Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Church Discipline

Church Discipline. In the ancient Church, which was a voluntary society, the sanctions were moral, as they are again in modern times, and depended for their efficacy upon the conscience of the individual Christian. Excommunication - which was a kind of religious boycotting - meant nothing to the man who was content to forego Christian society. But when the State adopted the Church and gave force to its decrees, Church discipline came to have a real meaning. For instance, the Inquisition was a real and formidable power to those who questioned the Church doctrines, and many a proud monarch was brought to listen to the voice of the Church when his kingdom was placed under an interdict, i.e. a sentence of general excommunication. Till comparatively recent times men were put to open penance for breaches of Church discipline, and though in the Church of England discipline is almost in abeyance so far as the laity are concerned, excommunication is looked upon as a possibility, since a rubric forbids the use of the Burial Service over such as die excommunicate. The Scottish Church still retains a certain amount of discipline over its lay members. But in the English Church it may generally be said that discipline only exists for the clergy, and even for them its limits are very undefined. Except in the case of gross breaches, it depends for its efficacy in a great measure upon the offender's regard for the obligation of his oath of canonical obedience. In some respects the law of the land still enforces the decrees of an ecclesiastical court, but the procedure of these courts, and the curious manner in which their jurisdiction could be applied, made their almost entire abolition a necessary and welcome measure.