Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 3: Books VI-VIII

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pg 145The second main thing wherein the state of Bishops suffers obloquy, is their honour.

17. The chiefest cause of disdain and murmur against Bishops in the Church of England, is, that evil-affected eye wherewith the World looked upon them, since the time that irreligious Prophaneness, beholding the due and just advancements of God's Clergy, has under pretence of enmity to Ambition and Pride, proceeded so far, that the contumely of old offered to Aaron in the like quarrel, may seem very moderate and quiet dealing, if we compare it with the fury of our own times. The ground and original of both their proceedings, one and the same; in Declaration of their grievances they differ not; the complaints as well of the one as the other are, aWherefore lift ye up yourselves thus far above the Congregation of the Lord? it is too much which ye take upon you, too much power, and too much honour. Wherefore as we have shown, that there is not in their power anything unjust or unlawful, so it rests that in their honour also the like be done. The labour we take to this purpose is by so much the harder, in that we are forced to wrestle with the stream of obstinate affection, mightily carried by a wilful prejudice, the dominion whereof is so powerful over them in whom it reigns, that it gives them no leave, no not as much as patiently to hearken to any speech which does not profess to feed them in this their bitter humour. Notwithstanding, forasmuch as I am persuaded, that against God they will not strive, if they perceive once that in truth it is he against whom they open their mouths, my hope is their own confession will be at the length, Behold we have done exceeding foolishly, it was the Lord, and we knew it not, him in his Ministers we have despised, we have in their honour impugned his. But the alteration of men's hearts must be his good and gracious work, whose most Omnipotent Power framed them. | Wherefore to come to our present purpose, Honour is nowhere due, saving only to such as have in them that whereby they are found, or at the least presumed voluntarily beneficial to them of whom they are honoured. Wheresoever nature sees the countenance of a man, it still presumes that there is in him a mind willing to do good, if need require, inasmuch as by nature so it should be; for which cause men to men do honour, even for very humanity's sake. And to whom we deny all honour, we seem plainly to take from them all opinion of human dignity, to make no account or reckoning of them, to think them so utterly without virtue, as if no good thing in the World could be looked for at their hands. Seeing therefore it seems hard that we should so hardly think of any man, the precept of S. Peter is, bHonour all men. Which duty of every man towards all, does vary according to the several degrees whereby they are more or less beneficial, whom we do honour. cHonour the Physician, says the Wiseman. The reason why, because for necessity's sake, God created him. Again, dThou pg 146shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the person of the aged. The reason why, because the younger sort have great benefit by their gravity, experience and wisdom, for which cause, these things the Wiseman terms ethe Crown or Diadem of the aged. Honour due to Parents: The reason why, because we have our beginning from them; fObey the Father that has begotten thee, the mother that bore thee despise thou not. Honour due to Kings and Governors: The reason why, because God has set them gfor the punishment of evil-doers and for the praise of them that do well. Thus we see by every of these particulars, that there is always some kind of virtue beneficial, wherein they excel, who receive honour, and that degrees of honour are distinguished, according to the value of those effects which the same beneficial virtue does produce. |

Nor is honour only an inward estimation, whereby they are reverenced, and well thought of in the minds of men, but honour whereof we now speak, is defined to be an External sign, by which we give a sensible testification, that we acknowledge the beneficial virtue of others. Sarah honoured her Husband, Abraham; this appears by the title she gave him. The Brethren of Joseph did him honour in the Land of Egypt; their lowly and humble gesture shows it. Parents will hardly persuade themselves that this intentional honour, which reaches no farther than to the inward conception only, is the honour which their children owe them.

Touching that Honour which mystically agreeing to Christ, was yielded literally and really to Solomon; the words of the Psalmist concerning it are, hTo him they shall give of the gold of Sheba, they shall pray for him continually, and daily bless him. | Weigh these things in themselves, titles, gestures, presents, other the like external signs wherein honour does consist, and they are matters of no great moment. Howbeit, take them away, let them cease to be required, and they are not things of small importance, which that surcease were likely to draw after it. Let the Lord Mayor of London, or any other to whose Office honour belongs, be deprived but of that title which in itself is a matter of nothing; and suppose we that it would be a small maim to the credit, force, and countenance of his Office? It has not without the singular wisdom of God been provided, that the ordinary outward tokens of honour should for the most part be in themselves things of mean account; for to the end they might easily follow as faithful testimonies of that beneficial virtue whereto they are due, it behoved them to be of such nature, that to himself no man might overeagerly challenge them, without blushing; nor any man where they are due withhold them, but with manifest appearance of too great malice or pride. | Now forasmuch, as according to the ancient Orders and Customs of this Land, as of the Kingdom of Israel, and of all Christian Kingdoms through the World, the next in degree of pg 147honour to the chief Sovereign, are the chief Prelates of God's Church; what the reason hereof may be, it rests next to be enquired.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
a Numbers 16:3.
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b 1 Peter 2:17.
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c Ecclesiasticus 38:1.
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d Leviticus 19:32.
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e Ecclesiasticus 25:6.
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f Proverbs 23:22.
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g 1 Peter 2:14.
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h Psalm 72:15.
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