Front Page Titles (by Subject) A REMEDY AGAINST SORROW AND FEAR: DELIVERED IN A FUNERAL SERMON. - The Works of Richard Hooker, vol. 3
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A REMEDY AGAINST SORROW AND FEAR: DELIVERED IN A FUNERAL SERMON. - Richard Hooker, The Works of Richard Hooker, vol. 3 
The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker with an Account of His Life and Death by Isaac Walton. Arranged by the Rev. John Keble MA. 7th edition revised by the Very Rev. R.W. Church and the Rev. F. Paget (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
Part of: The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker with an Account of His Life and Death by Isaac Walton, 3 vols.
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A REMEDY AGAINST SORROW AND FEAR: DELIVERED IN A FUNERAL SERMON.
John xiv. 27.
Let not your hearts be troubled, nor fear.
SERM. IV.THE holy Apostles having gathered themselves together by the special appointment of Christ, and being in expectation to receive from him such instructions as they had been accustomed with, were told that which they least looked for, namely, that the time of his departure out of the world was now come. Whereupon they fell into consideration, first, of the manifold benefits which his absence should bereave them of; and secondly, of the sundry evils which themselves should be subject unto, being once bereaved of so gracious a Master and Patron. The one consideration overwhelmed their souls with heaviness, the other with fear. Their Lord and Saviour, whose words had cast down their hearts, raiseth them presently again with chosen sentences of sweet encouragement. “My dear, it is for your own sakes that I leave the world. I know the affections of your hearts are tender, but if your love were directed with that advised and staid judgment which should be in you, my speech of leaving the world, and going unto my Father, would not a little augment your joy. Desolate and comfortless I will not leave you; in spirit I am with you to the world’s end: whether I be present or absent, nothing shall ever take you out of these hands; my going is to take possession of that, in your names, which is not only for me but also for you prepared; where I am, you shall be. In the mean while, ‘My peace I give; not as the world giveth, give I unto you: let not your hearts be troubled, nor fear.’ ” The former part of which sentence having otherwhere already been spoken of, this unacceptable occasion to open the latter part thereof here I did not look for. But so God disposeth the ways of men. Him I heartily beseech, that the thing which he hath thus ordered by his providence, may through his gracious goodness turn unto your comfort.
Our nature coveteth preservation from things hurtful. Hurtful things being present do breed heaviness, being future do cause fear. Our Saviour to abate the one speaketh thus unto his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled;” and to moderate the other, addeth, “Fear not.” Grief and heaviness in the presence of sensible evils cannot but trouble the minds of men. It may therefore seem that Christ required a thing impossible. Be not troubled. Why, how could they choose? But we must note, this being natural and therefore simply not reprovable, is in us good or bad according to the causes for which we are grieved, or the measure of our grief. It is not my meaning to speak so largely of this affection, as to go over all particulars whereby men do one way or other offend in it; but to teach [touch?] it so far only as it may cause the very Apostles’ equals to swerve. Our grief and heaviness therefore is reprovable sometime in respect of the cause from whence, sometime in regard of the measure whereunto it groweth.
When Christ the life of the world was led unto cruel death, there followed a number of people and women, which women bewailed much his heavy case. It was natural compassion which caused them, where they saw undeserved miseries, there to pour forth unrestrained tears. Nor was this reproved. But in such readiness to lament where they less needed, their blindness in not discerning that for which they ought much rather to have mourned, this our Saviour a little toucheth, putting them in mind that the tears which were wasted for him might better have been spent upon themselves; “1 Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, weep for yourselves and for your children.” It is not, as the Stoics have imagined, a thing unseemly for a wise man to be touched with grief of mind; but to be sorrowful when we least should, and where we should lament there to laugh, this argueth our small wisdom. Again, when the Prophet David confesseth thus of himself, “1 I grieved to see the great prosperity of godless men, how they flourish and go untouched;” himself hereby openeth both our common and his peculiar imperfection, whom this cause should not have made so pensive. To grieve at this is to grieve where we should not, because this grief doth rise from error. We err when we grieve at wicked men’s impunity and prosperity, because their estate being rightly discerned they neither prosper nor go unpunished. It may seem a paradox, it is a truth, that no wicked man’s estate is prosperous, fortunate, or happy. For what though they bless themselves and think their happiness great? Have not frantic persons many times a great opinion of their own wisdom? It may be that such as they think themselves, others also do account them. But what others? Surely such as themselves are. Truth and reason discerneth far otherwise of them. Unto whom the Jews wish all prosperity, unto them the phrase of their speech is to wish peace. Seeing then the name of peace containeth in it all parts of true happiness, when the Prophet saith plainly2 , that the wicked have no peace, how can we think them to have any part of other than vainly imagined felicity? What wise man did ever account fools happy? If wicked men were wise they would cease to be wicked. Their iniquity therefore proving their folly, how can we stand in doubt of their misery? They abound in those things which all men desire. A poor happiness to have good things in possession. “3 A man to whom God hath given riches and treasures and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that it desireth, but yet God giveth him not the power to eat thereof;” such a felicity Salomon esteemeth but as a vanity, a thing of nothing. If such things add nothing to men’s happiness where they are not used, surely wicked men that use them ill, the more they have, the more wretched. Of their prosperity therefore we see what we are to think. Touching their impunity, the same is likewise but supposed. They are oftener plagued than we are aware of. The pangs they feel are not always written in their foreheads. Though wickedness be sugar in their mouths, and wantonness as oil to make them look with cheerful countenance; nevertheless if their hearts were disclosed, perhaps their glittering estate would not greatly be envied. The voices that have broken out from some of them, “O that God had given me a heart senseless, like the flint in the rocks of stone,” which as it can taste no pleasure so it feeleth no woe; these and the like speeches are surely tokens of the curse which Zophar in the Book of Job poureth upon the head of the impious man, “1 He shall suck the gall of asps, and the viper’s tongue shall slay him.” If this seem light because it is secret, shall we think they go unpunished because no apparent plague is presently seen upon them? The judgments of God do not always follow crimes as thunder doth lightning, but sometimes the space of many ages coming between. When the sun hath shined fair the space of six days upon their tabernacle, we know not what clouds the seventh may bring. And when their punishment doth come, let them make their account in the greatness of their sufferings to pay the interest of that respect which hath been given them. Or if they chance to escape clearly in this world, which they seldom do; in the day when the heavens shall shrivel as a scroll and the mountains move as frighted men out of their places, what cave shall receive them? what mountain or rock shall they get by entreaty to fall upon them? what covert to hide them from that wrath, which they shall be neither able to abide nor to2 avoid? No man’s misery therefore being greater than theirs whose impiety is most fortunate; much more cause there is for them to bewail their own infelicity, than for others to be troubled with their prosperous and happy estate, as if the hand of the Almighty did not or would not touch them. For these causes and the like unto these therefore be not troubled.
Now though the cause of our heaviness be just, yet may not our affections herein be yielded unto with too much indulgency and favour. The grief of compassion whereby we are touched with the feeling of other men’s woes is of all other least dangerous. Yet this is a let unto sundry duties; by this we are [apt?] to spare sometimes where we ought to strike. The grief which our own sufferings do bring, what temptations have not risen from it? What great advantage Satan hath taken even by the godly grief of hearty contrition for sins committed against God, the near approaching of so many afflicted souls, whom the conscience of sin hath brought unto the very brink of extreme despair, doth but too abundantly shew. These things wheresoever they fall cannot but trouble and molest the mind. Whether we be therefore moved vainly with that which seemeth hurtful and is not; or have just cause of grief, being pressed indeed with those things which are grievous, our Saviour’s lesson is, touching the one, Be not troubled, nor over-troubled for the other. For, though to have no feeling of that which merely concerneth us were stupidity, nevertheless, seeing that as the Author of our salvation was himself consecrated by affliction, so the way which we are to follow him by is not strewed with rushes1 , but set with thorns, be it never so hard to learn, we must learn to suffer with patience even that which seemeth almost impossible to be suffered; that in the hour when God shall call us unto our trial, and turn this honey of peace and pleasure wherewith we swell into that gall and bitterness which flesh doth shrink to taste of, nothing may cause us in the troubles of our souls to storm and grudge and repine at God, but every heart be enabled with divinely inspired courage to inculcate unto itself, Be not troubled; and in those last and greatest conflicts to remember it, that nothing may be so sharp and bitter to be suffered, but that still we ourselves may give ourselves this encouragement, Even learn also patience, O my soul.
Naming patience I name that virtue which only hath power to stay our souls from being over-excessively troubled: a virtue, wherein if ever any, surely that soul had good experience, which extremity of pains having chased out of the tabernacle of this flesh, angels, I nothing doubt, have carried into the bosom of her father Abraham. The death of the saints of God is precious in his sight. And shall it seem unto us superfluous at such times as these are to hear in what manner they have ended their lives? The Lord himself hath not disdained so exactly to register in the book of life after what sort his servants have closed up their days on earth, that he descendeth even to their very meanest actions, what meat they have longed for in their sickness, what they have spoken unto their children, kinsfolk, and friends, where they have willed their dead carcasses to be laid, how they have framed their wills and testaments, yea the very turning of their faces to this side or that, the setting of their eyes, the degrees whereby their natural heat hath departed from them, their cries, their groans, their pantings, breathings, and last gaspings, he hath most solemnly commended unto the memory of all generations. The care of the living both to live and to die well must needs be somewhat increased, when they know that their departure shall not be folded up in silence, but the ears of many be made acquainted with it. Again when they hear how mercifully God hath dealt with others in the hour of their last need, besides the praise which they give to God, and the joy which they have or should have by reason of their fellowship and communion of saints, is not their hope also much confirmed against the day of their own dissolution? Finally, the sound of these things doth not so pass the ears of them that are most loose and dissolute of life, but it causeth them sometime or other to wish in their hearts, “1 Oh that we might die the death of the righteous, and that our end might be like his!” Howbeit because to spend herein many words would be to strike even as many wounds into their minds whom I rather wish to comfort: therefore concerning this virtuous gentlewoman only this little I speak, and that of knowledge, “She lived a dove, and died a lamb.” And if amongst so many virtues, hearty devotion towards God, towards poverty tender compassion, motherly affection towards servants, towards friends even serviceable kindness, mild behaviour and harmless meaning towards all; if, where so many virtues were eminent, any be worthy of special mention, I wish her dearest friends of that sex to be her nearest followers in two things: Silence, saving only where duty did exact speech; and Patience even then when extremity of pains did enforce grief. “1 Blessed are they which die in the Lord.” And concerning the dead which are blessed let not the hearts of any living be overcharged, with grief over-troubled.
Touching the latter affection of fear which respecteth evils to come, as the other which we have spoken of doth present evils; first in the nature thereof it is plain that we are not of every future evil afraid. Perceive we not how they whose tenderness shrinketh at the least rase of a needle’s point, do kiss the sword that pierceth their souls quite through? If every evil did cause fear, sin, because it is sin, would be feared; whereas properly sin is not feared as sin, but only as having some kind of harm annexed. To teach men to avoid sin, it had been sufficient for the Apostle to say, “Fly it2 .” But to make them afraid of committing sin, because the naming of sin sufficed not, therefore he addeth further, that it is as a “serpent which stingeth the soul.” Again, be it that some nocive or hurtful thing be towards us, must fear of necessity follow hereupon? Not except that hurtful things do threaten us either with destruction or vexation, and that such as we have neither a conceit of ability to resist, nor of utter impossibility to avoid. That which we know ourselves able to withstand we fear not; and3 that which we know we are unable to defer or diminish, or any way avoid, we cease to fear, we give ourselves over to bear and sustain it. The evil therefore which is feared must be in our persuasion unable to be resisted when it cometh, yet not utterly impossible for a time in whole or in part to be shunned. Neither do we much fear such evils, except they be imminent and near at hand; nor if they be near, except we have an opinion that they be so. When we have once conceived an opinion or apprehended an imagination of such evils prest and ready to invade us; because they are hurtful unto our nature, we feel in ourselves a kind of abhorring; because they are, though1 near yet not present, our nature seeketh forthwith how to shift and provide for itself; because they are evils which cannot be resisted, therefore she doth not provide to withstand but to shun and avoid. Hence it is that in extreme fear the mother of life contracting herself, avoiding as much as may be the reach of evil, and drawing the heat together with the spirits of the body to her, leaveth the outward parts cold, pale, weak, feeble, unapt to perform the functions of life; as we see in the fear of Belthasar king of Babel2 . By this it appeareth that fear is nothing else but a perturbation of the mind through an opinion of some imminent evil threatening the destruction or great annoyance of our nature, which to shun it doth contract and deject itself.
Now because not in this place only but otherwhere often we hear it repeated, “Fear not,” it is by some made a long question, Whether a man may fear destruction or vexation without sinning? First, the reproof wherewith Christ checketh his disciples more than once, “O men of little faith, wherefore are ye afraid?” Secondly, the punishment threatened in the 21. of Revelations3 , to wit, the lake, and fire, and brimstone, not only to murderers, unclean persons, sorcerers, idolaters, liars, but also to the fearful and faint-hearted: this seemeth to argue that fearfulness cannot but be sin. On the contrary side we see that he which never felt motion unto sin had of this affection more than a slight feeling. How clear is the evidence of the Spirit that “4 in the days of his flesh he offered up prayers and supplications with strong cries and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was also heard in that which he feared!” Whereupon it followeth that fear in itself is a thing not sinful. For is not fear a thing natural and for men’s preservation necessary, implanted in us by the provident and most gracious Giver of all good things, to the end that we might not run headlong upon those mischiefs wherewith we are not able to encounter, but use the remedy of shunning those evils which we have not ability to withstand? Let that people therefore which receive a benefit by the length of their prince’s days, that father or mother that rejoiceth to see the offspring of their flesh grow like green and pleasant plants, let those children that would have their parents, those men that would gladly have their friends and brethren’s days prolonged on earth, (as there is no natural-hearted man but gladly would,) let them bless the Father of lights, as in other things, so even in this, that he hath given man a fearful heart, and settled naturally that affection in him which is a preservation against so many ways of death. Fear then in itself being mere nature cannot in itself be sin, which sin is not nature, but thereof an accessary deprivation.
But in the matter of fear we may sin, and do, two ways. If any man’s danger be great, theirs greatest that have put the fear of danger farthest from them. Is there any estate more fearful than that Babylonian1 strumpet’s, that sitteth upon the tops of the2 seven hills glorying and vaunting, “3 I am a queen?” &c. How much better and happier they whose estate hath been always as his who speaketh after this sort of himself, “Lord, from my youth have I borne thy yoke4 !” They which sit at continual ease, and are settled in the lees of their security, look upon them, view their countenance, their speech, their gesture, their deeds: “Put them in fear, O God,” saith the Prophet, “that so they may know themselves to be but men5 ,” worms of the earth, dust and ashes, frail, corruptible, feeble things. To shake off security therefore, and to breed fear in the hearts of mortal men, so many admonitions are used concerning the power of evils which beset them, so many threatenings of calamities, so many descriptions of things threatened, and those so lively, to the end they may leave behind them a deep impression of such as have6 force to keep the heart continually waking. All which do shew, that we are to stand in fear of nothing more than the extremity of not fearing.
When fear hath delivered us from that pit wherein they are sunk that have put far from them the evil day, that have made a league with death and have said, “Tush, we shall feel no harm;” it standeth us upon to take heed it cast us not into that wherein souls destitute of all hope are plunged. For our direction, to avoid as much as may be both extremities, that we may know as a ship-master by his card, how far we are wide, either on the one side or on the other, we must note that in a Christian man there is, first, Nature; secondly, Corruption, perverting Nature; thirdly, Grace correcting, and amending Corruption. In fear all these have their several operations. Nature teacheth simply, to wish preservation and avoidance of things dreadful; for which cause our Saviour himself prayeth, and that often, “1 Father, if it be possible.” In which cases corrupt nature’s suggestions are, for the safety of temporal life not to stick at things excluding from eternal; wherein how far even the best may be led, the chiefest Apostle’s frailty teacheth. Were it not therefore for such cogitations as on the contrary side grace and faith ministereth, such as that of Job, “2 Though God kill me;” that of Paul3 , “Scio cui credidi, I know him on whom I do rely;” small evils would soon be able to overwhelm even the best of us. “A wise man,” saith Salomon4 , “doth see a plague coming, and hideth himself.” It is nature which teacheth a wise man in fear to hide himself, but grace and faith doth teach him where. Fools care not where they hide their heads. But where shall a wise man hide himself when he feareth a plague coming? Where should the frighted child hide his head, but in the bosom of his loving father? Where a Christian, but under the shadow of the wings of Christ his Saviour? “Come, my people,” saith God in the Prophet5 , “enter into thy chamber, hide thyself,” &c. But because we are in danger like chased birds, like doves that seek and cannot see the resting holes that are right before them, therefore our Saviour giveth his disciples these encouragements beforehand, that fear might never so amaze them, but that always they might remember, that whatsoever evils at any time did beset them, to him they should still repair, for comfort, counsel, and succour. For their assurance whereof his “peace he gave them, his peace he left unto them, not such peace as the world offereth,” by whom his name is never so much pretended as when deepest treachery is meant; but “peace which passeth all understanding,” peace that bringeth with it all happiness, peace that continueth for ever and ever with them that have it.
This peace God the Father grant, for his Son’s sake; unto whom, with the Holy Ghost, three Persons, one eternal and everliving God, be all honour, glory, and praise, now and for ever. Amen.
[1 ][Luke xxiii. 28.]
[1 ]Psalm lxxiii. 3.
[2 ][Isa. xlviii. 22.]
[3 ]Eccles. vi. 2.
[1 ][Job xx. 16.]
[2 ][“To” omitted Ed. [1618, and] 1622: which has been collated with the first edition, as having possibly been inspected by H. Jackson.]
[1 ][An allusion doubtless to the strewing of rushes along the passages leading to banqueting rooms. See (e. g.) Taming of the Shrew, act iv. sc. 1. “Is supper ready, the house trimmed, rushes strewed . . . the carpets laid, and every thing in order?”]
[1 ][Num. xxiii. 10.]
[1 ][Rev. xiv. 13.]
[2 ][There seems to be a mistake in this reference: the only scriptural passage corresponding to it being Ecclesiasticus xxi. 2.]
[3 ][“Add” in the editions of 1612, 1618, 1622.]
[1 ][“thought” cp. p. 601, ed. 1618, 1622.]
[2 ][Dan. v. 6.]
[3 ][“The twenty-one (21.) of the Revelation.” ed. 1622 and 1618.]
[4 ]Heb. v. 7.
[1 ][Babylonians 1618.]
[2 ][the om. 1618.]
[3 ]Rev. xviii. 7.
[4 ][Psalm lxxxviii. 15.]
[5 ][Psalm ix. 20.]
[6 ][“hath” edit. 1612; “have” edit. 1618.]
[1 ][Matt. xxvi. 39.]
[2 ][Job xiii. 15.]
[3 ][2 Tim. i. 12.]
[4 ][Prov. xxii. 3.]
[5 ]Isa. xxvi. 20.