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 7 of 83)
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and by what au- provincial syuods ; the Council of Nice indeed
ttority. ordered 1 in its fifth canon that they should -^ be

assembled twice in each year, in this direction agreeing with
the Apostolical Constitutions ', But in earlier times it is pro-
bable that the occasions of meeting varied according to the
requirements of the time, and the respective ^ customs of the
several provinces; for Firmilian, bishop of Csesarea in Cap-
padocia, says that in his province their synods ' were annual,
and that " the governors * of the Church met together emry
year to dispose those things which were committed to their
charge ;" while in the province of S. Cyprian they met some-
times as frequently ' as thrice in one year. In truth the prac-
tice on this head clearly varied in various provinces ; but
though it may be uncertain how often provincial synods were
held in the earliest age, yet subsequently "the canons ap-
pointed two synods " to be held * ordinarily every year in each
province/"' As regards our own country, the habit of con-
vening provincial synods twice a year seems to have prevailed
early, as we may gather from the acts of the Councils of Hert-
ford ^ and Challock^ or Chalk.

It need hardly be remarked, that the provincial synods

2 Stvripov Tov tTovg ovvoSog yiveaGw TiSJv tTTirrKOTrbtv, k.t.X. — Can. Apost.
36. Vide quoque Cone. Antioch. i. can. 20. Cone. Chalcedon. can. l!).

3 "Per singulos annos in unum concurramus." — King's Prim. Ch., quoting
apud Cyp. ep. 75.

■* " Per singulos annos seniores et prsepositi," &c. — Ibid. Vide quoque Cone.
Aurel. ii. can. 2 ; iii. can. 1 ; iv. can. 37.

5 Bingham quotes Cone. Nic. can. 5. Cone. Antioch. can. 20. Can. Apost.

« " Ut bis in anno synodus congregetur." — Cone. Herud. a.d. 673, can. 7-
Cone. Mag. Brit, i, 43. What follows in this canon appears to relate to an ex-
ceptional case.

7 " Tertio sermone, perstrinximus omni anno, secundum eanouicas institutiones,
duo concilia," &c.— Cone. Chalcuith. a.d. 785, can. 3. Cone. Mag. Brit. i. 146.

" Barrow's
"Works, vol.
vii. p. 352.
P King's
Prim. Ch.
p. 142.
q Manual
Count', p.

r See Field,
Of the Ch.
p. 513.

> King s
Prim. Ch.
p. 142.

t Prim. Ch.
p. 143.

" Bingham,
Eccl. Ant.
book ii. c.
16, sec. 17.




Prim. Ch.
: 144.

w Bingliam,

Ant. book ii.

c. 16, sec.


" Cone.

dial. Scss.

XV. can. ]9.

y Bingham,
book ii. c.
16, sec. 15.
^ Man.
Counc. p.

» Euseb.
Eccl. Hist,
lib. V. c. 23.
b Man.
Counc. p.
<^ King's
Prim. Ch.
p. 145.

of the first three ages were convoked by purely ecclesias-
tical authority, as the temporal magistrates ""j not being
then Christians, had little reason, and perhaps still less de-
sire, to challenge that power. Whether the power of con-
voking them rested at that time with the metropolitan
alone, it is hard to say ; but certainly this authority was
very soon put into his hands, and his circular letters called
" Synodic£e ^^ " and " Tractoria)," were summonses which no
bishop of the province might disobey under pain of suspension,
or at any rate of ecclesiastical " censure, at the discretion of
the metropolitan and the synod.

y. The metro- The metropolitan, chosen and consecrated by
but' his power Ti- ^is own provincial ^ bishops, presided in the
^^^^^- provincial synod, as S. Cyprian^ at Carthage,

Victor* at Rome, Irenseus^ at Lyons. His duty was to see all
matters calmly debated, carefully weighed, and fairly decreed ;
to take the votes of the members, and finally to give his own.
This may be learnt "^ from the account of the Council of Car-
thage, given at the end of S. Cyprian's works ; whence it
appeal's, that after all had been said and duly urged relative
to the question under discussion, he as metropolitan sununed
up, and demanded the judgment of the council. After the se-
veral members had respectively given in their votes, S. Cyprian
last of all tendered his own, thus affording presumptive evi-
dence that a metropolitan was not in that age armed with
arbitrary power, but that questions were concluded by the
majority in provincial synods.

There are indeed a cloud of witnesses on this point. The
thirty-third, or, as it is numbered by some, the thirty-fifth of
those called the Apostolical Canons, enacts thus : " Let the
primate do nothing without the consent of all the other bishops,
so concord will be preserved and God glorified'." The sixth
canon of the Council of Nice (a.d. 325) decrees that, if an
opposition is made to the common opinion, " the votes of the
majority shall prevail"." The ninth canon of the Council of
Antioch (a.d. 341) declares that as "each bisliop should not

* aWa /iiidt tKHvof ai'iv rijg wavrojv yvw/nijf Troitirio ri' ovTug yap 6/ioj'oia
tffTai, Kai So^affOiifferai 6 Qiog Sid Kvpiov Iv dyiip llvtv[iari. — Can. Apost. 33,
alias 35.

'■* idv . . . Svo fj TpilQ Si' oiKfiav <pi\oviiKiav dvriXiytnat, KpaTiirui >) tuiv
TT\ti6vu)v 4''/0oc. — Cone. Nic. can. 6.




proceed to do any extraordinary act without the authority
of his metropohtan, so neither should the metropohtan act
without the consent of the other bishops \" Again, the nine-
teenth canon of this same Council of Antioch, in accordance
with the sixth canon of Nice before quoted, enacted, that
"in case of dispute the votes of the majority should pre-
vail." In one of the Councils of Aries, held a. t>. 452, it was
declared " that if doubt or hesitation arose, the metropolitan
should side with the greater number^;" which rule seems to
coincide with S. Cyprian's practice of tendering his vote last ^
of all. And the fifty-sixth canon of the same council seems to
impose a general restraint upon the power of the metropolitan,
and in the following words of wide signification forbids his as-
suming any appearance of absolute authority — " This should
be carefully guarded against, lest the metropolitans should
imagine that any prerogative can be claimed by them in op-
position to the provincial synod *.''''

Notwithstanding such precedents, a far higher degree of
authority than is fairly deducible from any primitive practice,
ancient canons, or indeed, as it is believed, from any known
law or custom whatever, has been challenged of late for the
English metropolitans over their respective provincial synods or
" convocations." The more modern instances of these claims
are based upon legal opinions which have too little foundation
to require any serious consideration, as they only present the
appearance of such haphazard thoughts as would be thrown off'
at random by advisers lacking either skill or industry, or both,
in the prosecution of their professional calling.

There is, however, an authority well worthy of notice and con-

' sKaaTov yap iiriaKO-rrov .... Trrpairlpw U fitjSiv Trpdrrtiv iTrixitptlv, Sixa
Tov TiJQ jUJjrpoTTo'Xfwc iTtiaKonov, firjSi avrbv dvtv Trjg tuip Xoiirwv yvdjfirjg. —
Cone. Antioch. i. can. 19.

^ di'TiXeyoitv Ss Tivtg Si' o'lKiiav (piXoviiKiav, Kpartlv T))v twv ttXhovwv
\lifj(j)ov. — Cone. Antioch. i. can. 19.

* " Quod si inter partes aUqua nata fuerit dubitatio, majori numero metro-
politanus in electione consentiat." — Cone. Arelat. ii. can. 5.

* " Hoc enim placuit eustodiri, ut nihil contra magnam synodum metropolitani
sibi aestiment vindieandum." — Cone. Arelat. ii. can. 56.

Mem. — This topic has been enlarged by the aid of Dr. R. PhilUmore's opinion
on this subject, though the greater part of it was written previously to the appear-
ance of that learned production.

d Vid. p. 58,




fJbid. Ad-
denda in fit

S lliid. p.

sideration, which claims very extensive powers for metropolitans
over their provincial synods. Bishop Gibson, in his " History
of Convocations,"" says that the metropolitan is not only "head^
of the proceedings in both houses {i. e. of convocation), but what
is more, has a final negative upon them." In another place he
says, " Even ^ in canons and all matters passing by subscription,
the metropolitan's ancient authority remains so far entire, that
without his concurrence the agreement of all the rest is not
the act of convocation, nor can be presented as such to the
prince for his royal confirmation." And in another place again
we find these words: "All synodical acts, to which ^ the royal
licence is not necessary, receive their final authority from tlie
sanction of the metropolitan, *. e. they still pass in the ancient
canonical icay?'' Now those statements emanate from a most
learned divine, who, unlike some of our modern advisers of
another profession, read deeply and thought carefully before
he recorded his opinions on such matters : they are therefore
worthy of much consideration. But if such powers do now
indeed belong to the office of metropolitan, that '''•ancient
authority'''' here pleaded for them, that '"'•ancient canonical way''''
suggested as entailing these rights, must be considered as
expressions referring not to the apostolic times, not to the
purer ages of the early Church, but to those later times
of our history in which the influences of the Roman power had
overborne the original elements of ecclesiastical government,
and in which the system of lodging all attainable power in the
person of some nominee of the pope, had sapjied the very
foundations of this national Ciiurch, and introduced through
the breaches of her outworks an array of hostile authority,
neither known to the synods of the primitive ages, nor to
her own earlier ecclesiastical assemblies. It must however be
borne in mind that the right reverend writer above quoted was
certainly not prone to underrate the authority and privileges
attached to the most dignified persons among the English
clergy ; and further, as a matter of history, these powers of
our metropolitans (if they do exist) cannot be referred in
strictness to " ancient authority'''' or " the ancient canonical
fcay'''' in the sense of primitive practice; for they certainly
have been derived through Roman precedents of later ages,
and have grown up from circumstances connected with poli-




VI. The com-
provincial bishops
in provincial sy-
nods : their rights
of precedence —
their obligation to

tical influences, and from a backwardness on the part of the
suffragan bishops (not to mention the humbler clergy) to
assert rights entailed by ancient inheritance on the less ex-
alted members of our provincial synods.

Next to the metropolitan, in provincial synods,
ranked the bishops of the several dioceses, who,
having received their ''Synodicae" or " Trac-
torise," writs of summons from their metro-
politan, might not omit to appear save on the
ground of ill health'. It appears that among the bishops
some had a peculiar deference paid to them, not on account of
their age so much as "out'' of regard to the eminency of their
see, as being some mother Church, or at least one particularly
honoured by ancient prescription." This may be observed in
an instance before quoted, where Narcissus of Jerusalem was
associated with his metropolitan, Theophilus of Csesarea, in
the Synod of Palestine ', on account of that honorary dis-
tinction ever accorded to the Bishop of Jerusalem; for, "asJ
the Council of Constantinople words it . . . Jerusalem ^ was
the mother of all other Churches." Nor is this custom entirely
overlooked in our provincial Synod of Canterbury : the Bishop
of London, as dean of the province, inherits peculiar official
pre-eminences; and the Bishop"^ of Winchester, next to him,
enjoys certain rights attached to his see also.

In the ancient provincial synods, with the exception before
mentioned, the bishops took their places according to seniority ;
and in that order ' they so sat in deliberation, so voted, and so
had their names subscribed to the acts ; and this practice was
established not only by the canons of the Church ^ but by
the enactments of the civil laws'. And so particular were they
about this right of precedence, that there was kept in the metro-
politan church a "matricula™" or "archivus," in fact a register,
by which each bishop might be able to prove the date of his

^ " Excepta gravi infirmitate corporis." — Cone. Agatliens. can. 35.

" ttIq Si fiijTQOQ avaawv twv iKKXrjffioiv Trjg tv 'lipoaoXvfxoig. Bingham
quotes Labbe, vol. ii. p. 966, b. ii.

7 Bingham quotes Cone. Milevit. can. 13. Labbe, vol. ii. p. 1541, b. v. " Poste-
riores anterioribus deferant." Also Cone. Braear. i. can. 24. Labbe, Cone. ii.
can. 6, vol. v. p. 840 : " Cseteri episcoporum, secundum suse ordinatiouis tempus,
alius alio sedendi deferat locum."

* Bingham c^uotes Cod. Justin, lib. i. tit. iv. c. 29, iTrKTKoirujv tSjv Kara
Ti)v Tu'iLV TTJs x^'poroviac TrportvovTuiv.

h Bingham's
Ant. book
ii. c. 16, sec.

• Eus. lib. v.


J Bingham's

Ant. book

ii. c. 16, sec.


" See Synod
of London,
an. 1075.
Cone. Mag.
Brit. vol. i.
p. 363.

' Bingham,
Ant. book
ii. c. 16, sec.

"^ Bingha
book ii. c
16, sec. 8




" ningliain,
book ii. c. ] 0",
sec. 9.

o Can. 19.

P Vide Stil-
Ori?. Brit,
p. 77.

ordination and consecration, and so to claim his proper place in
the provincial synod. And this might have become under some
circumstances a matter of very grave importance, because if
the metropolitan " was disabled by infirmity or sickness, or
became disqualified for the proper discharge of his office by
irregularity or suspension, his powers devolved on the senior
bishop of the province, who was empowered under such unusual
circumstances to discharge the functions of the person so in-

The bisliops of the province were not only obliged to
attend their provincial synod unless they could shew good
cause for absence, but they might not depart before the
business proposed was concluded. Indeed, to enforce this
duty of attendance throughout the synodical deliberations,
there was this decree passed in the second Council of Aries :
" If any one neglects to be present, or leaves the assembly of
his brethren before the council be ended, he shall be excluded
from the communion of his brethren, and not be received again
till he is absolved by the following synod"."

VII. Presbyters "^^6 right P of prcsbyters to be called to pro-
nwis— tbc?li^ht vi"cial synods, to sit and to deliberate as con-
denied by some of stituent members of them, is one which should

later times — tlie ...

objectors answer- be most careiuUy traced up to pnuutive prac-
cng 1. i[QQ_^ inasmuch as it is a right now enjoyed by

them in the English Church — a right of extreme importance
to her, and one affecting the very elements of her convocations.
Now this right may be dated even from the very beginning" :
and if it belonged to the prcsbyters of the Church in primitive
and early ages, it will surely be allowed to have been entailed
upon those of later times from a source calculated to impress
us with its importance, and to fortify their enjoyment of it by
sanctions of the gravest authority.

There have not, indeed, been wanting persons who have sug-
gested that the present constitution of our provincial synods
originated in causes connected with state purposes, and that
presbyters of ancient right have no place in them. Those who
would subjugate our Church, with all her functions, rights, and

* 7rpoKa9t][i'(vov rov linaKoirov i'iq tottov Oiov, Kal riov Trpfff/Syrspwr tig
TOTTov avviSpiov rwv unoaToXiiyv. — Epist. S. Ignat. ad Magnes. p. 27. Paris,




privileges, hopelessly at the feet of the civil power ; and those\
on the other hand, who would fain place her under the iron heel
of papal jurisdiction,defend their respective positions under the
same outwork, and forge their weapons of oifence on the same
anvil. And as great pains have been taken to shew that our
convocations are not modelled upon the form of the ancient
provincial synods, the reader who is well disposed to the con-
stitution of our national Church and jealous of her inherent
rights, as conferred upon her by divine inheritance, and properly
entailed on her in accordance with the examples of primitive
antiquity, will not be indisposed to peruse some undeniable
proofs that in the first ages of Christianity presbyters were
constituent members of provincial synods.

" It is''," are the words of a very learned man, "the par-
ticular privilege of English priests to have a right to sit as
constituent members in provincial synods ; and are owned, in
all conclusive acts, to have a negative on the bishops." Now
if by the words "particular privilege" is meant that this very
great and valuable privilege is annexed to the offices of Eng-
lish presbyters, viz. that some of their body have a right to
sit as constituent members in our provincial synods, nothing
can be more true. And long may this privilege be continued —
authorized by apostolic example in the Council of Jerusalem,
confirmed by the precedents of the primitive ages, and entailed
upon that order in the ministry from the earliest times of our
history by the constitution of this national Church. But if
these words "particular privilege" are meant to signify a privi-
lege which has appertained to Enghsh presbyters, and to
them only, and which never attached to that order in the early
ages of Christianity and the purer times of Church govern-
ment — if these words mean to suggest that we cannot appeal
to antiquity, and there point out the true originals of our
convocations and the models upon which they are constituted,
then, in disproof of such an assertion, the following facts are
not unworthy of consideration.

Now abundant evidence "^ may be produced that presbyters,

even from the earliest antiquity, had places in provincial

synods, and in those larger ecclesiastical assemblies where many

bishops met. Not to insist again here upon the example of

I Cellotius the Jesuit, and Bellarmine, de Concil. lib. i. c. 15.

q Johnson's
Vad. Mec.
vol. ii. pi'ef.
p. 56.

of Christ's
Ch. pp. 391,
392. Brett,
Ch. (Jov.
,,p. 328-
333. Bing-
ham, Eccl.
Ant. book
ii. c. 19, sec.




« Vid. stip.
chap. i. sec.


' Bingham's
Ant. book
ii. c. 19, sec.

" Bom about
A. I). 200.
* Cvp. ep.
1, ap. Att.
Rights, p. 5.

w Wake's
State, p. 95,
apud S. Cyp.
p. 229.

" Euseb.

Eccl. Hist.

lib. vii. c.


y Ibid. c. 30.

■'■ Ibid.

the Council of Jerusalem, where the presbyters were joined*
in council with the Apostles, and which has been sufficiently
considered above, some proofs of this fact derived from various
sources shall be cited in chronological order.

The Synod of Alexandria', held a.d. 230, under Demetrius,
in which Origen was deposed from the priesthood, was com-
posed of both bishops and presbyters'^. Then we have the
testimony of S. Cyprian " on this head when he thus writes :
" I and my colleagues ^ who were present were deeply moved,
as were also the associated presbyters * wlio sat loith us^ In
the Synod of Rome, convened against Novatus and the sect
of the Cathari, about a.d. 255, "Sixty* bishops, with a
greater number of presbyters and deacons, assembled." In
that of Carthage "', held about a. d. 256, concerning the
rebaptization of heretics, the provincial bishops met, together
with presbyters and also deacons. In the great Council
of Antioch, held about a. d. 264, where a very great
number^ of bishops were present in order to confute the
heresy of Paulus Sainosatenus, presbyters ^ and deacons
were present ; and further, they all joined on this occa-
sion in the synodical^ epistle dispatched to Dionysius and
Maximus, respectively bishops of Rome and Alexandria.
But what is more to our present purpose, as shewing the
position which presbyters then held in the larger and more
important synods, when the disputation was here deemed of
such importance that the whole proceedings ' were written
down, a presbyter^ named Malchion was the chief speaker;
and " he alone prevailed ' to unmask the deep and deceitful
heretic." This is a most important precedent ; and the fact
that this INIalchion was only a presbyter at that time is un-
questionable, Eusebius informing us that he had been ad-

2 "LvvoSoQ dOpoiZtrat imaKOTZiuv, Kai rtvUv Trpta/SvTiptov, kut' 'Qpiyivovt;. —
Paniphil. Apol. ap. Phot. Cod. cxviii. p. 298; apud Bingham, ut sup.

* "Et compresbytcri nostri, qui nobis assidebant." — Cyp. cp. 1, apud Att.
Rights, p. 5.

* e^TjKOvra . . . iiriffKOTrajv, 7rXftd»/wj' Ik tri /laXXoi' Trpfajivripiov ri Kai dia-
Kovuiv, K.T.X. — Euseb. Ecc. Hist. lib. vi. sec. 4.'}.

' iiri<Jt]iJH0Vfi'EP<Dv TaxvypaijtMV. — Euseb. Ecc. Hist. lib. vii. c. 29.

" nakiara Sk avTov ivQvvaq iiriKpvTrrofiivov SirjXtyKi MaXxiioi^. — Euseb.
Ecc. Hist. lib. vii. c. 29.

^ fxoi'OQ laxvfft . . . Kpv\pivovv ovTa Kat d^rarjjXui' (jnopdaai tuv ui'OpuJTTov. —
Euseb. Ecc, Hist. lib. vii. c. 29.




mitted to that' order on account of his "exceeding sincerity
in the faith of Christ."

It is expressly stated ^ in the acts of the Council of Eliberis,
in Spain, held about a.d. 300, that there were thirty-six /)rgs-
hyters sitting with the bishops, while the deacons and people
stood in their presence '.

In the first Synod of Aries, held a.d. 814, the names of
fifteen presbyters^ are found among the subscribers, though
many of the subscriptions are lost ; and it may be remarked,
that in the tractorise or letters of summons to this synod,
Chrestus, bishop of Syracuse, was ordered to bring with him
" two ' of the second throne," i. e. two presbyters, as was
observed in the previous*^ chapter.

In the first Synod of Toledo, held September 1, a. d. 400,
when the bishops entered the church, the presbyters ^ are
represented as sitting with them, while the deacons stood by.

In the synod held under Hilarius, a.d. 461, the presbyters^
of Rome all sat together' with the bishops, and the deacons
stood by them.

In a synod® held under Felix, a.d. 487, seventy-six pres-
byters are mentioned as having sat together with the bishops,
the deacons as in the former case standing by them.

In a synod ^ held under Symmachus, a. d. 499, sixty-seven
presbyters * subscribed in the same form as the bishops, and
indeed here the names of six deacons are added.

In another synod ^ under the same, held a. d. 502, thirty-
six presbyters ° are mentioned as sitting with the bishops, the
deacons standing as before.

Such was ^ also the case in the fifth and sixth synods held
under the same Symmachus.

* TrpeajSvTipiov rj/t; nvroOi TrapotKiaQ riK.mfiei'OQ. — Euseb.Ecc. Hist. lib. vii. c. 29.
^ " Triginta et sex (edit. Mendosse) presbyteris, adstantibus diaconis et omni

plebe." (Bingham cites Labbe, vol. i. p. 969.)

' (fvo 7-6 Tivag rwv sk tov Stvrepov Opovov. — Euseb. Ecc. Hist. lib. x. c. 5.

- " Convenientibus episcopis in ecclesia . . . considentibus presbyteris, adstan-
tibus diaconis." — Bingham, Eccl. Ant. b. ii. c. 19, sec. 12, cites Labbe, vol. ii.
p. 1223 B.

' " Residentibus etiam universis presbyteris, adstantibus quoque diaconis." —
Bingham cites Justell. BibUothec. Jur. Can. Concil. Rom. vol. i. p. 250.

•* " Subscripserunt presbyteri numero Lxvii."— Ibid. p. 259.

* " Residentibus etiam presbyteris, Projectio, Martino, &c., adstantibus quoque
diaconis." — Ibid. p. 261.

3 Bingham,
Eccl. Ant.
book ii. c.
19, sec. 12.

^ Ibid, cites
Labbe, vol.
i. p. 1429.

<^ Vid. sup.
chap. ii. sec.

d Bingham,
Eccl. "Ant.
book ii. c.
19, sec. 12.

g Ibid.

h Brett on
Cb. Gov.



' Brett, Ch.
Gov. p. 330.

Att. Rights,
p. 8.

J Bingham,
Eccl. Ant.
book ii. c.
19, sec. 12.

k Brett, Ch.
Gov. p. 330.
' Ibid, citing
can. 7.
■n Brett, Ch.
Gov. p. 330.
n Can. 3,
apud Brett.

o Bingham,
Eccl. Ant.
book ii. c.
19, sec. 12.

P Bellarm.
de Concil.
lib. i. c. 15.
de Contro-
vers. tom. i.
p. 1 160.
1 See also
r Brett, Ch.
Gov. p. 331.
s Bilson,
Gov. p. 392.
' Atterb.
Rights, p. 8.

" Atterb.
Rights, p. 9.

By the Spanish' Synod of Tarragona, a.d. 516, it was
particularly provided that the bishops should bring with
them to provincial synods preshyters not only from the

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 7 of 83)