1632 By George Herbert

The Parson's Completenesse.

THe Countrey Parson desires to be all to his Parish,
and not onely a Pastour, but a Lawyer also, and a
Phisician. Therefore hee endures not that any of his Flock
should go to Law; but in any Controversie, that they should
resort to him as their Judge. To this end, he hath gotten
to himself some insight in things ordinarily incident and
controverted, by experience, and by reading some initiatory
treatises in the Law, with Daltons Justice of Peace, and the
Abridgements of the Statutes, as also by discourse with men
of that profession, whom he hath ever some cases to ask,
when he meets with them; holding that rule, that to put men
to discourse of that, wherin they are most eminent, is the
most gain full way of Conversation. Yet when ever any
controversie is brought to him, he never decides it alone, but
sends for three or four of the ablest of the Parish to hear the
cause with him, whom he makes to deliver their opinion
first; out of which he gathers, in case he be ignorant himself,
what to hold; and so the thing passeth with more authority,
and lesse envy. In judging, he followes that, which is alto-
gether right; so that if the poorest man of the Parish detain
but a pin unjustly from the richest, he absolutely restores it
as a Judge; but when he hath so done, then he assumes the
Parson, and exhorts to Charity. Neverthelesse, there may
happen somtimes some cases, wherein he chooseth to permit
his Parishioners rather to make use of the Law, then himself:
As in cases of an obscure and dark nature, not easily deter-
minable by Lawyers themselves; or in cases of high con-
sequence, as establishing of inheritances: or Lastly, when
the persons in difference are of a contentious disposition,
and cannot be gained, but that they still fall from all com-
promises that have been made. But then he shews them how
to go to Law, even as Brethren, and not as enemies, neither
avoyding therfore one anothers company, much lesse de-
faming one another. Now as the Parson is in Law, so is he
in sicknesse also: if there be any of his flock sick, hee is their
Physician, or at least his Wife, of whom in stead of the
qualities of the world, he asks no other, but to have the skill
of healing a wound, or helping the sick. But if neither him-
seife, nor his wife have the skil, and his means serve, hee
keepes some young practicioner in his house for the benefit
of his Parish, whom yet he ever exhorts not to exceed his
bounds, but in tickle cases to call in help. If all fail, then he
keeps good correspondence with some neighbour Phisician,
and entertaines him for the Cure of his Parish. Yet is it
easie for any Scholer to attaine to such a measure of Phisick,
as may be of much use to him both for himself, and others.
This is done by seeing one Anatomy, reading one Book of
Phisick, having one Herball by him. And let Fernelius be the
Phisick Authour, for he writes briefly, neatly, and judiciously;
especially let his Method of Phisick be diligently perused,
as being the practicall part, and of most use. Now both the
reading of him, and the knowing of herbs may be done at
such times, as they may be an help, and a recreation to more
divine studies, Nature serving Grace both in comfort of
diversion, and the benefit of application when need requires;
as also by way of illustration, even as our Saviour made plants
and seeds to teach the people: for he was the true householder,
who bringeth out of his treasure things new and old; the old
things of Philosophy, and the new of Grace; and maketh the
one serve the other. And I conceive, our Saviour did this for
three reasons: first, that by familiar things hee might make
his Doctrine slip the more easily into the hearts even of the
meanest. Secondly, that labouring people (whom he chiefly
considered) might have every where monuments of his
Doctrine, remembring in gardens, his mustard-seed, and
lillyes; in the field, his seed-corn, and tares; and so not be
drowned altogether in the works of their vocation, but some-
times lift up their minds to better things, even in the midst
of their pains. Thirdly, that he might set a Copy for Parsons.
In the knowledge of simples, wherein the manifold wisedome
of God is wonderfully to be seen, one thing would be carefully
observed; which is, to know what herbs may be used in stead
of drugs of the same nature, and to make the garden the shop:
For home-bred medicines are both more easie for the Parsons
purse, and more familiar for all mens bodyes. So, where the
Apothecary useth either for loosing, Rubarb, or for binding,
Bolearmena, the Parson useth damask or white Roses for the
one, and plantaine, shepherds purse, knot-grasse for the
other, and that with better successe. As for spices, he doth
not onely prefer home-bred things before them, but con-
demns them for vanities, and so shuts them out of his family,
esteeming that there is no spice comparable, for herbs, to
rosemary, time, savoury, mints; and for seeds, to Fennell,
and Carroway seeds. Accordingly, for salves, his wife seeks
not the city, but preferrs her garden and fields before all
outlandish gums. And surely hyssope, valerian, mercury,
adders tongue, yerrow, melilot, and Saint Johns wort made
into a salve; And Elder, camomill, mallowes, comphrey and
smallage made into a Poultis, have done great and rare cures.
In curing of any, the Parson and his Family use to premise
prayers, for this is to cure like a Parson, and this raiseth the
action from the Shop, to the Church. But though the Parson
sets forward all Charitable deeds, yet he looks not in this
point of Curing beyond his own Parish, except the person
bee so poor, that he is not able to reward the Phisician: for
as hee is Charitable, so he is just also. Now it is a justice and
debt to the Common-wealth he lives in, not to incroach on
others Professions, but to live on his own. And justice is the
ground of Charity.

Editor's Note: In the Elizabethan Age, medicine was just beginning. Surgery amounted to blood letting and amputation. In the country, herbal cures were the best medicine. Even up to 1900, homeopathic doctors were common; this was before chemical replacements into pill and liquid form. Herbert considered it the Pastor's duty to see that his paritioners were cared for.
Homeopathic cures have become popular again.

For comment on: "Not Onely a Pastour, but a Lawyer also": George Herbert's Vision of Stuart Magistracy by Jeffrey Powers-Beck

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