Project Canterbury

Of Christian Communion

By John Kettlewell

London: no publisher, 1693.

Part I. Chapter I.
Of the differences here treated of, and of the schism consequent thereon.

Revolutions of states and kingdoms, when they have put them into the possession of new masters, are wont to bring on new oaths of allegiance, for security of the new possessors; and also, to bring on alterations of public prayers and liturgies, so far, at least, as concerns the cause and interest of the governing persons; that religious, as well as civil offices and ministrations, may espouse and serve their cause, who have got the power into their hands.

These impositions of such new oaths, and of such alterations and ordering of the public worship, pursuant to the design thereof, are usually followed with acts of state, for deprivation of those bishops and clergy, who refuse and stand off from the same; and for substituting opposite or anti-bishops, and other clergy, that will conform thereto, into their places. And when these are executed accordingly, especially in much disputed cases, it may be an afflictive sight to many good and Christian minds, in just acknowledgement to the extraordinary, and perhaps generally celebrated merits of some, and in due compassion to the hard measure of all the sufferers. But it will be much more impressive and lamentable, on the score of that terrible rent and schism, thereby like to ensue in such churches, which is so generally and deservedly dreaded and bewailed, by all sincere promoters of unity, and unfeigned lovers of peace, and of the prosperity of the church.

This breach being thus made, on one side, the sufferers will be pressed to submit, in regard to the deprivation of the state. And moreover, supposing themselves injured, they will be put in mind of the justly magnified excellency of the desirableness, and necessity of unity; and will be called upon as good pastors, who prefer the flock, before themselves, to give up private claims to public peace, and personal quarrels and pretences to the advantage and edification of the church. And this preference of peace to private interests, they must own to be the duty of all good pastors, and as becomes such, profess to set these things above all worldly profits and considerations being ready, when called thereto, to lay down even their lives for the sheep, after the example of the great shepherd. And it is not improbable, but that at such times they may wish withal, that their admonishes had been as ready to follow this advice, as they are to give it; and had, like good and conscionable Christians, reflected seasonably and seriously themselves, upon these duties of peace and unity, before they had acted so much against them, in rushing head long, as they may allege, into that breach, which in the end, the generality see so great cause to lament, but which the sufferers have no power to remedy. Or, that in just and necessary remorse, for what they have done, they would penitently return whence they are fallen; and seeing their error, so unhappily overlooked before, by coming into the old paths, reunite themselves to then brethren again.

But on the other hand, they will be ready to put their brethren and accusers in mind, that neither a state deprivation, nor a synodical deprivation, had there been one, can discharge a bishop from standing up, to keep off damage and danger to religion, and to the souls of men, or from preventing their being nursed up in immoral practices and devotions. And that true and faithful pastors, are not so straightly bound to keep up external unity and peace, as to keep up necessary truth and righteousness, and holy and unpolluted worship, in the church. Their charge is, first, to provide against all things that endanger or destroy the souls of men, and damnify religion; and when that is done, then to look how they may provide against all schism, or breach of external unity, with their compastors or brethren; but never seek to salve and secure this, by letting those alone.

Besides, as to peace and union, instead of carrying themselves off from truth and righteousness at such times, or any good people off from them, they will allege, that they oblige all, who will make conscience thereof, and observe them as they ought, to stick to them. For the unity, which Christ requires, is, to keep united upon the profession of true doctrine and holy worship, not of any damnable errors and corruptions thereof. And under our own lawful and canonical bishops and pastors, not under any opposite or anti-bishops and pastors, schismatically set up against them, and violently intruding into their places.

The determination of this debate at all such times, and on all such emergencies, is both of highest account, and of most general concernment. And the design of these papers, is to set down those things, whereon, in my judgment, the clearing of it must depend; and by the help whereof, sincere Christians, in such divisions, may be enabled to resolve, both what is the duty of the suffering bishops and clergy, in those cases; and also, what is the peoples' duty, and with which of the concerned parties, men, who desire nothing so much, as to please God, and to keep a good conscience, ought to unite and join themselves.

As to the deprived bishops and clergy, at such times, the question is whether, not withstanding their deprivation, they are bound still to go on in the exercise of their ministry? Or, sitting down under it, and letting fall their spiritual ministrations, they should content themselves to keep united the anti-bishops, and to their adherents, as lay communicants.

If it be their duty still to insist on their spiritual powers, and, as they can, and at their perils to exercise their respective ministrations; those churches are unavoidably left in a state of flagrant schism. For the opposite or anti-bishops are set up against them, in their respective churches, as new heads. And if the old ones are not only still in place, and bishops of their flocks, but stand still bound to stick thereto, and to act as heads of those churches; each church will stand divided between two heads: which drawing opposite parties and members after them, must unavoidably make two bodies, and rend one into two churches. And besides, one having the protection and countenance of the state, and the other wanting it, they must not by divided and separate ministrations. One, in the way of an incorporate church, encouraged by legal places and preferments, and fortified by secular laws and privileges. But the other, in the way of a destitute or persecuted church, stripped of the public churches, and of secular benefices, and of all temporal aids and methods, directing and fortifying the spiritual jurisdiction in the ecclesiastical courts, and left merely to its spiritual powers. When the state deprives them, they must take up with what is independently and original their own, and not expect from it the benefits and assistances of any secular mixtures, which were derived to them by incorporation.

As to this point of schism, several good minds may think, that though, by setting up opposite or anti-bishops against them, in their respective sees, others have already made it; yet may it be in the power of the seinjured sufferers, by their receding and submission thereto; to remedy and put an end to it. And it is like many serious and hearty lovers of peace, and of those churches, may at such times be apt to wish, that, for the sake of unity, they would do so.

Indeed, where they may be free to do as they please, that is when no part of faith or good practice is like to suffer by it nor the safety and welfare of those souls committed to them, is hazarded thereby, much may be said to good pastors, not to insist too much on their personal rights and privileges, but to forego, and give them up, for the peace and tranquility of the church. Their spiritual powers are committed to them, not as to lords of God's heritage, therewith to seek, and serve themselves; but as to stewards, that look after it for another or as shepherds, thereby to serve and benefit their flocks. Their powers are all a ministry, to promote religion, and serve the church by parting with any thing of their own for its good, as their great master did; not to please or aggrandize their own persons being given them for edification, or wherewith to build up the church not for destruction, or the pulling of it down. Accordingly, the pastoral spirit is a generous public spirit. Nothing is more opposite thereto, than narrow private aims, and seeking of themselves; nor more required thereby, than neglect, or denial of themselves, for the safety and profit of their flocks, and care or solicitude for others. It lies as the blessed apostle saith, in naturally caring for the churches: in seeking not their own things, but the things which are Jesus Christ's. In not seeking their own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. In making themselves servants to all, when thereby they could profit, the state of religion, and their flocks, though it were by encumbering and prejudicing themselves; becoming all things to all men, that by all means they may save some.

And therefore, when it has only been a cause of their own persons, or personal, claims, but not of religion, or of the interest of the church; good and holy bishops have thought it became the pastoral spirit, rather to recede, and sit down under the injuries, than, that for their sakes, a fatal schism should be kept on in the church. If this schism be for my sake, send me away, or I will depart whither you please, and do what the people would have me, that the flock of Christ, with the presbyters over it, may be kept in peace: was what St. Clemens Romanus, St. Paul's fellow labourer; recommended to the heads of parties in the church of Corinth; and pressed by the example of Moses, who was content to be blotted out of the book of life, to save the Israelites; and of those kings, who, even among heathens, devoted themselves to death, for the preservation of their own countries. We ought to endure any thing, rather than that the church of Christ should be divided. Yea, it is not only as glorious, but more glorious in my judgment, to suffer martyrdom, for keeping out schism in the church, than for not sacrificing to idols, saith Dionysius of Alexandria to Novatus, on the division made at Rome. If I am any way the cause of your division, I am not better than the prophet Jonah; throw me into the sea, so that thereby the tempest of those troubles may cease from you. Whatever you see needful to that end, I choose to suffer. Though I am blameless, and have been no cause of these troubles; yet, for your unanimity and peace-sake, I am content to be thrust out of the throne, and to be expelled from the city, says Gregory Nazianzen, in his speech to the synod, on the contest of Maximus Cynicus, for his see of Constantinople. And we are ready to leave this prelacy to whom you will; provided that way the church may continue one, said St. Chrysostom, when at Constantinople, others, as he complains, had unlawfully ascended the episcopal throne, and thereupon a separation was made from him.

But in cases, where the injured sufferers are still bound to insist on their powers, and to stand up for religion's sake, and the churches'; this way of curing a schism by their receding, has no place. And therefore this obligation to exercise their ministries, I have fixed the debate upon, in the case of such deprived bishops and ministers. For if they stand bound in duty at such times, to exercise their ministrations; though never so desirous of peace and unity, they cannot cure that schism, which others have made, by letting their ministrations fall. And, besides its directly meeting that pretence, and fully answering it: I think it plainest to be apprehended, and more powerful to operate on the minds of those, who are to be directed, and resolved in this dispute.

Project Canterbury