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of English prose; and who, in addition to these qualifications, studied Hooker's teaching and style for a long period with extraordinary care and diligence. Students of Hooker owe to Dean Church an enormous debt of gratitude, not only for his great work, in co-operation with Dr. Paget, in giving to the English Church the standard edition of Hooker's Works, to which frequent reference has been already made in the foregoing pages of this volume, but also for his exquisitely written Introduction to Book I. of The Ecclesiastical Polity. In this Introduction Dean Church speaks of Hooker's work and style thus
“Hooker's writings mark an epoch at once in the history of English thought, and in the progress of the English language. They are of high importance, not only in themselves, but as illustrative of the remarkable age in which they were produced and of which they bear the stamp. The last ten years of the century and of Elizabeth's reign saw, besides the five Books of the Ecclesiastical Polity, the publication of the first works of Shakespeare, the first essays of Bacon, the Faery Queene of Spenser. Ten
ars have not often produced such fruit. Hooker, like Shakespeare and Bacon, may be said to have opened a new vein in the use of the English language. He
showed that it was possible to write theology in English in a way which should at once raise the level of thought in the learned, and be of interest to the public. There had been a long preparation going on in the sixteenth century for a great philosophical work in English prose, in which its powers should be applied to the adequate treatment of subjects which were filling the thoughts of men. ... But no one had risen to the conception of a great plan and idea ; of a wide and philosophical survey, which the English language should be called upon to interpret and illustrate, of the deeper and more permanent relations of the pressing questions of the time. The story told by Walton of the learned English Romanist, who said to Pope Clement VIII. that he had never met with an English book whose writer deserved the name of an author till he had read the first four Books of a 'poor obscure English priest, on Laws and Church Polity,' at least expresses the fact that Hooker is really the beginner of what deserves to be called English literature, in its theological and philosophical province.”] The same writer says later, “ The book first revealed to the nation what English prose might be.” 2 And
i R. W. Church, Introduction to Book I. Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Clarendon Press, pp. xiv. xv.
3 Ibid. p. xix.
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again, in another work, “ The grandeur and force of English prose began in Hooker's · Ecclesiastical Polity.”
Of the contents of The Ecclesiastical Polity, we will speak in the next Chapter; and certain quotations from the treatise, from which the reader may judge of Hooker's style, will be found at the close of this volume.
The following passage from the pen of Dr. Gardiner 2 is worthy of quotation, as showing the assistance which Archbishop Whitgift, in his struggle with the Puritans, received from the writings of Richard Hooker
“The Church of England would certainly not have sustained itself against the Puritans unless it had found a champion of a higher order than Whitgift. Whitgift maintained its organization, but he did no more. Cranmer, at the beginning of the Reformation, had declared the Bible as interpreted by the writers of the first six centuries to be the test of doctrine, but this assertion had been met during the greater part of Elizabeth's reign, on the one hand by the (Roman) Catholics, who asserted that the Church of the first six centuries differed much from the Church of England of their day, and on the other hand by the Puritans, who asserted that the testimony of the first six centuries was irrelevant, and that the Bible alone was to be consulted. Whitgift had called both parties to obedience, on the ground that they ought to submit to the queen in indifferent matters. Hooker, in the opening of his Ecclesiastical Polity, called the Puritans to peace. This unhappy controversy,' he declared, about the received ceremonies and discipline of the Church of England, which hath so long time withdrawn so many of her ministers from their principal works and employed their studies in contentious oppositions ; hath, by the unnatural growth and dangerous fruits thereof, made known to the world, that it never received blessing from the Father of peace.'1 Hooker's teaching was distinguished by the importance which he assigned to “law, as against the blind acceptance of Papal decisions on the one side and against the Puritan reverence for the letter of the Scriptures on the other. The Puritans were wrong, as he taught, not because they disobeyed the queen, but because they did not recognize that God revealed himself in the natural laws of the world as well as in the letter of Scripture. 'Of law,' he wrote, “there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world : all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power, both angels and men and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.'1 It was therefore unnecessary, according to Hooker's teaching, to defend certain usages on the ground of their sanction by tradition or
1 R. W. Church, Spenser, p. 4. 2 A Student's History of England, Lond. 1898, p. 472.
1 These words are from Dr. Spencer's Preface to the first five Books of Hooker's work, and are not Hooker's, as stated by Dr. Gardiner. -See Hooker's Works, Vol. I. p. 121.