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Mr. Hooker

Thomas Hooker sculpture by Francis L. Wadsworth (1950), located east of the State House of Connecticut.

Thomas Hooker sculpture by Francis L. Wadsworth (1950), located east of the State House of Connecticut.

The Reverend THOMAS HOOKER, the first minister of Cambridge, and the father of the colony, as well as of the churches, of Connecticut, was born at Marfield, in Leicestershire, in 1586. He was educated at Emanuel College, Cambridge, in England, where he was afterwards promoted to a fellowship, in which office “he acquitted himself with such ability and faithfulness, as commanded universal approbation and applause.” Upon his leaving the University, he preached occasionally for some time in London; till, at length, in 1626, he was chosen Lecturer at Chelmsford. Here he preached, with great success, for several years, and was so well beloved by the neighbouring clergy, that, when the Bishop of London silenced him for Nonconformity, forty-seven of them signed a petition in his favour, testifying, That Mr. Hooker was orthodox in doctrine, honest and sober in his life and conversation, of a peaceable disposition, and no ways turbulent or factious. But this petition had no effect on the imperious and inexorable Laud. Mr. Hooker was constrained to lay down his ministry; and he set up a Grammar School at a village in the neighbourhood of Chelmsford. At the next visitation, however, he was cited by the Bishop to appear before the High Commission Court. Thus cruelly persecuted, he absconded, and went to Holland, where he lived two or three years, preaching sometimes at Delft, and sometimes at Rotterdam.

In 1633, he came to New-England; (83) and, though he had been “ordained presbyter by a bishop in England,” he was ordained “then again by the brethren at New-Town.” (84) He was a man of “the most exemplary piety, self-denial, patience, and goodness. In his day, he was one of the most animated and powerful preachers in New England. In his sermons, he was searching, experimental, and practical.” In disputation he was eminent. During his residence in Holland, he became intimately acquainted with the celebrated Dr. Ames, author of Medulla Theologiae, who declared, that “though he had been acquainted with many scholars, of divers nations, yet he never met with Mr. Hooker’s equal, either for preaching, or for disputing.” (85) In prayer he excelled. “In conversation he was pleasant and entertaining, but always grave. He was exceedingly prudent in the management of church discipline. He was affable, condescending, and charitable; yet his appearance and conduct were with such becoming majesty, authority, and prudence, that he could do more with a word, or a look, than other men could do with a severe discipline.” It was not uncommon for him to give away five or ten pounds, at a time, to persons in indigence. He died of an epidemical fever, July 7, 1647, aetat. LXII. “He had for many years enjoyed a comfortable assurance of his renewed estate, and when dying said, I am going to receive mercy. He closed his own eyes, and appeared to die with a smile on his countenance. (86) He published, in his life time, several practical treatises; and his friends, after his death, published several of his sermons, which were well received. “Mr. Hooker’s books (says a contemporary writer) are of great request among the faithful people of Christ.” His principal work, entitled, “A Survey of the summe of Church-Discipline,” was transcribed “under the eye and exact review of the eminently accomplisht author himselfe,” and sent over to be published in England, about a year before his death. “But it was then buried,” says Dr. Goodwin, “in the rude waves of the vast ocean, with many precious saints on their passage hither.” Another copy of it, however, was sent to England, and published in 1648, under the inspection of the celebrated Dr. Thomas Goodwin, (a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and some time President of Magdalen College in Oxford) who says, “As touching this Treatise and the worthy author of it, to preface any thing, by commendation of either were to lay paint upon burnished marble, or add light unto the sun. There is no inscription on Mr. Hooker’s tombstone. An historian, (87) who, in general, is not entitled to credence, says truly: “The tomb of Mr. Hooker is viewed with great reverence.”


83 ^ The reasons of Mr. Hooker’s removal to New-England are stated in a letter of the Rev. Mr. Cotton, preserved in Gov. Hutchinson’s “Collection of Papers.” — “The questions you demand, I had rather answer by word of mouth, than by letter, yet I will not refuse to give you account of my brother Hookers removall and mine owne, seinge you require a reason thereof from us both. We both of us concurre in a 3 fold ground of removal. 1. God having shut a doore against both of us from ministringe to him and his people in our wonted congregations, and calling us by a remnant of our people, and by others of this countrye, to minister to them here, and opening a dore to us this way, who are we that we should strive against God and refuse to follow the concurrence of his ordinance and providence together, callinge us forth to minister here. If we may and ought to follow God’s callinge 3 hundred myles, why not 3 thousand? 2. Our Saviours warrant is in our case, that when we are distressed in our course in one country (nequid dicam gravius) we should flee to another. 3. It hath been noe small inducement to us, to choose rather to remove hither, than to stay there, that we might enjoye the libertye, not of some ordinances of God, but of all, and all in purity.” — See the reasons more fully stated in Mr. Cotton’s letter: Hutch. Coll. p. 54.

84 ^ President Stiles’s Election Sermon, second edition, 103.

85 ^ Magnalia, III. 61. Dr. Ames designed to follow Mr. Hooker; but he died soon after Mr. Hooker’s removal from Rotterdam. His widow and children came afterward to New-England, where they found in Mr. Hooker, a faithful friend and beneficent patron.

The great Mr. Cotton pronounced Mr. Hooker Vir solertis ingenii, atque acerrimi judicii.

86 ^ Trumbull’s Hist. Connecticut. See, also, Mather’s Magnalia, B. III. p. 58-68.

87 ^ Peters.

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