John Donne

Evelyn Simpson, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Healy (eds), Selected Prose

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52. From a Sermon Preached at White-Hall1

Now, beloved, when our Adversaries cannot deny us this truth, that our Church was enwrapped, (though smothered) in theirs, that as that Balsamum naturale, which Paracelsus speaks of, that naturall Balme which is in every body, and would cure any wound, if that wound were kept clean, and recover any body, if that body were pg 314purged, as that naturall balme is in that body, how diseased soever that body be, so was our Church in theirs, they vexe us now, with that question, Why, if the case stood so, if your Fathers, when they eat our troden grasse, and drunk our troubled waters, were sound and in health, and continued sheep, and Gods sheep, and Gods flock, his Church with us, why went they from us? They ought us their residence, because they had received their Baptisme from us. And truly, it is not an impertinent, a frivolous reason, that of Baptisme, where there is nothing but conveniency, and no necessity in the case. But, if I be content to stay with my friend in an aguish aire, will he take it ill, if I go when the plague comes? Or if I stay in town till 20 die of the plague, shall it be lookd that I should stay when there die 1000? The infection grew hotter and hotter in Rome; and their may, came to a must, those things which were done before de facto, came at last to be articles of Faith, and de jure, must be beleeved and practised upon salvation. They chide us for going away, and they drove us away; If we abstained from communicating with their poysons, (being now growen to that height) they excommunicated us; They gave us no room amongst them but the fire, and they were so forward to burne Heretiques, that they called it heresie, not to stay to be burnt.

Yet we went not upon their driving, but upon Gods calling. As the whole prophecy of the deliverance of Israel, from Babylon, belongs to the Christian Church, both to the Primitive Church, at first, and to the Reformed since, so doth that voice, spoken to them, reach unto us, Egredimini de Babylone, Goe ye out of Babylon with a voice of singing, declare, show to the ends of the earth, that the Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob. For, that Rome is not Babylon, they have but that one half-comfort, that one of their own authors hath ministred, that Romæ regulariter male agitur; that Babylon is Confusion, disorder, but at Rome all sinnes are committed in order, by the book, and they know the price, and therefore Rome is not Babylon. And since that many of their authors confesse, that Rome was Babylon, in the time of the persecuting Empereurs, and that Rome shall be Babylon againe, in the time of Antichrist, how they will hedge in a Jerusalem, a holy City, between these two Babylons, is a cunning peece of Architecture. From this Babylon then were our pg 315Fathers called by God; not onely by that whispering sibilation of the holy Ghost, sibilabo populum, I will hisse for my people, and so gather them, for I have redeemed them, and they shall increase, not onely by private inspirations, but by generall acclamations; every where principall writers, and preachers, and Princes too, (as much as could stand with their safety) crying out against them before Luther, howsoever they will needs doe him that honour, to have been the first mover, in this blessed revolution.

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Editor’s Note
1 On the same text as No. 51
See note to No. 49.
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