« ZurückWeiter »
particular mercy to him, in the King's and others' solicitations of him, he came to ask King David's thankful question, “ Lord, who am I, that thou art so mindful of me?" so mindful of me, as to lead me for more than forty years through this wilderness of the many temptations and various turnings of a dangerous life; so merciful to me, as to move the learnedest of kings to descend to move me to serve at the altar; so merciful to me, as at last to move my heart to embrace this holy motion. Thy motions I will and do embrace: and I now say with the blessed Virgin, “Be it with thy servant as seemeth best in thy sight:” and so, blessed Jesus, I do take the cup of salvation, and will call upon thy name, and will preach thy Gospel.
Such strifes as these St. Austin had, when St. Ambrose endeavoured his conversion to Christianity; with which he confesseth he acquainted his friend Alipius. Our learned author (a man fit to write after no mean copy) did the like. And declaring his intentions to his dear friend, Dr. King, then Bishop of London, a man famous in his generation, and no stranger to Mr. Donne's abilities, (for he had been chaplain to the Lord Chancellor, at the time of Mr. Donne’s being his Lordship’s secretary;) that reverend man did receive the news with much gladness; and after some expressions of joy, and a persuasion to be constant in his pious purpose, he proceeded with all convenient speed to ordain him first deacon, and then priest not long after.
Now the English Church had gained a second St. Austin, for I think none was so like him before his conversion; none so like St. Ambrose after it: and if his youth had the infirmities of the one, his age had the excellences of the other; the learning and holiness of both.
And now all his studies which had been occasionally diffused, were all concentered in Divinity. Now
he had a new calling, new thoughts, and a new employment for his wit and eloquence. Now all his earthly affections were changed into divine love; and as the faculties of his own soul were engaged in the conversion of others; in preaching the glad tidings of remission to repenting sinners, and peace to each troubled soul. To these he applied himself with all care and diligence: and now such a change was wrought in him, that he could say with David, “O how amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord God of Hosts!” Now be declared openly, that “when he required a temporal, God gave him a spiritual blessing.” And that “he was now gladder to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than he could be to enjoy the noblest of all temporal employments.”
Presently after he entered into his holy profession, the King sent for him, and made him his chaplain in ordinary, and promised to take a particular care for his preferment.
And though his long familiarity with scholars and persons of greatest quality was such as might have given some men boldness enough to have preached to
any eminent auditory; yet his modesty in this employment was such, that he could not be
persuaded to it, but went usually accompanied with some one friend to preach privately in some village, not far from London; his first sermon being preached at Paddington. This he did, till his Majesty sent and appointed him a day to preach to him at Whitehall; and though much was expected from him, both by his Majesty and others, yet he was so happy (which few are) as to satisfy and exceed their expectations; preaching the word so, as showed his own heart was possessed with those very thoughts and joys that he laboured to distil into others: a preacher in earnest; weeping sometimes for his auditory, sometimes with them; always preaching to himself, like an angel from a cloud, but in none;
carrying some, as St. Paul was, to heaven in holy raptures, and enticing others by a sacred art and courtship to amend their lives : here picturing a vice so as to make it ugly to those that practised it, and a virtue so as make it beloved even by those that loved it not; and all this with a most particular grace and an inexpressible addition of comeliness.
There may be some that may incline to think (such indeed as have not heard him) that my affection to my friend hath transported me to an immoderate commendation of his preaching. If this meets with any such, let me entreat, though I will omit
many, yet that they will receive a double witness for what I say; it being attested by a gentleman of worth, (Mr. Chidley, a frequent hearer of his sermons) in part of a funeral elegy writ by him on Dr. Donne, and is a known truth, though it be in verse.
-Each altar had its fire-
More of this, and more witnesses, might be brought; but I forbear, and return.
That summer, in the very same month in which he entered into sacred orders, and was made the King's chaplain, his Majesty then going his progress was entreated to receive an entertainment in the University of Cambridge: and Mr. Donne attending
his Majesty at that time, his Majesty was pleased to recommend him to the University, to be made Doctor in Divinity: Dr. Harsnett (after Archbishop of York) was then Vice-Chancellor, who, knowing him to be the author of that learned book, the “ Pseudo-Martyr,” required no other proof of his abilities, but proposed it to the University, who presently assented, and expressed a gladness that they had such an occasion to entitle him to be theirs.
His abilities and industry in his profession were so eminent, and he so known and so beloved by persons of quality, that within the first year of his entering into sacred orders he had fourteen advowsons of several benefices presented to him: but they were in the country, and he could not leave his beloved London, to which place he had a natural inclination, having received both his birth and education in it, and there contracted a friendship with many, whose conversation multiplied the joys of his life; but an employment that might affix hinn to that place would be welcome, for he needed it.
Immediately after his return from Cambridge, his wife died, leaving him a man of a narrow unsettled estate, and (having buried five) the careful father of seven children then living, to whom he gave a voluntary assurance, never to bring them under the subjection of a step-mother: which promise he kept most faithfully, burying with his tears all his earthly joys in his most dear and deserving wife's grave,
and betook himself to a most retired and solitary life.
In this retiredness, which was often from the sight of his dearest friends, he became crucified to the world, and all those vanities, those imaginary pleasures, that are daily acted on that restless stage: and they were as perfectly crucified to him. Nor is it hard to think (being passions, may be both changed and heightened by accidents) but that that
abundant affection which once was betwixt him and her, who had long been the delight of his eyes, and the companion of his youth; her, with whom he had divided so many pleasant sorrows and contented fears, as common people are not capable of; not hard to think but that she being now removed by death, a commeasurable grief took as full a possession of him as joy had done; and so indeed it did: for now his very soul was elemented of nothing but sadness; now grief took so full a possession of his heart, as to leave no place for joy; if it did, it was a joy to be alone, where, like a pelican in the wilderness, he might bemoan himself without witness or restraint, and pour forth his passions like Job in the days of his affliction: “Oh that I might have the desire of my heart! Oh that God would grant the thing that I long for! For then, as the grave
is become her house, so I would hasten to make it mine also: that we two might there make our beds together in the dark.” Thus, as the Israelites sat mourning by the rivers of Babylon, when they remembered Sion; so he gave some ease to his oppressed heart by thus venting his sorrows: thus he began the day, and ended the night; ended the restless night, and began the weary day in lamentations. And thus he continued till a consideration of his new engagements to God, and St. Paul's 6 Wo is me, if I preach not the Gospel,” dispersed those sad clouds that had then benighted his hopes, and now forced him to behold the light.
His first motion from his house was to preach where his beloved wife lay buried, (in St. Clement's Church, near Temple Bar, London), and his text was a part of the prophet Jeremy's Lamentations : “ Lo, I am the man that have seen affliction.”
And indeed his very words and looks testified him to be truly such a man; and they, with the addition of his sighs and tears, expressed in bis sermon, did