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Picture of the front page of George Herbert's classic work The Country Parson

George Herbert on pastoral ministry

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 18 Feb 2015

The first instalment of our Lent series working through George Herbert's classic work, The Country Parson.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to post the complete text of George Herbert’s little book on pastoral ministry. Herbert was a seventeenth-century English poet and Anglican minister. John Piper wrote a little something on him recently.

Herbert wrote a lovely little book on ministry called The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life which contains some great gems. It’s not just for rural vicars! It is well worth reading even today and superior in many ways to Mr Guilt-Inducing’s book The Reformed Pastor which others rave about so much. It also has a few things which make me go “Hmmmm, not sure about that one George.”

So, what I’ll do is update his strange spelling and capitalisation and punctuation, change the KJV for the ESV, and add a few comments of my own. The chapters are not very long, standard blog post size mostly. So if you follow these posts over the next few weeks, which shouldn’t be too onerous, you’ll be able to say you’ve read George Herbert’s book on ministry, and a commentary on it too.

And here to start, is Herbert’s preface, where he basically says, “I want to please God by being a good pastor, so I’ll write a book laying out what I think the ideal is. None of us will achieve it perfectly, but that’s OK.”

“Being desirous (through the mercy of God) to please him, for whom I am, and live, and who gives me my desires and performances; and considering with myself, that the way to please him, is to feed my flock diligently and faithfully, since our Saviour hath made that the argument of a Pastor’s love, I have resolved to set down the form and character of a true Pastor, that I may have a mark to aim at: which also I will set as high as I can, since he shoots higher that threatens the moon, than he that aims at a tree. Not that I think, if a man do not all which is here expressed, he presently sins, and displeases God, but that it is a good strife to go as far as we can in pleasing of him, who hath done so much for us. The Lord prosper the intention to myself, and others, who may not despise my poor labours, but add to those points, which I have observed, until the book grow to a complete Pastoral.”

Revd Dr Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society

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