Full Title: The Works Of that Learned and Judicious Divine, Mr. Richard Hooker, in Eight Books of Ecclesiastical Polity, Compleated out of his own Manuscripts. With several other Treatises by the same Author, and an Account of his Life and Death. Dedicated to the King’s most Excellent Majesty, Charles II. By whose Royal Father (near His Martydom) the former Five Books (then only extant) were commended to His Dear Children, as an excellent means to satisfie Private Scruples, and settle the Publick Peace of this Church and Kingdom. London: Printed for Robert Scot, Thomas Basset, John Wright and Richard Chiswel, M.DC.LXXXII.
To them that seek (as they term it)
The Reformation of the Laws and
Church of England.
Though for no other cause, yet for this, That Posterity may know we have not loosly through silence, permitted things to pass away as in a Dream, There shall be for Mens infomration extant thus much concerning the present state of the Church of God, established amongst us, and their careful endeavour which would have upheld the same. At your hands, beloved in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (for in him the love which we bear unto all that would but seem to be born of him, it is not the Sea of your Gall and bitterness that shall ever drown) I have no great cause to look for other, than the self-same portion and lot, which your manner hath been hitherto to lay on them that concur not in Opinion and Sentence with you. But our hope is that the God of Peace shall (notwithstanding mans nature, too impatient of contumelious malediction) enable us quietly, and even gladly to suffer all things for that work sake, which we covet to perform. The wonderful zeal and fervour wherewith ye have withstood the received Orders of this Church, was the first thing which caused me to enter into consideration, Whether (as all your published Books and Writings peremptorily maintain) every Christian man fearing God, stand bound to joyn with you for the furtherance of that which ye term The Lords Discipline. Wherein I must plainly confess unto you, that before I examined your sundry Declarations in that behalf, it could not settle in my head to think, but that undoubtedly such numbers of otherwise right well-affected and most religiously enclined minds, had some marvellous reasonable enducements which led them with so great earnestness that way. But when once, as near as my slender ability would serve, I had with travel and care performed that part of the Apostles advice and counsel in such cases, whereby he willeth to try all things, and was come at the length so far, that there remained only the other clause to be satisfied, wherein he concludeth, that what good is, must be held: There was in my poor understanding no remedy, but to set down this as my final resolute persuasion. Surely, the present Form of Church Government, which the Laws of the Land have established, is such, as no Law of God, nor Reason of Man hath hitherto been alledged of force, sufficient to prove they do ill, who to the uttermost of their power, withstand the alteration therof. Contrariwise, The other, which instead of it, we are required to accept, is only the Error and misconceipt, named the Ordinance of Jesus Christ, no one Proof as yet brought forth, whereby it may clearly appear to be so in very deed. The Explication of which two things, I have here thought good to offer into your hands; Heartily beseeching you, even by the Meekness of Jesus Christ, whom I trust ye love, That, as ye tender the Peace and Quietness of this Church, if there be in you that gracious Humility which hath ever been the Crown of Glory of a Christianly disposed mind: If your own souls, hearts, and consciences, (the sound integrity wherof can but hardly stand with the refusal of Truth in personal respects) be, as I doubt not but they are, things most dear and precious unto you: Let not the Faith which ye have in our Lord Jesus Christ, be blemished with partialities, regard not who it is which speaketh, but weigh only what is spoken. Think not that ye read the words of one who bendeth himself as an Adversary against the Truth, which ye have already embraced, but the words of one, who desireth even to embrace together with you the self-same Truth, if it be the Truth; and for that cause (for no other, God be knoweth) hath undertaken the burthensome labour of this painful kind of Conference. For the plainer access whereunto, let it be lawful for me to rip up the very bottom, how, and by whom your Discipline was planted, at such time as this age we live in, began to make first trial thereof. . . .