Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Dr. Sanderson at Boothby Pannel
By Izaak Walton (15931683)
From the Lives
AND this excellent man did not think his duty discharged by only reading the Church prayers, catechising, preaching, and administering the sacraments seasonably; but thoughtif the law or the canons may seem to enjoin no more, yetthat God would require more than the defective laws of mans making can or do enjoin; the performance of that inward law, which Almighty God hath imprinted in the conscience of all good Christians, and inclines those whom He loves to perform. He, considering this, did therefore become a law to himself, practising what his conscience told him was his duty, in reconciling differences, and preventing lawsuits, both in his parish and in the neighbourhood. To which may be added his often visiting sick and disconsolate families, persuading them to patience, and raising them from dejection by his advice and cheerful discourse, and by adding his own alms, if there were any so poor as to need it: considering how acceptable it is to Almighty God, when we do as we are advised by St. Paul, Gal. vi. 2, Help to bear one anothers burden, either of sorrow or want; and what a comfort it will be, when the Searcher of all hearts shall call us to a strict account for that evil we have done, and the good we have omitted, to remember we have comforted and been helpful to a dejected or distressed family.
And that his practice was to do good, one example may be, that he met with a poor dejected neighbour, that complained he had taken a meadow, the rent of which was £9 a year; and when the hay was made ready to be carried into his barn, several days constant rain had so raised the water, that a sudden flood carried all away, and his rich landlord would bate him no rent; and that unless he had half abated, he and seven children were utterly undone. It may be noted, that in this age there are a sort of people so unlike the God of Mercy, so void of the bowels of pity, that they love only themselves and children: love them so, as not to be concerned, whether the rest of mankind waste their days in sorrow or shame: people that are cursed with riches, and a mistake that nothing but riches can make them and theirs happy. But it was not so with Dr. Sanderson: for he was concerned, and spoke comfortably to the poor dejected man: bade him go home and pray, and not load himself with sorrow, for he would go to his landlord next morning: and if his landlord would not abate what he desired, he and a friend would pay it for him.
To the landlord he went the next day, and, in a conference, the Doctor presented to him the sad conditions of his poor dejected tenant; telling him how much God is pleased when men compassionate the poor: and told him, that though God loves sacrifice, yet he loves mercy so much better, that He is best pleased when called the God of Mercy. And told him the riches he was possessed of were given him by that God of Mercy, who would not be pleased, if he, that had so much given, yea, and forgiven him too, should prove like the rich steward in the gospel, that took his fellow servant by the throat to make him pay the utmost farthing. This he told him: and told him, that the law of this nationby which law he claims his rentdoes not undertake to make men honest or merciful; but does what it can to restrain men from being dishonest or unmerciful, and yet was defective in both; and that taking any rent from his poor tenant, for what God suffered him not to enjoy, though the law allowed him to do so, yet if he did so, he was too like that rich steward which he had mentioned to him; and told him that riches so gotten, and added to his great estate, would, as Job says, prove like gravel in his teeth: would in time so corrode his conscience, or become so nauseous when he lay upon his death-bed, that he would then labour to vomit it up, and not be able; and therefore advised him, being very rich, to make friends of his unrighteous Mammon, before that evil day come upon him: but however, neither for his own sake, nor for Gods sake, to take any rent of his poor, dejected, sad tenant; for that were to gain a temporal, and lose his eternal happiness. These, and other such reasons were urged with so grave and compassionate an earnestness, that the landlord forgave his tenant the whole rent.
The reader will easily believe that Dr. Sanderson, who was so meek and merciful, did suddenly and gladly carry this comfortable news to the dejected tenant: and will believe that at the telling of it there was a mutual rejoicing. It was one of Jobs boasts that he had seen none perish for want of clothing: and that he had often made the heart of the widow to rejoice, Job xxxi. 19. And doubtless Dr. Sanderson might have made the same religious boast of this and very many like occasions. But, since he did not, I rejoice that I have this just occasion to do it for him; and that I can tell the reader, I might tire myself and him, in telling how like the whole course of Dr. Sandersons life, was to this which I have now related.