1632 By George Herbert

The Parson's Charity.

THe Countrey Parson is full of Charity; it is his pre-
dominant element. For many and wonderfull things
are spoken of thee, thou great Vertue. To Charity is given
the covering of sins, I Pet. 4. 8. and the forgivenesse of sins,
Matthew 6. 14. Luke 7. 47. The fulfilling of the Law,
Romans 13. 10. The life of faith, James l. 26. The blessings
of this life, Proverbs 22. 9. Psalm 41. 2. And the reward of
the next, Matth. 25. 35. In brief, it is the body of Religion,
John 13. 35. And the top of Christian vertues, I Corin. 13.
Wherefore all his works rellish of Charity. When he riseth
in the morning, he bethinketh himseife what good deeds he
can do that day, and presently doth them; counting that day
lost, wherein he hath not exercised his Charity. He first
considers his own Parish, and takes care, that there be not a
begger, or idle person in his Parish, but that all bee in a
competent way of getting their living. This he effects either
by bounty, or perswasion, or by authority, making use of that
excellent statute, which bindes all Parishes to maintaine their
own. If his Parish be rich, he exacts this of them; if poor,
and he able, he easeth them therein. But he gives no set
pension to any; for this in time will lose the name and effect
of Charity with the poor people, though not with God: for
then they will reckon upon it, as on a debt; and if it be taken
away, though justly, they will murmur, and repine as much,
as he that is disseized of his own inheritance. But the Parson
having a double aime, and making a hook of his Charity,
causeth them still to depend on him; and so by continuall,
and fresh bounties, unexpected to them, but resolved to
himself, hee wins them to praise God more, to live more
religiously, and to take more paines in their vocation, as not
knowing when they shal be relieved; which otherwise they
would reckon upon, and turn to idlenesse. Besides this
generall provision, he hath other times of opening his hand;
as at great Festivals, and Communions; not suffering any
that day that hee receives, to want a good meal suting to the
joy of the occasion. But specially, at hard times, and dearths,
the even parts his Living, and life among them, giving some
corn outright, and selling other at under rates; and when his
own stock serves not, working those that are able to the same
charity, still pressing it in the pulpit, and out of the pulpit,
and never leaving them, till he obtaine his desire. Yet in all
his Charity, he distinguisheth, giving them most, who live
best, and take most paines, and are most charged: So is his
charity in effect a Sermon. After the consideration of his
own Parish, he inlargeth himself, if he be able, to the neigh-
bour-hood; for that also is some kind of obligation; so doth
he also to those at his door, whom God puts in his way, and
makes his neighbours. But these he helps not without some
testimony, except the evidence of the misery bring testimony
with it. For though these testimonies also may be falsifyed,
yet considering that the Law allows these in case they be
true, but allows by no means to give without testimony, as
he obeys Authority in the one, so that being once satisfied, he
allows his Charity some blindnesse in the other; especially,
since of the two commands, we are more injoyned to be
charitable, then wise. But evident miseries have a naturall
priviledge, and exemption from all law. When-ever hee gives
any thing, and sees them labour in thanking of him, he exacts
of them to let him alone, and say rather, God be praised, God
be glorified; that so the thanks may go the right way, and
thither onely, where they are onely due. So doth hee also
before giving make them say their Prayers first, or the Creed,
and ten Commandments, and as he finds them perfect,
rewards them the more. For other givings are lay, and
secular, but this is to give like a Priest.

Editor's Note: There is a lesson for the welfare state mind-set and continuous, supported giving.

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