George Herbert on the pastor and humour

Generally, pastors are sad, says Herbert. That’s not because they’re overworked or underpaid, as some complain of, but because they are focused on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only so, but their ministries force them to confront humour sin and human suffering on a regular basis, which is impossible to do appropriately with a light and superficial grin.

However, some humour mixed in with his conversation every so often can be a great help, because nobody likes an old sourpuss. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as a great pastoral heart once sang. Though what she, or Herbert, would have made of those whose sermons are more akin to a stand-up comedy routine, can only be guessed…

The Parson in mirth

The country parson is generally sad, because he knows nothing but the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2), his mind being fixed on it with those nails wherewith his Master was.

Or, if he have any leisure to look off from thence, he meets continually with two most sad spectacles: sin and misery; God dishonoured every day, and man afflicted.

Nevertheless, he sometimes refreshes himself, as knowing that nature will not bear everlasting droopings, and that pleasantness of disposition is a great key to do good — not only because all men shun the company of perpetual severity, but also for that when they are in company, instructions seasoned with pleasantness both enter sooner and root deeper.

Wherefore he condescends to humane frailties both in himself and others, and intermingles some mirth in his discourses occasionally, according to the pulse of the hearer.


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