Church History, Vol.
Answering "the Known Men": Bishop Reginald Pecock and Mr. Richard
Charles W. Brockwell, Jr.
There are both striking
similarities and significant differences
between the Lollards of the fifteenth century and the radical Puritans
of the sixteenth. Both rejected the authority of the established church
in England, and both suffered for such boldness. With the passage of
De heretico comburendo
in 1401 the so-called Wycliffites were liable to inquisitorial
proceedings and punishments. Lollards were now felons as well as
heretics. In 1406, by means of a supplement to the 1401 legislation,
the laymen in Parliament at last took heed of the warning from the
churchmen that confiscation of church possessions threatened all
lordship, secular as well as spiritual. Under a constitution drafted at
the Oxford Assembly from November to December, 1407 and republished at
St. Paul's in 1409, any preacher other than a priest in his own parish
was required to obtain a license from the ordinary or the archbishop in
order to preach. Arundel further decreed that such preachers were to
speak only on the subjects set forth in Peckham's constitution, Ignorantia
sacerdotum. As the chief legal instrument of this English
Inquisition, De heretico comburendo remained in effect
until set aside by Henry VIII. It was later revived by Mary, and
finally repealed by Elizabeth.
Similarly, the Puritans were
exposed to baleful consequences after the
Court of High Commission was reconstituted in 1583. That was followed a
decade later by the act to imprison conventicle attenders and to banish
Later in 1593, the dangling bodies of Barrow, Greenwood and Penry
punctuated clearly for any lingering doubters the stated intention of
Archbishop Whitgift to silence zealous nonconformists.
At the heart of both Lollard
Puritan nonconformity was their stout
insistence upon the right to interpret the Bible in their own way, no
matter what scholars might demonstrate or prelates might demand. The
Bible was inevitably the battleground upon which the struggle for
conformity would be fought, since social consensus was expressed in
Christian idiom drawn from scripture, and the church as the core
cultural institution in symbiosis with the state claimed the exclusive
right to interpret that scripture.
The Puritans enjoyed the
of educated leaders, and were much
more visible in society than the Lollards had been. They continued to
preach and otherwise publish their views. Moreover, they had definite
ideas about the kind of church they hoped to raise. It might be said
that whereas the Lollards were impelled by radical urges, the more
articulate Puritans were devotees of a radical program. Essentially for
these reasons, the historical trail of Puritanism is more clearly
marked than is the underground movement of later Lollardy.
Modern historians of the late
medieval and Reformation English church
have been interested in whether or not there was any historical
continuity between Lollardy and Puritanism. Arthur G. Dickens in the
1950s and John A. F. Thomson in the 1960s gave positive responses to
that query. More recently Irvin Horst has suggested that "generally
Anabaptist supplanted Lollard as the name for English nonconformity
from about 1530 until the end of Mary's reign." John K. Luoma has noted
that by applying the designation "dear brethren" to the Puritans,
Richard Hooker connected them with the nonconformist tradition that
reaches back through Anabaptism to Lollardy. Although it may be sheer
coincidence, both Lollards and Puritans called themselves "the known
men." That term, as a synonym for those known of God or the elect,
occurs throughout Foxe Acts and Monuments as a designation of
the Protestant martyrs. The two subjects of this article took note of
their opponents' use of the appellation.
In any event, popular Lollardy survived as an underground movement into
the Reformation period. Only after its underlying impulses had been
refined by the Calvinism of the Marian exiles did it disappear as an
identifiable, albeit amorphous, entity. In fact, Lollard absorption
into the more articulate
tradition of Protestant nonconformity was so natural that we cannot
specifically date it.
Against that background, it
instructive to compare the widely
separated, but surprisingly comparable, responses to English
nonconformity on the parts of two defenders of the ecclesiastical
establishment. Bishop Reginald Pecock made the greatest effort of any
fifteenth-century churchman to convince the heretics to return to
orthodoxy. Mr. Richard Hooker, rector of Bishopsbourne, produced what
came to be regarded as the classical apology for the Anglican via media
before the face of unyielding dissent. Henry O. Taylor observed that to
corroborate the similarity between Lollards and Puritans "one may point
to the intellectual affinity and occasional coincidence of position
between Pecock and Hooker, the two most intellectual opponents of these
protests against the established Church." It seems that the first
scholar to comment publicly on such an affinity was Henry Hallam. In
1818 he wrote, " BishopPecock's answer to the Lollards of his time
contains passages well worthy of Hooker, both for weight of matter and
dignity of style, setting forth the necessity and importance of 'the
moral law of kinde, or moral philosophie,' in opposition to those who
derive all morality from revelation." Frederick J. Shirley also has
written that "When Hooker claims that 'the assurance of things which we
believe by the Word, is not so sure as of those which we perceive by
sense,' we seem once more to be listening to the reasoning of Bishop
Pecock." Moreover, Shirley thought of Hooker as "the first Englishman
(if we ignore Pecock) to ascribe such importance to Reason. . . ."
Nevertheless, no one has produced a comparative study of the
methodology, arguments and conclusions of these two thinkers. Scholars
must cease to ignore Pecock and begin to look beneath the surface of
the easily recognized similarities between these two thinkers.
Hooker, of course, is a
well-remembered protagonist of the Elizabethan church. His Laws of
is the principal apology of the Settlement and has not been out of
print since its original publication. Reginald Pecock, bishop first of
St. Asaph (1443-1450) and then of Chichester (1450-1458/9), is a rather
more obscure figure. Though Pecock probably wrote fifty books and
treatises, only six of his works survive; these exist in single
manuscripts only and two of them are incomplete. One of these books was
partially edited and published in the 1680s, a complete edition of
another title was brought out in 1860, and complete editions of all the
others were published between the years 1909 and 1927.
5 The bishop, then, requires more of an
introduction than the rector does.
Not even the dates of
birth and death are known exactly (c.
1395-c. 1460). From 1424 to 1457, however, he enjoyed a successful and
highly visible career as priest, college master, bishop and theologian.
For over a decade he was the most controversial ecclesiastic in
England. The tragic irony of his life is that this man, who tried
harder than anyone else to bring the Lollards back into the peace of
the church, was himself forced to abjure and to assist in the burning
of his books before the crowd at Paul's Cross. He was the first bishop
of the English church ever to be formally convicted of heresy.
Bishop Pecock remains an
figure, out of harmony with his own
time and devoid of influence upon subsequent generations. Among other
things he has been scorned as a proud heretic, identified as a Lollard,
hailed as a reformer before the Reformation, dismissed as an
intellectual dilettante. The history of the interpretation of Pecock
tells more about the theology and ecclesiology of his interpreters than
it does about him. Such at least is the case until this century, with
the notable exceptions of Daniel Waterland in
the early eighteenth century and Churchill Babington in the
Even today the bishop has at
one vigorous detractor in the person of Professor Peter Munz. In The
Place of Hooker in the History of Thought,
Munz acknowledges that there are obvious similarities between Pecock's
response to Lollard biblicism and Hooker's answer to Puritan exegetical
principles. He even suggests that Hooker may have seen John Stowe's
copy of Pecock Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy.
Moreover, he thinks it likely that Hooker knew the contents of Pecock Book
from Archbishop Whitgift, who owned the manuscript. But, Munz hastens
to add, if Hooker did know of these works, "we must conclude that it
served him as a warning not to make the situation worse by following in
Pecock's footsteps." Troubled by the parallels between the two thinkers
on the subject of the use of natural reason, he asserts that "there was
a method in the evolution of Hooker's thought; whereas Pecock's thought
is based on confusion." Munz wants the reader to believe that "Hooker's
intellect was infinitely superior to that of Pecock. He really
understood the problem involved, and therefore did not let himself be
tempted into an easy-going rationalism. . . ." Munz even questions
Pecock's probity. Unlike Hooker, the bishop was impelled by base
motivation. His vanity was incurable "and it is difficult for a modern
reader of his works not to believe that he used the Lollard Bibliolatry
merely as an opportunity for showing that the Bible was not at all
perfect and that his own expositions were at any rate clearer."
Pecock's alleged self-contradictions, plus his unconcealed vanity,
produced in Munz a "strong presumption in favor of the conclusion that
he simply lacked the intellectual stature that was required to deal
with such a problem." The poor man had no more imagination than to
attempt to refute the Lollard position by merely reversing its thesis,
insisting instead upon the superiority of reason over faith. Naturally
that left the door open to a pagan rationalism "and it could therefore
hardly commend itself to a Christian like Hooker to follow Pecock. . .
Such mixed reactions as those
Hallam and Shirley on the one hand and
Munz on the other raise the question of just what would be revealed by
a diligent comparison of the methodology employed, the arguments
presented and the conclusions arrived at by the Lancastrian bishop and
the Elizabethan divine. There are several obvious points of entry for
such a project: exegetical method; the definition and function of
tradition in theology; the definition of natural reason and its role in
divinity; the relationship of reason and
faith (nature and grace). This article focuses on still another such
point of comparison: their attacks on biblicism. This issue
demonstrates a fundamental divergence between the dissenters and these
two defenders of the orthodox theological consensus. It is, therefore,
a significant beginning point for the comparative study that I am
For the project
immediately at hand there is no need to delve into how Lollards or
Puritans saw themselves. We are here interested only in the responses
of Pecock and Hooker to their own perceptions of the arguments of their
opponents. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that Hooker's
representation does not reflect accurately the thought of Puritans like
William Perkins. Recent scholarship has successfully distinguished
moderate nonseparatists from the radicals within the Puritan movement.
The underground nature of later Lollardy makes it harder to discern
divisions within that strand of dissent. Pecock himself is a major
source of their views.
The Repressor of Over
Blaming of the Clergy,
written in 1449, is simultaneously the fullest statement of Lollard
beliefs for that time that we have from any source and the clearest
statement of Pecock's view of scripture. He himself directed his
readers there, as well as to the lost treatise, The Iust Apprising
of Holi Scripture, to find his response to Lollard opinions
concerning the Bible.
10 The Repressor is especially
for this inquiry because, as Munz noted, Hooker may have seen John
Stowe's copy of it.
In part 1, Pecock addresses
seem to him to be four basic errors of "the Bible men."
First, "the lay partie" insisted that no belief or practice was
required of a Christian unless it was expressly commanded in scripture.
This rule was applied to every area of life, not just to religion. If a
priest urged upon them anything which did not meet with their approval,
then they asked where it might be found in the Bible. Unless he could
show them a text relating directly to the point, they placed no value
on his command: "though it ligge ful open and ful sureli in doom of
resoun, and ther fore sureli in moral lawe of kinde, which is lawe of
God, forto be doon. . . ."
The firste of these . . .
trowingis, holdingis, or opiniouns is this:
That no gournaunce is to be holde of Cristen men the seruice or the
lawe of God, saue it which is groundid in Holi Scripture of the Newe
Testament, as surnme of the bifore seid men holden; or namelich, saue
it which is groundid in the Newe Testament or in the Oold, and is not
be the Newe Testament reuokid, as summe othere of hem holden.
Pecock opens his response to
attitude by distinguishing between a
foundation and a secondary support. The ground and "fundament" of
anything is that from which it grows organically. The ground of a
virtue, ordinance or truth provides all necessary knowledge about it
and such knowledge is not available from any other source. Furthermore,
virtues, ordinances and truths have only one ground. Other
considerations may encourage men to observe or believe them, but that
is not the same as providing the ground from which they grow.
Thus, it follows that it is
office of scripture to ground any
law of God which human reason can discover on its own. Before the law
was given to the Jews they were bound by "alle tho moral vertues and
moral gouernauncis and treuthis which bi doom of her natural resoun
thei founden and leerneden and camen to. . . ." Thus they were brought
close to "alle moral gouernauncis and moral trouthis into whiche
Cristen men ben bounden now in tyme of the Newe Testament." Christ put
aside the ceremonial law and the old sacraments, replacing them with "a
fewe positijf lawis of . . . [a] fewe newe sacramentis." But the laws
established by natural reason were not changed. The moral law "is not
groundid in Holi Scripture, but in the book of lawe of kinde writen in
mennis soulis with the finger of God." In fact, since Christ and the
apostles accepted the moral law as a given they could not have been its
Here we are brought to the
of Pecock's refutation of Lollard biblicism.
. . . the
the seid moral philsophie and the faculte of pure
dyvynite or the Holi Scripture been ij. [two] dyuerse facultees, ech of
hem hauyng his propre to him boundis and markis, and ech of hem having
his propre to him treuthis and conclusiouns to be groundid in him. . .
. Wherefore folewith that he vnresonabli and reprouabili askith, which
askith where a treuthe of moral philosophy is groundid in pure divynyte
or in Holi Scripture, and wole not ellis trowe it to be trewe; lijk as
. . . if he askid of a treuthe in masonry, where it is groundid in
carpentrie; and wolde not ellis trowe it be trewe, but if it were
groundid in carpentrie.
And whanne al is doon, what
wil a man hath forto do reuerence to
Holi Scripture, yit sithen treuthe is to be had in al a mannys
gouernauncis, the best gouernaunce in this mater is this: forto suffre
Holi Scripture abide withinne his owne termys and boundis, and not
entre into the boundis and the right
of lawe of kinde: that is to seie, that he not vsurpe eny grounding
which longith to the faculte of lawe of kinde or of moral philsophi,
and so that he not wrongee the lawe of kinde. And agenward that the
seid lawe of kinde kepe him withinne hise owne teermys and boundis, and
not entre into boundis and right of Holi Scripture: that is to seie,
that he not vsurpe eny grounding which longith to Holi Scripture,
neither therbi wrongee Holi Scripture; but that euereither of hem
neighbourly dwelle bisidis the other of hem, and not entermete as in
grounding with the other of hem. And this beste gouernaunce schal be
performed, if . . . it be holde that Holi Scripture schal grounde the
conclusiouns and treuthis of Cristen feith, and not eny oon conclusioun
or treuthe into whos fynding and grounding doom of mannys resoun may
suffice, with concours of the grace which God bi his comoun vniuersal
lawe is woned and is redi alwey geue; and agenward, that doom of mannys
resoun or lawe of kinde schal founde and grounde the conclusiouns and
treuthis of Cristen lawe into whose fynding resoun in the now seid
maner may suffice, and that he not grounde eny oon conclusioun or
treuth of faith; and but if this gouernaunce be kept, pees, right and
trouthe is not bitwixe hem kept.
To be sure, Pecock
that scripture and natural law could
reinforce each other. Scripture witnesses to the truths of the "lawe of
kind groundid in moral philosophy" in order to stir and exhort men to
believe and follow them. Similarly, treatises on moral philosophy might
rehearse and witness to the truths and conclusions of faith.
Nevertheless, the bishop insists upon a clear distinction. The province
of the doom of reason is the universal moral law of mankind. The
province of scripture is threefold: the positive law regarding
religious observance, the history of the Old and New Testament figures
and the uniquely Christian theological affirmations concerning God,
Christ and immortality.
The second error of the lay
was a twofold assertion: first, that
every humble Christian could arrive at the truth of scripture; and
second, its corollary that the celerity of correct interpretation was
in direct proportion to one's meekness of spirit. "The secunde trowing
or opinyoun is this: That what euer Cristen man or womman be meke in
spirit and willi forto vndirstrode treuli and dewli Holi Scripture,
schal without fail and defaut fynde the trewe vndirstonding of Holi
Scripture in what euer place he or sche schal rede and studie . . . and
the more meke he or sche be, the sooner he or sche schal come into the
verry trewe and dew vndirstonding of it, which in Holi Scripture he or
sche redith and studieth."
In response Pecock drew
from both experience and reason. The
experience of the Lollards themselves showed how varying
interpretations of scripture arise even among those who claim to have
the "meke" exposition. Besides, everyone knows that "a viciose man is
as kunnyng a clerk for to finde, leeren, and vndirstonde which is trewe
and dew sentence of Holi
Scripture, how soone a vertuose clerk is kunnyng thereto. . . ."
He pointed out that the power of exposition is governed by the
intellectual rather than the moral traits of a man. The Lollards cannot
argue that the grace of God is given to the meek man, thus providing
him with an intellectual advantage, because the gifts of prophecy,
revelations and miracles have frequently been exercised by bad men. It
is reason, employing the syllogistic method, which tests
interpretations of scripture for their truth.
The third error of the "known
was that whenever the humble
interpreter had arrived at the true sense of scripture he must not let
himself be swayed by further evidence or argument, especially arguments
based on reason. "The iije. [third] trowing or opinioun is
this: Whanne euere a person hath founde the vndirstonding of Holi
Scripture into which he schal come bi the wey [of private
interpretation in a spirit of humility], . . . he or sche oughte bowe
awey her heering, her reeding, and her vndirstonding fro al resonyng
and fro al arguyng or prouyng which eny clerk can or wole or mai make
by eny maner euydence of resoun or of Scripture, and namelich of resoun
into the contrarie. . . ."
Pecock went to the New
for his answer. In I Peter 3 is found
the admonition to be prepared to make a defense of the faith, and in
both the third and sixth chapters of John's gospel Jesus says that the
good man seeks the light. To the bishop such passages meant that the
only way to discover truth, whether in natural or revealed religion,
was through reasoned discussion. Every true opinion could be supported
on its own grounds and evidence, "right as good trewe gold, the more it
suffrith the fier, the more cleerli he is seen to be trewe gold. . . ."
The last of the Lollard
closely related to the preceding two.
Just as they believed that the moral man would make the true
interpretation of scripture without benefit of any formal training, so
if one were immoral he could never understand the Bible, no matter how
long he studied or how much he was assisted by scholars.
The [fourth] opinioun in
silf is this. If eny man be not oonli
meke, but if ther with al he kepe and fulfille al the lawe of God so
miche and in the maner as it is longing to him forto it kepe and
fulfille, he schal haue the trewe vndirstonding of Holi Scripture,
though no man ellis teche him saue God. And tho men whiche ben not
trewe lyuers in the lawe of God schulen not falle vpon the trewe and
dewe vndirstonding of Holi Scripture, though thei putte thereto al her
natural power and diligence, with the help and counseil of othere suche
persoones like to hem.
Pecock's brief reply was
from experience. Among the Lollards themselves were known lechers,
adulterers, and thieves, as well as
other vicious persons. The bishop urged upon his readers the value of
clergy who were learned in moral philosophy. 25
The Puritans, like the
rejected the claim of the established
church to be the sole interpreter of the Bible. They called upon the
people not to follow blind guides. In his work On the Laws of
Richard Hooker replied by asking how the common people were competent
to judge the guide. Once more like the Lollards, the Puritans were
confident that they had fit teachers among themselves. When they were
challenged they refused to listen, citing instead I John 4:6, "We are
of God; he that knoweth God heareth us," and I Corinthians 1:27, "God
hath chosen the simple." Then, by asserting that the special
illumination of the Holy Spirit had enabled them to find the true
meaning of scripture, Puritans sought to persuade everyone to
acknowledge that their definitions of biblical terms were the only
acceptable ones. So, as it had been 150 years earlier, the battleground
on which the church and the dissenters struggled was Holy Scripture.
Hooker identified as the
most fundamental error of the
Puritans their belief that scripture is the only law which God has
given to men. " 'That Scripture ought to be the only rule of all our
actions' . . . standeth with you for the first and chiefest principle
whereon ye build." But in fact, God has given us sense, reason which
goes beyond sense and prophetical revelation which goes beyond reason.
The Apostle taught that even men who have no written law of God carry
within their hearts the universal human law, the law of reason. And
that law provides some direction in how to honor God as creator.
For Hooker the "principal
of scripture was "to deliver the laws
of duties supernatural." Scripture teaches those truths which natural
discourse either could not discover or would have difficulty in
discovering. Reason cannot teach men how to glorify God as Savior. For
that we must have divine law which both corroborates and supplements
the law of reason. Thus, in moral actions divine law helps the law of
reason; for supernatural truth the divine law is the only guide.
Hooker reminds us of Pecock
belief that his opponents were wrong
to insist that every deed a Christian does must be commanded by
scripture. Such an attitude expands scripture beyond its necessary use.
To be sure, the wisdom of God teaches every good way, but it has more
than one way of teaching. In addition to the scripture we are given
influence, and worldly experience and practice. The Puritans might hold
that Paul's reference to faith meant scripture alone when he said that
whatever is not done of faith is sin (Romans 14:23), but Hooker would
insist that it is necessary for sense and reason also to serve as
guides. So Hooker shared Pecock's concern that scripture be used for
the ends to which God ordained it: to teach what is above reason, to
teach all things necessary to salvation, and to teach all supernatural
revealed truth. 29
Hooker perceived three
applications of reason to matters of
religion. First, it provided the common ground for communication among
all persons of sound mind and goodwill. Next, it provided the arguments
which could establish the sacred authority of scripture. Finally, in
conjunction with experience and tradition it produced the most probable
interpretation of scripture.
the first count Hooker believed that the virtues of morality and
honesty belong to men as men, not to men as Christians. That law which
is written in all men's hearts includes rules and canons which the
church is bound to observe whether or not they are mentioned in
scripture. Paul said in Romans 1 that natural men know both God and the
law of God. No sound theologian had ever denied that the will of God is
in part made manifest by the light of nature. It is by that light that
all men know of our God, and many know of the immortality of the soul.
In the second place Hooker
subscribed to the Augustinian idea that some
authority outside scripture has to convince us that scripture is "a
sacred and holie rule of well-doing." "For whatsoever we believe
concerning salvation by Christ, although the scripture be therein the
ground of our beliefe; yet the authoritie of man is . . . the key which
openeth the dore of entrance into the knowledge of scripture. The
scripture could not teach us the things that are of God, unlesse we did
credite men who have taught us that the wordes of scripture doe signify
those things. Some way therefore, notwithstanding mans infirmitie, yet
his authority may enforce assent." In Hooker's view, then, scripture is
not self-validating and it is through reason that we come to believe
that scripture is the word of God. The undeniable experience of all men
is that the first outward motive leading persons to accept scripture is
the authority of the church. The church's acceptance of the scripture
can be defended in turn by arguments which "unbeleevers them selves
must needs thinke reasonable, if they judged thereof as they should."
Since the utility of reason
been thus established, obviously it
should be exercised in exegesis. This point requires little
elaboration. Hooker made it clear that "we do not add reason as a
supplement of any maime or defect [in the Bible], but as a necessary
instrument, without which we could not
reape by the scriptures perfection that fruite and benefit which it
yeeldeth." It is reason which must decide between true and false
interpretations of scripture. 32
Like Pecock before him Hooker
repulsed by his opponents' rejection
of reason in religion. That view would do away with the law of nature
among men. Its silliness is so apparent that to adhere to it would
result in the scripture losing its credibility altogether. A belief or
practice is correctly said to be of God if it is either supernaturally
revealed or found out "by helpe of that light which God hath given . .
. unto that ende." Unless we acknowledge the usefulness of that second
way we are forced to conclude that the very law of nature is not of
God. Neither would the writers of Christian antiquity agree with the
Puritan claim that they had limited all knowledge to scripture. What
the Fathers meant was that all supernatural and revealed truth is found
in the Bible alone. To reject reason in religion is to scorn the very
example of Christ and the apostles. In fact, the Puritans were not
consistent in their attitude toward reason: they employed reason to
disparage reason, just as they cited learned men who shared their
disapprobation of the authority of men.
Clearly parallel arguments
biblicism emerge from this
comparison. Though they organized their answers somewhat differently,
both Pecock and Hooker objected to three opinions: first, that the
Bible is the sole source of theology and ethics; second, that the pious
man is the only man who can rightly interpret the scripture; and third,
that the reasoned persuasion of the theologian is actually an
impediment to the true ("meke" or "spiritual") interpretation of the
Perhaps what has done the
most to obscure the theological commonality of these two men is
Pecock's open admission of heresy. He publicly acknowledged that he was
guilty of preferring his own reason above scripture or the teaching of
the church. His reputation has never recovered from that
self-repudiation, even though it was done under extreme duress. On the
basis of his extant writings, however, he cannot be fairly convicted of
classical, heretical rationalism: doctrinaire insistence upon the
superiority of reason in the establishment of religious truth or
exaggerated independence of reason from supernatural revelation.
In abjuring, Pecock was
terrified by the same flames from which
he had labored for so long to save the Lollards. It must not be
forgotten, however, that he was also being true to his own strongly
held conviction regarding the teaching authority, the magisterium,
of the church. One of his pleas to the Lollards was that the individual
had no right to assert private conscience against the stated consensus
of the church. If after earnest debate the individual could not get his
view accepted by the church, then he must be silent. 34
When viewed in context the
(as Hooker would say) of Pecock's
thought is not heretically rationalistic. Rather, by controlled usage
of what might be termed "Pecock's razor," the bishop sought to pare
away everything but the essential core of Christian teaching. He wanted
to make beliefs that were uniquely Christian stand out boldly. As one
writer has succinctly put it: "Faith, clearly known and its limits
strictly defined by the critical examination of its origin, gains in
intensity what it loses in extent, for then only do the essential
truths stand out in the splendour of revelation. Pecock, therefore,
limited faith to those truths which could be shown to have no other
source than revelation: custom, he held, could not acquire a
35 Here too we see an attitude like that
A detailed investigation of
role of reason in the thought of Pecock
and Hooker is not possible here. What has been done is an attempt to
bring into focus the parallel alignment of the arguments used by these
two thinkers to counter Lollard or Puritan biblicism.
At this juncture we cannot do
than speculate on whether or not
Hooker read any of Pecock's surviving works. To be sure, the fallen
bishop had been rehabilitated and was included in Foxe's pantheon of
martyrs for the gospel. This "reformation" of Reginald Pecock was
wholly misconceived. He had, in fact, been turned inside out and
identified as a pre-reformer, which is to say a Lollard!
He had been absolved without being reinvestigated. Thus, if Hooker even
knew of Pecock's existence, he might have discounted him as merely one
more "known man." Given the tendency of the Elizabethan theologians to
overlook the preceding millenium in the search for patristic
justification of their contemporary course, it seems
unlikely that Hooker would have expected (or wanted) to find an
affinitive Catholic thinker in the mid-fifteenth century.
It would indeed be
we could confirm Professor Munz's speculation that Hooker may have seen
The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy and
have known the contents of The Book of Faith.
External evidence for those possibilities is apparently nonexistent,
and thus far this writer has not discovered any passages in The
Laws of Ecclesiastical Piety which parallel The Repressor
closely enough to justify the conclusion that Hooker was quoting or
paraphrasing the bishop.
We can, however, better
what Taylor termed the "intellectual
affinity" of these two theologians, and affirm that there is more than
an "occasional coincidence" in their views. Pecock and Hooker shared
the concern for order, measure and restraint that was a hallmark of the
Anglican via media in theology.
They were loyal to the institutional church and its historic forms.
They put forth honest effort to understand their opponents. They argued
from scripture, reason, tradition and experience.
They preferred persuasion to prosecution; yet, if it came to it, they
approved of government enforcement of Christian orthodoxy.
It is of more than passing
that Pecock, so thoroughly medieval
in his training, so innocent of Renaissance influence, should be so
like Hooker, who was heir to both the Renaissance and the Reformation,
and who shared the Elizabethan divine's aversion to the Middle Ages. It
would appear that the comparative study begun here points toward two
conclusions. First, the pre-Reformation ecclesia Anglicana
possessed within its indigenous tradition the basic elements of that
normative Anglicanism which Richard Hooker did so much to bring into
focus. Second, Bishop Reginald Pecock has been too little appreciated
as a theologian of the via media 150 years before the great
exponent of the Settlement.
Mr. Brockwell is
professor of history in University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.
|| The text of De
heretico comburendo may be seen in Henry Gee and William John
Hardy, Documents Illustrative of English Church History Compiled
from Original Sources (London, 1910 ), pp. 133-137. The action of
1406 is recorded in Rotuli Parlimentorum ut et Petitiones et
Placita in Parliamento, 6 vols. (n.p., n.d.), 3: 583-584. For the
Oxford constitution see John V. Bullard and Harold C. Bell, eds., Lyndwood's
(London, 1929 ), V.v.1-3. The constitution was apparently not meant to
apply to the friars; see Margaret Aston, "Lollardy and Sedition,
1381-1431", Past and Present 27 ( 1960 ):14. For Ignorantia
sacerdotum see Bullard and Bell, Provinciale, I.i.1, or Ray
C. Petry, ed., A History of Christianity (Englewood Cliffs,
N.J., 1962 ), pp. 337-338.
|| For the act against
see Gee and Hardy, Documents, pp. 492-498.
|| Arthur G. Dickens, Lollards
and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509-1558 (London, 1959 ;
rpt. with corrections, 1966 ); John A. F. Thomson, The Later
Lollards, 1414-1520 (London, 1965 ; rpt. with corrections, 1967 );
Irvin Horst, The Radical Brethren, Bibliotheca Humanistica et
vol. 2 (Nieuwkoop, 1972 ), pp. 56-57; John K. Luoma , "Restitution or
Reformation? Cartwright and Hooker on The Elizabethan Church", Historical
Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 46 ( 1977 ): 101. John
Foxe , The Acts and Monuments, ed. Stephen R. Cattley, 8 vols.
(London, 1837 ). Reginald Pecock , The Repressor of Over Much
Blaming of the Clergy,
ed. Churchill Babington, 2 vols. (London, 1860 ), 1.11, p. 53. This is
the only printed edition of Repressor and pagination is continuous
throughout its two volumes. Citations to Repressor will give
part and chapter followed by page numbers. Richard Hooker, The
Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, ed. W. Speed
Hill (Cambridge, Mass., 1977 , Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,
2 vols., ed. Georges Edelen ( 1977 ), Pref. 3.14. Citations to this
work will give book, chapter and section.
|| Henry O. Taylor, Thought
and Expression in the Sixteenth Century, 2 vols., 2nd rev. ed. (New
York, 1920 ), 2:180 (italics in the original). Henry Hallam, View
of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, 2 vols. (London,
1818 ), 2:537. Frederick J. Shirley, Richard Hooker and
Contemporary Political Ideas (London, 1949 ), pp. 39, 212; see also
pp. 68, 176.
|| In their probable
chronological order Pecock's surviving works are: The Reule of
Crysten Religioun, ed. William C. Greet (London, 1927 ); The
Donet, ed. Elsie V. Hitchcock (London, 1921 ); Poore Mennis
Myrrour, an extract of part 1 of The Donet, collated and
published in the same volume as The Donet; "Abbrevatio
Reginaldi Pecok", printed in the second volume of The Repressor;
The Folewer to the Donet, ed. Elsie V.
(London, 1924 ); The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy
(see note 3); and The Book of Faith, ed. John L. Morison
(Glasgow, 1909 ). John Foxe printed a summary rather than a transcript
of a few pages from The Book of Faith in "Collectanea Quaedam
ex Reginaldi Pecoki", Commentarii Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum
(Strasbourg, 1553 ), pp. 200-205. Thomas Kelly thought it possible that
fols. 27b-28b of British Library MS. Roy. 17 A.xxvi were part of the
bishop's lost Book of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Under wartime
conditions Kelly did not have access to the manuscript, otherwise he
would have seen that the fragment he refers to is an integral part of a
larger work, a handbook for parish priests. There is nothing
extraordinary about the work, nor does it have any characteristic
Pecock ideas and expressions. Both his editors and other writers
generally date the bishop's surviving works between 1443 and 1456.
Kelly, however, believed that the earliest of them, The Reule of
was in circulation by 1433. See Thomas Kelly, "Reginald Pecock: A
Contribution to his Biography", (M.A. thesis, University of Manchester,
1945 ), pp. 42-43, 129-130.
||Reginald Pecock was
Wales sometime during the first half of the
1390s. He was a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford for about ten years,
from the mid-1410s to the mid-1420s. His ecclesiastical appointments
were: rector of St. Michael's, Gloucester (1424-1431); rector of St.
Michael Riola and master of Whittington College, London (1431-1444);
bishop of St. Asaph (1444-1450); bishop of Chichester (1450-1458/9). He
lived the last year or so of his life under house arrest at Thorney
Abbey, Cambridgeshire and died in 1460 or 1461. He was allowed to
incept for the Doctor's degree in theology from Oxford without
performing regency sometime before 1444. The most recent monograph on
the bishop is Joseph F. Patrouch, Jr., Reginald Pecock (New
York, 1970 ). The standard biography is Vivian H. H. Green, Bishop
Reginald Pecock: A Study in Ecclesiastical History and Thought
(Cambridge, 1945 ).
Works of the Rev. Daniel Waterland, D.D. . . . To Which is prefixed a
review of the author's life and writings by William Van Mildert, D.D. .
. ., 3rd ed., 6 vols. (Oxford, 1856 ), 6:253, 259, 427; see
Babington edition of The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the
Clergy cited in note 3.
|| Peter Munz, The
Hooker in the History of Thought (London, 1952 ), pp. 41-42, 45.
|| Pecock, Repressor,
1.10, p. 52; 1.20, p. 128.
|| Pecock gives only
Lollard errors respecting the use of the Bible in Repressor
1.1., pp. 5-7. The fourth is set out in Repressor
1.18, p. 102, because the bishop says that it came to his attention
after he had written the sections dealing with the other three.
|| Pecock, Repressor,
1.1, p. 6. The "doom of reason" refers to rational judgment, especially
when the syllogistic method is employed. The "lawe of kind" is the
natural law. See the discussion in Green, Pecock, pp. 129-142.
|| On moderate Puritanism
John S. Coolidge, The Pauline Renaissance in England (Oxford,
1970 ), pp. 1-22, 141-151; Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan
Puritan Movement (Berkeley, 1967 ), pp. 188-190, 222-239, 401; and
Ian Breward, ed., The Work of William Perkins (Appleford,
England, 1970 ), pp. 20-22.
|| Pecock, Repressor,
1.1, p. 5.
|| Ibid., 1.2, p. 10;
|| Ibid., 1.3, p. 18,
20; 1.5, p. 23.
|| Ibid., 1.10, pp. 49-50.
|| Ibid., 1.13, pp.
|| Ibid., 1.7, p. 35;
|| Ibid., 1.3, pp. 13-14;
pp. 25-26; 1.7, p. 35; 1.8, p. 39; 1.15, pp. 90, 83-84.
|| Ibid., 1.1., p. 6.
|| Ibid., 1.17, p. 93.
|| Ibid., 1.1, p. 7.
|| Ibid., 1.17, p. 99.
|| Ibid., 1.18, p. 102.
|| Ibid., 1.18, p. 103;
|| Hooker, Laws,
3.2-4, 14, 9-10.
|| Ibid., 1. 16.5.; pref.
|| Ibid., 1.14.1;
|| Ibid., 2.1.2-4; 2.4.1;
|| Ibid., 3.1.7; 3.7.2;
|| Ibid., 2.4.2; 2.7.3;
|| Ibid., 3.8.10, 16.
|| Ibid., 2.8.6; 3.2.1;
3.8.17; 2.7.8; 3.8.4.
|| This has been
misunderstood. The bishop's view, however, is plainly stated in The
Reule of Crysten Religioun (prolog, p. 29; 1. 12, p. 96), The
Donet (prolog, pp. 3-4, 7) and The Book of Faith (1.7, p.
181; 1.8, pp. 208-211: 1.10, pp. 223, 231). A good account of the final
unraveling of Pecock's career is Green, Pecock, pp. 49-61.
||Naomi D. Hurnard,
Intellectual Life in England from the
Middle of the Fifteenth Century till the Time of Colet" (D. Phil.
thesis, Oxford University, 1935 ), p. 208. To be sure, Pecock seems to
come dangerously close to unorthodox rationalism with his assertion
that "doom of resoun in sum maner is worthier and perfiter than is Holi
Writt through out al the Bible" ( Repressor 1.15, p. 84). Many
commentators have read that sentence without fully appreciating what
the "sum maner" was that the bishop had in mind. Moreover, he expressly
rejected arguments of philosophy which go against the articles of faith
( The Book of Faith, 1.2, pp. 133-137). He would have agreed
with Hooker that it is "utterly impossible, that the eye of man by
itself should look into the bosom of divine Reason . . ." ( Laws,
1.11.5); and also that "for our conversion or confirmation the force of
natural reason is great. The force whereof unto those effects is
nothing without grace" ( Laws, 3.8.11).
|| Foxe, Acts and
|| John E. Booty, "Hooker
Anglicanism", in Studies in Richard Hooker: Essays Preliminary to
an Edition of His Works, ed. W. Speed Hill (Cleveland, 1972 ), p.
||These same sources for
Christian truth -- scripture, tradition,
experience and reasonprovided the parameters of theology for the
eighteenth-century folk-theologian and evangelist, John Wesley. One can
reflect on whether Wesley, had he lived in the Middle Ages, would have
won Francis' acceptance or suffered Wycliffe's rejection. Wesley's type
of irregular loyalty to the established church placed a strain on his
relationship with ecclesiastical authorities, but Methodism was far
from the noncomformist tradition of Lollardy or Puritanism. This
commonality of sources among persons so unlike as Pecock, Hooker and
Wesley has implications for delineating the history of a theology that
was indigenous to the church in England. Wesley was above all an
Anglican; his theological gestalt was derived from the Homilies,
the Articles and the Book of Common Prayer of the
Church of England.