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and with a view to convert and conciliate
opponents, Hooker resolved to investigate the position of the English Church, and to attempt to answer the question—What is the basis upon which Church laws and Church government rest ? And his magnum opus “ The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity” was the result.
The foundation of this great work was laid in the Temple, but from the circumstances we have named, he did not find it a fit place to carry out his design. He therefore begged Archbishop Whitgift to remove him to a more peaceful sphere. In his letter to the Archbishop he wrote: “When I lost the freedom of my cell, which was my college ; yet, I found some degree of it in my quiet country parsonage: but I am weary of the noise and oppositions of this place, and indeed God and nature did not intend me for contentions, but for study and quietness. My Lord, my particular contests with Mr. Travers here have proved the more unpleasant to me, because I believe him to be a good man; and that belief hath occasioned me to examine mine own conscience concerning his opinions; and, to satisfy that, I have consulted the scriptures, and other laws both human and divine, whether the conscience of him and others of his judgment ought to be so far complied with as to alter our frame of Church-government, our manner of God's worship, our praising and praying to him, and our established ceremonies, as often as his and others' tender consciences shall require us: and, in this examination, I have not only satisfied myself, but have begun a Treatise, in which I intend a justification of the Laws of our Ecclesiastical Polity; in which design God and his holy Angels shall at the last great day bear me that witness which my conscience now does ; that my meaning is not to provoke any, but rather to satisfy all tender consciences, and I shall never be able to do this, but where I may study, and pray for God's blessing upon my endeavours, and keep myself in peace and privacy, and behold God's blessing spring out of my mother earth, and eat my own bread without oppositions; and therefore, if your Grace can judge me worthy of such a favour, let me beg it, that I may perfect what I have begun."
As a result of this touching appeal, Richard Hooker was, in the year 1591, presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the rectory of Boscombe in the diocese of Salisbury. And thus it came to pass that his 'brief spell of
1 Walton's Life, pp. 66-68.
prominence, his uncongenial experience of the great world came to an end. Of this benefice of Boscombe the Bishop of Salisbury was the patron; but at the time, the see being vacant, the patronage was dispensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the same time Hooker was instituted a minor prebend of Salisbury : neither preferment carrying much emolument. “ There is a clear ring of genuineness,” says Dr. Paget, “ in the words which Walton records as conveying Hooker's petition to the archbishop to remove him from the great place he held as Master of the Temple, and to send him once more to the quiet and obscurity of a country parsonage. It is rare to see a man still young (for Hooker was but thirty-eight when he resigned the Mastership) turning away. from a sphere where he had borne a brilliant part, and betaking himself into comparative seclusion, with the simple and unselfish desire only to do before he dies as much as he can of that which he believes to be his proper task. But it is perhaps even more rare for the heat of controversy to kindle in a man the desire not to talk but to think." 1
Walton tells us that Hooker continued at Boscombe until he had finished four of the eight proposed books of The Ecclesiastical
Introduction to the Fifth Book of Hooker's Treatise, p. 7.
Polity, and that these were entered in the Register-book of the Stationers' Hall on March 9, 1592. The true date, however, is January 29, 1593;1 and the books were not published until 1594. Hooker was in the thirty-ninth year of his age when the first half of his great work was completed.
In the year following the publication of the first four books of The Ecclesiastical Polity, i. e. A.D. 1595, Richard Hooker resigned the benefice of Boscombe, and was preferred by Queen Elizabeth, who, according to Walton, • loved Hooker well,' to the benefice of Bishopsborne in Kent, situate three miles from Canterbury, and there he remained till his death in the year 1600, as his biographer says, without
' any addition of dignity or profit.'
At Bishopsborne Hooker became acquainted with Dr. Hadrian Saravia, a Dutch theologian, who had taken refuge in England to escape from the persecution to which he had been subjected in his own country. Saravia was appointed one of the prebends of Salisbury, and soon became Hooker's dearest and most trusted friend. In the year 1589, Bancroft, then Archbishop Whitgift's chaplain, preached
1 Arber's Transcripts, ii. 295.
his famous sermon 1 at St. Paul's Cross, in order to prove that episcopacy was not merely a useful and convenient form of Church government sanctioned by the civil power, but an order of the Christian ministry divine and scriptural. Two years later Saravia enforced Bancroft's teaching 2 in a learned treatise, Of the Divers Degrees of Ministers of the Gospel
., and he generally distinguished himself by his writings against Beza and other extreme Protestants. Of the friendship between Hooker and Saravia, Walton says: “In this year of 1595, and in this place of Borne (Bishopsborne), these two excellent persons began a holy friendship, increasing daily to so high and mutual affections, that their two wills seemed to be but one and the same: and, their designs both for the glory of God, and peace of the Church, still assisting and improving each other's virtues, and the desired comforts of a peaceable piety. Which I have willingly mentioned, because it gives a foundation to some things that follow.” 3
1“A sermon in which many have traced the first public utterance of that more adequate and courageous defence of the Church's ancient order and discipline which seems to have been released by the destruction of the Armada.”--Paget, The Spirit of Discipline, p. 310. For some account of Bancroft's sermon, see Strype's Life of Whitgift, Oxford 1822, Vol. I. pp. 559 ff.
2 Evidence exists that Saravia had long been familiar with the views set forth by Bancroft.
3 Walton's Life, p. 77.