John Donne

Six Sermons 4

Preached to the Nobility

[Before April 1619]


In finem dilexit eos, saith S. John, He loved them to the end, not for any particular end, for any use of his own, but to their end Qui erant in mundo, saith Cyril, ad distinctionem Angelorum; he loved them in the world, and not Angels: he loved not onely them who were in a confirmed estate of mutuall loving of him too, but even them who were themselves conceived in sinne, and then conceived all their purposes in sinne too; them who could have no cleansing but in his bloud, and when they were cleansed in his bloud, their own clothes would defile them again; them, who by nature are not able to love him at all; and when by grace they are brought to love him, can expresse their love no other way, but to be glad that he was betrayed, and scourged, and scorned, and nailed, and crucified; and to be glad, that if all this were not alreadie done, it might be done yet; and to long and to wish, if Christ were not crucified, to have him crucified now (which is a strange manner of expressing love) those men he loved, and loved to the end; men, and not Angels; and then men, Ad distinctionem mortuorum, saith Chrysostome: not onely the Patriarchs who were departed out of the world, who had loved him so well as to take his word for their salvation, and had lived and died in a faithfull contemplation of a future promise, which they never saw performed; but those who were the partakers of the performance of all those promises; those, into the midst of whom he came in person; those, upon whom he wrought by his piercing doctrine and powerfull miracles; those, who for all this loved not him, he loved, Et in finem, he loved them to the end. It is much that he should love them in fine, at their end; that he should look graciously on them at last; that when their sunne sets, their eyes faint, his sunne of grace should arise, and his East should be brought to their West; that then, in the shadow of death, the Lord of life should quicken and inanimate their hearts; that when their last bell tolls, and calls them to their first and last judgement, which to this purpose is all one; for the passing bell and the Angels trump sound but one note: Surgite qui dormitis in pulvere, Arise ye that sleep in the dust, which is the voice of the Angels; and, Surgite qui vigilatis in plumis, Arise ye that cannot sleep in feathers, for the pangs of death, which is the voice of the bell, is in effect but one voice: for God at the generall judgement shall never reverse any particular judgement formerly given: that God should then come to thy bedside Ad sibilandum populum suum, as the Prophet Ezechiel saith, to hisse softly for his childe, to speak comfortably in his eare, to whisper gently to his departing soul, and to drown and overcome with this soft musick of his all the clangour of the Angels trumpets, all the horrour of the ringing bell, all the cries and vociferations of a distressed, and distracted, and scattering family; yea, all the accusations of his own conscience, and all the triumphant acclamations of the devil himself: that God should love a man thus in fine, at his end, and return to him then though he had suffered him to go astray before, is a great testimonie of the inexpressible love. But this love is not in fine, in the end; but In finem, to the end. He leaves them not uncalled at the first, he leaves them not unaccompanied in the way, he leaves them not unrecompensed at the last. That God, who is Almighty, Alpha and Omega, First and Last, that God is also Love it self; and therefore this Love is Alpha and Omega, First and Last too. Consider Christs proceeding with Peter in the ship, in the storm: First he suffered him to be in some danger of the storm, but then he visits him with that strong assurance, Noli timere, Be not afraid, it is I: any testimonie of his presence rectifies all. This puts Peter into that spirituall confidence and courage, Jube me venire, Lord bid me come to thee; he hath a desire to be with Christ, but yet stayes his bidding: he puts not himself into an unnecessarie danger, without commandment: Christ bids him, and Peter comes: but yet, though Christ were in his sight, and even in the actuall exercise of his love to him, so soon as he saw a gust, a storm, Timuit, He was afraid; and Christ lets him fear, and lets him sink, and lets him crie, but he directs his fear and his crie to the right end: Domine, salvum me fac; Lord, save me; and thereupon he stretched forth his hand and saved him. God doth not raise his children to honour and great estate, and then leave them, and expose them to be subjects and exercises of the malice of others; neither doth he make them mightie and then leave them, ut glorietur in malo qui potens est, that he should think it a glorie to do harm: he doth not impoverish and dishonour his children, and then leave them unsensible of that doctrine, that patience is as great a blessing as abundance. God gives not his people health, and then leaves them to a boldnesse in surfeting; nor beautie, and then leaves them to a confidence, and opening themselves to all sollicitations; nor valour, and then leaves them to a spiritous quarrelsomnesse: God makes no patterns of his works, nor models of his houses; he makes whole pieces, and perfect houses: he puts his children into good wayes, and he directs and protects them in those wayes; for this is the constancie and perseverance of the love of Christ Jesus to us, as he is called in this Text a stone.

 

John Donne, Six Sermons 4 (1634)


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John Donne: Six Sermons 4 / Rev. 11 December 1998 / © Copyright 1998, Elizabeth T. Knuth / URL: http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/jd/nobility.html