Nonfiction > Trent and Wells, eds. > Colonial Prose and Poetry
Trent and Wells, eds.  Colonial Prose and Poetry.  1901.
Vol. I. The Transplanting of Culture: 1607–1650
Thomas Hooker
THOMAS HOOKER, one of the most eloquent and influential of the early Puritan clergy, was born in Markfield, Leicestershire, in 1586, and died in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1647. Like many of his fellow ministers, he was a Cambridge graduate and fellow, and was advancing to distinction when, in 1630, he was silenced by Archbishop Laud. He was Anglican in doctrine, but objected to the ceremonial of the English Church. He taught school for a time with John Eliot, the future apostle to the Indians, as his assistant, but he was still subjected to persecution, and fled to Holland, whence he emigrated in 1633 to New England in the same ship with John Cotton and the almost equally distinguished Samuel Stone. Five weeks after his landing, Hooker obtained a pastorate, and three years later migrated with his entire congregation to the Connecticut River, where they founded Hartford. Hooker was identified with all the great political and religious movements in the young colony, especially with the framing of the famous constitution. He was a man of commanding character, in politics liberal and almost democratic, but in his church ruling with a rod of iron as prophet, priest, and king, as confessor, too, and exhorter of the minatory type. His power to foretell events seems to have been believed in both by himself and by his parishioners. His style is often less involved, and therefore more forcible and readable than that of many of his contemporaries, for he constantly remembered the limitations of the human ear, and framed his discourses accordingly. His sermons and numerous treatises must have been read with a fearful joy of terror, so long as the theology that they represented was a matter of belief or even of profession.  1
  A SURVEY of the Summe of Church-Discipline, WHEREIN the Way of the CHURCHES of NEW ENGLAND is Warranted out of the Word, and all Exceptions of Weight, which are made against it, answered: WHEREBY also it will appear to the Judicious Reader, that something more must be said, then yet hath been, before their Principles can be shaken, or they should be unsetled in their practice, By THOS. HOOKER, late Pastor of the Church at Hartford upon Connecticott in N.E. [London, 1648.]
[From the Preface. 1]

  TRUTH is the Daughter of time, was the saying of old, and our daily experience gives in evidence and proof hereof, to every man’s ordinary observation. Only as in other births, so here, the barrenness and fruitfulness of several ages, depend merely upon God’s good pleasure; who opens and shuts the womb of truth from bearing, as he sees fit, according to the counsel of his own will.
  Not that there is any change in the truth, but the alteration grows, according to men’s apprehensions, to whom it is more or less discovered, according to God’s most just judgment, and their own deservings.  3
  Sometimes God makes an eclipse of the truth at midday, that so he might express his wrath from Heaven, against the unthankfulness, prophaneness, and atheism of a malignant world.  4
  Hence it was he let loose those hellish delusions, immediately after the Ascension of our Saviour; That though his life and conversation gave in evidence beyond gainsaying, that he was true man: Though the miracles and wonders he wrought in his life and death, resurrection and ascension, were witnesses undeniable, that he was true God: yet there arose a wretched generation of heretics, in the first, second, and third hundred years, who adventured not only against the express verdict of the Scripture, but against sense and experience, fresh in the observation and tradition of living men, with more than Satanical impudency to deny both the natures of our blessed Saviour.  5
  Some denied the deity of our Saviour, and would have him mere man. As Ebrion, Cerinthus, Montanus, &c. Others deny him to be true man, as the Gnostici, Valentiniani, Marrionitæ.  6
  Sometimes when men entertain the truth in profession, but not in the love of it, and that endeared affection, that is due thereunto, the Lord gives men up to the activity of error, as the Apostle speaks, because they did not love, that the truth should be truth, they embraced falsehood instead of truth, that so they might be deluded and damned. This made way for Antichrist, and did midwife that man of sin into the world, and by little and little advanced him into his throne. For while men did verbally acknowledge the nature and offices of our Saviour, they did begin, though subtilly, yet really, to usurp the honor and exercise of all to themselves.  7
  First, They began to encroach upon the Priestly Office of our Saviour, and not only to pray for the dead, but to pray to them, and to attribute too much to the martyrs and their worth; and to derogate from the merits, and that plentiful and perfect redemption wrought alone by the Lord Jesus. The Spouse of Christ thus, like the unwise virgins, was taken aside with the slumber of idolatry, till at last she fell fast asleep as the following times give in abundant testimony….  8
  And thus at once they usurped upon the Prophetical and justled our Saviour also out of his Regal office, for so they are linked together by the Prophet. He is our King, he is our Law-giver; it is in his power and pleasure to provide his own laws, and appoint the ways of his own worship.  9
  Thus were the Offices of our Saviour secretly and cunningly undermined till at last that man of sin, seeing his time, and taking his advantage, adventured openly and impudently to challenge the chair of supremacy.  10
  Boniface the Third obtained by policy and treachery, at the hand of Phocas for himself and his successors, that the Bishop of Rome, should be the head and chief Bishop of all Christian Churches.  11
  But the one sword was not sufficient for Hildebrand, He rested not, until by his hellish contrivements he had got two swords, to fill both his hands withal, and a triple-crown upon his head, and carried it with mighty violence against the imperial majesty: that whereas no Pope in former times might be chosen without the confirmation of the Emperor: so now no Emperor might be chosen without the confirmation of the Pope: as appears in the story of Henry the Emperor.  12
  Thus while the Pope pretended to be the Vicar and Vicegerent of Christ, to supply his absence here on earth, by being caput ministeriale: in issue he justled him out of the room and right of his Headship.  13
  He makes canons to bind conscience, and so assumes the place of the chief Prophet; Gives dispensations, sends out indulgences, sells pardons, retains, and remits sins, improves the treasury of the Church to that end, and so challengeth the place of being chief Priest. Lastly, arrogates the plenitude and supremacy of power in causes ecclesiastic and civil, no less than two swords will satisfy, to fill both his hands, and a triple-crown to load his head withal, and thereby arrogates to be head of the Church.  14
  When God had revenged the contempt of the authority of his son, by delivering up such contemners to the tyranny and slavery of Antichrist, by the space of many hundred years: That by their own experience they came to know the difference betwixt the service of God, and the slavery of men: the golden scepter of Christ, and the iron rod of Antichrist; who tortured their consciences upon a continual rack, held their souls smoking over the mouth of the bottomless pit, put them into hell, and plucked them out at his pleasure, whence men desired to die, rather than to live.  15
  They then began to sigh for some deliverance from this spiritual, more than Egyptian bondage; and being thus prepared to lend a listening ear unto the truth, God sent them some little reviving in their extremities, a day-star arising in this their darkness.  16
  He stirred up the spirit of the Waldenses, Armachanus, Wickliff, Huss, and Jerome of Prague, who openly proclaimed the usurpations of that man of sin, stoutly asserted the fulness and sufficiency of the Scriptures, cleared and maintained the deciding authority thereof in all the ways and worship of God, and so set up the Lord Jesus, as the only Prophet of his Church.  17
  After them succeeded Luther, who made a spoil of the Pope’s treasury, marred wholly his market, and the sale of his indulgences, and so wonderfully cooled and quenched the fire of Purgatory, and the Pope’s kitchen: that his holiness, and the wretched rabble of all his black-guard, were forced to improve all their power and policy to crush the credit of that champion, and the authority of that doctrine which he taught, but all in vain….  18
  Only the Supremacy of that Kingly Power, upon which the Pope had encroached, and maintained the possession thereof so long, was yet retained and fortified (as reason would) with greatest resolution, nor could he suffer the appearance of any approach or battery to be erected, that might seem to hazard the safety of that, but he sets him fully and fiercely against Reformation, which sticks like the cunny-skin at the head principally.  19
  Hence for the surprisal of so strong a piece, the Lord in his providence provided many means to make approaches thereunto by little and little. The Councils of Constance and Basel justled the Pope to the wall, and took the wall of him, made him lower than the council, but let him enjoy his headship over all his officers and particular churches.  20
  King Henry the Eighth, he further clipped his wings in temporals, shook off and renounced that supremacy that he had arrogated and erected over kings and kingdoms in former ages: Only that is storied of him as his mistake, he cut off the head of Popery, but left the body of it (in Arch-Bishops, Primates, Metropolitans, Archdeacons,) yet within his realm, and the Churches there established.  21
  He that will estrange his affection because of the difference of apprehension in things difficult he must be a stranger to himself one time or other. If men would be tender and careful to keep off offensive expressions they might keep some distance in opinion in some things without hazard to truth or love, but when men set up their sheaves (though it be but in a dream as Joseph’s was) and fall out with every one that will not fall down and adore them, they will bring much trouble into the world, but little advantage to the truth or peace….  22
  The sum is, we doubt not what we practice, but it’s beyond all doubt that all men are liars and we are in the number of those poor feeble men, either we do or may err, though we do not know it. What we have learned we do profess, and yet profess still to live that we may learn….  23
  That the discourse comes forth in such a homely dress and coarse habit, the reader must be desired to consider it comes out of the wilderness where curiosity is not studied. Planters if they can provide cloth to go warm, they leave the cuts and lace to those that study to go fine.  24
  As it is beyond my skill, so I profess it is beyond my care to please the niceness of men’s palates with any quaintness of language. They who covet more sauce than meat they must provide cooks to their mind. It was a cavil cast upon Hierom, that in his writings he was Ciceronianus non Christianus. My rudeness frees me wholly from this exception … if I would I could not lavish out in looseness of language and, as the case stands, if I could answer any man’s desire in that daintiness of speech I would not do the matter that injury which is now under my hand: Ornari res ipsa negat…. The substance and solidity of the frame is that which pleaseth the builder; it’s the painter’s work to provide varnish.  25

  The Lord Christ being a tender-hearted father to his Church as his family and household, he hath not only provided wholesome and choice diet, his holy and spiritual ordinances for the food and refreshing of the souls of his faithful … but he hath laid in purgatives as well as restoratives, and out of his infinite wisdom, who knows, to how many corrupt distempers, as so many hurtful and noisome diseases the saints are subject unto, he hath appointed Church-censures as good physic to purge out what is evil…. And his yearning compassion hath made him here so careful that he hath appointed each particular brother as a skilful apothecary to help forward the spiritual health of all in confederacy with him. Hence all the members are made (as we have heard) watchmen over the welfare of their brethren, and by virture of their consociation and combination have power over each other and a judicial way of process against each other in case of any sinful aberration…. Private offenses appear only to few, one or more; and therefore they only are to proceed against them, in covering and hiding them from the apprehensions of others, as much as may be; provided they can thereby attain an healing of them … but if the offense be famous and notorious at the first practice of it, as open drunkenness, swearing, stealing, lying, or that a brother, according to the rule of Christ, by reason of another’s obstinacy be constrained to tell it to the Church and make it public … the offense must first be brought to the Elders and by them debated and delivered to the Church…. To them it appertains to judge whether the things be of weight and worth, and so need and require the presence and assistance of the body to express their judgment against them, and the party guilty of them or no, for if they be petty businesses and altogether unfit and unworthy to trouble the congregation withal, it is in their power to prevent such causeless and needless disturbance, and therefore to suppress any further proceeding therein…. But when all things are cleared, the native and naked state of the controversy laid forth and presented in the severals of it, even the meanest in the congregation will generally be able to see cause to join their judgments with the truth…. In the examination of controversies (because the eagerness of some spirits is inordinate in the pursuit of an offense too rigidly, and the pride of all men’s hearts generally is such, that though they can do shamefully, yet they are loath to bear the shame of it; and therefore out of their waywardness and wilyness of heart are ready to wimble and wind out devices, that they may put by the dint of a discovering and convincing argument) he that complains must know two rules.
  First that he must not dare to complain to the Elder of a Church unless he can plainly and peremptorily lay in his accusation of another, touching such speeches and carriages of which upon thorough search he is well assured … because I would prevent such weak and windy kind of expressions as too often we meet withal out of men’s too-sudden pangs and heedless mistakes. “I take it so”; “I conceive it so”; “It was so reported”; “I met with it on that manner” etc., when upon the search all these vanish as mistakes. The Word is, we must rebuke convictingly Matt. 18:15.  27
  Secondly, as his accusation must be plain so his proofs must be direct and pregnant … there must be two witnesses to establish every word, except the things be otherways evidenced sufficiently as by confession of the party, etc.  28
  On the Elders’ parts two rules, if attended, make great riddance of occasions and prevent distempers. First, let the accusation be presently and exactly recorded together with the answer thereunto in like manner: for experience teacheth that in multiplicity of debates parties are apt to forget or else not willing to remember, and sometimes ready to mistake, add, alter, vary in expression, as they see there may any advantage come to their own or disadvantage to the contrary cause … secondly, let the Elders confine all parties to the point in hand and not suffer them by extravagancies to darken the truth, disturb the proceedings and bring confusion to the whole debate. They are also, by their authority put into their hands, to forbid and restrain all personal and passionate expressions, and to constrain both sides to speak to the cause, and only to the cause in hand….  29
  The execution of the sentence issues in four things. First the cause exactly recorded is as fully and nakedly to be presented to the consideration of the Congregation. Secondly the Elders are … to express their judgment and determination thereof, so far as appertains to themselves. Thirdly, unless the people be able to convince them of error and mistakes in their sentence they are bound to join their judgment with theirs to the completing of the sentence. Fourthly, the sentence thus completely issued, is to be solemnly passed and pronounced upon the delinquent by the ruling Elder whether it be the sentence of admonition or excommunication.  30
“Hell Torments, How in Some Sort to Judge of Them.”
[From “The Soul’s Preparation for Christ; or a Treatise of Contrition.” London, 1632.]

  FIRST, judge the lion by his paw, judge the torments of hell by some little beginning of it; and the dregs of God’s vengeance, by some little sips of it; and judge how unable thou art to bear the whole by thy inability to bear a little of it in this life, in the terror of conscience (as the wise man saith) A wounded spirit who can bear? When God lays the flashes of hell fire upon thy soul, thou canst not endure it: Whatsoever a man can inflict upon a poor wretch, may be borne; but when the Almighty comes in battle array against a poor soul, how can he undergo it? witness the Saints that have felt it, as also witness the wicked themselves, that have had some beginnings of hell in their consciences. When the Lord hath let in a little horror of heart into the soul of a poor sinful creature, how is he transported with an insupportable burthen? When it is day, he wisheth it were night, and when it is night, he wisheth it were day. All the friends in the world cannot comfort him: nay, many have sought to hang themselves, to do any thing rather than to suffer a little vengeance of the Almighty: and one man is roaring and yelling, as if he were now in hell already, and admits of no comfort: if the drops be so heavy, what will the whole sea of God’s vengeance be? If he cannot bear the one, how can he bear the other?
  Secondly, consider thine own strength, and compare it with all the strength of the creatures, and so if all the creatures be not able to bear the wrath of the Almighty, (as Job saith) Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh as brass that must bear thy wrath! As if he had said, It must be a stone, or brass that must bear thy wrath. Though thou wert as strong as brass or stones, thou couldst not bear it: when the mountains tremble at the wrath of the Lord, shall a poor worm or bubble, and a shadow endure it?  32
  Conceive thus much, if all the diseases in the world did seize on one man, and if all torments that all the tyrants in the world could devise, were cast upon him; and if all the creatures in heaven and earth did conspire the destruction of this man; and if all the devils in hell did labor to inflict punishments upon him, you would think this man to be in a miserable condition. And yet all this is but a beam of God’s indignation. If the beams of God’s wrath be so hot, what is the full sun of his wrath, when it shall seize upon the soul of a sinful creature in full measure?  33
God’s Mercy and His Justice.
[From the Same.]

  SECONDLY, if this will not work upon you, if you have no good nature in you, consider that God is just too; if mercy cannot prevail with you, you shall have justice enough, and that without mercy; you must not think to slight God’s mercy, and carry it away in that fashion. But God is a just God, as he is a gracious God, he will be revenged of you. If any stubborn heart shall say, God is merciful, and therefore we may live as we list, and be as careless as we please: take heed, that just law that hath been contemned, and those righteous statutes that have been broken, and God that hath been provoked by you will be revenged of you. Did ever any provoke the Lord and prosper? and shall you begin? Where is Nimrod, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Pharaoh, and Herod, and those proud persons that set their mouths against God, and their hearts against heaven; what is now become of them? they are now in the lower-most pit of hell.
“The Text Saith So.”
[From the Same.]

  HOW many notorious vile wretches may say, Good Lord, what will become of our families, and villages? we are all opposers of God and his grace, shall all be damned? I dare not say what God will do to thee, the text saith so. This methinks might lie as poison and rats-bane upon the heart of a sinful creature: the Lord in mercy look upon you, and make sin as lothsome and bitter unto you, as ever it hath been sweet and pleasant. You see how the matter will go with you: you that thus jibe and jest at the Saints, and sport yourselves in sin; the time may come that it will be a dry feast, as it was with Dives that was drunk, and fared deliriously every day; he had a dry feast in hell, and could not have a drop of water to cool his tongue. So it will be with you; you must either buckle and mourn for sin, or else burn forever.
God’s Endless Mercy.
[From the Same.]

  O THEREFORE let us admire and bless this good God, and not quarrel with his Ministers, nor providence, and say, Other men have comfort, and therefore why am I so troubled and disquieted? How now? it is endless mercy that thou livest, therefore down with thy proud heart, and stifle those distempers of spirit, and say, The Lord hath broken and wounded me, but blessed be his name, that I may come to Church, and that he hath not dealt with me as I have deserved, but in goodness and mercy; I hope God in his season will do good to my soul.
  Secondly, let us be wise to nourish this same blessed work in our hearts for ever; let us have our hearts more and more strengthened, because thereby our hearts will be more and more enabled to bear and undergo any thing; if you have but a little glimpse of hope, cover it: and labor to maintain it, and if ever God let in any glimpse of mercy into our hearts, let it not go out: it is ever good to take that way that God takes; the Lord sustains our hearts with hope: hope is the sinews of the soul, therefore strengthen it.  37
  As a mariner that is tossed with a tempest in a dark night, when he sees no stars, he casts anchor, and that cheers him; this hope is the anchor of the soul, whereby it looks out, and expects mercy from God: the poor soul seeth no light nor comfort, nothing but the wrath of an angry God; and he saith, God is a just God, and a jealous God; even that God whose truth I have opposed is displeased with me. Then the soul is tossed and troubled, and runs upon the rocks of despair; how shall the soul be supported in this condition? You will find this true one day, therefore look to it before. You vile drunkards are now sailing in a fair gale of pleasure, and carnal delight, but when the Lord’s wrath shall seize upon you, when he shall let in the flashes of hell fire, then you are tossed, sometimes up to heaven, now down to hell. Therefore cast anchor now, and this hope will uphold you, for this hope is called the anchor of the soul.  38
Note 1. The marginal references are omitted. The long title is not typographically exact. [back]

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