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Source: 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. 1.
EDITOR’S PREFACE (A SELECTION).
Here, it may be, strictly speaking, the task of the present Editor ought to terminate. But there are two large subjects intimately connected with it, to which it appears desirable to invite particular attention. One, the state of the Puritan controversy just at the time when it was taken up by Hooker, and the mode in which it was conducted by him and his contemporaries: the other, his views on certain questions in theology, collateral indeed to that controversy, but at least equally momentous with any thing in it, questions apparently beyond his original anticipation, at which in course of discussion he successively arrived, and kept them in sight afterwards with a religious anxiety proportioned to his deep sense of their vital importance.
In the annals of the Church, with more certainty perhaps than in those of the world, we may from time to time mark out what may be called turning points; points in which every thing seems to depend on some one critical event or coincidence, at the time, possibly, quite unobserved. It is awful, yet encouraging, to look back on such times, after the lapse of ages and generations, and to observe the whole course of things tending some one evil way, up to the very instant when it pleased God in His mercy to interfere, and by methods of which we now can see more than contemporaries could, to rescue, it may be, not only that generation, but succeeding times also, and among the rest, ourselves and our children, from some form of apostasy or deadly heresy.
One of these critical periods in our own church history, if the Editor mistake not, is the latter portion of the sixteenth century: and the character and views of Hooker mark him (if we may venture to judge of such a thing without irreverence) as one especially raised up to be the chief human instrument in the salutary interference which Divine Providence was then preparing. In order to have a clearer notion of the peril in which he found the truth, and of the process by which he was trained to be its defender, it may be well if we first consider the previous position of the governors of this church, relatively to the Genevan or Puritan party.
Now the nucleus of the whole controversy was undoubtedly the question of church authority: not so much the question as to the reach and limits of that authority, (which subject he fully discusses in the early part of his great work,) as that which takes up the latter part of the treatise, and which he himself denominates the “last and weightiest remains of this cause :” the question, namely, with whom church authority resides. On this point, in Hooker’s time, as now, the Christian world in Europe (speaking largely) was divided into three great parties. The first, that of the ultramontane Roman Catholics, who judging that consent of Christian antiquity in any rule was equivalent to an universal sanction of authority, only second (if it were second) to express enactment of holy Scripture; and wrongly imagining that they could establish such consent for the paramount authority of their popes and councils; refused the civil government any further prerogative in church matters, (i. e. as they interpreted, in all matters of conscience,) than merely that of executing what the said popes and councils should decree.
The second party was that of the Ghibellines in the empire, of the prerogative lawyers in the kingdom of France, of Henry the Eighth in England, and generally of all in every country who maintained more or less expressly the claims of the local governments against the papacy: their common principle (with innumerable shades of difference, and some of them very deeply marked) being this; that church laws and constitutions are on the whole left by Providence to the discretion of the civil power. To this latter party, whether on principle or on account of the exigency of their position, most of the early reformers attached themselves. Its theory was implied in the general course of proceeding, both of the Lutherans in Germany, of the Zuinglians in Switzerland, and of Archbishop Cranmer and other chief leaders of the separation between England and Rome: in their general course of conduct, not in all their measures; for in such extensive and complicated movements thorough consistency is out of the question, without some visible authority more entire and permanent than any which existed for the reformers, as a body, to acknowledge.
To these two parties, which had subsisted in much the same form, at least down from the age of Gregory VII, the events of the Genevan Reformation and the character and views of Calvin had added a third, about thirty years after the rise of Luther; a party which agreed with the Roman Catholics in acknowledging a church authority independent of the state, but differed from them as to the persons with whom such authority was intrusted; assigning it, not to the successors of the Apostles as such, but to a mixed council of Presbyters, lay and spiritual, holding their commission, not as an inward grace derived from our Lord by laying on of hands, but as an external prerogative, granted (so they thought) by positive enactment of holy Scripture. The rapid progress of this system, wherever it was introduced at all under favourable circumstances, proves that it touched some chord in human nature which answered to it very readily: while the remarkable fact, that not one of the reformers besides ever elicited the same theory for himself, but that it is in all instances traceable to Calvin and Geneva, would seem to be very nearly decisive against its claim to scriptural authority. Its success is in fact neither more nor less than a signal example of the effect producible in a short time over the face of the whole church, by the deep, combined, systematic efforts of a few able and resolute men. For that their efforts were combined and systematic, not in Geneva and France only, but as far as ever they could extend the arms of their discipline, no one can doubt, who is at all acquainted with the published correspondence of Calvin first, and in the next generation, of Beza. Two such men following each other, and reigning each his time without a rival in their own section of Christendom, went far towards securing to their party that unity of proceeding, in which, as was just now remarked, Protestants generally were in that age very deficient. This has been remarked by Hooker himself, in the course of his unpublished memoranda above mentioned, where he proposes a comparison between Calvin and Beza . “Hereby,” says he, “we see what it is for any one church or place of government to have two, one succeeding another, and both in their ways excellent, although unlike. For Beza was one whom no man would displease, Calvin one whom no man durst.” He goes on to specify some particulars of Calvin’s influence: “His dependants both abroad and at home; his intelligence from foreign churches; his correspondence every where with the chiefest; his industry in pursuing them which did at any time openly either withstand his proceedings or gainsay his opinions; his writing but of three lines in disgrace of any man as forcible as any proscription throughout all reformed churches; his rescripts and answers of as great authority as decretal epistles.” Thus far Hooker, speaking of Calvin. And any one who will consult Strype’s Annals will find incidentally very sufficient proof of the same kind of authoritative interference in English affairs on the part of Beza, throughout Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
There were predisposing circumstances, which made England at that time a promising field for the efforts of the foreign presbyterians. Some of these are touched on by Hooker himself in his Preface, and by G. Cranmer in his Letter on the Discipline. It may be useful here to mention a few others, which could not be so clearly discerned, at least not discussed so freely, by contemporaries. First and most obviously, the unpopularity of the Romish party, through the cruelty of Queen Mary and her advisers, and their total disregard of English feelings and opinions. One very striking proof of the extent to which this prevailed is the publication of the well-known pamphlets by Knox and Goodman , in which, with a view to the case of England even rather than of Scotland, it was maintained that royal authority could not be vested in a female, and that, wherever vested, it might be forfeited, by maladministration, into the hands of the people. A person of the acuteness and vigilance of the Scottish reformer, (for with all his vehemence no one knew better how to take the tide of popular opinion,) a dexterous politician like Knox would never have ventured on such a step, without good grounds for supposing that the old feeling of hereditary loyalty was fast giving way before the gathering discontent. The same remark in some measure applies to Whittingham, who seems to have been as much as any one responsible for Goodman’s book, to which he wrote a Preface. He was of a temper sufficiently cool and calculating, and not likely to commit himself in such a cause without good grounds for expecting it to be popular. And it is not perhaps easy to say how far their efforts might have succeeded, had not the failure of issue from Queen Mary, and her early demise, given a new turn to the opinions and movements of men. It would almost seem as if providentially the leaders of the Puritans had been led on to suffer these indications of their real views to escape them in good time, and so to give Elizabeth a warning, which all her life long cooperated with her natural disposition and theological opinions, in keeping her on her guard against them. But however the publications might be counteracted, the mere fact of their appearing shews to what an extent, in the judgment of competent observers, the English protestants of that day were disposed to acquiesce in whatever movement appeared to take them farthest from Rome.
Another feeling, which to the end of the century continued acting in the same direction, was sympathy with the foreign protestants; not the foreign protestants generally, for the Lutheran and Zuinglian sections of Germany and Switzerland were then in comparative peace, and presented little to excite much interest on the part of those who watched them at a distance. The struggle, the excitement, the suffering, and the ardour, were all in those countries where the reformation had taken its line in obedience to Geneva: in France, namely, and in the Netherlands. It is well known what sympathy was kindled in Elizabeth’s court by the first news of the massacre of St. Bartholomew; which, it may be remarked, took place the very year when the English Puritans began to be more open and combined in their efforts, first in parliament for legalizing the discipline, and afterwards in their several districts, for establishing it without law. And Hooker’s own works have many incidental marks of the great and increasing interest, which was naturally felt here in the varying fortunes of the Hugonots. Of course it will be seen that such interest, as far as it had any bearing on the differences among protestants themselves, would strengthen most effectually the hands of that party, which had the perfectest agreement with the persecuted abroad, and seemed at first view most irreconcilable with the persecutors.
And as the fortunes of Genevan protestantism in France would secure for it that fellow-feeling here, which attaches itself to a band of confessors and sufferers for the truth, so its fortunes in Scotland would attract such as love to be on the winning side. We have it on very high authority, the authority of Dr. Thomas Jackson , that the first impulse towards puritanism in his neighbourhood, Newcastle, was given by Knox himself, acting in King Edward’s time as a kind of missionary under the direction of the council. Afterwards, when the door had been opened to change in his own country, neither he nor his successors in the management of the Kirk ever lost sight of their kindred party in England. In Bancroft’s Dangerous Positions may be found repeated assertions, and several instances, of the support which the Puritan agitators constantly received from that quarter: such as their procuring one Waldegrave, a printer devoted to their cause, to be king’s printer in Edinburgh, in the minority of James VI. And it is known that Penry, the author of the Marprelate libels, when he was most active in that line, resorted to Scotland for refuge and cooperation. The course of the new reformation in short was notoriously such as Bancroft has expressed, quaintly but not unaptly, in the titles of his sections: first comes “Scottish Genevating,” and then “English Scottizing, for Discipline.”
In aid of all these feelings, after a while, came the resentment occasioned by the dethroning bull of pope Pius, which made it seem a matter of plain loyalty and patriotism, to secede from the Romish Church in every thing as completely as possible.
Accordingly, we find that not only in the parliaments of Elizabeth, but also in her cabinet, at least for the first thirty years of her reign, there existed a very strong bias in behalf of the Puritan party. Not only such persons as Knolles and Mildmay, and others who were Calvinists and Low Churchmen on principle; nor again only such as Leicester, who may be suspected of looking chiefly to the spoils which any great church movement might place at his disposal: but even Burghley and Walsingham, it is well known, were continually finding themselves at issue with the Archbishop of the day concerning the degree of discouragement due to the reformers. So that as far as the government was concerned, nothing but the firmness of the Queen herself, supporting first Parker and afterwards Whitgift, prevented the adoption of the new model, at least in those parts of it which did not apparently and palpably intrude on royal authority. To our argument it does not much matter, whether this tendency in such men as Burghley and Walsingham, were occasioned by any supposed necessity for conceding to popular opinion, or whether it were really the conscientious bias of their minds: but one symptom of the latter we may here observe, viz. that in their appointments, when left to themselves, they evidently gave a preference to the Puritan side. Thus Walsingham having provided a divinity lecture at Oxford, with the sole declared view of resisting and discrediting Romanism, nominated Reynolds the first reader of his lecture: indeed it seems to have been endowed expressly for him. And Burghley employed as domestic chaplain and tutor to his children, Walter Travers, the well-known antagonist of Hooker, and author of the book de Ecclesiastica Disciplina, not the least able and influential of the treatises which Geneva was continually pouring into this country.
Without investigating more deeply laid grounds of error, principles which must make the struggle with Puritanism at all times painful and arduous, even such a superficial view as has now been attempted may serve to give some idea of the amount of disadvantage under which they laboured, who had to conduct that controversy on the side of the existing Church down to the middle of Elizabeth’s reign. There is hardly need to add express mention of the certainty, under such circumstances, that whatever they said and did would be tainted with the name and suspicion of papistry; so easily affixed, and so hard to shake off, wherever men demur to the extreme of what are denominated protestant opinions.
Our argument now requires a brief account of the mode in which those who preceded Hooker had considered it best to meet the invasion from Geneva: confining attention still to the question, in whom church authority is properly vested: which question, as was remarked in the outset, forms a kind of centre around which the other points of the controversy gradually came to arrange themselves. It is evident, (speaking largely,) that there were but two ways of meeting the claim of the New Discipline: the one, the way of the early Church, of which the doctrine of papal supremacy is a perversion and excess: the other, the way which in modern times has been very generally denominated Erastian; though far indeed from being an invention of Erastus, since in every kingdom of Europe the Roman claims had been resisted on the like principles for centuries before he was born. The peculiarity of Erastus’ teaching lay rather in his refusing all right of excommunication to the Christian Church. However, it has become usual to designate from him the theory in question, which would rest the government of the Church, spiritual as well as civil, altogether in the Christian magistrate: thus entirely denying the principle, on which the Genevan innovation proceeded; whereas the High Churchmen (as they were called) of a later age, would grant the principle, but deny the application: they would allow that a succession of governors exists in the Church, of apostolical authority, not to be superseded by man; but they would deny the claim of Geneva to that succession; maintaining, what undoubtedly prima facie church history would seem to teach, that the Bishops are the true heirs of the apostles in their governing powers as well as in their power of order.
Now, since the episcopal succession had been so carefully retained in the Church of England, and so much anxiety evinced to render both her liturgy and ordination services strictly conformable to the rules and doctrines of antiquity, it might have been expected that the defenders of the English hierarchy against the first Puritans should take the highest ground, and challenge for the Bishops the same unreserved submission, on the same plea of exclusive apostolical prerogative, which their adversaries feared not to insist on for their elders and deacons. It is notorious, however, that such was not in general the line preferred by Jewel, Whitgift, Bishop Cooper, and others, to whom the management of that controversy was intrusted, during the early part of Elizabeth’s reign. They do not expressly disavow, but they carefully shun, that unreserved appeal to Christian antiquity, in which one would have thought they must have discerned the very strength of their cause to lie. It is enough, with them, to shew that the government by archbishops and bishops is ancient and allowable; they never venture to urge its exclusive claim, or to connect the succession with the validity of the holy Sacraments: and yet it is obvious that such a course of argument alone (supposing it borne out by facts) could fully meet all the exigencies of the case. It must have occurred to the learned writers above-mentioned, since it was the received doctrine of the Church down to their days; and if they had disapproved it, as some theologians of no small renown have since done, it seems unlikely that they should have passed it over without some express avowal of dissent; considering that they always wrote with an eye to the pretensions of Rome also, which popular opinion had in a great degree mixed up with this doctrine of apostolical succession.
One obvious reason, and probably the chief one, of their silence, was the relation in which they stood to the foreign protestant congregations. The question had been mixed up with considerations of personal friendship, first by Cranmer’s connection with the Lutherans, and after King Edward’s death, by the residence of Jewel, Grindal, and others at Zurich, Strasburgh, and elsewhere, in congregations which had given up the apostolical succession. Thus feelings arose, which came, insensibly no doubt, but really and strongly, in aid of the prevailing notion that every thing was to be sacrificed to the paramount object of union among protestants.
To these theological sympathies with the German reformers must be added the effect of political sympathies with the imperialist party, and generally speaking with the advocates of civil interference in the Church in the several nations of Europe. Some who cared little for religion at all, and others who had no objection to the doctrines of Rome, had united nevertheless with the zealots of the new opinions in promoting changes which they considered necessary for the deliverance of their respective countries from priestly usurpation. In England, as in other countries, the leading protestant divines had availed themselves largely of the cooperation of these numerous and powerful parties: and had occasionally committed themselves to statements and principles, which would stand greatly in their way, if ever they found it requisite to assert the claims of apostolical episcopacy.
Add to this, what the papacy itself had done, and was daily doing, to weaken all notions of independent authority in Bishops: of which policy the full development may be seen in the proceedings of the Italian party at Trent, and their efforts to obtain an express declaration from the council, that no prelate had any power in the Church, except what he received through the successors of St. Peter. So that on the one hand a large section of the reformers had a direct interest in making light of apostolical claims, and on the other, no inconsiderable portion of the opponents of innovation were prepared beforehand to concede this point. Indeed, when we consider the joint effect of all these interests, so various in themselves, yet concurring to disparage primitive episcopacy, the wonder will be, not that apostolical claims were not advanced to the full extent by the opponents of the Puritans in England, but rather that any thing like apostolical succession is left amongst us. It is indeed, throughout modern English history, a continually recurring theme of admiration and of thankfulness.
Should it be asked, how such accomplished divines, as Jewel and others of his class undoubtedly were, could permit themselves, for any present benefit to the Church, so to waver in so capital a point, with the full evidence of antiquity before their eyes; it may be replied, first of all, that in some sort they wanted that full evidence with which later generations have been favoured. The works of the Fathers had not yet been critically sifted, so that in regard of almost every one of them men were more or less embarrassed, during the whole of that age, with vague suspicions of interpolation. The effect of this is apparent in various degrees throughout the controversies of the time; but on no question would it be more felt than on this, of the apostolical succession and the frame of the visible Church: because that was a subject on which, more continually perhaps than on any other, temptations to forgery had arisen: and also because the remains of St. Ignatius in particular, for a single writer the most decisive of all who have borne witness to apostolical principles, were all that time under a cloud of doubt, which was providentially dispelled in the next age by the discovery of a copy unquestionably genuine. This consideration, as it accounts (among other things) for the little stress which Hooker seems to lay on quotations from St. Ignatius, to us most important and decisive: so it must in the nature of things have placed his predecessors, of whom we are now speaking, under a considerable disadvantage, as compared with the writers of the following century: and in all candour should be taken into account, on the one hand by those who would take advantage of the silence of the reformers to disparage the apostolical succession; on the other hand by the advocates of that doctrine, to prevent their judging too hardly of the reformers themselves for their comparative omission of it.
Further; it is obvious that those divines in particular, who had been instrumental but a little before in the second change of the liturgy in King Edward’s time, must have felt themselves in some measure restrained from pressing with its entire force the ecclesiastical tradition on church government and orders, inasmuch as in the aforesaid revision they had given up altogether the same tradition, regarding certain very material points in the celebration, if not in the doctrine, of the holy Eucharist. It is but fair to add, that the consideration last suggested, viz. indefinite fear of interpolation in the early liturgies, may have told with equal or more force in justifying to their minds the omissions in question. This subject also since their time has been happily and satisfactorily cleared up . But whether it were this, or extreme jealousy of practices which had been made occasions of abuse, or whatever the cause might be, the fact is unquestionable, that certain services had been abandoned, which according to the constant witness of the remains of antiquity had constituted an important portion of the Christian ritual: e.g. the solemn offering of the elements before consecration for the living and the dead, with commemoration of the latter, in certain cases, by name. It should seem that those who were responsible for these omissions must have felt themselves precluded, ever after, from urging the necessity of Episcopacy, or of any thing else, on the ground of uniform Church Tradition. Succeeding generations obviously need not experience the same embarrassment to the same extent: since they have only to answer for bearing with the innovation, not for introducing it.
To all these causes of hesitation we must add the direct influence of the Court, which of course on this as on all similar occasions would come strongly in aid of the Erastian principle. It is well known to what an extent prudential regards of this kind were carried by the several generations of the Anglican Reformers.
On the whole, (and the remark is made without any disrespectful thought towards them,) it was very natural for them to waive, as far as they did, the claim of exclusive divine authority in their defences of episcopal rights; nor ought their having done so to create any prejudice, in such as deservedly hold them in respect, against that claim itself.
Lest it should be imagined that we are here conceding more than we really mean to concede regarding the views of the writers in question, two propositions are subjoined, as comprising the substance of the argument by which they resisted the demands of the Puritans.
1. The whole Church, being naturally the subject in which all ecclesiastical power resides, may have had originally the right of determining how it would be governed.
2. Inasmuch as the Church did determine from very early times to be governed by Bishops, it cannot be right to swerve from that government, in any country where the same may be maintained, consistently with soundness of doctrine, and the rights of the chief magistrate, being Christian.
This statement, of Whitgift’s opinions in particular, it were easy to verify by extracts from his Defence against Cartwright. His object was, evidently, to maintain the episcopal system, i.e. the government of the Church by three orders, without at all entering on the matter of apostolical succession. Natural reason, and Church history, spoke, he thought, plainly enough. There was no occasion to settle the question, whether the charter granted by our Lord to the Twelve, was granted to them and the whole Church, or to them and the heirs for ever of their spiritual power, set apart by laying on of their hands.
Practically, perhaps, and in reason, even such a mode of arguing ought to have prevailed against the arrogant innovations which it was intended to meet. But being as it was far from the whole truth, (was it ever stated as such by those who advanced it?) it could not either correspond to the standard, which those would naturally form to themselves who looked much to Christian antiquity; or satisfy those feelings and expectations in mankind generally, which the true church system was graciously intended to supply. Cartwright therefore, inconclusive as his reasoning was, and unsubstantial his learning, appeared to maintain his ground against Whitgift. About the same time the death of Archbishop Parker made room for Grindal in the metropolitical see; whose connivance at the conduct of the Puritans is well known, and generally alleged as not the least of the causes which contributed to the increase of their influence. When the Queen interfered to repress them, and chastise him, it was in such a manner as to give the whole an air chiefly of political precaution, and to encourage the idea that the defenders of the Church were in fact identifying her almost entirely with the state. About this juncture came out Travers’s famous Book of Discipline; very much superior to Cartwright’s publications in eloquence and the skill of composition, though not at all more satisfactory in argument. Altogether the current was setting strongly in favour of the innovators, up to the time when Whitgift became Archbishop. Acute and indefatigable as he was in his efforts to produce a reaction, not only by his official edicts and remonstrances, but by his disposal of preferment also, and the literary labours which he encouraged, there was no one step of his to be compared in wisdom and effect with his patronage of Hooker, and the help which he provided towards the completion of his undertaking. It is true that in the course of the ten years which preceded that publication many things happened which had the same tendency. Abundant experiment was made elsewhere of the mischief occasioned by extreme protestant principles: and at home, the Marprelate libels and Hacket’s conspiracy had disgusted all reflecting and conscientious men. A new generation had arisen both in Oxford and Cambridge, which by the comparative tranquillity of the times enjoyed more leisure from pressing disputes, and had a better chance of considering all points thoroughly, than any one could have during the hurry of the Reformation. And (what was most important of all) the feverish and exclusive dread of Romanism, which had for a long time so occupied all men’s thoughts as to leave hardly any room for precautions in any other direction, was greatly abated by several intervening events. First, the execution of Queen Mary, though at the cost of a great national crime, had removed the chief hope of the Romanist party in England; and had made it necessary for those, who were pledged at all events to the violent proceedings of that side, to disgust all British feeling by transferring their allegiance to the king of Spain. And when, two years afterwards, his grand effort had been made, and had failed so entirely as to extinguish all present hope of the restoration of Popery in England; it is remarkable how immediately the effect of that failure is discernible in the conduct of the church controversy with the Puritans. The Armada was destroyed in July. In the February following was preached and published the famous Sermon of Bancroft at St. Paul’s Cross, on the duty of trying the spirits; which sermon has often been complained of by Puritans and Erastians as the first express development of high church principles here. It may have been the first published: but there is internal evidence of the same views having existed long before, in some of the Treatises which appeared successively on that side of the question during the four or five subsequent years.
For example, Saravia in his three Tractates gives proof that the sentiments complained of in Bancroft’s sermon had been long familiar to him, and that their being unacceptable to his countrymen abroad was one chief reason of his finally establishing himself in England . Now Saravia’s judgment of the divine right of Bishops was such as is expressed in the following passages; a few out of many which occur in his first treatise. The title of that treatise is, “Concerning the various degrees of Ministers of the Gospel, as they were instituted by the Lord, and delivered on by the Apostles, and confirmed by constant use of all Churches.” In his dedication, after exposing the error of those who would make church goods public property, he mentions as one thing which tended to encourage that error, the notion that the superiority of Bishops over presbyters was not of any divine institution: and adds, “Our fathers and all the old theologians believed that the controuling prudence of one man was divinely appointed in the church of each city or province, for avoiding schism and repressing the rashness of the many.” Thirdly, and especially, in his Address to the Reader he speaks thus fully to the point: “There are some” (the Erastians) “who think that all controul of manners is to be left entirely to the civil magistrate, and confine the ministry of the Gospel to bare preaching of the word of God and administering the Sacraments; which being impossible to be made out by the word of God, or by any example of the Fathers, I wonder that such a thought could ever enter into the mind of a theologian. Others there are who assign the power of church censures to Bishops, and to Presbyters who are both called and really are such, with that authority which God gave to the Apostles and to those who after them should be Bishops of the Church. The third sort are those who rejecting the order of Bishops, join to the pastors elders chosen for a time, to whom they commit the whole government of the churches, and discipline ecclesiastical.” Then he proceeds to enumerate the forms of civil polity, and adds, “To no nation did God ever appoint any certain and perpetual form of government, which it should be unlawful to alter according to place and times. But of this government whereof we are now discoursing the case is different, for since it came immediately from God, men cannot alter it at their own free will. Nor is there any occasion to do so. For God’s wisdom hath so tempered this polity, that it opposes itself to no form of civil government . . . Bishops I consider to be necessary to the Church, and that discipline and government of the Church to be the best, and divine, which religious Bishops, with Presbyters truely so called, administer by the rule of God’s word and ancient councils.”
Saravia, then, is a distinct and independent testimony to the doctrine of exclusive divine right in Bishops. He had worked it out, as appears, for himself; he had made material sacrifices for its sake; and he seized the first opportunity of making it public allowed him by the caution of the English government, hitherto so scrupulously sensitive in, behalf of the foreign reformers. And since Saravia was afterwards in familiar intercourse with Hooker, and his confidential adviser when writing on nearly the same subjects, we may with reason use the recorded opinions of the one for interpreting what might seem otherwise ambiguous in the other.
The same year and the year following (1591), Matthew Sutcliffe, afterwards Dean of Exeter, an acute and amusing but not always very scrupulous controversialist, published several treatises against the Puritan discipline; the tone of which may be judged of by the following complaint of Penry; (Petition to the Queen, 1590 or 1591.) “Mat. Sutcliffe hath openly in Latin defaced foreign churches, of whom D. Whitgift and others have always written honourably. Whereby it is likely there will arise as dangerous troubles to the churches about discipline as hath grown by the question of consubstantiation.” He probably alludes to the Tract “De Presbyterio,” in which Sutcliffe had handled the subject of lay elders with small veneration for the French and Genevan arrangements.
Next to Sutcliffe in order of time comes an anonymous Latin treatise, entitled “Querimonia Ecclesiæ;” a work more particularly to be noticed here, because it should seem from a passage in the Christian Letter, that Hooker himself was at that time suspected of having some concern in it. The passage in the Letter occurs in p. 44. “We beseech you therefore in the name of Jesus Christ, and as you will answer for the use of those great gifts which God hath bestowed upon you, that you would return and peruse advisedly all your five books, compare them with the articles of our profession set out by public authority, and with the works apologetical and other authorized sermons and homilies of our Church, and of the reverend Fathers of our land, and with the holy Book of God, and all other the Queen’s Majesty’s proceedings, and then read and examine with an indifferent and equall mind a book set out in Latin, called Querimonia Ecclesiæ, and another in English late come abroad, speaking of Scotizing and Genevating, and Allobrogical discipline: . . . and tell us . . . whether the reverend Fathers of our Church would not give sentence . . . that by those three writings the Church of England and all other Christian churches are undermined.” Hooker’s reply to this challenge (which has been given above, p. xxii) consists in a similar challenge to his adversary to give his opinion of three Calvinistic works, in two of which the royal supremacy in religion, and in the third the very principle of irresponsible authority in Kings, had been expressly controverted. He does not, it will be observed, at all disavow the connection, or at least the strong sympathy, which had been hinted at as subsisting between him and the author of the “Querimonia Ecclesiæ.” That tract, it may be worth remarking, was printed by Windet, the person whom Hooker himself employed for both portions of the Ecclesiastical Polity, and Saravia for the first edition of his three treatises; which Windet in all probability was the same who appears in the pedigree of the Hooker family as the eldest son of an aunt of Hooker’s. Be that as it may, the coincidence between the views of Hooker and those of the anonymous pamphlet is very striking on many topics, while on others there is quite variation enough to prove the two testimonies independent of each other.
Now on the point of church government, the “Querimonia” is, if any difference, even more express than Hooker in insisting on the divine origin and indispensable necessity of the episcopal order. The writer (speaking, as throughout, in the person of “Ecclesia”) enumerates the want of discipline as the second of four grave defects, by which, he says, our western reformation has been generally blemished; the first being, disparagement of the fasts of the Church. His language concerning episcopacy, and those who had so irreverently dispensed with it, is such as the following (speaking of Aërius and his followers ancient and modern): “Optimæ illi disciplinæ reciderunt nervos, qui . . . eam, quæ sæpe mihi salutem attulit, episcopalem auctoritatem improbe violarunt.” Again, referring as it seems to an expression of Beza, which had obtained great currency; “Aërius . . . presbyterum episcopo dignitate adæquandum censuit: episcopatum nostri a Diabolo institutum contendunt.” In the sketch which he draws of the fallen state of the Church in all parts of Christendom, when he comes to the protestants, he says, “Ita episcoporum ambitionem reprehendunt, ut episcopalem interdum ordinem repugnent: ita superstitionem condemnant, ut permulta simul religionis tollant ornamenta.” When he comes to particular countries it is remarkable that he says not a word of Scotland. In p. 81, he affirms, “Princeps ille noster Christus, etiamsi non omnes disciplinæ partes præscripsit, communes tamen proposuit regulas, quas in regenda Ecclesia semper intueri oportet.” In p. 83, he gives specimens of things, “quæ tota observat Dei Ecclesia, et instituta sunt ab Apostolis vel apostolicis viris, et perpetuo prosunt Christianæ societati:” which therefore “religiose ubique retinenda judico;” and his examples are, Lent; the holidays of our Saviour; different offices in the Church, and degrees in the ministry, including not only diocesan Bishops, but Archbishops, Primates or Metropolitans, and Patriarchs. Here then is another strong instance of the alteration in tone on which we are remarking: and the writer, whoever he might be, was no common person; as will further appear when reference is made to him, for illustration of Hooker’s opinions on other matters, some of them even more important than this of episcopacy.
The last writer now to be mentioned is one whose work came out in the very same year with the first part of Hooker’s, 1593-4: Bilson, then Warden, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, author of “the Perpetual Government of Christ’s Church:” a more elaborate and complete work than either of the former, full of good learning and sound argument, regularly arranged and clearly expressed. He, it may be observed, makes in his Preface an acknowledgment similar to that which will be presently quoted from Hooker himself; “the credit of the first devisers” of the new discipline “did somewhat deceive me.” His principles of church government are such as follows: “The power of the keys was first settled in the Apostles before it was delivered unto the Church; and the Church received it from the Apostles, not the Apostles from the Church:” p. 104. And, p. 106. “The authority of their first calling liveth yet in their succession, and time and travel joined with God’s graces bring pastors at this present to perfection; yet the Apostles’ charge to teach, baptize, and administer the Lord’s Supper, to bind and loose sins in heaven and in earth, to impose hands for the ordaining of pastors and elders: these parts of the apostolic function are not decayed, and cannot be wanted in the Church of God. There must either be no Church, or else these must remain; for without these no Church can continue.” And, p. 107. “As the things be needful in the Church, so the persons to whom they were first committed cannot be doubted. . . The service must endure as long as the promise; to the end of the world. . . Christ is present with those who succeed his Apostles in the same function and ministry for ever.” And, p. 244. “Things proper to Bishops, that might not be common to them with presbyters, were singularity in succeeding, and superiority in ordaining.” 247. “The singularity of one pastor in each place descended from the Apostles and their scholars in all famous churches in the world by a perpetual chair of succession, and doth to this day continue, but where abomination or desolation, I mean knavery or violence, interrupt it.” From p. 108 to 112 is a course of direct reasoning to the same purpose.
It were easy to multiply quotations: but enough perhaps has been advanced to justify the assertion, that while Hooker was engaged on his great work, a new school of writers on church subjects had begun to shew itself in England: men had been gradually unlearning some of those opinions, which intimacy with foreign Protestants had tended to foster, and had adopted a tone and way of thinking more like that of the early Church. The change in the political situation of the country gave them opportunity and encouragement to develope and inculcate their amended views. At such a time, the appearance in the field of a champion like Hooker on their side must have been worth every thing to the defenders of Apostolical order: and that he was then considered as taking the field on their side is clear from the manner in which, as we have seen, he was attacked, and from the names with which his was associated, by the Puritans. In later times, a different construction has very generally been put on his writings, and he has commonly been cited by that class of writers who concede least to church authority, as expressly sanctioning their loose and irreverent notions. And yet he has distinctly laid down, and adopted as his own, both the principles and the conclusion of the stricter system of antiquity. The principles, where he asks so emphatically, “What angel in heaven could have said to man, as our Lord did unto Peter, ‘Feed my sheep; preach; baptize; do this in remembrance of me; whose sins ye retain, they are retained, and their offences in heaven pardoned whose faults you shall on earth forgive?’ What think we? Are these terrestrial sounds, or else are they voices uttered out of the clouds above? The power of the ministry of God translateth out of darkness into glory; it raiseth men from the earth, and bringeth God himself down from heaven; by blessing visible elements it maketh them invisible grace; it giveth daily the Holy Ghost; it hath to dispose of that flesh which was given for the life of the world, and that blood which was poured out to redeem souls; when it poureth malediction upon the heads of the wicked, they perish, when it revoketh the same they revive. O wretched blindness, if we admire not so great power; more wretched if we consider it aright, and notwithstanding imagine that any but God can bestow it !” Can we help wondering, that the author of these sentiments should be generally reckoned among those, who account the ministry a mere human ordinance? Again, it is certain from Hooker’s own express statement, that the ministry of which he entertained these exalted ideas was from the beginning an episcopal ministry. “Let us not,” he says, “fear to be herein bold and peremptory, that if any thing in the Church’s government, surely the first institution of bishops was from heaven, was even of God; the Holy Ghost was the author of it.” Nay, he has marked his opinion yet more forcibly, by stating elsewhere, that he had not thought thus always . “I myself did sometimes judge it a great deal more probable than now I do, merely that after the Apostles were deceased, churches did agree amongst themselves for preservation of peace and order, to make one presbyter in each city chief over the rest, and to translate into him that power by force and virtue whereof the Apostles . . . did preserve and uphold order in the Church.” This he calls “that other conjecture which so many have thought good to follow,” whereas “the general received persuasion held from the first beginning” was, “that the Apostles themselves left bishops invested with power above other pastors.”
There is something very significant in the list of authorities, from whose opinion or conjecture of the equality of bishops and presbyters he here specifies his own dissent. They are first the Waldenses; then Marsilius the jurist of Padua, an extreme partizan of the imperial cause against Rome; then Wicliffe, Calvin, Bullinger, (as representing the Zuinglians,) Jewel, who had tolerated, and Fulke who had maintained, the presbyterian principle in their controversies with the Romanists. By Hooker’s distinctly specifying all these authorities, every one of whom stands, as it were, for a class or school, and putting on record his dissent from them, all and each, it should seem as if he were anxious to disengage himself openly from servile adherence to any school or section of Protestants, and to claim a right of conforming his judgment to that of the primitive or catholic Church, with whomsoever amongst moderns he might be brought into agreement or disagreement.
The passages above cited are such as cannot well be explained away: and if (as many will be ready to assert) they are expressly or virtually contradicted by other passages of the same author, the utmost effect of such contradiction must be to neutralize him in this controversy, and make him unfit to be quoted on either side. But is it so certain, that his reasonings and assertions elsewhere are at variance with these unequivocal declarations? Appeal would probably be made, first of all, to the line which he has adopted in his second and third books: whereof the second is taken up with sifting that main principle of the Puritans, that nothing should be done without command of Scripture; the third, in refuting the expectation, grounded on that principle, that in Scripture there must of necessity be found some certain form of ecclesiastical polity, the laws whereof admit not any kind of alteration. But it may be replied, that all his reasonings in that part of the treatise relate to the a priori question, whether, antecedently to our knowledge of the fact, it were necessary that Scripture (as a perfect rule of faith) should of purpose prescribe any one particular form of church government. The other question, of history and interpretation, how far such a form is virtually prescribed in the New Testament, he touches there only in passing, not however without very significant hints which way his opinion leaned . “Those things,” says he, “which are of principal weight in the very particular form of church polity (although not that form which they imagine, but that which we against them uphold) are in the Scriptures contained.” And again, “If we did seek to maintain that which most advantageth our own cause, the very best way for us, and the strongest against them, were to hold even as they do, that there must needs be found in Scripture some particular form of church polity which God hath instituted, and which for that very cause belongeth to all churches, to all times. But with any such partial eye to respect, ourselves, and by cunning to make those things seem the truest which are the fittest to serve our purpose, is a thing which we neither like nor mean to follow. Wherefore that which we take to be generally true concerning the mutability of laws, the same we have plainly delivered.” This passage is perhaps one of the strongest which the adversaries of ancient church order could adduce in support of their interpretation of Hooker. But what does it amount to? Surely to this, and no more: that he waives in behalf of the episcopal succession the mode of reasoning from antecedent necessity, on which the Puritans relied so confidently in behalf of their pastors, elders and deacons. Here, as in all other cases, he recommends the safe and reverential course of inquiring what the New Testament, as interpreted by natural reason and church history, contains, rather than determining beforehand what in reason it ought to contain. But even in this place he not obscurely implies, and in other parts of the same dissertation he expressly affirms, that the result of such reverential inquiry into the meaning of God’s later revelation would be in favour of the episcopal claims . “Forasmuch as where the clergy are any great multitude, order doth necessarily require that by degrees they be distinguished; we hold there have ever been and ever ought to be in such case at leastwise two sorts of ecclesiastical persons, the one subordinate unto the other; as to the Apostles in the beginning, and to the Bishops always since, we find plainly, both in Scripture and in all ecclesiastical records, other ministers of the word and sacraments have been . . . So as the form of polity by them set down for perpetuity is . . . faulty in omitting some things which in Scripture are of that nature; as namely the difference that ought to be of pastors, when they grow to any great multitude.” His manner of speaking of the foreign protestants tallies exactly with this view . “For mine own part, although I see that certain reformed churches, the Scottish especially and the French, have not that which best agreeth with the sacred Scripture, I mean the government that is by bishops, . . . this their defect and imperfection I had rather lament in such case than exagitate, considering that men oftentimes, without any fault of their own, may be driven to want that kind of polity or regiment which is best.” There is nothing here to indicate indifference in Hooker with regard to the apostolical succession; there is much to shew how unwilling he was harshly to condemn irregularities committed under the supposed pressure of extreme necessity.
On the whole, it should seem that where he speaks so largely of the mutability of church laws, government, and discipline, he was not so much thinking of what may be called the constitution and platform of the Church herself, as of the detail of her legislation and ceremonies: although it has become somewhat hard for a modern reader to enter into this construction of his argument, because the notion which he had to combat, of every the minutest part of discipline being of necessity contained in Scripture, has now comparatively become obsolete; whereas the episcopalian controversy is as rife as ever. We are therefore unavoidably apt to survey with an eye to that controversy portions of his argument, in which, if we were better acquainted with the notions of the first Puritans, we might perceive that he was not thinking at all about it. If we take this observation along with us, and weigh well the amount of the statements above quoted on the episcopal side, we shall not perhaps hesitate to set down Hooker as belonging to the same school in ecclesiastical opinions with Bilson and the author of the “Querimonia:” and for those times undoubtedly the weightiest, although not perhaps the most open and uncompromising advocate of their views: the substance of those views being, that episcopacy grounded on apostolical succession was of supernatural origin and divine authority, whatever else was right or wrong.
If moreover we would fully estimate the value of Hooker’s testimony in particular to the divine right of Bishops, we must add the following considerations. First, that such opinions were contrary to those in which he had been brought up. For his uncle, who had the entire superintendance of his education, was an intimate friend of Peter Martyr, and as his remains shew, likely in all questions to take that side which appeared most opposite to Romish tradition. And of his tutor Reynolds we have already spoken; he was a leader in the Puritan cause, and no doubt did his very best to leaven such a mind as Hooker’s, a mind naturally full of affectionate docility, with Genevan notions in preference to those of antiquity. On this particular point, the exclusive divine right of episcopacy, there are extant letters and remonstrances from Reynolds, occasioned by the preaching of Bancroft’s sermon above mentioned, sufficient by themselves to shew how deeply he was imbued with doctrines most abhorrent from those of his great pupil.
Secondly, that may be remarked here, which must be remembered throughout in reading Hooker by those who would weigh and measure his expressions truly; viz. that whatever he wrote was more or less modified, in the wording of it if not in the substance, by his resolution to make the best of things as they were, and in any case to censure as rarely and as tenderly as possible what he found established by authority.
These two feelings will account in some good measure for the admission in the seventh book , an admission, which, after all we have seen, may appear somewhat anomalous; that “there may be sometimes very just and sufficient reason to allow ordination without a bishop.” The excepted cases, according to Hooker, are two: first that of a supernatural call, on which little needs now to be said, although some of the leading foreign reformers, Beza for one, were content to have it urged on their behalf; thereby, as it may seem, silently owning an instinctive mistrust about the reality of their commission. The other “extraordinary kind of vocation is, when the exigence of necessity doth constrain to leave the usual ways of the Church, which otherwise we would willingly keep: where the Church must needs have some ordained, and neither hath nor can have possibly a bishop to ordain: in case of such necessity the ordinary institution of God hath given oftentimes and may give place.” Here, that we may not overstrain the author’s meaning, we must observe first with what exact conditions of extreme necessity, unwilling deviation, impossibility of procuring a bishop to ordain, he has limited his concession. In the next place, it is very manifest that the concession itself was inserted to meet the case of the foreign Protestants, not gathered by exercise of independent judgment from the nature of the case or the witness of antiquity. Thirdly, this was one of the instances in which unquestionably Hooker might feel himself biassed by his respect for existing authority. For nearly up to the time when he wrote, numbers had been admitted to the ministry of the Church in England, with no better than Presbyterian ordination: and it appears by Travers’s Supplication to the Council, that such was the construction not uncommonly put upon the statute of the 13th of Elizabeth, permitting those who had received orders in any other form than that of the English Service Book, on giving certain securities, to exercise their calling in England. If it were really the intention of that act to authorize other than episcopal ordination, it is but one proof more of the low accommodating notions concerning the Church which then prevailed; and may serve to heighten our sense of the imminent risk which we were in of losing the Succession. But however, the apparent decision of the case by high authority in church and state may account for Hooker’s going rather out of his way, to signify that he did not mean to dispute that authority.
At the same time it is undeniable, that here and in many other passages we may discern a marked distinction between that which now perhaps we may venture to call the school of Hooker, and that of Laud, Hammond, and Leslie, in the two next generations. He, as well as they, regarded the order of Bishops as being immediately and properly of Divine right; he as well as they laid down principles, which strictly followed up would make this claim exclusive. But he, in common with most of his contemporaries, shrunk from the legitimate result of his own premises, the rather, as the fulness of apostolical authority on this point had never come within his cognizance; whereas the next generation of divines entered on the subject, as was before observed, fresh from the discovery of the genuine remains of St. Ignatius. He did not feel at liberty to press unreservedly, and develope in all its consequences, that part of the argument, which they, taught by the primitive Church, regarded as the most vital and decisive: the necessity, namely, of the apostolical commission to the derivation of sacramental grace, and to our mystical communion with Christ. Yet on the whole, considering his education and circumstances, the testimony which he bears to the bolder and completer view of the divines of the seventeenth century is most satisfactory. Their principles, as we have seen, he lays down very emphatically; and if he does not exactly come up to their conclusion, the difference may be accounted for, without supposing any fundamental variance of judgment. It seems to have been ordered that in this, as in some other instances, his part should be “serere arbores, quæ alteri sæculo prosint.” His language was to be ϕωνα̑ντα συνέτοισιν, more than met the ear of the mere ordinary listener, yet clear enough to attract the attention of the considerate; and this, it will be perceived, was just what the age required.
As to the relation of the ecclesiastical to the civil power: the proposition, that the whole body of the Church is properly the subject in which power resides, is repeatedly acknowledged, in terminis, by Hooker himself : as indeed it was the received doctrine of all protestants in his time, and also of that numerous section of Romanists, which maintained the prerogative of councils as against the Pope. It seems to have been borrowed by analogy from the Roman Law, of which the fundamental proposition is , “Quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem: utpote cum lege regia, quæ de imperio ejus lata est, populus ei et in eum omne suum imperium et potestatem conferat.” Those who are familiar with the reasoning of Hooker on the origin of civil government, in the first and eighth books, will at once recognise the elements of that reasoning in those few words of Justinian. A remarkable fact, that the liberal politics of modern days should delight to base themselves on the very same tenet, which was the corner stone of the Cæsarean despotism of old. By Hooker, however, it was so completely assumed as an axiomatic principle of all government, that he transferred it without scruple to ecclesiastical legislation, and as long as he could have the benefit of it in support of the system which he wished to uphold, was little anxious to dwell even on the apostolical charter, which he has himself elsewhere asserted, in behalf of that system. As therefore in respect of kingly power he sufficiently secured existing authority by calling it, once conferred, irrevocable, although it were at first a trust from the body of the people, so in respect of episcopal power it ought, by his rule, to make practically little difference, whether it were appointed by Christ Himself to certain persons, or whether “they from the Church do receive the power which Christ did institute in the Church, according to such laws and canons as Christ hath prescribed, and the light of nature or scripture taught men to institute.” In either case, whatever other portions of the Church system might continue voluntary, this part of it, the hereditary monarchy of the Apostles’ successors, ought on Hooker’s principles to be accounted indefeasible, where it could be had. As far as regards their power of order, he allows, nay strongly enforces this; but when he comes to their power of dominion, feeling himself embarrassed by the received notion of the supremacy, he changes his ground, and recurs to the prime theory of government; according to which, the Christian state being one with the Church, and the sovereign by irrevocable cession the representative of the whole state, the same sovereign must necessarily, in the last resort, represent the whole Church also, and overrule even the Apostles’ successors as well in legislation and jurisdiction as in nomination to offices.
It is true, that in these large concessions to the civil power, Hooker always implies, not only that those who exercise it are Christians, but also that they are sound and orthodox churchmen, in complete communion with the Church which they claim to govern. Where that condition fails, on his own principles the identity or union of Church and state is at an end; and the Church, as a distinct body, is free without breach of loyalty to elect officers, make laws, and decide causes for herself, no reference at all being had to the civil power.
It were beyond the scope of this Preface to inquire, whether this limitation amount, even in theory, to a real safeguard; since all questions relating to the churchmanship of the sovereign are by the supposition in every case to be ultimately decided by the same sovereign himself: or again, practically, whether it have not terminated in rendering the Church throughout protestant Europe too much a slave of the civil power: neither is this the place to dwell on the grave reflection which naturally arises, how dangerous it is trusting in human theories, where God has so plainly spoken out by the voice of His ancient Church; nor to expatiate on the peril in which the very power of order in bishops is involved, as soon as their inherent powers of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and dominion are surrendered: both resting, to so great an extent, on the same Scriptures and the same precedents. But it may be allowable just to point out one fallacious proposition, which seems to have had a great share in making such a reasoner as Hooker thus inconsistent with himself and with antiquity. It is simply this, the notion which his reasoning, and all Erastian reasoning, implies, that coordinate authorities are incompatible; that the sovereign is not a sovereign, if the Church is independent. Surely this is as untenable, as if one denied the sovereignty of the king under the old constitution of England, because the houses of lords and commons had certain indefeasible privileges, independent of him. If their veto, for example, on acts of civil legislation, did not impeach the king’s temporal sovereignty, why should the Church’s veto impeach the same sovereignty, in case a way could be found of giving her a power over any proposed act of ecclesiastical legislation? Hooker himself supplies, obviously enough, this correction of his own argument, where he reasons concerning civil power, that it must be limited before it be given; and concerning ecclesiastical, that though it reside in the sovereign as the delegate of the whole Church, yet it must always be exercised “according to such laws and canons as Christ hath prescribed, and the light of Nature or Scripture taught men to institute.”
Thus much on the point of church government, the immediate matter of controversy between Hooker and the Puritans. But there is cause to regard his appearance in the Church as most timely on other grounds, some of them yet higher and more sacred. Beginning as he did, from a point not far short of what may be truly called extreme protestantism, he seems to have been gradually impressed with the necessity of recurring in some instances to more definite, in others to higher views, to modes of thinking altogether more primitive, than were generally entertained by the Protestants of that age. Circumstances (fully related in his life) having determined him to undertake his large treatise, and the character of his mind and studies having determined him to lay the foundation deep, and begin far back, he found there, as he went on, opportunities of inculcating his gradually improving views, (the more effectually perhaps because not obtrusively) concerning one after another of almost all the great controversies. This may be the true account of many dissertations, or parts of dissertations, which might otherwise appear to be introduced on insufficient grounds. From time to time he lays hold of occasions for establishing rules, and pointing to considerations, by which the mind of the reformed church might be steadied against certain dangerous errors, which the opinions of some early reformers, too hastily adopted or carried too far, were sure to produce or encourage. At the same time he desired to shew Roman catholics (for whose case especially we may constantly discern him providing with charitable and anxious care) that there might be something definite and primitive in a system of church polity, though it disavowed the kind of unity on which they are taught exclusively to depend.
Of these collateral subjects, the first to be mentioned on all accounts is the Catholic doctrine concerning the Most Holy Trinity. Hooker saw with grief and horror what had taken place in Geneva, Poland, and elsewhere: how crude notions of the right of private judgment, and of the sufficiency, to each man, of his own interpretations of Scripture, had ended in the revival of the worst and wildest blasphemies. He saw in the writings of that reformer especially, whose influence was greatest in this and the neighbouring countries, he saw in Calvin a disposition to treat irreverently, not only the Creeds, the sacred guards provided by the Church for Christian truth, but also that holiest truth itself, in some of its articles . He knew who had called the Nicene Creed “frigida cantilena;” had treated the doctrine expressed in the words, “God of God, Light of Light,” as a mere dream of Platonizing Greeks; and had pressed, in opposition to that formula, for the use of the word αὐτόθεος, in relation to the Son. These, it may be presumed, were some of the reasons why Hooker so anxiously availed himself of the opportunity which the question of the sacraments afforded him for entering at large on the sacred theology of the Church, and exhibiting it in its primitive fulness. The controversy in which he was directly engaged required no such discussion. But when these alarming symptoms are recollected, we cease to wonder at his pausing so long upon it.
It is observable that the author of the Christian Letter, a person evidently most jealous of Calvin’s honour, has selected for the very first point of his attack on Hooker a passage in which the subordination of the Son is affirmed. “We crave of you, Maister Hoo. to explaine your owne meaninge where you saye, (b. v. p. 113 ,) ‘The Father alone is originallie that Deitie which Christ originallie is not.’ Howe the Godhead of the Father and of the Sonne be all one, and yet originallie not the same Deitie: and then teach us how farre this differeth from the heresie of Arius, who sayeth of God the Sonne, ‘There was when he was not,’ who yet graunteth that He was before all creatures, ‘of thinges which were not.’ Whether such wordes weaken not the eternitie of the Sonne in the opinion of the simple, or at the least make the Sonne inferior to the Father in respect of the Godhead; or els teach the ignorant, there be many Gods.” On which Hooker’s note is, “The Godhead of the Father and of the Sonne is no way denied but graunted to be the same. The only thing denied is that the Person of the Sonne hath Deitie or Godhead in such sort as the Father hath it.” Again, Christian Letter, p. 7. “We pray your full meaning where you say, ‘The coeternitie of the Sonne of God with His Father, and the proceeding of the Spirit from the Father and the Sonne, are in Scripture nowhere to be found by express literal mention’. . . Whether such maner of speeches may not worke a scruple in the weak Christian, to doubt of these articles; or at the least to underproppe the popish traditions, that menne may the rather favour their allegations, when they see us fain to borrow of them.” This complaint they support by citing various texts of Scripture, which as they supposed express the doctrines in question. Hooker remarks in the margin, “These places prove that there is undoubted ground for them in Scripture, whence they may be deduced, as is confessed in the place cited (lib. i. n. 13 ): but that they are literally and verbatim set down you have not yet proved .”
The attack, the reply, and the principle on which the reply turns, are all worthy of the gravest consideration on the part of those who are at all tempted to disparage the authority of primitive interpretation through excessive dread of Romish inventions.
The like reverential care and watchful forethought is most apparent in all that has fallen from Hooker’s pen on the Incarnation of the Most Holy Son of God. While the apprehensions of other theologians, contemplating the growth of Puritanism, were confined to points of external order and the peace of the visible Church, Hooker considered the very life and substance of saving truth to be in jeopardy, as on the side of the Romanists, so on that of the Lutherans also, by reasonings likely to be grounded, whether logically or no, on the tenet which they taught in common of the proper ubiquity of our Saviour’s glorified body in the Eucharist . Evidently it was a feeling of this kind, rather than any fear of exaggerating the honour due to that blessed Sacrament, which reigns in those portions of the fifth Book, where he lays down certain limitations, under which the doctrine of the Real Presence must be received. The one drift and purpose of all those limitations is, to prevent any heretical surmise, of our Lord’s manhood now being, or having been at any time since His Incarnation, other than most true and substantial. Whatever notion of the real presence does not in effect interfere with this foundation of the faith, that, the genuine philosophy of Hooker, no less than his sound theology, taught him to embrace with all his heart. No writer, since the primitive times, has shewn himself in this and all parts of his writings more thoroughly afraid of those tendencies, which in our age are called Utilitarian and Rationalist. If at any time he seem over scrupulous in the use of ideas or phrases, from which the early Fathers saw no reason to shrink, it is always the apprehension of irreverence, not of the contrary, which is present to his mind. For example, let the three following passages only be well considered and compared: i.e. as they stand with their context; for in these critical parts more especially, no separate citation can ever do Hooker justice.
1. “ Christ’s body being a part of that nature, which whole nature is presently joined unto Deity wheresoever Deity is, it followeth that His bodily substance hath every where a presence of true conjunction with Deity. And forasmuch as it is by virtue of that conjunction made the body of the Son of God, by whom also it was made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, this giveth it a presence of force and efficacy throughout all generations of men.” 2. “ Doth any man doubt, but that even from the flesh of Christ our very bodies do receive that life which shall make them glorious at the latter day, and for which they are already accounted parts of his blessed body? Our corruptible bodies could never live the life they shall live, were it not that here they are joined with His body which is incorruptible, and that His is in ours as a cause of immortality; a cause by removing through the death and merit of His own flesh that which hindered the life of ours. Christ is therefore, both as God and as man, that true vine whereof we both spiritually and corporally are branches. The mixture of His bodily substance with ours is a thing which the ancient Fathers disclaim. Yet the mixture of His flesh with ours, they speak of, to signify what our very bodies, through mystical conjunction, receive from that vital efficacy which we know to be in His; and from bodily mixtures they borrow divers similitudes, rather to declare the truth than the manner of coherence between His sacred and the sanctified bodies of saints.” 3. “ As for any mixture of the substance of His flesh with ours, the participation which we have of Christ includeth no such kind of gross surmise.”
A striking exemplification of the difference of doctrine between Hooker and those who preceded him occurs on comparing the second of the above-cited passages with the language of Bishop Jewel on the same subject . “Ye” (Harding) “say, ‘The raising of our flesh is also assigned in the holy Scripture to the real and substantial eating of Christ’s flesh.’ But whence had ye these words, M. Harding? Where found ye these Scriptures? Dissemble no longer: deal plainly and simply: it is God’s cause. For a show ye allege these words of Christ written by St. John: ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath life everlasting; and I will raise him up again at the last day.’ These words we know, and the eating of Christ’s flesh we know, but where is your ‘real’ and ‘substantial,’ and ‘carnal ’ eating? . . . . . . Neither these words nor the former (‘except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you’) pertain directly to the Sacrament.”
In treating on this subject of the Incarnation, that which comes next in order has been in some respects unavoidably anticipated; i. e. Hooker’s doctrine concerning the holy Sacraments. Here he saw reason to practise the same circumspection, in regard of the Sacramentarians, as before, on the question of ubiquity, in regard of the Romanists and Lutherans. The erroneous theory to be obviated was one most seducing to the pride of human reason; the construction, namely, which would explain away, first, the Communion of Saints itself, and secondly, the instrumentality of sacramental signs in that Communion, so as to dispense with every thing supernatural in either.
The germ of the first error is probed (as it were) in the following remarkable passage. “It is too cold an interpretation, whereby some men expound our being in Christ to import nothing else, but only that the selfsame nature which maketh us to be men is in Him, and maketh Him man as we are. For what man in the world is there, which hath not so far forth communion with Jesus Christ? It is not this that can sustain the weight of such sentences as speak of the mystery of our coherence with Jesus Christ.” Whether the particular misinterpretation here specified were common in those days, or no , certainly it is in unison with that mode of thinking, which inclines men to be uneasy, until they have rid their creed as they think, as nearly as possible, of all mysterious meaning. Such persons, having been even constrained by inevitable force of Scripture to adopt one great mystery, the proper Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, endeavour at least to obviate the necessity of the other, the real, substantial Participation of Christ by His saints.
It is only a part of the same general view, that the Sacrament should be regarded simply as expressive actions; or tokens, morally at most, but in no wise mystically, conducive to the complete union of the renewed soul with God: a heresy, the disavowal of which by Hooker is, as might be supposed, express, reiterated, and fervent, in proportion to his deep sense of its fatal consequence, and to the probability which he saw of its one day generally prevailing. Whatever such anticipations he might form, have been fully and fatally confirmed by subsequent experience.
But not only does this great writer with religious horror disavow the Zuinglian notion, that the sacraments are only valid as moral aids to piety; he is also very full and precise in guarding against another theory, less malignant, but hardly less erroneous and unscriptural, (though unhappily too much countenanced in later days;) the theory which denies, not indeed the reality, but the exclusive virtue, of the Sacraments, as ordinary means to their respective graces. He hesitates not to teach, with the old Christian writers, that Baptism is the only ordinary mean of regeneration, the Eucharist the only ordinary mean whereby Christ’s body and blood can be taken and received. He is far from sanctioning the too prevalent idea, that every holy prayer and devout meditation renders the faithful soul a partaker of Christ, in the same sense that His own divine Sacrament does. His words concerning Baptism are: “ As we are not naturally men without birth, so neither are we Christian men in the eye of the Church of God but by new birth; nor according to the manifest ordinary course of Divine dispensation new born, but by that Baptism which both declareth and maketh us Christians.” Concerning the Eucharist and Baptism both; “It is not ordinarily His will to bestow the grace of sacraments on any, but by the sacraments .” He expounds the awful declarations in the sixth chapter of St. John, without all controversy, of that heavenly feast ; considering our Saviour to have spoken by anticipation of what He meant ere long to ordain. A mode of interpretation the more remarkable on Hooker’s part, as in embracing it he was contradicting an authority which he held in most especial reverence; that of his own early patron, Bishop Jewel, whom he designates as “the worthiest divine which Christendom hath bred by the space of some hundreds of years .” This is therefore as strong an example as could be given of the freedom and courage of Hooker’s theological judgment: nor will it be unprofitable to compare his tones of unaffected reverence with the peremptory language, almost amounting to scornfulness, of Jewel on the same subject. One instance, from the Defence of the Apology, has already been quoted. Others may be found in the following places: Part ii. c. 12. div. 3. “The Sacrament is one thing, and Christ is another. We eat Christ only by faith; we eat the Sacrament only with the mouth of our body. When Christ spake these words, ‘He that eateth me, shall live by me;’ he spake only of himself to be eaten spiritually by faith: but he spake not one word there of the Sacrament. He that knoweth not this, knoweth nothing.” And Reply to Harding, art. viii. div. 16. p. 292. “Christ in these words, as is witnessed by all the holy Fathers, speaketh not of the Sacrament, but of the spiritual eating with our faith; and in this behalf utterly excludeth the corporal office of our body.”
The opinions we form on the Sacraments are sure to mingle, insensibly perhaps to ourselves, with our views of every part of practical religion. Hooker’s judgment on the reality and exclusiveness of the spiritual grace of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper being thus distinct and unquestionable, we are prepared to find him speaking of church ceremonies in general, and of every part and instrument of communion with the visible Church, in a very different manner from that which now commonly prevails. More especially in regard of those observances, which, though not strictly sacraments, according to the more precise definition of the word, have yet in them somewhat of a sacramental nature, and were ever accounted, in the early Church, means toward several graces. Take, for example, the sign of the cross in Baptism . He dwells indeed much on its use by way of instruction; whether “to put us in mind of our own duty, or to be a memorial, sign or monument of God’s miraculous goodness towards us:” which is much the same definition as a rationalist would give of Baptism or the Eucharist itself. But Hooker has other expressions, which imply that for aught we know it may be more than this. He calls the cross, “in some sense a mean to work our preservation from reproach.” He likens it to God’s mark set on the forehead of His chosen in the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel. He approves of the custom adopted by the primitive Christians, of referring to it, as they did by constant crossing, whenever their baptismal integrity was in danger, and refreshing it as it were and burnishing it up in those foreheads, in which it had been impressed as God’s own signature at Baptism. In other words, he makes it one among many things, which may be, if God so please, supernaturally as well as morally means of grace; and what more would Zuinglius or Hoadly have allowed concerning the blessed Eucharist itself?
Again, to imposition of hands in confirmation, in receiving penitents, or in other solemn acts of blessing, he scruples not to attribute the same virtue which the Fathers every where acknowledge. “ Our warrant,” he says, “for the great good effect thereof is the same which Patriarchs, Prophets, Priests, Apostles, Fathers, and men of God have had for such their particular invocations and benedictions, as no man, I suppose, professing truth of religion, will easily think to have been without fruit.”
In respect therefore of these things, which (to use Hooker’s own expression) though not sacraments, are as sacraments, and which perhaps it might not be amiss to denominate sacramentals, it will be seen that Hooker, liberal as he is sometimes accounted, was at least as far from proud and faithless indifference as he was from irrational superstition. Even of those parts of the ancient ritual, which he dared not wish to restore, he makes mention in such a tone, as to shew that he deeply lamented the necessity of parting with them. He compares them to the rank growth of over fertile grounds: he acknowledges that although “now superstitious in the greater part of the Christian world,” yet in their first original they sprang from “the strength of virtuous, devout, or charitable affection,” and “could not by any man be justly condemned as evil.” In a word, his language regarding them comes to this: that the Church is fallen and become unworthy of them, instead of their being in themselves unmeet for the Church.
Nor can such sentiments on his part be summarily disposed of by calling them “errors of that day,” “relics of Romanism, not yet throughly purged out.” For, as we have had occasion more than once to remark, Hooker’s bias by education and society, the bias “of the day” as it was likely to influence him, lay quite on the other side. Every sentiment like that just quoted was a return to something which had grown out of fashion, an attempt, if the expression may be allowed, to “lock the wheel” of extreme innovation. It is certain that the divines most approved in Hooker’s time go far beyond him in a seeming willingness to explain away every thing of deeper meaning in Church services. The common topics of Jewel for example, and Cranmer, when they treat of ceremonies, are the supposed origination of some of them from heathen or Jewish customs, or from mere childish fancy; the absolute indifferency of those even which are more properly Christian; and the arbitrary power of national churches over them, which they press, not in the guarded tone of our thirty-fourth article, but without any kind of scruple or remorse. We nowhere find in the Ecclesiastical Polity such contemptuous mention of the old usages of the Church, as in that writer, who being asked by a Romanist, how he could prove from St. Augustine, that altars might be pulled down, and vows of poverty disallowed, as also the keeping of Lent and the use of consecrated oil, made this short reply, “His altars, his vows, his Lents, and his oils, be answered sufficiently otherwheres.” How different from Hooker, who earnestly bespeaks our reverence for primitive ordinances, not only “as betokening God’s greatness and beseeming the dignity of religion,” but also “as concurring with celestial impressions in the minds of men:” a phrase which implies that such ordinances may be real means of sundry graces, though not of those vital graces which are appropriate to the two blessed Sacraments; nor of any graces, certainly, or by virtue of express promise.
The truth is, Hooker’s notion of ceremonies appears to have been the legitimate result of a certain high and rare course of thought, into which deep study of Christian antiquity would naturally guide a devout and reflective mind. The moral and devotional writings of the Fathers shew that they were deeply imbued with the evangelical sentiment, that Christians as such are living in a new heaven and a new earth; that to them “old things are passed away,” and “all things are become new;” that the very inanimate creation itself also is “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Thus in a manner they seem to have realized, though in an infinitely higher sense, the system of Plato: every thing to them existed in two worlds: in the world of sense, according to its outward nature and relations; in the world intellectual, according to its spiritual associations. And thus did the whole scheme of material things, and especially those objects in it which are consecrated by scriptural allusion, assume in their eyes a sacramental or symbolical character.
This idea, as it may serve to explain, if not to justify, many things, which to modern ears sound strange and forced in the imagery of the Fathers and in their interpretations of Scripture; so it may be of no small use in enabling us to estimate rightly the ceremonials of the Church. The primitive apostolical men, being daily and hourly accustomed to sacrifice and dedicate to God even ordinary things, by mixing them up with Christian and heavenly associations, might well consider every thing whatever as capable of becoming, so far, a mean of grace, a pledge and token of Almighty presence and favour: and in that point of view might without scruple give the name of μυστηρία or sacraments to all those material objects which were any how taken unto the service of religion: whether by Scripture, in the way of type or figure; or by the Church, introducing them into her solemn ritual. In the writings of St. Cyprian , for example, to go no further at present; we have the homer full of manna, gathered by each of the Israelites, denominated “the sacrament of Christ’s equal and impartial grace;” the words of the Pater noster, considered as meaning far more than at first meets the ear, are “the sacraments of the Lord’s Prayer;” the Church’s rule for keeping Easter, with many other like points, are so many “sacraments of Divine service;” the cross is “a sacrament of salvation;” St. Cyprian, having collected a number of what would now be called fanciful allusions, to console and encourage certain martyrs in their sufferings, is thanked by those martyrs for “his constant care to make known by his treatises hidden and obscure sacraments.” In these and innumerable similar applications of the term, it will perhaps be found that such words as “figure,” “symbol,” “emblem,” do by no means come fully up to the force annexed to it by the Church and ecclesiastical writers. God omnipresent was so much in all their thoughts, that what to others would have been mere symbols, were to them designed expressions of His truth, providential intimations of His will. In this sense, the whole world, to them, was full of sacraments.
No doubt such a view as this harmonizes to a considerable degree with Platonism; no doubt, again, it has much in common with the natural workings and aspirations of poetical minds under any system of belief. Still, should it appear, on fair inquiry, to have been very early and very generally diffused; should we find unconscious disclosures of it among Christian interpreters and moralists quite down from St. Clement and St. Ignatius; these things would seem to indicate that it may have been a real part of the very apostolical system; grounded as it plainly might be on such scriptures as were just now mentioned.
Thus then we seem to discern a kind of theory, silently pervading the whole language and system of the Church, much to this effect: that whereas all sensible things may have other meanings and uses than we know of; spiritual and heavenly relations, associations, resemblances, apt to assist men in realizing Divine contemplations; the Church (no one of course can say how far by celestial guidance at first) selected a certain number and order of sensible things; certain actions of the body, such as bowing at the name of Jesus, and turning towards the east in prayer; certain forms of matter, such as the cross and ring; generally or always significant in themselves, and very instructive, one might almost say needful, to children and men of childlike understanding and knowledge; such things as these the Church of God instinctively selected for her ceremonies, and combined them by degrees into an orderly system, varying as circumstances might require in different dioceses, but every where constituting a kind of perpetual sacrifice; offering to the Most Holy Trinity so many samples (if we may so call them) or specimens of our common hourly actions, and of the material objects in which we are most conversant, as tithes are a sample and specimen of our whole property, and holy-days, of our whole time: likely, therefore, as tithes and holy-days are, by devout using to bring down a blessing on the whole.
Hence it would follow, that those fragments of the primitive ritual, which are still, by God’s providence, allowed to remain amongst us, are to be cherished as something more than merely decent and venerable usages. They are authorized, perchance divinely authorized, portions of the Church’s perpetual spiritual sacrifice; and the omission of such ceremonies, how imperative soever on individuals, acting by authority of their own particular church, must needs bring a grave responsibility on the churches themselves which may at any time direct such omission. Unquestionably circumstances might arise to justify them, such as are mentioned in the short discourse on ceremonies, prefixed to our Common Prayer: but the burden of proof in every case would lie on those omitting, not on those retaining the usage.
It is not affirmed that this view of Church ceremonies is any where expressly set down, either by Hooker or by his guides, the early Fathers. But surely something like it lies at the root of their mystical interpretations of Scripture, and of their no less mystical expositions of many portions of their ritual. Nay, it may have given many hints towards the framing that ritual itself, as far as we can judge of it after so many transformations. Surely also, on this point as on many others, Hooker’s sympathy with the fourth century rather than the sixteenth is perpetually breaking out, however chastened by his too reasonable dread of superstition.
Fasting, which may in some respects very well stand for one of the sacramentals just mentioned, affords a very prominent and decisive instance. For although the Church of England, by God’s favouring providence, has retained the primitive system of fasting in greater perfection than any other among those bodies which have come to be separated from the Roman communion; yet even here also, at a very early period of the reformation, that evil tendency began to be disclosed, which in our days, we see, has led too generally to the undisguised abandonment of this part of Christian discipline. Now the Querimonia Ecclesiæ, which for reasons above stated may be regarded as a kind of exponent of the views of Hooker and his school in theology, expatiates, as one of its leading topics, on the prevalent neglect of Church fasts, and the revival of Aërius’ error in the reformed churches. It should seem that the Utilitarians of those days could only imagine one moral use of fasting: they could not approve of it as a periodical expression of penitence, or as helping to withdraw the mind from earth, and supply it with heavenly contemplations. Consequently, prescribed universal fasts were to them unmeaning superstitions. And the result was, as Hooker not obscurely hints , and the writer of the Querimonia more openly affirms, that among protestants religious abstinence was becoming rather discreditable than otherwise. Here we seem to perceive the reason why Hooker thought it needful in his fifth book to go so far back in vindication of fasting itself. And we know that his course of life bore continual witness to his deep sense of the importance of that duty.
He differs indeed from the writer of the Querimonia, as to the apostolical institution of Lent. The pamphlet is very full for the affirmative; but the Ecclesiastical Polity says, “It doth not appear that the Apostles ordained any set and certain days to be generally kept of all.” This is noted here by the way, as decisive against making Hooker responsible for the Querimonia, as the authors of the Christian Letter tried to do; unless we suppose him to have changed his opinion about Lent between 1592, the date of the Querimonia, and 1597, when the fifth book was published. This however is no difference in principle, since both agree in adopting St. Augustin’s rule, that what is universally observed in the Church, yet not commanded in Scripture nor in any general council, cannot well be of less than apostolical origin. The variance therefore about Lent amounts only to this; that the Querimonia considers the historical evidence sufficient to prove reception by the whole Church, Hooker not so.
There is another branch of the same subject, on which their agreement is more complete; though here also the anonymous author speaks out more clearly sentiments, of which Hooker, coming after, is content to imply rather than express his approbation. In each we find a parallel between the heresy of Aërius on fasting, and the low disparaging notions of that duty, becoming at that time prevalent among many Protestants. This comparison is distinctly made in the Querimonia, as indeed there was ample reason: Beza having gone so far, in one of his tracts against Saravia, as to take part avowedly with Aërius, and endeavour to exculpate him from the charge of heresy. The controversy having proceeded so far, it is obvious that Hooker, writing as he does of Aërius, must have had an eye to Beza as well as to Cartwright. Evidently his wish was to hold up Aërius, as a warning in terrorem to Protestants generally, so far as they were tempted to fall into errors like his: only to make the warning more impartial and instructive, he subjoins tacitly, and by implication, another and an opposite parallel, viz. between the error of Tertullian in his Montanizing days, and some errors of the church of Rome in her rules on the subject of Fasting.
The last thing now to be observed in this very important portion of Hooker’s Treatise, is the thorough practical good sense which the conclusion of it evinces. Among other benefits of fasting he enumerates the following; “That children, as it were in the wool of their infancy dyed with hardness, may never afterwards change colour; that the poor, whose perpetual fasts are necessity, may with better contentment endure the hunger, which virtue causeth others so often to choose,” &c. This is a specimen of the way in which Hooker, in the midst of his lofty and sometimes subtle speculations, observed and entered into men’s daily pursuits and feelings; how he contrived (if one may so speak) to know what all sorts of persons are really about: a merit the more needful to be remarked in him, as it is one for which his readers and the readers of his Life have generally been apt to give him but little credit; but, certainly one of the highest merits which can be attributed to a practical divine, and not one of the least rare. In the eyes of plain unlearned persons, who read merely for practical improvement, this is what will ever give Hooker a peculiar value, as compared with many of no small name in theology; with Hall for instance, with Barrow, or with Warburton. He enters into the real feelings of men, and balances the true relative importance of things, in a manner which no depth of learning, or power of language, no logical or rhetorical skill could insure; and without which, to persons of the description now mentioned, no talent or energy can make theology interesting.
On festival days the opinion of Hooker is well known. He urges the perpetual observance of the Lord’s day (carefully separating from it the name of Sabbath) on a mixed ground of ritual and of moral obligation; considering the general requisition of natural piety to be determined to a seventh part of time by the Decalogue. For saints’ days again he regards the same obligation as being in like manner determined, only not by God’s own voice, but by the authorized legislation of His Church. Praise, Bounty, and Rest, according to the law of nature, and the analogy of holy Scripture, constitute the proper elements of each kind of festival. Thus diametrically are the views of Hooker opposed, on the one hand, to the profane and insolent indifference of some following generations towards all festivals but Sunday; on the other, to the affectation of respect, almost more insolent and profane, which some persons are in the habit of bestowing on the Sunday itself. The rest of that blessed day is now too commonly enforced on reasons of mere economy and expediency, far indeed removed from Hooker’s representation of it as a sacrifice of one-seventh part of our time to God; just as in those days to such a degree had popular opinion swerved from the primitive rules, that many, and among them even a writer in our own Homilies, were fain to plead, in behalf of fasting, the supposed preservation of pasturage, and encouragement of fisheries , instead of simply referring the duty to its own high and spiritual grounds. Admirable as these two chapters are throughout, in no respect do they call for more attentive consideration, than as a melancholy testimony to the total decay of religion properly so called, i.e. of the service of God, in an age so boastful of its own religion as the present.
Another development of the same principle occurs, in passing from the consideration of festivals and fasting days to that of churches, church lands, and tithes. Hooker evidently delights in resting the claim of both on one and the same ground of natural piety, warranted rather than expressly ordained by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Sith we know that religion requireth at our hands the taking away of so great a part of the time of our lives quite and clean from our own business, and the bestowing of the same in His; suppose we that nothing of our wealth and substance is immediately due to God, but all our own to bestow and spend as ourselves think meet? Are not our riches as well His, as the days of our life are His?” A tenth of our substance, no less than a seventh of our time, is, in Hooker’s judgment, part of the grand sacrifice which we all owe to God continually, and the payment whereof is the great business of our lives.
Again; whatever has been once so dedicated, be it land, or house, or treasure, or church furniture, that Hooker regards as absolutely devoted and inalienable. The diverting it wilfully away from sacred purposes he deems no less than plain sacrilegious impiety: the same kind of sin as profaning holy days; or as if a clergyman should abandon God’s special service, and try to become a mere layman again, after his solemn vow of dedication to the altar. It is very observable on what principle Hooker defends the English reformation from this charge of sacrilege, to which it would seem at first sight liable, on account of the unsparing plunder of monastic property. He is far from acquiescing in the ordinary political plea of “changed circumstances,” “comparative uselessness,” and the like. His sentence (right or wrong) is, that the property in question was never, strictly speaking, clerical. He professes it not to be his meaning “to make the state of bishopric and of those dissolved companies” (the monasteries) “alike; the one no less unlawful to be removed than the other. For those religious persons were men which followed only a special kind of contemplative life in the commonwealth, they were not properly a portion of God’s clergy, (only such amongst them excepted as were also priests,) their goods (that excepted which they unjustly held through the Pope’s usurped power of appropriating ecclesiastical livings unto them) may in part seem to be of the nature of civil possessions, held by other kinds of corporations, such as the city of London hath divers. Wherefore, as their institution was human, and their end for the most part superstitious, they had not therein merely that holy and Divine interest which belongeth unto Bishops, who being employed by Christ in the principal service of His Church, are receivers and disposers of His patrimony, . . . which whosoever shall withhold or withdraw at any time from them, he undoubtedly robbeth God Himself .” According to this statement, the goods of the religious houses under Henry VIII. were lay corporate property, forfeited (as was judged) by abuse. To resume it, therefore, and apply it to other lay purposes, might be dishonest or arbitrary, but could not well be sacrilegious. Should this view appear paradoxical, it will but the more amply illustrate Hooker’s deep conviction of the impiety of alienating things once hallowed. That being granted, the following dilemma ensued. He must either expressly condemn a principal part of the settlement at the reformation in England, confirmed and carried on as it had been by subsequent monarchs; or else (which he chose to do) must deny the sacredness of the confiscated property. So evident to Hooker’s mind was the proposition, that whatever has been once dedicated to Almighty God can never cease to be His, but by His own cession.
It is but a continuation of the same process of thought, where Hooker expresses his sense of the real sanctity of consecrated places, and his horror at the hard and profane notions of the Brownists or Independents on that subject, which were just then beginning to prevail among some of the reformed, though far from the alarming acceptance which they find at present. And again, where he dwells so long and so earnestly on the great mistake which the Puritans committed in their estimate of the relative importance of the parts of public service; where he shews himself so full of regret at their presumption in undervaluing scriptures and written prayers, and their fond superstition in reckoning sermons only “the quick and forcible Word of God :” wherever, in short, he inculcates more or less directly the momentous truth, that a church is a place of solemn homage and sacrifice, not only nor chiefly a place of religious instruction; a place of supernatural even more than of moral blessings. For although he disclaim the existence of any sacrifice, properly so called, in the ritual of the Church, it is clear enough that this expression must be restrained to expiatory sacrifices. Take the word sacrifice in its other senses, for eucharistical or penitential homage, and it is very plain that by Hooker’s own account, prayers, tithes, festival days, church ceremonies, are so many sacrifices, truly and properly so called. Nay, the very establishment of a national church, instead of being merely, as modern theorists hold, a national expedient for securing instruction to the people, ought also on Hooker’s principle to be regarded as a grand public sacrifice: a continued act of religious worship and homage, offered to God on the part of kings and states.
So far, the Catholic Church has been considered as a channel of supernatural grace; in which light chiefly Hooker regards it all through the fifth book. Again, his doctrine concerning the Church, considered as a witness to the truth, that is to say, in her relation to the rule of faith, may be found at large in the three first books. His principle is that of the sixth article of our Church, so admirably developed by Laud in his conference with Fisher: viz. that in doctrines supernatural, holy Scripture is paramount and sole: reason and Church authority coming in as subsidiary only, to interpret Scripture or infer from it; but in no such point ever claiming to dictate positively where Scripture is silent . Nevertheless they teach, that in regard of rites and customs, which are a sort of practical deductions from truths supernatural, apostolical tradition, derived through Church records, if any can be proved really such, must be of force no less binding, than if the same were set down in the very writings of the Apostles. “For both,” says Hooker, “being known to be apostolical, it is not the manner of delivering them unto the Church, but the author from whom they proceed, which doth give them their force and credit.”
On Hooker’s doctrine concerning the covenant of grace, a very few words must here suffice. His compositions on that subject are mostly of an early date, when, as has been exemplified, he hardly seems to have acquired the independence of thought, which appears in the Polity. And the writer to whose interpretations he had been taught to defer most constantly, and with deepest reverence, undoubtedly was St. Austin. In treating of justification, his great care was, of course, to exclude all notion of merit: of merit, i. e. as a ground of dependence, not as a qualification for supernatural blessings, divinely given to the baptized as members of Christ, for in that sense he himself allows the name, and hints no ambiguous censure on the affectation of shrinking from it, sanctioned as it is by the constant use of antiquity . This exclusion of our own desert he represents, as many writers before and since have done, by the things which Christ did and suffered being imputed to us for righteousness: and in this sense earnestly presses against the schoolmen and the council of Trent, that justifying righteousness is not inherent. But whilst he thus separates justification from sanctification in re, he is careful (plainly with an eye to Antinomian abuse) to maintain that the two are always united in tempore. “The Spirit, the virtues of the Spirit, the habitual justice which is engrafted, the external justice of Jesus Christ which is imputed, these we receive all at one and the same time; whensoever we have any of these, we have all; they go together .” He allows that the word justification is sometimes used (e. g. by St. James) so as to imply sanctification also; that in this sense we are justified by works and not by faith only; and that this is essential, and inseparable, as a result and evidence of the former; so that however “ by the one we are interested in the right of inheriting,” yet without the other we must not look to be “brought to the actual possession of eternal bliss.” On the whole, the differences, which at first sight would appear considerable, between Hooker’s teaching, and that of Bishop Bull on this subject, will be found on examination rather verbal than doctrinal: turning upon their use of certain modes of expression, and upon their interpretation of particular texts, rather than on their conceptions of the process itself and order of Divine mercy in the salvation of sinners. Hooker, for instance, adopts without scruple the phrase of Christ’s imputed righteousness: which Bull disavows and argues against as unscriptural. Hooker again reconciles St. James with St. Paul by making the one speak of the righteousness of justification, the other of that of sanctification: a distinction which seems to correspond nearly with the first and second justification of some other protestant commentators, and is disapproved by Bull, whose mode of harmonizing the two Apostles is to shew, that the works rejected by St. Paul are not Christian works, not those required by St. James, but that these on the contrary are included in St. Paul’s faith; as all right principles include and imply corresponding practice, when occasion arises. But since Hooker on the one hand makes the two justifications which he insists on inseparable and contemporaneous; and Bull, on the other, disclaims with all possible earnestness all notion of condignity, in faith alike and in works, and in every thing else that is ours; it should seem that, really and practically, there is no such great difference between them.
With regard to the points usually called Calvinistic; Hooker undoubtedly found the tone and language, which has since come to be characteristic of that school, commonly adopted by those theologians, to whom his education led him as guides and models; and therefore uses it himself, as a matter of course, on occasions, where no part of Calvinism comes expressly into debate. It is possible that this may cause him to appear, to less profound readers, a more decided partisan of Calvin than he really was. At least it is certain that on the following subjects he has avowed himself decidedly in favour of very considerable modifications of the Genevan theology. First, of election; the very ground of his original controversy with Travers was his earnestly protesting, in a sermon at the Temple, against irrespective predestination to death: a protest which he repeated in the Ecclesiastical Polity ; and afterwards drew out at large in the fragment of an answer to the Christian Letter. The sum of it is this: “The nature of God’s goodness, the nature of justice, and the nature of death itself, are all opposite to their opinion, if any will be of opinion, that God hath eternally decreed condemnation without the foresight of sin as a cause. The place of Judas was locus suus, a place of his own proper procurement. Devils were not ordained of God for hell-fire, but hell-fire for them; and for men so far as it was foreseen that men would be like them.”
But the extent to which, on this and some other topics, Hooker was willing to admit modifications of Calvinism, may be judged of accurately by the conclusion of the fragment just quoted, which consists of eight propositions, so worded, as to shew clearly that they are altered from the famous articles of Lambeth; so that on comparing the two, the degrees by which Hooker stopped short of extreme Calvinism will become apparent even to the very eye. Now the first article of Lambeth affirms eternal predestination and reprobation both: Hooker’s, predestination only, omitting all mention of reprobation. The second Lambeth article is not only negative, denying the foresight of any good in man to have been the ground of predestination to life; but also affirmative, that its only ground is the will of the good pleasure of God: Hooker omits the affirmative part, and sets down the negative only. The third Lambeth article states the number of the elect to be definite and certain, so that it can be neither increased nor diminished: Hooker, far less hard and peremptory in tone, says, “To him the number of his elect is definitely known.” The fifth pair of articles relates to perseverance in grace, and presents so remarkable a difference, that it may be right to insert both here, for avoiding of apparent or inadvertent misrepresentation.
Lambeth Art. 5.
Vera, viva, justificans fides, et Spiritus Dei sanctificans non extinguitur, non excidit, non evanescit in electis aut finaliter aut totaliter.
That to God’s foreknown elect, final continuance of grace is given.
It could hardly be without meaning, that he omitted those expressions of the article, which seemed to imply that justifying faith and sanctification, where real, must of course be indefectible. Yet this of all the tenets, commonly designated as Calvinistic, was that which in his earlier productions he seems to maintain with least hesitation. For example; in the sermon on the Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith; “In this we know we are not deceived, neither can we deceive you, when we teach that the faith whereby ye are sanctified cannot fail; it did not in the prophet, it shall not in you.” Also (inter alia) in the Discourse of Justification : “If he which once hath the Son, may cease to have the Son, though it be for a moment, he ceaseth for that moment to have life. But the life of them which have the Son of God is everlasting in the world to come. Because as Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more power over Him; so justified man, being allied to God in Jesus Christ our Lord, doth as necessarily from that time forward always live, as Christ, by whom he hath life, liveth always .” And even in the Ecclesiastical Polity he uses the following strong expressions concerning a believer’s first participation of Christ’s grace. “The first thing of his so infused into our hearts is the Spirit of Christ: whereupon . . . the rest of what kind soever do both necessarily depend and infallibly also ensue.” It is not quite clear why a person holding such an opinion as this should scruple to receive the fifth Lambeth Article: yet Hooker it seems had such a scruple . It may be, that when he came to weigh more exactly his own doctrine of the Sacraments, he felt that it could not well stand with the supposed indefectibility of grace. For how could or can any person, beholding what numbers fall away after Baptism, hold consistently, on the one hand, that real sanctifying grace can never be finally forfeited; on the other, that it is given at Baptism? which latter, Hooker unquestionably holds: for these are his words : “Baptism is a sacrament which God hath instituted in his Church, to the end that they which receive the same might thereby be incorporated into Christ, and so through his most precious merit obtain as well that saving grace of imputation which taketh away all former guiltiness, as also that infused Divine virtue of the Holy Ghost which giveth to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life.” This is one passage among many attributing to baptism when not unworthily received, and therefore in all cases to infant baptism, no less than justifying or pardoning grace, together with the first infusion of that which sanctifies. It is for those who suppose the writer an uncompromising Calvinist, to explain how these representations can be reconciled with Calvin’s doctrine, of the absolute perpetuity of justifying and of the first sanctifying grace. It is not here meant to deny that such reconciliation may be possible: but the Editor has never yet met with it. And until some way be discovered of clearing up this difficulty, it will be at least as fair in the advocates as they are called of free-will, to quote Hooker’s doctrine of the sacraments, as in predestinarians to insist on his doctrine of final perseverance. The rather, as the next, the sixth Lambeth article, which lays it down that all truly justified souls have full assurance of faith concerning their own pardon and salvation; this article is totally omitted by Hooker: no doubt for the same kind of reasons as induced him, writing on the Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith, to make so large allowance for the little understanding men have of their own spiritual condition. The modifications of the three remaining articles are much less considerable; they are, first, “that inward grace whereby to be saved is deservedly not given to all men:” where the word “deservedly” is an insertion of Hooker’s, anxious to counteract all notions of arbitrary punishment. Secondly, that “no man can come to Christ, whom God by the inward grace of his Spirit draweth not.” Hooker contents himself with this anti-Pelagian proposition: whereas the Lambeth divines added, “Not all men are drawn by the Father to come to his Son.” Next, whereas they nakedly affirm, “It lies not in the will or power of each individual to be saved or lost:” Hooker, charitably and cautiously, guards the assertion; “It is not in every, no not in any man’s own mere ability, freedom or power, to be saved; no man’s salvation being possible without grace.” And lastly, he adds a distinct reserve in behalf of the claim of practical obedience on every soul of man. “God is no favourer of sloth: and therefore there can be no such absolute decree touching man’s salvation as on our part includeth no necessity of care and travail.” On this there is a deep silence in the Lambeth propositions.
So much for the points which it was considered material to enumerate, as best exemplifying the gradual but decisive change which English Theology underwent in the hands of Hooker. The results of his publications were great and presently perceptible: a school of writers immediately sprung up, who by express reference, or style, or tone of thought, betray their admiration of Hooker; Covel, Edwin Sandys, Field, Raleigh , and others; and what was infinitely more important, Hooker had his full share in training up for the next generation, Laud, Hammond, Sanderson , and a multitude more such divines: to which succession and series, humanly speaking, we owe it, that the Anglican church continues at such a distance from that of Geneva, and so near to primitive truth and apostolical order. There have been and are those, who resort, or would be thought to resort, to the books of Ecclesiastical Polity, for conclusions and maxims very different from these. King James II, it is well known, ascribed to Hooker, more than to any other writer, his own ill-starred conversion to Romanism: against which, nevertheless, if he had thought a little more impartially, he might have perceived that Hooker’s works every where inculcate that which is the only sufficient antidote, respect for the true Church of the Fathers, as subsidiary to Scripture and a witness of its true meaning. And the rationalists on the contrary side, and the liberals of the school of Locke and Hoadly, are never weary of claiming Hooker as the first distinct enunciator of their principles. Whereas, even in respect of civil government, though he might allow their theory of its origin, he pointedly deprecates their conclusion in favour of resistance. And in respect of sacramental grace, and the consequent nature and importance of Church communion, themselves have never dared to claim sanction from him.
It is hoped that this republication of his remains, by making them in certain respects more accessible, will cause them to become more generally read and known: and surely the better they are known, the more entirely will they be rescued from the unpleasant association, and discreditable praise, just now mentioned; the more will they appear in their true light, as a kind of warning voice from antiquity, a treasure of primitive, catholic maxims and sentiments, seasonably provided for this Church, at a time when she was, humanly speaking, in a fair way to fall as low towards rationalism, as the lowest of the protestant congregations are now fallen, Bold must be he who should affirm, that great as was then her need of such a defender, it at all exceeded her peril from the same quarter at the present moment. Should these volumes prove at all instrumental in awakening any of her children to a sense of that danger, and in directing their attention to the primitive, apostolical Church, as the ark of refuge divinely provided for the faithful, such an effect will amply repay the Editor, not only for the labour of his task, which to one more skilful would have been comparatively nothing, but for that which must otherwise be always a source of some regret to him—the consciousness, namely, of having undertaken an office, for which in many respects he knew himself to be so very imperfectly prepared.