Sunday 2 February 1661/62

(Lord’s day). To church in the morning, and then home and dined with my wife, and so both of us to church again, where we had an Oxford man give us a most impertinent sermon upon “Cast your bread upon the waters,” &c. So home to read, supper, and to prayers, and then to bed.

33 Annotations

First Reading

JWB  •  Link

"Cast your bread upon the waters, &c.
Ecclesiastes 11. In chapt. 12, Solomon writes:”The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails…” From Sam’s reaction(impertinent), I think we can assume the Oxford man was competent.

Clement  •  Link

(Eccl 11:1-6 NIV) "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. {2} Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land."
Distribute your investments (bread, i.e. grain) to multiple locations (fields flooded by river swell, which was a convenient way to irrigate and silt over seed), even to seven or eight of them, because some are bound to fail. Or, don't put all your eggs in one basket, etc.
Sam has lately gotten into the habit of making dismissive declaritive statements without providing supporting argument.
Maybe he'll grow out of it.

Clement  •  Link

Or maybe he didn't expect to be read widely for the remaining course of human civilization.

vicenzo  •  Link

or like the cuckoo or cuckold or Charles: don't put all ye offspring in one nest.

Chris  •  Link

Presumably 'impertinent' has suffered a meaning shift. Does Sam mean 'inappropriate' or 'irrelevant'? Or has he really been irritated by the sermon?

Australian Susan  •  Link

The Sermon
A conservative exegesis on this verse is as follows:
"There are two major opinions concerning the literal meaning of verse 1: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." Some believe it refers to maritime commerce, advising to send ships selling grain out to many different ports, for some are bound to gain success. Others believe it refers to casting seed on the shallow areas of a river, with the hope that some will take root. Whatever the literal meaning, the figurative lesson seems to be that a daring, seemingly foolish, distribution of your assets will yield returns in the future."
I know we can't really know what had caused Sam's dismissive utterance on the sermon, but I do wonder if the man was commenting on maritime practices which he, Sam, thought he, the preacher, knew nothing about!
If the preacher was merely wanting to warn his listeners and to exhort them to better behaviour or better Christian charity, there are other more well known and more apt passages - for example: Matthew 25:31-46 or Romans 2:5-11 or 2Corinthians 5:10

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam and church
Last Sunday, we were commenting on how often Elizabeth goes to church in the morning, but the construction of this entry implies, I think, that they both went to both services. A very quiet domesticated day!

Ebo  •  Link

"Cast your bread upon the waters:"

Could this not be interpreted as a sermon dunning the congregation for tithes? That the Oxford man was suggesting that donations to the church are bread cast upon the waters, which will return rewards either in this world or the next? This could explain Sam's considering the sermon impertinent.

Churches today often have preachers come from outside to preach the sermon that solicits money, presumably so the local preacher is not seen as the bad guy.

Mary  •  Link


L&M gloss this term as 'irrelevant, garrulous or foolish'. One could probably add 'inappropriate' as Chris suggests above. On 5th January this congregation enjoyed a lengthy service whilst the annual collection for the Sexton was made (Sam gave 2/-) so it would seem unlikely that a 'dunning' sermon would be made so soon after that occasion. Perhaps the Oxford man's sermon was simply long-winded and poorly argued.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam and his fellow Navy Officers paid rent for their (no doubt handsome) pew in the (now removed) gallery of St Olave's Church. They would, as parishioners, have also paid tithes for the income of Mr Mills. Maybe the objected to sermon was what we would call nowadays a stewardship sermon: we are coming up to Lady Day (payment day) at the end of March, I suppose. But perhaps, he was just what Sam saw as a jumped-up young University pup, who should not be preaching rules for living to his elders and betters! But, we'll never know, will we?

Terry  •  Link

Perhaps the fact that the sermon came from an OXFORD man is of significance. Sam was, after all, a CAMBRIDGE man. Perhaps the rivalry which exists today between the two universities was in evidence back in Pepys' time. It seems likely that Oxford has some significance, otherwise why would Sam mention that the preacher was an Oxford man?

Nix  •  Link

Impertinent --

I read it in this context to mean irrelevant or silly -- what we would now call a "lightweight" sermon. I think the common meaning we now give to "impertinent" -- as presumptuous or insolent -- didn't take general hold until later. The old meaning survives in legal usage, as in the court rules on the striking of pleadings that contain "redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter."

vicenzo  •  Link

just 10 days ago the H of Lauds did mention such sharing of of income with the Clergy:"Could this not be interpreted as a sermon dunning the congregation for tithes? That the Oxford man was suggesting that donations to the church "
good point Ebo…
“… Grants of Tithes Bill.
Hodie 2avice lecta est Billa, "An Act for enabling Grants of Tithes, and creating Tithes where none are payable in Kind, to be made to the Parsons and Vicars of the Churches within the Precincts whereof the Lands do lie."
ORDERED, That the Consideration of this Bill is committed to these Lords following…”

Ruben  •  Link

"Cast your bread upon the waters:
This comes from Hebrew and is still used in everyday life by the modern Hebrew speakers.
Rabbi Shlomo Price explains in:…
“Rashi explains that you should do chesed and favors even for a person who you think you’ll never see again. It may seem that you will not receive anything in return as if you “sent your bread upon the water”. However, eventually you will get your reward. Rashi cites the story of Yisro who gave a meal to Moshe. Yisro thought of Moshe as an Egyptian whom he would never see again. But look at what happened at the end. Moshe became his son-in-law, brought Yisro under the Wings of Hashem”, and Yisro’s descendants later served in the Sanhedrin.”
some explanations (by me): Rashi: a very important Rabbi from the Middle Ages still quoted today.
Hashem: God

And now my interpretation of the possible Oxford Man’s words:
“you helped an exiled Prince without asking any reward, not knowing what the future will bring. Now the Prince has become a King and those that “casted their bred into the water” are geting their reward,as promised in the Scriptures.
This interpretation is really an impertinence, especially coming from some unknown Oxford man, speaking in front of all those that prefer not to be reminded of their past…

David Keith Johnson  •  Link

Ruben's excellent commentary explains to me why this bible verse was always used in my Presbyterian background as a call for philanthropic generosity. It could be the reference was as narrow as Ruben suggests, but I do not believe that such specifics are necessary to cause a young careerist, rising in the government and so in his expectations of wealth, to view such a sermon as impertinent.

I once had an attorney for whom I worked explain to me that the New Testament admonition comparing the difficulty of passing a camel through the eye of a needle to the prospects of a rich man receiving grace this way: there was, he said, a gate in Jerusalem called "The Eye of the Needle" that could accommodate a camel very handsomely, thank you. I cannot help but think that he would feel the need to apply similar sophistry to the passage that angered Sam.

vicenzo  •  Link

Always follow the money trail, and find a good anwser to suit ones audience. The sign of a good politico is to get ones audience to remove money from one's pocket to one's own. They helped the king in exile, it was not for the better of CII [it be called inter-regnum , CII was a king without money and a country], but to get back their status and ones lands and income. [totally for self interst, but it doth sound nice after the fact to say it be good for King and country .
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori." Wilfred Owen…

Ruben  •  Link

more vocabulary:
I looked a lot to find an explanation for the English word chesed.
But it was Hebrew!
"chesed": charity, favor, benevolence.

Clement  •  Link

Sam's judgement
If these guesses at Sam's reaction are correct (which seem extremely credible after today's wonderful dialog), then it provides further evidence of his inclination to a more egalitarian, meritocratic leadership sensibility, and further underlines the conflict he feels serving the master he is given, Chas2.

Sam's "formative years" saw a reform-minded Parliament (initially), and the rise and fall of the Leveller movement, which was amazingly forward thinking in it's notions of commoners as leaders and women as organizers, and for rank-and-file elected leadership.
Most noteworthy perhaps was the Meritocracy in the New Model Army itself. Policy dictated that ability was often promoted before social position, and proved an effective reform.

It seems popular manifestation of these egalitarian notions largely retreated during the Restoration, with a notable exception in the reforms that Sam was eventually instituted in the Navy, with the crucial support of the Duke of York.

Australian Susan  •  Link

The "ch" is pronounced like the "ch" in "loch" - almost as if you are clearing your throat! It is used for God's love towards humans - loving kindness - and the model for human behaviour towards others in the material world. The writers of the Christian scriptures (writing in Greek) used "agape" for this behaviour which was translated in the Authorised version of the Bible (which Sam would have heard in Church) as "charity". But neither "agape", "charity" nor our modern catch-all word "love" really capture the spirit of "chesed".

Pedro.  •  Link


I think that Terry has a point concerning rivalry that may exist between the Universities in Sam's day. Oxford was staunchly Royalist, Cromwell went to Cambridge.
Sam was played for the "light blues" before he changed sides, and joined the "dark blues," but still shows his old colours?

Josh  •  Link

I daresay I could, from where I am sitting, hit 10 people with a rock who have suffered through a "garrulous" sermon on a text which, if they had 5 minutes' preparation, they could surpass. Perhaps Pepys's irritation has a like source.

Pedro.  •  Link


If the above were true, then this would fit in well with Ruben's interpretation.

vicenzo  •  Link

also Oxford was down on the Quakers, this be why young Pen be sent down.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Lots of annotations for a short entry!

One more reason I like this blog. Great stuff here, esp. Ruben's explanation. One thing I can add, in reply to David Keith's story about the Eye of the Needle, is that your lawyer got it half-right [insert your own lawyer joke here] ... yes, there was a gate in Jerusalem with the above name that a camel could fit through, *but only if it took off everything it was carrying.* Suddenly the saying makes more sense, eh?

Language Hat, care to weigh in on the meaning of "impertinent" in today's entry?

And Australian Susan, I must say I don't see the justification in the entry for your belief that Elizabeth accompanied Sam to the morning service. Looks to me as if "church in the morning" and dining at home with Liz are separate events. Could you explain more?

vicenzo  •  Link

the implication:"... so both of us to church again,.." both of us again is wort does it in my view.

Pauline  •  Link

"both of us again is wort does it in my view"
Assuming that Sam always speaks the perfect English of our astute group here in the 21st Century. He doesn't. And, actually, we don't always either. I'm personally not convinced that the "again" should weigh much. He "again", but Elizabeth maybe, maybe not.

Bergie  •  Link

Nix is correct about "impertinent." That is impertinent which does not pertain; Sam may have been saying that the sermon was irrelevant. The OED, 1st editition, labels this use "now rare exc. in Law." Another meaning, also current in the 1600s, was "not suitable to the circumstances; incongruous, inappropriate, out of place; not consonant with reason; absurd, idle, trivial, silly."

Mary  •  Link

impertinent/impertinence again.

For interest's sake, I've just taken a look a Dr. Johnson's dictionary (1755). He defines the noun as follows:

1. That which is of no present weight; that which has no relation to the matter in hand.
2. Folly, rambling thought.
3. Troublesomeness, intrusion.
4. Trfile, thing of no value.

Pedro.  •  Link

And still no winter says the Rev. Ralph.

Feb. 2. no winter yet, and so we heard until the end of December it was in Denmark Sweden, and from Vienna in Germany, corn rises in price. god good to us in outward mercies, my heart not intent on my labours spiritual, lord in mercy quicken me thereto and accept me.

language hat  •  Link

I think Nix and Bergie have it.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The sermon's text (Ecclesiastes 11:1, KJV) is "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days."

Bill  •  Link

"a most impertinent sermon"

IMPERTINENT, not to the Purpose, absurd, silly.
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1675.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘impertinent < French impertinent . .
. . 3. a. Not suitable to the circumstances; incongruous, inappropriate, out of place; not consonant with reason; absurd, idle, trivial, silly.
. . 1631 J. Weever Anc. Funerall Monuments 16 These superfluous and impertinent costs of funerall expenses.
1662 J. Davies tr. A. Olearius Voy. & Trav. Ambassadors 80 The opinion the Muscovites have of themselves and their abilities, is sottish, gross, and impertinent.
a1676 M. Hale Primitive Originat. Mankind (1677) i. i. 13 In comparison of this, all other Knowledge is vain, light and impertinent.
1706 Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6) Impertinent,..absurd, silly, idle . . ‘

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