1632 By George Herbert

The Parsons state of Life.

He Country Parson considering that virginity is a
higher state then Matrimony, and that the Ministry
requires the best and highest things, is rather unmarryed, then
marryed. But yet as the temper of his body may be, or as
thee temper of his Parish may be, where he may have occasion
to converse with women, and that among suspicious men,
and other like circumstances considered, he is rather married
then unmarried. Let him communicate the thing often by
prayer unto God, and as his grace shall direct him, so let
him proceed. If he be unmarried, and keepe house, he hath
not a woman in his house, but findes opportunities of having
his meat dress'd and other services done by men-servants at
home, and his linnen washed abroad. If he be unmarryed,
and sojourne, he never talkes with any woman alone, but in
the audience of others, and that seldom, and then also in a
serious manner, never jestingly or sportfully. He is very
circumspect in all companyes, both of his behaviour, speech, and
very looks, knowing himself to be both suspected, and envyed.
If he stand steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath
power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart, that
he will keep himself a virgin, he spends his dayes in fasting and
prayer, and blesseth God for the gift of continency, knowing
that it can no way be preserved, but only by those means, by

which at first it was obtained. He therefore thinkes it not enough
for him to observe the fasting dayes of the Church, and the dayly
prayers enjoyned him by auctority, which he observeth out of
humble conformity, and obedience, but adds to them, out of choyce
and devotion, some other dayes for fasting, and hours for prayers;
and by these hee keeps his body tame, serviceable, and health-
full; and his soul fervent, active, young, and lusty as an eagle. He
often readeth the Lives of the Primitive Monks, Hermits, and
Virgins, and wondreth not so much at their patient suffering, and
cheerfull dying under persecuting Emperours, (though that indeed
be very admirable) as at their daily temperance, abstinence,
watchings, and constant prayers, and mortifications in the times of
peace and prosperity. To put on the profound humility, and the
exact temperance of our Lord Jesus, with other exemplary vertues
of that sort, and to keep them on in the sunshine, and noone of pros-
perity, he findeth to be as necessary, and as difficult at least, as to
be cloathed with perfect patience, and Christian fortitude in the
cold midnight stormes of persecution and adversity. He keepeth

his watch and ward, night and day against the proper and peculiar
temptations of his state of Life, which are principally these two
Spirituall pride, and Impurity of heart: against these ghostly
enemies he girdeth up his loynes, keepes the imagination from
roving, puts on the whole Armour of God,1 and by the vertue of
the shield of faith, he is not afraid of the pestilence that walketh
in darkenesse, [carnall impurity] nor of the sicknesse that de-
stroyeth at noone day, [Ghostly pride and self-conceite.] Other
temptations he hath, which, like mortall enemies, may sometimes
disquiet him likewise; for the humane soule being bounded, and
kept in, in her sensitive faculty, will runne out more or lesse in her
intellectuall. Originall concupisence is such an active thing, by
reason of continuall inward, or outward temptations, that it is
ever attempting, or doing one mischief or other. Ambition, or
untimely desire of promotion to an higher state, or place, under
colour of accommodation, or necessary provision, is a common
temptation to men of any eminency, especially being single men.
Curiosity in prying into high speculative and unprofitable questions,
is another great stumbling block to the holinesse of Scholars. These
and many other spirituall wickednesses in high places doth the
Parson fear, or experiment, or both; and that much more being
single, then if. he were marryed; for then commonly the stream of
temptations is turned another way, into Covetousnesse, Love of
pleasure, or ease, or the like. If the Parson be unmarryed, and
means to continue so, he doth at least, as much as hath been said.
If he be marryed, the choyce of his wife was made rather by
his eare, then by his eye; his judgement, not his affection
found out a fit wife for him, whose humble, and liberall
disposition he preferred before beauty, riches, or honour.
He knew that (the good instrument of God to bring women to
heaven) a wise and loving husband could out of humility, produce
any speciall grace of faith, patience, meeknesse, love, obedience,
&c. and out of liberality, make her fruitfull in all good works.

As hee is just in all things, so is he to his wife also, counting
nothing so much his owne, as that he may be unjust unto it.
Therefore he gives her respect both afore her servants, and
others, and halfe at least of the government of the house,
reserving so much of the affaires, as serve for a diversion for
him; yet never so giving over the raines, but that he some-
times looks how things go, demanding an account, but not
by the way of an account. And this must bee done the oftner,
or the seldomer, according as hee is satisfied of his Wifes

1 Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. [Return]

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