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 to 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 a 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 and 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 its 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 Order.