The story, life, and martyrdom of Master John Hooper, bishop of Worcester and Gloucester; burnt for the defence of the gospel at
Gloucester, February the ninth, A. D. 1555.
JOHN Hooper, student and graduate in the university of Oxford, after the study of the sciences, wherein he had abundantly profited and
proceeded, through God's secret vocation was stirred with fervent desire to the love and knowledge of the Scriptures: in the reading and
searching whereof, as there lacked in him no diligence joined with earnest prayer; so neither wanted unto him the grace of the Holy
Ghost to satisfy his desire, and to open unto him the light of true divinity.
Thus Master Hooper, growing more and more, by God's grace, in ripeness of spiritual understanding, and showing withal some
sparkles of his fervent spirit, being then about the beginning of the six articles, in the time of King Henry the Eighth, fell eftsoons
into displeasure and hatred of certain rabbins in Oxford, who, by and by, began to stir coals against him; whereby, and especially
by the procurement of Dr. Smith, he was compelled to void the university; and so, removing from thence, was retained in the house
of Sir Thomas Arundel, and there was his steward, till the time that Sir Thomas Arundel, having intelligence of his opinions and religion,
which he in no case did favour, and yet exccedingly favouring the person and conditions of the man, found the mcans to send him in a
message to the bishop of Winchester, writing his letter privily to the bishop, by conference of learning to do some good upon him; but
in any case requiring him to send home his servant to him again.
Winchester, after long conference with Master Hooper four or five days together, when he at length perceived that neither he could
do that good which he thought to him, nor that he would take any good at his hand, according to Master Arundel's request, he sent
home his servant again; right well commending his learning and wit, but yet bearing in his breast a grudging stomach against
Master Hooper still.
It followed not long after this, as malice is always working mischief, that intelligence was given to Master Hooper to provide for himself, for danger that was working against him. Whereupon Master Hooper, leaving Master Arundel's house, and borrowing a horse of a certain friend, (whose life he had saved a little before from the gallows,) took his journey to the sea-side to go to France, sending back the horse again by one, who indeed did not deliver him to the owner. Master Hooper being at Paris, tarried there not long, but in short time returned into England again, and was retained of Master Sentlow, till the time that he was again molested and laid for; whereby he was compelled, under the pretence of being captain of a ship going to Ireland, to take the seas. And so escaped he (although not without extreme peril of drowning) through France, to the higher parts of Germany; where he, entering acquaintance with the learned men, was of them friendly and lovingly entertained, both at Basil, and especially at Zurich, of Master Bullinger, being his singular friend. There also he married his wife, who was a Burgonian, and applied very studiously to the Hebrew tongue.
At length, when God saw it good to stay the bloody time of the six articles, and to give us King Edward to reign over this realm, with some peace and rest unto his gospel, amongst many other English exiles who then repaired homeward, Master Hooper also, moved in conscience, thought not to absent himself; but, seeing such a time and occasion, offered to help forward the Lord's work, to the uttermost of his ability. And so, coming to Master Bullinger, and other of his acquaintance in Zurich, (as duty required,) to give them thanks for their singular kindness and humanity toward him manifold ways declared, with like humanity again purposed to take his leave of them at his departing, and so did. Unto whom Master Bullinger again (who had always a special favour to Master Hooper) spake on this wise:
"Master Hooper," said he, "although we are sorry to part with your company for our own cause, yet much greater causes we have to rejoice, both for your sake, and especially for the cause of Christ's true religion, that you shall now return, out of long banishment, into your native country again; where not only you may enjoy your own private liberty, but also the cause and state of Christ's church, by you, may fare the better; as we doubt not but it shall.
"Another cause, moreover, why we rejoice with you and for you, is this: that you shall remove not only out of exile into liberty; but you shall leave here a barren, a sour, and an unpleasant country, rude and savage; and shall go into a land flowing with milk and honey, replenished with all pleasure and fertility. Notwithstanding, with this our rejoicing one fear and care we have, lest you, being absent, and so far distant from us, or else coming to such abundance of wealth and felicity, in your new welfare and plenty of all things, and in your flourishing honours, where ye shall come, peradventure, to be a bishop, and where ye shall find so many new friends, you will forget us your old acquaintance and well-willers. Nevertheless, howsoever you shall forget and shake us off, yet this persuade yourself, that we will not forget our old friend and fellow Master Hooper. And if you will please not to forget us again, then I pray you let us hear from you."
Wherennto Master Hooper, answering again, first gave to Master Bullinger and the rest right hearty
thanks, for that their singular good-will, and undeserved affection, appearing not only now, but at all
times towards him: declaring moreover, that as the principal cause of his removing to his country was
the matter of religion; so, touching the unpleasantness and barrenness of that conntry of theirs, there
was no cause therein why he could not find in his heart to continue his life there, as soon as in any place
in the world, and rather than in his own native country, if there were nothing else in his conscience that
moved him so to do. And as touching the forgetting of his old friends; although, said he, the remembrance
of a man's country naturally doth delight him, neither could he deny, but God had blessed his country of
England with many great commodities; yet, neither the nature of country, nor pleasure of commodities,
nor newness of friends, should ever induce him to the oblivion of such friends and benefactors, whom
he was so entirely bound unto "and therefore you shall be sure," said he, "from time to time to hear from
me, and I will write unto you, how it goeth with me. But the last news of all, I shall not be able to write:
for there," said he, (taking Master Bullinger by the hand,) "where I shall take most pains, there shall you
hear of me to be burned to ashes. And that shall be the last news, which I shall not be able to write unto
you, but you shall hear it of me," &c.
To this also may be added another like prophetical demonstration, foreshowing before the manner of his
martyrdom wherewith he should glorify God, which was this: When Master Hooper, being made bishop of
Worcester and Gloucester, should have his arms given him by the herald, (as the manner is, here in
England, every bishop to have his arms assigned unto him,) whether by the appointment of Master
Hooper, or by the herald, I have not certainly to say; but the arms which were to him allotted were
these: A lamb in a fiery bush, and the sun-beams from heaven descended down upon the lamb;
rightly denoting, as it seemed, the order of his suffering, which afterward followed.
But now to the purpose of our story again. Thus when Master Hooper had taken his farewell of Master Bullinger and his friends in Zurich, he made his repair again into England in the reign of King Edward the Sixth, where he, coming to London, used continually to preach, most times twice, at least once, every day; and never failed.
In his sermons, according to his accustomed manner, he corrected sin, and sharply inveighed against the iniquity of the world, and corrupt abuses of the church. The people in great flocks and companies daily came to hear his voice, as the most melodious sound and tune of Orpheus's harp, as the proverb saith; insomuch that oftentimes when he was preaching, the church would be so full, that none could enter further than the doors thereof. In his doctrine he was earnest, in tongue eloquent, in the Scriptures perfect, in pains indefatigable.
Moreover, besides other his gifts and qualities, this is in him to be marvelled, that even as he began, so he continued still unto his life's end. For neither could his labour and pains-taking break him, neither promotion change him, neither dainty fare corrupt him. His life was so pure and good, that no kind of slander (although divers went about to reprove it) could fasten any fault upon him. He was of body strong, his health whole and sound, his wit very pregnant, his invincible patience able to sustain whatsoever sinister fortune and adversity could do. He was constant of judgment, a good justice, spare of diet, sparer of words, and sparest of time: in house-keeping very liberal, and sometimes more free than his living would extend unto. Briefly, of all those virtues and qualities required of St. Paul in a good bishop, in his Epistle to Timothy, I know not one in this good bishop lacking. He bare in countenance and talk always a certain severe and grave grace, which might, peradventure, be wished sometimes to have been a little more popular and vulgar-like in him: but he knew what he had to do best himself.
This, by the way, I thought to note, for that there was once an honest citizen, and to me not unknown, who, having in himself a certain conflict of conscience, came to his door for counsel: but, being abashed at his austere behaviour, durst not come in, but departed, seeking remedy of his troubled mind at other men's hands; which he afterward, by the help of Almighty God, did find and obtain. Therefore, in my judgment, such as are appointed and made governors over the flock of Christ, to teach and instruct them, ought so to frame their life, manners, countenance, and external behaviour, as neither they show themselves too familiar and light, whereby to be brought into contempt, nor, on the other side again, that they appear more lofty and rigorous, than appertaineth to the edifying of the simple flock of Christ. Nevertheless, as every man hath his peculiar gift wrought in him by nature, so this disposition of fatherly gravity in this man neither was excessive, nor did he bear that personage that was in him, without great consideration. For it seemed to him, peradventure, that this licentious and unbridled life of the common sort ought to be chastened, not only with words and discipline, but also with the grave and severe countenance of good men.
After he had thus practised himself in this popular and common kind of preaching; at length, and that not without the great profit of many, he was called to preach before the king's Majesty, and soon after made bishop of Gloucester by the king's commandment. In that office he continued two years, and behaved himself so well, that his very enemies (except it were for his good doings, and sharp correcting of sin) could find no fault with him; and, after that, he was made bishop of Worcester.
But I cannot tell what sinister and unlucky contention concerning the ordering and consecration of bishops, and of their apparel, with such other like trifles, began to disturb the good and lucky beginning of the godly bishop. For notwithstanding that godly reformation of religion then begun in the Church of England, besides other ceremonies more ambitious than profitable, or tending to edification, they used to wear such garments and apparel as the popish bishops were wont to do: first a chimere, and under that a white rochet; then, a mathematical cap with four angles, dividing the whole world into four parts. These trifles, tending more to superstition than otherwise, as he could never abide, so in no wise could he be persuaded to wear them. For this cause he made supplication to the king's Majesty, most humbly desiring his Highness, either to discharge him of the bishopric, or else to dispense with him for such ceremonial orders; whose petition the king granted immediately, writing his letter to the archbishop after this tenor.