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censures, he was very watchful to prevent all procedures unto them, as far as was consistent with the rules of our Lord; for which cause (except in grosser abominations) when offences happened he did his utmost that the notice thereof might be extended no further than it was when they were first laid before him; and having reconciled the offenders with sensible and convenient acknowledgements of their miscarriages, he would let the notice thereof be confined unto such as were aforehand therewith acquainted; and hence there was but one person admonished in and but one person excommunicated from, the Church of Hartford, in all the fourteen years that Mr. Hooker lived there.”
It would have been fortunate for the early New England churches if all of their pastors had been as profound in their knowledge of human nature and as wise and charitable in their conduct of church affairs as this leader of Connecticut.
Hooker's pastorate at Hartford terminated by his death, after a brief illness, on July 7, 1647. The story recorded of his last hours may well be true, and, if so, seems characteristically illustrative of his humility of spirit.
“When one that stood weeping by the bedside said unto him, “Sir, you are going to receive the reward of all your labors,' he replied, “ Brother,
I am going to receive mercy,'
- an expression typical, we may think, of this eminent Puritan's lowly estimate of himself and of his humble walk with the God who had seemed to him the greatest of all realities.
Hooker's friends and ministerial associates strove to express, in the halting and elaborate verses characteristic of the essentially unpoetic writings of early New England, their sense of the greatness of their loss and of the mental and spiritual stature of the one who had gone from them. Thus John Cotton of your own Boston tried to versify his lament:
'Twas of Genevahs Worthies said, with wonder,
the seed, which thou hast sowen. We may well comprehend their sense of loss, and the feeling that it was like the shutting in
of the evening of a glorious day to see one and another of the leaders of New England pass
from the scene of their labors. Men who had grown to their stature in a contest of national proportions in the old country and in the foundation of colonies beyond the ocean, they left no successors behind them of equal gifts and similar eminence. The more provincial, narrow, and prosaic New England of the second generation might well see in the departure of these great men of the earlier time the loss of a radiance and an honor which had illuminated the beginnings of New England life. But we, who are better able than they to trace the extent of our indebtedness to the founders of New England, when we recall the name of Thomas Hooker, cannot fail to pay our homage to the memory of one who so asserted the principles of democracy in civil affairs and of congregational selfgovernment in the church as to influence permanently the development of the peculiar ideals for which New England has stood and has made significant in American life.