Stay Not

From “On the Mystery of the Trinity and what we may know of the Godhead” (1628)

The two volumes of the scriptures are justly and properly called two testaments, for they are the attestation and declaration of the will and pleasure of God… But to speak according to the ordinary acceptation of the word, the Testament, that is, the last Will of Christ Jesus is this speech, this declaration to his apostles of which this text is a part. For it was spoken at his deathbed, his Last Supper. And it was before his agony in the garden…

He adds a codicil [to his Will], he gives more, he gives them the evidence by which they should maintain their right to that kingdom, that is, the testimony of the Spirit, the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom he promises to send them. And still more and more abundant, he promises them that the assurance of their right shall not be taken from them till he himself return again to give them an everlasting possession…

If you consider that Christ says here, “You shall know that I am in the Father,” and does not say, “You shall know how I am in the Father,” and this to his apostles themselves and to the apostles after they were to be filled with the Holy Ghost, which should teach them all truth, it will cut off many perplexing questions… You shall know that it is; you shall not ask how it is…

Make much of that knowledge with which the Holy Ghost has trusted you and believe the rest. No man knows how his soul came into him, whether by an infusion from God or by generation from his parents, no man knows so, but that strong arguments will be produced on the other side…

How then is Christ in us? Here the question, how it is, has been revealed to us. It is by our obedience to his inspiration, and by our reverent use of those visible means which he has ordained in his church, his word and sacraments.

As our flesh is in him, by his participation thereof, so his flesh is in us, by our communication thereof. And so is his divinity in us, by making us one spirit with himself, which he does at Pentecost, that is, whensoever the Holy Ghost visits us with his effectual grace: for this is a union in which Christ in his purpose has married himself to our souls inseparably and without any intention of divorce on his part. But if we will separate him, if either we take the bed of licentiousness, or the board of voluptuousness, or if when we eat and drink, sleep or wake, we do not all to the glory of God, if we separate, he will divorce.

Do not stay at a consideration of God alone, for all creatures declare it. Stay not at the Trinity, for every coming to church, no, even your first being brought to the church at your baptism is and was a profession of that. Stay not at the Incarnation, for even the Devil knows and testifies to that.

But come to know Christ is in you and express that knowledge in a sanctified life. For though Christ is in us all in the work of his redemption, as he has poured out balm enough in his blood to spread over all mankind, yet only that one can enjoy the cheerfulness of this unction and inseparableness of this union who (as St. Augustine pursues this contemplation) always remembers that he stands in the presence of Christ, and behaves himself worthy of that glorious presence, that one who has Christ always at his tongue’s end and at his finger’s ends, that one who loves to discourse about Christ and to act those discourses, that one who hears God’s will here in his house [the church], and does God’s will at home in his own house, that one who having done well from the beginning, preserves in well doing to the end. He and he only shall find Christ in him.

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, where he preached this sermon on Whitsunday, 2022. Donne is commemorated on the liturgical calendar of several Anglican churches on March 31. This adaptation is from Edmund Fuller, ed., The Showing Forth of Christ: Sermons of John Donne (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).

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