Arthur Stephen McGrade (ed.), Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 2: Book V

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Of the redress of Superstition in God's Church, and concerning the question of this book.

4. But howsoever superstition do grow, that wherein unsounder times have done amiss, the better ages ensuing must rectify, as they may. I now come therefore to those accusations brought against us by pretenders of reformation, the first in the rank whereof is such, that if so be the Church of England did at this day therewith as justly deserve to be touched, as they in this cause have imagined it does, rather would I exhort all sorts to seek pardon even with tears at the hands of God, than meditate words of defence for our doings, to the end that men might think favourably of them. For as the case of this world, especially now, pg 19does stand, what other stay or succour have we to lean to, saving the testimony of our conscience and the comfort we take in this, that we serve the living God (as near as our wits can reach to the knowledge thereof) even according to his own will, and do therefore trust that his mercy shall be our safeguard against those enraged powers abroad which principally in that respect are become our enemies? But since no man can do ill with a good conscience, the consolation which we herein seem to find is but a mere deceitful pleasing of ourselves in error, which at the length must needs turn to our greater grief, if that which we do to please God most be for the manifold defects thereof offensive to him. For so it is judged, our prayers, our sacraments, our fasts, our times and places of public meeting together for the worship and service of God, our marriages, our burials, our functions, elections and ordinations ecclesiastical, almost whatsoever we do in the exercise of our religion according to laws for that purpose established, all things are some way or other thought faulty, all things stained with superstition. | Now although it may be the wiser sort of men are not greatly moved hereat, considering how subject the very best things have been always to cavil, when wits possessed either with disdain or dislike thereof have set them up as their mark to shoot at: safe notwithstanding it were not therefore to neglect the danger which from hence may grow, and that especially in regard of them, who desiring to serve God as they ought, but being not so skilful as in every point to unwind themselves where the snares of glozing speech do lie to entangle them, are in mind not a little troubled, when they hear so bitter invectives against that which this Church has taught them to reverence as holy, to approve as lawful, and to observe as behoveful for the exercise of Christian duty. It seems therefore, at the least for their sakes, very meet, that such as blame us in this behalf be directly answered, and they which follow us informed plainly in the reasons of that we do. | On both sides the end intended between us, is to have laws and ordinances such, as may rightly serve to abolish superstition and to establish the service of God with all things thereto appertaining in some perfect form. There is an inward breasonable, and there is a csolemn outward serviceable worship belonging to God. Of the former kind are all manner virtuous duties that each man in reason and conscience to Godward owes. Solemn and serviceable worship we name, for distinction's sake, whatsoever belongs to the Church or public society of God by way of external adoration. It is the latter of these two whereupon our present question grows. Again this latter being ordered, partly, and as touching principal matters, by none but precepts divine only; partly, and as concerning things of inferior regard, by ordinances as well human as divine: about the substance of religion wherein God's only law must be kept there is here no controversy, the crime now pg 20intended against us is that our laws have not ordered those inferior things as behoves, and that our customs are either superstitious or otherwise amiss, whether we respect the exercise of public duties in religion or the functions of persons authorized thereto.

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Editor’s Note
b Romans 12:1.
Editor’s Note
c Luke 1:23 [Geneva Bible gloss: While their course endured to sacrifice, they might not lie with their wives, nor drink any liquor that might make one drunk].
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