committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs








Manual of Church Discipline


Rev. Eleazer Savage was born in Middletown, Conn., July 28, 1800; entered Hamilton in 1820; was ordained in Rochester in 1824; was pastor in several other communities in New York, in which he baptized more than 400 souls; published a valuable work on Church Discipline. Mr. Savage was a very useful minister, and an honored and faithful servant of Jesus; one of his daughters is the wife of the able president of the Rochester Theological Seminary.

?William Cathcart, 1881



in two parts,1


in which is developed


?A Christian is the highest style of man.?
?He that winneth souls is wise.?

?It must needs be that offences come.?
?By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged.










1Editor?s Note: Only the second part of this work is here reprinted.



Two editions of Four Thousand copies of "The Manual of Church Discipline," upon "offences" and their treatment?which now constitutes the Second Part of this work?have been published and sold. A re-publication of that work, is now called for, alike by the wants of the Churches, and the wishes of those best acquainted with its merits.

It has been thought best to enlarge the work, by prefixing a Part upon Formative Church Discipline; a subject truly first, both in the order of nature, and importance; and were Formative Church Discipline, closely studied, and well understood in its intrinsic nature and vast importance; and vigorously carried forward in the Churches, we fully believe, that there would be far fewer offences occurring; and so far less Corrective Church Discipline, required. The First Part of this work will be of great value to all classes of Religious Teachers; as clearly showing them the nature of the work they have in hand, in forming men to the true Christian Character, by the culture of depraved mind, with inspired truth. And as showing, also, that it is the intelligent, earnest, laborious, prayerful Teacher, alone, that succeeds in his work; and attains unto "the honor that comes from God only." Such success and such honor were reward enough, for doing the highest work of human hands, in the best possible manner.

And, if this little Volume shall shed any such new light upon the subject of Religious Teaching, as shall induce and ensure the greater efficiency of Teachers, through their own thorough personal culture, its very highest end will have been gained.

The Second Part of this work, will be found, we think, by all Church Members, to contain instructions of vital interest to them. For certainly, the peace of the Church of Christ, as flowing from her purity; and as opposed to "bitter envying and strife; to wars and fightings," is manifestly a paramount interest. And yet, what spiritual interest beside, is so greatly exposed and so frequently assailed, as the peace of the Christian brotherhood? There are a thousand forms of "offence" to disturb it; and twice as many forms of treating those offences which disturb it more.

It is a matter of most serious question, whether the difficulties of the Church do not arise more, by nine-tenths, from the wrong manner of treating offences, than from the offences themselves.

And there are two very obvious reasons of this fact. One is, disciplinary measures, as they exist, are more frequently the offspring of passion, than principle. Passion fixes its own end; which is to punish, instead of restore. It makes its own law, instead of leading to the inspired one, made and provided for the case. And passion thus legislates, and executes, and works mischief because it has never been subdued to the obedience of Christ, by the application of revealed light to the understanding and heart, by the Holy Spirit. Another reason is, there has been almost nothing written on the subject of Church Discipline, to scripturally instruct Church members, as to the different kinds of offences, by which they and the cause may be injured; and the proper methods of treating them.

It has appeared to the writer, that no interest, so great as the peace of the Church; that no interest, so much exposed as this, both by offences and their improper treatment, has been so much overlooked and left so unprovided for, by the appointed feeders of the sheep and lambs. We have volume upon volume, treating upon well nigh every doctrine and duty of revealed religion besides; but how little have we written upon this subject.

In the Second Part of this work we have attempted the classification of offences, and the specification of the rule for the treatment of each class. Each class has its distinctive feature and its absolute rule. Such exceptions to the classification as would naturally arise, are noticed, accurately defined, and provided for. Still, defects, and even errors, will doubtless be detected. It were no easy task, perhaps an impracticable one, amidst offences of an endless variety of type, to do more than to deal in a few general principles and rules. And then we have studied simplicity and brevity, in strict imitation of the Master and his inspired servants, on this subject; that the mind might not be greatly burdened with many things; but deeply impressed with a few, which should serve to hold it amidst the greatest provocations and the sharpest trials, to the certain exercise of brotherly love; to the accurate estimate of wrongs; to the careful consideration of evidence; to the due respect for inspired law; and to the truest regard for the honor of God.




Theme painful. Apology for treating it. Definitions. Classification of ?offences;? minor, private, personal, public, and insufferable. General remarks, justifying the classification


First class of offences: Minor. Levity, irritability, loquacity, forwardness, backwardness, littleness, smaller defects in sentiment and practice. Why properly considered offences. The reasons for forbearance. The rule of treatment. Cautionary rule. Exception to the rule of forbearance


Second class of offences: Private. What? Example. Rule of treatment.  Reason on which the rule is based. Consequences of neglecting it


Third class of offences: Personal. What? Three preparatory steps.  Determine the amount of wrong. Ascertain the amount of evidence.  See whether the offence would exclude, if persisted in

The 18th of Matthew contains the rule for personal offences.  Explanation of it.  Three steps of labor. First step includes visitation, conviction, reproof, and secrecy. Caution. Second step of labor.  Business of this step, same nature as First; includes same parts of service; visitation, conviction, reproof, advice; with corresponding manner, and same end. Second step of labor involves a trial. Idea of a trial of vast importance. The ?one or two? are witnesses, advisors and brethren, in general. Hints to them. Witnesses before the Church also. Third step of labor. Proper manner of taking it. Duty of Moderator in the case. Exclusion by unanimous vote

Course in case Church is divided. Counsellors. Ordinary Councils objectionable. Church, highest tribunal

Particular case of personal offence in 6th chapter of 1 Cor. A pecuniary difficulty. Sueing at the law forbidden. Rule, laid down for the treatment of the case. Agreement of this rule with that in the 18th chapter of Matthew. A case in which the rule cannot operate.  What course then?

Exception made to the use of the rule in Matthew 18th, where the personal offence is notorious. The exception groundless. Reasons


Fourth Class of offences: Public. Distinction between public personal offences, and public offences. Examples.

Cases of public offence in the Epistles, with their methods of treatment.  Case in Rom. 16. Heresy. Its rule of treatment.

Number of cases of public offence in 5th chapter of 1 Cor. Fornication.  Covetousness. Railing. Drunkenness. Extortion. When railing and extortion are personal offences, and when, public. Rule of treatment prescribed for these cases.

Case of public offence in the 3d chapter of 2d Thess. Indolence; and meddling with the affairs of others. Rule of treatment, prescribed for the case.

Church Covenant, a beautiful summary of Christian duty.  Covenant-breaking, a general name for various public offences.  Neglect of duties arising from Church relation. Offence with the Church and non-submission to majority. Leaving place at the Table of the Lord because some member has injured us. Reckless failures to meet contracts. Desecration of the Lord?s day. Backbiting, etc.

General rule for the treatment of public offences. Its import. Its harmony with the particular rules, appended to the particular cases of public offence in the Epistles. Rule cannot operate if the offender be absent. Course of the Church in such case. Course if he refuse to appear before the Church.

Public confessions.

Adaptation of rule in 18th of Matthew, for the correction of many public offences.


Fifth class of offences: Insufferable. Cases of notorious and complicated wickedness. High civil offences and capital crimes. Forgery. Perjury Grand larceny. Absconding in debt. Habitual licentiousness murder.  Treason. Rule for such case. Exclude.

Objection in case of penitence. Objection considered.


Offences unavoidable. Each kind should be leaned and remembered in its distinctive feature and rule of treatment by every church member.  The importance of the strictest, practical adherence to the laws of Discipline, and the spirit of those laws, beyond all estimation.

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