A Priest to the Temple — The Parson on Sundays

Here is the latest in our Herbert Festivall, featuring excerpts from A Priest to the Temple, with some commentary below.

CHAP. VIII. The Parson on Sundays.

THe Country Parson, as soon as he awakes on Sunday morning, presently falls to work. and seems to himselfe so as a Market-man is, when the Market day comes, or a shopkeeper, when customers use to come in. His thoughts are full of making the best of the day, and contriving it to his best gaines. To this end, besides his ordinary prayers, he makes a peculiar one for a blessing on the exercises of the day, That nothing befall him unworthy of that Majesty before which he is to present himself, but that all may be done with reverence to his glory, and with edification to his flock, humbly beseeching his Master, that how or whenever he punish him, it be not in his Ministry: then he turnes to request for his people, that the Lord would be pleased to sanctifie them all, that they may come with holy hearts, and awfull mindes into the Congregation, and that the good God would pardon all those, who come with lesse prepared hearts then they ought. This done, he sets himself to the Consideration of the duties of the day, and if there be any extraordinary addition to the customary exercises, either from the time of the year, or from the State, or from God by a child born, or dead, or any other accident, he contrives how and in what manner to induce it to the best advantage. Afterwards when the hour calls, with his family attending him, he goes to Church, at his first entrance humbly adoring, and worshipping the invisible majesty, and presence of Almighty God, and blessing the people either openly, or to himselfe.
Then having read divine Service twice fully, and preached in the morning, and catechized in the afternoone, he thinks he hath in some measure, according to poor, and fraile man, discharged the publick duties of the Congregation. The rest of the day he spends either in reconciling neighbours that are at variance, or in visiting the sick, or in exhortations to some of his flock by themselves, whom his Sermons cannot, or doe not reach. And every one is more awaked, when we come, and say, Thou art the man. This way he findes exceeding usefull, and winning; and these exhortations he cals his privy purse, even as Princes have theirs, besides their publick disbursments. At night he thinks it a very fit time, both sutable to the joy of the day, and without hinderance to publick duties, either to entertaine some of his neighbours, or to be entertained of them, where he takes occasion to discourse of such things as are both profitable, and pleasant, and to raise up their mindes to apprehend Gods good blessing to our Church, and State; that order is kept in the one, and peace in the other, without is disturbance, or interruption of publick divine offices. As he opened the day with prayer, so he closeth it, humbly beseeching the Almighty to pardon and accept our poor services, and to improve them, that we may grow therein, and that our feet may be like hindes feet ever climbing up higher, and higher unto him.

I have little to add, except this: if you are a priest and Sunday feels like another day “on the job”, then I think it’s time to find another job. While it’s true that it’s a day to work, and that we have to be “on”, it is more true that we have a sacred privilege in our ministry on Sundays. It should be a delight and a joy to serve our congregation, especially on Sundays. Does that mean it’s always easy or fun? Of course not. But we are meant to find joy in our vocation — as are all Christians — and Sunday must not be thought of as just a “work day.”

So delight in Sunday. Delight in the gathering of God’s people. Find time, before the chaos hits, for a moment of prayer. And pray again, at the end of the day, in thanksgiving for the blessings of life, especially for the gift of the call to be a priest in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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