George Herbert

Just back from visiting a congregant at his workplace made me think about George Herbert, the 17th century English pastor and poet. He wrote:

“The Country Parson upon the afternoons in the weekdays, takes occasion sometimes to visit in person, now one quarter of his Parish, now another. For there he shall find his flock most naturally as they are, wallowing in the midst of their affairs: whereas on Sundays it is easy for them to compose themselves to order, which they put on as their holy-day clothes, and come to Church in frame, but commonly the next day put off both. … He admonishes them in two things; first, that they dive not too deep into worldly affairs, plunging themselves over head and ears into carking [that is worry], and … overdoing it [that is being too busy] to the loss of their quiet, and health, [and faith] when they doubt God’s providence, thinking that their own labor is the cause of their thriving, as if it were in their own hands to thrive.… Secondly, he adviseth them so to labor for wealth and maintenance, as that they make not that the end of their labor, but that they may have wherewithal to serve God the better, and to do good deeds.”

Herbert enjoyed but three years of active ministry [to the relief of some of his flock]. He died of tuberculosis in 1633. Nevertheless, his short life and words made such an impression that the Episcopal calendar honors him on February 27.  Take with you this month two stanzas from his poem, Even-Song.

Blest be the God of love,
Who gave me eyes, and light, and power this day,
Both to be busy, and to play.
But much more blest be God above,
Who gave me sight alone,
Which to himself he did deny:
For when he sees my ways, I die:
But I have got his son, and he hath none.

I muse, which shows more love,
The day or night: that is the gale, this th’ harbour;
That is the walk, and this the arbour;
Or that is the garden, this the grove.
My God, thou art all love.
Not one poor minute ‘scapes thy breast,
But brings a favor from above;
And in this love, more than in bed, I rest.


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