April 14, 2005

Whatsoever ye do -- or, How To Sweep The Floor

Queen Shenaynay

A favorite verse:
"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Colossians 3:23

Since Beehive scholars are studying the Renaissance, it's particularly timely to consider that George Herbert must have liked that verse, too, way back in 1633, when he wrote the following:

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for Thee:

Not rudely, as a beast,
To runne into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it His perfection.

A man that looks on glasse,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe,
And then the heav’n espie.

All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with this tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for lesse be told.

Charles Wesley loved this poem enough to arrange it into a hymn by the same title. (Beehive scholars will, of course, click that link to hear the tune... and will do so heartily, will they not? ;-)

* * * * *

John Ruskin, the eminent Victorian thinker and critic, came along about 200 years after Herbert (and almost 200 years before Beehive scholars came on the scene), and said it this way:

"There is no action so slight nor so mean* but it may be done to a great purpose, and ennobled therefore; nor is any purpose so great but that slight actions may help it, and may be so done as to help it much, most especially, that chief of all purposes -- the pleasing of God."
*as in the earlier usage of mean: base, common, low in quality or grade, inferior.

* * * * *

"Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God." Colossians 3:22

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