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 5 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 5 of 83)
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t Wake's
State, Ap-
pendix, pp.
See also
Cone. Mag.
Brit. iii.

>■ Vid. Mo-
nit, in loc.

S. Luke
i. 1.



« Rcf. Le-

ffum. cap.
" Vid. Spel-
man, Cone,

" Cone.
Mag;. Brit,
iii. 238.

"■ Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 240.

appeared to the citation, the bishop gave his solemn benedic-
tion, and by his authority dissolved the synod.
VIII. Their dis- The rcasons which have caused the disuse of
use in later times. (JJocesan synods in England are not clear, when
we consider that such assemblies are specially commended to
us by the practice of the primitive Church, and that their
continuance was not only contemplated, but even enjoined by
the reformers*. It is clear that they were frequently held
in the British " and Anglo-Saxon Church ; and even after the
Norman Conquest, and the consequent deluge of aggressive
policy on the part of the papal power, the practice of holding
diocesan synods was not discontinued. That practice, indeed,
must have been very common between the Conquest and the
Reformation, considering that, notwithstanding the ages which
have elapsed, we have records of their having been held as
specified below ^ In addition to those proofs, it may be
added that in the convocation ^ of the province of Canterbury
held in the first year of King Henry IV., a.d. 1399, among
the "gravamina and reformanda" presented, one of the arti-
cles had especial reference to diocesan synods. By the thirteenth
of those articles^ it was required that in their "episcopal,"
i.e. "diocesan synods," "the bishops should order" certain
constitutions " to be read and explained in the vulgar tongue."
From which we may justly gather that such assemblies were
at that time usual.



Cone. Mag. Brit.


Cone. Mag. Brit.

At Worcester . .


. . Vol. i. 3G9

At INIaidstone .


. Vol. iii. 13

Hereford ..


i. 413



iii. 59



i. 501



iii. 74



i. 572



iii. 81

Worcester ..


i. GG5

Worcester .


iii. 270

Rochester ..


i. 685



iii. 329

Norwich ....


i. 708



iii. 564



ii. 25



iii. 598



ii. 41-2

Worcester . .


iii. 598



ii. 129

Doncastcr .


iii. 598

Chichester . .


u. I<i9

^ iii. 681

Isle of Man


ii. 175

Hereford .


I & Wake's

Chichester . .


ii. 183

) Ajip. pp.



ii. 293

L 210, 211.

Durham , , . ,


ii. 416



. . Vol. iii. 693

Isle of Man


ui. 10

BarneweU .


iii. 712




Though it would be difficult to investigate, and impossible
here to detail all the causes which have combined to render
diocesan synods less common since the period of the Refor-
mation, still some of those causes may be recognized in the
disorganized state of the Church which prevailed after that
event. But yet, though such assemblies have not been
common during the later part of our Church''s history, we
may still find some instances of their having been convened.
It is, indeed, probable that they have been held in much
greater numbers than can now be pointed out ; for as the me-
morials of our provincial synods are from various causes
somewhat scanty, it can be no matter for wonder if the
accounts of these humbler assemblies, the diocesan synods,
should be even less fully recorded. We may trace, how-
ever, the following instances of such assemblies held since
the Reformation. Diocesan synods were convened by Bishop
Davies, at S. Asaph ^ in 1561; by Bishop Freak, at Nor-
wich y, in or about 1580; by Bishop Bedel, at Kilmore^ in
1638; by Bishop Lloyd, at S. Asaph % in 1683; by Bishop
Philpotts, at Exeter, in 1851.

In addition to these recorded instances of diocesan synods
having been held in England since the Reformation, we have
contemporaneous testimony that in some dioceses such was the
usual practice. In the reign of King James I. Dr. Jackson
writes, that " he remembered ^ with joy of heart the synods of
the diocese in which he was born ;■" from which the plain in-
ference is, that those assembhes had been usual in the diocese
of Durham during his youth. And upon the authority of
Dr. Prideaux "= we are informed that " diocesan synods were
kept up in the diocese of Norwich [till the Rebellion], and all
the clergy of the diocese constantly met at them every year,
i.e. the clergy of Suffolk at Ipswich, and the clergy of Norfolk
at Norwich."

The threadbare argument, that ecclesiastical councils have
tended rather to division than unity, has been somewhat cla-
morously raised against the desirableness of convening diocesan
synods in accordance with the primitive models. But even if
this were the case (which is by no means admitted), an answer
well worthy of consideration might be found in the words of
that judicious divine, who, for the purpose of encouraging the

'f Cone. Mag.
Brit. iv. 228.
y Strype's
Ann. vol.
xi. pt. ii.
p. 382.
^ Cone. Mag.
Brit. iv. 537.
^ Cone. Mag.
Brit. iv. 608.

■> Dioces.
Syn. p. 51.
Lond. &




'^ Hooker's
Eccl. Pol.

2o,). Oxford.

e 25 Hen.
VHI. c. 19,
sec. 1.
f Ibid.

e 25 Hen.
VUI. c. 19.

revival of ecclesiastical synods in his day ^, thus wrote : " The
grievous abuse which hath been of councils should rather
cause men to study how so gracious a thing may again be
reduced to that first perfection, than in regard of stains and
blemishes, sithence growing, be held for ever in extreme dis-

IX. Diocesan It is Certainly a matter of just satisfaction to
strained "by ^25 niembcrs of the English Church to know, that
aiiTwhiiiisicai in- ^^^® assemljliug of dioccsau synods is not re-
terprctationofthat strained in like manner or degree with the

act bv members ... ...

of the learned pro- asscmblmg 01 the clcrgy m their provmcial S}'-
nods or convocations. By the Submission Act,
25 Hen. VIII. c. 19, the royal writ must precede the assem-
bling of convocations, as also the royal licence must be
granted before they may " attempt % allege, claim, or put in
ure," or " enact ^, promulge, or execute " any canons. But
the authority to assemble diocesan synods rests ultimately
and absolutely with the respective bishops of each diocese ;
nor is any one of them in this matter restrained by any law or
custom known to the constitution of this country.

It is indeed a matter of notoriety, that of late years a restraint
has been suggested as existing over our diocesans in this re-
spect ; and whimsically enough an endeavour to maintain such
a restraint has been founded upon the act^ just recited, u t
unfortunately for those who announced such a view, diocesan
synods w'ere authorized — nay more, commanded — by a com-
mission appointed under the terras of that act itself; so that
in the body of the statute we find a provision, from which a
sanction is at least derived for those very synods, which gen-
tlemen learned in the law have gravely stated ' that the act
restrains. It is notorious to all who have given even the most

" The following is an extract from " an opinion " given by two members
of the learned profession in 1851 ; one a barrister, the other a ci\-ilian. To the
" opinion," a copy of which now lies before the writer, their names are appended ;
but it is needless to add them here, as, in connexion with them, sufficient ridicule
has been e.xcited by the document in question. " We are of opinion that a dio-
cesan at/nod cannot be legally assembled or act without the Queen's writ ,- and
that lite 2oth Hen. VIII. {a. 19) extends not merely to the convocation assembled
for state pnrposes, but to every synod, whether provincial or diocesan, and
whether assembled for stale or merely for ecclesiastical purposes."






superficial attention to these matters, that it was enacted as
follows by a clause in the above-recited Submission Act : "the
king's** highness shall have power and authority to nominate and
assign at his pleasure . . , two-and-thirty persons of his subjects,
whereof sixteen to be of the clergy, and sixteen to be of the
temporality of the upper and nether house of the parliament
. . . and that the same two-and-thirty by his highness so to be
named shall have power and authority to view, search, and
examine the (said) canons, constitutions, and ordinances, pro-
vincial and synodal, heretofore made," &c. Subsequently,
and in conformity with this enactment, in the fifth year of
King Edward VJ., a.d. 1551, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
with seven bishops, eight divines, eight civilians', and eight
common lawyers, were appointed to revise the ecclesiastical
laws. The result of their labours is that well-known book,
" The Reformation of Ecclesiastical Laws^ first commenced hy
the authority of King Henry VIII., and afterwards matured by
King Edioard VI} " The latter king's premature death pre-
vented this draft from being incorporated with the statute
law of the land. But nevertheless the draft abides sufficiently
expressive of the intentions of our reformers, and among them
especially of the members of that commission appointed
in conformity with the terms of the act in question J. In
their draft not only are diocesan synods not restrained, but
on the other hand they are commanded. By one chapter '^
every bishop is ordered' to hold his synod. By another
chapter ™ the time is appointed for such synod, viz. once in
each year, between the second Sunday in Lent and Palm
Sunday, and no clergyman might absent himself without the
bishop's leave. By the same chapter rules for the due notices
of the synod are laid down. By another chapter" the form of
holding the diocesan synods is prescribed. At seven o'clock
the litany was ordered to be read, after which a sermon ° was
to be preached by the bishop or archdeacon ; then the com-
munion was to follow, and afterwards the bishop was to retire
with his clergy and deliberate upon such matters as required
consideration, the laity being excluded, with the exception of
such persons as the bishop requested to remain. By another

' " Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum ex authoritate primum Regis Henrici
VTII. inchoata, deiride per Regem Ed. VI. provecta," &c. — In titulo. Lond. 1640.

"' 25 Hen.
VIII. c. 19,
sec. 2.

' Strype's
Mem. Craii-
mer, p. 271.

J 25 Hen.
VIII. c. v.


Legum de

Ecclesia, c.


' Ibid, inloc.

•" Ibid. c. 20.

n Ref. Le-

fjum de Ec-
clesia, c. 21.

° Ibid, in




P Ref. Le-

gum de Ec-
clesia, c. 22.
1 Ibid, in

r Ibid. c. 23.
« Ibid, in loc.

' 25 Hen.
VIII. c. 1

" 25 Hen.
VIII. c. 19.

V 25 Hen.
VIII. 0. 19,

sec. 1.


Com. vol. i.
p. JJ8.

chapter P the subjects are specified which were to be treated
ofi in diocesan synods, such as corruptions of doctrine,
ecclesiastical controversies, questions of ritual. By another
chapter ^ the regulations ^ concerning the conclusion of dio-
cesan synods are defined. So far then from the practice of
convening diocesan synods being restrained by the Submission
Act', not only are the foregoing sanctions for holding them
derived from it, but such assemblies are absolutely commanded,
so far forth as the authority of that commission extended,
which was appointed in conformity with the provisions of our

But against those gentlemen of the learned profession who
have maintained that diocesan synods are restrained by the
Submission Act ", a heavier imputation lies than one of igno-
rance only, respecting some of the notorious and very important
histoi'ical consequences of that statute. It cannot be denied
that such an "opinion'" either betrays a w^ant of skill in inter-
preting an act of parliament, or else subjects its authors to
a just charge of something still more deeply to be deplored.
Charity forbids us to impute to them the graver fault, and
therefore we must suppose that so surprising an error resulted
from want of skill ; and yet it displays a want of skill almost
incredible, such as we seldom meet with, save when the rights
and privileges of the Church and clergy are concerned, and
when popular clamour prevails.

To set this matter in its true light, it must be remembered
that the Submission Act is a penal statute, and more — a
penal statute involving the most terrible consequences. The
breach of its provisions is punishable with "imprisonment^
and fine at the king's will." Now few men, even if their
studies do not particularly lie that way, are ignorant of the
universal principle of English law, that all penal statutes are
to be construed within the strict meaning of the letter of the
respective acts — a principle surely not to be relaxed in the
case of a statute charged with such terrors as these : and
this principle is so notorious that it would be a waste of time
to quote at length any authority on the subject "", or to give
instances of the deplorable consequences which must neces-
sarily ensue, if that principle was in any instance or in any
degree disregarded. What, then, are the terms of this statute



which has been relied upon as restraining diocesan synods ?
" Be ^ it therefore now enacted, according to the submission
of the said clergy, that they nor any of them from henceforth
shall presume to attempt, allege, claim, or put in ure any
constitutions or ordinances, provincial or synodal, or any other
canons : nor shall enact, promulge, or execute any such canons,
constitutions, or ordinances provincial, by whatsoever name
or names they may be called in their convocations in time
coming," &c. On this provision, then, of a highly penal sta-
tute, which places certain restraints upon provincial synods,
called among us convocations, are fastened, in this " opinion,"
the like restraints on diocesan synods, thus extending the terms
of the statute to that which it never contemplated, and doing
unexampled violence to those common rules which are uni-
versally admitted to govern the interpretation of English

There is indeed no lack of instances in which the just rights
and liberties of the Church and her ministers have been in like
manner assailed in sundry periods of her later history. It
would seem as though (if all cavillers are to be heeded) the
Submission Act was restrained within no bounds, as though
the arms of the royal prerogative were so capacious as to
embrace every possible function of the ministers of God's word
and sacraments in their corporate capacity. Thus not only
has the right of bishops to hold their diocesan synods been
denied, but a like restraint was at one time suggested, as
existing even over episcopal and archidiaconal visitations. To
put an end to such assumptions it is a matter of history that
it was once considered necessary to have recourse to the counsel
of the judges, and to issue in accordance with that counsel a
royaly proclamation. In the thirteenth year of King Charles I.'s
reign, the opinions of the two lords chief justices, the lord
chief baron, and the rest of the judges and barons, were
had and certified on certain particulars. One of these was,
" whether bishops, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical per-
sons, may or ought to keep any visitation at any time unless
they have express commission or patent under the great seal of
England to do it?" The learned judges having taken this into
serious consideration, " unanimously concurred, and agreed in
opinion, and certified under their hands," among other things.

^ 25 Hen.
VIII. c. 19,
sec. 1.

y Sparrow's
p. 133.



'• Sparrow's
p. 133.

a Ibid. p.


I' Had,

<-■ Jolinson's
Viul. Mo.-,
vol. ii. p.

J Dioces.
Svn., Loud.

e S. Cyprian,
cpist. 20,
ad tin.

" that ^ the bishops, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical per-
sons, may keep their visitations as usually they have done,
without commission under the great seal of England so to
do." And as an order was made (which it is to be hoped has
been complied with) that " the * said certificate should be
enrolled in all his majesty ""s courts at Westminster,'''' as well
as elsewhere, " for the satisfaction of all men ;" there seems
a respectable guarantee that this unanimous determination
would not be subsequently impugned, and that no attempts
would afterwards be made, more especially by any members of
the learned profession connected with those courts, to assail
the just rights and proper duties of our right reverend fathers
in God in the discharge of their episcopal office. There was
here some reasonable ground of hope that, to use the words
of the royal proclamation issued on the occasion alluded to,
.such "a public^ declaration of these the opinions of his
(majesty"'s) reverend and learned judges being agreeable to
the judgment and resolutions of former times," would " settle
the minds and stop the mouths of all unquiet spirits, that for
the future they presume not to censure ecclesiastical minis-
ters in these their just and warrantable proceedings, and
hereof his majesty admonisheth all his subjects to take warn-
ing, as they shall answer the contrary at their perils." There
are however in these days spirits no less unquiet, whose opened
mouths and unsettled minds would seem to i-ender it not un-
reasonable that such an admonition should be repeated.
^. ,,., , In the early ^ Church it is not clear what was

X. A^ hat clcr- -^

jry members of the Settled law by which any particular number of
the clergy could claim the privilege of being called
as assessors with the bishop in diocesan synods ; but we may
fairly conclude that the choice of such persons as should enjoy
that honour was regulated by the custom of each Church. It
seems, however, pretty clear that all the clergy above the rank
of deacons were usually constituent members. In the third
century Cornelius, bishop of Home, thus writes: ''The whole ''
proceedings having been laid before me, it seemed good that my
presbytery should be assembled ... in order that by weighty
advice it might be settled by consent of ail.'''' S. Cyprian's
language^ in one of his epistles is, " I have done nothing new
in your absence, only what had been long since begun by the




common advice of us all has on an urgent occasion been
completed." The pious and eloquent Borromeo, in his opening-
address to his eleventh diocesan synod, addresses ^ the assem-
bly as comprising the ^chole clergy ; and to come nearer home,
to the diocesan synod held at Hereford in 1519, the clergy of
every "graded, state, and dignity" were summoned. From these
instances, taken from different times and countries, and which
might be multiplied, it appears that all the presbyters at least
ought to be called, in order to render a diocesan synod complete.
The glowing ^ language of Borromeo, in the address to his
clergy assembled in that synod, which has just been alluded to, is
well calculated to impress us with a sense of the high and holy
functions of such assemblies, and of the blessings which might be
expected to ensue if they were convened under the influence of
like sentiments with those which animated that holy man.
"What do we here, my brethren ? We hold a synod, and what
doth that name import — a congregation, and an assembly — of
whom? Even of the most excellent and eminent in the holy
Church, such as her bishops and the members who are joined to
him by ties of the closest union. . . But what are these who are
here assembled ? Alas ! my speech faileth me. Who is able
to conceive, much less to express, their dignity and their
excellent greatness ? These are they which season all this
people ; the fathers of this multitude ; the guides and teachers
of these souls ; spiritual physicians ; in this militant condition
generals of Christ their Lord ; suns to lighten, and salt to
give savour * to these people. Christ indeed is ' the Sun of
righteousness.'' Yet of these it may well be said, ' Ye are
the light of the world."* Clouds they are, charged and laden
with the showers of God's grace, which they shed over all.
They are saints dedicated unto God — the very apple of his
eye. They are the consecrated property of Christ their Lord.
Great indeed is such a congregation as this ! But these are
not all ; for (which is greater still) with them is present the
very Son of God Himself, the Lord Jesus, unless we put
a bar against Him. For if ' where two or three are gathered
together '' in his name He hath promised ' to be in the midst
of them,"* how much rather will He be present in the midst
not of two, but of nine hundred and more ; when we are not
2 Soles — sales tantarum gentium.

f Dioc. Sv
p. 66.

e Wake's
A pp. pp.
•210, 211.

f" Dioccs.
Syn. p. 66.




i S. Ignat.
Kp. ad Mag-
nes. p. 27.
Paris. 1562.
J See Plan
of an An-
cient Ch.
Bintr. Ant.
ii. 464.
•* Thcodoret,
lib. V. c. 3,
torn. iii. p.
708. Par.

' See Ham-
mond on
Rev. iv. 4.
™ Lib. ii. c.
28. Labbe,
t. i. 265, c. 6.
" Bcllarm.
dc Concil.
lib. i. c. 15.

an indiscriminate mass, but his own priests, united in one in
his name ? when our affection is one, and we shall breathe
but as one ; when we shall direct all our aims and intentions
to seek his grace and his Holy Spirit ? ' If two of you ' (they
are our Lord''s own words) ' shall agree on earth touching any
thing which they shall ask the Father in my name, it shall be
done for them"" — how much rather may not we hope to obtain
in proportion to our being more eminently favoured of God, if
we agree in one aim, and with one mind promote his honour
and his glory, who hath Himself enjoined us to invoke his
Holy Spirit in these congregations of our synods ? "

XI. The "CO- Such was the address of that holy man, shew-
rona pres y em. .^^ ^|^^^ j^ j^j^ ^.^^ j^^ held the presbytery in

like esteem with that which they had been wont to enjoy in
the primitive ages. That esteem harmonizes perfectly with
the high honour which has been accorded in a very peculiar
manner to the presbyters of our national Church; for not only
have they been counted as members of the diocesan synods
of England, but of her provincial and national synods too.
Of the high position of the presbyters in connexion with
their bishop all ' antiquity speaks. The thrones on which they
sat^ were on either side of the bishop's, in the form of a semi-
circle about the altar, his being called the middle ^ throne ' or
the middle seat, theirs the second thrones. Hence the pres-
byters are called by S. Ignatius " the spiritual crown of the '
presbytery," and by the Apostolical Constitutions "the'" crown
of the Church." United with their bishop they were the
" corona presbyterii," " the coronet of the presbytery," the
Church's glory and defence.

It is, however, matter of history that constant endeavours
have been made, and indeed with much success, under Italian
influences", to deprive presbyters of their right to sit in the
larger synods. The captive woman weeping aforetime over the
ruins of her native city, is represented as uttering this mournful
complaint :

" Reft of thy coronet of tower.s,
Dark blots of ashes stain those tearful courts
I may no longer tread *."

3 ti di

fitffOQ VujKog ipiv yeii'if,

-Thcodoret, ut supra.

OTTO Si artipui'av KSKapaai, k.t.X. — Eurip. Ilec. 8Q8.




May the spiritual fabric of our national Church never be
thus despoiled, nor her ancient glories thus defiled in the dust !
From this city of the living God may that diadem of defence,
" the coronet of her presbytery," never be thus rudely plucked !
We will hope better things, notwithstanding the desertion of
some once faithful, the rude assaults of open enemies, and the
still more dangerous attacks of pretended friends ; we will
devoutly cherish the expectation that the Church of England,
faithful to her early vows, will never, like the betrayed Nazarite,
suffer herself secretly to be shorn of her locks of strength ; but

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 5 of 83)