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 Issues | Church History | Richard Hooker

 

Richard Hooker by C Sydney Carter

Hooker - the Closing Years

<<His ecclesiastical position


In 1595 Hooker accepted the living of Bishopsbourne near Canterbury and resided there till his death in November, 1600. It was here that he formed a most intimate friendship with Dr. Adrian Saravia, then a prebendary of Canterbury and the author of a learned treatise in support of episcopacy.  Saravia was however a non-episcopally ordained Dutch Reformed Church minister who had been driven by Romish persecution to the Channel Islands, and after being a Divinity professor at Leyden, held several English benefices.   Walton describes this fellowship as a “holy friendship, increasing daily to so high and mutual affections that their two wills seemed but one and the same.”  Saravia assiduously visited Hooker in his last illness and much capital has been made by Anglo-Catholics of the fact that Hooker requested this bosom friend to hear his death-bed confession and give him absolution in accordance with the special provision in the Visitation of the Sick.  But Hooker expressly states that this permission is only an allowable exception “for the comfort of such as are ready to depart this world,” and, as we have seen, he definitely discourages private or auricular Confession as a general practice. On the following day - the day of his death - Saravia found Hooker deep in meditation “of the number and nature of angels and their blessed obedience and order, without which peace could not be in heaven.” And he added “Oh, that it might be so on earth!” He told Saravia that “God had heard his daily petitions,” for, he said, “I am at peace with men, and He is at peace with me, and from that blessed assurance I feel that inward joy which this world can neither give nor take away, and this witness makes the thought of death joyful.”

Books VI-VIII of the Polity - In 1597 Hooker finished his fifth book of the “Polity,” and in his last three years, in failing health, he over-taxed his strength in his endeavour to complete the last three books. He declared just before he died that he had finished them, but their “history” is eventful and somewhat obscure. If finished, in rough manuscript, they were certainly not ready for publication, and it is doubtful if they were actually completed. Walton’s story that on Hooker's death his careless and disloyal wife allowed some Puritan minister to destroy or seriously mutilate them and then later on confessed this “crime” at a Privy Council inquiry and died the next day, is, as regards the last statement, certainly inaccurate, since Mrs. Hooker married again and did not die till 1603!  And there is no proof of her impeachment by the Privy Council or of her want of devotion to her famous husband, who made her the sole executrix of his will.

Whether Hooker actually completed these last three Books remains an unsolved problem. His friend Dr. John Spenser's statement would seem to argue in the affirmative, since he writes of “perfect copies being conveyed away . . . of malice or covetousness or wicked blind zeal . . . and nothing but certain old imperfect and mangled draughts dismembered into pieces and scattered being left to us.” But this account depends on the report of his wife, who had no special love for Mrs. Hooker! What actually has been proved is that at Hooker's death John Churchman, also a life-long keen Churchman, immediately sent an agent to Bishopsbourne who brought back all Hooker's incomplete manuscripts and sermons in a “cloak-bag” to London. Here they were distributed amongst his close friends, Sir Edwin Sandys, Dr. Parry and Dr. John Spenser, the president of his old College, to be sorted out and arranged. Books VI and VII were found to be almost ready for publication and Dr. Spenser, as a labour of love, edited what he called “the old imperfect and mangled draughts,” which he hoped would show “some shadows and resemblances of their father's face.” But through various causes, one of which was an alleged difference of opinion between Sandys and Bishop Andrewes on the tract on “Confession “ (which , is really Book VI), the three last Books when completed by Dr. Spenser a few years later, were not published for over fifty years after Hooker's death. Bishop Andrewes also assisted in this task as he had been specially anxious that Hooker's great work should not fall into malicious hands. There is no reason to believe that Hooker's friends materially altered his last three books or that they cannot be relied on as expressing his views. They have been generally accepted as authentic.

 

>>Hooker's Character

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Related Links
Richard Hooker
BulletIntroduction

BulletRichard Hooker by Sydney Carter
BulletHooker's Marriage (Carter)
BulletThe Ecclesiastical Polity (Carter)
BulletEcclesiastical position (Carter)
BulletClosing Years (Carter)
BulletHooker's character (Carter)


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