Dialogue on the Threshold

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Quare morieris?

That God should let my soul fall out of his hand, into a bottomless pit, and roll an unremovable stone upon it, and leave it to that which it finds there, (and it shall find that there, which it never imagined, till it came thither) and never think more of that soul, never have more to do with it. That of that providence of God, that studies the life of every weed, and worm, and ant, and spider, and toad, and viper, there should never, never any beam flow out upon me; that that God, who looked upon me, when I was nothing, and called me when I was not, as though I had been, out of the womb and depth of darkness, will not look upon me now, when, though a miserable, and a banished, and a damned creature, yet I am his creature still, and contribute something to his glory, even in my damnation; that that God, who hath often looked upon me in my foulest uncleanness, and when I had shut out the eye of the day, the sun, and the eye of the night, the taper, and the eyes of all the world, with curtains and windows, and doors, did yet see me, and see me in mercy, by making me see that he saw me, and sometimes brought me to a present remorse, and (for that time) to a forbearing of that sin, should so turn himself from me, to his glorious saints and angels, as that no saint nor angel, nor Christ Jesus himself, should ever pray him to look towards me, never remember him, that such a soul there is; that that God, who hath so often said to my soul, Quare morieris ? Why wilt thou die ? and so often sworn to my soul, Vivit Domimis, As the Lord liveth, I would not have thee die, but live, will neither let me die, nor let me live, but die an everlasting life, and live an everlasting death; that that God, who, when he could not get into me, by standing, and knocking, by his ordinary means of entering, by his word, his mercies, hath applied his judgments, and hath shaked the house, this body, with agues and palsies, and set this house on fire, with fevers and calentures, and frightened the master of the house, my soul, with horrors, and heavy apprehensions, and so made an entrance into me; that that God should frustrate all his own purposes and practices upon me, and leave me, and cast me away, as though I had cost him nothing, that this God at last, should let this soul go away, as a smoke, as a vapour, as a bubble, and that then this soul cannot be a smoke, a vapour, nor a bubble, but must lie in darkness, as long as the Lord of light is light itself, and never spark of that light reach to my soul; what Tophet is not paradise, what brimstone is not amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worm is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage-bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God? especially to us, for as the perpetual loss of that is most heavy, with which we have been best acquainted, and to which we have been most accustomed ; so shall this damnation, which consists in the loss of the sight and presence of God, be heavier to us than others, because God hath so graciously, and so evidently, and so diversely appeared to us, in his pillar of fire, in the light of prosperity, and in the pillar of the cloud, in hiding himself for a while from us: we that have seen him in all the parts of this commission, in his word, in his sacraments, and in good example, and not believed, shall bo further removed from his sight, in the next world, than they to whom he never appeared in this. But vincenti et credenti, to him that believes aright, and overcomes all temptations to a wrong belief, God shall give the accomplishment of fulness, and fulness of joy, and joy rooted in glory, and glory established in eternity, and this eternity is God; to him that believes and overcomes, God shall give himself in an everlasting presence and fruition, Amen.

John Donne, from a Sermon preached to the Earle of Carlile, and his Company, at Sion (Autumn, 1622), on Mark 16:16, 'He that believeth not shall be damned'

Fresco in the porch of Biserica Sf. Elefterie Vechi (the Church of Old St. Eleftherios) (1744), Bucharest

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