John Donne

Evelyn Simpson, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Healy (eds), Selected Prose

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pg 21916. From a Sermon Preached at Hanworth, to my Lord of Carlile, and his company, being the Earles of Northumberland, and Buckingham, &c. Aug. 25.16221

How many times go we to Comedies, to Masques, to places of great and noble resort, nay even to Church onely to see the company? If I had no other errand to heaven, but the communion of Saints, the fellowship of the faithfull, to see that flock of Lambs, Innocent, unbaptized children, recompensed with the twice-baptized Martyrs, (baptized in water, and baptized in their owne blood) and that middle sort, the children baptized in blood, and not in the water, that rescued Christ Jesus, by their death, under Herod; to see the Prophets and the Evangelists, and not know one from the other, by their writings, for they all write the same things (for prophecy is but antidated Gospell, and Gospell but postdated prophecy ;) to see holy Matrons saved by the bearing, and bringing up of children, and holy Virgins, saved by restoring their bodies in the integrity, that they received them, sit all upon one seate; to see Princes, and Subjects crowned all with one crowne, and rich and poore inherit one portion; to see this scene, this Court, this Church, this Catholique Church, not onely Easterne and Westerne, but Militant and Triumphant Church, all in one roome together, to see this Communion of Saints, this fellowship of the faithfull, is worth all the paynes, that that sight costs us in this world.

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Editor’s Note
1 On the Text: 'Every man may see it, man may behold it afar off' (Job xxxvi. 25).
[This sermon was preached before an aristocratic audience on an interesting occasion. James Hay, Viscount Doncaster, whom Donne had accompanied to Germany in 1619, was not created Earl of Carlisle until 13 September 1622. He married Lucy Percy, daughter of the Earl of Northumberland (the 'Wizard Earl') who had interceded with Donne's father-in-law, Sir George More, on the occasion of his clandestine marriage in 1601. Northumberland had just been released from the Tower, where he was imprisoned for sixteen years for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot, and Doncaster was anxious to reconcile him with the King's favourite, Buckingham, whom, like most of the old nobility, he detested. For this purpose he had invited his father-in-law and Buckingham with others of the nobility to his house at Hanworth and called on Donne to preach before them. See Jessopp, John Donne (1897), pp. 143–6.]
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