1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hooker, Thomas

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HOOKER, THOMAS (1586-1647), New England theologian, was born, probably on the 7th of July 1586, at Marfield, in the parish of Tilton, County of Leicester, England. He graduated B.A. in 1608 and M.A. in 1611 at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the intellectual centre of Puritanism, remained there as a fellow for a few years, and then preached in the parish of Esher in Surrey. About 1626 he became lecturer to the church of St Mary at Chelmsford, Essex, delivering on market days and Sunday afternoons evangelical addresses which were notable for their moral fervour. In 1629 Archbishop Laud took measures to suppress church lectureships, which were an innovation of Puritanism. Hooker was placed under bond and retired to Little Baddow, 4 m. from Chelmsford. In 1630 he was cited to appear before the Court of High Commission, but he forfeited his bond and fled to Holland, whence in 1633 he emigrated to the Colony of Massachusetts Bay in America, and became pastor at Newtowne (now Cambridge), Mass., of a company of Puritans who had arrived from England in the previous year and in expectation of his joining them were called “Mr Hooker's Company.” Hooker seems to have been a leader in the formation of that sentiment of discontent with the Massachusetts government which resulted in the founding of Connecticut. He publicly criticized the limitation of suffrage to church members, and, according to a contemporary historian, William Hubbard (General History of New England), “after Mr Hooker's coming over it was observed that many of the freemen grew to be very jealous of their liberties.” He was a leader of the emigrants who in 1636 founded Hartford, Connecticut. In a sermon before the Connecticut General Court of 1638, he declared that “the choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance” and that “they who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them.” Though this theory was in advance of the age, Hooker had no idea of the separation of church and state — “the privilege of election, which belongs to the people,” he said, must be exercised “according to the blessed will and law of God.” He also defended the right of magistrates to convene synods, and in the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639), which he probably framed, the union of church and state is presupposed. Hooker was pastor of the Hartford church until his death on the 7th of July 1647. He was active in the negotiations which preceded the formation of the New England Confederation in 1643. In the same year he attended the meeting of Puritan ministers at Boston, whose object was to defend Congregationalism, and he wrote a Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline (1648) in justification of the New England church system. His other works deal chiefly with the experimental phases of religion, especially the experience precedent to conversion. In The Soule's Humiliation (1637), he assigns as a test of conversion a willingness of the convert to be damned if that be God's will, thus anticipating the doctrine of Samuel Hopkins in the following century.

See George L. Walker's Thomas Hooker (New York, 1891); the appendix of which contains a bibliography of Hooker's published works.