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 3 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 3 of 83)
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Thus it became the duty of the early Church
to censure those who opposed the faith, and to
punish them by deprivation of Church privi-
leges, denying them communion, and forbidding
them to enjoy the society of the faithful. We accordingly
find not only that the Apostles exercised tliis power, but that
they charged their successors to do the same. Thus Ilymc-
nseus and Alexander were "dcHvered^ unto Satan" for having
made shipwreck of the faith. S. Paul tells the Corinthians
that " the weapons s of qur warfare are not carnal," but still
that he had "a readiness^ to revenge all disobedience" among
them; and Titus is ordered to "reject" "a man that' is an

they say, "We are humbly of opinion that such jurisdiction, as the law now

XI. In the pri-
mitive Church
censures ecclesi
astical not en-
forced by punish-
ments temporal.

stands, may be c.vcrcised in convocation.

" (Signed) T. Parker, R. Tracey,

Tho. Trevor, Tho. Bury,

John Powell, Ro. Price,

Lyttleton Powys,

R. Eyre,
Ed. Northey,
Rob. Raymond."

Card. Synodalia, ii. 762,




heretic after the first and second admonition." Suspension
from the blessings of the Church was the penalty attached to
spiritual offences by apostolic command ; and such was the
punishment subsequently inflicted for them in accordance with
the sentences of the early ecclesiastical synods.

Tn the earliest ages of the Church civil punishments could
not indeed be inflicted in pursuance of such judicial sentences
on offenders •>. Before civil magistrates became Christians such
an exercise of power was neither attempted, nor would it have
been permitted. Indeed it would have been inconsistent with
true Church authority, which is purely spiritual — an authority
based on sanctions and obligations very distinct from those
on which temporal jurisdictions are founded. The confusion
between spiritual and temporal authority always has and
always will work results disastrous to the wellbeing and the
purity of the Church. S. Chrysostom's glowing language
on this subject is worthy of deep and careful consideration.
" Distinct^ are the limits of the temporal kingdom from those

of the priesthood — nobler is the power of the latter The

king must not be judged of by the gems which stud his
apparel, nor by the gold with which he is adorned. His
province is to rule earthly things, but the authority of the
priesthood reaches to heavenly things : whatsoever ye shall
bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. To the king is
entrusted earthly things : to me heavenly things." And in
another place the same thoughts are enforced in this language :
" To the king's * authority are entrusted men's bodies, to the
priest's their souls. The king remits their debts, the priest
their sins. The one compels, the other exhorts. The one
rules by force, the other by persuasion. He wields sensible,
I wield spiritual, weapons. He wars against barbarians, I
against the evil angels ; and this is the nobler power."

In every age of the Church'' thoughtful minds have ob-
served these broad lines of distinction ^ " Matters spiritual,"
says Bishop Jeremy Taylor', "should not be restrained by
punishments corporal." To the same purpose are the words

* *AX\oi opoi j8a(Ti\£iae k. t. X. — S. Chrys. Homil. iv. in verba Isaise Vidi Dom.
p. 757. Paris, 1636.

* 6 j3a<7i\ivQ ffto^ara tfnmriffrivTai k. r. X. — Ibid. p. 758. Paris, 1G36.
5 See CoUier, Ecd. Hist. voL ii. pp. 321, 322, & ibid. p. 591.

J Archbp.
Potter, Ch.
Gov. p. 351.

k See Ba-

Lond. 1826.
' Works, vol.
viii. p. 143.
Lond. 1839.

C 2




" An In-
quiry by a
Hand, p.

" See also
Potter, Ch.
Gov. p. 21^

■S. Matt.
:viii. 17.

of Lord Chancellor King™: "The Church"'s arms were spi-
ritual, consisting of admonitions, excommunications, suspen-
sions, and such like, by the wielding of which she governed
her members and preserved her own peace and purity. Now
this is that which is called discipline, which is absolutely
necessary to the unity, peace, and being of the Church. For
where there is no law or order, that society cannot possibly
subsist, but must sink " in its own ruins and confusions."

It was in accordance with such principles that the sentences
of Church synods were enforced. They banished the offenders
from the company of the faithful, denying them a share in
holy things, and placing them without the pale of the Church.

Such or rather a like jurisdiction was exercised even by
the heathen in banishing impious men from a participation in
the rites of their religion, and in forbidding them to enjoy the
common benefits of the society of their fellows. This we may
gather from the words put into the mouth of the Theban king
in reference to an offender against the laws of piety and
justice :

" In ^ common prayer to God, and sacrifice,
Grant him no share ; ablutions disallow ;
With one consent thrust him away."

Upon the foregoing principles were the sentences of Church
synods pronounced and enforced. They took effect as was
directed by our Lord Himself. The obstinate offender was
accounted as " an heathen ° man and a publican." In the
natural and true sense of Christ's command such an one was
looked on no longer as a member of the Church, but placed
" among infidels and profligates, whose conversation was to
be shunned by the faithful."
^,„ .^, These then are in fine the two main'duties'of

All. The two

main duties of syuods. I. To deliberate and conclude upon
*^"" "' the interpretation of Scripture, and upon ques-

tions connected with ftiith and morals, with ritual and dis-
cipline. II. To decide definitively, and to give formal judgment
upon persons whose opinions and writings affect such ques-
tions. These were the duties connnended to them by the
Lord Himself, by the example of the Synod of Jerusalem,

'' M/jr' Iv Otwv ivxnt'Ji HffTi 9vfxaai

Koivov 7roi£i(T0ai — /i»)rf xipvi^aq vijinv

QQiiv d' air' oikojv itavraQ. — Soph. QSd. Tyr. 247-0.




XIII. The ne-
cessity of some
authority for solv-
ing questions of
doubt in matters

and by apostolic precept. These have ever remained the
proper duties of Church synods in succeeding ages, and so
will they ever remain as long as the Church of Christ shall
last as a visible institution on earth.

Our blessed Lord's religion, handed down to
us in his Church, respects not only all the
imaginable combinations of life*'s outward cir-
cumstances, it respects not only the visible acts
and practical conduct of Christian men, but it
reaches to the motives whence spring those acts and that
conduct. It claims, and rightly so, to control the subtle
powers of the intellect, to regulate the passions and affections
of the heart, and to direct the determinations of the will.
And therefore all the rules necessary for every case which
can possibly arise in Christian morals and in Christian prac-
tice can never be reduced to one definite and written code.
In such case "the world itself p could not contain the books
that should be written." The world has indeed grown weary
of attempting this, even as regards human laws, which only
affect the outward relations of men to each other, — their out-
ward acts which are manifest to the eyes of all. The
useless statutes in our own code are well-nigh countless —

" . . . . As ' none can calculate
The tale of ocean's pebbles . . . ."

The necessary inability of human legislation to provide for
all cases which may arise is too plain, and has been observed
by men of all ages and countries. It certainly did not escape
the observation of the Stagyrite, the wisest perhaps of heathen
philosophers. He saw that neither acts of gratitude nor of
ingratitude, neither acts of beneficence nor " the withholding
more "^ than is meet," came within the scope of written legis-
lation, either for reward or for punishment. He perceived
that there were acts which no law could reach*. The de-
ficiency of law is a subject which on more than one occasion
engages his attention "■. Nor was the heathen dramatist ig-
norant that many of the acts of men were subject only to

' . . . 'Qg fiav oa^tQ

ovK av ilSeitjv Xiyiiv

TlovTiav \pafujv dpi9i.t6v. — Find. 01. Od. xiii. G4— CG.
"* tWiififia Tov vofiov.

P S. John
xxi. 25.

1 Prov. xi.

■• Rhet. i.
13. 12. Eth.
V. 10.


apostoCtcal syxods.


higher sanctions than those which human laws could give.
Speaking of some acts, he says,

"....' For such there are high sanctions
Gendered above : their only parent Heaven :
Sprung fi-ora no mortal lineage . . . ."

To the same fact the historian bears his testimony when he
makes the Athenian orator speak in praise of " obedience *
to those laws . . . which, though unwritten, entail public dis-
grace " upon such as contravene their obligations. The
Apostle S. ]^aul, when exhorting to the exercise of the sweet
virtue of unity and brotherly love, plainly tells the Thessa-
lonians, " As touching ^ brotherly love, ye need not that /
icrite unto you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to love
one another." It is a virtue embracing within itself par-
ticulars which cannot be defined in any written code, — obli-
gations of divine origin, and co-extensive with the condition
and existence of mankind. How touchingly the heathen girl
weeping over her brother's death speaks to a heartless t>rant
of this same virtue of brotherly love, as commended by divine
unwritten laws of eternal obligation :

" * I never thought that thy commands prevailed
So far, that thou, a man, could'st overstep
The laws divine, itmvritten, always fixt ;
Born not from yesterday they ever live,
Nor can we mortals tell from whence they sprang."

Indeed it has been plain to men of every age that there is
much connected even with human action which no written
laws can reach.

And if there is much connected with the outward acts, how
much more is there connected with the inward motives exciting
to those acts, — with difficult questions of conscience, nice ba-
lancings of right and wrong, which no previously written code
can ever meet, no previously defined regulations ever embrace.
Yet in such questions Christians of the same national Church
must in their corporate capacity from time to time find them-
selves involved. And as they are members of one Church,

^ . . . Mv pofioi TrpoKiivrat, k. r.\. — CEd. Tyr. 884 et scq.
' tiicpoaatj twv vofiwv k. t. X. — Thucyd. lib. ii. c. 37.

* TTipl Si rfjs ^i\aSt\(piac ov xp^'"v fx""* ypc'tipiiv vfiXv avroi yAp vfitlQ
OioSiSuKroi iart tig to ayair^v dXXliXovt;. — 1 Thess. iv. 9.

^ ovH (jQivHv TodovTOv (fSofirfp rd ad, k.t.X. — Soph. .\nt. 453 et serj.




bound together by some internal unity of motives, as well as
by some external unity of conduct, so that Church in her
corporate capacity must sometimes confront such doubts and
difficulties, as the fresh combinations of this world's circum-
stance, and as new contingencies entail. And further, she
must be prepared, not only to point out to her members some
definite course of duty amid those difficulties, but to fortify
the grounds of that duty by the suggestion of such motives
and principles as are consistent with Christian obligations and
with the Christian profession. To meet such cases each
branch of the Church, while allowed to exercise its proper
rights and perform its inherent duties, retains within itself an
authority which may rightly be appealed to, and whence di-
rection may justly be supplied. " I doubt not %" says Bishop
Jeremy Taylor, "but our blessed Saviour intended that the
assemblies of the Church should be judges of the controversies,
and guides of our persuasions in matters of difficulty." To a
meek mind it must ever be a great comfort to have such guid-
ance : to make use of it is not only a duty, but a privilege.
^,^,, ^, For the resolution of such questions as have

A IV. That an- , ^

thority resides in been alluded to, the voice of the Church can be
■^" ^' heard only through her synods. " Whether it
be V' says Hooker, " for the finding out of any thing whereunto
divine law bindeth us, but yet in such sort that men are not
thereof on all sides resolved ; or for the setting down of some
uniform judgment to stand touching such things as being nei-
ther way matters of necessity are notwithstanding offensive and
scandalous when there is open opposition about them ; be it
for the ending of strifes, touching matters of Christian belief,
wherein the one part may seem to have probable cause of
dissenting from the other ; or be it concerning matters of
polity, order, and regiment of the Church, I nothing doubt
but that Christian men should much better frame themselves
to those heavenly precepts which our Lord and Saviour with
so great instancy gave, as concerning peace and unity, if we
did all concur in desire to have the use of ancient councils
again renewed."

It should always be borne in mind that the (christian reli-
gion, as influencing conduct, consists not merely in obedience
to God's written word, and to such commands as the Church

' Lib. of
iiiff, vol. viii
p. 29. Ox-
for.l, 1839.

255, 256,





S. Join
:vi. 13.

has gathered out of it, but that it has respect to the motives
of our obedience, to inward principles entwined about the
hearts and consciences of men — to those promised gifts hidden
secretly in the mysterious depths of the human mind, which, if
improved, are to " guide " into all truth." Moreover, these
principles have often to be applied under new circumstances,
amid the infinite variations of this ever changeful world. And
so as time goes on, as fresh combinations arise, there must
always be in the Christian Church, when in healthy action,
the means of providing for such changes. There must, in
short, be the means of applying the principles of the Gospel to
the circumstances of mankind. The alterations of the frame-
work of society, the changes of this unsteady world heaving
inwardly, and bringing new elements to the surface, effect
such new combinations of outward circumstance as must of
necessity require such a composing influence. The duties of
a Christian man, in a heathen or in a Christian land, under
the government of a legitimate monarch or of an usurper,
may be absolutely contradictory. It is not that the princi-
ples of Christ's religion vary ; they are as immutable as his
eternal truth ; but the outward circumstance of our life varies
in such sort that, when the two come into contact, a fresh
combination takes place, and a different result ensues.

It cannot be too clearly stated or too carefully remembered,
that such variations in our obligations of duty must not be
considered as evincing any change in the principles of the
Gospel, but only as consequent upon a fresh application of
those principles to the altered circumstances under which the
Church and her children may be placed. The application
of these principles, and the formal declaration of our duties
arising from them, as regards at least matters connected with
ritual, ceremonial worship, ecclesiastical discipline, as well as
with some questions of morals, belong to that branch of Christ's
Church of which we are members ; and so in the various
branches of the visible Church downwards from the apostolic
age, in respect of tiie subjects above specified, united counsel
has been taken in synods for the solution of such doubtful
questions as have from time to time arisen, and for the adjust-
ment of such debatable matters as in successive ages have
needed settlement. As a matter of history it is a fact that




the Church, even as regards apostolic usages ', has exercised
such authority with universal approbation. None are now
dissatisfied with the disuse of the kiss of charity, and of the
order of deaconesses. And if it is admitted by consent that
the Church in such things may lay aside apostolic usage, it
surely may lay down new rules in matters of doubtful obliga-
tion : for it is a higher stretch of authority to omit what was
established by the Apostles, than to impose rules in such
things as were by them left undetermined. " I for my part
do confess," says Lord Bacon, " that "^ in revolving the Scrip-
tures I could never find any such thing, but that God had
left the like liberty to the Church government as He had
done to the civil government, to be varied according to time,
place, and accidents. ... So likewise in Church matters, the
substance of doctrine is immutable, and so are the general
rules of government ; but for rites and ceremonies, and the
particular hierarchies, policies, and discipline of the Churches,
they be left at large."

Our rites in the English Church, our liturgy, our cere-
monial, our discipline (at least such as remains of it^), are
present proofs in our own case that such principles have here
prevailed. We now possess and enjoy that which has been pro-
vided from time to time by the united counsel of " the sacred ^
synod of this nation." And this statement will, it is hoped, be
satisfactorily proved as the subject is proceeded with, and as
the facts are in turn recorded which illustrate its truth.

XV. Faith and Whatever arguments may be urged to the
result 'of private Contrary, it can never be shewn that the faith,
judgment. much less the discipline, of a Church, can be

derived from any other quarter than that above alluded to ;
or that the common faith of her individual members can be
the result of private judgment. In tlieir true * sense we may
apply S. Peter's words, "Knowing this first y, that no prophecy
of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." An indi-
vidual may exercise his private judgment as to whether he will
belong to a Church or not; that is in his own power. He may

* Vid. Commination Service of the Church of England.

* I say tlieir true sense, because Hammond, Whitby, and others have strained
this passage, tovto irpwrov yii'uxTKovTeg, on vaaa Trpo^i]Teia ypa<prj(;, iSiag
tniXvfftwg ov yiverai. — 2 Pet. i. 20. For its just meaning see Schleus. Lex. in loco.

" See
Potter, Cli.
Gov. p. 329.

" Bacon's
vol. ii. p.
512. Lond.

y 2 Pet. i.




leave that branch of the Church into which he was baptized : in
that he may exercise liis private judgment, as, alas I too many
do. He may wander to another fold and to other pastures than
those to which he was committed by God. and in which he
has been nourished up. But the faith of the Church which he
leaves, as of that corporate body (if it be such) to which he
betakes himself, is undisturbed by any eccentricities of his
belief or changes of his opinions. His exercise of private
judgment is wholly confined within the limited sphere of his
own behef. But the very notion of a Church is that of a body
of men imited in the same faith, approving the same discipUne.
and accepting at least, if not carr^■ing out. the same rules of
conduct. It is impossible to conceive the idea of a Church
where each man is a law to himself. It is a contradiction in
terms, and in the very nature of things. If we suppose the
existence of a Church at alL individuals must be united in
some common belief and some commonly admitted rules of
conduct ; and though it is a question of degree how far they
I may be permitted to differ, and yet be allowed to constitute
I one Church, still that there nmst be some community in faith
I and worship and discipline is a self-evident proposition. An
' entire unity in the true faith, a universal acceptance among
its members of one uniform rule of discipline, and of one code
of morals, would evidently constitute the perfection of a
Church ; while every grade of difference among them is a
mark of imperfection, every breach of unity a fresh step towards
disruption and annihilation — •" dissensio quippe vos et divisio,'"
as says S. Austin, •* facit hajreticos. pax vero et unitas facit
catholieos '."

If every man were to frame his own faith, it is hard
to think that any two men would believe ahke. The most
strenuous advocate for private judgment, as may be presumed
in all fairness from his own principles, should be the last
person to claim that he should define the terms of faith for
others besides himself. His individual belief he cannot, accord-
ing to the just application of his o\m arguments, insist upon as
the rule for other men *. It is. in fine, an evident truth that
if there is to be a common faith at all. we must look bevond

»S. Aug.
coDtn Lit.
PetiL lib. ii.
c. 95, torn,
ix. p. 194.


• " Xo man can take coemizance and judge the decrees of a council pro autori-
taie pmiUedr—Bp. J. Taylor, Works, vol viii. p. 32. Oxford, 1839.




individuals for its definition. If there is to he a vi.sihle Church
at all — (and Christ has so willed it) — that is, a body of men
united in any appreciable degree of one common faith, bound
together in any outward manner by common discipline, ac-
cepting to any extent one common form of worship ; and if
the two latter elements at least of their common consent may
vary with the variable circumstances of time and place and
worldly change, then it follows of necessity that there must
reside somewhere a commonly admitted power for the regula-
tion of such variations. Some voice must speak to direct ;
some hand must point to guide ; and such has been univer-
sally the case, where no external force has prevailed, in the
various branches of the Church of Christ, from the Synod of
Jerusalem down to the present hour.

From the foregoing observations it may be

XVI. Summarv. . „ , , /-.f , • • /• • t

' mierred, that as a Church is a union ot indi-
viduals agreeing necessarily to some extent in faith, worship,
and discipline, which under the changes of our human condi-
tion may require to be exercised under new circumstances or
applied under altered conditions, so there must always be, for
the proper guidance and perfect development of such a cor-
porate body, some means of taking common counsel after the
example of the apostolic model. There must be some source
whence common strength may be given ; some head whence
common motion and action may be supplied, and which may
impart life to the whole body and direction to the several
members. There must be some voice which can speak with
authority. It cannot be overlooked by any considerate mind,
that as outward circumstances vary and as changes pass on
all earthly institutions, many dilapidations^ in the spiritual
fabric have to be repaired, many rites of ceremonial worship
have to be freshly defined, many rules of discipline to be
newly laid down, much matter of common instruction to be
afforded from time to time, in order to secure harmony in
worship, agreement in outward forms, unity in outward be-
haviour and conduct among the many members who compose
one Church. And this is evident if we contemplate, not such
things as are of necessary and eternal obhgation, but such ^ .,
thinors as being in themselves indifferent ^, mav become obli- Archbp.

^ , e • V ,\\-U 1 " [Potter, Ch.

gatory bv reason of circumstances. •' vV hatsoever, savs ' Gov p S24.

Works, vol.
ii. p. 510.




= Autli. of
Ch. in mak-
ing Canons
Things In-
p. 4. Lend.

<• Ii)id. pp.

<> Alt. VI.

f V. Mason,

8 1 Cor. xiv.

F. Mason, "God'^ hath in his word precisely commanded, so
far as it is commanded, is necessary to be done ; for the not
doing of it is a sin. Whatsoever God hath forbidden, so long
as it is forbidden, is necessary to be left undone ; for the very
doing of it is a sin. Whatsoever is neither commanded nor
forbidden, that, whether it concern Church or commonwealth,
is left to the Lord's vicegerents upon earth ; who, according
to the exigence of the state, may by their direction command
it to be done or left undone, and both without sin." For the
sake of example, the words of the same author in another
place may be quoted as most apt to this argument : " That ^
there shall be ministers in the Church of Christ is a thing
necessary ; but whether they shall execute their public func-
tion in a white garment or a black God hath neither com-

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 3 of 83)