In his English Literature in the Sixteenth-Century, C.S. Lewis offers perhaps what is the best summary of and introduction to Richard Hooker that I have yet found, far more lucid and on the mark than most “specialist” treatments. Toward the end, he offers this luminous passage:
“Every system offers us a model of the universe; Hooker’s model has unsurpassed grace and majesty. from much that I have already said it might be inferred that the unconscious tendency of his mind was to secularise. There could be no deeper mistake. Few model universes are more filled–one might say, more drenched–with Deity than his. ‘All things that are of God’ (and only sin is not) ‘have God in them and he them in himself likewise’, yet ‘their substance and his wholly differeth’ (V.56.5). God is unspeakably transcendent; but also unspeakably immanent. It is this conviction which enables Hooker, with no anxiety, to resist any inaccurate claim that is made for revelation against reason, Grace against Nature, the spiritual against the secular. We must not honour even heavenly things with compliments that are not quite true: ‘though it seem an honour, it is an injury’ (II.8.7). All good things, reason as well as revelation, Nature as well as Grace, the commonwealth as well as the Church, are equally, though diversely, ‘of God’. If nature hath need of grace’, yet also ‘grace hath use of nature’ (III.8.6). Laws merely human, if they are good, have all been ‘copied out of the tables of that high everlasting law’ which God made, the Law of Nature (I.16.2). ‘The general and perpetual voice of men is as the sentence of God himself’, for it is taught by Nature whose ‘voice is but his instrument’ (I.8.3). ‘Divine testimony’ and ‘demonstrative reasoning’ are equally infallible (II.7.5). Certainly, the Christian revelation is ‘that principal truth in comparison whereof all other knowledge is vile’; but only in comparison. All kinds of knowledge, all good arts, sciences, and disciplines come from the Father of lights and are ‘as so many sparkles resembling the bright fountain from which they rise’ (III.8.9). We must not think that we glorify God only in our specifically religious actions. ‘We move, we sleep, we take the cup at the hand of our friend’ and glorify Him unconsciously, as inanimate objects do, for ‘every effect proceeding from the most concealed instincts of nature’ manifests His power (II.2.1). Not, of course, that our different modes of glorifying God are on a level. . . . But we must not so regard the highest in us as to forget that the lowest is still of God, nor so call some of our activities ‘religious’ as to make the rest profane. . . . We meet on all levels the divine wisdom shining through ‘the beautiful variety of all things’ in their ‘manifold and yet harmonious dissimilitude” (459-61).