« PreviousContinue »
John DONNE, divine and poet, was born in London in 1573. He was educated by a private preceptor till his eleventh year, when he was sent to Oxford, where he entered. as commoner in Hart Hall. Having remained here three years, he removed to Cambridge, where he attained to considerable proficiency in the law, and other sciences; and entered with warmth upon the consideration of the controversy between the Romish and reformed churches; the result of which examination was, his conversion to the protestant faith,
In 1596 and 1597, he accompanied the earl of Essex in his expeditions against Cadiz and the Azores; and during his absence, spent several years in Italy and Spain. Soon after his return to England, he was made secretary to the lord chancellor Egerton, in which em. ployment he continued five years.
Having taken his degree of master of arts at Cambridge, he was incorporated in the same at Oxford in 1610. About two years after, he accompanied sir Robert Drury to Paris.
James I. had a high opinion of his talents for theology, and would consent to promote him in no other line. Accordingly, at the particular instance of the king, he took orders in 1613, and was soon after appointed one of his majesty's chaplains in ordinary. About the same time he was created doctor in divinity by the university of Cambridge, also at the particular recommendation of the king. In 1620-1, he was advanced to the deanery of St. Paul's. He died in 1631.
1. His first prose work, and probably his best, was the Pseudo-Martyr, Lond. 1610, 4to. This was written at the express command of James; and is on the subject of the disputes concerning the oaths of allegiancé and supremacy then agitated. The full title is, “Pseudo-Martyr; wherein, out of certain Propositions and Gradations, this Conclusion is evicted; that those which are of the Roman Religion, in this Kingdom, may and ought to take the Oath of Allegiance.” 2.“Paradoxes, Problems, Essays, Characters, &c. to which is added, a book of Epigrams, written in Latin by the same author, translated into English by J. Maine, D. D. and also Ignatius's Conclave, a satire, translated out of the original copy, written in Latin by the same author; found lately amongst his own papers. Lond. 1653, 12mo. Parts of this collection were published at different times before.
3. Three volumes of Sermons, in folio: the first printed in 1640; the second in 1649; the third in 1660.-In rummaging these large volumes, I have not succeeded quite to my wish in the extracts I have chosen. These sermons are celebrated for their wit and huinour. The reader, I am afraid, will detect few of these distinctive marks in the specimens I have to offer. The first, in particular, is characteristic of the stile of preaching at the period, rather than of Donne's peculiar manner. From the following passage, from his fourth Sermon, one would be inclined to think that the doctor was preaching against christianity, instead of for it. Nothing, however, could be farther from his thoughts. This style of preaching very much resembles that of the methodistical preachers of modern times,
The merit of belief in Christ's Contemporaries.
Be pleased to consider this great work of believing, in the matter, what it was that was to be believed: that that Jesus, whose age they knew, must be antedated so far as that they must believe him to be older than Abraham: that that Jesus, whom they knew to be that carpenter's son, and knew his work, must be believed to have set up a frame that reached to heaven, out of which no man could, and in which any man might be saved: was it not as easy to believe, that those tears, which they saw upon his cheeks, were pearls ? That those drops of blood, which they saw upon his back, were rubies? That that spittle, which they saw upon his face, was enamel? That those hands which they saw buffet him, were reached out to place him in a throne? And that that voice which they heard cry, crucifige, crucify him, was a vivat rer, long live Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews; as to believe, that from that man, that worm, and no man, ingloriously traduced as a conjurer, ingloriously apprehended as a thief, ingloriously executed as a traitor; they should look for glory, and all glory, and everlasting glory? And from that melancholick man, who was never seen to laugh in all his life, and “ whose soul was heavy unto death;” they should look for joy, and all joy, and everlasting joy: and for salva
tion, and everlasting salvation from him, who could not save himself from the ignominy, from the torment, from the death of the cross? If any state, if any convocation, if any wise man had been to make a religion, a gospel, would he not have proposed a more probable, a more credible gospel to man's reason than this? Be pleased to consider it in the manner too: it must be believed by preaching, by the foolishness of preaching, says the apostle; by a few men that could give no strength to it; by ignorant men that could give no reason for it; by poor men that could give no pensions, nor preferments in it: that this should be believed, and believed thus, and believed by the world, the world that knew him not; "he was in the world, and the world knew him not:" the world that hated them, who would make them know him; “I have chosen you," says Christ, " and therefore the world hateth you:” that then when “mundus totus in maligno positus,” the world and all the world, not only was, but was laid in malignity and opposition against Christ; that then the world, and all the world, the world of ignorance, and the world of pride, should believe the gospel ; that then the Nicodemus, the learned and powerful man of the world, should stand out no longer upon their durus sermo; that it was a hard saying, that they must " eat his flesh, and drink his blood," and presently believe thai there was no salvation, except they