Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Parson on Sundays
By George Herbert (15931633)
From A Priest to the Temple
THE COUNTRY PARSON, as soon as he awakes on Sunday mornings presently falls to work, and seems to himself so as a market man is when the market day comes, or a shopkeeper when customers use to come in. His thoughts are full of making the best of the day, and contriving it to his best gains. To this end, besides his ordinary prayers, he makes a peculiar one for a blessing on the exercises of the day. That nothing befall him unworthy of that Majesty before which he is to present himself, but that all may be done with reverence to His glory, and with edification to his flock, humbly beseeching his Master that how or whenever He punish him, it be not in his ministry; then he turns to request for his people that the Lord would be pleased to sanctify them all, that they may come with holy hearts and awful minds into the congregation, and that the good God would pardon all those who come with less prepared hearts than they ought. This done, he sets himself to the consideration of the duties of the day, and if there be any extraordinary addition to the customary exercises, either from the time of the year, or from the state, or from God, by a child born or dead, or any other accident, he contrives how and in what manner to induce it to the best advantage. Afterwards, when the hour calls, with his family attending him, he goes to church, at his first entrance humbly adoring and worshipping the invisible majesty and presence of Almighty God, and blessing the people, either openly or to himself. Then having read Divine service twice fully, and preached in the morning, and catechised in the afternoon, he thinks he hath in some measure, according to poor and frail man, discharged the public duties of the congregation. The rest of the day he spends either in reconciling neighbours that are at variance, or in visiting the sick, or in exhortations to some of his flock by themselves, whom his sermons cannot or do not reach. And every one is more awaked when we come and say, Thou art the man. This way he finds exceeding useful and winning; and these exhortations he calls his privy purse, even as princes have theirs, besides their public disbursements. At night, he thinks it a very fit time, both suitable to the joy of the day and without hindrance to public duties, either to entertain some of his neighbours or to be entertained of them, where he takes occasion to discourse of such things as are both profitable and pleasant, and to raise up their minds to apprehend Gods good blessing to our Church and statethat order is kept in the one, and peace in the other, without disturbance or interruption of public divine offices. As he opened the day with prayer, so he closeth it, humbly beseeching the Almighty to pardon and accept our poor services, and to improve them, that we may grow therein, and that our feet may be like hinds feet, ever climbing up higher and higher unto Him.