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His worth may bear a tale or two, that may put upon him somewhat that may seem divine.
One day when King Henry the Sixth (whose innocence gave him holiness) was washing his hands at a great feast, and cast his eye upon King Henry, then a young youth, he said, “This is the lad, that shall possess quietly that, that we now strive for.' But that that was truly divine in him, was that he had the fortune of a true Christian, as well as of a great King, in living exercised, and dying repentant. So as he had an happy warfare in both conflicts, both of sin, and the cross.
He was born at Pembroke Castle, and lieth buried at Westminster, in one of the stateliest and daintiest monuments of Europe, both for the chapel, and for the sepulchre. So that he dwelleth more richly dead, in the monument of his tomb, than he did alive in Richmond, or any of his palaces. I could wish he did the like, in this monument of his fame.
JOHN DONNE, of Welsh extraction, was born in London in 1573. When only eleven years old he entered Hart Hall, Oxford, from which in three years he removed to Trinity College, Cambridge. At seventeen he was admitted of Lincoln's Inn, but coming into a small fortune by the death of his father, he betook himself to the study of theology, in which direction his taste had always lain.
He had been brought up a Roman Catholic, but he was led as the result of his studies to attach himself to the Anglican Church, as established under Elizabeth.
In the year 1596, he accompanied the Earl of Essex on his Spanish expedition, and remained some time abroad, principally in Italy and Spain. The interesting story of his marriage, and of the narrow circumstances to which he was reduced, having expended his patrimony in storing his mind, should be read in the delightful narrative of Izaak Walton. He entered holy orders at the age of forty, yielding to the repeated exhortations of Morton, Bishop of Durham, and the wish of King James the First. Beside other preferment, he was appointed in 1621 to the Deanery of St. Paul's, and died March 31st, 1631.
Donne left poems which were published after his death, but his reputation as an author rests upon his Sermons and Devotions. He writes with a mind and imagination charged with matter, which strives, as it were, to press itself into each sentence. Full as his periods are, we feel that the store has been but sparingly dealt out, and that much more remains, if he would have said it. Having shone as a wit, in an age of wit, and an age when wit was not confined to ludicrous associations, but extended to a higher skill of point and antithesis, his language, though not strictly speaking obscure, requires close and unbroken attention to follow its meaning. The latest Editor of Donne's Sermons, Dean Alford, says there are passages in them which in depth and grandeur even surpass the strings of beautiful expressions to be found in Jeremy Taylor, and are the recreations of a loftier mind, and while Taylor's similes are exquisite in their melody of sound and happy in external description, Donne enters into the inner soul of art and gives his readers more satisfactory and permanent delight.'
And then a third beam of this consolation is, that in this house of his Father's, thus by him made ours, there are mansions; in which word, the consolation is not placed, (I do not say, that there is not truth in it) but the consolation is not placed in this, that some of these mansions are below, some above stairs, some better seated, better lighted, better vaulted, better fretted, better furnished than others; but only in this, that they are mansions; which word, in the original, and Latin, and our language, signifies a remaining, and denotes the perpetuity, the everlastingness of that state. A state but of one day, because no night shall overtake, or determine it, but such a day, as is not of a thousand years, which is the longest measure in the Scriptures, but of a thousand millions of millions of generations : Qui nec praeceditur hesterno, nec excluditur crastino, A day that hath no pridie, nor postridie, yesterday doth not usher it in, nor to-morrow shall not drive it out. Methusalem, with all his hundreds of years, was but a mushroom of a night's growth, to this day, and all the four monarchies, with all their thousands of years, and all the powerful kings, and all the beautiful queens of th's world, were but as a bed of flowers, some gathered at six, some at seven, some at eight, all in one morning, in respect of this day. In all the two thousand years of nature, before the law given by Moses, and the two thousand years of law, before the Gospel given by Christ, and the two thousand of grace, which are running now, (of which last hour we have heard three quarters strike, more than fifteen hundred of this last two thousand spent) in all this six thousand, and in all those, which God may be pleased to add, in domo patris, in this house of his Father's, there was never heard quarter clock to strike, never seen minute glass to turn. No time less than itself would serve to express this time, which is intended in this word mansions; which is also exalted with another beam, that they are Multa, In my Father's house there are many mansions.
For religion in general, is natural to us; the natural man hath naturally some sense of God, and some inclination to worship that power, whom he conceives to be God, and this worship is religion. But then the first thing that this general pious affection produces in us, is zeal, which is an exaltation of religion. Primus actus voluntatis est amor ; Philosophers and divines
in that, that the will of man cannot be idle, and the first act that the will of man produces, is love; for till it love something, prefer and choose something, till it would have something, it is not a will; neither can it turn upon any object, before God. So that this first, and general, and natural love of God, is not begotten in my soul, nor produced by my soul, but created and infused with my soul, and as my soul; there is no soul that knows she is a soul, without such
a general sense of the love of God. But to love God above all, to love him with all my faculties, this exaltation of this religious love of God, is the first-born of religion, and this is zeal. Religion, which is the worship of that power which I call God, does but make me a man; the natural man hath that religion; but that which makes me a father, and gives me an offspring, a first-born, that is zeal: by religion I am an Adam, but by zeal I am an Abel produced out of that Adam. Now if we consider times not long since past, there was scarce one house, scarce one of us, in whom this first-born, this zeal was not dead. Discretion is the ballast of our ship, that carries us steady; but zeal is the very freight, the cargason, the merchandise itself, which enriches us in the land of the living; and this was our case, we were all come to esteem our ballast more than our freight, our discretion more than our zeal; we had more care to please great men than God; more consideration of an imaginary change of times, than of unchangeable eternity itself. And as in storms it falls out often that men cast their wares and their freights overboard, but never their ballast, so soon as we thought we saw a storm, in point of religion, we cast off our zeal, our freight, and stuck to our ballast, our discretion, and thought it sufficient to sail on smoothly, and steadily, and calmly, and discreetly in the world, and with the time, though not so directly to the right haven. So our first-born in this house, in ourselves, our zeal, was dead. It was; there is the comfortable word of our text. But now, now that God hath taken his fan into his hand, and sifted his church, now that God hath put us into a straight and crooked limbeck, passed us through narrow and difficult trials, and set us upon a hot fire, and drawn us to a more precious substance and nature than before; now that God hath given our zeal a new concoction, a new refining, a new inanimation by this fire of