Hooker called on his countrymen to turn back to God by parting from their rebellious ways and pleading with God not to depart. It is not gold, wealth, and prosperity “that makes God to be their God.” But it is God’s ordinances that bring his presence. Hooker called people to right worship and to find their prosperity in God. For God to remove his presence from a nation, would be a sure sign of his judgment.
Jeremiah 14:9 “We are called by thy name, leave us not.”
Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), distant relative of the more well-known Richard Hooker (1554-1600), arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633 from England aboard the Griffin with fellow passengers Samuel Stone and John Cotton. Born in 1586 and a graduate of Emmanuel College, Hooker was appointed to the church of St. Mary’s in Chelmsford, Essex in 1626 where he became renowned for his preaching and lectureship. However, under Archbishop Laud, in 1629, Hooker was cited and summoned to the Court of High Commission for his Puritan practices and teachings. He was to be arrested and tried for his Puritan ways. In danger of having his ears cropped or face branded, Hooker absconded and fled to Holland for several years before taking the great journey to New England. There he would become known as the “father of Connecticut” having migrated there to found the Connecticut Colony as well as being instrumental in the development of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. But, before all of this and prior to his departure from his native land, he preached a final sermon titled “The Danger of Desertion.”
At this juncture in our nation’s history, any God-fearing American Christian must ask: are we suffering the judgment of God? Moreover, to the degree that we are, what is to be done? Hooker’s sermon provides critical insights from Scripture into what it looks like for a nation to suffer under God’s judgment and what it should do given such a severe state of affairs.
Expounding on Jeremiah 14, Hooker recounts how the people of God sought the Lord in order that his presence would not leave them, “This is the great request of the saints, they desire not to be left of God, though God may justly leave them.” Hooker applies this to the nation of England. Hooker’s choice of Jeremiah 14:6 reflects an assumption common among the Puritans, one which causes evangelicals today great discomfort. It was the belief of the Protestants that God covenanted with nations.
Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God purchased the nations, and for Hooker, England was one such nation. God had delivered them from captivity and bondage. Furthermore, for Hooker, God may “justly leave off a people, and unchurch a nation.” One need look no further than England today to see just such a nation.
There were three primary manners in which God may depart from a people, according to Hooker:
- He takes away his love from a people as well as his means. For Hooker, the means of God are varied, but in this case, he refers to God’s active care flowing from his presence. The means are the ways in which God has ordained right worship and provides security for a people.
- God takes away their protection by taking down their walls of defense: magistrates and ministers. The magistrates and ministers of God serve as a wall of defense for a nation covenanted with God, and God will remove these two means of protection when God leaves a people.
- The teaching and counseling become rotten with bribery and false teaching.
“May God cast off a people, and unchurch a nation? Then let it teach us to cast off all security for miseries are nigh by all probabilities. When we observe what God has done for us, all things are ripe for ruin, and yet we fear it not, we promise safety to ourselves, and consider not that England is like to be harrowed, we cannot entertain a thought that England shall be destroyed, when there are so many professors in it; we cannot be persuaded of it, according to the conviction of our judgments, either it must not be, or not yet, as if it were impossible for God to leave England, as if God were a cockering Father over lewd and stubborn children: God may leave a nation that is but in outward covenant with him, and why not England?”
Hooker preached about the formerly Christian regions of Palestine and Denmark and begged his hearers to see that England may find itself in such disrepute as these if they were not to plead with their God. He entreats his countrymen to not believe their Christian numbers to be so great as to prevent God’s departure. “Do not say there are many Christians in it, can God be beholding to you for your religion? No surely, for rather then he will maintain such as profess his Name and hate him, he will raise up of these stones children unto Abraham; He will rather go to the Turks, and say you are my people, and I will be your God.”