Project Canterbury

The Country Parson's Wife
Being Intended as a Continuation of and Companion for Herbert's Country Parson

By Louisa Lane Clarke

London: J. Hatchard and Son, 187, Piccadilly;
Sold Also by Henry Redstone, Guernsey, &c., 1842.

Chapter VI. On Sunday

The parson's wife rises this morning with greater diligence than usual; it is a day of rest, but not of sloth; a cessation from earthly toil, but a season of holy labour in the immediate service of her God; and she is not willing to lose an hour of this her foretaste of heaven. Whilst she dresses, she meditates upon the duties of the day, and makes a covenant with her eyes, her lips, and her heart, that they shall not disturb her soul in the sanctuary, or provoke it to sin at any time. She reads or recalls the 13th and 14th verses of the 58th chapter of Isaiah, and takes it for her watchword during the day. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord," &c. &c.

To one who has kept the preparation day as she has done, there are no petty household cares awaiting her on the threshold, no hurrying to and fro to set things to rights; so she joins her husband at breakfast with a quiet and cheerful countenance, either to speak or to keep silence as she perceives he would prefer, the conversation ever being such as becometh the holy day, of which there is no lack as long as they have schools to instruct and poor to visit, and the book of God before them. When the first bell rings, the parson's wife is ready at the door, with such of her children and servants as are to accompany her; and on her way to the house of God she lifts up her heart in prayer that her husband's ministry may be blessed both to himself and to his congregation; that no contentious cavilling spirit may come amongst them, and no hindrance be thrown in the way of life by the infirmities of him who preacheth, or by the evil hearts of those who hear. For this purpose she sets an example of obedience and teachableness under the word; considering her husband, in the exercise of his important and sacred office, less as her every-day companion and equal, than as her spiritual head, her pastor, and her guide; receiving his instructions as meekly as the lowliest of the flock; and this will be found to have the greatest influence both with her children and servants, who are thereby checked in any presumptuous or light conduct, whether of speech or manner.

On leaving the church, the parson's wife avoids lingering in the vestry or on the road, where her mind may be disturbed by common conversation, and her children contract the evil habit of Sunday gossip, wherein the preacher is criticised, the sermon lightly or uncharitably discussed, worldly affairs brought forward, and the good seed of the word picked out of the careless heart, even before they have lost the sound of it in their ears. She hastens with them from all temptation to this sin, and for the most part silently, unless she sees fit at that moment, whilst their little hearts are warm with the exercise of devotion, to press home an application to each soul, and make clear any obscurity in what has been heard. The same may be observed towards a neighbour or friend; but usually she finds solitude and silence the best means of retaining that prayerful spirit which she had taken with her to the house of God, and of preserving the solemn truths which the minister of God's word had laid before her.

Between the services of the day, the pastor's wife devotes a portion of time, first, to her own household, seeing that her children and servants are happily and profitably employed with good books; whilst those who are old enough may accompany her and assist at the Sunday-school. After this, and according to the hour of evening worship, she visits some poor neighbour, whom sorrow or sickness keeps at home, and as her husband, through many duties or delicate health, may not be able to do this himself, she endeavours as far as she can to supply his place to them. At night there is still employment in the nursery, where the little ones are taught hymns and sacred history, whilst the pastor catechises the elder children.

Different circumstances may draw forth other duties unforeseen, but she meets them all in the same spirit; and the last hours of the Sabbath are passed in the intercourse of affection, when those who have thus laboured together all the day turn to each other for mutual rest. The morning began with prayer and meditation, the evening closes with thoughtful praise; and whilst entreating a blessing on their united ministry, they humbly add, "Not unto. us; O Lord! not unto us; but unto thy name give the praise, and pros per thou the work of our hands upon us, O prosper thou our handy work."

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