Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Gospel Portrayed

From George Herbert's (1593-1633) work "The Country Parson, His Character, and Rule of Holy Life", Chapter 10 "The Parson in His House"

"The Parson is very exact in the governing of his house, making it a copy and model for his parish. He knows the temper and pulse of every person in his house, and accordingly either meets with their vices or advanceth their virtues. His wife is either religious, or night and day he is winning her to it. Instead of the qualities of the world, he requires only three of her: first, a training up of her children and maids in the fear of God, with prayers, and catechizing, and all religious duties. Secondly, a curing and healing of all wounds and sores with her own hands, which skill either she brought with her, or he takes care she shall learn it of some religious neighbor. Thirdly, a providing for her family in such sort as that neither they want a competent sustenation nor her husband be brought in debt."

There is so much I love about reading George Herbert, both his poetry and his insight into what he believed an ideal country parson should be like. What I find amazing in this little excerpt (and many others in his writing) is the initiative that a husband -- not just the parson since he was to serve as the parish example -- was to take for the cultivation, instruction, and growth of his wife, children, and those in his care. He especially mentions that the head of the household is to know the temper and pulse of every person in that household and to take care of improving their virtues or curbing their vices! I repeat these in my own comments to encourage you to read more of George Herbert and glean all that you can about how Christian marriages, families, and church life used to be and what it could be again if God is gracious and we are willing to labor toward that end.

-- Queen Lucy


Anonymous said...

It seems odd that a parson would have to encourage his wife to be religous. One seems to assume that a parson, or preacher of Christianity would have married a Christian wife, or would at least have not become a preacher before his wife became converted. It would appear to be somewhat impious on his part to have an "help-meet" that is not so meet for his life task. One would hope that a preacher of God's word would be somewhat more wise, else how can he be trusted with care and guidance of the flock's souls?

Caer Clan said...

It is a good point you bring up. You have to remember that in George Herbert’s Day, the culture was decidedly Christian. That means practically every person had been baptized into the Church and attended services regularly. I believe it was even unlawful for people to not be attending church. Another aspect of their society is that often a parish living was a boon or patronage that could be bestowed on whomever the person in charge of that patronage decided. Younger sons of nobility were often given parish livings. What that meant in every day life is that often the people were Christian, but perhaps unregenerate—a case of the wheat and the tares growing up together. So it could have been that a parson, being brought to saving grace himself, was realizing the need for his wife or children to become more devoted to Christ too.
In my reading of this man’s work, I think that when he talks of them becoming more “religious” I have interpreted it to mean that he was meaning for them to be more devout and passionate in their love for God and their living for God. But I think the culture implications apply also.---Queen Lucy