  (1714)



The Resolutioners vs. the Protesters

The Scottish Resolutioner-Protester Controversy, 1650’s



The Scottish Secession Church

Brown, John, of Hadddington – Letters on the Constitution, Government & Discipline of the Christian Church  2nd ed.  (Edinburgh, 1799)  ToC

Brown (d. 1787) was a theological professor of the Secession Church in Scotland.

Act of the Associate Presbytery concerning the Doctrine of Grace, wherein the said Doctrine, as Revealed in the Holy Scriptures, & Agreeably thereto, set forth in our Confession of Faith & Catechisms, is Asserted & Vindicated from the Errors Vented & Published in some Acts of the Assemblies of this Church [of Scotland] passed in Prejudice of the Same  (1798)  86 pp.

Scott, David – Annals & Statistics of the Original Secession Church: till its Disruption & Union with the Free Church of Scotland in 1852  (1886)  612 pp.



The Free Church of Scotland  (1843-2000)

Digests of Legislation

Forbes, Robert – Digest of Rules & Procedure in the Inferior Courts of the Free Church of Scotland, with an Appendix embracing a Ministerial Manual, & also containing Forms & Documents  1st ed.  (1856); see here for the 3rd ed.  (1869), 321 pp.

This work was intended to provide for the Free Church what George Hill had provided for the Church of Scotland (see above) before the Disruption of 1843.

The Practice of the Free Church of Scotland in her Several Courts  4th ed.  (1886)

‘The Practice’, or ‘Blue Book’, is what would normally be considered the Free Church of Scotland’s book of Church order, except that it is not binding.  It is only a summary of legislation.  The legislation is the only thing that is binding.



Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotand  57 vols. in 11  (Edinburgh: 1843-1900)

Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1900-Present



Ewing, W. – Annals of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843-1900, 2 vols.  (1914)

Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland  59 vols. in 51  (Edinburgh: 1843-1900)  Years 1843, 1857, 1870, 1876, 1877, 1881 are online at Internet Archive.

Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1843  266 pp.  This edition has a table of contents.  This edition has a sketch of the proceedings of the residual assembly on pp. 188-245

This is an account of the entire proceedings of the immediate General Assembly of the Free Church after the Disruption.


Constitutional Matters

Begg, James – Memorial with the Opinions of Eminent Counsel in Regard to the Constitution of the Free Church of Scotland & Remarks on our Present State & Prospects  (1874)  264 pp.

This volume gives special attention to the Establishment Principle in regards to possible union with other churches.

The Church in Relation to its Constitution  (2006)  12 pp.

Isbell describes the European understanding of a constitution and argues that a church’s constitution is inviolable and cannot be changed.



Scott, David – Annals & Statistics of the Original Secession Church: till its Disruption & Union with the Free Church of Scotland in 1852  (1886)  612 pp.


Instructive and Theolgical

General Assembly – Catechism of the Principles & Constitution of the Free Church of Scotland  (Edinburgh, 1853)  162 pp.  ToC



The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)  2000-present

The Practice of the Free Church of Scotland in her Several Courts  8th ed.  (1995)  See here for the 4th ed. from 1886.

‘The Practice’, or ‘Blue Book’, is what would normally be considered the Free Church of Scotland’s book of Church order, except that it is not binding.  It is only a summary of legislation.  The legislation is the only thing that is binding.

The Principal Acts of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), 2000-Present  HTML



The Westminster Assembly

The Form of Presbyterial Church Government

The Humble Advice of the Assembly Concerning Church Government

This contains a section on Discipline and Excommunication (in the middle of the work) not found in the Form of Presbyterian Church Government.

The Form of Church Government to be used in the Church of England & Ireland, agreed upon by the Lord’s & Commons assembled in Parliament, after advice had with the Assembly of Divines  (1645)

This work is different from the From of Presbyterial Church Government and contains many more details not found therein.  For the significance of this work, see an introduction to it by Andrew Myers.

The Directory of the Public Worship of God



The Minutes of the Westminster Assembly

The Minutes of the Westminster Assembly



The English Presbyterians

Travers, Walter

A Full & Plain Declaration of Ecclesiastical Discipline out of the Word of God & of the Declining of the Church off England from the Same  (1574)

A Brief & Plain Declaration concerning the Desires of all those Faithful Ministers that have and do seek for the Discipline & Reformation of the Church of England, which may serve for a just apology against the false accusations & slanders of their adversaries  (1584)  also attributed to Dudley Fenner & William Fulke

A Defense of the Ecclesiastical Discipline Ordained of God to be Used in his Church, Against a Reply of Master [John] Bridges, to a Brief & Plain Declaration of it, which was Printed in 1584, which reply he terms, ‘A defense of the governement established in the Church of England for Ecclesiastical Matters’  (1588)  228 pp.

Cartwright, Thomas

The Second Reply of Thomas Cartwright against Master Doctor Whitgift’s Second Answer, touching the Church Discipline  (1575)

The Rest of the Second Reply of Thomas Cartwright against Master Doctor Whitgift’s Second Answer, touching the Church Discipline  ToC  (1577)

A Directory of Church Government  1585

“Cartwright’s ‘Directory’ is built upon the earlier ‘Directory’ by Walter Travers (1574).   At the time Cartwright was arrested in 1585, he was carrying a copy of it.  All original Latin copies were destroyed, but a few copies in English survived.  This (specifically, a copy found in Cartwright’s study) was reprinted for Parliament and the Westminster Assembly in 1644 and was used by Alexander Henderson as the model for the 1645 ‘Westminster Directory of Public Worship’ and the companion ‘Directory and Form of Church Government’.”  – Andrew Myers

ed. Usher, Roland G. – The Presbyterian Movement in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth as Illustrated by the Minute Book of the Dedham Classis, 1582-1589  (London, 1905)

Udall, John  d. 1592

A Demonstration of the Truth of that Discipline which Christ has Prescribed in his Word for the Government of his Church, in All Times & Places until the End of the World, wherein are gathered into a plain form of reasoning the proofs thereof out of the Scriptures, the evidence of it by the light of reason rightly ruled, and the testimonies that have been given thereunto by the course of the Church certain hundreds of years after the Apostles’ time, and the general consent of the Churches rightly reformed in these latter times, according as they are alleged and maintained in those several books that have been written concerning the same  (1588)

A Part of a Register Containing sundry Memorable Matters, written by diverse Godly & Learned in our time, which stand for, & desire the Reformation of our Church, in Discipline & Ceremonies, according to the pure Word of God & the Law of our Land  (1593)  86 pp.

Stoughton, William – An Assertion for True & Christian Church Policy, wherein certain Politic Objections made against the planting of pastors & elders in every congregation are sufficiently answered, & wherein also sundry projects are set down, how the discipline by pastors & elders may be planted without any derogation to the King’s royal prerogative, any indignity to the three estates in Parliament, or any greater alteration of the laudable laws, statutes, or customs of the realm, then may well be made without damage to the people  (1604)

Mawdesley, James – Clerical Politics in Lancashire & Cheshire during the Reign of Charles I, 1625-1649  PhD thesis (University of Sheffield, 2014)  Ref

Bernard, Richard – A Short View of the Prælatical Church of England, wherein is set forth the horrible abuses in Discipline & Government, laid open in ten sections by way of quære and petition, whereunto is added a short draught of Church-Government  (1641)

London Ministers – The Divine Right of Church Government  originally 1645, this edition 1844

Some of the appendices to this edition are not original, but were inserted by the editors (from John Brown of Haddington, etc.)  For the first edition, see the volume published by Naphtali Press.

The Register Booke of the Fourth Classis in the Province of London 1646-59  Ref  Review

“During the English Civil War, Presbyterian ministers and church councils were established in Londons churches. These people had to be proposed and vetted (to ensure that they were sympathetic with the new government).  Furthermore, they had to be seen to be promoting the new government in their sermons, and giving thanks and blessings for the various victories of the time.

This book contains transcripts of the proposals for the new ministers and church councils of each of those churches, plus the records of their support for the government, and letters relating to the lack of the right words being used in their sermons.”

Materials for an account of the Provincial Synod of the County of Lancaster, 1646-1660  William Arthur Shaw  (Manchester Press Co., 1890)  Ref  printed privately; limited.

Minutes of the Manchester Presbyterian Classis [1646-1660], Part 1, Part 2, Part 3  ed. William A. Shaw  Chetham Society, vols. 20, 22 & 24

Minutes of the Bury Presbyterian Classis, 1647-1657, Part 1, Part 2  ed. William A. Shaw  Chetham Society, vols. 36 & 41  (1896/98)

Love, Christopher – The Main Points of Church-Government & Discipline: Plainly & Modestly handled by Way of Question & Answer  (1649)

Burgess, Cornelius – Reasons showing the Necessity of Reformation of the Public  1. Doctrine, 2. Worship, 3. Rites & Ceremonies, 4. Church-Government & Discipline, reputed to be (but indeed, not) established by law. Humbly offered to the serious consideration of this present Parliament, by divers ministers of sundry counties in England  (1660)

Baxter, Richard – Two Papers of Proposals concerning the Discipline & Ceremonies of the Church of England, humbly Presented to His Majesty by the Reverend Ministers of the Presbyterian Persuasion  (1661)

Baxter was more properly an Independent, though sometimes Independents took on the name ‘presbyterian’ as they believed in rule by presbyters at the local level.  This would especially be the case after the imposition of episcopacy in 1660.

Hall, Archibald – An Humble Attempt to Exhibit a Scriptural View of the Constitution, Order, Discipline & Fellowship of the Gospel-Church  (1795)



The Irish Presbyterians

Records of the General Synod of Ulster, from 1691 to 1820, vols. 1 (1691-1720) , 2 (1721-1777), 3 (1778-1820)  (Belfast, 1890)



The Bohemian Church

Comenius, Johann Amos – An Exhortation of the Churches of Bohemia to the Church of England, wherein is set forth the Good of Unity, Order, Discipline & Obedience in Churches Rightly now [constituted], or to be Constituted, with a description premised of the Order & Discipline used in the Churches of the Brethren of Bohemia  (1661)



The French Church

de Loque, Bartrand – An Excellent & Plain Discourse of the Church, whereby the Godly may Know & Discern the True Church from the Romish Church & All Other False & Counterfeit Churches, as well for matters of Doctrine, as Discipline, etc.  (1585)

de Loque was a minister of Dolphenine.

National Synod – The General & Particular Acts & Articles of the Late National Synod of the Reformed Churches of France… beginning the 26th of Dec., 1644, where by the present estate of those churches, as also their Doctrine & Discipline may be Known  (London, 1646)

de Larroque, Matthieu – Conformity of the Ecclesiastical Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France with that of the Primitive Christians  (1691)

Quick, John – Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, or, the Acts, Decisions, Decrees, & Canons of thouse famous National Councils of the Reformed Churches in France, vols. 1, 2  (1692)



The Dutch Church

DeRidder, Richard, ed. – The Church Orders of the Sixteenth Century Reformed Churches of the Netherlands Together with Their Social, Political & Ecclesiastical Context  Buy  Trans. Richard R. DeRidder with the assistance of Peter H. Jonker and Rev. Leonard Verduin  (Calvin Theological Seminary, 1987)  Ref

The Kirk Orders before Dort   31 Church Orders in Dutch.

See generally Select Documents for the Reformation and the Revolt of the Low Countries, 1555-1609  48 various documents from this time period, of which several relevant ones are linked below

Select Articles from the Assembly at Wesel  (1571)  12 paragraphs

Acts of the Synod of the Netherlands Churches both under the Cross and Scattered through Germany and East Friesland, held at Emden  (1571)

Select Acts from the Synod of Dordrecht  (1574)

This Synod of Dort was an important regional assembly in its day, to be distinguished from the national Synod of Dort with international delegates in 1618-19.

Ecclesiastical Ordinances drafted by Order of the States of Holland  (1576)

The Reformed Classis in Action: Flanders, 1578-1582  23 paragraphs

Select Acts from the Synod of Middelburg, 1581  13 paragraphs

A Visitation of the Reformed Churches in the Classis of Dordrecht  (1589)  30 paragraphs

The Church Order of Dort  (1619)

Apollonius, Willhelm – A Consideration of Certain Controversies at this Time Agitated in the Kingdom of England Concerning the Government of the Church of God, written at the command & appointment of the Walachrian Calssis  1645  151 pp.

A copy of this Dutch presbyterian work, addressing matters of church polity and discipline, was given to every Westminster Divine and was highly praised by the Scot Robert Baillie.

Demarest, David – History & Characteristics of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church  (1856)  especially chs. 7 & 8 on ‘Liturgy, Customs and Usages’ and ‘Government & Discipline’

Van Dellen, Idzerd & Martin Monsema – The Church Order Commentary  Buy  (1941)  385 pp.  no ToC

This is a thorough commentary on the church order of the Christian Reformed Church.



The American Presbyterian Church

Constitutional Histories

Hodge, Charles – The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in America, vols. 1 (1705-1741), 2 (1741-1788)

Smith, Morton – How is the Gold Become Dim: The Decline of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., as Reflected in its Assembly Actions  Buy  (1973)  452 pp.

Smith chronicles the constitutional decline of the PCUS (the Southern half of the Presbyterian Church) from its founding till the secession of the PCA in 1973.

Table of Contents:

1.  The Historic Position of the Presbyterian Church in the United States
2.  Departures from the Historic Position on Scripture
3.  Departures from the Historic Position on Confession and Catechisms – Doctrinal Subscription
4.  Departures from the Historic Position on the Confession and Catechisms – Changes Enacted
5.  Departures form the Historic Position on Church Government
6.  The Decline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States as Reflected in its Exercise of Discipline
7.  The Decline of Worship of God in the Presbyterian Church of the United States
8.  The Decline as Reflected in the Relations to Other Church Bodies
9.  Departures from the Spiritual Mission of the Church as Seen in the Social and Political Actions of the Assemblies
10.  The State of the Church in 1970 as Described by the General Assembly Itself
11.  Whither?  Some Concluding Observations and Postscripts


A Collection of Resources

PCA Historical Center – ‘The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order: Articles & Books on Church Polity’  A bibliography of 70+ resources, with numerous links.

This collection is centered around American presbyterianism, both North and South, from its inception up through the PCA.  At the bottom there is a significant section on works relating to Deacons in American presbyterianism.


Books of Order & Discipline

A Draught of the Form of the Government & Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America  (1787)

The Draught was the draft form of the Book of Discipline that was adopted in 1788 (which is not on the internet).  The Book of Discipline adopted in 1788 was the original form of discipline of the national denomination of Presbyterians in America, from which all American branches of presbyterianism derive.

(Note that denominations such as Reformed Presbyterians, the Associate Reformed Presbyterians, the Dutch American Reformed Denominations, and others, whose backgrounds are from other nationalities, did not descend from this Order of Discipline and Worship.)

The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, being its Standards Subordinate to the Word of God… as ratified and adopted… in the year of our Lord 1788, and as amended in the years 1805-1920, together with the Constitutional Rules adopted in 1893-1912 and administrative Acts of the Assembly of a General Nature  (1920)  568 pp.


Digests of Legislation

A Digest Compiled from the Records of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America… of their acts and proceedings that appear to be of permanent authority and interest… by order of the General Assembly  (1820)

‘The General Assembly first ordered its clerk to prepare a digest in 1809.  After nearly a decade of procrastination the 1818 General Assembly appointed a committee, chaired by Dr. Jacob Janeway [an Old School Presbyterian].  Reporting back two years later in 1820, the General Assembly authorized this digest.’

McFalls, Thaddeus & Byron Sunderland – Manual of Presbyterian Law and Usage embracing established and recognized Ecclesiastical and Parliamentary Rules and Regulations for the Guidance of Congregations and Church Courts in all Processes and Proceedings under the Constitution and Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America  (1878)  360 pp.

Hodge, J. Aspinwall – What is Presbyterian Law as Defined by the Church Courts?  (1882)  616 pp.

This is a digest of the important legislation of the Presbyterian Church.

Alexander, W.A. – A Digest of the Acts & Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States from its Organization [1788] to its Assembly of 1887, inclusive with Certain Historical & Explanatory Notes  (1888)

Leslie, J.D. – Presbyterian Law & Procedure in the Presbyterian Church in the United States  Buy  (1930)  411 pp.

A Digest of the Acts & Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1861-1965  Buy  489 pp.


Instructional & Theological Works

Smyth, Thomas – An Ecclesiastical Catechism  (1843)

Smyth was an elder at 2nd Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  This catechism gets into some of the fine points of church polity, albeit from Smyth’s viewpoint, which was similar to that of Charles Hodge in the North.

Robinson, Stuart – The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel, & the Idea, Structure and Functions Thereof, with an Appendix containing the More Important Symbols of Presbyterian Church Government, Historically arranged and Illustrated  Buy  (1858)  228 pp.

Hodge, Charles – The Church & its Polity  (London, 1879)  ToC

While the volume is very helpful for its detailed discussions and references of the finer points of Church government, yet do note that Hodge lived in a time in which the finer points of Church government were changing from the older classical model (from the Church of Scotland), which changes are not usually recommended.

McGill, Alexander – Church Government, a Treatise compiled from his Lectures in Theological Seminaries  (1888)  572 pp.

‘An additional stalwart text for polity courses, which was a long standing resource at the turn of the century…’ – David W. Hall

Ramsey, F.P. – An Exposition of the Form of Government & the Rules of Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United States  (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1898)

‘…was also considered a classic exposition of Southern Presbyterian polity.’ – David W. Hall



Klett, Guy – Minutes of the Presbyterian Church in America  1706-1788  Buy  (Presbyterian Historical Society, 1976)

‘Professor Guy S. Klett… for nearly three decades, updated and reissued the earliest Minutes from the American Presbyterian church courts.  With the issue of this volume (1976) Klett provided an invaluable primary resource into the history and polity of the American Presbyterian Church.  This volume contains the Minutes of the first Presbytery covering from 1706 through 1716, also including the Minutes of the Synods from 1717 till 1788, up to the formation of the first General Assembly.  Appended to this volume is a Letter Book (which contains attached letters referred to in the body of the Minutes) and an excellent index.’ – editors of Paradigms in Polity



Beecher, Willis – Index of Presbyterian Ministers, containing the Names of all the Ministers of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, with References to the Pages on which those names are found in its Records & Minutes, from A.D. 1706-1881  (1883)  616 pp.



The Presbyterian Historical Society: The National Archives of the PC(USA)



The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)  since 1973

Book of Church Order

Minutes of the PCA, 1973-2016  HTML

PCA Position Papers  HTML, organized alphabetically by topic

The PCA Historical Center



The American Dutch Church

Ecclesiastical Records compiled by the State of New York [relating to the American Dutch Church], vols. 1 (1621-1680), 2 (1680-170), 3 (1701-1725), 4 (1725-1750), 5 (1751-1760), 6 (1761-1810), 7 (Index)

Articles Explanatory of the Government and Discipline of the Reformed Dutch Church in the United States of America  (1798)  27 pp.  being the appendix to The Psalms of David, with Hymns & Spiritual Songs: also, the Catechism, Confession of Faith & Liturgy of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands; for the Use of the Reformed Dutch Church in North America; with an Appendix, containing, Articles Explanatory of the Government & Discipline of the Reformed Dutch Church in the United States of America

Corwin, Edward – A Digest of Constitutional and Synodical Legislation of the Reformed Church in America, formerly the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, Prepared by the Order of General Synod  (1906)



The American German Reformed Church

Minutes & Letters of the Coetus of the German Reformed Congregations in Pennsylvania, 1747-1792  (1903)  498 pp.

The Constitution of the German Reformed Church in the United States of America, 1846  46 pp.




Related Pages

Church Government


The Ruling of the Church

Independent Churches do not have the Authority for Greater Excommunication

Church Membership