Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Caroline Divines > John Hales
  William Chillingworth The Ferrars and Little Gidding  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

VI. Caroline Divines.

§ 12. John Hales.

Another of those who frequented the “academy” of Falkland at Great Tew was the quiet but attractive John Hales, whose friends, after his death, caught the literary world’s ear with their name for him of “the ever-memorable.” A scholar, a recluse, a hesitating thinker and reluctant writer, he was yet a man whose words and character influenced all who knew him, and Laud left him, once Greek professor at Oxford, undisturbed at Eton, where he was happily at home: “a master of Polite, Various, and Universal Learning.” And, to this, he added the rare perfection of character which made bishop Pearson say that it was “near as easy a task for every one to become so knowing, as so obliging” as he. His friend “that Reverend and Worthy Person, Mr. Farindon” tells us that, in his youth, he was a Calvinist till, at the synod of Dort, he said, “There, I bid John Calvin Good night.” His breadth, as contemporaries record it, anticipates Thomas Arnold, for he would bring all Englishmen together by a common liturgy from which “all doctrinal points on which men differed in their opinions” were to be omitted. Yet Laud cherished and promoted him.   17
  The Golden Remains of Hales (in the second edition, “with Additions from the Authour’s own copy,” 1673) contains many pleas for religious peace and arguments of the “great and irremediable inconvenience this free and uncontroulable venturing upon Theological Disputes hath brought upon us.” But he was a positive teacher as well as one who dissuaded from extremes. His sermons, which, with a number of lively letters to Dudley Carleton, ambassador at the Hague, and a few fragmentary thoughts somewhat after Pascal’s manner, constitute the precious volume, have a fine clarity and directness. The learning which men admired in him is almost laid aside or comes in only where it fitly illustrates the religious thought, unlike most of the sermons of his contemporaries. He speaks very plainly, at Eton, of the responsibility of riches, or, at the Hague, of the crime of duelling; he tells men how to know and love and worship God, as one whose simple object it was to find it out. His writing is straightforward and effective, as the writing of men is apt to be who, like himself, will not “pen anything till they needs must.” But, behind it there lies, easy to be perceived, a depth of philosophic interest. Hales looked much further behind life than men like Sheldon, further, perhaps, than the piercing eye of Chilling-worth; he had a basis of philosophy like Herbert or Traherne; he saw differences between earth and heaven, it may be, where they saw only correspondences; yet, while, like the former, he was the friend of courtiers and men of wit, he was, like the latter, a lover of solitude in the soul. He saw life whole and was original as a thinker in theology and philosophy: so he could not be a Calvinist. He was transparently sincere, and he came to have that sort of influence on the men who were making English literature as well as English politics which has often been exercised from the cloister, the college, or the country parsonage. The man who made the funeral oration of Sir Thomas Bodley, studied Shakespeare and belonged to Suckling’s “session of the Poets,” was a theologian who taught the next age in many subtle ways. He taught it breadth of view, and a passion for unity; he taught it to be critical and yet religious; and he taught it to pursue its speculations in the study and the church rather than in the market and the House of Commons.   18
  But the name of Hales is not the only one to remind us that, while fightings without and fears within vexed men’s souls and gave a new vehemence to their theological discussions, there were still those who possessed their souls in peace. The ordered system of the English church, when the fiercest storm of revolution and reformation had passed by, was at work in town and country, and in many a quiet village religious men were living peaceably in their habitations. The school of poetry, typically Anglican in its piety as well as in its humanity, was close-linked to the prose writers of the age. Crashaw, in 1635, printed a copy of verses as preface to Shelford’s Five Pious and Learned Discourses—a book which Ussher thought popish; and Quarles was Ussher’s secretary, “a very good man,” as Aubrey calls him, and one whose meditative prose has been forgotten in the fame of his poetry. George Herbert, of course, was conspicuous in both. But, before we speak of him, we may briefly describe the literary work of the typical English household pledged to religion, the home of the Ferrars at Little Gidding.   19

  William Chillingworth The Ferrars and Little Gidding  

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