John Donne, Dean of St. Paul's, London

 

 

 

St. Paul's. 
The Sunday after the Conversion of St. Paul.

I TAKE NO FARTHER occasion from this Circumstance, but to arme you with consolation, how low soever God be pleased to cast you, Though it be to the earth, yet he does not so much cast you downe, in doing that, as bring you home. Death is not a banishing of you out of this world; but it is a visitation of your kindred that lie in the earth; neither are any nearer of kin to you, than the earth it selfe, and the wormes of the earth. You heap earth upon your soules, and encumber them with more and more flesh, by a superfluous and luxuriant diet; You adde earth to earth in new purchases, and measure not by Acres, but by Manors, nor by Manors, but by Shires; And there is a little Quillet, a little Close, worth all these, A quiet Grave. And therefore, when thou readest, That God makes thy bed in thy sicknesse, rejoyce in this, not onely that he makes that bed, where thou dost lie, but that bed where thou shalt lie; That that God, that made the whole earth, is now making thy bed in the earth, a quiet grave, where thou shalt sleep in peace, till the Angels Trumpet wake thee at the Resurrection, to that Judgement where thy peace shall be, made before thou commest, and writ, and sealed, in the blood of the Lamb.

Saul falls to the earth; so farre, But he falls no lower. God brings his servants to a great lownesse here; but he brings upon no man a perverse sense, or a distrustful suspition of fading lower hereafter; His hand strikes us to the earth, by way of humiliation, But it is not his hand, that strikes us into hell, by way of desperation. Will you tell me, that you have observed and studied Gods way upon you all your life, and out of that can conclude what God meanes to doe with you after this life? That God took away your Parents in your infancy, and left you Orphanes then, That he hath crossed you in all your labours in your calling, ever since, That he hath opened you to dishonours, and calumnies, and mis-interpretations, in things well intended by you, That he hath multiplied sicknesses upon you, and given you thereby an assurance of a miserable and a short life, of few, and evill dayes, nay, That he hath suffered you to fall into sins, that you your selves have hated, To continue in sins, that you your selves have been weary of, To relapse into sins, that you your selves have repented, And will you conclude out of this that God had no good purpose upon you, that if ever he had meant to doe you good, he would never have gone thus farre, in heaping of evills upon you? Upon what doest thou ground this? upon thy selfe? Because Lou shouldest not deal thus with any man, whom thou mean'st well to? How poore, how narrow, how impious a measure of God, is this, that he must doe, as thou wouldest doe, if thou wert God! God hath not made a week without a Sabbath; no tentation, without an issue; God inflicts no calamity, no cloud, no eclipse, without light, to see ease in it, if the patient will look upon that which God hath done to him, in other cases, or to that which God hath done to others, at other times. Saul fed to the ground, but he fell no lower; God brings us to humiliation, but not to desperation.

He fell; he fell to the ground, And he fell blinde; for so it is evident in the story. Christ had said to the Pharisees, I came into the world, that they which see, might be anode blinde; And the Pharisees ask him, Have you been able to doe so upon us? Are we blinded Here Christ gives them an example, a reall, a literall, an actuall example; Saul, a Pharisee, is made blinde. He that will fill a vessell with wine, must take out the water; He that will fill a covetous mans hand with gold, must take out the silver that was there before, sayes S. Chrysostome. Christ, who is about to infuse new light into Saul, withdrawes that light that was in him before; That light, by which Saul thought he saw all before, and thought himselfe a competent Judge, which was the onely true Religion, and that all others were to be persecuted, even to death, that were not of his way. Stultus factus est omnis homo scientia, sayes God in the Prophet, Every man that trusts in his owne wit, is a foole. But let him become a foole, that he may be wise, sayes the Apostle, Let him be so, in his own eyes and God will give him better eyes, better light, better understanding. Saul was struck blinde, but it was a blindnesse contracted from light; It was a light that struck him blinde, as you see in his story. This blindnesse which we speak of, which is a sober and temperate abstinence from the immoderate study, and curious knowledges of this world, this holy simplicity of the soule, is not a darknesse, a dimnesse, a stupidity in the understanding, contracted by living in a corner, it is not an idle retiring into a Monastery, or into a Village, or a Country solitude, it is not a lazy affectation of ignorance; not darknesse, but a greater light, must make us blinde.

The sight, and the Contemplation of God, and our present benefits by him, and our future interest in him, must make us blinde to the world so, as that we look upon no face, no pleasure, no knowledge, with such an Affection, such an Ambition, such a Devotion, as upon God, and the wayes to him. Saul had such a blindnesse, as came from light; we must affect no other simplicity, than arises from the knowledge of God, and his Religion. And then, Saul had such a blindnesse, as that he fell with it. There are birds, that when their eyes are cieled, still soare up, and up, till they have spent all their strength. Men blinded with the lights of this world, soare still into higher places, or higher knowledges, or higher opinions; but the light of heaven humbles us, and layes flat that soule, which the leaven of this world had puffed and swelled up. That powerfull light felled Saul; but after he was fallen, his owne sight was restored to him againe; Ananias saies to him, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. To those men, who imploy their naturall faculties to the glory of God, and their owne, and others edification, God shall afford an exaltation of those naturall faculties; In those, who use their learning, or their wealth, or their power, well, God shall increase that power, and that wealth, and that learning, even in this world.

[LXXX. Sermons (46), 1640]

Fr. Lance Mc Adam

The Study has been prepared by Father Lance McAdam

who entered into rest July 14, 2003

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.

And light perpetual shine upon him.

Anglicanism | Ashes to Easter | John Donne