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Richard Hooker was born at Heavitree, near Exeter, about 1553. His parents intended him for a trade, but his schoolmaster at Exeter, recognizing his natural endowments, prevailed with them to continue him at school, assuring them that his talents and learning were so remarkable, that they would soon attract the notice of some patron, who would free them from further care and charge about him. The promise of his boyhood induced his uncle, who was known to Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, to commend him to that prelate, and under his protection Hooker was sent to the University of Oxford, and admitted as a clerk of Corpus Christi College in the year 1567. In 1573 he was chosen scholar, and in 1577 he was elected fellow of his college, and about two years afterwards he was appointed deputy-professor of Hebrew. During these years Izaak Walton tells us of Hooker's attainments, “that by his great reason and his industry”, “he did not only know more of causes and effects, but what he knew he knew better than other men"; “his behavior in his college was mild, innocent, and exemplary, and thus this good man continued till his death, still increasing in learning, in patience, and in piety.” We hear of his intimacy at Oxford with Edwin Sandys, George Cranmer, and Henry Saville, all men of mark and influence in their day.
In 1581 Hooker took orders, and in the same year he first preached in London at St. Paul's. Soon after he married, and took the living of Drayton Beauchamp, in Bucks. The marriage was probably a hasty one; at any rate, it brought little felicity. From his appointment as Master of the Temple, 1585, Hooker's reputation as a divine may be said to date. He now commenced his long controversy with the Nonconformist divines; after some years of keen strife he exchanged the mastership of the Temple for the living of Boscombe, in Wiltshire. In 1595 he was presented by the Crown to Bishopsborne, in Kent, where, in 1600, he died at the early age of forty-seven.
Hooker undertook the defence of the ritual and polity of the Church of England against the attacks of the Puritans, and dedicated to this object his great work on the “Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.” His style is grave, close, and full, and in general possesses little ornament or finish, consulting the practical purposes of a controversialist and the efficient statement of argument and fact, rather than the ear or delicate taste of the reader. Particular passages, however, are highly elaborated, and wrought up not only to great majesty and grandeur of diction, but even to a musical sweetness and rhythm. Solidity and compactness, however, are always preserved, and his most exalted eloquence is still grave and severe, weighted with balance of clauses and intricacies of construction. With the inspiration which springs up from deep feeling and the sense of great truths, he combines occasionally an acute and powerful sarcasm, which he introduces dexterously and with ease into the fitting place; thus exhibiting all the resources and the full armor of a theologian and controversialist. “The Certainty and Perpetuity of Faith in the Elect” is reputed to be one of his best sermons.
THE CERTAINTY AND PERPETUITY OF FAITH IN THE ELECT
E have seen in the opening of this clause" which concerneth the weakness of the prophet's faith, first, what things they are whereunto the faith of sound believers doth assent; secondly, wherefore all men assent not thereunto; and thirdly, why they that do, do it many times with small assurance. Now because nothing can be so truly spoken but through misunderstanding it may be depraved; therefore, to prevent, if it be possible, all misconstruction in this cause, where a small error cannot rise but with great danger, it is perhaps needful, ere we come to the fourth point, that something be added to that which hath been already spoken concerning the third. That mere natural men do neither know nor acknowledge the things of God, we do not marvel, because they are spiritually to be discerned; but they in whose hearts the light of grace doth shine, they that are taught of God, why are they so weak in faith? why is their assenting to the law so scrupulous—so much mingled with fear and wavering? It seemeth strange that ever they should imagine the law to fail. It cannot seem strange if we weigh the reason. If the things which we believe be considered in themselves, it may truly be said that faith is more certain than any science. That which we know, either by sense, or by infallible demonstration, is not so certain as the principles, articles, and conclusions of Christian faith. Concerning which we must note, that there is a certainty of evidence and a certainty of adherence. Certainty of evidence we call that, when the mind doth assent unto this or that, not because it is true in itself, but because the truth is clear, because it is manifest unto us. Of things in themselves most certain, except they be also most evident, our persuasion is not so assured as it is of things more evident, although in themselves they be less certain. It is as sure, if not surer, that there be spirits, as that there be men; but we be more assured of these than of them, because these are more evident. The truth of some things is so evident that no man which heareth them can doubt of them: as when we hear that “a part of anything is less than the whole,” the mind is constrained to say, This is true. If it were so in matters of faith, then, as all men have equal certainty of this, so no believer should be more scrupulous and doubtful than another. But we find the contrary. The angels and spirits of the righteous in heaven have certainty most evident of things spiritual; but this they have by the light of glory. That which we see by the light of grace, though it be indeed more certain, yet is it not to us so evidently certain, as that which sense or the light of nature will not suffer a man to doubt of. Proofs are vain and frivolous, except they be more certain than is the thing proved: and do we not see how the Spirit everywhere in the Scripture proveth matters of faith, laboreth to confirm us in the things which we believe, by things whereof we have sensible knowledge? I conclude, therefore, that we have less certainty of evidence concerning things believed, than concerning sensible or naturally perceived. Of these who doth doubt at any time? Of them, at some time, who doubteth not? I will not here allege the sundry confessions of the perfectest that have lived upon earth concerning their great imperfections this way: which if I did, I should dwell too long upon a matter sufficiently known by every faithful man that doth know himself. The other, which we call the certainty of adherence, is when the heart doth cleave and stick unto that which it doth believe. This certainty is greater in us than the other. The reason is this: the faith of a Christian doth apprehend the words of the law, the promises of God, not only as true, but also as good; and therefore, even then when the evidence which he hath of the truth is so small that it grieveth him to feel his weakness in assenting thereto, yet is there in him such a sure adherence unto that which he doth but faintly and fearfully believe, that his spirit having once truly tasted the heavenly sweetness thereof, all the world is not able quite and clean to remove him from it; but he striveth with himself to hope against all reason of believing, being settled with Job upon this unmovable resolution, “Though God kill me, I will not give over trusting in Him” (Job xiii. 15). For why? this lesson remaineth forever imprinted in him, “It is good for me to cleave unto God (Psalm lxxiii. 28). Now the minds of all men being so darkened as they are with the foggy damp of original corruption, it cannot be that any man's heart living should be either so enlightened in the knowledge, or so established in the love of that wherein his salvation standeth, as to be perfect, neither doubting nor shrinking at all. If any such were, what doth let why that man should not be justified by his own inherent righteousness? For righteousness inherent, being perfect, will justify. And perfect faith is a part of perfect righteousness inherent; yea, a principal part, the root and the mother of all the rest: so that if the fruit of every tree be such as the root is, faith being perfect, as it is if it be not at all mingled with distrust and fear, what is there to exclude other Christian virtues from the like perfections? And then what need we the righteousness of Christ? His garment is superfluous: we may be honorably clothed with our own robes if it be thus. But let them beware who challenge to themselves a strength which they have not, lest they lose the comfortable support of that weakness which indeed they have. Some show, although no soundness of ground, there is, which may be alleged for the defence of this supposed perfection in certainty touching matters of our faith; as first, that Abraham did believe and doubted not; secondly, that the Spirit which God hath given us to no other end, but only to assure us that we are the sons of God, to embolden us to call upon Him as our Father, to open our eyes, and to make the truth of things believed evident unto our minds, is much mightier in operation than the common light of nature, whereby we discern sensible things: wherefore we must needs be more sure of that we believe, than of that we see; we must needs be more certain of the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, than we are of the light of the sun when it shineth upon our faces. To that of Abraham, “He did not doubt” [(Rom. iv. 20) où 8tekpá9m to dria Tud); I answer, this negation doth not exclude all fear, all doubting, but only that which cannot stand with true faith. It freeth Abraham from doubting through infidelity, not from doubting through infirmity; from the doubting of unbelievers, not of weak believers; from such a doubting as that whereof the prince of Samaria is attainted, who hearing the promise of sudden plenty in the midst of extreme dearth, answered, “Though the Lord would make windows in heaven, were it possible so to come to pass?” (2 Kings vii. 2). But that Abraham was not void of all doubtings, what need we any other proof than the plain evidence of his own words (Gen. xvii. 17) 2 The reason which is taken from the power of the Spirit were effectual, if God did work like a natural agent, as the fire doth inflame, and the sun enlighten, according to the uttermost ability which they have to bring forth their effects. But the incomprehensible wisdom of God doth limit the effects of His power to such a measure as seemeth best unto Himself. Wherefore He worketh that certainty in all which sufficeth abundantly to their salvation in the life to come; but in none so great as attaineth in this life unto perfection. Even so, O Lord, it hath pleased Thee; even so it is best and fittest for us, that feeling still our own infirmities, we may no longer breathe than pray, “Adjuva, Domine” [“Help, Lord, our incredulity” (Mark ix. 24)]. Of the third question, this I hope will suffice, being added unto that which hath been thereof already spoken. The fourth question resteth, and so an end of this point. That which cometh last of all in this first branch to be considered concerning the weakness of the prophet's faith, “Whether he did by this very thought, The law doth fail, quench the Spirit, fall from faith, and show himself an unbeliever or no?” The question is of moment; the repose and tranquillity of infinite souls doth depend upon it. The prophet's case is the case of many; which way soever we cast for him, the same way it passeth for all others. If in him this cogitation did extinguish grace, why the like thoughts in us should not take the like effects, there is no cause. Forasmuch therefore as the matter is weighty, dear, and precious, which we have in hand, it behoveth us with so much the greater chariness to wade through it, taking special heed both what we build, and whereon we build, that if our building be pearl, our foundation be not stubble; if the doctrine we teach be full of comfort and consolation, the ground whereupon we gather it be sure: otherwise we shall
* [“Therefore the law is slacked, and by admitting this cogitation into his judgment, doth never go forth...HHabak. mind, "The law doth fail,” did thereby i. 4.) Whether the prophet Habakkuk, show himself an unbeliever.