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THE name of Richard Hooker is probably
more universally known and venerated throughout the Church of England, than that of any one besides among her worthies : but it may be doubted whether men's acquaintance with his writings is at all in proportion to the honour with which they regard him.
This is owing, on the one hand, to the circumstance of his life having been so exquisitely written by the most engaging of Biographers, Isaac Walton ; on the other, to the controversial and occasional cast of his great work, and the deep learning and profound investigation which he brought to bear on every part of that large and often intricate field of inquiry. Unlearned and uncontroversial readers, attracted to the work by the subject, the author's reputation, and the beauty of extracts which they have occasionally seen, are continually, it is believed, attempting the book, and as often putting it by in a kind of despair, on finding that they ! come very soon to something which they cannot hope to master : and those who wish to read for devotion's sake,—of all readers surely the most to be considered,-draw back at once from the more disputative portions, which however necessary to the author's purpose, will not, they feel, at all answer theirs.
Under these circumstances, it seemed not unadvisable to try whether such a selection could be made, as might exhibit in a connected form, and in the author's own words, his view of the Prayer Book, including the Ordination Service, clear of the difficulties above stated. “Of the Prayer Book," for to that, more or less directly, it will be found that all the following extracts refer : it being the part of the Church system with which all feel themselves concerned, and the portion of his great work which treats of it being confessedly the most popular and practical of the whole. The selection has therefore been made exclusively from the fifth Book of the Ecclesiastical Polity. Other passages no less beautiful, and perhaps as generally interesting, might have been added from other parts of his remains. But the object was not so much
to set forth the “ Beauties of Hooker,” as to put devout and thoughtful persons in possession of the principles, with a view to which the English Prayer Book should be studied, and the misgivings silenced, which our busy fancies are too ready to invent or adopt, with regard to certain of its details.
From the immediate object and occasion of the work, a complete systematic account of the Prayer Book was not to be looked for. Hooker's special purpose was to answer the objections of the Puritan party of his time to our laws and proceedings about the several public duties of Christian religion. His defence of course ran parallel with their attack. So it is, however, that all the main parts of the service were more or less attacked : his defence therefore, going back as he always did to principles, comes nearer to a Companion to the Prayer Book than might have been expected; as will be evident on merely reading over the titles of the sections ensuing. Perhaps, on considering all the circumstances of the case, it will seem hardly less than providential, that he was led to take só wide a range. The English Church in his