1632 By George Herbert

The Parson in Circuit.

THe Countrey Parson upon the afternoons in the week-
days, takes occasion sometimes to visite in person, now
one quarter of his Parish, now another. For there he shall
find his flock most naturally as they are, wallowing in the
midst of their affairs: whereas on Sundays it is easie for them
to compose themselves to order, which they put on as their
holy-day cloathes, and come to Church in frame, but com-
monly the next day put off both. When he comes to any
house, first he blesseth it, and then as hee finds the persons
of the house imployed, so he formes his discourse. Those
that he findes religiously imployed, hee both commends
them much, and furthers them when hee is gone, in their
imployment; as if hee findes them reading, hee furnisheth
them with good books; if curing poor people, hee supplies
them with Receipts,1 and instructs them further in that skill,
shewing them how acceptable such works are to God, and
wishing them ever to do the Cures with their own hands, and
not to put them over to servants. Those that he finds busie
in the works of their calling, he commendeth them also:
for it is a good and just thing for every one to do their own
busines. But then he admonisheth them of two things; first,
that they dive not too deep into worldly affairs, plunging
themselves over head and eares into carking,2 and caring;
but that they so labour, as neither to labour anxiously, nor
distrustfully, nor profanely. Then they labour anxiously,
when they overdo it, to the loss of their quiet, and health:
then distrustfully, when they doubt Gods providence, think-
ing that their own labour is the cause of their thriving, as if it
were in their own hands to thrive, or not to thrive. Then
they labour profanely, when they set themselves to work like brute

beasts, never raising their thoughts to God, nor sanctifying their
labour with daily prayer; when on the Lords day they do un-
necessary servile work, or in time of divine service on other holy
days, except in the cases of extreme poverty, and in the seasons of
Seed-time, and Harvest
. Secondly, he adviseth them so to
labour for wealth and maintenance, as that they make not
that the end of their labour, but that they may have where-
withall to serve God the better, and to do good deeds. After
these discourses, if they be poor and needy, whom he thus
finds labouring, he gives them somewhat; and opens not
only his mouth, but his purse to their relief, that so they go
on more cheerfully in their vocation, and himself be ever the
more welcome to them. Those that the Parson findes idle,
or ill imployed, he chides not at first, for that were neither
civill, nor profitable; but always in the close, before he
departs from them: yet in this he distinguisheth; for if he
be a plaine countryman, he reproves him plainly; for they
are not sensible of finenesse: if they be of higher quality, they
commonly are quick, and sensible, and very tender of re-
proof: and therefore he lays his discourse so, that he comes
to the point very leasurely, and oftentimes, as Nathan3 did,
in the person of another, making them to reprove themselves.
However, one way or other, he ever reproves them, that he
may keep himself pure, and not be intangled in others sinnes.
Neither in this doth he forbear, though there be company by:
for as when the offence is particular, and against mee, I am
to follow our Saviours rule, and to take my brother aside,
and reprove him; so when the offence is publicke, and against
God, I am then to follow the Apostles rule, I Timothy 5. 20.
and to rebuke openly that which is done openly. Besides these
occasionall discourses, the Parson questions what order is
kept in the house, as about prayers morning and evening on
their knees, reading of Scripture, catechizing, singing of
Psalms at their work, and on holy days; who can read, who
not; and sometimes he hears the children read himselfe, and
blesseth them, encouraging also the servants to learn to
read, and offering to have them taught on holy-dayes by his
servants. If the Parson were ashamed of particularizing in
these things, hee were not fit to be a Parson: but he holds
the Rule, that Nothing is little in Gods service: If it once
have the honour of that Name, it grows great instantly.
Wherfore neither disdaineth he to enter into the poorest
Cottage, though he even creep into it, and though it smell
never so lothsomly. For both God is there also, and those
for whom God dyed: and so much the rather doth he so, as
his accesse to the poor is more comfortable, then to the rich;
and in regard of himseife, it is more humiliation. These are
the Parsons generall aims in his Circuit; but with these he
mingles other discourses for conversation sake, and to make
his higher purposes slip the more easily.

1 Receipts = recipes, prescriptions. [Return]
2 carking - grieving, anxious; solicitous; anxious toil.  (Oxford English Dictionary) [Return]
3 Nathan, an Old Testament Prophet - 2 Samuel 12:1-10 And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5 And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. - The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.
   For Herbert means of learning and teaching include poetry. [Return]

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