Project Canterbury

    The Country Parson (17723 bytes)

    Chapters 11-20

CHAP. XI. The Parson's Courtesie.

THe Countrey Parson owing a debt of Charity to the poor, and of Courtesie to his other parishioners, he so distinguisheth, that he keeps his money for the poor, and his table for those that are above Alms. Not but that the poor are welcome also to his table, whom he sometimes purposely takes home with him, setting them close by him, and carving for them, both for his own humility, and their comfort, who are much cheered with such friendliness. But since both is to be done, the better sort invited, and meaner relieved, he chooseth rather to give the poor money, which they can better employ to their own advantage, and sutably to their needs, then so much given in meat at dinner. Having then invited some of his Parish, hee taketh his times to do the like to the rest; so that in the compasse of the year, hee hath them all with him, because countrey people are very observant of such things, and will not be perswaded, but being not invited, they are hated. Which perswasion the Parson by all means avoyds, knowing that where there are such conceits, there is no room for his doctrine to enter. Yet doth hee oftenest invite those, whom hee sees take best courses, that so both they may be encouraged to persevere, and others spurred to do well, that they may enjoy the like courtesie. For though he desire, that all should live well, and vertuously, not for any reward of his, but for vertues sake; yet that will not be so: and therefore as God, although we should love him onely for his own sake, yet out of his infinite pity hath set forth heaven for a reward to draw men to Piety, and is content, if at least so, they will become good: So the Countrey Parson, who is a diligent observer, and tracker of Gods wayes, sets up as many encouragements to goodnesse as he can, both in honour, and profit, and fame; that he may, if not the best way, yet any way, make his Parish good.

CHAP. XII. 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 thejoy 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 neighbour-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.

CHAP. XIII. The Parson's Church.

THe Countrey Parson hath a speciall care of his Church, that all things there be decent, and befitting his Name by which it is called. Therefore first he takes order, that all things be in good repair; as walls plaistered, windows glazed, floore paved, seats whole, firm, and uniform, especially that the Pulpit, and Desk, and Communion Table, and Font be as they ought, for those great duties that are performed in them. Secondly, that the Church be swept, and kept cleane without dust, or Cobwebs, and at great festivalls strawed, and stuck with boughs, and perfumed with incense. Thirdly, That there be fit, and proper texts of Scripture every where painted, and that all the painting be grave, and reverend, not with light colours, or foolish anticks. Fourthly, That all the books appointed by Authority be there, and those not torne, or fouled, but whole and clean, and well bound; and that there be a fitting, and sightly Communion Cloth of fine linnen, with an handsome, and seemly Carpet of good and costly Stuffe, or Cloth, and all kept sweet and clean, in a strong and decent chest, with a Chalice, and Cover, and a Stoop, or Flagon; and a Bason for Almes and offerings; besides which, he hath a Poor-mans Box conveniently seated, to receive the charity of well minded people, and to lay up treasure for the sick and needy. And all this he doth, not as out of necessity, or as putting a holiness in the things, but as desiring to keep the middle way between superstition, and slovenlinesse, and as following the Apostles two great and admirable Rules in things of this nature: The first whereof is, Let all things be done decently, and in order: [I Cor. 14:40]The second, Let all things be done to edification, I Cor. 14 [:26]. For these two rules comprize and include the double object of our duty, God, and our neighbour; the first being for the honour of God; the second for the benefit of our neighbor. So that they excellently score out the way, and fully, and exactly contain, even in externall and indifferent things, what course is to be taken; and put them to great shame, who deny the Scripture to be perfect.

CHAP. XIV. The Parson in Circuit.

THe Countrey Parson upon the afternoons in the week- days, takes occasion sometimes to visite 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 easie for them to compose themselves to order, which they put on as their holy-day cloathes, and come to Church in frame, but commonly the next day put off both. When he comes to anyhouse, first he blesseth it, and then as hee finds the persons of the house imployed, so he formes his discourse. Those that he findes religiously imployed, hee both commends them much, and furthers them when hee is gone, in their imployment; as if hee findes them reading, hee furnisheththem with good books; if curing poor people, hee supplies them with Receipts, and instructs them further in that skill, shewing them how acceptable such works are to God, and wishing them ever to do the Cures with their own hands, and not to put them over to servants. Those that he finds busie in the works of their calling, he commendeth them also: for it is a good and just thing for every one to do their own busines. But then he admonisheth them of two things; first, that they dive not too deep into worldly affairs, plunging themselves over head and eares into carking, and caring; but that they so labour, as neither to labour anxiously, nor distrustfully, nor profanely. Then they labour anxiously, when they overdo it, to the loss of their quiet, and health: then distrustfully, when they doubt Gods providence, think- ing that their own labour is the cause of their thriving, as if itwere in their own hands to thrive, or not to thrive. Then they labour profanely, when they set themselves to work like brute beasts, never raising their thoughts to God, nor sanctifying their labour with daily prayer; when on the Lords day they do unnecessary servile work, or in time of divine service on other holy days, except in the cases of extreme poverty, and in the seasons of Seed-time, and Harvest. Secondly, he adviseth them so to labour for wealth and maintenance, as that they make not that the end of their labour, but that they may have wherewithall to serve God the better, and to do good deeds. After these discourses, if they be poor and needy, whom he thus finds labouring, he gives them somewhat; and opens not only his mouth, but his purse to their relief, that so they go on more cheerfully in their vocation, and himself be ever the more welcome to them. Those that the Parson findes idle,or ill imployed, he chides not at first, for that were neither civill, nor profitable; but always in the close, before he departs from them: yet in this he distinguisheth; for if he be a plaine countryman, he reproves him plainly; for they are not sensible of finenesse: if they be of higher quality, they commonly are quick, and sensible, and very tender of reproof: and therefore he lays his discourse so, that he comes to the point very leasurely, and oftentimes, as Nathan did, in the person of another, making them to reprove themselves. However, one way or other, he ever reproves them, that he may keep himself pure, and not be intangled in others sinnes. Neither in this doth he forbear, though there be company by: for as when the offence is particular, and against mee, I am to follow our Saviours rule, and to take my brother aside, and reprove him; so when the offence is publicke, and against God, I am then to follow the Apostles rule, I Timothy 5. 20. and to rebuke openly that which is done openly. Besides these occasionall discourses, the Parson questions what order is kept in the house, as about prayers morning and evening on their knees, reading of Scripture, catechizing, singing of Psalms at their work, and on holy days; who can read, who not; and sometimes he hears the children read himselfe, and blesseth them, encouraging also the servants to learn to read, and offering to have them taught on holy-dayes by his servants. If the Parson were ashamed of particularizing in these things, hee were not fit to be a Parson: but he holds the Rule, that Nothing is little in Gods service: If it once have the honour of that Name, it grows great instantly. Wherfore neither disdaineth he to enter into the poorest Cottage, though he even creep into it, and though it smell never so lothsomly. For both God is there also, and those for whom God dyed: and so much the rather doth he so, as his accesse to the poor is more comfortable, then to the rich; and in regard of himseife, it is more humiliation. These are the Parsons generall aims in his Circuit; but with these he mingles other discourses for conversation sake, and to make his higher purposes slip the more easily.

CHAP. XV. The Parson Comforting.

THe Countrey Parson, when any of his cure is sick, or afflicted with losse of friend, or estate, or any ways distressed, fails not to afford his best comforts, and rather goes to them, then sends for the afflicted, though they can, and otherwise ought to come to him. To this end he hath throughly digested all the points of consolation, as having continuall use of them, such as are from Gods generall providence extended even to lillyes; from his particular, to his Church; from his promises, from the examples of all Saints, that ever were; from Christ himself, perfecting our Redemption no other way, then by sorrow; from the Benefit of affliction, which softens, and works the stubborn heart of man; from the certainty both of deliverance, and reward, if we faint not; from the miserable comparison of the moment of griefs here with the weight of joyes hereafter. Besides this, in his visiting the sick, or otherwise afflicted, he followeth the Churches counsell, namely, in perswading them to particular confession, labouring to make them understand the great good use of this antient and pious ordinance, and how necessary it is in some cases: he also urgeth them to do some pious charitable works , as a necessary evidence and fruit of their faith, at that time especially: the participation of the holy Sacrament, how comfortable, and Soveraigne a Medicine it is to all sin-sick souls; what strength, and joy, and peace it administers against all temptations, even to death it selfe, he plainly, and generally intimateth to the disaffected, or sick person, that so the hunger and thirst after it may come rather from themselves, then from his perswasion.

CHAP. XVI. The Parson a Father.

THe Countrey Parson is not only a father to his flock, but also professeth himselfe throughly of the opinion, carrying it about with him as fully, as if he had begot his whole Parish. And of this he makes great use. For by this means, when any sinns, he hateth him not as an officer, but pityes him as a Father: and even in those wrongs which either in tithing, or otherwise are done to his owne person, hee considers the offender as a child, and forgives, so hee may have any signe of amendment; so also when after many admonitions, any continue to be refractory, yet hee gives him not over, but is long before hee proceede to disinheriting, or perhaps never goes so far; knowing, that some are called at the eleventh houre, and therefore hee still expects, and waits, least hee should determine Gods houre of coming; which as hee cannot, touching the last day, so neither touching the intermediate days of Conversion.

CHAP. XVII. The Parson in Journey.

THe Countrey Parson, when a just occasion calleth him out of his Parish (which he diligently, and strictly weigheth, his Parish being all his joy, and thought) leaveth not his Ministry behind him; but is himselfe where ever he is. Therefore those he meets on the way he blesseth audibly, and with those he overtakes or that overtake him, hee begins good discourses, such as may edify, interposing sometimes some short, and honest refreshments, which may make his other discourses more welcome, and lesse tedious. And when he comes to his Inn, he refuseth not to joyne, that he may enlarge the glory of God, to the company he is in, by a due blessing of God for their safe arrival, and saying grace at meat and at going to bed by giving the Host notice, that he will have prayers in the hall, wishing him to informe his guests thereof, that if any be willing to partake, they may resort thither. The like he doth in the morning, using pleasantly the outlandish proverb, that Prayers and Provender never hinder journey. When he comes to any other house, where his kindred, or other relations give him any authority over the Family, if hee be to stay for a time, hee considers diligently the state thereof to Godward, and that in two points: First, what disorders there are either in Apparell, or Diet, or too open a Buttery, or reading vain books, or swearing, or breeding up children to no Calling, but in idleness, or the like. Secondly, what means of Piety, whether daily prayers be used, Grace, reading of Scriptures, and other good books, how Sundayes, holy-days, and fasting days are kept. And accordingly, as he finds any defect in these, hee first considerswith himseife, what kind of remedy fits the temper of the house best, and then hee faithfully, and boldly applyeth it; yet seasonably, and discreetly, by taking aside the Lord or Lady, or Master and Mistres of the house, and shewing them cleerly, that they respect them most, who wish them best, and that not a desire to meddle with others affairs, but the earnestnesse to do all the good he can, moves him to say thus and thus.

CHAP. XVIII. The Parson in Sentinell.

THe Countrey Parson, where ever he is, keeps Gods watch; that is, there is nothing spoken, or done in the Company where he is, but comes under his Test and censure: If it be well spoken, or done, he takes occasion to commend, and enlarge it; if ill, he presently lays hold of it, least the poyson steal into some young and unwary spirits, and possesse them even before they themselves heed it. But this he doth discretely, with mollifying, and suppling words; This was not so well said, as it might have been forborn; We cannot allow this: or else if the thing will admit interpretation; Your meaning is not thus, but thus; or, So farr indeed what you say is true, and well said; but this will not stand. This is called keeping Gods watch, when the baits which the enemy lays in company, are discovered and avoyded: This is to be on Gods side, and be true to his party. Besides, if he perceive in company any discourse tending to ill, either by the wickedness or quarrelsomnesse thereof, he either prevents it judiciously, or breaks it off seasonably by some diversion. Wherein a pleasantness of disposition is of great use, men being willing to sell the interest, and ingagement of their discourses for no price sooner, then that of mirth; whither the nature of man, loving refreshment, gladly betakes it selfe, even to the losse of honour.

CHAP. XIX. The Parson in reference.

THe Countrey Parson is sincere and upright in all his relations. And first, he is just to his Countrey; as when he is set at an armour, or horse, he borrowes them not to serve the turne, nor provides slight, and unusefull, but such as are every way fitting to do his Countrey true and laudable service, when occasion requires. To do otherwise, is deceit; and therefore not for him, who is hearty, and true in all his wayes, as being the servant of him, in whom there was no guile. Likewise in any other Countrey-duty, he considers what is the end of any Command, and then he suits things faithfully according to that end. Secondly, he carryes himself very respectively, as to all the Fathers of the Church, so especially to his Diocesan, honouring him both in word, and behaviour, and resorting unto him in any difficulty, either in his studies or in his Parish. He observes Visitations, and being there, makes due use of them, as of Clergy councels, for the benefit of the Diocese. And therefore before he comes, having observed some defects in the Ministry, he then either in Sermon, if he preach, or at some other time of the day, propounds among his Brethren what were fitting to be done. Thirdly, he keeps good Correspondence with all the neighbouring Pastours round about him, performing for them any Ministeriall office, which is not to the prejudice of his own Parish. Likewise he welcomes to his house any Minister, how poor or mean soever, with as joyfull a countenance, as if he were to entertain some great Lord. Fourthly, he fulfills the duty, and debt of neighbourhood to all the Parishes which are neer him. For the Apostles rule Philip. 4.[8] being admirable, and large, that we should do whatsoever things are honest, or just, or pure, or lovely, or of good report, if there be any vertue, or any praise, and Neighbourhood being ever reputed, even among the Heathen, as an obligation to do good, rather then to those that are further, where things are otherwise equall, therefore he satisfies this duty also. Especily, if God have sent any calamity either by fire, or famine, to any neighbouring Parish, then he expects no Briefe; but taking his Parish together the next Sunday, or holy-day, and exposing to them the uncertainty of humane affairs, none knowing whose turne may be next, and then when he hath affrighted them with this, exposing the obligation of Charity, and Neighbour-hood, he first gives himself liberally, and then incites them to give; making together a summe either to be sent, or, which were more comfortable, all together choosing some fitt day to carry it themselves, and cheere the Afflicted. So, if any neighbouring village be overburdened with poore, and his owne lesse charged, hee findes some way of releeving it, and reducing the Manna, and bread of Charity to some equality, representing to his people, that the Blessing of God to them ought to make them the more charitable, and not the lesse, lest he cast their neighbours poverty on them also.

CHAP. XX. The Parson in Gods stead.

THe Countrey Parson is in Gods stead to his Parish, and dischargeth God what he can of his promises. Wherefore there is nothing done either wel or ill, whereof he is not the rewarder, or punisher. If he chance to finde any reading in anothers Bible, he provides him one of his own. If he finde another giving a poor man a penny, he gives him a tester for it, if the giver be fit to receive it; or if he be of a condition above such gifts, he sends him a good book, or easeth him in his Tithes, telling him when he hath forgotten it, This I do, because at such, and such a time you were charitable. This is in some sort a discharging of God; as concerning this life, who hath promised, that Godlinesse shall be gainfull: but in the other God is his own immediate paymaster, rewarding all good deeds to their full proportion. The Parsons punishing of sin and vice, is rather by withdrawing his bounty and courtesie from the parties offending, or by private, or publick reproof, as the case requires, then by causing them to be presented, or otherwise complained of. And yet as the malice of the person, or hainousness of the crime may be, he is carefull to see condign punishment inflicted, and with truly godly zeal, without hatred to the person, hungreth and thirsteth after righteous punishment of unrighteousnesse. Thus both in rewarding vertue, and in punishing vice, the Parson endeavoureth to be in Gods stead, knowing that Countrey people are drawne, or led by sense, more then by faith, by present rewards, or punishments, more then by future.

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