Page images

how the errors and corruptions, from which the English Church had now been purified, had no place in the earliest times, but were an after-growth of human invention and origin.

Both Parker and Jewel addressed themselves to that party which was opposed to the Reformation, because at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign the chief attacks upon the Church were from this side ; but as time passed on, many of the elder generation, who were attached to the old forms, passed away, and the more violent among the Romanists withdrew from the English Church, and were busied with plots against the queen, rather than with controversy. Meantime there was a growing desire to see further reforms carried out within the Church. Those who had consented to the retaining of certain old practices in the Church, for the sake of the older generation who were attached to them, felt now that this reason had less weight; while the plots of Philip of Spain, the persecutions in the Netherlands, and the massacres of St. Bartholomew's Day in Paris, aroused a hatred among the English people to everything associated with the Church of Rome. The queen, however, had made up her mind that the settlement of the Church already agreed to in the earlier years of her reign should not be disturbed. She compelled the more strict enforcing of the Act of Uniformity; and congregations of Puritans began to be formed outside of the Church.

Archbishop Parker, who had defended the Church against the attacks of the Romanist party, had died, and was followed by Grindal, who was himself in favour of reform and of the free preaching of the clergy ; but on his death in 1583, John Whitgift was made archbishop. He was ready to second the queen in her determination to allow no changes to be made in the Church, and to bring the force of the law to bear against those who objected to the form of government and service appointed for the Church at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign. The later controversy of this time lay between the upholders of the Church as already established, and the Puritans, who desired to make further changes. Many of these held the opinion that nothing should be admitted into the government or ritual of a Christian Church which is not mentioned in the New Testament, or in the very early times of Christianity; and such persons now turned against the English Church the very arguments from the example of the early Church which Parker and Jewel had used in its defence. Another line of defence was therefore required to meet these attacks.

Meantime persecution called forth violence and bitter feeling. Thomas Cartwright, who was Professor of Divinity at Cambridge while Spenser was there, had denounced with violence the whole system by which the Church was governed, and had been replied to by Whitgift, who claimed an authority for the Church over the people in matters of religion almost equal to the demands of the Romish Church. Then a new element, which can scarcely be called religious, was brought into the controversy. A series of tracts now appeared, written by different writers, but all published under the name of “ Martin Mar-prelate.” They were printed in secret, and the writers were anonymous. Grotesque titles were chosen, such as attracted attention, and there was in all of them a strain of satire and rough humour which caused them to be largely read. These tracts were replied to in the same vein by the wits and dramatists of the time. Of this part of the controversy Lord Bacon no doubt expressed what many felt on both sides when he wrote: “It is more than time that there were an end and surcease made of this immodest and deformed manner of writing lately entertained, whereby matters of religion are handled in the style of the stage.”

Another result of the claims made for the Church by its supporters was that the Puritans gave up hope of further reform, and began to form small congregations of their own, where they could carry out their religious convictions. There began also to rise about this time a body of persons called at first Brownists, but afterwards Independents. Like the Presbyterians, they held that nothing should be admitted into the rule or service of a church which was not distinctly mentioned in the New Testament. They saw the difficulties of the union of the whole nation in one Church, and maintained that each congregation should be independent of every other, and should be at liberty to choose for itself whatever order of service and teaching of doctrine it judged to be most agreeable to the Word of God. They also held that the over-rule of bishops, and of a presbytery (or meeting of the clergy), were contrary to Scripture; but they allowed the authority in religious matters of a majority of the persons composing the congregation.

Although Whitgift had ably defended the Church against the attacks of Cartwright, it was felt that there was still needed some more complete justification of the whole system of the English Church, and especially an intelligent explanation of the ground on which those things rested for which there were no express directions in the New Testament From the first the Reformers had all held the Word of God as the highest authority; and it seemed to many good and earnest men as if the English Church had departed from this principle when certain laws and practices were retained in it, of which there was no mention in the New Testament. It was in the use of this argument that the greatest strength of the Puritans lay ; and it was to meet this that Richard Hooker entered the field as a combatant.

Richard Hooker was a true hero, and may well stand as the best and highest representative of those engaged in the battle for the English Church. He was a man of great learning, far-sighted, and wide-minded, caring more for the general good and order of the Church than for the triumph of particular opinions; and so perfect was he in love, that in the heat of controversy he felt no contempt for his opponents, and spoke no evil of them. He saw that they all belonged to the same great army, and were equally in earnest in trying to understand and carry out their Lord's commands.

Like many of the heroes of Queen Elizabeth's reign, Richard Hooker was a Devonshire man. He was born at Heavitree, near Exeter, about the year 1553.

When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, he was a little boy five years old. His father and mother had already begun to notice his quick intelligence; and they were struck, too, with the singularly sweet, calm disposition of their little boy, and with his loving obedience to all their wishes. He had early teaching from his mother in the stories and truths of the Bible, and training in all good habits. At school he got on so well that when the time came when his parents thought of apprenticing him to some trade, his schoolmaster begged he might go on teaching him without any other reward than the pleasure of training a pupil who, he believed, would be able in later years to do good service for God in the world.

There was at that time a Mr. John Hooker, who was an uncle of Richard's, a man of some means, and Chamberlain of the City of Exeter; and some years before, it happened that Bishop Jewel, himself a Devonshire man, had been sent to Exeter on a mission to the Churches there, and during this visit he had made the acquaintance of Mr. John Hooker. When, therefore, the good schoolmaster had taught Richard Hooker all he could, he persuaded Mr. John Hooker to undertake to send his nephew to the university for one year, believing he would soon get known there, and be helped forward in some way to the conclusion of his college education. Mr. John Hooker now remembered his acquaintance with Jewel, and he took

a journey to Salisbury to see the bishop, and have a talk with him about his clever nephew. At this visit it was settled that at Easter the schoolmaster, whose name is not known, was to bring Richard Hooker to Salisbury, that the bishop might judge whether the young Hooker was really such a remarkable lad as his uncle believed him to be. So in the spring days at Easter, the schoolmaster and his pupil set forth, probably on foot, to travel from Exeter to Salisbury. We can fancy the anxiety of the father and mother and the good uncle, as they bid the boy good-bye, and what hopes and fears would fill the hearts of the two travellers on their way at the thought of how the young scholar would acquit himself before the learned Bishop Jewel, and whether he would be able to do credit to his master's teaching and his uncle's good opinion. But Richard Hooker had no doubt already learnt something of that steadfast trust in God which enabled him in after-life to believe that all things are working together for good ; and he knew that many a prayer would be offered for him at home, for his mother was said to be like Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, in her constant prayers for her son.

The bishop was so much pleased with the learning and intelligence of Hooker, and with the boy's appearance and behaviour, that he promised to provide for his going to Oxford ; and he also made the schoolmaster a present. Soon after Richard Hooker's entrance at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he fell ill of a dangerous sickness which lasted for two months, during which time his mother most earnestly begged his life of God; and after his recovery, he would often say that he could only pray “that he might never occasion any sorrow to so good a mother, and that he loved her so dearly that he would endeavour to be good, as much for her sake as for his own.” As soon as he was strong enough he walked from Oxford to Exeter to see his mother, stopping on his way at Salisbury, where he dined

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »