From “Select Remains of the Rev E White, of Potterspury, Northamptonshire”
A Rustic Congregation
At Pury, I join a rustic throng, blockish as inattentive. Not the house of God himself could awe them. In comes Hodge as gently as a trooper: plump he squats in his accustomed seat. The farmer snores; His son looks big, & dashing as a lord; and ere the blessing closes with ‘Amen’, an impious hubbab bounces on your ear; and faster than they entered, all rush out. But not with prayerful silence; no one asks, with pensive earnestness, ‘Am I the wretch this guilty, or thus pardoned? Is heaven mine?’ But talk of weather & the growth of corn, the state of markets, & the price of pigs; How horses, poultry, eggs, & butter sold? Or scandal; the most trifling village news; And any theme more grateful than his love; Who’d plough a rock? Or water a dead tree? Or toil with some souls gross-hearted, – sermon proof? – Perplexed, dispirited, as useless here, in spite of house & orchard, & some friends affectionate, & Fitzroy’s transient smile, I sigh for liberty, & fain would fly.
So oft we loathe the oaks ourselves desired, and of our chosen gardens grow ashamed.*
Nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net.
Such Themes the intervals of worship fill.
Ye visit their abodes in the fond hope of finding life. You are discovered: one in the stable lurks; one slinks behind a stack, anxious to ‘scape the parson, who perchance might start religion. Join their social throng, or at the dining board, or cheerful tea, bring in the subject of the last discourse- the wisest cannot recollect the text! But each devoutly tries: one fumbler thumbs the bible; & what you in David read is certainly (they all conclude) in John.
Peasants have human souls; & he is blest who plucks but one from mis’ry & despair. The rude and simple are to Jesus dear. But when both young & long instructed shew a vicious dominance, not females free! When any name but that of Christ is sweet.