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 2 of 83)
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Apostles, and gave their consent to the final decision. And
this synod we may justly believe was held as a model for
subsequent '> Church assemblies, an example that our bishops
and clergy of the second order should meet and determine
matters in like manner, but meanwhile giving "the people'' all
reasonable satisfaction," and obtaining, if it may so be, their
formal sanction.

The power of deciding in the Synod of Jeru
iXmI' ^T^rc^ salem was then, so far as appears from the sacred
narrative, restrained to the Apostles and pres-
byters, and that precedent has been carefully
observed in subsequent ages of the Church's
history. Speaking of synods the great school-
man, Field, says : " For ^ some are there with
authority to teach, define, prescribe, and to direct : others
are there to hear, set forward, and consent unto that which is
there to be done. In the former sort none but only ministers
of the word and sacraments are present in councils, and they
only have defining and deciding voices : but in the latter sort
laymen also may be present." And again that learned author
says : " We all teach ' that laymen have no voice decisive,
which may be confirmed by many reasons." Three of those
reasons are then specified. The first is drawn from the nature
of the spiritual relationship between a pastor and his flock.
The second is derived from the apostolic dissertation on the
gifts which He "who ascended" up on high gave" unto men" —
"He"^ gave some Apostles, and some prophets, and some
evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." With these
words are also connected the declaration of the Prophet

byters admissible
to give a " votuin
decisivum" in sy-
nods, in accord-
ance with the ex-
ample of the Sy-
nod of Jerusalem.

A.D. 50


of Christ's
Cii. p. 389.

1 See Bp.
Bilson, Per-
pet. Gov. of
Christ's Ch.
pp. 373, 374.
<■ Brett ou
Ch. Gov. p.

"^ Of the
Church, Bk.
v. p. 645,
and see the
whole chap.

t Of tlie
Church, Bk.
V. p. 646.

"Eph. i
' Ibid.
» Eph. i




Jeremiah: " I will'' give you pastors according to mine heart,
which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
The third reason given is based upon historical precedent.
" Because," as our author says, " in all councils bishops
and pastors only are found to have subscribed the decrees
made in them, as defining and decreeing, howsoever other
men testified their consent by subscription ; and princes and
emperors by their royal authority ^ confirmed the same."

Again, the learned Barrow, who never conmiitted himself to
assertions which cannot bear the test of the strictest scrutiny,
tells us that "the power ^ of managing ecclesiastical mattei's
did, according to primitive usage, wholly reside in spiritual

To this principle we find instances of emperors giving their
unqualified assent in the earlier ages of the Church. A few
examples will here sufiice. At the Council of Nice the Em-
peror Constantino declared, "that^ he himself desired to
appear in the council simply as one of the faithful, and that
he freely left to the bishops the sole authority to settle the
question of faith." That monarch* indeed clearly distin-
guished the spiritual from the civil power ; and his conduct on
this occasion seems to have accorded well with such distinction.
Again, the answer of Valentinian the elder was to the same
effect when the Catholic bishops desired that a synod should
be called for the condemnation of Arianism. lie said that
" being one of the laity, he ^ might not meddle in such
matters, and thereupon willed that the priests and bishops,
to whom the care of such things belongeth, should meet and
consult together by themselves where they thought good ^"
Similar to the last is the testimony of Thcodosius the
Great, who openly professed that " it was unlawful '^ for a
layman, however exalted, to interpose in religious affaii-s*."
To the same purpose are the words of the Emperor Basilius.

A. p. 50


" Jcr.

y Field, Of
the Churcli,

^ Scnnoiis,
57, vol. iii.
p. 311. O.Y-
ford, 18:50.

» Cone. Nic.
See Lan-
don's Man.
p. 431

^ Hooker,
Eccl. Pol.
vol. iii. p.
337, cites
Soz. 1. vi.
c. 7. And
see Coll.
Eccl. Hist,
vol. vi. p.

= Coll. Eccl.
Hist. vol. vi.
p. 247.

* " Ipse Constantinus curam EcdesiiE dividcbat in extcrnam ct iuternam.
Hanc opisoojjis et conciliis rclintiuebat .... cxtoniam sibi sumebat.'' — Mosh.
Inst. Ecc. Hist. Helms. 1704, p. 141.

* " Mihi quidem qui in sorte plebis sum fas non est ista curiosius scrutari,
sacerdotes, quibus ista curse sunt, inter se ipsos quocunque loco volueriut, con-
veniant." — See Coll. ut sup.

" " Illicitum est qui non sit ex ordine sanctorum opiscoporuni ccclesiasticis
se immiscere tractatibus."— Sec Coll. ut sup.



" Laymen"^," said he, "must by no means meddle with causes
ecclesiastical, nor oppose themselves to the unity of the
Church or councils oecumenical '."

Indeed the introduction of lay judges in matters spiritual
Bishop Jeremy Taylor designates rightly as an " old ^ here-
tical trick;" and quotes S. Ambrose^, who said of such when
the Arians would have introduced them into council, " that
they might come to hear together with the people, but might
not sit in judgment \''' And it is a trick which it is devoutly
to be hoped may never be practised upon the Church of

But not to multiply individual testimonies, in early times
the habit was universal, that questions touching the law divine
should be "left^ to the holy wisdom and spiritual discretion of
the master builders and inferior builders in Christ's Church."
And it is certain that the introduction of laymen to define in
synods is contrary to the unbroken practice of the purer ages of
Christianity. It is true indeed that there have been attempts
of late years in transatlantic lands to constitute some assemblies
for ecclesiastical purposes on a new model, into which laymen
have been introduced ; but as we do not date the origin of
our holy faith from the West, so neither can we be expected
to seek thence the pattern for our Church government.
" It is'^ a pretty pageant, only that it is against the ca-
tholic practice of the Church, against the exigence of Scrip-
ture, which bids us require the law at the mouth of our
spiritual rulers, against the gravity of such assemblies, for it
would force them to be tumultuous ; and at the best (the
people"'s voices) ai-e the worst of sanctions, as being issues of
popularity ; and, to sum up all, is no ways authorized by this
first copy of Christian councils."
IX. But laity After the deliberations in the Synod of Je-
rusalem were concluded, and the sentence given,
it then became the province of the Apostles
and elders united with "the whole Church*"
to authorize the publication of the decision, and

should unite
giving force to sy-
nodical decisions,
in accordance wi th
the example of the
Synod of Jerusa-

' " De vobis aufem laicis .... nullo modo vobis licet de ecclesiasticis causis
sermonem movere," &c. — Bp. Jer. Taylor, ut sup.

^ " Veniant .... audiant cum populo, non ut quisquam judex resideat." —
Bp. Jer. Taylor, Episc. Assert. Works, vol. vii. p. 208, quotes S. Ambrose, Ep. 32

A. D. 50


d See Bp.

Jer. Taylor.

vol. vii. I).


e Works,

vol. vii. p.


f Epist. 32.

S Bacon's
Works, vol.
ii. pp. 512,
5i;5. Lond.

h Bp. Jer.

Works, vol.
vii. n. 209.

' Acts XV.




J Acts XV.


'' Acts XV.


1 Field, Of
p. 646. Ed.

"' See Pre-
amble 24
Hen. Vlll.
c. 12.

to give it force among the body of the faithful. For they
were the Apostles, elders, and brethren J who sending greet-
ing enforced as "necessary"'" the conclusions arrived at
by the Apostles and elders alone in the Jerusalem Synod.
Thus the whole Chuich of Jerusalem, in other words
the Apostles, the elders, and the brethren, combined to ratify
and give effect to that decision at which the ordained teachers
the Apostles and elders by thtinsehes had arrived. And this
distinction between tlie functions of clergy and laity in synods
was carefully observed in subsequent ages of the Church,
as may be gathered from the fact that we find bishops and
presbyters thus subscribing to their acts, " Ego ^ N. definiens
subscripsi," " I have subscribed as defining ;" w'hile the em-
peror or lay persons subscribed after this form, " Ego N. con-
sentiens subscripsi," " I have subscribed as agreeing."

This principle that the spiritualty should define "\ and that
the laity should afterwards add civil sanction, in matters
touching the law divine, has always prevailed in our own
branch of the Church, save in one or two instances of tyran-
nical eccentricity. During the Anglo-Saxon period of our
history, as we shall have occasion to observe hereafter, assem-
blies purely ecclesiastical decided upon matters of faith and
doctrine, while united assemblies of ecclesiastics and laymen
afterwards combined to give those decisions force, and to im-
pose them as law. It was thus that at the ^Vittena-gcmotes,
as the best historians tell us, when the law divine came into
question, the clergy went aside, and having arrived at their
conclusions on the matter, then brought them before the full
assembly for the confirmation of the W'itan.

And further, this principle was strictly adhered to in this
coimtry during times more nearly approaching towards our
own. Taking for the present the most cursory glance at this
important subject, which will have hereafter to be considered
very closely in detail, it is certain (with but two exceptions at
most, and those very questionable ones) that the book.s, offices,
rituals, articles, and canons wliich originated, matured, and
completed the reformation of religion in this country were dis-
cussed and .settled in pure ecclesiastical synods, or by commit-
tees under their appointment, befttre such documents were ac-
cepted by the civil power and confirmed as the law of the land.




" Tlie articles'' o/1536"— " The Institutkn of a ° Christian
Man,"" compiled in 1537 — ''The six articles''' of 1539" —
" The new and expurgated edition i of the Sarum use,'''' or-
dered for general adoption throughout the southern pro-
vince in 1542 N.s. — "-The necessary/ Doctrine and Erudition^
of any Christian Man,'''' published in 1543 — ''The English'''^
reformed Litany o/1544" — these all had originally the autho-
rity of convocations. " The administration of the holy com-
munion ^ in both kinds "■" was synodically established without a
dissentient* voice in 1547, before so important a change was
sanctioned by the civil legislature. " The frst " reformed
Prayer Bool;'''' of King Edward VI. 's reign ', published in 1 549
— "The reformed"^ Ordination Service q/' 1549," subsequently
added to the second reformed Prayer Book — and " The second
reformed Prayer Book'''' itself, published^ in 1552, — had all of
them convocational sanction. " The articles^ q/*1553 n.s." —
" The articles' of 1563 n.s."— and " The'' canons of 1603-4,"
were originally discussed and settled in convocations. Finally,
" The Prayer Book " as it now exists, the treasure of every
English Churchman, was revised and definitively settled by
the convocations begun in 1 661 ; and having first received
the sanction of the clergy ^ of the province of Canterbury, as-
sociated with duly appointed proxies'^ from the province of
York, subsequently obtained civil ratification by the autho-
rity of parliament. Thus, like several of those other documents
above mentioned, our present Prayer Book having been first
authorized by the convocations, was then confirmed by the
imperial*^ legislature ; and so became not only binding in foro
conscientiw on the faithful, as the work of the Church in her
sacred synods, but was made also, by the assistance of secular
authority, an integral part of the statute law of the land '.

Thus in the various changes which have taken place in
our own country this simple principle has been generally
observed — that the law divine should be treated of in pure

3 For detailed proofs of the foregoing statements vid. infra chapters xi., siii., xiv., xv.




A.D. 50

e Church
Gov. p. o33.

f Bui-net's
Hist. Ref.
vol. i. p. 174.

g S. Matt,
xviii. 1.0.

ecclesiastical synods, and tliat the conclusions there arrived
at should be subsequently ratified by lay authority ; and such
a course appears to be in accordance with the apostolical
model, as exhibited in the Synod of Jerusalem, and with the
general tenor of primitive practice.

"There certainly was,'' says^ Archbishop Potter, "an an-
cient custom for such of the people as were willing to have
free access to the councils and assemblies of the clergy ; but
there is no example of their giving definitive voices there.
When their consent or advice was asked, it was ever under-
stood to be done in order to unanimity, and not because their
concurrence was considered as necessary to give authority to
that which was decreed." This distinction between the powers
of the clergy and laity in matters spiritual will fully appear in
the course of the history of the councils held in this country
during the Anglo-Saxon and subsequent periods. That the
law divine was always held to belong in the first place exclu-
sively to the spiritualty is most fully asserted in a paper signed
by four bishops in King Henry VIII.^s reign, and which may
be addQd here as speaking very plainly to the point : " In*" all
the ancient councils of the Church, in matters of fiiith and
interpretation of Scripture, no man made definitive subscrip-
tion but bishoj)s and priests, forasmuch as the declaration of
the word of God pertaineth to them." And we are surely
led to believe that in this respect the early Christians closely
imitated the example of the apostolical Synod of Jerusalem.

That assembly should be the type of all subsequent synods,
and the model upon which they should be formed. It is,
indeed, happy for us that we have such an examj)le for our
guidance. For, within eighteen years after the final esta-
blishment of the Church of Christ upon earth, we find a formal
decision made, in a regularly constituted synod, on matters
which had come into di.spute respecting discipline and cere-
monial observance. Thus early was l)rought into practice that
principle commended by the Lord Himself, when lie spoke^of
agreement upon earth among the members of his Church, thus
clearly was laid down a precedent for future ages, which has
been followed in each successive generation, where external cir-
cumstances have not forbidden the development of the Cimrcirs
essential elements and the exercise of her inherent rights.



Surely we of the English Church may look upon her
with filial reverence and devout regard, as we compare the
constitution of her convocations with that of the apostolical
council — her bishops and presbyters united in sacred synod.
And while we mark her faithful imitation, at least in this
respect, of the model commended from the city of Jeru-
salem, we may be bold also to say of this our Zion, " her
foundations ^ are upon the holy hills."

X Ecclesias- ^^ ^^^^ provincial synods or convocations
tical synods judi- there is an important element, which is com-

cial as well as ^ i i • />

legislative assem- mended to US by the words and authority of our
Lord Himself, as well as by the ancient practice
of the Church at large. A convocation, at least according to
the English constitution, is not only a legislative body ; it is,
under certain circumstances and within certain limits, a judi-
cial assembly. The particulars connected with its judicial
functions, extending to trials ' of heretical writings, and em-
bracing appeals in some cases (a very interesting and important
subject), will be presented in their proper places ; at present
an endeavour will only be made to shew that such functions
are founded on a divine command, and were attached to eccle-
siastical synods in the first ages of the Church.

Our blessed Lord, in the conversation with his Apostles before
alluded to, in which He conferred on them powers of binding and
loosing \ also enforced certain directions respecting the deci-
sion of a matter of dispute. His words are, " Tell J it unto
the Church : but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be
unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."''' It is certain
that these words have been relied upon for a purpose very
different from that for which they are now adduced. It has
been argued'^ that the laity are the Church, and that by
these words they are made the judges in Church disputes.
But though the laity are a very important part of the Church,
indeed for their sakes mainly it was established, yet the word
Church does not necessarily include the laity, and particularly
in this passage it specially signifies the college of the Apostles.
This may be gathered from the fact that these words are part
of a continuous conversation, which was addressed peculiarly
to them on account of their dispute about precedence • in the
1 Vid. Cone. Mag. Brit. iii. 172. .338. 351, 352. 356, 357-

A.D. 50


i S. Matt.
xviii. Ifi.
J S. Matt,
xviii. 17.

^ See John-
son's Vad.
Mec. vol. ii.
pref. p. vii.
in op]i. to

I S. Matt,
xviii. 1.




"> S. Matt,
xviii. 2. &
S. Mark ix

n S. Mark
ix. 3.5.

oS. Matt,
xviii 15.

P S. Matt.

xviii. 1.

S. Mark ix.


S. Luke ix.


1 .lolinson's
Vad. Mec.
prcf. vol. ii.
p. 8.

kingdom of heaven, and in which the Lord took occasion to
teach them a lesson of humihty by tlie example "* of a little
child. But to remove all doubt on the subject, and to assure
us that this conversation was addressed to the Apostles, and
to tliem alone, S. Mark tells us that on this occasion Jesus
"called the twelve^ and saith" unto them." And if the begin-
ning of this discourse was addressed to them, and to them
only, there can be no cause for applying the latter portion of
it to any other, particularly as the connexion and dependence
of the parts are so manifest throughout. Indeed, as the
power of binding and loosing was on this occasion conferred,
and as that endowment formed a part of this conversation, if
we admit that it was addressed to any other than the Apostles,
we must allow that power also to have been then assigned to
others in addition to them ; and this is an argument which
few would undertake to maintain.

Assuming it then as certain that this conversation was ad-
dressed to the Apostles, and to them only, the brother spoken
of by the Lord in these words, — "Moreover", if thy brother
shall trespass against thee,'"' — must signify one of themselves ;
and this expression has, of course, immediate reference to the
dispute P in which they had been engaged about precedence,
and for which the Lord was rebuking them, both by setting
before them a little child as an example of humility, and by the
whole tenor of his address. On this occasion for such differ-
ences as might arise among them, as being men of like passions
with others, the Lord provides this remedy "i, — that after a dou-
ble admonition they should tell it to the Church or synod, that
is, to the whole college of the Apostles, or as many of them
as could assemble on such an occasion. Indeed, if we should
extend the meaning of the word " Church " so as to embrace
more than the Apostles themselves in this particular passage,
we should infer that the people were, according to the Lord's
command, to arbitrate upon differences between the Apostles,
than which nothing can be more unlikely. The Apostles
were to direct and teach the people ; but that they in turn
were to sit in judgment on the Apostles of Christ is scarcely

In accordance with the foregoing direction of our Lord, the
whole practice of the Church in \\\q primitive ages shews that



this duty of judicial decision, at least on matters connected
with the faith, belonged to ecclesiastical synods; and that
excommunication — a man's being considered "as an heathen
man " and a publican" — followed upon judgment against such
as would not conform.

In the accounts of the early councils we find such judi-
cial decision to be as constant a part of their duty as the
interpretation of Scripture, or as the formation and ratifi-
cation of canons for enforcing discipline. The condemna-
tion^ of Arius at Nice, a. d. 325 ; of the ApoUinarians * and
Macedonians at Constantinople, a. d. 381; the deposition
of Nestorius ", which followed upon the Council of Ephesus,
A. D. 431 ; the condemnation and excommunication of Eu-
tyches'' at Chalcedon, a. d. 451, as well as the deposition
and banishment of Dioscorus "^ ; the condemnation at Con-
stantinople^ of the Three Chapters, those heretical pro-
ductions of Theodorus of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus,
and Ibas of Edessa, a. l>. 553 ; and, lastly, the condem-
demnation^ unanimously confirmed at Constantinople, a.d.
680, of the Monothelites [naming Theodorus of Pharan, Ser-
gius, Pyrrus, Paul and Peter of Constantinople, Honorius
(formerly Pope of Rome), Cyrus of Alexandria, Macarius of
Antioch, and his disciple Stephen] — these acts of the six
oecumenical councils shew plainly how important a part of
their duty consisted in deliberating upon the opinions and
writings of those who disturbed the faith of the Church, and
in giving formal judgments upon such offenders. These were
duties plainly commended to ecclesiastical synods by the Lord's
command to his Apostles, when, speaking of a brother's tres-
pass ^ He said, "Tell it unto the Church: but* if he neglect i
to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man
and a pubhcan.""

This right and duty of judicial decision in matters of doctrine
having from the beginning belonged to ecclesiastical synods,
and having ever been exercised by them, where no external
circumstances interfered with their proper functions, has been
entailed upon the convocations* of the English Church, not

2 Vid. Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. iii. pp. 172. 338. 351 & pp. seq.
Eight out of twelve judges, together with the Attorney and Solicitor General,
gave this opinion, May 4th, 1711. Speaking of jurisdiction in matter of heresy,

* Cone. Nic.
Counc. 433.
' Cone. Con-

" Cone. Eph.
*■ Cone.
Chalc. Man.
Counc. 114.
" Cone.
Chalc. Man.
Counc. 120.
- 2 Cone.
nop. Man.
Counc. 177.
y 3 Cone.
nop. Man.
Counc. 183.

^ S. Matt.
.xviii. l.l
» S. Matt,
xviii. 17.




*• Johnson's
Vad. Mec.
vol. ii. p. 5.

c S. Matt,
xviii. 17, 18.

d S. Matt.
x.wiii. 19.

e S. Matt.
xxviii. 20.

f 1 Tim. i.

g2Cor. X.4.
h 2 Cor. X. C.
' Tit. iii. 10.

only by the laws and usages of our country, but by a divine
inheritance. " If," to use the words of a most learned man,
"any man or body of men can prove'' a prescription to any
estate or power of half so long a standing, they will think
it the greatest injustice for any others to attempt to deprive
them of it." An honest mind will be ready to assent to such
a proposition. But it may be further added, if this right and
this duty belong to the pastors of the Church in their lawful
assemblies, not only by prescription and long standing, but by
the endowment of our Saviour Himself, then it may prove
a crime of somewhat deeper dye than simple injustice, and of
some more terrible consequence than a civil injury, if any
should endeavour to wrest them away. For it must be borne
in mind, that the right of jurisdiction and the duty of authori-
tative decision in spiritual matters were not only committed
to the pastors of the Church by our Lord's words'' in the
passage before quoted, but that they were also involved in
the commission to " teach "^ all nations," given from the Gali-
lean mount; and that only to the faithful exercise of that
right and the full discliarge of that duty is the Lord's promise
annexed, " Lo, I am with you '^ alway, even unto the end of
the world."

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 2 of 83)