Not long ago, I stumbled across a great treatise in Pastoral Theology from the Puritan era, The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life, by George Herbert (better known for his poetry). Herbert, though a conformist to the Church of England, was obviously highly regarded among the non-conformists. Richard Baxter had this to say of him, “Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books.” High praise, coming from the ‘Reformed Pastor’ himself!
There are many things in the work that doesn’t directly apply to the modern day pastor. But there is much to glean. I offer just a few quotes from his chapter entitled, “The Parson in His House,” since it builds on the material of a previous post on the strategic role of the manse:
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 (25).
His parsonage is but the workroom of grace in his family, which in turn serves the blessing of salvation to the neighborhood.
He is not a one-man show, however. His children are commissioned into the service of their ‘parson’ father:
His children he first makes Christians, and then commonwealth’s men: the one he owes to his heavenly country, the other to his earthly, having no title to either, except he do good to both. Therefore, having seasoned them with all piety – not only of words, in praying and reading; but in actions, in visiting other sick children, and tending their wounds; and sending his charity by them to the poor, and sometimes giving them a little money to do it themselves, that they get a delight in it, and enter favor with God, who weighs even children’s actions (1 Kings, xiv. 12, 13).
The exhortation in Deuteronomy 6 is to be taken quite literally in the manse:
Even the walls are not idle; but something is written or painted there, which may excite the reader to a thought of piety: especially the 101st Psalm; which is expressed in a fair table, as being the rule of a family (26).
And that’s just a sampling.
No doubt its obscurity is due to its identification with ‘conformist’ Puritanism, if that is even an appropriate term. It’s too bad, though. Quite a treasure trove of Pastoral Theology.