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

 

 

 

 

Preached to the King's Majestie at Whitehall

FOR THE FIRST generall sale by Adam, wee complaine now that Land will not sell; that 20. is come to 15. yeares purchase; but doe wee not take too late a Medium, too low a time to reckon by? How cheape was Land at first, how cheape were we? what was Paradise sold for? What was Heaven, what was Mankinde sold for? Immortalitie was sold, and what yeares Purchase was that worth? Immortalitie is our Eternitie, God hath another manner of eternitie in him, He hath a whole eternal day; an eternal afternoone, and an eternal forenoone too; for as he shall have no end, so hee never had beginning; we have an eternal afternoone in our immortalitie: we shall no more see an end, than God hath seene a beginning; and Millions of yeares, multiplied by Millions, make not up a Minute to this Eternitie, this Immortalitie. When Dives values a droppe of water at so high price, what would he give for a River? How poore a Clod of Earth is a Mannor! how poore an inch, a Shire! how poore a spanne, a Kingdome! how poore a pace, the whole world! And yet how prodigally we sell Paradise, Heaven, Soules, Consciences, Immortalitie, Eternitie, for a few Craines of this Dust! What had Eve for Heaven; so little, as that the Holy Ghost will not let us know, what she had, not what Kinde of Fruite; yet something Eve had. What had Adam for Heaven? but a satisfaction that hee had pleased an ill wife, as St. Hierome states his fault, that he eate that Fruite, Ne contristaretur Delicias suas, least he should cast her, whom he lov'd so much, into an inordinate dejection; but if he satisfied her, and his owne Uxoriousnesse, any satisfaction is not nothing. But what had I for Heaven? Adam sinnd, and I suffer; I forfeited before I had any Possession, or could claime any Interest; I had a Punishment, before I had a being, And God was displeased with me before I was I; I was built up scarse 50. years ago, in my Mothers womb, and I was cast down, almost 6000. years agoe, in Adams loynes; I was borne in the last Age of the world, and dyed in the first. How and how justly do we cry out against a Man, that hath sold a Towne, or sold an Army. And Adam sold the World. He sold Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, and all the Patriarchs, and all the Prophets. He sold Peter, and Paul, and both their Regiments, both the glorious Hemispheres of the World, The Jewes and the Gentiles. He sold Evangelists, and Apostles, and Disciples, and the Disciple whom the Lord loved, and the beloved Mother of the Lord, her selfe, say what they will to the contrary. And if Christ had not provided for himselfe, by a miraculous Generation, Adam had sold him: If Christ had bene conceivd in Originall sinne, hee must have dyed for himselfe, nay, he could not have dyed for himselfe, but must have needed another Saviour. It is in that Contemplation, as hee was descended from Adam, that St. Paul sayes of himselfe, Venundatus, I am carnall, sold under sinne. For though St. Augustine, and some others of the Fathers, doe sometimes take the Apostle, in that Place, to speake of himselfe, as in the person of a natural Man (that every Man considered in nature, is sold under sinne, but Supernaturall, the Sanctified Man is not so). yet St. Augustine, himselfe, in his latest, and gravest Bookes, and particularly in his Retractations, returnes to this sense of these words,

That no man, in what measure soever Sanctified, can so emancipate himselfe from that Captivitie, to which Adam hath enthralld him, but that, as hee is enwrapped in Originall sinne, hee is solde under sinne. And both S. Hierome, and S. Ambrose, (both which, seeme in other places, to goe an other way, That onely they are sold under sinne, which have abandond, and prostituted themselves to particular sinnes, ) doe yet returne to this sense, That because the Embers, the Spaune, the leaven of Originall sinne, remained by Adams sale, in the best, the best are sold under sinne.

So the Jewes were, and so were we sold by Adam, to Originall sinne, very cheape; but in the second sale, as wee are sold to actuall, and habitual sinnes, by our selves, cheaper; for so, sayes this Prophet, You have sold your selves for nothing: Our selves, that is all our selves; of o[u]r bodies to intemperance, and ryot, and licenciousnes, and our soules to a greedines of sinne; and all this for nothing, for sinne it selfe, for which wee sell our selves, is but a privation, and privations are nothing. What fruit had you of those things, whereof you are now ashamed, sayes the Apostle; here is Barrennesse and shame; Barrennesse is a privation of fruit, shame is a privation of that confidence, which a good Conscience administers, and when the Apostle tells them, they sold themselves for barrennesse and shame, it was for privation, for nothing. The Adulterer waits for the twy-light, sayes Job. The Twy-light comes, and serves his turne; and sin, to night looks like a Purchase, like a Treasure; but aske this sinner to morrow, and he hath sold himselfe for nothing; for debility in his limnes, for darknesse in his understanding, for emptinesse in his purse, for absence of grace in his Soule; and Debilitie, and Darkenes, and emptinesse, and Absence, are privations, and privations are nothing. All the name of Substance or Treasure that sinne takes, is that in the Apostle, Thesaurizastis Iram Dei, You have treasured up the wrath of God, against the day of wrath: And this is a fearefull privation, of the grace of God here, and of the Face of God hereafter; a privation so much worse than nothing, as that they upon whom it falls, would faine be nothing, and cannot.

[Published separately, 1626]

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