Page images
PDF
EPUB

penitent behaviour, and an open confession. And it is observable, that after this time he would often say to Dr. Saravia, • O with what quietness did I enjoy my soul after I was free from the fears of my slander! and how much more after a conflict and victory over my desires of revenge!

!” 1

Of the closing days of Richard Hooker's life, we shall read in the next chapter of this work.

1 Walton's Life, pp. 77 ff.

CHAPTER V

[ocr errors]

HOOKER'S LAST DAYS HIS WILL HIS EPI

TAPH AND MONUMENT_CHRONOLOGY OF
HOOKER'S LIFE

In reading the conclusion of any biography, there naturally comes the expectation that the closing scenes of the life should be described in detail, and the last words of the subject of the biography should be recorded. And in this expectation good Isaac Walton does not disappoint us. His description of the last days of Richard Hooker, derived doubtless from an eyewitness, forms probably the most exquisitely beautiful and moving piece of biography extant in the English language. In exhibiting the sweetness, humility, and sanctity of Hooker's character, Walton is clearly true and reliable, although, possibly, he has kept in the background some of its stronger and sterner features. Rarely, if ever, has any life been written with larger sympathy or more glowing love than that of Richard Hooker; and this is particularly true of the concluding pages of Walton's biography. Incomparably great as a theologian, an original and profound thinker, Hooker is greater still in his meekness and saintliness; and it is just in this latter aspect of his character that he lives before our eyes in the lines in which Walton records the events of the closing days of his earthly career, and his passing away from time to eternity.

Richard Hooker died as he had lived and worked : he died as a great Churchman, fortified by the sweet and powerful consolations of the Catholic religion, of the reasonableness of which he had written so convincingly and magnificently, of the truth of which he had been so enlightened and strenuous an exponent, to the power of which his whole life had borne so incontestable and vivid a witness. He passed away into the presence of the Master, “whose he was and whom he served," contemplating the Divine order in the heavenly places, uttering words so characteristic of the man who had recognized and used to the full the great opportunity which came to him of setting forth, in a style matchless and unapproachable, the claims of Almighty God to the obedience of His sons—words which form so singularly beautiful a paraphrase of the great petition

of the Our Father, “ Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” words which told of the “ blessed obedience and order of angels, without which, peace could not be in heaven; and, oh that it might be so on earth!” But let Isaac Walton again speak

“ About the year 1600, and of his age fortysix, he fell into a long and sharp sickness, occasioned by a cold taken in his passage by water betwixt London and Gravesend ; from the malignity of which he was never recovered ; for, after that time till his death he was not free from thoughtful days and restless nights: but a submission to His will that makes the sick man's bed easy by giving rest to his soul, made his very languishment comfortable: and yet all this time he was solicitous in his study, and said after to Dr. Saravia (who saw him daily, and was the chief comfort of his life), • That he did not beg a long life of God for any other reason, but to live to finish his three remaining Books of Polity; and then, Lord, let thy servant depart in peace;' which was his usual expression. And God heard his prayers, though He denied the Church the benefit of them, as completed by himself ;' and it is thought he hastened his own death, by hastening to give life to his Books. But this is certain, that the nearer he was to his death, the more he grew in humility, in holy thoughts and resolutions.

1 The last three Books of The Ecclesiastical Polity were published from his rough notes after his death. "The three Books, as they are now extant, may be taken as representing the best that could be made of rough, unfinished, and incomplete papers, believed to be by Hooker, but never printed until he had been long dead and they had passed through several hands. Altogether, there seems no reason to doubt that the Books represent his work : though it is in a form in which he would never have let it come abroad." Paget, Introduction to the Fifth Book of Hooker, pp. 263, 264.

“ About a month before his death, this good man, that never knew, or at least never considered, the pleasures of the palate, became first to lose his appetite, and then, to have an averseness to all food, insomuch, that he seemed to live some intermitted weeks by the smell of meat only, and yet still studied and writ. And now his guardian Angel seemed to foretell him, that the day of his dissolution drew near; for which, his vigorous soul appeared to thirst.

“ In this time of his sickness, and not many days before his death, his house was robbed ; of which he having notice, his question was, • Are my books and written papers safe?' and being answered, that they were, his reply was, • Then it matters not; for no other loss can trouble me.'

“ About one day before his death, Dr.

« PreviousContinue »