By admin | February 26, 2009
John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s from 1621 until his death in 1631, is well-known for his poetry. Perhaps he is less well-known for his piety. While he is not properly considered a Puritan, he lived in an era where the lines were not yet drawn quite so finely as they would be 2 or 3 decades later.Having followed his own desires early in life, he seems to have come to faith in middle-age, so that many of his latter literary productions reflect mature reflections on life, death and the resurrection. Here is a sample of some of his devotional writing. It is heart-searching, especially for those of us who are older, and a warning to those who are younger.
A house is not clean, though all the dust be swept together, if it lie still in a corner within doors; a conscience is not clean, by having recollected all her sins in the memory, for they may fester there, and gangrene even to desperation, till she have emptied them in the bottomless sea of the blood of Christ Jesus, and the mercy of His Father, by this way of confession. But a house is not clean neither, though the dust be thrown out, if there hang cobwebs about the walls, in how dark corners soever. A conscience is not clean, though the sins brought to our memory by this examination be cast upon God’s mercy, and the merits of His Son, by confession, if there remain in me but a cobweb, — a little, but a sinful delight in the memory of those sins which I had formerly committed. How many men sin over the sins of their youth again, in their age, by a sinful delight in remembering those sins, and a sinful desire that their bodies were not past them! How many men sin over some sins but imaginarily (and yet damnably), a hundred times, which they never sinned actually at all, by filling their imaginations with such thoughts as these—How would I be revenged of such an enemy, if I were in such a place of authority! How easily could I overthrow such a wasteful young man, and compass his land, if I had but money to feed his humours! Those sins which we have never been able to do actually to the harm of others, we do as hurtfully to our own souls, by a sinful desire of them and a sinful delight in them.
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