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 8 of 83)
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cathedral churches, but from the other churches of their
dioceses *.

In theJ second Synod of Braga, in Portugal, a.d. 560, we
find the presbyters ^ present with the bishops, the distinction
being made that others should remain standing.

The Synod ^ of Auxerre thus decrees : " Let all the j!?rgs-
bytei^s ', being called, come to the synod in the city."

The fourth Synod of Toledo " thus describes the celebra-
tion of provincial synods: "Let the bishops" assembled go
to church together, and sit according to the time of their
ordination. After all the bishops are entered and set, let the
preshyters be called, and the bishops sitting in a compass, let
the preshyters sit behind them, and the deacons stand before

In the synod ° held under Gregory II., a.d. 71 5, the bishops,
preshyters, and even deacons, all subscribe in the same form
to the decrees.

And to come to later times, we have examples which seem
peculiarly fitted to disable the assertions p of the Eomish party
against the authority '' of presbyters in the larger synods.

In the Synod of Lateran, held November 11, a.d. 1215, under
Innocentius III., there were ^ 482 bishops ^ and of abbots ^ and
conventual priors (being preshyters) almost double the number,
amounting to 800. Again, this same Innocent III., in his
rescript * to the Archbishop of Sens, directs that the proctors °
of cathedral cliapters should be admitted to treat in a pro-
vincial synod. And consequently about ten years afterwards,
A.D. 1226, this decree seems to have been so exactly obeyed in
France, that to a synod then held" Wxq proctors of the chap-

^ " Epistolse tales a metropolitanis sunt dirigendse, ut noa solum de cathedra-
libus ecclesiis prcsbyteros, verum etiam de dioecesanis, ad concilium trahant." —
Can. 13, Cone. Tar. apud Att. Rights, p. 8.

' " Considentibus simul cpiscopis, prsesentibus quoque presbyteris, adstantibus-
que ministris vel universo clero." — Bingham, ut sup. cites Labbe, vol. v. p. 83G c.

* "Others give the number of bishops as 412." — Landon's Manual Councils,
p. 294.

' " Capitula, per procuratores suos, debent admitti ad tractandum in concilio
provinciali." — Atterb. Rights, p. 8, quoting Extrav.




ters came in sufficient numbers, and with resolution enough to
negative an oppressive demand of the Roman legate, and to
rescue the liberties, at least for a season, of the Galilean
Church from papal " encroachment.

Dupin^, than whom no one was better skilled in the
antiquities of the Church, says, " We read that preshjters
have sat in provincial synods and judged with the bishops;"
and he thought the matter so clear, that he did not go about
to produce proof; but that such was the case in the Galilean
Church, may be gathered^ from the records of the Synods of
Lestines; Frankfort, a.d. 794; Mentz, a.d. 813; and of
Tours, held in the same year.

Moreover, Bishop Bilson^, though a great champion of
episcopacy, gives both reasons and authorities in abund-
ance that presbyters should have votes and seats in synods,
"so long as they have a right to teach and speak in the

All this notwithstanding, the Romish^ novelty which'' ex-
cludes presbyters from giving decisive votes in the larger synods,
has been viewed with some '^ satisfaction in England; and we
have, moreover, of late been favoured with suggestions that the
lower clergy are indebted to K. Edward I.'s financial opera-
tions for their places in our provincial synods or convocations.
To meet such views the foregoing facts have been produced,
as well as to shew that the rights here claimed for presbyters
are based upon apostolical and primitive practice, and may be
defended by an appeal to the records of the Church at large.

That the presbyters of old had decisive voices in the larger
synods, in matters of discipline <=, as in the case of restoring
the lapsed to the communion of the Church, and of doctrine, as
in the case of the baptism of heretics, seems incontestable. Into
the distinction which has * been drawn as respects matters of
judicature, it is needless here to enter. It may be that where
a bishop is to be judged, presbyters have no voice, as the
lesser should perhaps not sit in judgment on the greater ; but
with this reserve it is clear that presbyters had places and
gave votes decisive in such assemblies,— a right which has
been entailed upon presbyters of the English Church by an
inheritance of sacred origin, and one of which it is to be hoped
no man will succeed in robbing them.

^ Atteib.
Ri-hts, p. 9.
^^ Brett, Ch.
Gov. p. 333.

" Brett, ut
sup. cites
Preuves des
Libertes de
Perpet. Gov.
of Christ's
Ch. c. 16,
pp. 391, 392.

Vid. Bel-
larrn. de
Concil. lib.
i. c. 15. De
Cont. torn,
i. p. 1160.
» See the
Rev. R. J.
on the Su-
premacy, p.

^ Kennett's
Eccl. Sy-
nods, p. 42.
& Bp. Gib-
son's Syn.
Ang. p. 172.
<= Brett on
Ch. Gov. p.





e Atterb.
Rights, p. 9,
citing M.
Paris, ad an.
1237, p. 446.

«■ Atterl).
Rights, p.

S Cone. Mag.
Brit. ii. 2fi.
h Cone. Mug.
Brit. ii. 30.

i S. Matt,
xiii. 31.
J Ps. Ixxx.

"Ihid. 11.
I Ihid.
"> Bingham,
Eccl. Ant.
book ii. c.
19, sec. 12.
n Brett, Ch.
Gov. pp.
138. 324 et
seq. 364.
Field, Of
the Ch. pp.
513. 645.
647. Bp^
Bilson, Per-
pet. Gov. of
Christ's Ch.
p. 390 ct


° Words-
Ang. cites
Manual, p.

In England the right of presbyter.s to sit and vote in pro-
vincial and national synod.s, during the early British and Anglo-
Saxon times, will appear unanswerably clear as we proceed
in this inquiry. Even after the Norman Conquest, when the
Romish aggressions on our national Church went far to dis-
able the rights of the lower clergy, yet the practice never-
theless appears to have prevailed for the abbots and priors
to bring to the larger synods instruments ^ of proxy, which
enabled them to act for their chapters or convents respect-
ively, while the archdeacons were empowered to represent the
diocesan clergy when none of these last appeared ; for they
" were ^ willing enough to be excused the expense and trouble
of attendance when synods were frequent." And this prac-
tice appears to have prevailed, at least so far as documents
supply positive evidence, to the date of Archbishop Robert
Kilwarby, who in 1278 and 1279 sent out two wTits, the first
summoning " certain clergy, the second summoning ^ diocesan
proctors to appear in his provincial synods. From the time
of that archbishop it is notoriously matter of history, that
the English parochial clergy, by representatives of their own
order, have not only appeared uninterruptedly as members
of our provincial synods, but that they have exercised most
important powers, extending (in matters of doctrine, disci-
pline, and questions involving the alteration of liturgies, and
ecclesiastical canons) to a final negative on the archiepiscopal
and episcopal members of those assemblies. Such important
rights it would be most prejudicial to this national Church
to refer solely to modern practice, and to ground upon civil
sanctions alone. Those rights lie deeper, entwined firmly
among the very foundations of Christianity. They are the
roots of healthful supply w-hich give vigour and increase to
that which, though, once " the least ' of all seeds," has
flourished until "the hills" have been " covered J with the
shadow of it," while its boughs have been sent out " unto ^
the sea" and its "branches' unto the river." And, finally,
to sum up this point in the words of one whose authority in
such matters is unexceptionable, " It is agreed on™ all hands
by unprejudiced writers and curious searchers " of antiquity,
that presbyters had liberty to sit° and deliberate with bishops
in provincial councils."




VIII. Foim of The manner of holding provincial synods in

holding; a provin- i- i i i j.i i i»

ciai synod in early ^ Comparatively early age may be gathered trom
'""®^- the fourth canon of the fourth Council of Toledo,

This council was held in the year 633. But the directions
then given as to the manner of holding a synod probably re-
present to us the forms which had been handed down from re-
moter times, and prevailed by customs of a more ancient date.
At ^ early dawn before sunrise the church where the
synod was about to assemble was cleared of all manner of
persons. The doors having been closed, doorkeepers were
appointed to take up their positions at an entrance set apart
for the bishops and presbyters. The bishops arrived in com-
pany, and entered together, taking their seats according to
the dates of their respective ordinations. After they were all
seated, the names of those presbyters were called over who had
representations^ to make to the synod, and they were admitted;
but a special rule prevailed that no deacon should then be in-
cluded among them. After the presbyters had entered, there
followed certain approved deacons, whose ' presence was re-
quired. A " corona" being then formed, the bishops and pres-
byters sat down in a semicircle, the former in the first, the
latter in the second rank, and a position was taken up by the
deacons standing in front of the bishops. Certain of the laity
who had been selected * by the members of the council were
tlien introduced, as also the notaries ^ required for the per-
formance of specific duties. The conclave being thus complete,
and the doors finally closed, the bishops and presbyters sat
for awhile in silence, having their minds intent on heavenly
things, until an archdeacon broke silence with the words,
" Let us pray." All immediately inclined themselves to the
ground, and for some time offered up their private prayers,
accompanied with tears and sighs. One of the elder bishops
then arose and offered a prayer aloud to God, while the rest
of the assembly remained kneeling. After this supplication
was finished, and had been responded to by a general " Amen,"

' Some phrases are given in the original language, that the ingenious reader
may correct for himself any inaccuracies in translation.
2 " Quos causa probaverit introire."
' " Quos ordo poposcerit interesse."
"• " Qui electione concilii interesse meruerint."
'" " Quos ad rccitandum vel excipiendum ordo requirit."




P Cone. iv.
Toled. can.

the words " Rise from the ground" were uttered by a deacon.
All immediately rose up, the bishops and presbyters taking
their places ® as before with due reverence towards God, and in
their appointed order. The rest now sitting down in silence,
each in his proper position, a deacon clad in an alb carried
into the midst of the assembly a volume of canons, whence he
read the acts respecting the holding of councils, after which
the metropolitan addressed himself on this wise to the synod.
" Most holy bishops and presbyters," he said, " there have
been read to you, from the canons of the ancient fathers, the
sentences which give directions respecting the celebration
of your council : if, then, any cause urges one of you to
such a course, let him make his statement in the presence
of his brethren." If at this time any complaint against a
breach of canons was brought before the notice' of the bishops
and presbyters, no other point could be attended to until this
case was first definitively adjudicated upon. And if any pres-
byter, deacon, clerk, or layman of those who had not been
admitted to be present at the synod, thought that he had any
cause for making an appeal there, it was his duty to give
intimation of the fact to the archdeacon of the metropolitan
church, who laid the case before the council, when leave was
commonly given to the appellant to enter the church, and to
state his grievance. A rule also existed that none of the
bishops might depart from the synod before the hour of general
separation, nor might * any one dare to dissolve the synod unless
every point brought forward had been previously determined ;
so that whatsoever was concluded by common deliberation
might be subscribed by the hand of each bishop separately ;
for in the words of the canon p, " we may then believe that
God is with his priesthood, if all tumult being avoided, the
business of the Church is managed with anxious care and a
tranquil si)irit."

We have seen above that the authoritative members of
provincial synods were the metropolitan, the comprovincial

^ " Cum omni timoreDei et disciplina tarn episcopi quani prcsbytercs sedcant."

' " In audientiam sacerdotalem."

* " Concilium quoque nidlus solvere audeat, nisi fuerint cuncta determinata, ita
ut qusecunque ddibcratione communi fmiuntur, episcoporuiu singulorum uianibus




bishops, and certain chosen presbyters. It is also clear that
other persons were frequently present, and especially that
deacons had places assigned to them; for as the bishops
sat in a semicircle, while the presbyters sat behind them, so i
the deacons stood in front. But though the deacons, and
indeed sometimes a great body ' of the people, were present
in provincial synods, yet the constituent members — those
who had definitive voices there — were only the metropolitan,
the comprovincial bishops, and chosen presbyters ''.

IX The sub- ^^^^ subjects ^ with which the early provincial
jects treated of in syuods dealt may be viewed as twofold : first,

inovincial synods. , i-iii f • /-ii ^

those which related to loreign Churches ; and,
secondly, those which related to such Churches as sent repre-
sentatives to the synod. Any determinations arrived at upon
subjects connected with foreign Churches were not obligatory
upon them, being only looked upon in the light of advice or
counsel respecting such points of doubt or difiiculty as had
been proposed for consideration. Thus we find that the case of
two Spanish bishops, Martialis and Basilides, who had lapsed,
was debated in an African synod ; but this was done only for
the sake of giving on that subject the advice and opinion of
the members, which are preserved in the synodicaP epistle
written upon the occasion. But with respect to those Churches
which were represented in the provincial synod, the decrees made
were binding. There the bishops and presbyters " consulted^
about the discipline, government, and external polity of their
Churches, and what means were expedient and proper for
their peace, unity, and order, which by their common consent
they enacted and decreed to be observed by all the faithful of
those Churches whom they did represent." In short, their main
objects were, while generally testifying to the common faith
of the Church at large, first, to give counsel to such foreign
Churches as required it ; and, secondly, to regulate authorita-
tively all ecclesiastical affairs within their own proper jurisdic-
tions. In the words of Firmihan, "The bishops " and presby-

' " Episcopi plures in unum convenientes prsesente et stantium plebe."

" CoUatione . . . pariter ac stantibus laicis facta." — King's Prim. Ch. pp. 143-

144, citing S. Cyp. ep. xiv. 2, p. 41, and ep. xsxi. 5, p. 70.

" Prsesente etiam plebis maxima parte." — Act. Cone. Carth. apud Cyp. p. 443,

cited by King, Prim. Ch. p. 144.

1 Cone. Tol
iv. can. 3.

'• See Stil-
Orig. Brit.

•'• King s
Ch. p. 146.

' Cyp. cp.
68, p. 174.

1 King's
Prim. Ch.
p. 148.

^ Cyp. epist.
75, sec. 3,
p. 2,37. Alt-
dorf, 1681.




^ Council
Agde, can.

" Bingham,
Eccl. Ant.
book xvi. c.
l,scc. 13.

yCan. 15.

» Can. 27.

a Can. 1.

'' Can. 19.

ters met together every year to dispose those things which
were committed to their charge'."

Among those things the regulation of divine offices of
course took an important place in the duties of provincial
synods : and great care ^^ was taken that the same order of the
Church should be observed by all in the same province. In
the fifth and sixth centuries plain traces appear of the pro-
visions which were made for uniformity of ritual within the
same provincial limits, for canons are on record " requir-
ing the Churches^ of each respective province to conform
their usages to the rites and forms of the metropolitical or
principal Church among them." Thus at the Synod of
Vannes, in Bretagne, a.d. 465, it was ordained "that
within y our province there should be the same order of sacred
rites and the same mode of chanting ; that as we hold one
faith in the confession of the Trinity, so we may follow one
rule of holy offices, in order that our devotions may not
appear to differ by reason of variation in any of our religious
observances." A like similarity in outward rites was secured
by the acts of the Synods of Epone, in Provence, and Grerona,
in Catalonia, held in the year 517. In the former of those
synods the comprovincial bishops were bid, " in celebrating ^
divine offices, to observe the same forms as their meiro-
politan.'''' And in the latter, the Synod of Gerona, a direction
was given that "in the whole'' ^^/'o^f^jc^ of Tarragona the
same order of the conmiunion office and the same modes of
chanting and of ministration should be observed as prevailed
in the metropolitan church." Again, in the first Council of
Braga, in Portugal, held in the year 563, it was decided"
by universal consent that — " the same mode of chanting in the
morning and evening offices should be observed ;" — that " on
holydaysthe same lessons should be road in all the churches;"
— that " the bi.shups and priests should .salute the laity with the
same form of words — 'Dominus sit vobiscumf" — that "the
communion office should be celebrated by all in the same form
as that admitted by Profuturus, formerly bishop of their w^-
^ro/>o^«7aw Church ;" — and that "all should adhere to that form
of the baptismal office which the metropolitan Church of Braga

' " Per singulos annos seniores et prsepositi in iinum convcniamus, ad dis-
ponenda ea, qua; curse nostrae commissa sunt."




had observed from of old." Such evidences we find of the acts
of provincial synods, passed to secure unity of worship within
their respective jurisdictions, so early as in the fifth and sixth

And though from lapse of time, from the fury of persecu-
tion, and from the neglect of such as should have been more
careful in that behalf, but few of the canons of the very
earliest provincial synods are still preserved, yet enough has
been handed down to convince us that their objects were those
which have been mentioned ; and that when they had set forth
such decrees as were deemed expedient for the polity and
government of the Churches under their authority, they not
only required those decrees to be obeyed, but enforced, under
penalties, the observance of them within the proper bounds of
their respective jurisdictions.
^ _. The means '^ of enforcing the decrees of pro-

X. The means ^ _ ° i p i

of enforcing their vincial syuods, many '^ of which may be lound
in the writings of S. Cyprian, were sentences of
excommunication, suspension, or deprivation, according to
the quality of the offender and the aggravation of the offence.
Sometimes the faithful were forbidden to mention the offender
"in their prayers^ or make any oblation for him;" some-
times it was deemed enough " to chide him for his rashness,
and strictly charge him that ^ he should not repeat his
acts of disobedience." The Church's arms, with which she
waged war against the powers of this world were spiritual,
not carnal weapons ; and with those assuredly she will
ever be best girded for her conflict ^ They may be summed
up briefly under three heads : deposition from holy offices, —
deprivation of Christian privileges, — and spiritual censures.
One instance of each will now suffice. As an instance of
the frst, Martialis and Basilides, before referred to, two
Spanish bishops s^, one of Astorga, the other of Emerita,
were deprived of the ecclesiastical character, and adjudged to
be admitted to communion only in the quality of laymen. As an
instance of the second may be mentioned the case of Victor,
bishop of Furnes, who had acted in opposition to the canons of
an African synod ; and in reference to whom S. Cyprian wrote


MiXXovTa TToQtivoTaTuv So^av ^iptti

-Pind. 01. Od. viii. 84, 85.

c Vid. Slip,
c. i. sec. 11.
J King's
Prim. Ch.
p. 150.

<^ Cvp. epist.

66, 1,2, p.

169, 170.



f Ibid.cpist.

59, 1, p. 144.



S King's
Prim. Ch.
p. 152.




pp. ()()■, 2,
].. 170.

■ Cyp. ep.
59, L p. 144.

to the clergy and laity of that diocese, saying that he hoped
they would take care that Victor should suffer the penalty
annexed to the breach of the canons ; that, in conformity
thereto, they would not "mention him in^ their prayers nor
make any oblation for him." And, thirdly^ an instance of
spiritual censure is handed down to us in the case of Thera-
pius, who was chid by a conclave of sixty-six bishops for his
rashness in breaking the canons of a synod, by absolving a
presbyter* named Victor before the time appointed by the
synod for penance had expired.

Such is a brief outline of the objects, constitution, jurisdic-
tion, and powers of the provincial synods of the Church, as
handed down from the primitive ages of Christianity.

XI. Early pro- ThcsG provincial synods now under con-
moSfsoV English sidcration are to us a subject of very peculiar
convocations. interest, not only as being models upon which
the ecclesiastical assemblies of this land have been framed in
times past, but as being the foundations upon which the con-
stitution of our Church is based at this moment, and the
sources to which the existence and the present form of our
convocations may be referred. And since we can discover, at
least so far back as in the second century of the Church, the
models of those convocations, to whose authority we are in-
debted for our liturgy, our articles, our canons, in truth,
for the api)ointment of all the outward circumstance of our
Church, and for the regulation of its internal arrangement,
we are warranted in setting a high value on such assemblies.
We may reasonably desire that institutions based on such
ancient precedents, and to which we owe so large a debt of
gratitude, should abide still among us in all their integrity, and
exercise that measure of grave authority, to which the anti-
quity of their origin, as well as the benefits they have conferred
on this Church and nation, so justly entitle them. No well-
wisher to England would desire to see her provincial synods
or convocations become busy, meddling assemblies, perma-
nently sitting acourse with the imperial parliament, and
affording an arena for party strife and unseemly disputation.
But it is a reasonable object of desire that our provincial
synods should be convened in due order from time to time,
and that when so convened they should maintain their solemn




character ; prepared to defend the faith with courage against
all aggression from without, and to apply with a careful and
tender solicitude soothing remedies to every ill which may
arise from within. It is a reasonable object of desire that the
foundations and substructure, on which the national Church is
built, should be recognized by all as existing in fixed solidity,
in undecaying integrity. Then, at any rate, will there be a
voice ready to speak when required for counsel or exhorta-
tion ; hands prepared to act, whether for defence or healing.

Thus it would surely be better than that such a state of
disorganization should be allowed by degrees to prevail, as,
in the language of judicious Hooker J, "makes all conten-
tions endless, or brings them to one only determination, and
that of all others the worst, which is by sword."

Indeed, if the ancient and lawful assemblies of the Church
should be entirely omitted, it is impossible that she should be
maintained in any seemly order. Cases of doubt, difficulty,
and disagreement must from time to time arise in this ever
changeful world ; and unless tliere is some existing source of
legitimate authority to direct, unity of faith and discipline

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 8 of 83)