« PreviousContinue »
to have recognized very justly his learning. Religious controversy with the genuinely sincere and well informed is always disquieting. To find doctrines, which have been loved, believed, and acted upon during long years, rudely challenged and regarded as dangerous mistakes or even serious corruptions of divinely revealed truth, is sufficiently startling and perplexing ; and specially is this so when those who oppose are earnest and godly men. And such was undoubtedly the case in the acute controversy between the Master and the Lecturer of the Temple, at the close of the sixteenth century. With Hooker, certainly, and we have no right to think it was otherwise with Travers, the object in view was not to gain advantage over an antagonist, but to assert and justify that which he held to be the truth. And such an object, surely, does ennoble any religious controversy, lifting it far above personal considerations. It is Mr. Hallam, who, in referring to the religious disputes of the period, spoke of Richard Hooker, in contrast with other controversialists, descending into the arena “like a knight of romance with arms of finer temper.” 1
i Constit. Hist., ch. iv. (i. 215)–“But while these scenes of pride and persecution on the one hand, and of sectarian insolence on the other, were deforming the bosom of the English Church, she found a defender of her institutions in one who mingled in these vulgar controversies like a knight of romance among caitiff brawlers, with arms of finer temper and worthy to be proved in a nobler field.” Hallam's estimate of the controversy with the Puritans is hardly worthy of his sagacity. “Seen, as we look back on it, in its completeness," wrote Dean Church, “it seems a sufficiently noble field.”—Introduction to Hooker, Bk. I., p. x. note.
To one so humble and just as Richard Hooker, the attitude of Travers and his friends must have caused deep searching of heart. He found his teaching resolutely resisted on the ground that it was unsound, and that in proclaiming it he was spreading error.
And so the challenge came to Hooker to review his doctrinal position and to re-examine foundations, in the supreme interest of that divine truth which he was commissioned to proclaim. “ It was an experience,” says Dr. Paget, “that came to him as a challenge; not shaking his belief, but setting him a task; sending him back to scrutinize with fresh severity and detail the foundations of his belief; to see exactly why he was sure and where his opponent might have missed the way; somewhat as a mathematician may retrace, even more minutely than he himself may need, every step in a long process, not in doubt of his own result, but in deference to another's difficulty, and looking out for the point which that other may have missed. So Hooker read and thought laboriously, examining his own mind and conscience, and the writings of other men, and the Bible, hoping that he might not merely satisfy himself afresh and leave himself no room or corner for a doubt to rise out of, but also that he might commend to others' conscience what was thus clear to his own, and free them from all scruples about obedience to those laws which seemed to him so certainly authoritative. That was the task that Travers' opposition set him.
. . And so, as he toiled on, painstaking, unremitting, resolute-labouring, in his own phrase, even to anatomize every particle of that body which he was to uphold sound—he formed his brave design : to display the universal field of law; to show how by the will
; and providence of God the whole world and all the ways of men are included in that system, vast and manifold, whereby through diverse channels the authority and beneficence of law travels to the diverse fields of human life; and then to claim for the legislative action of the Church its rightful place and its divine sanction within that sacred system which
1 “ It is utterly astonishing to look at the list of the books which he uses in his work (see Keble's edition of Hooker's Works, Vol. III. pp. 730–736), and at the exacting thoroughness of his extant writings; to think of the vast amount of his labour of which no trace remains; and to remember that he was only forty-seven when he died.”—Paget, Introduction to the Fifth Book of Hooker, p. 7. 1 Paget, Introduction . 2 Bk. II. ch. viii. $ 7.
reaches from the throne of the Most High to the least of the creatures He has made.” 1
The Puritan system with which Richard Hooker found himself face to face, and which he so resolutely and courageously set himself the task of discrediting, speaking broadly, was based on the assumption that, in all matters affecting religious worship, discipline, and government, an unchangeable rule is laid down in Holy Scripture, and in Holy Scripture alone. This “ Bibliolatry,” as it has been well termed, was the first principle of Hooker's Puritan antagonists. It was, and still is, a principle fraught with most dangerous consequences; in that, by exaggerating the authority of Scripture, it ultimately tends to overthrow that authority in its right exercise. Upon this error Hooker says, “ As incredible praises given unto men do often abate and impair the credit of their deserved commendation; so we must likewise take heed, lest in attributing unto Scripture more than it can have, the incredibility of that do cause even those things which indeed it hath abundantly to be less reverently esteemed.” 2
., pp. 87, 88.
The principles against which Hooker protested have been so admirably expressed by a modern writer, that we venture upon the following quotation—“At the basis of the whole of his (Hooker's) opponents' system there lay a twofold fundamental fallacy, an exaggeration of that great truth of the “sufficiency of Holy Scripture to salvation, which is one of the pivot Articles of the Church of England. It was held (by the Puritans) that no law could be of permanent obligation which was not expressed in Holy Scripture, and that no law which was contained in any part of Holy Scripture could fail to be of permanent obligation. With the former fallacy, most of the characteristic tenets of the party were closely connected. From it resulted in Ritual their hatred of all ceremony not formally enjoined in Holy Scripture, and their refusal to recognize any authority in the Church to impose such ceremony, and thereby (it was conceived) to fetter the individual freedom. By it, undoubtedly, they justified their refusal to acknowledge Episcopal authority in the Church, the supreme government of the Crown, and, ultimately, the existence of a National Church as a body. On this they based the Divine right of a system depending on the predestination and election of God,