The 17th century English poet and pastor George Herbert held the office of the pastor (or “country parson” as he called it) in high regard and held the person filling that office to a high standard of living.
“Because the two highest points of life, wherein a Christian is most seen, are patience and mortification, patience in regard of afflictions, mortification in regard of lusts and affections and the stupefying and deadening of all clamorous powers of the soul, therefore he hath thoroughly studied these that he may be an absolute master and commander of himself for all the purposes which God hath ordained him.”
Patient in affliction and putting to death the lusts and temptations that are within the human heart, to be “an absolute master and commander of himself.” A high standard to be sure, but no higher than the apostle Paul set for every follower of Christ in Romans 12:9-12:
Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer . . .” (NKJV)
In other words, Paul says that a Christian should live like . . . a Christian. But regardless of whether we are parson or parishioner, reading statements like Herbert’s or Scriptures like those in Romans cause us to realize how far short of the standard we fall. We struggle with patience. Too often, the “lusts and affections and . . . clamorous powers” within show themselves in our words and actions. Too often people see our lack of love and striving for preference, and in trying to cling to what is good, we often find that we do not “abhor what is evil” as we should. As followers of Christ, we take this seriously and grieve over how we fail our Lord. But at such times we can be encouraged because we can turn to Jesus, bring to him all our sin and failure, and rest in His love and provision for us. Horatius Bonar’s hymn “I Lay My Sins on Jesus” helps us celebrate and praise God for this.
I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God.
He bears them all and frees us from the accursed load.
I bring my guilt to Jesus, to wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious, till not a spot remains
The promise of forgiveness of sin and cleansing from sin is a precious truth in Scripture. But so is the fact that we can cast “. . . all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV).
I lay my wants on Jesus; all fullness dwells in Him.
He heals all my diseases, He doth my soul redeem.
I lay my griefs on Jesus, my burdens, and my cares.
He from them all releases, He all my sorrows shares.
We can know inner rest and peace as we receive, from Jesus, freedom from the “accursed load” of our sin, cleansing from the filth of our guilt, provision of our needs, and comfort and help in our times of sorrow or struggle.
I rest my soul on Jesus, this weary soul of mine.
His right hand me embraces, I on His breast recline.
I love the name of Jesus – Immanuel, Christ the Lord.
Like fragrance on the breezes His name abroad I poured.
A sign that we are making progress in the spiritual life is when our inmost desires begin to align with the desires of the Holy Spirit – when we begin to sense a genuine desire to be more like Jesus.
I long to be like Jesus – meek, loving, lowly, mild.
I long to be like Jesus, the Father’s holy Child.
I long to be with Jesus amid the heavenly throng,
To sing with saints His praises, to learn the angel’s song.
Meek. Lowly. Loving. Mild. Living like Jesus in the power of the Spirit. May this be a continuous and growing desire and experience in our lives.
Click on the following link to hear the hymn performed.
 George Herbert, A PRIEST TO THE TEMPLE, chapter 3 “The Parson’s Life.”