Project Canterbury

How far the Clergy and Other Members of the Church of England Ought to Communicate with the Non-Swearing Bishops.

London: no publisher, 1690.

When the greatest Part of the Clergy of the Diocese of Norwich had Sign’d and Sent up a Petition in the behalf of their Reverend Bishop, which was by some of them Presented, and seemed to have been Received with an Intention to Comply with it; and when it was thought the Example would have been made a Precedent to other Dioceses, whose Bishops at present lye under the Censure of a Suspension, or Deprivation, or both; many good Men entertained Hopes, that, notwithstanding the Severity of the late Act, much would have been done to restore such Good, such Holy, and Learned Bishops to the due Exercise of that Authority which Christ (the Great Bishop of Souls, and Head of the Church) hath intrusted them with. But all these Hopes disappear’d in a Moment; the Petition being put into such Hands to answer it, that there were no grounds left to believe, that it would be either Favourably Construed, or Christianly Comply’d with.

Since therefore that Method hath fail’d, I have thought fit to appeal to the Christian World, to shew the Reasonableness and Justice of the Procedure of those Clergy-men, and to prove, that it is their Duty [1/2] (notwithstanding the Determination of the Civil Power) to Pay that Canonical Obedience which they havesworn to their Ordinary, and not to transfer it to any other, who shall be super-introduced into that Church (till Death, or a Legal Deprivation, or a Voluntary Cession make room) since it is expressly against the Canons of the Antient Church, That two Bishops, though both Orthodox, should Exercise their Jurisdictions at the same time in one and the same See, as Ordinary Governors of the same in Matters Spiritual. This I may with Reason take for granted, since nothing can be more plain from Antiquity; inasmuch as it was forbidden by the Venerable Council of Nice; as it was also for the same Reason forbidden, That any Bishop should in his Life time Consecrate his Successor. And the Schism made at Antioch upon the Account of Meletius and Paulinus, both Ordained Bishops of that See at once, is a convincing Instance how the Church Discipline was then exercised; for to set up two Bishops at once in the same See opens a Gap to Schism, which was always look’d upon by the Antient Church (and the Sin is the same now, though not so much dreaded as it ought) to be a damnable Transgression.

“To dye rather than to be guilty of making a Schism in the Church of God is as Honorable a Martyrdom, as to suffer rather than to offer Sacrifice to Idols,” said the Great Dionysius of Alexandria. “Nor can there be a greater Sin than to break the Union of the Church,” said St. Cyprian; “and whoever is guilty of that Transgression, though he dye a Martyr, yet his Blood shed for the Cause of [2/3] of Christ cannot wash away his Guilt. (For this those Excellent Martyrs understood to be St. Paul’s meaning, I Cor. 13. 3. “If I give my Body to be burned, and have not Charity, it profiteth to me nothing; that is, A Man may dye a Martyr to One or All the Articles of the Christian Creed, yet if he do not dye in the Unity of the Church, he loseth his Crown; for those Men can never preserve Charity, who have violated Unity.) “This is a bold Saying,” says St. Chrysostom, “but it is a great and undeniable Truth,” to which he adds his own Sentiments, “I say and affirm, That to fall into wilfull Heresie is not a greater Crime than to make a Schism in the Chuch: For what Profit hath a Man by his Orthodox Faith (says St. Augustine) who gives Charity a deadly Would by his being a Schismatick, for this Sin is Sacrilege.”

Nor is this only the Sense of the Venerable Sages of former Days, but of the Great Men of our own Church, among whom I shall only select one, viz., Bishop Hall: “It is Felony by our Municipal Laws for any man to burn but the Frame of a Building intended for a House; How hainously Flagitious then shall the God of Heaven account it to set Fire on his complete Spirit House the Church?—doubtless, how slight soever the World makes of these Spiritual Distempers, it shall be easier in the Day of Judgment for Thieves, and Whoremongers, ad Adulterers, than for the Breakers of Publick Peace. Never was any so fearfull Vengeance inflicted on any Malefactors, as on Corah, and his Combination. Surely, if we consider the Sin it self, other Offences had been far more heinous; but in that it was a presumptuous [3/4] Mutiny tending to the Affront of Allowed Authority, to the Violation of Peace, and to the Destruction of Community, the Earth could not stand under it, Hell only was fit to receive it.

Nor was the Sin of Corah peculiar to the Days of Moses, and the State of the Tabernalce in the Wilderness; For St. Jude hath told us, that the Sin of Corah was committed in his Time, and I fear is now and may be doubtless to the End of the World.

Would we know therefore what Schism is, we must remember, that a Church is made up of the People united to their Bishop, who Presides over them in Holy Things, who gives them the Sacraments, instructs them in the Ways of Holiness, and Censures them if they do amiss; (and therefore He is sometimes called the Church, as St. Matth. 18. 17. Tell the Church, that is, the Governors of it.) To Him the People owe Obedience, as to their Spiritual Father, and from Him they ought not, without the greatest Reason, to Separate: for a Separation, without a just Cause, from our Bishop, is A Formal Schism, (as much as if we Separated from the whole Catholick Church, with which our Bishop Communicates, and of which He is one of the Overseers left by Christ.) Thus says the Holy Ignatius, “You being Children of the Light fly from all Schisms; where your Shepherd is, there do you, as Sheep, follow him, for there are many Wolves. Be not deceived, my Brethren, If any Man be a Follower of a Schismatick, that [4/5] Man hath no Inheritance in the Kingdom of God; for where there is Division, and Wrath, in that Place God doth not abide. Fly therefore Schism, as the beginning of all Mischief; He that is not within the Sanctuary (i.e. within the Episcopal Communion, as is plain by the Place) cannot partake of the Bread of God. Let us therefore studiously decline Opposing the Bishop, that we may not be guilty of Rebelling against God. For it is not Lawfull without the Bishop (i.e. without his leave) either to Baptize, or Celebrate the Holy Eucharist.”—“Nor is it enough,” (says St. Cyprian) “that the Schismaticks agree with the Catholick Church in Doctrinals, owning the same God the Father, &c. this Excuse will not help them; For Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, did not recede from the Religion professed by Moses and Aaron, but worshipped the same God of Israel, after the same Manner, and with the same Rites: But because they transgressed the Rules and Limits of their Ministry, therefore God cut them off, and ordered their Censers to be made broad Plates for the Altar, to deter others from the like Usurpation; For how can he that doth not Conform to the true Discipline of the Church pretend to be of the true Faith?” And thus say all the Fathers who treat of this Subject.

Now if this be the genuine Notion of Schism, it is easily applicable to the present Case of the deprived Bishops, from whom a Separation ought not to be made, unless they be guilty of such notorious Crimes either in Opinion, or Practice, as may justly Authorize such a Separation. But

[6] I. For their Opinions, I suppose no Man will say, that they have made Shipwrack of the Faith that was once delivered to the Saints, unless the owning the Doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and Catholic Antiquity—That Kings derive their Authority from God, and are Accountable only to Him; that Oaths ought to be taken in the Sense of the Imposer, and in the plain meaning of the Words; And that no Power can dispense with them but Gods, or the Person to whom they are give, and such like Opinions—be Heresie.

2. For their Practises, I think I may say without Vanity, That, since the Apostles Days, the Church hath not had many Bishops of greater Integrity, of truer Piety, and Contempt of the World, of more universal Learning, and greater Regard to the eternal Welfare of Mens Souls. Though the Act therefore has Deprived them, ’tis worth every good Priest’s serious Consideration, Whether that Act obligeth them to Desert them, and to Disown their Authority; since the Makers of the Act are Fallible (which no Men denies, and did any one, that very Act were a Demonstration that they were so) and their Mistake cannot Authorize my Neglect of a known Duty. Now it is considerable

I. That what Agrippa and Festus said of St. Paul is truly applicable to them, These Men have done nothing worthy of Death, or of Bonds, of Suspension, or Deprivation; For all their Crime is their not Deserting their Duty, and willfully Breaking those Oaths, [6/7] which they were perswaded in their Consciences they cannot Dispence with: Now a Man would think, that in an Age, wherein a free Toleration is given to all Dissenters in Religion, purely that their tender Consciences may not be grieved, the same Liberty should be allowed to such Eminent Confessors of the best Part of the Protestant Church. The Prince of Orange in his Declaration protests, That he came over to cover the Nation from Persecution for their Conscience, and he quotes the ill-usage of these very Non-swearing Bishops, who a little before his Landing were put in the Tower for refusing to publish the King’s Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, as one of the Grievances which he came to Redress; And yet those very Men are now in worse Circumstances by this Act than they were then: Then they were only Imprisoned, and that but for a while; but now they are Deprived, and that both from the Benefice (for want of which they may, for ought the Makers of the Act know, starve) and from the Office too, which to a good Bishop is dearer than the Revenues of the whole World. Nay, in this very Case of refusing the Oaths, the Quakers are dispenc’d with. (And if it be argued, That they are obliged to an equivalent Protestation; it is well known that many, even of that Sect, refuse both the Oath and the Protestation, and yet are not molested for that reason.) Now to refuse all Oaths is unquestionably a greater Crime, than to refuse one; Where then is the Justice? Either let all Offenders be left unpunished, or none; but, it seems, contrary to the old Observation, this Law was made to let the Flies escape [7/8] through, and catch the Eagles, and Birds of the nobler Feather. But,

2. Were these Bishops as guilty as they are without reason presum’d to be, yet their Crime was not properly Cognizable where their Sentence was pronounced; for according to the Rules and Practice of the Church in all Ages, a Bishop ought to be Depriv’d or Depos’d by a Synod of Bishops, either General or Provincial; And was there any such Method or Proceeding in the Case of our Deprived Prelates? It being never heard of old, that Bishops were Deposed (or Deprived) by meer Lay-men: Hereticks, Schismaticks, and Disturbers of the publick Peace, if of the Clergy, were condemned by their Ecclesiastical Superiors; after which Sentence, it is true, the Secular Arm laid hold on them, and punished them either with Banishment, Confiscation of Goods, or some other such Mulct. And in the Arian Persecutions we read, that the Secular Authority often banished the Catholick Bishops, and seized their Revenues; but we never read, that their People ever thought them the less their Bishops for that, nor that they ceased to exercise that Episcopal Jurisdiction which Christ had intrusted them with; nay, on the contrary, we find, that whoever was superinduced into such a See, was looked on as an Intruder, and a Schimastical Disturber of the Churches Peace.

Thus when the Antient Bishops were condemn’d by packt and unlawful Synods (though conven’d by the Emperor’s order) where there was no regard had to Justice or Truth, their Clergy stuck to them, as did the Presbyters and Deacons at Alexandria [8/9] to Athanasius even in Banishment; nor would any Threats or Promises prevail with St. Anthony, and his Monks, to Communicate with any of his Arian Successors, or of the Schismaticks of those Days, as St. Athanasius tells us in his Life. And when St. Cyprian fled from Carthage, we find an intimate and constant Communication between him and his Clergy, who did nothing in the weightier Affairs of Religion without consulting him, they looking upon him (though at a great distance from them, and, as much as the Roman Government could do it, depriv’d of all his Power and Jursidiction) as their Rightful Bishop, without whose Advice they ought not to transact any thing belonging to the Government of the Church. And did not the Orthodox at Constantinople, when St. John Chrysostom was deposed and banished, still retain their Obedience to him, and kept their Congregations apart, though his Successor was Orthodox and Catholick? And what Regard was there not many Years past paid to the Bishop of London by his Clergy, when he was under his Suspension? And when the same Bishop was conven’d before the High Commission Court, did he not plead, “That he was a Bishop of the Church of England, and was to be try’d by his Metropolitan and Suffragans, and therefore hoped he should not be denied the Right and Privilege of Christian Bishops? This” (says my Author) “the Chancellor rub’d off with a Pretence, that the Parliament had an Original Jurisdiction,” (and, if I mistake not, the Plea is the same now;) the Bishop’s Council also urged, “That the Method of Proceeding according to the Canons required, that a Citation should [9/10] precede Suspension, and that to do otherwise was contrary to the Law of God, of Nature, and of all Nations in all Ages. Nay the Commissioners themselves would not declare the Bishop suspended till” (as their Sentence is worded) “he had been fully heard.” And this is taken Notice of in the Prince of Orange’s Declaration, pag. 2. as one of the Grievances that he came over to Redress, “That the Commissioners suspended the Bishop of London only because he refused to obey an Order that was sent to him to suspend a worthy Divine, without so much as Citing him before him to make his own Defence, or observing the common Forms of a Process.”

But was this the Method used in the present Case? Were the Bishops or inferior Clergy summon’d before any Ecclesiastical Super? or, Were they fully (or at all) heart, before they were suspended? If I have done Evil, bear witness of the Evil, said our blessed Saviour, if not, why smitest thou me?

Nay the very Schismatical Presbyters stood by their Pseudo-Bishops, as the Novatians, the Meletians, the Luciferians, (the traverses of which last Sect are written at large by Marcellinus and Faustinus in their Libellus Precum, &c.) And what a Shame is it then to refuse to pay a just Deference and Submission to such Apostolical Men, who Venerable for their Holiness, their Learning, and their Suffering for a good Cause.

But against this it may be Objected,

[11] Object. I. That they are truly Deprived, though not according to the Formality of the Church Canons. To which I Answer,

I. That this is the Matter in Dispute, By what Authority a Bishop can be Deprived? For what is Coram non Judice, is as it were never done, with respect to its validity.

2. Had the Sentence been Denounced by a legal Authority, yet if the Cause of the Sentence be not Just and Lawful, the Sentence is Invalid, as when a Man is wrongly Excommunicate.

3. Here is no Proof made of any Crimes they are Guilty of, that may make them lyable to any Censures.

4. Were there such Proof, yet while it is only a matter of Conscience and Perswasion, it is Dissonant to the Promises of the Present Government; and their Procedure with other Dissenters in like Cases.

Object 2. But the Non-swearing Bishops are but a small Number, a few unsatisfy’d Men.

Answ. 1. The Truth is never the less so, because it hath but a few Asserters.

2. What was the Number of the true Jewish Church under Elijah, or of the Christian under the Apostles just after the Crucifixion? Was not always all the World Arians in the time of Athanasius, while he only, St. Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercelles, and a few other Bishops (a Number not much greater than our Non-swearing Bishops) were the only Asserters of the Orthodox [11/12] Doctrine; the whole World being Astonished to see it self turn’d Arian: And of what great Numbers could the Protestants boast before the Reformation?

Object. 3. But the Non-swearing Bishops are fond of their own Opinions, and will not yield, no not in such small Things as are now required from them.

Answ. But is Perjury such a Peccadillo? And hath not God told us Solemnly, That he will not hold him Guiltless that taketh his Name in vain? Is it a little matter whether we shall Purge our Bibles, and expunge the Fifth Commandment, and the Thirteenth to the Romans, out of it? It is good Advice of the wise man, Give not the Water passage, no not a little: For he who can be content to transgress in small Matters to Day, will to Morrow get Assurance to commit greater Crimes; For no Man is notoriously Wicked on a sudden; Evil Habits, as well as good, are gotten by time and practice.

Object. 4. But is it not an Argument of great stiffness of Temper, That the Bishops will not Communicate with their Brethren, who differ from them in this Point, but agree in all others?

Ans. Moses forbad the Children of Israel to Communicate with Corah and his Company, though they were exactly of the same Faith with the rest of the Jewish Congregation, only they differed about the Persons to whom the Government, Civil and Sacred, was to be [12/13] committed. Besides, The terms of Communion are now made Unlawful, as they believe; For it is no longer the Duty of a good Christian to Communicate with the Church, when her terms of Communion prove Unlawful (this is our Argument against the Papists why we left them) though all good Christians acknowledge it their Duty to Communicate with all Sound Parts of the Catholick Church in Prayers, and Sacraments; for we have made a Separation from the Romish Church, refusing justly to frequent their places of Worship, because their Service is made up of many Offices, in which we cannot conscienciously joyn; scuh as their Prayers to Saints, &c. and some acts required (asuch as Adoration of the Host) which we judge to be Idolatrous; if therefore we justify our Separation from the Romish Church by this Principle, by parity of Reason we oblige our selves to separate from any other Communion, where any Parts of the publick Service are against the express Word of God; and if this Principle will not justify the present Separation, I fear, we shall be hard put to it to justify by it our former Separation from the Romish Church; for whatever Church enjoyns any Duty, or any part of a Duty (for what is Good must have all its Causes entire) contrary to the Law of God, makes the terms of her Communion Unlawful; But that Church that injoyns me to Curse the Lord’s Anointed, and to pray that his Enemies may have Victory over him, &c., injoyns me what is contrary to the Law of God: for it matters not whether that law be the Law of Faith, or the Law of Manners; though I should think my self more especially Bound to observe the latter, for I may be [13/14] more easily mistaken in an Opinion, than in a plain Rule of Virtue; and a mistake in Opinion is more Pardonable, because Knowledge is harder to be attain’d in matters of Speculation, than in matters of Morality, and known Duty. And if it be Objected,

Object. 5. That Praying after the manner above mentioned, is not imposed as a term of Communion, I Answer.

Answ. What have I to do to be present at any Service where I cannot joyn in all Parts of it? And is not saying Amen to every Prayer in our Liturgy required from all that are present at it; And is not the so saying a Testimony of Consent? If not, I may serve God Daily or Weekly in a Jewish Synagogue, where they Curse our Holy Saviour, or in an Arian, or Socinian Conventicle, where they deny his Divinity, because I am not Bound to joyn in those Execrable Expressions, which are not required as terms of Communion.

And if it be rejoyned that God knows my Heart; I Answer, How know the Congregation, but that, when I am upon my Knees, I say as heartily Amen to that Prayer, as any other; an I am Bound not to give Scandal to them, or to do any thing that may incourage them to Sin.

If it be said, A Man may help himself out with his Intention, will this not Patronize all Evil? For by this Evasion I can go to Mass, be Present, and kneel at the Elevation, and direct my Adoration to God in Heaven; Or (as the Jesuites in the East-Indies [14/15] advis’d their Converts) go into an Heathen Temple, bow down before the Idol, and direct the Worship to a Crucifix hid under the Coat. A Position thought fit to be Censur’d even by the late Pope himself. And how is this agreeable to that Sincerity, and Simplicity, which the Christian Religion requires from us? I am sure, the Libellatici were of old Censur’d, not for Sacrificing to Idols, nor for being present at the Sacrifices, but for purchasing by Money a Certificate from the Governor (a less Offence than what we are Discoursing of) as if they had Sacrificed; such a Demeanour being look’d on as Unbecoming the Sincerity of those Times, and the Resolution which the Gospel requires. But,

Object. 6. Many help this out by saying, The World knows their Principles, and that they Protest against what others have done. But I Answer, This is as,

Answ. I. As if a Man should Protest against Idolatry, and yet go every Day to Mass; or against Blaspheming the Name of our Holy Saviour, and yet Communicate all his Life long with the Socinians. And,

2. How can these Men avoid the Scandal, which is hereby given? Bishops, and Priests, ought to be [15/16] Burning Lights, i.e. Illustrious in their Zeal for God, and Religion, and Exemplary in Their Actions. Now as when an Eminent Clergy-man goes into a Popish Chapel, and bows down to an Image, a plain Man thinks he Worships the Wood, or the Stoe, and knows not his Distinctions of Mediate, and Immediate Worship, of Objective, and Terminative, by which he would free himself from Idolatry; and by this means seeing so great an Example, is tempted to break the Second Commandment: So it is here, the same plain Man comes into one of our Congregations, sees a Non-Swearer joyn in Prayers (at least Kneel at them) How can he but hereby be Incourag’d to believe Rebellion no Sin; for how should a plain Man know the distinction of de Jure, and de Facto; of Praying for a King in Possession against one that ought to have it; and such like Distinctions? And for every such Man’s Soul is such a Bishop, or Priest to answer at God’s Tribunal, if by following his Example he fall into any Sin. But,

Object. 7. If these Men be such Sinners, that to joyn with them in their Devotions is Sin, Why do not the Non-swearing Bishops Excommunicate them?

Answ. I. The High Priests had not Excommunicated the Worshippers of Baal in Elijah’s time; yet that would have been no Excuse, if the 7000 that had now bow’d their Knees to that Idol, had gone into his Temple and Worship’d there: Nor did the Sanhedrim (that I know of) Excommunicate the Sadducees, or the Follower of Judas Gaulonites (who [16/17] were all Traytors) yet, I suppose, it will not be deny’d, but that it was Unlawful to Communicate with them. I do not read, That the Luciferians, or the Followers of Paulinus at Antioch, were Excommunicated, and yet it was held to be Schismatical to frequent their Conventicles.

2. It hath been agreed, That it is neither Safe, nor Prudent to Excommunicate a Publick Community, when they deserve it; though, perhaps, that Position ought very cautiously to be maintained, else the multitude of Offenders must at all times affright the Church from doing her Duty.

3. Put the Case, The Bishops ought to have Excommunicated Such Offenders; Shall their Omission of one Duty ingage them to commit another Sin? And it seems to me to be Superfluous to Excommunicate them; for all the Clergy so ingaged, are already under Censures by the Canons of our Church, Anno 1640, and by parity of Reason the Laity. But if all the Bishops in the Church should turn Apostates (I suppose that which I take for granted never will be) yet then it is the Duty of every Lay-man to stick to the Truth, and not to Communicate with a Schism (for they, who make the Schism, are the Schismaticks; and they, who make the Terms of Communion Unlawful, make the Schism) for it is better to be guilty of the neglect of those Duties, that are necessary only Necessitate Præcepti (by Virtue of the Divine Command) such as Communicating Publickly in Prayers, Receiving the Sacrament, &c. (though, I thank God, these Blessings are not wanted in Private) than [17/18] to Deprive those that are Necessitate Medii (as Means without which Salvation is not to be had) such as our Duties to God, in keeping his Oath, and to our Sovereign, in Honouring and Obeying him, and in not resisting him for fear of Damnation. To all which it should be added, That our Clergy are under the Obligation of an Oath, that bind them to obey their Ordinary in Licitus et Honestis: And it were worth their most serious Thoughts, what a dangerous Sin Perjury (either to a King, or a Bishop) is in its own Nature; and how God has threatned, Not to hold such Men Guiltless who take his Name in vain. And so much in Answer to the Objections.

3. Should this Method of Depriving Bishops be allowed, how do such Proceedings give Countenance to the Objection of our Adversaries the Papists, who tell us, we have no Religion, but what is Parliamentary, and no Bishops, but what are Parliamentary; For if this Procedure be according to the Rules, that our Holy Saviour hath left behind him, then they who have Deprived Seven, or Eighty Bishops, may Deprive all the rest, and throw off the very Order: And, if so, may part with Christianity, and Establish any other Religion in the room of it. And in truth Erastianism easily dissolves it self into the Principles of Mr. Hobs, who allows the Government to make what Religion themselves please, and to oblige the People to Conform to it. And have we not at present a sad Example of it in the Church of Scotland, which is Depriv’d of that Episcopal Government, which Christ instituted in his Church? And was there not [18/19] as deplorable an Instance, not an Age since, in this Kingdom, when the Long Parliament first Abolished Episcopacy, and then Murdered the King?

This I have said, as a Divine, having meddled only with the Canons of the Church, not concerning my self with what the Municipal Laws of late have said in this Case. And, if this will not perswade my Brethren of the Clergy to do their Duty to their Diocesans (however Suspended, or Deprived) I leave them with that Advice of St. Cyprian (who Excellently well understood this Controversie) Itaque qui Christo non credit Sacerdotem facienti, postea Credere incipit (I would read it, incipiet) Sacerdotem vindicant: That is, “He who will not believe our Holy Saviour that hath Constituted Bishops, shall afterwards begin to believe him, when he shall vindicate the those Bishops, whom he hath appointed.”

Project Canterbury