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revealed (as undoubtedly they are revealed) in Holy Scripture; and defended their refusal to recognize any historical development of the Church not completed in the Apostolic age. To the latter fallacy, probably less serious in itself, we must trace very much of that spirit which, as has been well said, especially of the Covenanters of Scotland, made them Christians of the Old Testament rather than of the
In opposition to the Puritan contention Hooker urged that, in order to discover what the Divine order is, we must have recourse not only to the written word of God, but also to the moral relations, the historical development, and the social and political institutions of the human race : 2 and, in determining the laws of this Divine order, he asserted the function of human reason. And, moreover, he claimed for human reason the office of distinguishing in the Bible record, between what is changeable and what is unchangeable, between what is of merely temporal and what is of lasting obligation. These form the general principles upon which Hooker founds his famous argument.
1 Dr. Barry's Lecture on “Richard Hooker," in Masters of English Theology, Lond. 1877, pp. 20, 21.
2 - To what Hooker considered the fundamental mistake of the Puritans, an exaggerated and false theory of the purpose and function of Scripture as the exclusive guide of human conduct, he opposed his own more comprehensive theory of a rule derived not from one alone, but from all the sources of light and truth with which man finds himself encompassed." —R. W. Church, Introduction to Hooker, Bk. I., p. xvi.
The design of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, as stated by Richard Hooker, was to settle current controversies concerning religion and government, and “to resolve the conscience, and to show as near as I can what in this controversy the heart is to think, if it will follow the light of sound and sincere judgment, without either cloud of prejudice, or mist of passionate affection."1 The method adopted, to quote the author's words, was—"our endeavour is not so much to overthrow them with whom we contend, as to yield them just and reasonable causes of those things, which, for want of due consideration heretofore, they misconceived. ."2 Thus, the object in view, and the method adopted to attain it, alike, are quite admirable: from this object Hooker never swerved, from this method he never departed, throughout the course of his great argument with the Puritans.
There is another matter closely connected with the writing and publication of The Ecclesiastical Polity, to which some reference should be made, namely, that which may be described as “its opportunity.” 1 The early years of Queen Elizabeth's reign were years of religious upheaval, confusion, and hurry. What is sometimes, rightly or wrongly, called the Elizabethan Settlement was not as yet an accomplished fact. 6. The feverish and exclusive dread of Romanism” which had occupied men's minds and filled the horizon for some thirty years, began, through the course of events, gradually to subside. Mary Stuart, “at the cost of a great national crime,” to use Mr. Keble's words, had been beheaded ; and thus the fear of a Romanist succession in the throne was for a time at least removed. The chief hope of the papal party in England being thus rudely disappointed, it at once transferred its allegiance to Philip, King of Spain, in the trust that he would become the saviour of the ecclesiastical situation. But two years later, the eager aspirations of the party were again dashed by the overthrow of Philip's supreme effort to restore the Roman system : the Spanish Armada was destroyed in July 1588, and with it perished the expectation of any immediate restoration of the papal rule. The English nation now breathed more freely, and it is distinctly observable that the failure of the advocates of the Roman claims to gain their object, gave a special colour to the Church's controversy with the Puritan faction, which was making itself felt in downright earnest. The objective in the Church's attack was now no longer Romanism, but Puritanism.
| Hooker's Works, 7th ed. Preface, vii, 1, p. 171. 2 Bk. V. ch. i. $ 1.
Within a few months of the dispersion and destruction of the Spanish Armada, Bancroft (January 12, 1589) preached and printed his celebrated sermon at St. Paul's Cross, in which he maintained that episcopacy was jure divino, and therefore essential to the Church's life. This sermon, to which allusion has been made above, has been considered by some to be “the first express development of high church principles here.” 1
At this very time Hooker was hard at work upon The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, participating, doubtless, in the general relief experienced through the discomfiture of the papal party, and gaining therefrom boldness to hit out more freely and with less hesitation, and to use his pen with less caution and reserve in defence of the Catholic heritage of the English Church. It was one of those historical occasions on which as the hour strikes the man appears. In the case of Richard Hooker, those who love the English Church recognize in him and in the opportunity which came to him, the special dealings of Divine Providence. To the call which came to him in the publicity of his London life, and in his obscurity at Boscombe and Bishopsborne, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity is the answer ; and we may, I think, without exaggeration or presumption, point back to him as a brilliant example of correspondence to the vocation of God. Many a name has found place in the kalendar of the Church, for far less satisfactory reasons than those which attach themselves to the memory of Richard Hooker.
1 Cf. Keble's Preface to Hooker's Works, $ 35.
Hooker's great treatise not only possesses a distinctive excellence considered from a theological standpoint, but it is also a literary performance of rare merit: it is one of those productions which, in strictest sense and in more ways than one, may be termed “ epoch-making. Both as a theologian and as a writer, Hooker stands out indisputably eminent amongst the great names of his time—and it was a time when “there were giants on the earth.” From both points of view, no one is more adequately equipped to give an opinion on the value of The Ecclesiastical Polity than the late Dean Church, who was not only a distinguished theologian, but also an acknowledged master