Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Sinner at the King’s Court

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Sinner at the King’s Court

By Thomas Hooker (1586–1647)

[From The Soule’s Implantation. 1637.]

IT is with a poor humbled sinner as it is with a malefactor or traitor, who is pursued with a Pursuivant, that hath laid wait for him as far as the sea, and at last he is resolved to yield and come in. He hath offended his Sovereign, and he is driven to a stand, he cannot procure a pardon, nor he cannot escape; therefore he is content to come in, and yield his neck to the block, that as he hath offended, so he may receive his punishment accordingly. Now as he is going he hears an inkling that there is some hope of a pardon, and thereupon the poor man begins to rejoice, in hope that he may be pardoned; and then heareth other news, which saith, if he will but be humbled before his Majesty, and come to the Court, and importune him for pardon, it is likely that he may be pardoned, nay, it shall be so.

“Marry,” saith he, “that I will with all my heart;” and so he sets forward and comes to the Court; his desire carries him thither. Thus it is, I say, with a poor sinner; he is brought home to the Court, and about the Court he attends, and asks of every man that comes forth, “Did you not hear the King speak of me?” and, “What do you think of my case?”

At last some of the bed-chamber say to him, “The King heareth that you are mightily humbled, and earnestly desire his favor, you shall hear more from him erelong.” At last the King himself looks out at a window, and saith:

“Is this the Traitor?”

“Yes, this is he that hath been humbled, and lies at your mercy.” Then the King calls out, and saith:

“His pardon is drawing, and it is coming by and by,” and so the King smiles on him. Oh! then his heart leaps in his breast, and he saith:

“The Lord preserve your grace! I think there was never such a merciful Prince known in the world!”

This is the love and delight that is stirred up. Now when the pardon is sealed and granted, then you shall see the work of faith. A poor humbled sinner is this malefactor, that hath committed high treason against the God of heaven (for every sinner hath rebelled against the God of grace). The stubborn rebellious heart hath stood out against the Lord God, which is high treason, though you little think it, when you go on wilfully and say, “This man shall not rule over me.” Well, be humbled now in time, while you have mercy offered: for if you be not humbled, the Lord shall send a Jailer to take and throw you down to Hell, and therefore you had better hear of it now than hereafter, when there is no remedy. Perhaps the Lord now pursueth a man with his heavy indignation, and lets fly at him, and sets conscience on work to follow him, and to dog him, saying, “This is thy sin, and Hell is thy portion; to Hell thou must.” Now the soul being beset with God’s wrath, in conclusion seeth he cannot escape the Lord’s hands; and how to purchase mercy he knows not, nor is it possible otherwise for him to escape, and yet he hath nothing to purchase mercy withal; therefore he is content to lie down before God, saying,

“I confess I have sinned; Oh Lord, be thou glorified, though I be damned forever, my sins are so many and so vile, I cannot almost desire mercy, but if the Lord will, who can let him?”

Now when the heart is thus humbled, then there comes a noise a great way off in the ministry of the Gospel, and that saith, “Thy sins are all pardonable:” so he looks up, and hope saith:

“Lord, it may be a damned creature may be recovered, a dead dog may be restored to life, and a traitor may be pardoned and received.” Then the Lord sends another comfortable message, namely, “That if thou canst but see a need of mercy, and look out and wait for him, thou shalt be pardoned;” hereupon the penitent goes to the Court gate, that is, he comes mourning to the Word, and saith:

“Oh ye faithful Ministers of God, you are of the bed-chamber, and you know God’s mind; I pray what doth God intend towards me?” Hereupon we that are the Ministers of God, we tell him, “Your case is right, and happily if you attend upon God you may hear more of him hereafter; for the Lord hears that you lie at the Court gate, and that you are exceedingly humbled;” and thus far desire goes. At last the Lord Jesus Christ shows and presents himself to the sinner, and speaks with him in the Ministry of the Word, and saith:

“That fainting, weary, loaden heart of thine shall be refreshed,” and then giveth him a look of mercy, so that his heart danceth within him, (still you must understand that the Lord always speaketh by the Ministry of the Word, and therefore look for no strange dreams and visions,) while the Lord saith:

“Thou art he that longs for my salvation; go thy way, I have heard thy prayers; thy pardon is granted and drawn, it shall be delivered to thee afterward.”

Now when a poor sinner finds some cheering of heart, he may say, “The Lord spake to me; it ’s done in heaven, mercy is coming towards me; the pardon is now granted and is in drawing, and shall be delivered to me in due time!” Now again his heart leapeth within him, and he saith:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, who ever heard of such mercy? What! My sins be pardoned? And is the pardon granted and drawn? If I never hear more of it, and if I go down to Hell, it is enough, that God hath once smiled upon me in his love; it is enough though I have the pains of Hell upon me forever for it.”…

So the Lord saith to poor sinners, after they have waited long enough, and God hath seen their desires to be sound, the Lord, I say, saith:

“Tell that poor man from Heaven, and from the Lord Christ, and under the hand of the Spirit, that his sins are pardoned, and he shall be received to mercy.” Esa. lxvi. 1, 2, 3, “The Lord looks to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at his word.” The poor creature comes and trembles at every truth, and when he hears of mercy, he saith:

“Oh, that is sweet mercy indeed, but it is not mine,” and he shakes in the consideration of mercy, that he should hear of it and not receive it. “The Lord looks to him,” that is, he casts a sweet look upon him, and lets in some sweet intimation of mercy, and saith to the poor creature:

“I have an eye to thee, and my love is unto thee in the Lord Jesus Christ;”—and with that his heart leaps in his bosom.