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Holy Mr Herbert

George Herbert took 37 years to decide he wanted to be a pastor. After just three years of service, he died. But the man who wrote that every word of a sermon must be "heart-deep," and who left a moving account of his struggle to "subject mine to the will of Jesus my master," possessed a commitment to ministry that nothing but death could have shaken.

Hopes, high and unholy

The Herbert family had sent generations of sons to the royal court and to battle by the time George was born, in 1593. His aspirations tended toward politics, and he possessed both the wits and the connections to succeed. He had merely to play the game.

First, Herbert got his education and a fellowship at prestigious Trinity College, Cambridge. Next, he eyed the office of public orator, which he called "the finest place in the University." The job consisted of delivering flowery, flattering speeches whenever important people visited campus. Public orators made many powerful friends.

As a university fellow, Herbert would ...

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