John Donne

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

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47. From a Sermon Preached at S. Pauls, upon Easter-day. 16271

(i)

There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature, and which therefore is done every day, but would seeme a Miracle, and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once; Nay, the ordinary things in Nature, would be greater miracles, than the extraordinary, which we admire most, if they were done but once; The standing still of the Sun, for Josuahs use, was not, in it selfe, so wonderfull a thing, as that so vast and immense a body as the Sun, should run so many miles, in a minute; The motion of the Sun were a greater wonder than the standing still, if all were to begin againe; And onely the daily doing takes off the admiration. pg 301But then God having, as it were, concluded himself in a course of nature, and written downe in the booke of Creatures, Thus and thus all things shall be carried, though he glorifie himselfe sometimes, in doing a miracle, yet there is in every miracle, a silent chiding of the world, and a tacite reprehension of them, who require, or who need miracles.

(ii)

But yet, (which is a last consideration, and our conclusion of this part) this being thus put onely in women, in the weaker sexe, that they desired, that they rejoyced in this resuscitation of the dead, may well intimate thus much unto us, that our virility, our holy manhood, our true and religious strength, consists in the assurance, that though death have divided us, and though we never receive our dead raised to life again in this world, yet we do live together already, in a holy Communion of Saints, and shal live together for ever, hereafter, in a glorious Resurrection of bodies. Little know we, how little a way a soule hath to goe to heaven, when it departs from the body; Whether it must passe locally, through Moone, and Sun, and Firmament, (and if all that must be done, all that may be done, in lesse time than I have proposed the doubt in) or whether that soule finde new light in the same roome, and be not carried into any other, but that the glory of heaven be diffused over all, I know not, I dispute not, I inquire not. Without disputing, or inquiring, I know, that when Christ sayes, That God is not the God of the dead, he saies that to assure me, that those whom I call dead, are alive. And when the Apostle tels me, That God is not ashamed to be called the God of the dead, he tels me that to assure me, That Gods servants lose nothing by dying.

He was but a Heathen that said, If God love a man, Juvenis tollitur, He takes him young out of this world; And they were but Heathens, that observed that custome, To put on mourning when their sons were born, and to feast and triumph when they dyed. But thus much we may learne from these Heathens, That if the dead, and we, be not upon one floore, nor under one story, yet we are under one roofe. We think not a friend lost, because he is gone into another roome, nor because he is gone into another Land; pg 302And into another world, no man is gone; for that Heaven, which God created, and this world, is all one world. If I had fixt a Son in Court, or married a daughter into a plentifull Fortune, I were satisfied for that son and that daughter. Shall I not be so, when the King of Heaven hath taken that son to himselfe, and maried himselfe to that daughter, for ever? I spend none of my Faith, I exercise none of my Hope, in this, that I shall have my dead raised to life againe.

This is the faith that sustaines me, when I lose by the death of others, or when I suffer by living in misery my selfe, That the dead, and we, are now all in one Church, and at the resurrection, shall be all in one Quire. But that is the resurrection which belongs to our other part; That resurrection which wee have handled, though it were a resurrection from death, yet it was to death too; for those that were raised again, died again. But the Resurrection which we are to speak of, is for ever; They that rise then, shall see death no more, for it is (sayes our Text) A better Resurrection.

(iii)

Beloved, There is nothing so little in heaven, as that we can expresse it; But if wee could tell you the fulnesse of a soul there, what that fulnesse is; the infinitenesse of that glory there, how far that infinitenesse goes; the Eternity of that happinesse there, how long that happinesse lasts; if we could make you know all this, yet this Better Resurrection is a heaping, even of that Fulnesse, and an enlarging, even of that Infinitenesse, and an extention, even of that eternity of happinesse; For, all these, this Fulnesse, this Infinitenesse, this Eternity are in all the Resurrections of the Righteous, and this is a better Resurrection; We may almost say, it is something more than Heaven; for, all that have any Resurrection to life, have all heaven; And something more than God; for, all that have any Resurrection to life, have all God; and yet these shall have a better Resurrection. Amorous soule, ambitious soule, covetous soule, voluptuous soule, what wouldest thou have in heaven? What doth thy holy amorousnesse, thy holy covetousnesse, thy holy ambition, and voluptuousnesse most carry thy desire upon? Call it what thou wilt; think it pg 303what thou canst; think it something that thou canst not think; and all this thou shalt have, if thou have any Resurrection unto life; and yet there is a Better Resurrection. When I consider what I was in my parents loynes (a substance unworthy of a word, unworthy of a thought) when I consider what I am now, (a Volume of diseases bound up together, a dry cynder, if I look for naturall, for radicall moisture, and yet a Spunge, a bottle of overflowing Rheumes, if I consider accidentall; an aged childe, a gray-headed Infant, and but the ghost of mine own youth) When I consider what I shall be at last, by the hand of death, in my grave, (first, but Putrifaction, and then, not so much as putrifaction, I shall not be able to send forth so much as an ill ayre, not any ayre at all, but shall be all insipid, tastlesse, savourlesse dust; for a while, all wormes, and after a while, not so much as wormes, sordid, senslesse, namelesse dust) When I consider the past, and present, and future state of this body, in this world, I am able to conceive, able to expresse the worst that can befall it in nature, and the worst that can be inflicted upon it by man, or fortune; But the least degree of glory that God hath prepared for that body in heaven, I am not able to expresse, not able to conceive.

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Editor’s Note
1 On the text: 'Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting a deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection' (Heb. xi. 35).
See note to No. 45.
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