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 4 of 83)
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manded nor forbidden. It is a thing indifferent in itself. To
baptize is the perpetual commandment of Christ, but whether
the water should be applied by dipping, or by sprinkling, once,
or thrice, God has neither commanded nor forbidden. It is
in itself a thing indifferent." But though these things are in
themselves indifferent, they may severally become binding
upon us by reason of circumstances. From some things in
themselves indifferent it may be our clear duty to abstain, if
they are forbidden to us by a competent authority; and like-
wise other things indifferent in themselves it may be our
equally clear duty to practise, because by a like authority
they have been required, even as children in many things in
themselves indifferent cannot refuse to obey their parents
without being guilty of grievous sin. As regards things of
eternal and invariable obligation, they are written in the Book
of Life ; " Holy Scripture ^ contains all things"" in themselves
"necessary to salvation." There is registered what is in
itself necessary for a Christian man to believe, to do,- or to
leave undone, that he may please God here and inherit glory
hereafter : but " things indifferent ^ being of a variable nature,
are referred to the direction of the Church, as may appear
from the words of Holy Writ, ' Let all things be done p de-
cently and in order:' wherein the Spirit, speaking to the
Church, willeth all things to bo done after a good manner ;
not defining what manner, but refen-ing all to her discretion,
so all things be ordered in an honest and decent manner."




It must not be forgotten, as connected with the subject of
the authority of the Church, that in matters of faith all the
eccentricities of the human mind have to be dealt with. Still,
if the theory of a Church uniting men in a common faith is
admitted at all, those eccentricities must be confined within
some circle of doctrine. There must be some limits, which
may not be transgressed.

" sunt certi denique fines SS."

There is no need of inquiring here how ample or how strait
those bounds should be ; but some limit must somewhere be
placed, and the circle may not, nay cannot be justly defined
by this or by that individual. It must be marked out by that
branch of the Church to which the individuals belong ; that
is, by those who constitute that branch of the "Church** by

The provincial synods of the English Church are her repre-
sentatives. Would that their authority were now healthfully
exerted to guide and to tranquillize! for where "strife is \ there
is confusion and every evil work." That authority is capable
of giving directions powerful to heal many a breach. It might
raise its voice in accents which would soothe many a trouble.
It might supply arbitration satisfactory for reconciling many
a difference; "and the fruit J of righteousness is sown in
peace of them that make peace." Then, perhaps, the lan-
guage of S. Ignatius to the Ephesians might find a fuller
realization in this land : " The presbytery \ worthy of all
honour and of their heavenly calling, are attached to their
bishop even as cords to a lyre ; thus blended to express that
concord and lovely harmony which is under the guidance and
protection of Jesus Christ. Though ye are individuals, yet
combine in one chorus, that so joining in voice and heart ye
may be united in heavenly sympathies, and become as one
in offering the sacrifice of consenting worship to God the
Father, and his well-beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who
saith, ' Grant to them, holy Father, that as I and thou art
one, so they too may be one in us.' "

^ TO yap a^iovoiiactTov irpt(j(3uT(piov a^iuv bv tov Q(ov, k. t. X. — S. Ignat.
ad Eph. p. 119. Paris, 1562.

gg Hot. Sat.
i. ]. 106.

1' Canon 139.

i Epist. S.
James iii.

J Epist. S.
James iii.


* C'rakan-
tlior])e, I)cf.
Kccl.Ang. p.
144. Lond.

•> dioiKitcrii.
c Arihbp.
Potter, Ch.
Gov. p. 209.





I. Diocesan synods the first ecclesiastical councils after the apostolical age.
II. Each bishop with his presbyters constituted an independent authority in
the primitive Church. III. Dr. Hammond's opinion against the apostolical
appointment of presbyters incorrect. IV. High authority of presbj'ters in
connexion with their bishop. V. Thrones or places of honour assigned to
them in synods. VI. English diocesan synods. VII. Ancient form of holding
diocesan synods in England. VIII. Their disuse in later times. IX. Diocesan
synods not restrained by 25 Hen. VIII. c. 19, and whimsical interpretation
of that act by members of the learned profession, X. \Miat clergy members
of diocesan synods. XI. The '* corona presbyterii."

Uavi' fit) ^avaaQ to. rov Oiov aTinfiara (it'iKnQ X^P'-

EuRiP. Ion, 534.

" . . . . Antiquam cxquiritc matrem."

ViRG. yEn. lib. iii. !)G.

I Diocesan s '- ^^^ earliest ecclesiastical councils held immedi-
nods tiie first cc- atclv after the apostolical age were what are now

clcsiastical coun- t t t mi • t i

ciis after the apos- termed dioccsan synods. That appellation did
age. ^^^^ however, then belong to them ; the word

" diocesan ^ " having been derived at a later period from a term ''
used in the civil division of the Roman empire. As the offices of
metropolitans ^ and the divisions of the Church into provinces,
were not generally established until the end of the second, or
the beginning of the third century, the affairs of each dio-
cese (using the word in its present sense) were commonly
managed, in the age immediately succeeding that of the
Apostles, independently by the respective bishops with their
presbyters in diocesan synods. Their common deliberations

:hap. II.]



and judgment were subject only to God's word, and to the
faith, disciphne, and government established by the Apostles,
and handed down from them. " The acts and determination "^
of the bishop and his colleagues, agreeable to the analogy of
faith and form of government in the Catholic Church, were as
valid and obligatory within their own communion as if they
had been actually confirmed by all the bishops . . . and the
acts of a diocesan synod were within the bounds of that autho-
rity full and sufficient ecclesiastical laws."

The bounds of diocesan authority embraced divers congrega-
tions, though they might be designated under the appellation of
one Church ; for it is clear when there were several congrega-
tions of believers in great and populous ^ cities and in their
neighbourhoods, that those several congregations were ad-
dressed as one Church. Though S. Paul gave this direction to the
Corinthians, "Let your women keep ^ silence in the churches,"
thus assuming plainly the existence of several congregations,
yet the dedication of his Epistle is " unto the Church s of God
which is at Corinth." In like manner the Scriptures speak,
not of the Churches, but in the singular number of the Church
at ^ Jerusalem, the Church at Antioch, the Church at Csesa-
rea, the Church at Ephesus, and also of the Church of the
Thessalonians, of Laodicea, of Smyrna, of Pergamus, of
Thyatira, of Sardis, of Philadelphia, though in some of those
places at least it must be supposed that there were several
congregations of Christians. From such evidence it may be
gathered, although every congregation may in one sense be
called a Church, yet that a collection of several congrega-
tions may be, and often was, rightly named 07ie Church., on
account of their common acceptance of one code of eccle-
siastical regulations, and of their common subordination to
the authority of one chief ruler.

And not only were the several congregations in populous
cities, where Christians were numerous, often united under
one bishop assisted by his associated presbyters, but also
congregations in adjacent* parts of the country were fre-
quently received under the same care and inspection, and so
were accounted as one Church. The very word first used
to signify a diocese fortifies this statement. Paroichia, or
parish, the original term signifying a diocese, means a neigh-

'' Kennett's
Eccl. Sy-
nods, p. 198.

•^ Pearson oji
the Creed,
p. 338. Lond.

f 1 Cor. xiv.

'' Pearson on
the Creed,
p. 338.

' Mosh. Inst.
Ecrl. Hist.
p. 44.


J Scap. Lc;
in verb.



'' Dr. Snape
in Convoca-
tions, 1718.
12mo. pp.

' Bingliam,
l)k. xvi. c.
1. 13.

"' S.Luke ii.


" Barrow,

Works, vol.

vii. p. 103.



o Barrow,

quoting Bas.

Selenr. or.

P Barrow,
Works, vol.
vii. p. 109.

bourliood, or, as the word is rendered by a high authority J in
such matters, "a holy neighbourhood," " accolarum conventus
sacraque vicinia." By that pari.sh or holy neighbourhood were
the boundaries defined within wliich diocesan synods exercised
their proper jurisdictions. Nor was it only in the earliest
ages of the Church that the term parish was used to signify
a diocese. It is to be found employed in this sense so late as
in the time of our Saxon king, Edmund, a.d. 943, in the con-
stitutions published in that year by Otho, archbishop of Can-
terbury. Certain, however, it is, that in the earliest times holy
rites and ecclesiastical laws, prescribed within the limits of
the respective dioceses for which they were framed, were ac-
counted as binding ; and various liturgies ^ were appointed by
the diocesans ^ within the like bounds. In our own country
the various " uses "" of Sarum, York, Hereford, Bangor, as
appearing in the old service-books, tend to remind us of the
ancient diocesan authority in matters of ritual. And even in
our own day we may still trace the remaius of those dissimi-
larities which of old time existed in different dioceses ; the
musical cadences and the harmonies adapted to the versicles
and responses of the English service-books still varying ac-
cording to ancient usage in the several cathedrals of our land.
For such as would jealously maintain the
constitution of the English Church, the pro-
ceedings of the early bishops, in taking counsel
with their presbyters for the government of
their respective dioceses, are matters of most
interesting inquiry.

The Apostles, at the first, like angel messengers, went
forth carrying the " good tidings ■" of great joy "'■' to all people.
S. Thomas" preaching in Parthia, S. Andrew in Scythia,
S. John in Asia, Simon Zelotes in Britain, S. Paul in many
countries, "so eagerly running" for the faith that he made
the world, as it were, too narrow for him." And when they
ordained pastors, and laid down rules for the good government
of the first Churches, it was their care to reserve to them-
selves " a paramount inspection^ and jurisdiction," a paternal '
care over them. This authority they claimed on account of
their spiritual parentage, because tlicy had begotten them

' iraTpiKt} iirifi'tXna.

II. Each bishop
with his presby-
ters constituted
an independent
authority in tlje
primitive Cliurcli.




unto Christ. In these words S. Paul impresses this truth
upon the Corinthians : " Though ye '^ have ten thousand in-
structors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers, for in Christ
Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel." And this
paternal relation will also account for the directions and ex-
postulations addressed to Timothy and to Titus by S. Paul in
his Epistles to those Bishops of Ephesus ^ and Crete ^ But
after the Apostles died, each in his appointed time, bishops
were generally on an equality* in authority. The subordination
of some bishops to others in the administration of spiritual
affairs arose by degrees, and was established in after times
frequently in accordance with the growth or decline of civil
authority in the various parts of Christendom. At first ^ each
Church, in most instances, being established separately under
its own bishop and presbyters, was said to be governed by
its own head", and to be subject to its own laws'"; and each
bishop then, with the advice of his presbytery the ecclesias-
tical senate, and with the subsequent concurrence of the laity ^,
established such regulations as were deemed suitable for the
discipline and wellbeing of that society over which he was

The learned Dr. Hammond^ has, however,
maintained an opinion that there is no evidence
of presbyters having been established, as a se-
cond order in the ministry, by the Apostles,
themselves ; and resting on the authority of
Clemens Romanus, and on some passages in Epiphanius, thinks
that there were at first bishops and deacons only under the
Apostles, without presbyters. But from S. Paul's directions
to Timothy, bishop of Ephesus, as to the manner y in which
he should treat the elders of that Church, we plainly gather
that there were presbyters, and not only deacons, subject at
any rate to that bishop ; and indeed the existence of pres-
byters in the apostolical age is sometimes asserted by Epi-
phanius ^ himself. The probability is, that in the earliest in-
fancy of the Church there might have been in some small

2 i. e. Each of the larger Churches. In some instances there were at first only
presbyters and deacons before ecclesiastical discipline was definitively arranged.
" In aliquibus Ecclesiis ab origine fuisse presbyteros nondum constitutis episcopis :
in aUquibus episcopos nondum additis presbyteris." — Bingham, i. 253, quoting
Pearson's Vindic. Ignat. p. ii. c. 13.

III. Dr. Ham-
mond's opinion
against the a])os-
tolical appoint-
ment of presby-
ters incorrect.

Horn. XV. in
1 Tim. tom.
VI. p. 510.
rar. 1033.
*^ Euseb. lib.
iii. cnp. 4.
t Barrow,
Works, vol.
vii. p. 34.5.
& Treatise
on Pope's
passim sub.




" S. Cypri-
an, ep."52.
r>5. 7'2, 73.

" Annot.
Acts .xi. 30.

y 1 Til

2 Bingham,
Antiq. vol. i.
p. 252, note.




a S. Clem,
ad Cor. i. p.
54. Oxon.

•> Bingham's
Antiq. book
ii. ch. IJ),
sec. (5.

° Acts XX.

e Mosh.

Inst. Eccl.

Hist. p. 107.



f Bingham,

Antiq. i.

256, quoting



e Lib. iii.

c. 15, de


h Ep. 55.

' Lib. ii. c.


^ Bingham,

i. 257.

' Hammond,
Aniiot. Rev.
iv. 4.

"'Bing. Ant.
i. 254.

places at first only bishops * and deacons, in others only pres-
byters and deacons, while yet it seems clear that in larger
and more populous communities the Apostles established, as
at Ephesus, bishops, presbyters, and deacons from the be-
IV. High au- For thc authority of the presbyters in con-

with their bishop'^, and that they w(

thority of presby-
ters in connexion

with then bishop, united with him as '■'■overseers'''' in regulating
the faith and discipline of their Church, an argument may
be drawn from S. PauFs address to those presbyters of
Ephesus to whom reference has just been made. " From
Miletus "= he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the
Church." And these were his touching words to them on
that occasion : "Take heed ^, therefore, unto yourselves and
to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you
' overseers ',' to feed the Church of God which He hath pur-
chased with his own blood." In conformity with these ex-
pressions of the Apostle, such honour and respect was paid
to the presbyters in the primitive age, that in the government
of the Church scarcely any thing was done without their
advice and consent. Being considered as an ecclesiastical
senate or council « to the bishop, as their advice was useful in
guiding his deliberations, so their authority availed to give
weight to his decisions. From these circumstances ' they
are called by S. Chrysostom^ "the court or sanhedrim of
the presbyters;" by S.Cyprian'' "the venerable bench of
clergy ;" by S. Jerome " the Church's senate ;" by Origen,
and by the author of the Apostolical Constitutions', "the
bishop's counsellors " and " the council of thc Church." And
though thc bishop '^ was " head and prince of this ecclesias-
tical senate," yet he did not of his own motion regulate the
government and discipline of his Church without their advice,
assistance, and consent.

V. Thrones or It was in accordauce with the high esteem
ai'gnef to'Tcm ^^ which prcsbytcrs wcre held, and with the
in synods. authority committed to them in the early

Church, that places of honour' were assigned to them. They
were allowed to sit" together with their bishop in the

3 Of coarse in this passage the word tTriaKOTTovc must be understood in its first
intention, as signifying "overseers" and not " bishops."




holiest part of the sacred buildings, a privilege never ex-
tended to deacons, much less to other persons. So Zonaras,
in treating of the fifty-eighth canon of those called Apostolical,
says, " that the seat for the bishop was placed on high, sig-
nifying his position, and that he ought to inspect from above
the people committed to his charge. The presbyters were also
appointed to be present, and to sit with the bishop, that they
too from that lofty seat might be induced to oversee the
people, and to assist the bishop, as being given to him for his
fellow-labourers *."" The seats, moreover, which the presbyters
occupied were dignified with the name of " thrones," differing
only in this respect from the seat of the bishop, that his was
called the high throne, while theirs were called the second
thrones. Indeed, so clearly were the presbyters entitled to
these thrones when sitting in council, that the expression
" those of the second thrones " was used as synonymous with
the word "presbyters;" as, for instance, when Oonstantine
summoned Chrestus ", bishop of Syracuse, to bring with him
two presbyters to the Council of Aries, he desired that he
should be accompanied by two " of the second throne ^" In
confirmation of this statement, that it was the custom and
privilege of presbyters to sit in council with their bishops,
Bingham assures us that the expressions " the joint session" of
the presbi/ters'" and '■'■ sitting "^ in the preshytery'''' occur com-
monly in the acts of almost every council, and in the writings
of all ancient authors on these subjects. And still further this
fact is confirmed by the language of Gregory Nazianzen in
his Vision concerning the Church of Anastasia — " Methought
I saw myself [as bishop] sitting on the high throne, and the
Ijresbyters, that is, the guides of the Christian flock, sitting
on both sides by me on lower thrones, and the deacons
standing by them^■'''

♦ ^la Tovro TOiQ STrtcricoTroic r) iv rt^ Qvaia(TTr]pi(fi KaOsSpa iip' v\pove 'iSpvrar
di]\ovvTOQ Tov Trpdyfiarog on StX tov vtt' avruv Xabv op^v a>p' 'v->povc Kai etti-
ffKoneXv a«:pi/3l(Tr£poV Kcil oi Trpeajivripoi avviaravat iKti ti[> i-maKoTTi^ kui (Tvi'Ka-
OfjdQai iraxOtjaav, "iva Kai ovtol Sia tIjq d(p' i5»poye ^aOsSpac Ivdywi'Tai itg to
i(pop<fv TovXabv Kai KaTapri^iiv avTov uxsTTip avfnrovoi SoQkvrtQ Tt^ gTricricoffff).
— Zonar. in Can. Apost. 58, p. 3. Paris, 1618.

* ffvi^tv^ag atavTi^ Kai dvo ys Tivag twv t/c rov Sivrkpov 9p6vov. — Euseb. Eccl.
Hist. lib. X. c. 5.

^ tZtadui SoKstaKov virsp9poi'og ovx vnepofpvg, k. r. \.— Greg. Naz. Op. torn.
ii. p. 78. Palis, 1630.

1 Binghanrg
Antiq. book
i. c. 19, sec.

o Consessns
rum. See
also King's
Ch. p. 74.
P Sedere in





VI. EnsHsh This whole subject is one of surpassing interest
diocesan synods. ^^ ^g j^ ^\^q English Church, because not only
are the models of primitive councils worthy of our imitation,
but because in our own country, from the earliest ages down
to a comparatively recent date, it has been the practice for
our bishops to convene their clergy in diocesan synods. The
examples of such councils during the Anglo-Saxon period of
our history (as we shall see in pursuing this subject) are both
numerous and instructive.

Diocesan synods are represented among us at this day
by episcopal ' visitations ; and it is a subject not unworthy
of consideration, whether a closer adherence to the primi-
tive model would not render such assemblies of greater
practical advantage. If our right reverend fathers in God,
the Engli.sh bishops, should in their wisdom determine to take
counsel with the elder and wiser presbyters of their dioceses
for the removal of such obstacles as will rise up from time to
time, threatening to impede the promotion of the Gospel of
Christ, and the growth of true religion and virtue within their
respective spheres — if they should be pleased to use the weight
of their paternal authority, in connexion with that of their
graver presbyters, for the plain assertion of any article of the
faith which may have been notoriously impugned — if they
should deem it advisable on such occasions to deliberate on,
to prepare, and to mature measures for the regulation of the
practical details of order and discipline — certain it is that the
hands of the less experienced and younger clergy would be
strengthened for their work by having the result of such
weighty counsels communicated to them. Certain it is that
the pious laity of the Church would derive much confirmation
to their faith, and much comfort to their minds, from that
unity of teaching and of practice which such a course would
tend to ensure. Certain it is that all the faithful of the same
diocese, whether clergy or laity, thus taught to realize their
union in one Christian family under their spiritual father,

' That is, so far as our modern visitations are a meeting of the clergy to unite in
holy service, and receive their bishop's instructions in the form of a charge; so far
as a court is then lield, it is probable that such a i)ractice is derived from tlie
Anglo-Saxon Folc-mote, in which the bishop and alderman sat with concurrent
jurisdiction.— Kennett, Eccl. Syn. pp. 234 and 221.



would feel themselves more strictly obliged to keep the miity
of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

VII. Ancient The manner of holding diocesan synods in
d'ioresans.vtdsin England during the age preceding the Reforma-
Engiand. ^Jqj-j j^-^^y I3Q learned from an account^ of the

synod held at Hereford in 1519. That diocese now contains
two archdeaconries, those of Hereford and Salop ; but it
appears that to this synod the clergy of the city of Hereford
and those within the jurisdiction of the dean and of the
archdeacon of Hereford only were summoned. Within those
jurisdictions the summonses were issued to the clergy of
" every ^ grade, state, and dignity," that they should appear
on Thursday, May 5th, in the chapter-house of the cathedral.

On the appointed day the mass " de Spiritu Sancto " was
sung at the high altar in the choir of the cathedral. A general
procession then took place through the city, the clergy of the
cathedral preceding, and chanting litanies. After returning
to the cathedral, and after the usual prayers for the synod
had been offered up, the Gospel^ "Designavit" ("the Lord
appointed seventy other also") was read, and the hymn " Veni
Creator" was sung. All the clergy, their names having been
first called over, proceeded to the chapter-house, where, by
the authority and command of Charles, bishop of Hereford,
Master William Burghill, treasurer of the cathedral and offi-
cial of the Consistory Court, published and declared certain
constitutions concerning the lives of the clergy and the refor-
mation of their conduct, which had been previously agreed
upon in an episcopal synod of the provinces of Canterbury and
York then lately held at Westminster. The synod was then
prorogued to three o'clock in the afternoon, and it was spe-
cially enjoined that none should depart without leave. At
the time appointed the members reassembled in the chapter-
house, when Master William Burghill read in the vulgar
tongue some articles upon the dress of the clergy, and upon
the lives and morals of the candidates for ordination. These
were recited in English for the better comprehension of those
whom they concerned. Some articles then followed touching
the prelates, copies of which were delivered by the bishop's
command to such as requested to have them. Sentences of
contumacy having then been read against such as had not

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 4 of 83)