Part III. Chapter I.
Of the nature of schism. And of the schism of particular members from their own church, in throwing off subjection and dependence on their own bishops.
By what I have offered, about the authority and effect of state-deprivations, yea, or even of the depositions of synods too, I think it may appear, how the faithful ministers of Christ are not disabled, or discharged, by any such deprivations, from the exercise of their spiritual ministrations, whereto they stand bound, by so many obligations, in the forementioned cases.
But besides the deprivation of state, some think the maintenance of unity in the church, when that is like to be broken thereby, ought to stop them of that exercise. And therefore, for a further clearing of their duty in those cases, I shall proceed,
2. Secondly, to show, that the preservation of external communion and peace in the church, ought not to debar, or put by their due discharge thereof.
Admit, say some, that it were their duty to go on in their ministrations for the service of religion and of souls, in those cases where this can be done in maintenance of unity, and whilst the church continues one. Yet what will you say, if such ministration must unavoidably make, or keep up a schism? Do not we all own that, to be one of the greatest banes to religion, and a most sinful and mischievous thing? And if otherwise they ought to be held on, ought not such ministrations to be let fall, rather than a schism shall be made, or kept up in the church thereby? That there will be a schism in the church, in such cases, is most apparent. And that schism is most dreadful to the church, full of guilt, as it is both the breach of unity and the bane of charity, and an in-let of continual miseries, and disturbances, is no less apparent. But in pressing the consideration thereof upon particular persons, or parties, for prevention, or redress, it is to be enquired, first, who makes it? That will show who ought to mend it; but if they will not, it may be enquired next, who else can cure it? Or what the sufferers, in love of peace, and preferring the public before themselves, should give up for the cure thereof, that they may duly prize external unity, but not over-value it? Or if, through the error or inflexibleness, (which God avert,) of those who are the authors thereof, it be already made, and cannot be remedied, all are to consider, lastly, how they are to carry themselves towards the makers of it, and with whom they are to hold communion.
To clear these points I shall say something.
I. To the nature of schism, to show when a schism is made, and by whom.
Ii. To those things, which may be a just ground to disunite and break off, either from any persons, or churches, without blame of schism; some things not being to be born, nor others to be parted with, for the love of external peace and union.
Iii. To the communion of good Christians under a schism, and how they are to carry it towards schismatics.
1. First, I shall say something to the nature of schism, to show when a schism is made, and by whom.
Schism lies in breach of union, or in making two, or many, out of one. Schisms, says St. Cyprian, which cut or break the unity, or tear and divide that, which should be kept together as one body. By schism, as St. Chrysostom notes, one church is broken into many churches, and the unity thereof is abolished, accordingly the members are called upon, to be joined together in the same mind, and in speaking the same things, that there be no schisms, 1 Corinthians 1. 10. Not to set up an independence among themselves, and act separately; but with mutual dependence and conjunction, that there be no schism in the body (1 Corinthians 12. 25). And scismata schisms, are usually rendered divisions, as 1 Corinthians 10. And c. 11. 18.
This union, which schism breaks, is the union of a society. For the church is a society of men, associated and incorporated together, for the work and purposes of religion. It is called a family, or household, or city, which are all words expressive of society. St. Paul styles it, the city of the living God, Heb. 12. 22. And tells the Christians at Ephesus, that they are fellow-citizens with the saints, Ephesians 2. 19.
This church, or spiritual city, wherein Christians are incorporated into one body, is not only the church of one place or country, wherein all the members may embody and associate under the same governors; as the church of Rome, Alexandria, or Antioch. But the collection of all particular Christian societies, or the whole number of independent churches, existing in all times, and diffused through all places. For all these, our saviour has ordained to be one society, or spiritual body. Of them he speaks, or of all that do or shall believe on him, when he prays to his Father, that they all may be one, John. 17. 11. 20. 21. And of them St. Paul speaks, when he says both of Jews and gentiles, distributed into so many distinct churches, that by the cross of Christ, they are all reconciled to God in one body. Ephesians 2. 16. And when he says of baptism, which, being duly received in any church, makes a man free of all other Christian churches, that by one spirit, we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or gentiles (1 Corinthians 12. 13). And of the unity of this church, or collection of all believers, do those scriptures speak, which represent all that are in heaven and all that are in earth, as one whole family (eph. 3. 15). As one house-hold (1 Timothy 3: 15 and Galatians 6. 10) or, as one city (Hebrews 12: 22). Whence accordingly all, who are at any time in this world, are said to have their citizenship or corporation in heaven, Phil. 3. 20. And all who are admitted into Christ's church here, to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and domestics with prophets, and apostles, and with all others, who are gone to God before. Ephesians 2: 19. What is the one body, saith St. Chrysostom on the words of St. Paul, there is one body? It is all believers, of every place, saith he, both those who now are, and who formerly have been, and who hereafter shall be.
And as to the union of these spiritual bodies or societies, both the members of each particular church, must keep unity, or make one society with their own church. And every particular and independent church, with its members, must keep unity, and make one society, with all other particular and independent churches. The members keep unity with their own church, by due dependence and subjection, or by keeping subject and dependant on their own lawful bishops. And one particular church, keeps unity with all other independent and sister churches, by fraternal communion, or the communion of saints in the holy catholic church professed in the creed; that is, by their readiness to unite with their religious assemblies, to own their members, and to ratify their church acts, as if they were their own, or had been sped by themselves.
And this way of fraternal communion, as well as the other, of keeping under the same visible governors by due dependence and subjection, is a way to unite them, not only as a sect, who all hold and profess the same doctrines and opinions; but also as a society, or as one body. For by this bond of fraternal communion, they stand obliged, not only to unity of doctrine, as men of the same sect; but to unity, as of internal, so of external society and incorporation, as fellow citizens. For such are the obligations, of receiving mutually each others member as their own free denizens; of admitting of their baptismal claims, and church privileges; of ratifying of their church-acts, and censures; of associating with their church services, and assemblies; and of standing together, as one body and brotherhood, for the same common tenets and religious interests, as if they were incorporated under the same external heads, or were the members of the same particular church. And this is to unite them in the great things of society; particularly of a spiritual society, which lies mightily in communion in spiritual acts and offices. And accordingly, uniting in the same sacraments, which are the highest acts of church communion, is set out for a way of uniting all in one body, or corporation. We being many, are one body, by being all partakers of that one bread (1 Corinthians 10. 17). And we are all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12. 13). So that all Christian churches, who under one common father, as domestics; or under one Lord and king, as fellow citizens; are incorporated upon one charter or new covenant, to live by the same laws, and out of the same hopes, and in enjoyment of the same church-rights and privileges; and have one common form of incorporation, to naturalize or enfranchise them thereinto, viz. one baptism; are to transact as one society, by keeping up one fraternal communion among themselves.
Now both this union of subjection, towards their own church and its lawful heads; and of fraternal communion, towards all other equal and independent churches; all good Christians are bound to keep up, unless some obstacles happen in either, which are of force to put a bar thereto, or give discharge thereof. And such obstacles, either in our own bishops, or in other equal and independent churches, are heresy, when once openly professed by them. Or, their fixing unlawful terms of communion, putting sinful things into their sacred offices, or not allowing any to communicate with them, without believing, or professing some false doctrine, or partaking with them in some evil worship or thing. Or, tyrannical usurpation on their brethren's liberties, not admitting other churches to their communion, unless they will give up their own rights and freedoms, and become their subjects. When such exceptions lie against any bishops, or against any churches, they have lost their claims of union. But all church-members are bound, I conceive, by all the numerous, and earnest commands, of keeping unity, to continue subject to their lawful bishops; as all churches are by the same, to keep up communion with other churches; if they cannot produce any such just obstacles in bar thereof.
Now schism, is a sinful breach of this union of church society. Either, in the members of any particular church, when they unjustly break off their subjection and dependence upon their own church. Or, in any particular churches, when they unduly break off fraternal communion with other churches, denying to assemble with them, or communicating with such, as stand excommunicated by, or have made a schism from them.
First, one great way of schism, is in respect of particular members, when, against the gospel duty and commands of unity, they unduly throw off their subjection and dependence upon their own bishops, and break off from the unity of their own church.
One way of uniting societies, or bodies of men, is by uniting them under the same heads. They are all one body, and members one of another, as keeping under, and being united to the same head and governor. Thus, of the association of man and wife, which is the original society, and makes a family, which is the ground work of all other societies, it is said, that they two are one, Ephesians 5. 31. Because the husband is the head of the wife, v. 23. And so likewise of Christ and his church, that they are one, Ephesians 5. 31, 32. Because he is the head of his church, v. 23. And one way, whereby, as St. Cyprian observes, our Lord sets off the uniting of his sheep, as one flock; is by uniting them under himself, as the one shepherd, John. 10. 16. It is the joint-union and dependence, on one master of the family, which makes one house; and on one general, which makes one army; and on one king, which makes one kingdom. And so on one and the same church-heads and governors, which makes one particular church. For the apostle compares the union of many persons, into one church or politic society; to the union of many members, into one natural body, 1 Corinthians 12. Which union, is made by the adherence and dependence of the members, on the natural head: for the several members, are no longer one body, nor one with each other, after once they are cut off, and parted from it. As to the unity, we take a body, when the apostle says there is one body, for that which is under one head. So that, if there be but one head, there is but one body, saith St. Chrysostom, the union of the church therefore, as one particular society, which schism breaks, consists chiefly in keeping united to church-heads and governors. Church-rulers, are the heads, which make the several parts one with another; or, as the scripture sometimes speaks, the joints and ligaments, which tie the respective members, and compact the whole body together. The whole body of the church, saith St. Paul, is fitly joined together, and compacted by that, which every joint, i.e. each pastor or church-governor, supplies. Ephesians 4. 16. And we are all the body of Christ, and members in particular, as he says again, as we are under the same governors which he has set over that body, having in the church set, as first apostles, so after them governments, viz. bishops and presbyters, for the standing governance and administration thereof, 1 Corinthians 12. 27, 28.
More particularly, the heads of union in any church-societies, are the bishops in their respective churches. They are the head of the body of the church; as presbyters and deacons are as the hands thereof, as Zonaras observes on the 55th and 56th Canons of the Apostles. For, since the death of the holy apostles, the bishops are the chief spiritual heads, and the ordinary and standing governors of Christ's church. They, above all others, are those guides or rulers, whom the members of the church are called to remember and obey, Heb. 13. 7. 17. The angels of the churches, unto whom, as the heads thereof, our Lord directs himself, when he sends the several letters to the churches, Revelation 2: 1, 7, 8, 11, &c. They stand to head the members of Christ, and to unite and compact them together, under him the chief bishop; appearing at the head of their respective churches, as his deputies, who represent his person, and supply his place; acting, in the person of Christ, as St. Paul; or vice Christi, in his place or stead, as St. Cyprian; whom we ought to respect, as the Lord himself, as St. Ignatius says.
So that for church-members to keep the union of any church, is to keep subject and dependant on him, who is the lawful bishop thereof. Thus, St. Ignatius makes men's return from schism to the unity of God, to lie in their return to the subjection and consistory of their lawful bishop. They make the church or one body, who hold on communion, and keep one with him, and with those presbyters and deacons, who adhere to him, and officiate under him. The church, saith St. Cyprian, is a people united to their bishop, or a flock adhering to their shepherd. Whence you may know, the bishop always to be in the church, and the church to go along with the bishop. And they break off from the unity of the church, who break off from him; and they go to set up another church, if they go to set up another bishop against him. If any are no longer with the bishop, says the same St. Cyprian, they are no longer of the church. And to consent to the setting up of another bishop, is the same, as to consent to the setting up of another church, says he to those confessors at Rome, who had agreed to the setting up of Novatian against Cornelius. Thus is the one bishop, at the head of his clergy and people, to unite and keep together a Christian church, all the oblations whereof are to be in his communion, and with his allowance; as the one altar among the Jews, was to keep together the Jewish church. For they were to have but one altar of burnt-offering at Jerusalem, whither all were to come for sacrifice; and were forbid to set up an altar any where else. And because of his being set for the same purpose of unity, as that was; therefore is the bishop and his communion, called unum altare, the one altar; and making an anti-bishop, is called setting up aliud altare, another altar, in the ancient language.
And therefore in pressing the great duty of unity on the ancient Christians, the fathers enjoin them most strictly to stick to their bishops. This is done by St. Cyprian: and before him by Ignatius, that blessed martyr and contemporary of the apostles. Take care all of you, says he, to follow the bishop;--wheresoever the bishop appears to be, there let the multitude be with him: like as wheresoever Christ goes, the catholic church goes too. Let my part be with those, says he again, who keep subject to the bishop; yea, let my soul be pawned for theirs. As many as are God's and Jesus Christ's, keep with the bishop, says he in another place, pressing them to union, and warning them against schism. And because the church is to be but one, therefore there is to be but one bishop in a church, for the members all to adhere to, or for the body to associate and unite with. This was, and ought to be the ecclesiastical rule, as was affirmed by Cornelius, saying, there ought to be but one bishop in a catholic church: and as is also declared by the great Council of Nicea.
Now, as the union of any churches, lies mainly in keeping united to the bishops: so schism, which is a breach of union in those churches, will lie chiefly in breaking off unduly and dividing from them. Especially, in setting up of opposite bishops, or in making a second bishop in a church, against a former orthodox and rightful bishop yet living and claiming, which makes a most plain, and consummate schism. For, in the same church, two opposite bishops, are two opposite heads. And two heads, will make two bodies; those who set up the new one against the old, as likewise all they who afterwards come over to him, making a new body under him; which apparently destroys union, and makes two out of one. And thus, we fee it doth in all societies. If an opposite general, is set up by a mutinous party, it divides the army; or if an opposite king is set up in a realm, it makes a sedition, and divides the kingdom. Or, if the same is done in a college, a family, or other societies, as well as in a church, opposite heads do unavoidably make opposite bodies, and visibly destroy the unity of any society, by breaking into two societies, or into as many, as there shall be opposite heads thereof.
Accordingly, the ancients place the schism of church-members, in breaking off from rightful bishops, or setting up others in the same church against them. Thus, in the apostolical canons, the schism of presbyters, of other clergy, or laics, is expressed by their setting up another altar, and assembling separately, in contempt of the bishop. So also the Council of Carthage declares, concerning any presbyters, who should do the same, after they had been sentenced and segregated by their bishops, that therein they are makers of schisms. And the second general council rejects men as schismatics, though they give out that they confess the right faith, if they assemble and hold congregations, in opposition to their canonical bishops. Hence, says St. Cyprian, come schisms and heresies, because men envy and contemn their bishops. They have risen, and do rise from this, viz. from some proud person's presumptuous contempt of the bishop, who is one, and presides over the church.
Especially, if they set up an anti-bishop, and oppose a second bishop to the first, or to one canonically ordained already, and rightfully possessed of the same church. This was the case of Novatianus, whom the three Italian bishops, which he called to Rome for that purpose, ordained bishop of Rome against Cornelius, who was already the rightful and canonical bishop of that place. This setting up of anti bishops, St. Cyprian tells them, is erecting an adulterous head, (a second bishop being no more to be admitted to the same church, than a second husband to the same wife, whilst the former lives:) and a spurious or adulterate chair. And bids them know, that after once a bishop is lawfully made, and ordained in any church, they can no ways set up another bishop against him in the same place. He calls it erecting unlawful priesthoods, and opposing against the true altar and holy sacrifice, a false and profane altar, and sacrilegious sacrifices. And he aggravates the Novatian schism, by saying, they had not only broke off from the bishop and church, but had proceeded against the ordinance of God, and catholic unity, to set up against him another bishop, an adulterous and contrary head. And on like setting up of anti-bishops, after others were first in place, Optatus charges the Donatists with schism afterwards. These setters up of opposite or anti-bishops, first break off themselves from their own bishop, before they can set another up against him. And being broke off from their bishop, they are broke off from the church, which is in episcopo, as I showed before, or goes along with the bishop; those members only making the true body, which adhere and keep to the head; and those ceasing to be any longer of the body, who are separated from the head. And therefore these opposite or anti-bishops, and opposite altars, that blessed martyr still says are foris, and extra ecclesiam, and have receded ab ecclesia; that is, are not within, but without the church.
Now from this account of church-union in any particular churches, and of schism, which lies in the unjust breach thereof, I shall observe these three things.
1. First, that when a second, or opposite bishop, is set up in any church against a former orthodox one, who is still bishop thereof, the anti-bishop, and they who set him up and adhere to him, make the schism. For the other, with his adherents, as the same head and members abide still where they were, and are still the same church. But the anti-bishop and his followers, are gone out from them, which Optatus gives as a plain proof against the Donatist bishops, that the schism lay at their doors. They have broke themselves off, and by erecting themselves into an opposite head and body, make a new and opposite church. Consenting to set up another bishop, they consented therein to set up another church, as I observed before from St. Cyprian. So that they rend that body, which, by keeping wholly to one bishop before, was but one, into several pieces, and break one church into two churches.
This, I say, they do, if the former bishop is orthodox. For if he is heretical, heresy, as I shall show, dissolves the union, and cancels the obligation of adherence between such head and members. They are bound to own him as their head, and to be one with him as his true and genuine members, whilst he is at the head of Christian doctrines, and necessary truths; but not when he falls off from them, into damnable heresies and unchristian errors.
And if he is still the rightful bishop of that church. If he voluntarily quits his right, and relation to them, and gives it up by his own resignation, they are no longer bound to adhere to him. For these unions and dependences, are contracted by the consent of men's own wills, and are kept up betwixt these heads and members, not by natural, but voluntary communications. So that, if a bishop throws up his own relation, and will no longer preside over them, as head of a church; they are no longer bound, to keep in dependence and subjection, or to stick to him, as members thereof. Or, if he loses it against his will, by a just sentence and deprivation, that also discharges the members from their union and dependence, and sets them free to receive, and to unite themselves to another in his place. But if neither death has put an end to his relation, nor he has thrown it up by his own resignation, nor is deprived thereof by the finishing of a regular process and synodical sentence against him; he is still the bishop of his church, and will bar and keep out any other person from being ordained a bishop over them. A bishop can by no means be constituted in that church, whose own bishop is yet alive, and stands vested with his proper honour, unless of his own accord he renounce his bishopric. And as to making a vacancy by deprivation, it behooves first, that the cause of him, who is to be cast out of his bishopric, be canonically examined, and the process against him be fully brought to an end. And then, after he is canonically deposed, another may be promoted to his bishopric, say the fathers in the Council of Constantinople.
But if even a synod of bishops shall deprive an orthodox bishop of any church, for adhering to the truths, or commands of Christ; he is Christ's true bishop still in that church, and his faithful people's spiritual head, for all that unjust sentence. For Christ stands by him, who stands by his doctrines and precepts; and unjust depositions on these accounts, have no more validity in his sight, than unjust excommunications for the same accounts have, as has been already showed. But, if there is no interposition of synods, but a mere deprivation of state, that will much less do it. For there is a spiritual subjection and dependence of people to their bishops, especially to such as suffer for adhering to Christian truths or precepts, which the civil state cannot break or dissolve. Christ himself, by his institution, has made a spiritual relation between them, and antecedently obliged his people to this union and adherence to them, as they are vice Christi, his ministers and vice-gerents, as St. Cyprian says. Kings and civil states, may come afterwards, and tie this spiritual union and adherence, faster on, by temporal dependences and enforcements. And what they lay on, they may take off again. But the spiritual relation and obligations, do not depend on them, but on Christ himself. Religion lays them on, and leaves it not in the power of any prince, to cancel or discharge them. They stood fixed, whilst the church was separate from the state, before any secular powers came in to protect it; and will still continue, if they turn all their power, to persecute and oppress it. Nor has our Lord left it to their courtesy, whether there shall be any spiritual relation betwixt his people and their pastors, whether they shall keep up their spiritual relation and dependence, and he shall have a church on earth, or no; as is before discoursed more at large.
The learned author, of the vindication of their majesties authority in filling the vacant sees, owns the advancement of George the Cappadocian into the place of Athanasius, to have been schismatical, and an usurpation and breach of catholic communion. The setting up of this anti-bishop, was by a deprivation of state. For constantius took away the churches from Athanasius and his adherents, which is the state-way of depriving bishops; and gave them to George the anti-bishop and his adherents. Nay, he sends an edict, to the senate and people of Alexandria, requiring them on their allegiance, (instead of sticking to him as their spiritual head, with the affection and dependence of members;) with their united force, to persecute Athanasius. And made it criminal in any persons, as Sozomen relates, to harbor or conceal him. And accordingly the imperial ministers and prefects, violently drove him and the orthodox out of the churches; and, by extreme force, put George and the Arians, in possession thereof: and, having placed this anti-bishop upon his throne, with all secular cruelties and barbarous usage, compelled the clergy and people to acknowledge and submit to him. It was also brought about by deprivation of synods. For after the Sardican synod, which restored him, Athanasius had been again deposed, both by the synod of Arles, and afterwards by the synod of Milan, wherein, besides a few from the east, above three hundred bishops of the west met, as Sozomen says, and condemned him. And the setting up of George against him after this, was in a synod, viz. the synod of Antioch, which declared the uncanonicalness of his restitution, and ordained George, as a former synod at that place had ordained Gregory before, to be bishop of Alexandria in his room. These, indeed, as the author of the vindication suggests, were heretical synods. And Dionysius of Alba, Eusebius of Vercelles, Paulinus of Tiers, and Rhodanus, and Lucifer, who at Milan protested against their proceedings, declared that, through Athanasius, the emperor and the Arians his enemies, were striking at the catholic faith; which the event of things, and the proceedings afterwards in the synods of Ariminum and Seleucia, verified, as Sozomen observes. But in way of external judicature, the deprivation, though of heretical synods, must at least carry with it as much plea, as deposition by no synods can pretend to; there being more show of ecclesiastical authority, in acts of heretical synods, than in none at all.
But for all this deposition, both by the imperial edicts, and synodical sentences, since the true cause thereof was his firmness and constancy to the catholic faith, Athanasius, as the foresaid author owns, still kept on his spiritual relation, and the people their spiritual and religious obligations to, and dependence on him. So that George, as he says, was an usurping invader, a breaker of catholic communion, and a ring-leader of a schism in the catholic church, when he set up against him. And the same it would be, in the case of any other bishop deprived by the like authority, for his fidelity and fixed adherence, to any other truths, or laws of Christ. For his faithful bishops must stick to him, in all other points of Christian truth and practice, as well as in the orthodoxy of the Nicene faith. And that against the deprivations, of all other states and synods, as well as of the Arians. And their sticking to Christ in these points, can give no liberty to their clergy and people, to break off from them. Their steadfastness therein, must tie all faithful members faster to them; but can never be expounded, as a conscionable discharge of their spiritual obligations, and dependence on them.
If a schism is made in a church then, by a defection from the rightful orthodox bishop thereof, laid aside, either by a civil state or ecclesiastical synod, only for his faithful adherence to the doctrines, or laws of Christ; or by turning over to an anti-bishop, set up against him: it is plain, the anti-bishops, with their makers and adherents, make the schism. They were all members of the one body, whilst they kept subject and united to the rightful bishop, who is the head of it. But when they broke off from him, they divided themselves from the body; and formed themselves under an opposite head, into a new and opposite body. But he, and his adherents, still preserve the unity of the true body. The breakers off, make the division; but they, preserve their union. As those branches do, which still grow to the tree, when others are broke off from it; and those streams, which still communicate with the fountain, when others are stopped; and those rays, which keep connected to the sun, when others are interrupted: which similitudes, St. Cyprian makes choice of, to set off the unity of the church, and to show that they preserve this union, who keep to the same head and origin. What they do therefore in these cases, by sticking to each other as they did before, when others break off, is not to make the schism, but only not to follow and run into it. And they are no more chargeable with the division for this, than the general and his faithful soldiers would be in an army, for not going over to the mutineers; or than a king and his loyal subjects would be in a kingdom, for not turning over and submitting to the rebels. But as the anti-bishops and their party make the schism, by departing from the lawful head and true body, they must amend it by returning to it: and they stand answerable to God, so far as I see, for all the guilt, and sad consequences and effects thereof, if they refuse so to do.
2. Secondly, the unity of any church doth not go with the greatest numbers: but when a schism is made by a defection of members from their spiritual head, and setting up of anti-bishops, the schism is still the same, how numerous soever the members are that break off. For breaking off from their rightful head and governor, as I have shown, makes the schism: and then, the greatness of the number of those who do so, can only make it a greater schism. Number in schism, or in any other ill thing, may add confidence, and leave less hope of reclaiming those who are engaged therein. For multitude, as the ancient author of the comment on St. Matthew, printed among the works of St. Chrysostom, observes, is the mother of sedition, and of contumacy and incurableness therein; whereas paucity, or smallness of their number, is the mistress of discipline. But it doth not lessen the guilt, nor alter the nature of it, but schismatics are answerable for their schism, be they never so many of them.
That which makes any meeting of orthodox Christians, offering up a regular and established service, to be in the unity of the church, is their meeting under one, who officiates therein according to their own bishops approbation and allowance. For the unity of the body lies in keeping one with him. And the catholic and canonical rule, as I shall afterwards show, of keeping one with them, is by celebrating all public offices and divine service, with their allowance and approbation. So that, where any presbyters, or deacons perform the established offices, according to the mind of their own orthodox and rightful bishops; they officiate in the unity of the church, though it be but to a few, and to those met in corners. And where any others celebrate their offices, without the license, and against the approbation of their own orthodox and rightful bishops; they officiate in a schism, though it be among the fullest congregations, and with secular encouragements, and in the public authorized churches. The having their orthodox and true bishops approbation and concurrence, makes them no schismatics, and their meetings no conventicles, when conventicle notes, not a small, or secret, but a schismatical assembly; as it always doth, when it is a word of infamy and reproach. The canon counts it a conventicle, when any minister in a private oratory, against the allowance and approbation of him, who is chief priest in the country, says Balsamon on the canon forbidding ministrations contrary to the bishops mind and approbation.
And it has not been so strange a sight in the world, as every good mind would wish it had, to see schismatics from the body make a more numerous party, than those, who keep united to it. In the division of Israel from Judah, under jeroboam, the Israelites, who fell off from the one altar at Jerusalem, to other altars of their own erecting, were guilty of the schism: though they who stuck to that one altar, were but two tribes; and those defectors who broke off from it, were ten. The Arians, as they were heretics for subverting the true faith; so likewise were they all schismatics, by breaking off from the communion of their rightful bishops, as of Athanasius at Alexandria, of Paulus at Constantinople, of Lucius at Adrianople, of Asclepas at Gaza, of Marcellus at Ancyra, &c. And by enjoining all every where to break communion with them, and to receive and communicate with those anti-bishops, whom they had set up against them. And in the patriarchate of Alexandria more particularly, the Meletians, who before had made a schism in that church, fell into their party; as schism, to maintain itself, too often, yea always, says St. Jerome, takes up with, and ends in heresy. But these Arians who made the schism, were abundantly more numerous, than those faithful Christians, who kept to the unity of the catholic church; the whole world at one time groaning, as St. Jerome says, and admiring to see itself turned Arian. Again, the Donatists were notoriously guilty of the schism made in the African churches. But yet, when they over-run Africa, they could glory and vaunt themselves in their diffuseness, and in the greatness of their number. So that schism is compatible, with the greatest numerousness of adherents, if that number is of men combined together against their orthodox rightful bishops; and the unity of the church, with the smallest numbers, if that number is of members, that constantly adhere to them.
And this may likewise appear from those similitudes, of the unity betwixt the head and members, the tree and branches, &c. Whereby the ancients set out the unity of the church. For be the branches more or fewer, which keep united to the body, they make the tree. And be the members few or many, which stick on to the head or living trunk, they make the body. And so, be their numbers greater or less, do the adherers to the orthodox rightful bishop, make the one church.
Indeed, as the root has the branches; so the bishop, has the clergy and people, virtually in himself. That is, as he gets proselytes, he can make them Christians; and out of these, he can ordain presbyters, and deacons, so to head a body of clergy and people professing Christianity, which, according to the sense of the primitive fathers, is a Christian church. And thus a bishop, though appearing only with a few members about him, will make a church; and is qualified duly to spread it, and to make it more numerous: as the blessed apostles did, when they set up at first to gather churches; and as the first bishops did also, who were taken out of the first converts, and ordained at the head of them, to be bishops of those who should afterwards believe. So that the reducing of an orthodox rightful bishop, to a comparatively little number of adherents, will not hinder him and his followers from making up the one body, and being the one church. And as such, our Lord-will give ear to them, as St. Cyprian observes, though they be but two or three gathered together in his name, rather than to a greater number of schismatical dividers. To this promise of his presence, with two or three, or such small numbers, our Lord premises, says he, that these two or three be in the unity of the church, and preserve the concord of peace. And shows himself thereby, to be more with two or three such petitioners, than with a great number of schismatical dividers.
And if number of adherents will not, much less will any places of assemblies, make such members, as are broken off from their orthodox rightful bishops, to have the unity of the body with them, or to be the one church. For since the anti-bishop, with his followers, are all members broke off from their true and lawful head; they must needs be a schism, though they assemble in the most authorized places, and public churches. And since, in the orthodox and rightful bishop with his adherents, we see the members keeping united to their head, they musts needs retain that unity of the body, though driven to seek shelter in the wilderness, or to meet in corners. Such little flocks, are still the one church; though, like the first Christians, in the persecution raised against them by the Jews, they are kept out of the temple and all the public synagogues, and must be content to celebrate divine service, and hold their religious assemblies, in upper rooms.
3. Thirdly, therefore in pressing of ecclesiastical unity on the consciences of men, the preachers of peace and unity must press them to keep united to their own orthodox and rightful bishop, not to unite themselves to any other bishop set up against him. For the unity, which they are bound in conscience to keep up, is an unity under him; so unity, if rightly urged, will bind all to him, but rend none from him.
No precepts occur more frequently in the New Testament, than those requiring love and brotherly charity, and peace, and unity among Christians. And these are meant to tie them to each other, not only in their private capacity and converse; but as they are incorporated into a spiritual society, and, as so many live stones are to be cemented and compacted into one holy temple; or, as so many members, are to be knit together and built up into one body politick, or church. They are called to charity and peace in one body, as St. Paul says, Col. 3. 14. 15. And the Christian charity, is to be a charity that keeps unity of society, that edifies, and doth not divide the church, 1 Corinthians 8. 1. On which account he says, that where the members are acted by the virtue, and show the care of charity, there will be no schism in the body, 1 Corinthians 12. 25, 26. Its work, is to compact, and join together the members, the body edifying itself in love, Ephesians 4. 16.
And to do this, or to keep them in united corporations or societies, they must keep them united, not only to one another, but to their orthodox and rightful bishops in the first place. That peace, which must secure their peace as an incorporate society, must first bind them to be at peace with them. And that union, which must keep them one society, must keep all dependant on, and united to them; and suffer none to break off, or divide from them. And that love and charity, which is to be the ligament of a politic body, must bind the members to the head, or the subjects to the governors; and bar all factious combinations against them, or defection to any others.
And therefore the scripture-precepts, of love, and brotherly charity, and peace and unity, must never be pleaded to draw men off from their own orthodox rightful bishop, but to make them cleave fast to him. And to call men to unite with an anti-bishop, is not to call them to keep these precepts, but to transgress them. And thus it is often represented by St. Cyprian. He tells the condemners of their own bishops, and adherers to opposite bishops, that they have none of that charity which St. Paul requires, and without which he declares to the Corinthians, that they would receive no profit by dying martyrs; because they have not kept to the unity of the church. And gives the setters up of opposite and profane altars, to understand, that so they rebel against the peace of Christ, and against the ordinance and unity of God. That they thereby break the bond of the Lord's peace, and violate brotherly charity, and rend Christian unity. And to those confessors at Rome, who had sided with the schismatic Novatian against Cornelius, he suggests, how therein they had separated themselves from the flock of Christ, and from his concord and peace. So that the breach and overthrow of these Christian duties, of fraternal charity, peace, and unity, must not be charged on any, for adhering to their true head, and orthodox rightful bishop, but are justly chargeable on the other side.
As to the first way of schism therefore, viz. in particular members breaking off unduly from the unity of their own church, and from their due subjection and dependence on their own bishops, to omit other instances thereof, it is plain a schism is then made, when bishop is set up against bishop in the same church. And the makers thereof, are the new or anti-bishop and his adherents, if the former bishop is orthodox, and has not clogged his communion with any unlawful terms, or with requiring a throwing up of rights and liberties, and a submission to unrighteous and uncanonical usurpations. Yea, though such former rightful bishop, stand deprived by an act of state, or even of a synod; if what he is deprived for, be his firmness in sticking, either to the doctrines, or to the laws and commands of Christ; and what the other is set up for, be his easiness in transgressing and forsaking them. So that in religion they are schismatics, though the state espouse them, and set them up for the civilly established and endowed church. As the ten tribes were in Israel, though the civil state formed that schism; and the Arians, when they broke off from their rightful orthodox bishops, albeit they had the emperors to back them; and the English schismatics, when, in the days of the great rebellion, they fell off, not only from their bishops, but from episcopacy itself, and were settled and upheld therein by the usurpers of that time; and as the anti-episcopal church of Scotland at this day are, notwithstanding all that establishment the secular arm has given them. Yea, and nevertheless schismatics, though they can glory over the other, in having by far the greater numbers; and in having sole possession of the public churches, and places of assemblies. And as the anti-bishop and his party, in such cases make the schism; it lies on them, and they must be applied to, to mend it. And the gospel-precepts, of charity, peace, and unity, if they are truly pressed, must be urged to make his own adherents stick to the rightful bishop, and to bring those members, who are broken off, to return to him: but are not truly enforced, but corruptly misapplied and perverted, even to call for what they directly forbid, if they are urged for uniting with the other side.
But whoever are guilty of making a schism, it would be a most pious and praise-worthy part in any that shall cure it. And in the suffering side most of all, if, by over-looking their own personal and private claims, and mastering all private resentments, as mortified and most public spirited men, they can make an end thereof by letting fall their own pretensions. And why, will many good minds, and sincere lovers of peace say, should they not do this for the love of peace, and for religions sake and the churches? Their adversaries, indeed, can not have the face to ask it. And others, who may move better therein, would be modest in pressing liberality on losers, and not go too far in urging them, who have suffered so much already from the invaders, as if they had not taken enough from them, to fall upon themselves and throw them what remains. Yet they think it would be a noble pitch in virtue, full of glory and goodness, if of themselves they would prefer public-weal before private passions and advantages, and be full of care for others, when that needs to be shown in caring least for themselves. Which heavenly-mindedness and public-spiritedness, and mortification to private interests, God and the church, they conceive, must needs take most kindly at their hands.
But as to this, the suffering bishops can not take this way of cure, by giving up their claims, where they are bound in duty to insist on them. And that they are bound to do, as I have already shown at large, in the forementioned cases. By their quitting there, they would surrender the souls of their charge, to become a prey to wolves and seducers, and to be trained up in wicked and corrupt doctrines, prayers, and practices. And this, is not to be true to their pastoral trusts. It is not faithfully to discharge their cure of souls, but perfidiously to throw it off. So that be they never so mortified, and negligent of themselves, and zealously studious of unity and the churches peace; yet in fidelity to Christ, and to the people whom he has entrusted to their charge, they must hold on their spiritual relation, I conceive, and diligently discharge it the best they can at such times; and not desert, but stick to the church, over which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers.
Besides, the exercise of their spiritual ministrations is loudly called for in such cases, and bound on them and the suffering clergy their brethren, by all the powers and characters of the ministerial office; as I think may fully appear from what I have said on that point before. And not only the continuance of their former relation, as the true bishops still of those places; but this very exercise, must in consequence keep up a schism in the church, at such times. For this exercise of their ministrations, must be in separate bodies. The state, incorporating and espousing the anti-bishops and their adherents, will give them the public churches: and depriving and persecuting the other and their followers, will also be sure to keep them out thereof. So, their ministrations, if they go on ministering at all, as it is plain they ought, must be in separate places and assemblies. Yea, and by different ways of exercise: the spiritual administrations of one, being purely spiritual, in the way of a destitute and persecuted; but those of the other, being mixed, in the way of an incorporate and endowed church.
And therefore in all the forementioned cases, where the suffering bishops are still bound, for the interest of religion and of souls, to insist upon their episcopal claims and their relation to their churches, and, with their brethren of the other clergy, still to go on in a faithful discharge of their ministrations; this way of cure, can have no place. But as the anti-bishops, by breaking off from them, and from those Christian principles and practices whereto they stand firm, have made the schism; so they alone, by a penitential return, are capable to mend it: it not admitting of remedy in those cases, and under such state of things, from any other hands.
And this may be sufficient, as to the true and suffering bishops, and show how little the arguments, from the desirableness and duty of union, will affect them in those cases. When the church is rent by such a deplorable schism, as the precedent discourse shows who make it; so this, I think, is enough to show who can mend it, and to whom alone the lovers of peace and unity are to apply themselves for remedy at such times.