Why I Love Early Modern Guides to Life

In reading for my dissertation, I come across all sorts of wacky explanations of how people should be good Christians and good members of households. This is, by far, my favorite explanation of how to be a good Christian by keeping Jesus in mind at all times:

"So wee Christians in the building of our spiritual Tabernacles, in building of our saluation vpon the Rocke Iesus Christ, in framing and leading our liues according to Gods holy will an his word, must do al things, frame out all our actions and works according to that sampler, which Iesus Christ our Lord & Master did shew vs in the mount of Calvary, where hee was crucified for vs, that is, according to the passion of Christ, we must always haue a bloody passion of Christ in our minds, as a frontlet betwict our eyes, as a ring vpon our fingers, and as a nosegay betwixt our breasts." Thomas Fosset, The Calling and Condition of Servants (1613)

It's important, this text says, to keep Jesus in our minds and, most importantly, in our accessories. Or, as my good friend Holly suggested "How Would Jesus Smell?"

(The nosegay would be used as something to smell to avoid the nasty smells of London and to prevent catching the plague. Life before germ theory is pretty interesting).

Fosset's text also suggests that the best example of servitude in the Bible is Abraham, but not because Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. Instead, Abraham was so obedient to God, he was willing to circumcise himself. Self-circumcision.

This is one of my favorite texts about how to run the household in early modern London - it's also a rare example of one of these books that actually addresses the servant, not just the master.

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