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John Baptist, 'What went they out to see ? a man clothed in purple and fine linen?' No, indeed: but an obscure, harmless man; a man in poor clothes, his loins usually girt in a coarse gown, or canonical coat; of a mean stature, and stooping, and yet more lowly in the thoughts of his soul ; his body worn out, not with age, but study and holy mortifications; his face full of heat-pimples, begot by his unactivity and sedentary life. And to this true character of his person, let me add this of his disposition and behaviour : God and Nature blessed him with so blessed a bashfulness, that as in his younger days his pupils might easily look him out of countenance; so neither then, nor in his age, did he ever willingly look any man in the face : and was of so mild and humble a nature, that his poor Parish-Clerk and he did never talk but with both their hats on, or both off, at the same time : and to this may be added, that though he was not purblind, yet he was short or weak-sighted ; and where he fixed his eyes at the beginning of his sermon, there they continued till it was ended : and the Reader has a liberty to believe, that his modesty and dim sight were some of the reasons why he trusted Mrs. Churchman to choose his wife.
This Parish-Clerk lived till the third or fourth year of the late Long Parliament; betwixt which time and Mr. Hooker's death there had come many to see the place of his burial, and the Monument dedicated to his memory by Sir William Cowper, who still lives ; and the poor Clerk had many rewards for shewing Mr. Hooker's grave place, and his said Monument, and did always hear Mr. Hooker mentioned with commendations and reverence; to all which he added his own knowledge and observations of his humility and holiness ; and in all which discourses the poor man was still more confirmed in his opinion of Mr. Hooker's virtues and learning. But it so fell out, that about the said third or fourth year of the Long Parliament, the then present Parson of Bourne was sequestered, you may guess why,—and a Genevan Minister put into his good living. This, and other like sequestrations, made the Clerk express himself in a wonder, and say, “They had sequestered so many good men, that he doubted, if his good master Mr. Hooker had lived till now, they would have sequestered him too!'
It was not long before this intruding Minister had made a party in and about the said Parish, that were desirous to receive the Sacrament as in Geneva ; to which end, the day was appointed for a select company, and forms and stools set about the altar, or communion-table, for them to sit and eat and drink : but when they went about this work, there was a want of some joint-stools, which the Minister sent the Clerk to fetch, and then to fetch cushions,—but not to kneel upon.—When the Clerk saw them begin to sit down, he began to wonder; but the Minister bade him 'cease wondering, and lock the Churchdoor': to whom he replied, 'Pray take you the keys, and lock me out: I will never come more into this Church ; for all men will say, my master Hooker was a good man, and a good scholar; and I am sure it was not used to be thus in his days’: and report says the old man went presently home and died; I do not say died immediately, but within a few days after.
But let us leave this grateful Clerk in his quiet grave, and return to Mr. Hooker himself, continuing our observations of his Christian behaviour in this place, where he gave a holy valediction to all the pleasures and allurements of earth; possessing his soul in a virtuous quietness, which he maintained by constant study, prayers, and meditations. His use was to preach once every Sunday, and he, or his Curate, to catechise after the second Lesson in the Evening Prayer. His sermons were neither long nor earnest, but uttered with a grave zeal and an humble voice: his eyes always fixed on one place, to prevent imagination from wandering; insomuch that he seemed to study as he spake. The design of his sermons—as indeed of all his discourses--was to shew reasons for what he spake ; and with these reasons such a kind of rhetoric, as did rather convince and persuade, than frighten men into piety; studying not so much for matter,—which he
never wanted,—as for apt illustrations, to inform and teach his unlearned hearers by familiar examples, and then make them better by convincing applications ; never labouring by hard words, and then by heedless distinctions and sub-distinctions, to amuse his hearers, and get glory to himself; but glory only to God. Which intention, he would often say, was as discernible in a Preacher, as a natural from an artificial beauty.' He never failed the Sunday before every
Ember-week to give notice of it to his parishioners, persuading them both to fast, and then to double their devotions for a learned and pious Clergy, but especially the last ; saying often, “That the life of a pious Clergyman was visible rhetoric ; and so convincing, that the most godless menthough they would not deny themselves the enjoyment of their present lusts—did yet secretly wish themselves like those of the strictest lives.' And to what he persuaded others, he added his own example of fasting and prayer ; and did usually every Ember-week take from the ParishClerk the key of the Church-door, into which place he retired every day, and locked himself up and did the like most Fridays and other days of fasting.
He would by no means omit the customary time of Procession, persuading all, both rich and poor, if they desired the preservation of love, and their Parish-rights and liberties, to accompany him in his perambulation; and most did so: in which perambulation he would usually express more pleasant discourse than at other times, and would then always drop some loving and facetious observations to be remembered against the next year, especially by the boys and young people ; still inclining them, and all his present parishioners, to meekness, and mutual kindness and love; because Love thinks not evil, but covers a multitude of infirmities.'
He was diligent to enquire who of his Parish were sick, or any ways distressed, and would often visit them, unsent for ; supposing that the fittest time to discover to them those errors, to which health and prosperity had blinded them. And having by pious reasons and prayers moulded
them into holy resolutions for the time to come, he would incline them to confession and bewailing their sins, with purpose to forsake them, and then to receive the Communion, both as a strengthening of those holy resolutions, and as a seal betwixt God and them of his mercies to their souls, in case that present sickness did put a period to their lives.
And as he was thus watchful and charitable to the sick, so he was as diligent to prevent lawsuits ; still urging his parishioners and neighbours to bear with each other's infirmities, and live in love, because, as St. John says, 'He
, that lives in love, lives in God: for God is love.' And to maintain this holy fire of love constantly burning on the altar of a pure heart, his advice was to watch and pray, and always keep themselves fit to receive the Communion, and then to receive it often ; for it was both a confirming and strengthening of their graces. This was his advice; and at his entrance or departure out of any house, he would usually speak to the whole family, and bless them by name ; insomuch, that as he seemed in his youth to be taught of God, so he seemed in this place to teach his precepts as Enoch did, by walking with him in all holiness and humility, making each day a step towards a blessed eternity. And though, in this weak and declining age of the world, such examples are become barren, and almost incredible; yet let his memory be blessed with this true recordation, because he that praises Richard Hooker, praises God who hath given such gifts to men; and let this humble and affectionate relation of him become such a pattern, as may invite posterity to imitate these his virtues.
This was his constant behaviour both at Bourne, and in all the places in which he lived: thus did he walk with God, and tread the footsteps of primitive piety; and yet, as that great example of meekness and purity, even our blessed Jesus, was not free from false accusations, no more was this disciple of his, this most humble, most innocent, holy man. His was a slander parallel to that of chaste Susannah's by the wicked Elders; or that against St. Athanasius, as it is recorded in his life,—for that holy man had heretical enemies,—a slander which this age calls trepanning. The particulars need not a repetition ; and that it was false, needs no other testimony than the public punishment of his accusers, and their open confession of his innocency. 'Twas said, that the accusation was contrived by a dissenting brother, one that endured not Church-ceremonies, hating him for his book's sake, which he was not able to answer; and his name hath been told me; but I have not so much confidence in the relation, as to make my pen fix a scandal on him to posterity ; I shall rather leave it doubtful till the great day of revelation. But this is certain, that he lay under the great charge, and the anxiety of this accusation, and kept it secret to himself for many months; and, being a helpless man, had lain longer under this heavy burthen, but that the Protector of the innocent gave such an accidental occasion, as forced him to make it known to his two dearest friends, Edwin Sandys and George Cranmer, who were so sensible of their tutor's sufferings, that they gave themselves no rest, till by their disquisitions and diligence they had found out the fraud, and brought him the welcome news, that his accusers did confess they had wronged him, and begged his pardon. To which the good man's reply was to this purpose: The Lord forgive them ; and the Lord bless
; you for this comfortable news. Now have I a just occasion to say with Solomon, “ Friends are born for the days of adversity”; and such you have proved to me. And to my God I say, as did the Mother of St. John Baptist, “Thus hath the Lord dealt with me, in the day wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.” And, O my God! neither my life, nor my reputation, are safe in mine own keeping; but in thine, who didst take care of me when I yet hanged upon my mother's breast. Blessed are they that put their trust in thee, O Lord ! for when false witnesses were risen up against me; when shame was ready to cover my face ; when my nights were restless ; when my soul thirsted for a deliverance, as the hart panteth after the rivers of waters; then thou, Lord, didst hear my complaints, pity my condition, and