1632 By George Herbert

The Parson in his house.

THe Parson is very exact in the governing of his house,
making it a copy and modell for his Parish. He knows
the temper, and pulse of every person in his house, and
accordingly either meets with their vices, or advanceth their
vertues. His wife is either religious, or night and day he is
winning her to it. In stead of the qualities of the world, he
requires onely three of her; first, a trayning up of her children
and mayds in the fear of God, with prayers, and catechizing,
and all religious duties. Secondly, a curing, and healing of
all wounds and sores with her owne hands; which skill either
she brought with her, or he takes care she shall learn it of
some religious neighbour. Thirdly, a providing for her
family in such sort, as that neither they want a competent
sustentation, nor her husband be brought in debt. His
children he first makes Christians, and then Common-
wealths-men; the one he owes to his heavenly Countrey, the
other to his earthly, having no title to either, except he do
good to both. Therefore having seasoned them with all
Piety, not only of words in praying, and reading; but in
actions, in visiting other sick children, and tending their
wounds, and sending his charity by them to the poor, and
somtimes giving them a little mony to do it of themselves,
that they get a delight in it, and enter favour with God, who
weighs even childrens actions, I King. 14. 12, 13. He after-
wards turnes his care to fit all their dispositions with some
calling, not sparing the eldest, but giving him the prerogative
of his Fathers profession, which happily for his other chil-
dren he is not able to do. Yet in binding them prentices (in
case he think fit to do so) he takes care not to put them into
vain trades, and unbefitting the reverence of their Fathers
calling, such as are tavernes for men, and lace-making for
women; because those trades, for the most part, serve but
the vices and vanities of the world, which he is to deny, and
not augment. However, he resolves with himself never to
omit any present good deed of charity, in consideration of
providing a stock for his children; but assures himselfe, that
mony thus lent to God, is placed surer for his childrens
advantage, then if it were given to the Chamber of London.
Good deeds, and good breeding, are his two great stocks for
his children; if God give any thing above those, and not
spent in them, he blesseth God, and lays it out as he sees
cause. His servants are all religious, and were it not his
duty to have them so, it were his profit, for none are so well
served, as by religious servants, both because they do best,
and because what they do, is blessed, and prospers. After
religion, he teacheth them, that three things make a com-
pleate servant, Truth, and Diligence, and Neatnesse, or
Cleanlinesse. Those that can read, are allowed times for it,
and those that cannot, are taught; for all in his house are
either teachers or learners, or both, so that his family is a
Schoole of Religion, and they all account, that to teach the
ignorant is the greatest almes. Even the wals are not idle,
but something is written, or painted there, which may excite
the reader to a thought of piety; especially the IoI Psalm,
which is expressed in a fayre table, as being the rule of a
family. And when they go abroad, his wife among her
neighbours is the beginner of good discourses, his children
among children, his servants among other servants; so that
as in the house of those that are skill'd in Musick, all are
Musicians; so in the house of a Preacher, all are preachers.
He suffers not a ly or equivocation by any means in his
house, but counts it the art, and secret of governing to
preserve a directnesse, and open plainnesse in all things; so
that all his house knowes, that there is no help for a fault
done, but confession. He himselfe, or his Wife, takes ac-
count of Sermons, and how every one profits, comparing this
yeer with the last: and besides the common prayers of the
family, he straitly requires of all to pray by themselves before
they sleep at night, and stir out in the morning, and knows
what prayers they say, and till they have learned them, makes
them kneel by him; esteeming that this private praying is a
more voluntary act in them, then when they are called to
others prayers, and that, which when they leave the family,
they carry with them. He keeps his servants between love,
fear, according as hee findes them; but generally he
distributes it thus, To his Children he shewes more love then
terrour, to his servants more terrour then love; but an old
servant boards a child. The furniture of his house is
very plain, but clean, whole, and sweet, as sweet as his
garden can make; for he hath no mony for such things,
charity being his only perfume, which deserves cost when he
can spare it. His fare is plain, and common, but wholsome,
what hee hath, is little, but very good; it consisteth most of
mutton, beefe, and veal, if he addes any thing for a great day,
or a stranger, his garden or orchard supplies it, or his barne,
and back-side: he goes no further for any entertainment,
lest he goe into the world, esteeming it absurd, that he should
exceed, who teacheth others temperance. But those which
his home produceth, he refuseth not, as coming cheap, and
easie, and arising from the improvement of things, which
otherwise would be lost. Wherein he admires and imitates
the wonderfull providence and thrift of the great house-
holder of the world: for there being two things, which as
they are, are unuseful to man, the one for smalnesse, as
crums, and scattered corn, and the like; the other for the
foulnesse, as wash, and durt, and things thereinto fallen;
God hath provided Creatures for both: for the first. Poultry;
for the second, swine. These save man the labour, and doing
that which either he could not do, or was not fit for him to
do, by taking both sorts of food into them, do as it were
dresse and prepare both for man in themselves, by growing
them selves fit for his table. The Parson in his house ob-
serves fasting dayes; and particularly, as Sunday is his day
of joy, so Friday his day of Humiliation, which he celebrates
only with abstinence of diet, but also of company,
recreation, and all outward contentments; and besides, with
confession of sins, and all acts of Mortification. Now fasting
dayes containe a treble obligation; first, of eating lesse that
day, then on other dayes; secondly, of eating no pleasing, or
over-nourishing things, as the Israelites did eate sowre
herbs: Thirdly, of eating no flesh, which is but the deter-
mination of the second rule by Authority to this particular.
The two former obligations are much more essentiall to a
true fast, then the third and last; and fasting dayes were fully
performed by keeping of the two former, had not Authority
interposed: so that to eat little, and that unpleasant, is the
naturall rule of fasting, although it be flesh. For since fasting
in Scripture language is an afflicting of our souls, if a peece
of dry flesh at my table be more unpleasant to me, then some
fish there, certainly to eat the flesh, and not the fish, is to
keep the fasting day naturally. And it is observable, that the
prohibiting of flesh came from hot Countreys, where both
flesh alone, and much more with wine, is apt to nourish more
then in cold regions, and where flesh may be much better
spared, and with more safety then elsewhere, where both the
people and the drink being cold and flegmatick, the eating
of flesh is an antidote to both. For it is certaine, that a weak
stomack being prepossessed with flesh, shall much better
brooke and bear a draught of beer, then if it had taken before
either fish, or rootes, or such things; which will discover it
selfe by spitting, and rheume, or flegme. To conclude, the
Parson, if he be in full health, keeps the three obligations,
eating fish, or roots, and that for quantity little, for quality
unpleasant. If his body be weak and obstructed, as most
Students are, he cannot keep the last obligation, nor suffer
others in his house that are so, to keep it; but only the two
former, which also in diseases of exinanition1 (as consump-
tions) must be broken: For meat was made for man, not man
for meat.2 To all this may be added, not for emboldening
the unruly, but for the comfort of the weak, that not onely
sicknesse breaks these obligations of fasting, but sicklinesse
also. For it is as unnatural to do any thing, that leads me to
a sicknesse, to which I am inclined, as not to get out of that
sicknesse, when I am in it, by any diet. One thing is evident,
that an English body, and a Students body, are two great
obstructed vessels, and there is nothing that is food, and not
phisick, which doth lesse obstruct, then flesh moderately
taken; as being immoderately taken, it is exceeding obstruc-
tive. And obstructions are the cause of most diseases.

1 exinanition - the act or process of emptying in a material or immaterial sense. (Oxford English Dictionary) [Return]

2 Should sound familiar. See Mark 2:27 And he [Jesus] said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:  The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. [Return]

Editor's Note: "then" can also be read "than."

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