From “Sermon of Commemoration of the Lady Danvers” (1627)
“Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail and lament” and weep and howl “because of him” (Rev. 1:7). I consider that I shall look upon him then and see all my sins – substance and circumstance of sin, weight and measure of sin, heinousness and continuance of sin – all my sins imprinted in his wounds. And how shall I be afflicted then, confounded then, to see him so mangled with my sins?
But then, I consider again that I shall look upon him again, and not see all my sins in his wounds. My forgotten sins, mine unconsidered, unconfessed, unrepented sins I shall not see there. And how shall I be affected then, when I shall stand in judgment, under the guiltiness of some sins not buried in the wounds, not drowned in the blood of my Savior.
John Donne (1572-1631) was an English cleric, poet, and scholar, acclaimed as one of the finest preachers of his day. He is widely considered the preeminent metaphysical poet, prized for his inventiveness in the use of metaphor and his dramatic, vigorous style. He was ordained after a political and military career, serving as chaplain at Lincoln’s Inn, and for the last ten years of his life, as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. His Sermon of Commemoration of the Lady Danvers was preached in Chelsea Old Church on July 1, 1627, several weeks after the death of his friend Magdalen Newport Herbert Danvers. Danvers was the mother of the saintly poet and spiritual writer George Herbert, who first published the sermon, along with several Latin and Greek poems of his own composition. John Donne is commemorated on the liturgical calendar of several Anglican churches on March 31.