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JOHN KEBLE'S PREFACE
TO CERTAIN SELECTIONS FROM
THE FIFTH BOOK OF
The name of Richard Hooker is probably more universally known and venerated throughout the Church of England, than that of any one besides among her worthies : but it may be doubted whether men's acquaintance with his writings is at all in proportion to the honour with which they regard him.
This is owing, on the one hand, to the circumstance of his life having been so exquisitely written by the most engaging of Biographers, Isaac Walton; on the other, to the controversial and occasional cast of his great work, and the deep learning and profound investigation which he brought to bear on every part
1 The title page runs—"Of Divine Service, the Sacraments, etc., by Richard Hooker : being selections from the Fifth Book of the Ecclesiastical Polity.” 2nd ed., Oxford. John Henry Parker,
of that large and often intricate field of in-
- draw back at once from the more disputative portions, which however necessary to the author's purpose, will not, they feel, at all answer theirs.
Under these circumstances, it seemed not unadvisable to try whether such a selection could be made, as might exhibit in a connected form, and in the author's own words, his view of the Prayer Book, including the Ordination Service, clear of the difficulties above stated. “Of the Prayer Book,” for to that, more or less directly, it will be found that all the following extracts [i. e. in Keble's Selections] refer : it being part of the Church system with which all feel themselves concerned, and the portion of his great work which treats of it being confessedly the most popular and practical of the whole. The selection has therefore
been made exclusively from the Fifth Book of The Ecclesiastical Polity. Other passages no
. less beautiful, and perhaps as generally interesting, might have been added from other parts of his remains. But the object was not so much to set forth the “ Beauties of Hooker," as to put devout and thoughtful persons in possession of the principles, with a view to which the English Prayer Book should be studied, and the misgivings silenced, which our busy fancies are too ready to invent or adopt, with regard to certain of its details.
From the immediate object and occasion of the work, a complete and systematic account of the Prayer Book was not to be looked for. Hooker's special purpose was to answer the objections of the Puritan party of his time to our laws and proceedings about the several public duties of Christian religion. His defence of course ran parallel with their attack. So it is, however, that all the main parts of the service were more or less attacked : his defence therefore, going back as he always did to principles, comes nearer to a Companion to the Prayer Book than might have been expected; as will be evident on merely reading over the titles of the sections ensuing. Perhaps, on considering all the circumstances of the case, it will seem hardly less than
providential, that he was led to take so wide a range. The English Church in his time was still more or less unsettled, and rocking, as it were, from the effects of the Reformation; and the impulse of one master mind, might be all that was wanted to make the difference between fixing and overturning it. In what direction its danger lay, the next century clearly showed ; and had it not been for that turn in our theology, to which he was chiefly instrumental, it seems probable that the unsound opinions which he combated, instead of coming into violent collision with our Church, would have silently overspread it, and eaten their way into its very vitals. The Prayer Book, instead of being turned out of our churches for a time, would in all likelihood have been laid by for ever by consent; and we might have been where Geneva and Holland are now.
Nothing, it is clear, was so likely to stay this imminent danger, as a calm and profound, yet earnest view like Hooker's: impressing English Christians with the serious conviction, that many things which they heard charged with Roman superstition, might not only be accounted for on principles of the deepest human wisdom, but were, in fact, of more than human origin: that the Church system, in short, in
its main lineaments, perverted as it was by the Papists, and traduced by many Protestants, was unalterable by man, being catholic, apostolic, and divine. Why the notions of the foreign reformers were likely to prevail, is not hard to perceive, considering the violent measures of the court of Rome, both for enforcing her claims on England by the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth, and for the peremptory inculcation of doctrine by the Council of Trent: considering also the sort of connection into which English churchmen had been brought with Protestants abroad, by negociation in the reigns of Henry and Edward, and by exile under Mary. Without blaming the reformation, one may easily understand how these events might cause disparagement of the authority of the Catholic Church; confused as the ideas of men were
1 It may be observed here that Mr. Keble uses the term “Protestant” in its right antithesis, namely, in contrast not to “ Catholic,” but to Papist. In Fuller's Holy War, p. 160, we find—“Protestants cut off the authority from all pa piz'd writers of that age :” also
“I nowe can dubbe a Protestant,
And eke disdubbe agayne :
Drant. Horace, b. i. Sat. 5. Hooker in his Sermon on Justification, etc., (Works, Vol. III. p. 533), rightly contrasts “ Catholic” with “ Jewish”. Church as is catholic, not restrained any longer unto one circumcised nation."
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