Project Canterbury

Of Christian Communion

By John Kettlewell

London: no publisher, 1693.

Part III. Chapter V.
Of the communion of good Christians, or with whom they are to join in divine offices under a schism.

Having said thus much, to show on any division of churches, whilst faithful pastors stand firm to their ministrations in the fore-mentioned cases, who make the schism, and who can cure it, I now proceed,

3. In the third place, to treat of the communion of good Christians under a schism, and how they are to carry themselves towards schismatics.

As for their communion, it is plain, in division between right and wrong, both as to the church-heads, and religious doctrines and worship, they ought to take the right side.

As they who are at the head of that, are the canonical and rightful bishops, they are bound to communicate with them. For the rightful bishops being the true heads of union, the members must keep true to their head, and hold communion therewith. And this they are tied to, by all the gospel-precepts about union, which require their being one, or one body, or keeping the bond of peace in churches. For this unity and peace of churches, must bind them to keep united and at peace with their bishops, who, under Christ, are the governors, and spiritual heads thereof. And by that grand virtue of charity, so often and earnestly required of the members, and that above all things, that they may edify or build up one another into a spiritual society. For this charity, which is the bond to bind the members together, not only in private affections, but into one common body or church, must bind them all to these rightful bishops, who are the heads and rulers of that body, that by keeping united to those bishops, they may keep one society, and not be broken into several societies. And accordingly St. Cyprian presses that charity, which St. Paul makes so necessary to the acceptance of all other virtues, even faith, or martyrdom itself; as indispensably obliging all good Christians, to keep in the communion of their true and rightful bishops, as I observed before.

And as these true and rightful bishops, are at the head of necessary gospel-worship and doctrines, when their opposers fall off from them, good Christians are yet more bound to hold to their communion. They are tied thereto then, not only for the rightful bishops, but also for pure worship and necessary truths sake. For true Christians, must seek to communicate in these. And that must be, by communicating in the ministrations of those pastors, which hold to them. Besides, these, in any competition, are Christ's true shepherds, and trusty watch-men, and faithful guides, and uncorrupt teachers, and faithful ministers: because they are the men, who faithfully minister his word, and give his warnings, and dispense that food, which is to keep those souls alive whom he has given them the care of. And all these, are no idle characters, but speak answerable obligations in the people, as I have shown before, to attend on their ministrations, and unite themselves to them. And this, the scripture requires in those precepts, which command us, in glorifying God, to have one mind and mouth; to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment, and speak the same things; and the like. For this speaking the same, is speaking the same with those who speak right, not with those who speak wrong. And this union of minds and judgments, must be in uniting with men of orthodox minds, or that hold all necessary Christian doctrines: for if any fall off from these, we must not be of one mind with them, but of different minds. I add moreover, that association and union of church-members under bishops, is for visible profession and ministration of pure worship and doctrine. And therefore they must unite with those bishops, who profess and administer the same. Yea, their care of their own safety, no less than the love of truth, will make them fly to such pastors: as the sailors do to the next safe port, when their own is sanded; or the travellers to the next secure inn, when their old one is beset with thieves, as St. Cyprian observes in this case.

And as they are thus to hold communion, and unite themselves to those rightful bishops, who keep to pure worship and doctrine: so are they, on the other hand, to stand off from those, who make the schism, to maintain a sinful worship, or corrupt doctrine.

I do not say, they are to look on these schismatics and defectors, as quite fallen from the relation, and title of brethren. A schismatical, or excommunicate Christian, is still a Christian, not an infidel, or heathen. And whilst they continue Christians, they retain, though not so much claim as others, yet some claim to Christian brotherhood, albeit they have lost their claim to communion. Have no company or communion with the segregated man, saith St. Paul; yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother, 2 Thes. 3. 14. 15. And Optatus calls the schismatical Donatists, brethren; though they would not call the catholics so, or be called so by them. And says, that they can not but be our brethren, though they are no good brethren; because we and they have one spiritual nativity: their baptism, which is the Christian's birth, being a valid baptism, though administered in a schism; and the catholic church, as St. Austin says, thereby generating sons unto God, which sons must be our brethren. For brotherhood, they looked on, as consequent on nativity, and going along with it; but communion, as going with spiritual society and conversation. Though at other times, by brotherhood they understood, not only the spiritual nativity, but also the spiritual society and communion of brethren: and then, heretics and schismatics were shut out, from that name and salutation.

But though, as not having fallen from their baptism and Christianity, they may, on the score of their common nativity, still admit them to be Christian brethren: yet, as being schismatical and defecting brethren, they must reject, and stand off from their communion. They must disown the erroneous and schismatical bishops and ministers, disclaiming all ecclesiastical dependence upon them. And hold off from their religious assemblies, and not come to join in their prayers, and sacraments, and sacred offices: church-communion, lying mainly in joining in these assemblies and sacred offices; as excommunication lies, in the excluding and debarring from the participation thereof.

They are to avoid them, as they are associates or adherents of anti-bishops, and makers of a schism. For the scripture-direction is, to mark those, which cause divisions and offences, and to avoid them, Ro. 16. 17. And if any man is disobedient and refractory to church-powers, which he is to the height, who throws them quite off, and sets up others against them, to note that man, and to have no company with him, 2 Thess. 3: 14. And schisms or seditions, the apostle reckons among works of the flesh, which exclude from the kingdom of heaven: so that they, who would secure that, must be careful not to join, or partake with them, Galatians 5. 20. 21. Especially, if to the guilt of schism, they also add that of heresy, which the apostle also there ranks among the deadly works of the flesh; or make parties, especially consummate them by setting up of anti-bishops, to head destructive errors, or a defection from God's pure worship and doctrines. If any turn bringer of false doctrines, bid him not God speed, nor receive him into your houses, which were to be partakers of his evil deeds, says St. John, 2 John 10. 11. Thus St. Paul bids them look to the judaizers, and avoid them, Phil. 3. 2. And St. John, when he went to bath himself at Ephesus, leaped out of the bath unwashed when he espied the heretic Cerinthus, declaring he would not stay with such an enemy of the truth, as Irenaeus reports from Polycarp. Yea, and Polycarp himself, as he adds, refused the heretic Marcion any friendly commerce or fraternal salutation. So studiously cautious, says he, were the apostles and their disciples, of entering into any communion, so much as of discourse, with those who adulterated the truth.

And of this obligation, to shun the communion of schismatics and corrupt teachers, Christians had a great sense, in the first and best ages of the church. Thus St. Ignatius, that blessed martyr and contemporary of the apostles, when he bids the sheep to follow the shepherd, and tells them, they who are God's and Jesus Christ's, will go with their bishop: to caution them against siding with any who set up against him, tells the Philadelphians, that if any will turn follower of him, who makes a schism, he has no inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. And St. Cyprian, is abundant therein. When new, or anti-bishops set up opposite altars, he is full of zeal against the impiety and wickedness thereof. It is adulterous, says he, it is impious, it is sacrilegious, whatsoever is so set up by the madness of men, in violation of the ordinance of God. He, who leaving the true bishop, sets up another altar, and presumes to celebrate another prayer or divine service different from his, bears arms, says he in another place, against the church, and resists God's ordinance: he is an enemy of the altar, and a rebel against Christ's sacrifice, for the faith he is perfidious, for religion he is sacrilegious, he is an undutiful servant, an impious son, an enemy instead of a brother.

And having set out these schismatical associates, as so full of sin and provocation, he warns all, who would be careful of their own innocence or safety, to stand off from the communion of such men. A people, that would fear God, and keep his commandments, saith he, must not mix itself, or join in the sacrifices of such sacrilegious dividers. Avoid those wolves, says he again, who seek to separate the sheep from their shepherd, warning against those five presbyters, who were then forming a schism, and soon after set up one of themselves, viz. Fortunatus, an anti-bishop against himself at Carthage. If they will perish in their schism, let them be alone in perishing. Let them remain alone without the church, who have broke off from it. Let them alone be without the bishops, who have rebelled against the bishops. But depart you from such men, and be not ye partakers with them therein. The Lord admonishes us, adds he, to depart from such men. And if they are to be held as heathens and publicans, who only contemn the church, according to the words of our Lord, Matthew 18. 17. Much more are the setters up of false altars, and unlawful priesthoods, to be held as such, because they are plain rebels, and professed enemies thereof.

And besides, their shunning these opposite and false altars, and keeping firm to the true, he tells them is necessary to give them the benefit of Christian communion. For whosoever assembleth otherwise, saith he, than under the rightful bishop, doth not get, but scatter abroad. If any are not with the bishop, they are not in the church. And it is a vain flattery and self-deceit, for any, who have not peace and communion with their bishop, to fancy it is the same thing, and that they may still have the benefit of ecclesiastical communion, by creeping in privately, and being admitted by others set up against him.

Such was the sense, which the holy apostles had instilled, and which the primitive Christians had carefully retained, of their strict obligations, to keep united to their own orthodox rightful bishops, and to shun the communion of all schismatical opposers of them, or of heretical teachers. And this shunning of such communion, must not be looked upon, as the effect of anger, or peevishness; or, as an expression, not of religion, but of mere human passions, which took place in the church, as charity grew cold and wore off. For this was most, in the days of the apostles themselves, and of their contemporaries, and their nearest successors; as may appear from the forecited scriptures, and testimonies of Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Cyprian. When charity was the highest, as it will be confessed to have been in those times; they were the choicest in their communions, and stood furthest off from all schismatics and heretics, refusing them the commerce, not only of spiritual and ecclesiastical ministrations, but even of civil offices and respect. And this, by the direction of those apostles, St. Paul and St. John, who abounded more than any in pressing charity; not bearing to keep company, or to eat with them, as St. Paul: to give them the common salutation of God speed, or to receive them into their houses, as St. John, who would not so much as stay in the bath with Cerinthus, nor his disciple polycarp give the salutation to the heretic marcion, as I observed from Irenaeus.

So that charity, when at the height, was highest towards God, for sustaining his worship and doctrine, visibly bearing it up by the church, and in the unity thereof. But was not for being any ways wanting to a church-profession and maintenance of them, in tenderness and compliance to those who defected from them. But Christians abated of these first rigors, in shunning all commerce with such persons, as the first charity and zeal for pure doctrine and worship grew less, and as they were driven thereto, especially in point of civil commerce, by heretics and schismatics growing more numerous, and (through the lamentable divisions of Christendom,) lying intermixed in all places, which rendered the former renunciation of civil commerce, as less advisable, so less practicable in the church. For when they filled all places, they would be met with in all places, and intermix in all dealings. And then, not to have any company or dealings with such, they must needs go out of the world, which St. Paul gives as one reason of relaxation and allowance in this case, 1 Corinthians 5. 10. So that continuing still to shun spiritual, or ecclesiastical communion with such makers of schisms; especially for the setting up of a sinful worship, and unchristian doctrines and practices; is so far from being a defection from the apostolical and primitive charity, that it is a keeping up to it, and is only a retaining of their first love, which ought in all times faithfully to be kept on in all true churches.

Now as to the persons whom this will affect, and whose communion by this rule is to be shunned in such cases; it bars this communion with those, who set up and make the anti-bishops, or who side and take part with them.

1. It affects the electors, who chose the men; and their ordainers and consecrators, who laid hands on them. For these, give heads to the new bodies, and create the schism. Others, may seditiously call for it, or come in to it when once it is formed; but their part is to give it a head, which formally constitutes and sets it up, so that they are principals therein.

2. And those, who own subjection and dependence on these anti-bishops, in opposition to their old ones; and, as members, unite and incorporate under them.

Thus it is among the pastors, by whom their authority is received, and who thereby all break off from the rightful bishop, to whom in all their ministrations they ought to keep subject and dependant. The rule of communion, for priests and deacons towards their bishop, is to do all public ministrations according to his allowance and consent. Let the presbyters or deacons do nothing without the consent of the bishop, say the apostolical canons, and the Council of Laodicea afterwards; for it is the bishop, to whose trust the Lord's people is committed, and from whom an account of their souls will be required. And if any will be for having the offices of the church without the concurrence of a fitting presbyter, who officiates according to the bishop's approbation and allowance, let him be anathema, says the Council of Gangra. And if any clergy celebrate divine offices in private oratories, or baptize, not according to the mind and allowance of the bishop, but besides, or contrariant to it, let them incur deposition, say the council in trullo, and the Council of Constantinople.

The church is settled upon the bishops, and every act of the church ought to be governed by them, saith St. Cyprian. Let none do any of those things, which concern the church or public service, without the bishop, says St. Ignatius, that holy martyr, and contemporary of the apostles. But let that he reputed a valid eucharist, which is celebrated by those who keep under him, or which is administered with his leave. And that a due baptism, which is with his consent or approbation. It is necessary, says he, that ye should do nothing without the bishop, like as also ye do. The spirit, adds he in another place, hath preached this, saying, do nothing without the bishop,--love unity, fly divisions. And they who continue to call him bishop, but yet do all things without him, I think are not men of good conscience, because they do not celebrate their solemn assemblies according to Christ's precept. And to like purpose, Tertullian, St. Jerome, and others. And this way, of administering all offices with his approbation and allowance, St. Ignatius declares is the way for them to keep unity with their bishops. For, says he, as our Lord doth nothing without his father, being united to him, not acting without him, either by himself, or by his apostles: so neither do you any thing without your bishop, and his presbyters.

But when the priests and deacons of a diocese, turn over from their rightful bishop to the anti-bishop, they live in a flagrant breach of these rules of communion. They do all their ministrations then, without their bishop; putting in some things into divine offices, and putting out others; and observing days, and other things belonging to their ministrations, not only without, but quite against his consent and approbation, and altogether by the authority and jurisdiction of another, who is set up against him. Which is to separate as far as they can, from him, who ought to be their principle of union, and to minister in a state of full, and flaming schism.

And thus it is also in the assemblies, over which those rightful bishops ought to preside, or in the churches of their own dioceses. If they would keep in the state of unity, they should keep united to their rightful bishops, who are the heads of union to their several flocks; and should stick to them, and the clergy of their communion, for divine offices. Where their bishop appears, there let the multitude be with them: like as where Jesus Christ goes, there the catholic church goes too, says St. Ignatius. But if they break away, from all dependence on them, and from all recourse to their ministrations, to depend on the anti-bishops, and to resort to theirs; that makes them all schismatics. For all these assemblies of people and pastors, make the schismatical bodies, whereof the anti-bishops are the heads. As the bishops, set up for the schismatical heads; so the pastors and people, who turn over to them, and assemble under them, come in to be their schismatical members. They form themselves into one church, by erecting an ecclesiastical union and communion among themselves. And this is a schismatical church, as consisting all of a party of members, broke off from their true heads, or lawful bishops.

3. Further, it may also affect other bishops and churches, who will take their part, and communicate with them. For catholic unity is to be preserved in the church, i.e. Unity and communion is to be kept up among all churches. And this is, by rules of accord, and correspondence, which give the same church acts or matters, the same effects in all places; of which rules, I have before discoursed more at large. And these rules, will keep up catholic unity, and the communion of saints, between all bishops and churches; since, this way, they all communicate, or all in common refuse to do it, with the same persons.

And therefore if any bishop of one church, would side and have communion with anti-bishops, or with the schismatics or heretics of other churches: he thereby broke the rules of union, as well as they, and became involved in schism like one of them. For he was as much obliged as others, in care of maintaining unity to keep off from the communion of such schismatics: yea, in care of catholic unity and communion, to keep off from the communion of those who make a schism from other catholic bishops, as if they made it from himself. And if still he will communicate, and join himself to them; he violates unity, and joins in a schism, as any other man would do, who should do the same. And being found in the schism with them, he would have been treated as they were, and have fallen from the communion of all other orthodox and catholic bishops, whose rule was, to refuse and shun the communion of schismatics, and of their adherents and partakers. Communicating with men out of communion, he himself would be put out of communion, as the aforecited councils say. And thus it was, with Marcianus bishop of Arles, when he fell to communicate and join himself to Novatian, who was set up as a schismatical anti-bishop against Cornelius, the rightful and canonical bishop of Rome. Thereby, says St. Cyprian, he himself became separate from our communion, and from the fraternity of catholic bishops, because Novatian was so, to whom he joined himself. The bishops met in council in Africa answering him, when he sought their communion, that not one of them could communicate with him, since he had set up altar against altar at Rome, and made a schism from Cornelius, who before was legally ordained the bishop of that church.

4. Besides, for surer maintenance of union, and to compact several churches together into a closer dependence, there are other heads of union among the bishops themselves. Such are metropolitans, and primates, as Titus, I conceive, was left by St. Paul at Crete, where he was to ordain elders or bishops in every city; and timothy at Ephesus, where he is directed how he shall exercise jurisdiction, and receive accusations against bishops; which metropolitans and primates, are to unite and incorporate many bishops and their dioceses, into one province; or several provinces, by their concurrence, into one national church. And such an head of union, the arch-bishop of Canterbury is, among the bishops in the English church. And the ecclesiastical union to be kept up among us, is a provincial, yea a national union. We are to stand united, by our articles, and homilies, liturgy, and canons. And these unite, not only the Christians of each diocese or district, to their respective bishops, as so many diocesan churches: but likewise the bishops and people of all dioceses, into the provinces of Canterbury and York; and those two provinces, into one national church. Accordingly, those articles and homilies, liturgy and canons, which are the rules of keeping unity among us, are provincial and national acts, passed by concurrence of convocations of both provinces; where the bishops and clergy, meet in union with, and dependence on their respective metropolitans, who are the respective heads thereof.

Now, in care of unity, and the communion of saints, the respective bishops of each province or country, are to keep dependant and united to their metropolitans. The bishops of every nation, ought to know him, who is their primate, and to account him as their head, say the apostolical canons. It behooves every man to know his own proper measure, say the fathers in the Council of Constantinople, and that neither a presbyter contemn his own bishop, nor a bishop contemn his own metropolitan. And, bating the case of heresy, if any bishop, on pretence of other personal crimes, shall depart from the communion of his metropolitan, before synodical sentence passed upon him, he is guilty of schism, and, though there is nothing else against him, the holy synod decrees him to incur a deposition. And so strict was this dependence, upon the Alexandrian patriarch or metropolitan of Egypt, binding them in all things to wait for his sentence, to do nothing without him, nor beside or against his approbation: that, on the deposition of their metropolitan Dioscorus in the Council of Chalcedon, the Egyptian bishops pray, they may not be compelled to subscribe Pope Leo's epistles, before they had a new metropolitan to head them: and accordingly, their subscription was respitted by the council, till they should have got one.

And for maintenance of this union, of several dioceses into one province, by a joint-dependence of the several bishops on their metropolitan, and adherence to him; it has been the great rule of the catholic church, that none shall be made a bishop of the province without him. In consecration of bishops, the validity of all that is done shall be reserved to the metropolitan, says the great Council of Nicea: and if any one is ordained a bishop without his consent, it determines, (and calls it a thing altogether manifest,) that he ought to be no bishop. It has likewise been another rule thereof for the same purpose, that no synods for the common concern of the province, be held without them. The metropolitans being to summon the bishops of the province, and it not being lawful for any to make synods of themselves, without them who have the metropolis committed to them, as the Council of Antioch declares. Yea, that no matters of common concern to the church, in any country or nation, be transacted without him. The bishops of every country and nation, being in duty bound to own him, who is the chief among them, &c. And to do nothing that looks beyond their own precincts or dioceses, or referring to the common state of the church, without his sentence, as is ordained in the apostolical canons, and repeated in the Council of Antioch. And the more firmly to secure this regard and dependence, which, for maintenance of this provincial union, is due from bishops to their metropolitans, they make solemn oath at their ordination, to pay all due reverence and obedience to him, as in our own office of consecration.

And as there is this provincial, and national union of churches, which is thus secured by the dependence of bishops on their metropolitans; so may there be national and provincial schisms, or breaches thereof. And such there are, when bishops, and their clergy and people, break off from their metropolitan, not falling or receding from his ecclesiastical authority over them; and create to themselves an opposite primate, whom they set up against him. For then, they will make ordinations, and hold provincial or national synods, and dispatch matters of common or national concern, without him: so breaking all the rules provincial or national union, and dividing themselves from their head, as he is called in the apostolical canons. And when once an anti-primate or metropolitan is made the head of a schism, it spreads it into all dioceses, which will own him, and profess to bear canonical obedience and subjection, or adhere to him. So that in such a schism, all dioceses of the province come in, who do not disclaim the schismatical head, and stand off from him.

5. Lastly, when there is not only a setting up of schismatical and opposite heads, but moreover this is done in opposition to pure worship and doctrine, and to support unchristian corruptions of both: then the way of worship and tenets themselves, are formed into parties. Men are divided then, in opinion and devotion; and each way has a distinct body or society visibly to bear them up, and profess them. And when opposite communions, are thus set up for opposite worship and articles, men's communion must go according to their opinion of the worship and doctrine. For in a breach made for these, it will not be expected, that men should unite themselves to those of a contrary mind, and keep off from those of the same mind; but take part with those, who agree with themselves. We must choose the church, for the sake of the religion, and unite to that as Christ's true church, which sticks to the true religion: church-unity and association, always supposing, and following true Christian worship and doctrine, but never tying any to go off, and separate themselves from the same, as I showed before.

Such will be the effect of the preceding apostolical and ecclesiastical rules, for keeping the unity of the church, and for avoiding communion with the schismatical breakers thereof, and their assemblies, when a schism is made, by setting up anti-bishops, to head immoral, or otherwise sinful worship, doctrines, or practices, as in the forementioned cases. The meeting or communicating in a schism, has a guilt and criminalness of its own, though the matter of all the prayers were good, and the preaching orthodox, which they were called to communicate in. It alone were a bar to communion, and would have the forecited effects, as I have shown. But it is stronger, when it is set up for the maintenance of error, and corrupt devotion; and when men are fallen into schism, to be drawn on to other wickedness, viz. to make a shipwreck of moral conscience, and to profane God by immoral prayers, as they are in the above-named cases.

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