Audiobook: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 1

Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 1 cover

Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 1

1 - The cause of writing this general Discourse concerning Laws

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Hooker resolved to investigate the position of the English Church, and to attempt to answer the question What is the basis upon which Church laws and Church government rest? And his magnum opus ‘The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity’ was the result.

The Puritan system with which Richard Hooker found himself face to face, and which he so resolutely and courageously set himself the task of discrediting, speaking broadly, was based on the assumption that, in all matters affecting religious worship, discipline, and government, an unchangeable rule is laid down in Holy Scripture, and in Holy Scripture alone.

It was held (by the Puritans) that no law could be of permanent obligation which was not expressed in Holy Scripture, and that no law which was contained in any part of Holy Scripture could fail to be of permanent obligation.

In opposition to the Puritan contention Hooker urged that, in order to discover what the Divine order is, we must have recourse not only to the written word of God, but also to the moral relations, the historical development, and the social and political institutions of the human race and, in determining the laws of this Divine order, he asserted the function of human reason. And, moreover, he claimed for human reason the office of distinguishing in the Bible record, between what is changeable and what is unchangeable, between what is of merely temporal and what is of lasting obligation.

The design of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, as stated by Richard Hooker, was to settle current controversies concerning religion and government, and “to resolve the conscience, and to show as near as I can what in this controversy the heart is to think, if it will follow the light of sound and sincere judgment, without either cloud of prejudice, or mist of passionate affection.” - Summary by Vernon Staley

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