b) Hooker on Separation (Heresy, Schism and Apostasy)

Introduction

The Church of England is facing a crisis.

It came to a head in the Autumn of 1997 over homosexual relations. The Bible is clear that such behaviour is sin and requires repentance. Even a House of Bishops' report, that liberal bishops endorsed, summarises the "convergence" of biblical teaching in these terms: "sexual activity of any kind outside marriage comes to be seen as sinful, and homosexual practice as especially dishonourable."

Yet there are clergy and bishops who are celebrating homosexual love and believe it should be blessed (the Bishop of Jarrow, for example); while others (like the new Bishop of Newcastle) believe that "homosexuality within a loving, permanent relationship is permitted". It is true that such people believe it inappropriate within the clergy; but "the church line" is now generally perceived to be that homosexual relationships among the laity are acceptable.

What would Hooker, the great 16th century Anglican theologian, reformer and Christian "apologist", have said and done?

First, Hooker knew that, as Article XXVI says, "in the visible church the evil be ever mingled with the good [and the true and the false]."

But according to this (first) Sermon on part of Jude, who was "inwardly" genuine or "coupled and joined to Christ ... without any manner of simulation" and who was not, "none can tell save he whose eyes do behold the secret disposition of all men's hearts." We, therefore, should use a judgment of charity and so use "all men as brethren."

It is here that some have been mislead. Hooker was not suggesting that no judgments could ever be made. He knew that Article XXVI also says, "it appertainteth to the discipline of the church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused." It was only with regard to "the inward man", as he says in the sermon, that we "must leave the secret of every servant to his own Lord". It was there that a judgment of charity was needed.

This, however, was not without qualification. Such a judgment of charity, he tells us, was dependent on two things: one, a person's keeping "the profession of the gospel"; and two, their remaining "in the outward communion of saints."

Not all is "inward". There is "outward" profession and the reality of "outward" fellowship. So there can, indeed, be heresy or schism (and even apostasy) and that is so self-evident that judgments are self-made.

On the one hand, Hooker says, people can "loose the bond of faith". This they do when they "frowardly oppugn any principal point of Christian doctrine." What happens then is that they "separate themselves by heresy." And according to Hooker, "then it is no injury to term them as they are." They are separating themselves. They are not so much judged by us, as by their own doings. We simply describe what we see. There is no looking into the "inward man". What is then required is not so much judgment as sentence.

So for us today when a bishop defies Christian sexual ethics, he is "loosing the bond of faith". He is separating himself from the household of faith. That is the result, for example, of a bishop's public or "outward" views of support for homosexual sex, something the bible explicitly forbids.

Evidencing such "outward" views is not wrong or an "injury", according to Hooker. Rather it is to "term them as they are". Exposure is, therefore, necessary. And the conclusion now in the 20th or 21st centuries is, in principle, the same as it has been since Hooker's day. Clergy must respond to ensure that they "drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word" (BCP Ordering of Priests). And such episcopal "defects" must be corrected by archbishops and alternative oversight "supplied" (Canon C 17.2).

On the other hand, Hooker says, people can "break the bond of unity". Clearly being separate from heretical separation is not what Hooker has in mind. What he is referring to is when people "wilfully forsake all external communion with saints in holy exercises". It is isolationism or withdrawal from orthodox believers. That is "to separate themselves by schism."

Now it is possible to accuse people falsely both of heresy and of schism. Hooker himself was charged on both counts (and on a charge of apostasy as well) by those still loyal to Rome.

He denied the charge of heresy on the grounds that he believed "all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets" - that is the bible. The bible for him was the test of orthodoxy.

And he denied he was schismatic with that seminal sentence - a sentence that needs to be a motto for 20th and 21st century reform in the Church of England:

"That which they call schism, we know to be our reasonable service unto God."

Hooker knew that there were certain times that action had to be taken.

So what is the application for today?

Surely, when morality sinks to an all time low, and bishops attend a celebration of homosexual sex in a so-called Christian Cathedral, it is time, along with Hooker to cry "shrill in our ears, 'Go out of Babylon, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues [be they AIDS or Hepatitis B or some other sexually transmitted disease]'."

Hooker, though dead, still speaks.

David Holloway


Jude vv 17-21

17 But ye, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are makers of sects, fleshly, having not the Spirit. 20 But ye, beloved, edify yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. 21 And keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life.

10. St Jude having his mind exercised in the doctrine of the apostles of Jesus Christ concerning things to come in the last time, became a man of wise and stayed judgment. Grieved he was to see the departure of many, and their falling away from the faith which before they did profess - grieved but not dismayed. With the simpler and weaker sort it was otherwise. Their countenance began by and by to change. They were half in doubt they had deceived themselves in giving credit to the gospel of Jesus Christ. St Jude, to comfort and refresh these silly lambs, taketh them up in his arms and sheweth them the men at whom they were offended:

"Look unto them that forsake this blessed profession wherein you stand. They are now before your eyes. View them. Mark them. Are they not carnal? Are they not like to noisome carrion cast out upon the earth? Is there that Spirit in them which crieth 'Abba, Father' in your bosoms? Why should any man be discomforted? Have you not heard that there should be 'mockers in the last time?' These verily are they that now do separate themselves."

11. For your better understanding what this severing and separating of themselves doth mean, we must know that the multitude of them which truly believe (howsoever they be dispersed far and wide, each from other) is all one body, whereof the head is Christ; one building, whereof he is the corner-stone, in whom they, as the members of the body being knit and as the stones of the building being coupled, grow up to a man of perfect stature and rise to an holy temple in the Lord.

That which linketh Christ to us is his mere mercy and love towards us. That which tieth us to him is our faith in the promised salvation revealed in the word of truth. That which uniteth and joineth us amongst ourselves, in such sort that we are now as if we had but one heart and one soul, is our love.

[The answer to] who be inwardly in heart the lively members of this body and the polished stones of this building, coupled and joined to Christ, as flesh of his flesh and bones of his bones, by the mutual bond of his unspeakable love towards them and their unfeigned faith in him, thus linked and fastened each to other by a spiritual, sincere, and hearty affection of love, without any manner of simulation; [and] who be Jews within and what their names be, none can tell save he whose eyes do behold the secret disposition of all men's hearts.

We, whose eyes are too dim to behold the inward man, must leave the secret judgment of every servant to his own Lord, accounting and using all men as brethren both near and dear unto us, supposing Christ to love them tenderly, so [long] as they keep the profession of the gospel and join in the outward communion of saints. Whereof the one doth warrantize unto us their faith, the other their love, till they fall away and forsake either the one or the other or both. And then it is no injury to term them as they are. When they separate themselves, they are autokatakritoi, not judged by us, but by their own doings.

Men do separate themselves either by heresy, schism, or apostasy.

If they loose the bond of faith, which then they are justly supposed to do when they frowardly oppugn any principal point of Christian doctrine, this is to separate themselves by heresy.

If they break the bond of unity, whereby the body of the Church is coupled and knit in one, as they do which wilfully forsake all external communion with saints in holy exercises purely and orderly established in the Church, this is to separate themselves by schism.

If they willingly cast off and utterly forsake both profession of Christ and communion with Christians, taking their leave of all religion, this is to separate themselves by plain apostasy. And St Jude, to express the manner of their departure which by apostasy fell away from the faith of Christ, saith, "they separated themselves," noting thereby that it was not constraint of others which forced them to depart. It was not infirmity and weakness in themselves. It was not fear of persecution to come upon them, whereat their hearts did fail. It was not grief of torments, whereof they had tasted and were not able any longer to endure them. No, they voluntarily did separate themselves with a fully settled and altogether determined purpose never to name the Lord Jesus any more, nor to have any fellowship with his saints, but to bend all their counsel and all their strength to raze out their memorial from amongst them.

12. Now because that, by such examples, not only the hearts of infidels were hardened against the truth, but the minds of weak brethren also much troubled, the Holy Ghost hath given sentence of these backsliders that they were carnal men and had not the Spirit of Christ Jesus, lest any man having an [over-estimate] of their persons should be overmuch amazed and offended at their fall. For simple men not able to discern their spirits, were brought by their apostasy thus to reason with themselves:

"if Christ be the Son of the living God, if he have the words of eternal life, if he be able to bring salvation to all men that come unto him, what meaneth this apostasy and unconstrained departure? Why do his servants so willingly forsake him?"

Babes, be not deceived. His servants forsake him not. They that separate themselves were amongst his servants, but if they had been of his servants, they had not separated themselves. "They were amongst us, not of us," saith St John (1 John 2.19). And St Jude proveth it, because they were carnal and had not the Spirit.

Will you judge of wheat by chaff which the wind hath scattered from amongst it? Have the children no bread because the dogs have not tasted it? Are Christians deceived of that salvation they look for, because they denied the joys of the life to come [to those] which were no Christians?

What if they seemed to be pillars and principal upholders of our faith? What is that to us, which know that angels have fallen from heaven? Although if these men had been of us indeed (O the blessedness of a Christian man's estate!), they had stood surer than the angels; they had never departed from their place. Whereas now we marvel not at their departure at all. Neither are we prejudiced by their falling away, because they were not of us since they are fleshly and have not the Spirit. Children abide in the house for ever. They are bondmen and bondwomen which are cast out.

13. It behoveth you, therefore greatly, every man to examine his own estate and try whether you be bond or free, children or no children. I have told you already, that we must beware we presume not to sit as gods in judgment upon others, and rashly, as our conceit and fancy doth lead us, so to determine of this man "he is sincere", or of that man "he is an hypocrite", [unless] by their falling away they make it manifest and known what they are.

For who are thou that takest upon thee to judge another before the time? Judge thyself. God hath left us infallible evidence whereby we may at any time give true and righteous sentence upon ourselves. We cannot examine the hearts of other men. We may our own.

"That we have passed from death to life, we know it," saith St John, "because we love our brethren" (1 John 3.14); and "know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, [unless] ye be reprobates" (2 Corinthians 13.5)? I trust, beloved, we know that we are not reprobates, because our spirit doth bear us record, that the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ is in us.

14. It is an easy matter for the spirit within you to tell whose ye are, as for the eyes of your body to judge where you sit, or in what place you stand. For what saith the Scripture?

"Ye which were in times past strangers and enemies because your minds were set on evil works, Christ hath now reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to make you holy and unblameable and without fault in his sight; if you continue grounded and established in the faith, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel" (Colossians 1.21-23).

And in the third to the Colossians, "Ye know, that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of that inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3.24). [And that is true] if we can make this account with ourselves:

"I was in times past dead in trespasses and sins. I walked after the prince that ruleth in the air and after the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience. But God, who is rich in mercy, through his great love wherewith he loved me, even when I was dead, hath quickened me in Christ. I was fierce, heady, proud, high-minded. But God hath made me like the child that is newly weaned. I loved pleasures more than God. I followed greedily the joys of this present world. I esteemed him that erected a stage or theatre more than Solomon which built a temple to the Lord. The harp, viol, timbrel, and pipe, men-singers and women-singers were at my feast. It was my felicity to see my children dance before me (Job 21.11). I said of every kind of vanity, 'O how sweet art thou in my soul!' All which things now are crucified to me and I to them. Now I hate the pride of life and pomp of this world. Now 'I take as great delight in the way of thy testimonies, O Lord, as in all riches' (Psalm 119.14). Now I find more joy of heart in my Lord and Saviour than the worldly-minded man when 'his wheat and oil do much abound'. Now I taste nothing sweet but the 'bread that came down from heaven, to give life unto the world' (John 6.33). Now mine eyes see nothing but Jesus rising from the dead. Now my ear refuseth all kind of melody to hear the song of them that have gotten victory of the beast and of his image and of his mark and of the number of his name, that stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God, and singing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, 'Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are they ways, O King of Saints' (Rev 15.2-3)."

Surely, if the Spirit have been thus effectual in the secret work of our regeneration unto newness of life; if we endeavour thus to frame ourselves anew; then we may say boldly with the blessed apostle in the tenth of Hebrews: "We are not of them which withdraw ourselves to perdition, but which follow faith to the conservation of the soul" (Hebrews 10.39).

For they that fall away from the grace of God and separate themselves unto perdition, they are fleshly and carnal; they have not God's holy Spirit. But unto you, "because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts" (Gal 4.6), to the end ye might know that Christ hath built you upon a rock unmoveable; that he hath registered your names in the Book of Life; that he hath bound himself in a sure and everlasting covenant to be your God, and the God of your children after you; that he hath suffered as much, groaned as oft, prayed as heartily for you, as for Peter: "O Father, keep them in thy name. O righteous Father, the world hath not known that thou hast sent me. I have declared thy name unto them and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them" (John 17.25-26).

The Lord of his infinite mercy give us hearts plentifully fraught with the treasure of this blessed assurance of faith unto the end!

15. Here I must advertise all men that have the testimony of God's holy fear within their breasts, to consider how unkindly and injuriously our own countrymen and brethren have dealt with us by the space of four and twenty years from time to time, as if we were the men of whom St Jude here speaketh, never ceasing to charge us, some with schism, some with heresy, some with plain and manifest apostasy, as if we had clean separated ourselves from Christ, utterly forsaken God, quite abjured heaven, and trampled all truth and all religion under our feet.

Against this third sort [apostasy], God himself shall plead our cause in that day, when they shall answer us for these words, not we them.

To others, by whom we are accused for schism and heresy, we have often made our reasonable and in the sight of God, I trust, allowable answers.

For in the way which they call heresy, "we worship the God of our fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and the Prophets" (Acts 24.14).

That which they call schism, we know to be our reasonable service unto God and obedience to his voice which crieth shrill in our ears, "Go out of Babylon, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18.4).

And therefore when they rise up against us having no quarrel but this, we need not seek any farther for our apology than the words of Abiah to Jeroboam and his army: "O Jeroboam and Israel, hear you me. Ought you not to know, that the Lord God of Israel hath given the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons, by a covenant of salt" - that is to say, an everlasting covenant (2 Chronicles 13.5).

Jesuits and papists, hear ye me. Ought you not to know that the Father hath given all power unto the Son and hath made him the only head over his Church, wherein he dwelleth as an husbandman in the midst of his vineyard, manuring it with the sweat of his own brows, not letting it forth to others? For, as it is in the Canticles, "Solomon had a vineyard in Baalhamon; he gave the vineyard unto keepers, every one bringing for the fruit thereof a thousand pieces of silver" (Song of Songs 8.11).

"But my vineyard, which is mine, is before me," saith Christ. It is true, this is meant of the mystical head set over the body, which is not seen.

But as he hath reserved the mystical administration of the Church invisible unto himself, so he hath committed the mystical government of congregations visible to the sons of David, by the same covenant. Whose sons they are in the governing of the flock of Christ, whomsoever the Holy Ghost hath set over them, to go before them, and to lead them in their several pastures - one in this congregation, another in that. As it is written:

"Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock whereof the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20.28).

Neither will ever any pope or papist under the cope of heaven be able to prove the Romish bishop's usurped supremacy over all churches by any one word of the covenant of salt, which is the Scripture. For the children in our streets do now laugh them to scorn when they force "thou art Peter" to this purpose.

The pope hath no more reason to draw the charter of his universal authority from hence, than the brethren had to gather by the words of Christ in the last of St John, that the disciple whom Jesus loved should never die. "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee," saith Christ (John 21.22-23). Straigthways a report was raised amongst the brethren that his disciple should not die. Yet Jesus said not to him, "he shall not die," but "if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"

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