An Homelye to be Read in the Tyme of Pestylence

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Introductory notes

John Hooper (1495-1555) was bishop of Worcester and Gloucester, burnt at the stake for his protestant beliefs. He was educated at Oxford, graduating BA in 1519, and served Sir Thomas Arundell as his steward. When Hooper read the works of the Swiss reformers Huldrich Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger, this was a life-changing experience for him, and he regarded himself as a reprobate rescued from living “too much of a court life at the palace of our king”. As bishop of Gloucester and Worcester (1551-1555), Hooper instituted significant reforms in his dioceses. In this excerpt from his homily to be preached during plague years, Hooper uses conventional providential arguments to align pestilence and other natural calamities with human sin.

In Homelye

to be read in the tyme
of pestylence, and
a moste pre-
remedye for the
[God. Honour the Kynge, 1. Pet. 2.]


To all Pastoures and Curates Wythin the Kinges Majesties Diocesse of Worcester and Gloucester.

Eavyn as we be blinde and unthankeful for goddes favourable mercies, where with all he foloweth us in health, welth and prosperitie: So be we blinde, & unsensible for his most just plages, where with all he persequuteth and punisheth us in sickenes, scarsitie & troubles. And nowe emongest other tokens of his displeasure and wroth, hath sente us in dyverse places one of the extreamest plages Ezechi. 14.(that ever he devised to punishe man withall in this life) the plage of pestilence. For as mouche as he meaneth thereby not onely to kill and destroy the bodies of souche, as by this plague he pourposeth to take out of this mortall lief: But also, wythout repentaunce and tourning to his mercy in Christe before death, the soule of souche as departe from hence, muste neades perishe by goddes just judgemente: And not onlie this to be theande of souche as it pleaseth god to strike to death, by this his servaunte and messanger the plage of pestilence. But also the like daunger of his displeasure remaineth to me, and to all other that have the cure, & charge of the peoples soulles in this the kinges Majesties hoste noble Realme: Over whom god and he hath made us watche men and overseers,Ezechi. 18. too admonishe and warne the people of all daungers, & plages that god shall sende for their punishmente: Incase we admonishe not in time, the people commytted unto oure charge of souche plages as for [Page] synne he pourposeth too punysshe us wythall, their losse and dampnatyon shalbe requyred at oure handes. For the dyscharge of my selfe, and alsoo for the beter instructyon of souche as have cures wythin thys Diocesse of Worcester and Gloucester (and yet not beste hable too dystharge them), and farther more for the proffyte and salvacyon of the people, emonges whome it maye please God too sende hys fearefull plague of pestylence: I have thoughte it niy boundon dvetye (seyng at all tymes I can not comforte the sycke my selfe) too collecte or gather intoo some shorte sermonde or homelye a medycyne and moste presente healpe for all men agaynste the plague of pestylence: And in the same alsoo too provyde some presente remedye for souche as shalbe infected wyth that desease. And for the better understandynge of the medycyne, I wyll use thys ordre, that all Physycyons learned doo use in theyr practyse of Phisycke. Fyrste, I wyll shewe the cheafeste cause of the pestylence: And then what remeadye is beste too bee used agaynste it, and to heale it when it hath infected anye manne. And althoughe I wyll speake herein some what as other Physycyons have doone: yet because they have spoken alreadye more then I canne in the matter, thoughe it bee a greate deale lesse then the matter of the desease requyreth, (for none of them have shewed anye ascertayned remeadye, be theyr reason never soo good) I wyll breafelye as by the way somewhat speake [Page] of thys desease, as they doo: But as a preacher of Goddes woorde, and as a Physycyon for the soule, rather then for the bodye, intreate of the syckenesse and the remeadye thereof, afther the advyse and counsell of goddes woorde. Whoo supplyeth all thynges omytted and not spoken of, concernynge thys moste daungerouse plagues by souche as have wroten, besydes the scrypture of God, theyr mynde touchynge the same. For in deede the chiefest causes of all plagues and syckenesse, is synne: whyche remaynynge wythin all menne, worketh destructyon, not onelye of the bodye, but alsoo of the soule, yf remeadye be not founde. And wheare as Galien sayeth that Li i. de disse. disse. feb. cap. 5. Omnis pestilentia fit a putredme aeris: that is too saye, all pestylence commeth by the corruptyon of the ayer, that bothe beaste and man drawynge theyr breathes in the ayer corrupte, draweth the corruptyon thereof in too themselves, he sayeth well: yet not enoughe.Li i. de tempe, tempe, cap. 4. He sayeth alsoo verye naturally, that when the ayer is altered from hys naturall eaqualitye and temperature to mouche and intemperate heate and moysture, pestylence is lyke then too raygne. For as he sayeth in the same place, that heate and moysture dystemperated be moste daungerouse for the creatures of the worlde, yet that is not ynoughe. As Ezechiel sayeth, wheare as God sendeth all thies dystemperaunces, and yet yf cap. 14Noah, Daniel and Job were in the myddeste of them, they shall be saufe.

Eavyn soo sayeth David alsoo [Page] Psalm. Though they dye at the ryght hande tenne thousand foulde, and dye at the lefte a thousande fould, the plage shall not touche hym that sytteth under the protection of the highest. And where as reason hath many good and probable argumentes in thys matter touchynge the cause of pestylence that it should come some time by reason of souche humors as be in the body disposed and apte to corrupte, then is the man quickelye (by drawing and breathyng as well the corruption of hymself, as ye infection of the ayer) infected. And that souche humors as be grosse and inclined to corruption, riseth of yvell and immoderat diet, and the infection taketh hys origynall and begynnynge from souche beastes, carinnes, and other lothsome bodies that rotte upon the face of the earthe not buryed: or else from moorishe standynge, and dampyshe waters, sinckes or other souche unholsome moistures, soo that towardes the faull of the leafe, bothe the ayer that man lyveth in, as alsoo mans bodye it selfe bee more apte and disposed to putrifaction more in ye time then in any other tyme for diverse naturall causes. These causes are to be considered as naturall and consonaunte to reason: yet there bee reasones and causes of pestylence of more waight, and more worthye of deape and advysed considerations and advertisementes then thies be. And the more, because they lye within man (& be marked but of very fewe) and hide themselves secretely tyll they have poysoned the whole man both bodye and soule. For in dede phisicions that write, medle with no causes that hurte man, but suche as come into man from with out, as the humors [Page] (they saye) take theyr infectyon from unholsome meate and yvell dyet, or els from the corruption of the ayer wyth souche lyke. Math. 15.But our savyoure Christe sheweth that oure corruptyon and syckenes riseth from within us, as I wyll declare hereafter in the causes that the scripture teacheth of pestylence and al other dyseases. Requyringe you diligentlye to loke upon the same, and to reade it in your churches: that the people may understand both the cause of this goddes plage of pestylence, and howe too use them selves in the time of this sickenes or anye other that shall happen unto them by goddes appointmente. As god may be glorified in them, and you and I discharged of our bounden dueties: And they themselves that shal happen to be infected with the plage of pestilence, and by the same be brought to death maie be assured through true and godlye doctrine to dye in the Lorde, and soo be eternallye blessed straighte waye after their deathe, as Saincte Jhon sayeth.Apoca. 14. Rom. 14. And incase god reserve them to longer lyef, they maye live in trueth and vearitie untoo him, with detestation and hatred of sinne, the originall cause of mannes miserye and wretchednes: and wyth the love of mercy and grace the originall and onely workers of mannes quyetnes and everlasting salvation geven unto us from god the father almightye, thorough Jesus Christe his onely sonne our Lorde. To whome wyth the holye ghost be all honour and praise, worlde wythout eande. So be it.



Except therfore there shoulde nothing els live in this world then sinne abhominacion and contempt of god: god is forced, for the taking away & destruction of filthy lief, and filthy livers, to appoint an extra ordinary magistrate to reforme and punish the mother of all mischyef, synne, and contempte of gooddes holye woorde. And soo altereth, not by chaunce, nor by the influence of sterres, the holesomnes of the ayer intoo pestylente and contagyouse infectyon: And the meate and drynke wyth theyr nutrimente and foade intoo poyson and venome, that by their meane, sinne and sinners myghte bee slayne and taken oute of thys worlde, and no longer too blaspheme God. Thus dothe the woorde of god declare theffectuouse and pryncypal cause of pestylence too be the contempte of Goddes woorde, that shoulde kepe men in ordre bothe too God and man.


The breakynge whereof hath alwayes brought these plagues into Realmes, as prophane writers also manifestly declare Li. 7. cap. 1. Orosius sayeth, that the greate dearthe and famyne that came emonges the Romanes, in the tune of Caesar Augustus, was because Caius his nevewe contempned to honor the living god, as he was taught at Hierusalen, when he passed into Siria. Wherfore it is expedient, and before al thinges necessary (for as monthe as the plage is come into soundry places about us) for every one to trye hym selfe, what just causes of thys pestylence eche man hath wythin him selfe. Every Christian man and woman muste searche whether theyr religion and christianitie be souche, as god by hys worde dothe maintayne to be good: for there is no greater occasyon of pestilence, then superstycyon and false relygyon. [...]

This is a selection from the original text


infection, sick, sin, wrath

Source text

Title: An Homelye to be Read in the Tyme of Pestylence

Author: John Hooper

Publisher: John Oswen

Publication date: 1553

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: Worcester

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 13759 Physical description: [34] p. Copy from: British Library Reel position: STC / 963:03

Digital edition

Original author(s): John Hooper

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, preface, image: 8


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

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Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > religion: sermons

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