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

. (page 20 of 83)
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 20 of 83)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

» Spelm.
Cone. vol. i.
p. 5, dedica-

P Cone.
Mag. Brit,
vol. i. p. 178.




A. D. 804

I Spclm.
Cone, in loc.
Cone. Mag.
Brit. vol. i.
p. 294, note.

of the Churches of God, and of all the Christian people com-
mitted to their secular jurisdiction by the grace of Almighty
God, might be preserved in the closest bonds of love."

At the wittena-gemote, held at Grateley, near Andover,
A.D. 928, both ecclesiastical and civil laws were enacted. It
is in reference to this wittena-gemote that Bishop Kennett
says, " There was a proper Church synod celebrated by Wul-
felm, archbishop of Canterbury, presiding over his suffragan
bishops ; and K. Athelstan coming thither in devotion with
his lay nobles, held a great council or parliament, and there
passed the canons of the Church into the laws of the nation."
The ecclesiastical synod preceded the political council, and
the constitutions of the one became ratified by the civil sanc-
tions of the other.

In the wittena-gemote held at Ensham, a.d. 1009, we
have a remarkable instance of the celebration of an ecclesias-
tical synod and a civil council at the same time and place.
This was certainly not a pure synod, for it " was i convened
by command of the king, and passed some enactments uncon-
nected with ecclesiastical matters ;" moreover, it was held at
the feast of Pentecost, on which occasion, as well as at
Christmas and Easter, our"" kings were of old accustomed
to call together the chief clergy and laity, both to adorn the
court and to consult for the good of the nation ; and in the
present instance it appears that tlie bishops first made their
representations to the wittena-gemote of such matters as they
thought should be dealt with by national authority, and that
those representations were made the basis of legislation,
and of the acts which there became the " doom of the

At the beginning of the proceedings these words occur :
" This ^ is in the first place the advice of the bishops," upon
which follow certain general recommendations. Then follow
the decrees, thus headed : " This " is the decree of the wise."
And those decrees seem to have been founded on the advice
which the bishops had tendered, so happy a union appears then
to have existed between the ecclesiastical and civil power — a

' " Hoc autem inprimis est cpiscoporum primum consilium,
vol. i. p. 286.

' " Decretutn sapientum autem est," &c.— Ibid.

-Cone. Mag. Brit.




union necessary for the best interests of every Christian nation
in every age.

In the case of the wittena-geraote held at Winchester %
A.D. 1033, the laws are first laid down which refer specially
to the honour of God, to the Church, and the clergy. Those
laws are said to have been enacted in the wittena-geniote to
promote " the praise of God, the dignity of the crown, and the
good of the people ^''"' Then follow the laws passed in the same
assembly which are more nearly connected with civil matters,
and they are prefaced with these words : " This is the civil
enactment which I desire, after consultation with the witan,
to be observed throughout England'.'''' Well would it be for
this nation, if in her legislative assemblies spiritual and tem-
poral interests had never been divided ; if that imion between
them, which our Anglo-Saxon forefathers seem always to have
kept in mind, had ever been maintained. Happy for us if the
counsel of all for the good of all had ever been carefully
secured, while at the same time the just limits of the juris-
diction of that kingdom which is not of this world, and of
that which is, had been rightly, wisely, and distinctly observed.
XI. Presbyters ^^ ^^ clcar that in all synods during the
in all synods. period now before us, abbots were constituent
members ; indeed it would be idle to quote instances, as the
acts are almost invariably subscribed by them. And this fact
is enough for our argument in proving that, according to the
ancient constitution of the English Church, presbyters have a
right to a place and vote in the larger synods, in accordance
with the present practice of our convocations. For in the
mind of the Church abbots were but presbyters ; they were
of the second order of the ministry, however much surrounded
by the pomp of worldly circumstance ; and the time has,
thank God, never yet arrived when earthly mammon has been
so far worshipped as to permit the riches or honours of this
world to annihilate the essential distinction between the seve-
ral orders of ministers in the Church of Christ. But though
insisting, and that most emphatically, upon the fact that the

'■> " In laudem Dei, et sibi ipsiin ornamentum regium, et adutilitatem populi." —
Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. i. p. 209.

1 " Hoc est seculare consilium, quod ex consultatione cum sapientibus meis,"
&c.— Ibid,

A.D. 804-

5 Cone.
Mag. Brit.


A.D. 804



•« Vid. inf.
chaps, viii.

t Vid. sup.
chap. ii. sec.
5; iii. sec. 8.

presence and subscription of abbots at all the early national
and provincial synods of our country is a sure precedent for
the right of presbyters to sit and vote in national synods and
in convocations now, yet it may not be amiss to state an
instance in which simple presbyters are found as constituent
members of such an assembly during this period ; and it is
the more necessary thus to strengthen this argument, on
account of the endeavours made to limit the rights of pres-
byters in this respect to the age of K, Edward I., and to derive
the present constitution of the convocations from the exercise
of his will. Any thing more untrue historically than such a
statement it is impossible to conceive, as will appear when we
come to consider the facts connected with that reign ^^ How-
ever, as a proof (if it is needful to adduce one) that abbots
were considered as presbyters so far as regarded their order in
the Christian ministry, a circumstance may be mentioned
connected with the mixed Council of Cliff at Hoo, a.d. 824.
At the foot of the acts and signatures of that council these
words occur : " Here ^ follow the names of those 'presbyters
to whom the right of consecrating the holy communion has
been committed," »Sz;c. The names attached are three abbots
and one presbyter, plainly shewing that they all came under
the common denomination of " Presh/ieri Missales.''''

But the presence of presbyters who did not enjoy even so
much as the temporal distinction of abbacy may be traced in
the only fully detailed instance of a 2>t'orAncial synod which we
have during this period. At the provincial Synod of Challock
or Chalk, a.d. 816, we find, in addition to Archbishop Wul-
frid, nine bishops, and abbots \ that presbyters were members
of the assembly. Deacons are also mentioned as having been
present ; and this was in accordance with the practice of
primitive synods, in which, as we have before ' seen, the pres-
byters sat while the deacpns stood.

That peculiar right, also, of presenting "gravamina et
reformanda" in synod, which belongs to presbyters in the
English convocations, may be traced up to this early period

' " Hie sunt nomina missalium illorum j)re3byterorura," &c.— Cone. Mag. Brit.
I vol. i. p. 17f;.

^ " Cum abbatibus, presbyteris, diaconibus (sic), paritcr tractaiit-es tie necessariis
, et utilitatibus Ecclesiaram."— Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. i. p. lf!9.




of our history ; and that not only as regards personal " in-
juries received, but as regards public scandals. By the sixth
of Edgar's Canons it is enacted that "every priest should
make a presentation in synod, if he is aware of any obstinate
sinner in his parish, or of any who have committed mortal
sin," and " whom he cannot recall to amendment of life, or
dare not [punish] on account of lay interference*."

XIL Lower Not Only in those times were presbyters

c!)ulciis'and"wft^ members of all synods whatsoever, but during
tena-gemotes. the period now under consideration we may
also trace the presence of all orders of the clergy in the
mixed councils and wittena-gemotes. The bishops were very
important members of those assemblies, signing immediately
after the king. Abbots were almost invariably present ; it is
needless to quote instances, as scarcely any council was held
without them. Whenever a detailed account is given of the
proceedings, they are almost always mentioned ; and when-
ever a subscription-list of names is preserved, their signatures
appear almost without exception. But not only so ; presbyters
and even deacons are found to have subscribed to the acts. A
charter*^ granted at the mixed Council of Cliff at Hoo, a. d. 824,
is subscribed by three abbots, forty-seven presbyters, and six
i deacons. At the mixed Council of Cliff at Hoo"^, a.d. 825,
i the signatures of twelve presbyters and of three deacons appear.
! At the mixed Council of Kingston'^, a.d, 838, six presby-
! ters and five deacons subscribed. At the mixed Council
! of London % a.d. 971, one of the privileges granted ^ to the
I presbyters of Glastonbury and of five subject parishes, together
I with the presbyters of six districts also specified, was that they
should not be liable to be called to any "mixed counciP."
And this immunity, from a liability then considered as a
burden, seems to point to the inference that presbyters were
frequently summoned to take part in such assemblies. At
the same mixed Council of London, Ethelwold, a minister ^ ; ^ ^^'^^


* " Ut quilibet sacerdos in synodo enunciet, si in parochia sua noscat aliquem
erga Deum contumacem, vel qui in peccatum mortale male incident, quem ad
emendationem inclinare nequit, vel non audet propter seculares." — Cone. Mag.
Brit. voL i. p. 225.

' "Neceorum. . . presbyteros ad quodlibet placitum convocent." Placitum
in that age signified a council where "the king presided, and they usually consulted
upon the great aft'airs of the kingdom." — See Jacob's Law Diet, in verbo.

A. D. 804—

:\Iag. Brit,
i. 225.

" Atterb.
Rights, p.

*' Cone.
Mag. Brit,
i. 173.

" Spelm.
Cone. i. 17^:

" Spelm.
Cone. i. 483.
Cone. Maff.
Brit. i. 258.
y Cone.
Mag. Brit,
i. 258.




A. D. 804


» Cone.
Mag. Brit,
i. 316.

•• Innett,
Oriff. Ancr.
p. 252.

of the church of Winchester, signed the subscription-list,
together with the king, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and
nobles. At the mixed Council of Westminster, a.d. 1065,
the king''s chaplains are especially mentioned ^ as having been
present, the position assigned to them being between the
abbots and the counts. And, moreover, three of those chap-
lains, viz. Osbern, Peter, and Rodbert, signed the subscription-
list appended to the charter then granted to Westminster,
their names appearing before those of one duke, four counts,
the royal thanes, and the knights. So plain is it that the
lower clergy frequently appeared in the mixed councils of
those ages. So excellent a practice then prevailed of uniting
together the clergy and laity in devising common counsels,
and ratifying national acts for the general good.

During the period now before us we may
XIII. English , .II,- P ^, , .

Church not yet tracc the gradual mcrease ot the papal power m

led— Roman'^'j'!!- ^^^'^ couutry, as no opportunity was ever lost on
risdiction disal- ^jjg p^j.^ pf J^omc by which that authority might
be extended. But still the English Church was
not yet hopelessly cast prostrate at the feet of French and
Italian ecclesiastics. Nor did this happen until this country
succumbed to the victorious armies of William the Conqueror;
who, in order to strengthen his political power, subverted all
the spiritual liberties of this nation, deposed the last of the
Anglo-Saxon archbishops, and filled not only the episcopal
sees, but all the chief places of honour and power in the
Church, with strangers. His ambitious designs were best to
be served by erasing as far as possible all traces of nationality
from our institutions, whether of Church or State. But pre-
viously to these events, and during the Anglo-Saxon times, it is
evident that many of those doctrines were not received in this
Church which are now deemed by Rome essential to com-
munion with her. Thus we find that the third canon of the
provincial Synod of Challock or Chalk, a.d. 816 (as we have
seen above, in the case of the mixed Council of Cliff at Hoo,
A.D. 747), employs language far more agreeable to the true
view of the con.stitution of the Christian Church, than to those
unwarrantable claims respecting papal jurisdiction which have
in more recent times been asserted. That canon commands
" that a settled unity and devout inward peace remain amongst




us ; that all have but one will in deed, and word, and judg-
ment, without flattery and dispute, because we are fellow-
servants in one ministry, fellow-workers in one building, mem-
bers of one body, of which Christ is the head'^," &c. In
accordance with the same spirit is the eighth of Odo''s Canons,
A.D. 943, which runs thus : " Therefore ^ we ought to look to
it, brethren, that there be concord and unanimity between
bishops, and princes, and all Christian people ; that there be
every where unity and peace to the Churches of God : nay,
that the Church be one in faith, hope, and charity, having
one head, which is Christ ; whose members ought to help and
mutually love each other, as He Himself says, ' By ^ this shall
all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to
another."*" Here surely we see the true principles of the
Christian Church ; here is set forth that divine foundation on
which she is built : and such language *^, moreover, so far from
acknowledging the duty of making flattering applications to
any man, or acknowledging any head save Christ, seems framed
with the special object of guarding against such abuses, and
against the unremitting encroachments of papal power.

We find indeed that even Dunstan, who was in many
respects instrumental in extending the papal power over
the Anglo-Saxon Church, would not consent to an entire
abandonment of his independent jurisdiction as Archbishop of
Canterbury. The expulsion of the married clergy, and the
establishment of regulars in place of seculars, were attri-
butable mainly to his influences ; and these events were
certainly favourable to the encroaching claims of Rome ;
" for s the tendency of national Churches was to continue in-
dependent of the papal power ;" but the regulars, being de-
voted rather to the interests of their order than to those of
the country, and owing their exemptions to papal influences,
"supported'' the Eoman see in all its usurpations." Yet
even Dunstan, though in these respects the enemy of the
ancient national system, resisted papal authority in a matter
which seemed to compromise his own independent jurisdiction
and the just authority of an English synod.

This we may learn from the facts connected with the " na-
tional synod" held a.d. 969'. A powerfulJ noble had contracted
an incestuous marriage with a relative, and though thrice re-

A.D. 80

<^ Johns.
Can. vol. i.
p. 301. See
also Coll. i.
p. 349.
«■ Johns.
Can. vol. i.

e S. Joh
-xiii. 35.

f See Innett,
Orig. Ang.
pp. 253-4.

e Southey's
Book of the
Church, vol.
i. p. 99.

h Ihid.

' Cone.
Mag. Brit,
i. 247.
J Ihid. p.




proved by Archbishop Dunstan, refused to abandon the unlawful
connexion. Having been excommunicated by the archbishop
for this offence, the nobleman appealed to the king, beseech-
ing him to interpose his authority. The king listened to the
complaint, and required Dunstan to restore the offender to
communion. But the archbishop being by no means prepared
to allow a question purely spiritual to be thus decided, en-
deavoured by persuasion to bring the nobleman to repentance
and amendment. His endeavours, however, proving unavail-
ing, and offence being heaped upon offence, he increased the
severity of his former decision, by adding to it a sentence of
suspension from all communication with the faithful until the
sin complained of should be abandoned. This had the effect
of increasing the obstinacy and anger of the person against
whom the sentence was directed, and he determined to have
recourse to a fresh expedient, which he thought would more
surely serve his case. He sent emissaries to Rome, and by
means of large bribes obtained a favourable decision, the
Pope sending not only exhortations, but commands to Dunstan,
which insisted upon the restoration of the offender to the
bosom of the Church. But the archbishop acting, at least in
this case, in a manner worthy of his position, was equally un-
willing to obey the Pope as the king in a matter where neither
had just authority to interfere. His language befitted an
English archbishop determined to maintain the just independ-
ence of this national Church, and jealous of foreign interfer-
ence with his own proper jurisdiction. " When,'" said he, " I
shall see tokens of penitence in that person whose cause is
now under consideration, I will willingly obey the precepts of
the Pope ; but so long as the offender continues in his sin,
and claiming innnunity from ecclesiastical discipline, insults
my authority and rejoices in his evil deeds, God forbid that
I should do so. May God defend me from contravening
that law which my Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God has
appointed to be kept in his Church in deference to any mortal
man, yea, even though it were for the preservation of my own
life." This proper determination of Dunstan thus nobly ex-
pressed had the desired effect. The offender, overcome with
shame and fear, laid aside his obstinacy, abandoned his in-
cestuous connexion, and shewed the required signs of repent-




ance. To render his submission the more remarkable, he
presented himself at the national synod held a.d. 969 clad in
linen garments, with naked feet, and holding a rod in his
hand ; and thus exhibiting evident signs of penitence, he
entered the assembly, and there bewailed with groans and
lamentations before the feet of Archbishop Dunstan the crimes
of which he had been guilty. The offender having been thus
brought to a better mind by the just exercise of English archi-
episcopal authority, though opposed both by the king and the
Pope, was at the instance ® of the " whole synod absolved
from excommunication, and restored to the communion of the
faithful, to the great joy of all."

Now in the foregoing instance we may remark that the
resistance made to the Pope's demands by Dunstan, and his
declaration that " he would not contravene the law of Christ
in deference to any mortal man," are utterly inconsistent with
those claims of universal jurisdiction which are set up for the
papal see. Nor can we fail to see that they were not admitted
as binding in the Anglo-Saxon Church. The assertion of
English archiepiscopal jurisdiction, and of the authority of a
national synod, here proclaims evident marks of a proper inde-

But not only did this conduct of Dunstan shew the extent
of independence upon the see of Rome claimed by our fore-
fathers in the Anglo-Saxon Church. The case of Stigand,
the last of the Anglo-Saxon archbishops, gives equally clear
evidence on this head.

In the year 1062 we find that Stigand was lying under an
interdict of the Pope, and that he was forbidden to exercise
his office of consecrating suffi-agans ^. Still ' he continued in
his archiepiscopal see, and he was owned as rightful primate
in England for eighteen years afterwards. His subscription
appears as archbishop, and precedes those of the other bishops
at the mixed Council of Westminster, a.d. 1065 ; and he
continued to exercise his archiepiscopal authority down to the
year 1070, when in the Council of Winchester he was vio-
lently deprived of his see by William the Conqueror, who
expected to strengthen the foundation of his usurped throne
by ejecting the national clergy from their posts, by intro-

6 "Ac demum a toto coucilio postulatus," &c.— Cone. Mag. Brit. vol. i. p. 249.

A.D. 804-

k Cone.
Mag. Brit,
i. 315.
' Innett,
Orig. Aug.
p. 387.




A.D. 804—

n> Johns.
Can. vol.
p. 3(3-2.

"Vid. Johns.
Can. vol. i.
p. 362, note.

ducing foreigners into their places, and by uniting himself in
the closest bonds of alliance with the Pope, thus annihilating
the last traces of the proper independence of this national
Church. And though we may observe the continual aggressions
of the Roman power up to this period, though too often we
may see cases in which it was permitted to exercise undue
authority, yet the foregoing facts shew that some marks of
our ancient independence still remained to us, and that our
archbishops did from time to time assert their just rights,
until the iron hand of a usurper, guided by political influences,
hopelessly fastened upon our Church those chains under which
she groaned for nearly five hundred years.

XIV. Anglo- Not only did our Anglo-Saxon forefathers
poseT t^ modern Tcfuse to admit that universal jurisdiction
Roman doctrine, claimed by the Bishop of Rome over all national
Churches, and over this among the number, — a jurisdiction
opposed alike to primitive practice and to those principles
which lie at the very root of Church government as established
by the Lord's Apostles and their immediate successors, — but
some important doctrines of the Anglo-Saxon Church appear
also plainly opposed to those, which modern Rome at any rate
deems essential to terms of communion.

In the appoint- Thus in the appointment of fasts the Anglo-
ment of fasts. Saxou Churcli of this period, probably on ac-
count of the ancient traditions handed down through the
original liritish Church, symbolized with the Easterns and
not with the Romanists. The ninth of Odo's Canons, a.d.
94'3, runs thus : " We ^ admonish that fasting with alms be
very carefully observed, for these are the . . . wings which
carry saints to heaven. Wherefore endeavour to keep the
fast of Lent, as of the fourth and sixth day of the week, with
great vigilance ; and above all the Lord's day and the festi-
vals of the saints ye are to take care that ye observe with
all caution [by ceasing] fi*om all secular work. Consent to
no vain superstitions, nor worship the creature more than the
Creator with magical illusions, for they who do such things
shall not inherit the kingdom of God.""

Now here the Wednesday's and Friday's fsists recommended
were not" the days appointed at this time by the Roman
Church, which had received the decree for the Sabbath or




Saturday's fast ; and, moreover, the latter part of this canon
seems to have an eye towards the abuse of image-worship,
then practised by the Latin Church, but continually resisted
by the Eastern.

In the use of Another difference between the Anglo-Saxon
Holy Scripture, ^ud the Romau Church appears in a strong
contrast, as connected with the general use of Holy Scripture.
Instead of withholding " the sacred volume, the Anglo-Saxon
clergy, both by precept and example, urged its constant use.
Commentaries P on its contents were written by Bede. The
perusal i of the Scriptures, and especially of the Gospels, is
constantly urged by Alcuin. " Study \'''' are his words, " Christ
as foretold in the books of the Prophets, and as exhibited in
the Gospels, and when you find Him do not lose Him, but
introduce Him into the home of thy heart, and make Him
the ruler of thy life." In another place he says, " Write * the
Gospel in thy heart. Read diligently *, I beseech you, the Gos-
pels of Christ. Be studious in " reading the sacred Scriptures.
The reading ' of the sacred books is necessary."" Such were
the exhortations of that renowned and learned Anglo-Saxon
deacon. The canons ordered that the " sacred books'" should
be in the possession of every priest, " so "^ that he might teach
his people rightly who looked up to him." And even to this
day there exist MS. copies of Saxon translations of the Gos-
pels in ^ the Bodleian library at Oxford, at Cambridge, and in

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 20 of 83)