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JOYCE ON CONVOCATION.
England's Sacred Synods. A Constitutional History of the Convo
cations of the Clergy. By JAMES WAYLAND Joyce, M.A. London : Rivingtons.
One of the greatest difficulties experienced in our endeavours to force from those in authority that recognition of the Church's clear rights, which is her due, is owing to the superficial acquaintance with her history and principles possessed not merely by the indifferent, but by those, whose position demands that they should rise superior to the false and foolish traditions which find favour with the mass of the people. It is not surprising that the half educated denizens of metropolitan suburbs, or country towns, should understand no more about the Church than its Establishmentarian acci. dents, and believe implicitly, that its regulation belongs of right to the House of Commons, and our Sovereign Lady the Queen. But it affords matter for much wonder, and for very grave apprehension, when we see these sentiments echoed by lawyers, judges, bishops, and the plainest facts of history overlooked or distorted in opinions, judgments, and charges.
And this remarkable ignorance, if it does not deserve a harsher name, manifests itself especially in all that relates to the synodical action of the Church. Pamphleteers and platform orators, presbyterian chief justices, Erastian deans, even right reverend prelates seem to delight in making out as bad a case as they can against their own Communion, in exaggerating her weak points, and displaying them with eager zest to the sharp eyes of her adversaries. The more Erastian, the more state-fettered, the more parliamentary they can make her out to be, the better are they pleased.
Nor is it surprising, that this desire to degrade their Church, should be found in its most intense form, in the opponents of her synodical action. For there is no more independent act than this of the Church assembling herself in synod, to lay down by her own inherent authority, rules and regulations for her internal guidance, to declare with authority the true statement of doctrine, to solve and settle doubtful and intricate points. We do not wonder at the spectacle of a synod arousing the anger of those who are incapable of fully realising the character of the Church, or the jealousy with which mere politicians have always regarded synodical action. The increasing importance of the synodical question therefore amongst ourselves, is one of the brightest signs that we are outgrowing the Establishmentarianism of the last century, and that clearer and higher views respecting the true nature of the Church, are begin
Vol. XVII.-July, 1855.
ning to prevail. One advantage of the blundering way in which men in high civil and ecclesiastical positions speak of synods and their influence upon the English Church is, that they have set others to work to correct their mistakes, and to lay more correct views before thinking men. The straining by Archbishop Sumner of his metropolitan prerogative, when he had the hardihood to deny the right of Convocation to petition the Crown without the Royal permission first obtained, led, we all know, to a more careful consideration of the matter,—and the next session witnessed the greatest step taken since 1717, by the southern Convocation. In a similar way, it seems likely, to judge from certain expressions in the book, that indignation at the blunders of the same prelate, his brother of York, and a certain Lord Chief Justice, who plumes himself upon his historic knowledge, but who has withal managed very sadly to degrade the majesty of English courts of law, may have had its effect, in bringing about the valuable work of Mr. Joyce,-of which we think we may fairly say, it exhausts the subject of English synods.
It is utterly impossible, within the limits of an article, to handle all the points on which Mr. Joyce treats. He begins at the beginning,-shows how the principle of synodical deliberations was enforced by our LORD Himself, (S. Matt. xviii. 19) and acted upon by the Apostles, (who held a synod for the election of S. Matthias, the appointment of deacons, and on the Gentile question,) and embodied ever afterwards in the practice of the whole Church-East, West, North, South.
Now it is well known that the class of writers alluded to above, has taken great pains to throw discredit upon the Convocational arrangements amongst ourselves, which prescribe the attendance of the clergy of the second order. It has been asserted, and repeated as if it were a positive fact, that it is an English peculiarity to allow the presence of presbyters, that it was entirely due to the financial difficulties of King Edward I., which compelled him to constitute Convocation in its present form, by summoning the clergy of the second order for the purpose of taxation,--that other ecclesiastical synods having fallen into abeyance—and this existing for the same purpose of taxation—the 'Tudor monarchs finding some sort of clerical assembly ready to their hands, made use of it, to cover their aggressions on the spirituality with a show of decency, and hence the submitting to it of various ecclesiastical questions in the beginning of the Reformation, and after.
Now what a complete fable, this wonderful historical theory is (endorsed though it be by high authority in Church and State) is most clearly demonstrated by Mr. Joyce. Passing by the ancient precedents at home or abroad for the admission of presbyters to councils, we would draw attention before proceeding further, to the clear overwhelming evidence produced by Mr. Joyce, as to the presence of presbyters in English Synods, in days when the Plantagenets were not.
Though with the increase of Papal power, as was before remarked, we may trace a corresponding decrease in the authority of the second order in the Ministry, yet, as in the period before us that power was by no means universally admitted in England, we may discover the
presence of presbyters in all the more important Synods, and find records of their subscriptions to the authoritative documents.
“ To the national Synod of Whitby, A.D. 664, Colman, Bishop of Lindisfarne, came with his Clergy ;'Agelbert, Bishop of the West Saxons, brought with him 'Agatho and Wilfrid, two presbyters ;' and there were also in the Synod a large body of Clergy on both sides. It is well worthy of remark, also, in confirmation of the present argument, that one of the chief speakers in this 'national Synod' was only a presbyter: for Wilfrid, who was selected by Agelbert as the main chanīpion on his side, had only lately been admitted to Priest's orders by that Bishop.
“At the national Synod of Hertford, A.D. 673, there were many beneficed Clergy ;' and these, too, were associated with the Bishops on just terms of legislative authority. We are also informed that, on arriving at the Synod, each sat down in his place, according to his runk.'
“At the national Synod of Hatfield, A.D. 680, we have it on the authority of Bede, that the assembly was composed of the venerable Bishops and very many learned men.'
“At the national Synod of Osterfield, A.D. 701, at which Archbishop Berthwald and almost all the Bishops of Britain were present, it is said that the questions in dispute were settled, in conjunction with the opinions of the Bishops, by the consent of certain Abbots.' And it must always be borne in mind that the presence of Abbots in national and provincial Synods is quite enough for our present argument, even if presbyters are not mentioned (which they frequently are,) for Abbots were but of the second order of the Christian Ministry,—that order into whose rights we are now inquiring.
"In a national Synod held A.D. 756, Cuthbert, and other Bishops, presbyters, and Abbots, passed the decrees.'
“At the provincial Synod of Bapchild, A.D. 796, there subscribed to the acts, in company with Archbishop Athelard and twelve Bishops, three-and-twenty Abbots ; these, it must be repeated, were of the second order in the Ministry, and so their subscriptions suggest a valid argument for our present purpose.
“At the provincial Synod of Cliff at Hoo, A.D. 803, Archbishop Athelard with twelve Bishops, by the unanimous counsel of the whole Synod,' promulgated its decrees; and the subscriptions to this Synod, besides those of the Archbishop and twelve Bishops, exhibit the names of thirty-eight presbyters at least,' besides those of some other ecclesiastics. And these subscriptions are considered authentic
nd exception by Mr. Wharton, a very diligent examiner and accurate judge in such matters.
“ Thus is it clear that in Anglo-Saxon times the second order of the Ministry were constituent members of national and provincial Synods.
The foregoing may appear to the reader at first sight a very dreary waste to travel through, but the journey is not without its profit. Present circumstances render it necessary that the rights of the second order of the Ministry should be carefully examined, justly weighed, and accurately defined ; and if this inquiry should prove satisfactory in establishing their prescriptive right to seats in English Synods,-a right founded on no political whim of King Edward I.'s rapacious temper, but springing from the deepest roots of our ecclesiastical and social institutions,—then the subject, if dull, will not be useless. Any labour bestowed upon it will be rewarded with corresponding satisfaction. The toil itself may prove a pleasure-Labor ipse voluptas. Constantly, as has been shown from the records, we find the second order of the Ministry present at our early Synods ; constantly we find their names subscribed to the canons enacted, sometimes in numbers : and if presence and subscription are considered a sufficient evidence that presbyters were constituent members of the larger Anglo-Saxon Synods, there is ample proof of the fact. Certain it is that the increase of the power of the Roman Church in England diminished in proportion the authority of presbyters. For as Papal encroachment advanced, Episcopal authority was unreasonably stretched over the lower Clergy. The monarchical system in ecclesiastical matters (if it may so be expressed) was gradually extended, and carried along with it a constant and growing tendency to undermine the constitution of that primitive Church, which, having drawn its first breath on the Galilæan mount, was cradled in an upper chamber in Jerusalem, exhibited its maturer powers in the first Apostolical Synods, and was established upon the native soil of Britain. Up to the point of the history at which we have arrived and it will be seen that the investigation will not be hereafter unsuccessful on this head) the right of presbyters to join with their Metropolitans and Bishops in deliberation and final decision on Synodical questions appears undeniable. The most unanswerable proofs of this fact exist in the records of the Synods above quoted. And any attempt to deprive the second order of the Priesthood of this their rightful inheritance,—any endeavour to deny them a voice in defining doctrine or authorizing Canons, is but an imitation of the policy of the Papacy,-a direct contravention of the examples of the Apostolical and primitive ages, as well as an infringement upon the original principles of this national Church, as exhibited in the records both of the British and AngloSason times.”— Pp. 148–150.
Nor did the Norman Conquest alter this right of presbyters. Deans, abbots, priors, archdeacons, and chosen presbyters were the constituent members of the Anglo-Norman Synods. The representative principle, so agreeable to the English mind, found scope for itself in the English Church as well as English state, and in due time made itself felt by the substitution of proctors chosen by the clergy themselves to represent them, for the nomination by the bishops of the presbyters who sat with them in synod. About the middle of the thirteenth century a change took place, and the English Synod began to assume somewhat of its present form. It iš interesting to see how gradually this alteration was brought about,--and though the extract we shall make be rather long, we make no scruple of inserting it, on account of its great importance.
“ It has been shown in a former part of this inquiry, that presbyters were, in the early ages of the Church, members of the greater ecclesiastical Synods ; it has been shown that they were members of those as semblies during the British and Anglo-Saxon periods of our national history; and in this chapter we have seen that, in this respect, after the Norman Conquest their ancient rights were recognized. The change, therefore, which now took place, made no alteration in the constitution of our Synods by introducing a new order of Clergy into those assemblies, but only in the manner by which the members of that order were chosen. In the primitive Church it is believed that the presbyters who sat in the greater Synods were usually selected by the Bishops of the several dioceses (though it is said that the role in this respect probably varied according to the usage of the respective Churches ;) and this practice, during the earlier part of the present period, obtained in the Church of England. This is plain from the account remaining upon our records of the Legatine Synod of Westminster, A.D. 1138. On that occasion Thurstan, Archbishop of York, was unable to attend on account of illness; but besides William, the Dean of York, 'he sent thither some of his Clergy. There is still, however, more direct and unanswerable evidence that at this time certain chosen presbyters were selected by their Bishop from their respective dioceses to attend with him in the greater Synods, according to primitive usage. This may be learnt from the writ before referred to, and directed in the year 1273 by Archbishop Robert Kilwarby to the Bishop of London, directing him to summon a provincial Synod to meet at the New Temple, London, in that year. That Synod was convened for purely ecclesiastical purposes; for the Archbishop, directing his mind with all anxiety to the state of the Churches and of ecclesiastical persons, had observed many things requiring correction and reformation. For such correction and reformation this provincial Synod was convened. The mandate issued on that occasion, commanding the Bishop of London to summon the suffragan Bishops, contains these words : 'You are to direct, on our part, each of the suffragan Bishops of our Church to call and bring with him to the aforesaid Synod three or four of the greater, more discreet, and prudent persons of his Church and diocese, that by the assistance of their common counsel such important affairs of the Church of God, by His aiding mercy, may be brought to a happy conclusion.'
“ Now the reader will be pleased to observe, that King Edward I. could have had nothing to do with these arrangements. He was abroad at this time, not having yet returned from the Holy Land, nor was he crowned as King until the following year, viz. Aug. 19, 1274
“Here then, we have, in the year 1273, a distinct and unanswerable proof that at this time the principle was admitted in the English Church of Bishops bringing with them chosen presbyters to the greater ecclesiastical Synods; and this was in accordance with the practice which obtained in the fourth age at the provincial Synod of Arles ; on which occasion the names of fifteen presbyters are found as having subscribed,