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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XVIII. “Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity”

§ 3. The Admonition to Parliament

Hooker fully recognises this. To him, Calvin, the founder of the discipline of the church of Geneva, is “incomparably the wisest man that ever the French church did enjoy, since the hour it enjoyed him.” There is, however, a touch of malice in his next sentences, characteristic alike of the author and of the profound scholar’s attitude towards the learning of the man of affairs: “His bringing up was in the study of the civil law. Divine knowledge he gathered, not by hearing or reading so much, as by teaching others.” Hooker, however, in his preface to Ecclesiastical Polity, does ample justice to the attractiveness of the Calvinian system, which the puritan party advocated in their Admonition to Parliament. When this was first published (1572), the Elizabethan church system had had thirteen years of trial and had not yet proved a conspicuous success. At least, it had not united Englishmen in a single church. The Roman Catholics had left off attendance at the parish churches; the Independents had set up congregations; and the puritan faction, which had, from the first, regarded the established church polity as a temporary expedient, felt justified both in expressing its grievances and in suggesting a remedy. The pamphlet in which this was done, supposed to be the work of two ministers, John Field and Thomas Wilcox, styled the Admonition to Parliament, is a document of singular ability, both in lucidity of statement and in vigour of language. It sets forth what is called “a true platforme of a church reformed,” in order that all might behold “the great unlikeness betwixt it and this our English Church.”

The Admonition is brief, well arranged and extremely trenchant. After declaring that the notes of a true church are “preaching the word purely, ministering of the sacraments sincerely, and ecclesiastical discipline which consisteth in admonition and correction of faults severlie” it treats of these three points in detail. As regards the ministry of the word, the writers are of opinion that the old clergy, “King Henries priests, king Edward’s priests (omitted 2nd ed.), Queen Maries priests … (yf Gods worde were precisely followed) should … be utterly removed.” Parliament is exhorted to

  • remove Advowsons, Patronages, Impropriations, and bishoppes’ authoritie, claiming to themselves therby right to ordaine ministers, and to bring in that old and true election, which was accustomed to be made by the congregation. You must,” it goes on to say, “displace those ignorant and unable ministers already placed, and, in their rowmes, appoint such as both can, and will, by God’s assistance, feed the flock.… Remove homilies, articles, injunctions, a prescript order of service made out of the masse booke. Take away the Lordship, the loytering, the pompe, the idlenes, and livings of Bishops, but yet employ them to such ends as they were in the old churche apointed for. Let a lawful and a godly Seignorie look that they preache, not quarterly or monthly, but continually: not for filthy lucre’s sake but of a ready mynde.”
  • The paragraph regarding the sacraments contrasts the practice of the primitive church with that of the time. Of the Lord’s Supper it says:

  • They took it with conscience, we with custume. They shut out men by reason of their sinne … we thruste them in their sinne to the Lord’s supper. They ministered the Sacrament plainely. We pompously with singing, pypying, surplesse and cope wearyng.