Project Canterbury

Of Christian Communion

By John Kettlewell

London: no publisher, 1693.

Part III. Chapter II.
Of the schism of particular churches, from other sister churches by rejecting fraternal communion therewith.

Besides this first way of schism, viz. of particular members breaking off unjustly from the unity of their own church, by throwing off their due subordination and subjection to their own bishops: there is a second, as I observed above, viz. of particular churches breaking off unjustly from the communion of other sister-churches. And this is by rejecting fraternal communion with them, denying to worship God in their assemblies, or to admit their members to worship in ours, or communicating with those who stand excommunicated by them, or have made a schism from them.

Our Lord, is not only for having the Christians of every place of country, to keep unity with their own particular church: but also, as I noted before, for having all particular churches, to keep up the unity of one body among themselves. All his sheep he has gathered into one flock, John 10: 16. All the assemblies both of Jews and gentiles, he has reconciled to God in one body, Ephesians 2: 14, 16. Calling all his followers, to profess Christianity in one body, as St. Paul says, Col. 3: 15. Accordingly, baptism, which makes them all Christians, lists or enrolls them all in one corporation, we being all baptised into one body, 1 Corinthians 12: 13. And the holy eucharist, which is the other great sacrament and solemn undertaking of Christianity, confederates them into one spiritual corporation, we being all made in that to drink into one spirit, 1 Corinthians 12. 13. And, though many, being one body, as partaking therein of one bread, 1 Corinthians 10. 16, 17. This union of all Christians and Christian congregations, into one society under Jesus Christ, makes that body the church, whereof he is the head, Col. 1. 18. Which the scripture sometimes expresses, by one temple, Ephesians 2: 21. Or spiritual house, 1 Peter 2: 5. Or one family and household, Ephesians 2: 19 &c. 3: 15. As I observed above. And which is that one holy catholic church, betwixt all the parts whereof the communion of saints is to be maintained, as all Christians profess in the creed.

This union of all particular churches as one body under himself, our Lord has appointed to be kept up by all the members thereof, as occasion is; but chiefly, by the union and accord of the bishops and pastors, who are the respective heads of those particular churches.

This whole church is made one body, by one spirit, Ephesians 4. 4. So the unity thereof, is called the unity of the spirit, v. 3. And one great means of the spirit's keeping up this unity, is by the ministration of pastors and teachers, which he gave as gifts, for the edifying, or compacting and building up all Christians into this body of Christ, v. 8. 11, 12. To these pastors, the spirit has given different offices, Romans 12: 4. One, having the office of ministering; another, of teaching; another, of ruling, v. 6, 7, 8. Or different administrations, 1 Corinthians 12: 5. Setting some in the church in the station of apostles; some, of teachers; some of governments, v. 28. Placing some in higher, some in lower stations, according to the measure of that grace or office, (the word grace being often used to express ministerial powers) which he saw fit to commit to them, Ephesians 4. 7. 11. But all those different offices, are set for keeping all Christians in one body, rom. 12. 4. 5. And all the diversity of ministries, is to continue them the body of Christ, and to cement the members, who are many, into one body, 1 Corinthians 12. 27, 28. And v. 12. 20. And all the variety of gifts (i.e. Of offices, v. 11.) Or distributions of higher or lower stations, are for edifying or laying together the members into this body, and for preserving the unity thereof, Ephesians 4. 4, 8, 12.

The head of this body, is Jesus Christ himself. And from Christ the head all the body is knit together, says St. Paul; by those joints and bands which minister nourishment, i.e. by the pastors, who are set to feed it, Col. 2. 19. From Christ the head, says he again, the whole body is fitly joined and compacted together, by those joints which make supplies according to their measure, or according to their several stations in the work of the ministry, Ephesians 4. 15, 16. And on account of this use, of their uniting all Christians under Christ the head into this one body, or all the several societies of Christians into one church; when this one church is compared to a natural body, they are represented as the joints, and as the bands or ligaments, which unite and compact the members, as they are by St. Paul in these places.

And thus it was in the opinion of the ancient church, who placed the unity of all churches, in the unity and accord of all the bishops thereof. The catholic church, which is one, saith St. Cyprian, is cemented or coupled together, by the glue or joint accord of its bishops adhering mutually to one another. All faithful people, are joined together into the solid unity of one body, by the glue of this concord.-- and to fall from this concord, and separate from the college of bishops, is to separate from the bond of the church, as he elsewhere says.

To keep up this unity in the whole church, they believed all bishops strictly obliged to keep unity among themselves. We bishops, who preside in the church, ought above all men to keep firmly united, that we may maintain the episcopate itself, one and undivided. They looked upon the bishops of all the several independent churches, to be as so many members of one great fraternity or college. Optatus calls them, the college of bishops. And before him, St. Cyprian styles them, the college and corporation of priests; and calls all other bishops, his colleagues. Particular bishoprics, are all members one of another, and all together, as he says, are to make but one great episcopate.--And among this multitude of bishops, as there is but one church, so there is but one chair. And as three persons in the sacred trinity, make up but one God, wherein the power of all three is one, and undivided: so doth all the great diversity of prelates, make up but one priesthood, says Symmachus.

Now this unity, the bishops and pastors keep up among several churches, not by the subjection of all other bishops, to some one, or more, set up above all the rest. Particularly, not by the paramount authority and jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome, which is neither to be found in scripture, nor is agreeable to the accounts thereof, nor to the belief and practice of the primitive church, nor to the universal diffusedness designed for Christ's church, under all the divisions of kingdoms, and interruptions of secular accord and correspondence here on earth.

But by maintaining fraternal concord and communion among themselves. They cement into one episcopate, concordi numerositate, by their concord under this numerosity, as we are told by St. Cyprian. They are bound or coupled into one body, by the glue of mutual concord, as he says again. Which ecclesiastical concord and fraternal communion, lies in owning each other, and all the Christians of their several churches, as brethren and members; and in ratifying the great acts of society passed among them, as if they had been passed among themselves. And in having this communion, not arbitrary and discretionary, which may be fixed at will upon their own terms, and either kept up, or rejected, as they please: but a communion kept on out of bounden duty, and by rules, being to give account to Christ the chief bishop for the breach thereof.

To this it is requisite, that they profess the same true faith and Christian worship. This is the foundation of all other communion among them. The one body, being made up of those, who hold to the one faith, Ephesians 4. 4. And the communion in this body, being required between those, who communicate in this one faith and worship, as shall be shown more fully afterwards.

And among all orthodox bishops and churches, who profess the true Christian faith and worship, the rules of communion and correspondence, required by Christ for keeping up this unity of his body, are such as these:

1. That all orthodox bishops and churches, receive each others members, as if they were their own members. All the members of Christ's church, are fellow-citizens, or enfranchised denizens, wheresoever they come; and upon any new change of place or Christian country, have no need of a new naturalization. They ought to find a home in all churches, and may claim their baptismal privileges, or the benefits of the Christian corporation or society, and can not justly be repulsed or denied the same, as being free of the whole body. For baptism, which makes them members, by the institution of Christ incorporates them all, not only into those several churches or congregations where they receive it, but into the whole body or fraternity. We are all baptized, whether we be Jews or gentiles, into one body, says St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 12. 13. And accordingly no church must exclude them, as strangers or foreigners; but own and receive them as fellow-citizens, as members, as domestics, as brethren, and of the same family with themselves. And this is necessary, to maintain that brotherhood, which Christ has constituted among all his members; every Christian being brother to another; so that brother, is usually put to signify a Christian in the holy scripture.

They must also own and receive their orders, when they have been lawfully called to spiritual powers, and to the work of the ministry, in their own churches. For ordination, as well as baptism, is not only in respect to the church of such a place, but to Christ's church at large. Limitations there are, as to the exercise of these powers, as may make for the preservation of order and union. And in care of unity and peace, bishops and priests of any church must observe these, in acting episcopally or sacerdotally, whilst they converse in other churches. But having any where received a lawful and canonical ordination, they are to be owned as ministers of Christ wheresoever they come, and need no more to be ordained, than other members need to be baptised over again.

So that they are schismatics, and break this unity of the body, appointed to be kept up between all particular churches and their members, who reject the members, or canonical ministers, of any other orthodox churches. As they do, who unchurch them, or deny communion to their members, unless they will submit to unrighteous claims and usurpations, or join in unlawful worship, or erroneous doctrines; or who reject their lawful and canonical ministers, unless they will receive new orders: which are so many breaches of that brotherhood, which Christ has ordained among churches, and are the making of a schism in the catholic church.

2. All orthodox bishops and churches, are to refuse each others schismatics, and excommunicates; as if they were their own schismatics or excommunicates. And upon their reconciliation, and reunion to their own churches; to let them in, and receive them again, as if they had been immediately reconciled, and re-united to themselves. Which ways, of mutually receiving, or rejecting, of privileging or debarring members; make that unity of discipline, which by order of Christ, and according to the sense and belief of the primitive fathers, is one great way, of compacting the vast number of Christian societies into one body, or of keeping up the unity of Christ's church. All we Christians, are incorporated or made one body, says Tertullian, as by the belief of the same religion, and the covenant of hope, so by the unity of discipline. And when any one bishop or church has done any thing, we are all thought to have done the same, by appearing associated and united in the same consent of censure and discipline, say the clergy of Rome to St. Cyprian.

1. They are to refuse each others schismatics, as if they were their own schismatics. For, as the holding on civil communion with traitors, is judged treason: so is holding on spiritual communion with schismatics, judged schism. They must take part, and keep one with the church. And so, whilst the breach lasts, must disclaim and keep off from those separate members, who stand divided and broke off from it; avoiding those that cause divisions, as St. Paul orders (Romans 16: 17). Accordingly, St. Basil lets the Neocaesareans know, when they seemed about to break and divide from him, and from his church of Caesarea, that if any avoided, or broke off from his communion, they would be broke off withal from the universal church, which held communion with him. We ought not to have communion in prayers, with any heretic, or schismatic, says the Council of Laodicea. Nor ought they, who are not of the assemblies of one church, to be received or allowed to assemble in another church, says the Council of Antioch. If he, who is not to be received in one church, be received without commendatory letters in another, let both him who is received, and his receivers, be excommunicated, say the apostolical canons. Whosoever, says St. Cyprian, speaking of the schism of Felicissimus, who had schismatically broken off and divided from himself, shall join himself to his conspiracy and faction, may know that he can no longer communicate with us in the church, since he thereby voluntarily chooses rather to separate himself from the church.

2. They are to refuse each other's excommunicates, as if they were their own excommunicates. For whatsoever is this way regularly bound in earth, our Lord declares shall be ratified, or stand bound in heaven, (Matthew 18: 18 and John 20, 23). And if it is confirmed in heaven, it must stand good, and not be thwarted or reversed by any of his followers here on earth. When the members among any societies of Christians, for their disorderly walking, and not hearing of the church, are cast out thereof; they are thrown, not only out of the church of that place, but out of Christ's church at large, whereof all other churches are members; or out of all Christian churches, into the state of heathens and publicans, as our Lord says (Mat. 18. 17).

Accordingly, Synesius bishop of Ptolemais, in his sentence of excommunication, denounced against Andronicus, and Thoas, and their accomplices, says, let no temple of God be open to them, but let every religious place or chapel, be shut against them. And St. Basil bids the Neocaesareans take heed, how they break communion with him, because, after once he should exclude them, no other catholic churches, which all owned him, and held communion with him, would any longer own, or communicate with them. Till they are regularly absolved and reconciled again, all other bishops and sister-churches, are bound to refuse and repel such excommunicates, as they come to their knowledge. Thus synesius requires of all sister-churches, and of all Christians, to shun the communion of Andronicus and Thoas, and their adherents. And it is not lawful to communicate with persons out of communion, says the Council of Antioch. If any, either of clergy, or laity, is excommunicated by his own bishop, let none else receive him to communion, till his own bishop has received him again, or a synod has cleared him, say the fathers of that council again. And concerning those, either of the clergy, or laity, who are excluded from communion by the bishops which are in every province, let the sentence be valid according to the canon, which decrees, that they, who are cast out by some, shall not be admitted by others, says the great Council of Nicea.

Thus, when any persons, or churches, are schismatically, or by means of just censure and penalty, out of communion with one orthodox church; by the rules of catholic communion and accord among churches, according to the mind of Christ, and of the primitive church, ought they to be out of the communion of all orthodox churches. And if any, either Christians, or churches, will still hold on communion with such persons; by the foresaid rules of union, and the canons of the catholic church, they are thereby made like unto them, and turn makers of a schism, and are to lose the benefit of communion themselves. If any, says Synesius, in his excommunicatory sentence of Andronicus, &c. Shall contemn our church, as being the church of a small city, receiving those whom it has cast out, as if observance were not due to it, by reason of its poverty: let him know, that he thereby makes a schism in the church, which Christ is for having kept one. And whether he be bishop, priest, &c. He shall be the same to us, as Andronicus himself is. If any shall communicate with one out of communion, he himself shall be shut out of communion, say the apostolical canons. If any bishop, or presbyter, receive to communion, those who are deservedly cast out of the church for their crimes, he shall be liable to like punishments, says the Council of Carthage. And if any bishop, priest, or other of the clergy, appear to communicate with persons out of communion, the shall also stand excommunicate himself, as one who confounds the canons and order of the church, say the fathers in the synod of Antioch.

The reason of all this is, because Christians, as I said, and as the African fathers observe, though dispersed over the most distant places and countries, are but one society; and, though multiplied into the greatest number of assemblies, yet all these make but one body. We ought to signify to each other what is acted in any of our churches, says Alexander bishop of Alexandria, in his synodical epistle to all churches upon his deposition of Arius and his adherents, that whether one member or church suffer, or rejoice; all the other members or churches, may suffer or rejoice with it, or give mutual support, and confirm each others acts and sentences. And this, because the catholic church is but one body, and we are commanded in the holy scriptures, to keep up therein the bond of unanimity and peace. And Synesius threatening the receivers of those, whom he and his church had put under excommunication, taxes them therein, as I have observed, for making a schism in the church, which Christ is for having kept one. The several orthodox and regular churches of Christendom, are all members one of another. And from that communion, which ought to be among members of the same body, what belongs to one, belongs to all; and what is broke off from one, is broke off from all. The canon, says Balsamon, (speaking of the second canon of the Council of Antioch, which forbids the communicating of other churches, with those, who communicate not with their own church,) says all temples and oratories, wheresoever they are make but one church. And therefore, if any person is cast out of the church, and regularly shut out of the temples, and oratories of the orthodox, in one country; he ought to be shut out of the temples and oratories of all, and not to be received to communion by the clergy of other countries.

And like regard, all particular churches are bound to have, to each others reconciliation and re-union of members, as to their separation and exclusion of them. As in binding, so also in loosing, our Lord ratifies the acts of his officers and vice gerents, in all churches. Whatsoever you shall loose or remit on earth, the same shall be loosed or remitted in heaven (Matthew 18 18. And John 20. 23). And in relaxing or remitting censures, as well as in laying of them upon offenders, among their respective charges, orthodox bishops act in the person of Christ, as St. Paul says, 2 Corinthians 2. 10. Or as judices vice Christi, judges that sit in Christ's place, as St. Cyprian notes of them. Till their own bishop has received them, or a synod has cleared them, no other bishop must receive them to communion, says the canon of Antioch before cited. And after he has once received them into his communion, no other bishops must reject them from theirs. They are then re-united again to the body, and are brethren and members; and as such, must be admitted to the communion of saints, by all other orthodox members of the same body and brotherhood, in all places.

And thus again they are schismatics, and break that unity of one body, which Christ has appointed among all churches, who unduly receive and associate, with any other orthodox and lawful churches schismatics, or excommunicates. If they would keep one with all orthodox churches, as they must look upon all, who are duly united to them, as united to themselves; so must they look upon all, who are duly separated and broke off from them, as separated and broke off from themselves. And to do otherwise, is to break this one communion, which is to bind all orthodox Christians into one body, and to make a schism in the catholic church.

And in further care and provision, for the maintenance of this catholic accord and communion among all churches, by the ancient rule of the church, all orthodox bishops and churches, were to keep up an intercourse by communicatory letters. Since the catholic church is but one body, and we are commanded in scripture to keep up the bond of unanimity and peace therein, the consequence hereof is, that we write or signify to each other what is transacted in any of our churches, that all the rest, as members, may bear their part in the same; says Alexander bishop of Alexandria, in his synodical epistle which I cited before. And Siricius of Rome, and together with him, the whole world is united in one communion and society with us, by the intercourse of communicatory letters, says, Optatus of the church of Africa, as it stood divided from the Donatists.

By these letters an account was given to other churches, of any bishops advancement, when he was ordained bishop of his church: or of his own faith, to show that he and his church were orthodox, and so duly qualified for union with other orthodox churches, and fit to be owned as members of the body, and admitted as partners, in the communion of saints. And of their own members, or ministers, their schismatics, or excommunicates; that among all, who should come to them from thence, other churches might know, whom they were to receive, and whom they were to reject, as either of the same, or of a different body with themselves. And also of any other church-acts, or concerns, wherein they could either claim the ratification, or desired the concurrence, or needed the aid, council, or support, or could bear the burdens, help the wants, or congratulate the well-fare, or prosperity of one another.

Now as to these communicatory letters, certifying each others members, or ministers, schismatics, or excommunicates, &c. The catholic rule of the ancient church was, that no strangers or foreigners, should be admitted to the communion of any church, without them. If they who came, were clergy-men; they were to bring commendatory letters, testifying their orders: or, if laity, pacifical and communicatory, declaring they were in communion with their own churches. No stranger or foreigner, shall be received without pacifical letters, say the Council of Antioch. And no foreign bishops, priests, or deacons, shall be received without commendatory letters, say the canons of the apostles. If there come any strange, or unknown clergy, let them not by any means, be any where received to officiate in another city, without their own bishop's letters commendatory, says the great Council of Chalcedon.

And the granting of these letters, was reserved to the bishops. Without their own bishop's letters commendatory, is the expression of the now cited canon of Chalcedon. And others under the episcopal order, are restrained from granting them: even those country presbyters, whom Balsamon on the canon calls protopapas, and who, as being in the country, where the bishops were not usually at hand to write them, had more pretence of granting them, as zonaras intimates. And who else, but the bishops of the several churches, should be capable to grant these letters? For, since the church stands, and is fixed upon the bishops, as St. Cyprian tells the lapsi, it is not for any without the bishop to write letters, as they had done to himself, in the name of the church.

But more especially was the grant thereof reserved to the primates and metropolitans, who were to write and receive synodical letters, and to keep up communion between the churches of several provinces. Thus St. Basil expresses his communion with all churches, by all churches sending communicatory letters to him, and receiving the same from him. And on the deposition of Marcianus at Arles, St. Cyprian desires Stephen bishop of Rome, to signify to him who was substituted in his place, that he might know to whom he should send the brethren, and direct his communicatory letters. And this, the synod of Antioch gives us a reason, of their writing to Dyonisius of Rome, and maximus of Alexandria, and to all other bishops, on their placing of Domnus in the see of Antioch upon the deposition of Paulus Samosatenus: which, say they, we therefore signify to you, that you may write your communicatory letters to him, and receive the like from him. So that none, who were out of communion with their own bishops and metropolitans, could be allowed to communicate any where else.

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