James Wayland Joyce.

England's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic online

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Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 16 of 83)
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in national and closely allied to our present inquiry — the pre-
sence of presbyters, the second order of the
clergy, in the "national" and "provincial synods" of this
period. The presbyters of the English Church may well be
content, as was hinted in the last section, to be almost the
only subjects of this realm who lie under a disability to tender
their counsel or give their voice in civil matters. They may
be content, in consideration of the holy duties incumbent
upon them requiring their constant attention, and in con-
sideration of the sacred office they hold rendering it desirable
that they should keep themselves unspotted from the world —
they may be content for those reasons to lie under disabilities
which are imposed on them in common only with their Hebrew

Late aggressions ^^"^ ^^^^^^ ^« '•^" aggrCSsioU, not SO mUch UpOU

upon the rights their rights, as upon their duties, to which

and duties of that , , n , t^ ,. , ^ ,

the mi- the presbyters of the English Church, the se-
cond order of her ministry, never will silently
submit. There are disabilities to which endeavours have been
made to subject them, against which it will be the duty of the
faithful laity of this Church, should such endeavours be con-
tinued, most loudly, and it is to be hoped effectually, to re-
monstrate. Every presbyter in this national Church has
bound himself at the most solenm hour of his life to " be i
ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all
erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to (lod's word^."
And upon this his promise he has received from the Lord

' Vid. infra, chap. ix. sec. 5. The " prsemunientes " clause in the bishops'
writs is worthy of consideration by the curious in constitutional histwry on this




Jesus Christ, through a direct apostolical channel, " authority
to preach the word of God and to minister the holy sacra-
ments ''.'■' But how can he faithfully exercise that authority ?
how can he be said to fulfil his solemn promise of " banishing
and driving away all erroneous and strange doctrines," if he
willingly allows the authoritative interpretation of that word,
which, be it remembered, is the highest exercise of its minis-
tration, and the declaration of doctrine thence ensuing, to be
withdrawn from the sacred synods of this nation, where either
by himself or his representative, his voice alone can be heard,
i.e. heard authoritatively, and to be transferred elsewhere,
as though he had himself neither part nor lot in this
matter I

The presbyters of the English Church claim the right and
duty of ministering the word in its highest and most emphatic
sense, and of giving their voices in synodical definitions of
doctrine, as an inheritance entailed upon them from the apos-
tolic and primitive ages, and as handed down to them from the
earliest synods of Britain. That right and that duty lie at the
very foundation of our ecclesiastical institutions ; they are in-
volved in the original elements of our Church. They are for
her a divine heirloom inherited by our forefathers, entailed by
them on this generation in sacred trust for those yet to come.
And it would be an evil supposition to admit that the church-
men of this age will fail to act in accordance with the words
of the Athenian orator, when he exhorted his countrymen " to
prove themselves not unworthy of their predecessors, to repel
encroachments by all just means, and to strive to hand down
that which they had themselves inherited unimpaired to pos-
terity *." It was ever the policy of Rome to deprive the
English presbyters of their just rights in this respect, and, by
throwing all authority into the hands of archbishops and
bishops appointed or nominated by the papal see, to bring our
Church into servitude. It is certain that in proportion as
Roman influences prevailed, the authority of presbyters de-
clined ; and this scheme of papal ])olicy was advanced not
only by centralizing all authority at Rome, whenever and how-

' iof ov \pr) XfintffQai, aWa Tovg f^^Opoug nai'Ti TpoTrii) afivpia9at, koi roiQ
tKiyiyvofi'tvuiQ TnipaaQai avra /lij) tXciaaaa ircn)aSovvai. — Thucyd. Ilist. lib. i.
c. 144.

A.D. 60]-

'^ Ordering
of Priests.




A.D. 601-

ever such an object might be attained ; not only by enlarging
episcopal power over the inferior clergy, but by promoting to
the offices of the highest dignity either absolute foreigners, or
at least such as were imbued with Italian predilections. Thus
the action of the national Church was crippled, her inde-
pendence was diminished by insensible degrees, and the esta-
blishment of such a supremacy over her was ultimately se-
cured as was unknown to the Apostles, unheard of in the
primitive Church, and most stoutly aforetime resisted in this
our country. But the policy of all aggressors against the
rights and lil^erties of the Church, whether their objects are
spiritual authority or the increase of temporal power, seems to
agree in one point, that is, in an endeavour to depress the
second order of the ministry, and to transfer all jurisdiction to
the hands of a few, who may be more easily persuaded or more
readily restrained.

Whenever an unwarrantable stretch of power is contem-
plated, numbers in opposition are wont to be deemed incon-
venient. That policy which once rendered Rome supreme
here, and cast us all but hopelessly at her feet, should be in
all reason viewed in the light of a warning, and against any
attempt of a like character, or supported by hke means, every
member of the Church, be he ecclesiastic or layman, should
lift up his voice, if he would have her doctrine, her discipline,
and her integrity maintained inviolate.

, . , , It is a matter for reasonable surprise, that

A violence (lone i '

to English his- the Contrary course should have been upon any

torv. . ^ , , , . 1 , , .

occasion taken by such as enjoy the blcssmg
and privilege of being members of this Church. Yet an ex-
treme anxiety has been manifested to deprive the second
order of the ministry of any voice in ecclesiastical matters.
This has been attempted in various ways. One rather remark-
able way has been to commit some violence upon English his-
tory. It has been declared that our provincial synods — the
convocations— each composed of the metropolitan, his suffra-
gans, and certain presbyters, take date only from the time of
K. Edward I., and that their constitution is based upon a
political plan of that monarch for replenishing his exchequer.
But this is more than appears upon inquiry. Without offence
I hope it may be said, that it is unsafe to take such state-




ments of political partisans upon trust, and hardly prudent to
publish them at second hand. The records of K. Edward I.'s
reign would supply more trustworthy evidence in such a case,
and might more usefully, if not more satisfactorily, be con-
sulted. Besides, the existence of earlier pages in our coun-
try's history should not be so summarily set aside.

The records of our provincial synods during the reign of
K. Edward I. will be considered in their proper place when
we arrive at that point of the history ^^. But it is at this time
right to consider how the matter stood with regard to the
presence of presbyters in national and provincial synods
during the period now before us ; and it will hardly appear fair
usage of history to quote the acts of K. Edward I., his needs
and his exactions, as having first caused the introduction
of presbyters into our country's larger synods. The authority
of more ancient precedents for their rights in this respect will
not fail. It would argue a better knowledge of the past, and
a fairer representation of the truth, to quote that monarch's
conduct as directed rather to deprive the clergy of the com-
mon rights of citizenship, than as tending to enlarge their
authority or increase their privileges.

Proofs of the But for the present, to confine ourselves en-
point in question, tirely to the period on which we are now en-
gaged, abundant proof will be found of the right of presbyters
to take their places and give their voices in " national and
provincial synods." In this, indeed, lies one of the chief
points of our inquiry. We have seen that the admission of
presbyters into our English convocations is derived from the
example of the Synod of Jerusalem, from the practice of the
primitive age, and from the constitution of the synods of the
early British Church. And by a consideration of the Anglo-
Saxon assemblies at this period of our history, it will be found
that presbyters still formed a component part of all the greater
synods. Thus amid the earliest foundations of the ecclesias-
tical building we discover such tokens as assure us of the
antiquity of the present fabric. The roots which supply
vigour and strength to those mighty trees which are the
pecuhar glory of our native soil strike wide and deep ; and in
like manner we find recorded in the most distant annals of
our country, and spread over every period of her history, those

A.D. GOl-

« Vid. inf.
cliap. ix.




y Hody, 22.


Cone. i.


» (Jollier, i.


« Hodv,
32. •

elements of this national Church which are the very sources
of her being, the natural supplies not only of health and
strength, but even of her very life and existence.

Though with the increase of papal power, as was before re-
marked, we may trace a corresponding decrease in the autho-
rity of the second order in the ministry, yet, as in the period
before us that power was by no means universally admitted in
England, we may discover the presence of presbyters in all
the more important synods, and find records of their subscrip-
tions to the authoritative documents.

To the national Synod of Whitby, a.d. QG^'^ Colman,
bishop of Lindisfarne, came " ivith ' his clergy ;" Agelbert,
bishop of the West Saxons, brought with him "Agatho ^ and
Wilfrid, two jireshyters ,•■" and there were also in the synod a
'•''large*' body of clergy of both sides.'''' It is well worthy of
remark also, in confirmation of the present argument, that
one of the chief speakers in this "national synod" was only a
presbyter, for Wilfrid, who was selected by Agelbert ^ as the
main champion on his side, had only lately been admitted to
priest's orders ^ by that bishop.

At the national Synod of Hertford, a.d. 673, there were
many '■'■beneficed^ clergy C and these, too, were associated
with the bishops on "-just^ terms of legislative authority.'''' We
are also informed that, on arriving at the synod, '■^ each'' sat
down in his 'place according to his rank.''''

At the national Synod of Hatfield, a.d. 680, we have it on
the authority of Bede that the assembly was composed of
" the venerable bishops and very many learned men^^

At the national Synod of Osterfield, a.d. 701, at which
Archbishop ]3erthwald and almost^ all the bishops of IJritain
were present, it is said that the questions in dispute were
settled, in conjunction with the opinions of the bishops, by

2 " Cum clericis suis." — Cone. Mag. Brit. i. 38.

* " Agelbcrtus cum Agathone et Vilfrido jiresbyieris." — Ibid.

* " Multo ex utraque parte cloro." — Spclm. Cone. i. 145.
5 " Magistri Ecclcsise plures." — Spclm. Cone. i. 152.

^ " Qnihus pari/er congregatis." — Ibid., and Ilody, 23.

' " Cumque in unum convenientes, juxta ordinem quiquc suum rcsedissomus." —
Spelm. Cone. i. 153, and Hody, 23.

' " Collecto vcnerabilium saeerdotum doctorumque plurimorum coetu." — Ilody
quotes Bede, iv. 17.




"the consent" of certain abbots.'''' And it must always be
borne in mind that the presence of abbots in national and
provincial synods is quite enough for our present argument,
even if presbyters are not mentioned (which they frequently
are), for abbots were but of the second order of the Christian
ministry, that order into whose rights we are now inquiring.

In a national synod held a.d. 756, Cuthbert, and other
bishops, '•'' presbyters^ , and abbots passed the decrees.""

At the provincial Synod of Bapchild, a.d. 796, there sub-
scribed to the acts, in company with Archbishop Athelard
and twelve bishops, three-and-twenty^ abbots; these, it
must be repeated, were of the second order in the ministry,
and so their subscriptions suggest a valid argument for our
present purpose.

At the provincial Synod of Cliff at Hoo, a.d. 803, Arch-
bishop Athelard with twelve bishops, by " the unanimous counsel
of the whole synod ^^ promulgated its decrees ; and the sub-
scriptions to this synod, besides those of the archbishop and
twelve bishops, exhibit the names of " thirty-eight " presbyters
at least,'''' besides those of some other ecclesiastics. And
these subscriptions are considered authentic beyond exception
by Mr. Wharton'^, a very diligent examiner and accurate
judge in such matters.

Thus is it clear that in Anglo-Saxon times the second order of
the ministry were constituent members of national and provin-
cial synods. The foregoing may appear to the reader at first
sight a very dreary waste to travel through, but the journey
is not without its profit. Present circumstances render it
necessary that the rights of the second order of the ministry
should be carefully examined, justly weighed, and accurately
defined ; and if this inquiry should prove satisfactory in esta-
blishing their prescriptive right to seats in English synods, — a
right founded on no political whim of K. Edward I.'s rapa-
cious temper, but springing from the deepest roots of our
ecclesiastical and social institutions, — then the subject, if dull,
will not be useless. Any labour bestowed upon it will be

a.d. 601-

b Cone. Mag.
Brit. i. 158.

<^ Hody, p.
52. Spelm.
Cone. i. 325.

d Atterbury,
Riglits, &c.
pp. 12, 13.

' Consensu

quorundam abbatum."— Hody, 32, quotes Heddius' Life of Alfrid,

' Presbyteri et abbates inter alia decreverunt."— Cone. Mag. Brit. i. 14-1.
' Unanimo concilio totius sanctse synodi."— Cone. Mag. Brit. i. 167.




A.D. 601

<"' Vid. sup.
chap. i. sec.

rewarded with corresponding satisfaction. The toil itself may
prove a pleasure — " Labor ipse voluptas." Constantly, as
has been shewn from the records, we find the second order of
the ministry present at our early synods ; constantly we find
their names subscribed to the canons enacted, sometimes in
numbers : and if presence and subscription are considered a
sufficient evidence that presbyters were constituent members of
the larger Anglo-Saxon synods, there is ample proof of the
fact. Certain it is that the increase of the power of the
Roman Church in England diminished in proportion the autho-
rity of presbyters. For as papal encroachment advanced,
episcopal authority was unreasonably stretched over the lower
clergy. The monarchical system in ecclesiastical matters (if
it may so be expressed) was gradually extended, and carried
along with it a constant and growing tendency to undermine
the constitution of that primitive Church, which, having drawn
its first breath on the Galilaan mount, was cradled in
an upper chamber in Jerusalem, exhibited its maturer
powers in the first apostolical synods, and was established
upon the native soil of Britain. Up to the point of the
history at which we have arrived (and it will be seen that the
investigation will not be hereafter unsuccessful on this head)
the right of presbyters to join with their metropolitans and
bishops in dehberation and final decision on synodieal ques-
tions appears undeniable. The most unanswerable proofs
of this fact exist in the records of the synods above quoted.
And any attempt to deprive the second order of the priest-
hood of this their riglitful inheritance, any endeavour to deny
them a voice in defining doctrine or autliorizing canons, is
but an imitation of the policy of tlie Papacy, a direct contra-
vention of the examples of the apostolical and primitive ages,
as well as an infringement upon the original principles of this
national Church, as exhibited in the records both of the
British and Anglo-Saxon times.

One more point must be glanced at before
the consideration of this period of our history is
concluded. It has been remarked '^'' above, in the
first chapter of this inquiry, that whatever
power emperors and laymen have assumed over the Church,
her judgments in matters purely spiritual, such especially as

X. "The
Church's judg-
ments free," a
principle asserted
in every age of
our histor}'.




the definition of doctrine, have been left to the bishops and
clergy, that is, in language commonly applied to the subject,
"have been restrained within the power of the keys®." There
is no period of the history of this Church in which this prin-
ciple has not been admitted or urged. It exists in the earliest
records of our country ; it is to be traced among the last, even in
the most solemn act of her present most gracious Majesty.
^ , , , The subject is here introduced because this

Declared by .... • n , ^ ^ i> • i

mixed Council of principle IS Specially brouglit before us in the
acts of the mixed Council of Brasted. And it
may not be unprofitable to trace it among the records of all
subsequent periods.

This is the declaration of the first canon of the mixed
Council of Brasted, enacted by K. Withred, with the assent
of his princes and all the council, a.d. 696 : " Let^ the Church
be free, and subject to her own judgments."

" I," said K. Edgar, in his eloquent address
'to Archbishop Dunstan and his suftragans, a.d.
969, " I wield the sword of Constantine, you that of Peter*."
" Let^ the Church be free," is the very key-
stone of Magna Charta.

" In matters of faith and interpretation of
Scripture no man made definitive subscrip-
tion but bishops and priests, forasmuch as the
declaration of the word of God pertaineth unto them," was ^
a public document signed by four bishops in K. Henry VIIL's

Even in the time of that tyrant's most in-
comprehensible aggressions upon all rights what-
soever, spiritual or civil, we find this principle still maintained
in the public enactments. The preamble of the act 24 Hen.
VIII. c. 12, speaking of "this realm of England," says:
" The body spiritual whereof having power, when any cause
of the law divine happened to come in question, or of spiritual
learning, then it was declared, interpreted, and shewed by
that part of the said body politic called the spiritualty, now

^ " Libera sit Ecclesia fcuaturque suis judiciis." — Spelm. Cone. i. 194.
'' "Ego Constantini, vos Petri gladium habetis in manibus." — Cone. Mag.
Brit. i. 246.

* " Libera sit Ecclesia."

By Magna

By a public
document of K.
Henry VII I/s

By 24 Hen.
Vin. c. 12.

A.D. 601—

•^ Kennett's
Ecd. Syn.
p. 249.

f Attcrbury,
Rights, &c.
pp. 15, 16.





g Pref. to
;5.') Alt. of

h Ecbard,
Hist. Revo-
lution, p.

' Ech.nrd,
Hist. Revo-
lution, p.

vol. i. p.

^ I'nlgiavc's
.ind Kng-
land, p. 87.

being usually called the English Church, which always hath
been reputed and also found of that sort, that both for know-
ledge, integrity, and sufficiency of number, it hath been
always thouglit, and is also at this hour sufficient and meet of
itself, without the intermeddling of any exterior person or
persons, to declare and determine all such doubts, and to
administer all such offices and duties as to their rooms spiritual
doth appertain."

By K. Charles O^^G hundred years later the solemn declara-
the Martyr. ^jq^ ^f j^^ Charles the Martyr, prefixed to

the articles of that Church which he so faithfully loved,
manifestly sanctions the same principle: " If s any difference
arise about the external policy, concerning the injunctions,
canons, and other constitutions whatsoever thereto [i.e. the
Church] belonging, the clergy in their convocation is to order
and settle them.""

RythcDeciara- ^'^^^ again within the same century the De-
tion of Rights. claration of Rights, or, as it has been called, " a
new sort of Magna Charta'^, the most memorable that had
been known for several ages," set forth a virtual repetition of
that enactment of its prototype, — " Let the Church be free," —
in these words : " The commis.sion for erecting the late Court
of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other
commissions and courts of a like nature, are illegal and per-

And, lastly, the solemn oath of every sove-
reign who ascends the throne of these realms
has respect in each successive generation to those sacred
rights of the Church which are her inalienable inheritance.
" VVillJ you," inquires the archl)ishop, "preserve unto the
bishops and clergy of this realm, and to the Churches com-
mitted to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by
law do or shall appertain unto them, or any of them ?"
" All this I promise to do," is the answer. And then the
holy Gospels being touched, the sovereign adds, " The things
which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep,
so help me God," and then kisses the book. ^Vhen the
coronation oath has been taken, "all^ constitutional transac-
tions between the crown and subject are both essentially and
formally legal covenants ; king and people alike obeying the

By the corona
tion oath.




supremacy of the law," and that oath " is deposited in the
Chancery to be produced against the sovereign, should the
compact be infringed."

Thus in all periods of English history, however remote from
each other, public instruments spreading over nearly twelve
centuries assure and commend to us that principle, " Libera
sit Ecclesia fruaturque suis judiciis ;" and it is a very intel-
ligible principle established by most ancient law, confirmed by
recent and most solemn declarations, that the Church's judg-
ments in matters purely spiritual should be free. And yet
it is a principle which, on some occasions, has not been so
rigidly observed as its sacred character, its antiquity, and its
importance demand.

XI. Review of Upon R rcview of the whole question of
subject. councils during the early ages of our history,

it seems clear that among the Anglo-Saxons there were some
councils of a purely ecclesiastical character, some of a purely
civil character, and some of a mixed nature ; that the clergy
were constituent members of all ; and that ecclesiastical
canons having been made by them alone, in the first instance,
in their synods, were then ratified by the civil power in order to
make those documents laws of the land. It is probable that
the mixed assemblies were of most frequent occurrence, because
since the same individuals, in a great measure (so far as the
ecclesiastics were concerned), were legislative members of
the Church, as well as of the state councils, it was highly
convenient that subjects both ecclesiastical and civil should
be treated of at the same times and places, that is, on the
occasions of the great meetings for the mixed councils, the
clergy ^ withdrawing to a separate place when treating of the
law divine. It is hard to say for exactly how long ™ a time
these "mixed councils" continued. Certainly they prevailed
for several reigns after the Norman Conquest ; for though
the Conqueror " divided the court of the bishop and earl, who
previously sat together and exercised a jurisdiction in some
sort conjointly, yet he continued to assemble the clergy
nationally with the laity. His tenure by knight's service
obliged all that held of the crown, whether they were spiritual
or temporal persons, to attend equally at his " great " or
"mixed councils." And on those occasions, concurrent

A.D. 601—

' Kennett,
Eccl. Syn.
214— '249.
& Wake's
Auth. pp.
158 et seq.
■n Atterb.
Ritrhts, &c.
p. m.
n Atteib.
Risibts, &c.
p. 35.




A.D. 601—

o Cone.
Mag. Brit,
i. 322.
P Cone.
Mae. Brit.

q Atterb.
Riglits, &c.

Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 16 of 83)