The Country Parson; The Temple

By John N. Wall; George Herbert | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The current revival of interest in spirituality began with a strong tendency to turn toward the traditions of the further East. Only gradually did people come to suspect that we might have spiritual resources nearer home, treasures hidden in our own backyard. George Herbert, whose place in the development of English literature in the seventeenth century is secure, is one who deserves to be much more widely known and appreciated as a significant contributor to the development of the spiritual heritage of the English speaking world. He is part of our own neglected tradition of inner life and experience, of exploration into God.

George Herbert's works come to us from the first half of the seventeenth century, a very special moment in the history of the post‐ Reformation Church of England. It was the period in which a distinctively Anglican position began to emerge, not only in matters of theology and Church order, but also in terms of spirituality and devotion. T. S. Eliot describes this moment very well in his essay on Lancelot Andrewes, published in 1928 in the little book which first announced his adherence to the Christian faith. 1. It is an essay which can tell us much of what attracted him, as a man of the twentieth century, to these seventeenth century writers, and why it was that he found them helpful in his own struggle to find a way of thinking, living and praying that faith in our own complicated century.

In the men of this period, Eliot found a remarkable combination of qualities. There was a willingness to question, joined to a deep power of affirmation; there was a sense of the uniqueness of the individual together with an appreciation of the value of what is corporate and traditional ; there was an intuitive understanding that Christian life is not either inward or outward; it is inescapably both. In his own words,

____________________
1.
T. S. Eliot, For Lancelot Andrewes (London, 1928), pp. 17-18.

-xi-

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