Guiding the King “in his tender age.” – Preaching Reform before Edward VI

Hooper, John (1495 x 1500–1555)

An Oversight and Deliberacion upon the Holy Prophete Jonas, made, and uttered before the kynges maiestie, and his moost honorable councell, by Ihon Hoper in lent last past. Comprehended in seue[n] sermons. Anno. M.D.L

London: by Jhon Daye, 1550


Octavo: 13.8 x 9 cm. †8, A-Z8

SECOND EDITION, Printed in the year of the first, both by John Day. This edition with the errata corrected.

Bound in contemporary English blind-stamped calf, upper hinge mended, small losses to corners. Inside the rear board is an early vellum fragment from a breviary, “…quos inanducent . Et respondens ait illis, Dare illis manducare..” A nice, complete copy with wide margins. Title and final leaf soiled but the contents very clean and fresh, with minor faults. There is a clean tear to leaf †2, entering the text but with no loss (and a small loss to the blank margin of the same leaf) and short tears (again without loss) to lvs. I6, Xi, X3, and X4. Light stain in lower margin of sig. R. There are verses, in Latin and with an English translation, in a sixteenth-century English hand on the final leaf: “Hoc est nescire, sine Christo plurima scire, Si Christum bene scis, satis est, si cetera nescis.” “To be ignorant is to know many things without Christ. If thou knoweth Christ well, it is sufficient, though thou be ignorant of all other things.” The English version is quoted by Hooper in his “Declaration of the x. Holie Commandements”(1548). There is also a quotation from St. Ambrose, also in Latin and English. On the verso of the leaf is a quotation from Ezekiel 18.

A series of important Lenten sermons, preached before King Edward VI in 1550, by the Protestant reformer (and ex-Cistercian monk) John Hooper, who five years later would be burned at the stake (his death is illustrated in Foxe’s “Acts and Monuments”.) In these sermons Hooper presents his opposition to elements of Cranmer’s Edwardine Book of Common Prayer (1549) and the King’s Ordinal (1550), in particular his opposition to the oath by the saints required of clergy at their consecration and the wearing of vestments. 

The first sermon was preached on February 19th, a day before the young king’s 11th birthday. In the letter to the king that prefaces this collection, Hooper exhorts Edward to re-establish the true religion in England, rather than to advance a “mixed and mingled religion”, comprising “partly God’s truth… partly the superstition of man.” He urges him to ignore the words of certain councilors who advise him to do nothing in matters of religion “as long as the king is in his tender age.” 

Rather, Edward should be God’s instrument and complete the reforms begun by his father. “The godly and virtuous beginnings, most noble prince, of your father the kings majesty, Henry the eighth of a blessed memory, shall by your highness godly be ended in Him that can and will do all things for Christ.” Then, to preserve this re-established church of Christ, Edward must “remove and take away all the monuments, tokens, and leavings of papistry : for as long as any of them remain, there remaineth also occasion of relapse unto the abolished superstition of antichrist.”

John Hooper:

Educated at Oxford, Hooper became a Protestant in the late 1530s when he encountered the works of the Swiss reformers. His conversion to a Zwinglian form of reformed Christianity “seems to have served to reinforce and affirm his harsher qualities, ones which all too often made him irascible, stubborn, uncompromising, and even unapproachable… Hooper's encounters with ecclesiastical authorities tended to be explosive, and he seems to have found it impossible not to speak his mind regardless of the consequences.”(DNB) He was forced him to flee England twice, and in 1546 he moved to Zürich where he made direct contact with the Swiss reformers, foremost among them Bullinger.

The Sermons on Jonah:

In 1549, two years after the accession of Edward VI and the year in which Cranmer’s first Edwardine Prayer Book was published, Hooper returned to England and was taken into the household of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. He became a leader among the more advanced Protestants and tried to influence Cranmer to move theologically toward Zwinglianism. When Somerset fell from power and was imprisoned in late 1549, Hooper continued to enjoy the favor of the king. He preached his first Lenten sermon before Edward in February 1550, the month in which Somerset was released from prison (Somerset would be arrested again in 1551 and executed.)

“In [his] series of Lenten sermons on the Prophet Jonah, he edified the Court by reflecting on various failings in the English church, conspicuous among them ‘‘the use of such vestiments or apparel, as obscure the ministry of Christ’s church, and representeth the form and fashion of the Aaronical ministry of the old law, abrogated and ended in Christ.” Obscuring a true ministry for him, vestments signal the distinctive status of a cultic priesthood. Elsewhere in the sermons, Hooper somewhat facetiously takes broader aim at Cranmer’s Ordinal of 155o.

“Hooper criticizes the oath of the King’s supremacy in the 1550 Ordinal, which concludes, ‘‘so help me God, all Saints and the holy Evangelist.’ Throughout, he transgresses the Act of Uniformity of 1549, which forbade speaking against the Prayer Book, as well as refusing to abide by it.

“Hooper was offered a bishopric despite his temerity (or for it, since he found an admirer in young Edward VI), but he refused to accept it, since he would not take the oath or wear the vestments required of a bishop for Communion by the 1549 Prayer Book and by the 1550 Ordinal for episcopal consecration. Arguing his view before the King’s Council, Hooper was excused from taking the objectionable form of the oath or wearing ‘‘Aaronic’’ vestments, although both he and his episcopal opponents were required to acknowledge the vestments to be matters of indifference—adiaphora or non-essentials—in religion.”(Anderson, Translating Investments: Metaphor and the Dynamic of Cultural Change in Tudor-Stuart England. p. 90-91)

“The programme of reform that he outlined in his Lenten sermons on the book of  Jonah was clear on two points: the oath bishops were required to take and ecclesiastical vestments. Hooper found both impious and papistical and declined the king's offer. While references to the saints in the oath were expunged by the king in person, the issue of vestments proved more difficult, and underlined the extent to which Hooper's aggressive stands on matters of principle and his desire to see all reforms instituted immediately could make him a difficult ally. Generating considerably more heat than light, the dispute—a considerable embarrassment to the church establishment—involved most of the leading divines of the day. A caustic debate between Hooper and Ridley saw Ridley emerge as the clear winner and the support that Hooper had counted on from Bullinger, Pietro Martire Vermigli, and Bucer evaporated; only John à Lasco stood by him. Cranmer and Ridley successfully managed to shift the focus of the debate away from the vestments themselves and on to the question of authority and good order. Against the background of the risings of 1549, this argument proved decisive. When Hooper obstinately refused to shift he was imprisoned early in 1551, first at Lambeth Palace and then in the Fleet. However Bullinger, like most of the other divines, did not see the vestments issue as worth the division it was causing. His intervention finally induced Hooper to relent and he was consecrated bishop on 8 March 1551, investments (though whether these ever saw the light of day again is doubtful).

Following Edward VI’s death in 1553, Hooper opposed Northumberland's attempt to put Jane Grey on the throne and instead supported Mary Tudor. This and his religious views led to his imprisonment. “Although he had ample time to escape, he chose to remain in England and face certain imprisonment and possible death. His wife and children, however, escaped to Frankfurt where they remained until their deaths.

“Hooper remained in custody until his death. His imprisonment was harsh and he suffered a variety of physical ailments, notably sciatica. He was able to communicate with the outside world with surprising ease and encouraged the formation of protestant cells in London… 

“On 15 March 1554 Hooper was deprived of his bishopric. A concerted effort was made to discredit him by circulating rumours that he had recanted, but the effort failed. On 22 January 1555 he was arraigned at St Saviour's Church; examined on the 28th, he proved obstinate. Next day the sentence of the court was read by Stephen Gardiner, and along with John Rogers Hooper was taken to Newgate to await execution. On 4 February he was degraded by Bonner and left for Gloucester early the next morning. He was burnt at the stake at 9 o'clock in the morning on 9 February 1555, his sufferings protracted by faggots of green wood which long failed to catch fire.”(D. G. Newcombe, ODNB)

STC 13764. ESTC (S93047) notes another edition with errata on the recto of final leaf Z8, here blank.