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John Hooper

(4 posts)

A Spiritual Assembly

Six hundred years ago, Jan Hus wrote that neither is the pope the head nor are the cardinals the whole body of the holy, universal, catholic church. For Christ alone is the head of that church, and his predestinate are the body and each one is a member, because his bride is one person with Jesus Christ [The Church, ed. David S. Schaff (Charles Scribners Sons, 1915), 66.]. One hundred years later, Luther echoed those words. That Reformation tradition was carried forward by the Puritans. Leland Ryken writes:    The greatest of all Puritan legacies in regard to ecclesiastical theory was also the most revolutionary in its time. It was the notion that the church is a spiritual reality. It is not impressive buildings or fancy clerical vestments. It is instead the company of the redeemed. The Puritans repeatedly showed their acceptance of Luthers dictum that The church is a spiritual assembly of souls. . . . The true, real, right, essential church is a matter of the spirit and not of anything external. For William Gouge the church consists of those who inwardly and effectively by the spirit . . . believe in Christ. John Hooper denied that the church consists of bishops, priests and such other, affirming rather that it is the company of all men hearing Gods Word and obeying unto the same. Richard Baxter agreed: the church is a holy Christian society for ordinary holy communion and mutual help in Gods public worship and holy living. Implicit in these definitions of the church is a Puritan preference for the invisible church over a type of institutional structure. The church is emphatically not the professional clergy and their rituals. What understand you by the church? asked John Balls Catechism. The answer: by the church, we understand not the pope. . . ; nor his bishops and cardinals met in general council. . . ; but the whole company of believers. If the church is essentially invisible rather than institutional, its head is obviously not a pope or church council, but Christ. The Puritans reiterated this again and again, as when Gouge spoke of that church whereof Christ is properly head. Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Academie Books, 1986), 115.
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Eternal Life Is More Sweet

John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester (1495–1555), was originally to die alongside John Rogers, but was instead taken to Gloucester to be burned before his parishioners, in front of his own cathedral. The day before his execution, Sir Anthony Kingston, whom the good Bishop had been the means of converting from a sinful life, entreated him, with many tears, to spare himself, and urged him to remember that ‘Life was sweet, and death was bitter.’ To this the noble martyr returned this memorable reply, that ‘Eternal life was more sweet, and eternal death was more bitter.’ On the morning of his martyrdom he was led forth, walking, to the place of execution, where an immense crowd awaited him. It was market-day; and it was reckoned that nearly 700o people were present. The stake was planted directly in front of the western gate of the Cathedral-close, and within 100 yards of the deanery and the east front of the Cathedral. The exact spot is marked now by a beautiful memorial at the east end of the churchyard of St. Mary-de-Lode. The window over the gate, where Popish friars watched the Bishop’s dying agonies, stands unaltered to this day. When Hooper arrived at this spot, he was allowed to pray, though strictly forbidden to speak to the people. And there he knelt down, and prayed a prayer which has been preserved and recorded by Fox, and is of exquisitely touching character. Even then a box was put before him containing a full pardon, if he would only recant. His only answer was, ‘Away with it; if you love my soul, away with it!’ He was then fastened to the stake by an iron round his waist, and fought his last fight with the king of terrors. Of all the martyrs, none perhaps, except Ridley, suffered more than Hooper did. Three times the faggots had to be lighted, because they would not burn properly. Three quarters of an hour the noble sufferer endured the mortal agony, as Fox says, ‘neither moving backward, forward, nor to any side,’ but only praying,‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me; Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;’ and beating his breast with one hand till it was burned to a stump. And so the good Bishop of Gloucester passed away. —Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 46—47. Words to live—and die—by: Life may be sweet, and death bitter, but eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death more bitter.
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Pre-Reformation Ignorance

Ryle describes the spiritual state of England before the Reformation: Before the Reformation, one leading feature of English religion was dense ignorance. There was among all classes a conspicuous absence of all knowledge of true Christianity. A gross darkness overspread the land, a darkness that might be felt. Not one in a hundred could have told you as much about the Gospel of Christ as we could now learn from any intelligent Sunday School child. We need not wonder at this ignorance. The people had neither schools nor Bibles. Wycliffe’s New Testament, the only translation extant till Henry VIII’s Bible was printed, cost £2 16s. 3d.* of our money. The prayers of the Church were in Latin, and of course the people could not understand them. Preaching there was scarcely any. Quarterly sermons indeed were prescribed to the clergy, but not insisted on. Latimer says that while Mass was never to be left unsaid for a single Sunday, sermons might be omitted for twenty Sundays, and nobody was blamed. After all, when there were sermons, they were utterly unprofitable: and latterly to be a preacher was to be suspected of being a heretic. To cap all, the return that Hooper got from the diocese of Gloucester, when he was first appointed Bishop in 1551, will give a pretty clear idea of the ignorance of Pre-Reformation times. Out of 311 clergy of his diocese, 168 were unable to repeat the Ten Commandments; 31 of the 168 could not state in what part of Scripture they were to be found; 40 could not tell where the Lord’s prayer was written; and 31 of the 40 were ignorant who was the author of the Lord’s prayer! If this is not ignorance, I know not what is. If such were the pastors, what must the people have been! If this was the degree of knowledge among the parsons, what must it have been among the people! —J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 62. * I.e., in 1890. Current value (2017), about $366 US dollars, by my estimation.
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Death Is No Death

The following lines are attributed to John Hooper. Tradition says they were written in coal on the wall of the cell in which he was held before his execution. Content thyself with patience With Christ to bear the cup of pain: Who can and will thee recompense A thousand-fold, with joys again. Let nothing cause thy heart to fail: Launch out thy boat, hoist up the sail, Put from the shore; And be thou sure thou shalt attain Unto the port, that shall remain For evermore. Fear not death, pass not for bands, Only in God put thy whole trust; For He will require thy blood at their hands, And thou dost know that once die thou must, Only for that, thy life if thou give, Death is no death, but ever for to live. Do not despair: Of no worldly tyrant be thou in dread; Thy compass, which is God’s Word, shall thee lead, And the wind is fair. —in J. C. Ryle, Light from Old Times (Banner of Truth, 2015), 83.
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