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

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1. Expostulation.

if I were but meere dust and ashes, I might speak unto the Lord, for the Lordes hand made me of this dust, and the Lords hand shall recollect these ashes; the Lords hand was the wheele, upon which this vessell of clay was framed, and the Lordes hand is the Urne, in which these ashes shall be preserv'd. I am the dust, and the ashes of the Temple of the H. Ghost; and what Marble is so precious? But I am more than dust and ashes; I am my best part, I am my soule. And being so, the breath of God, I may breath back these pious expostulations to my God. My God, my God, why is not my soule, as sensible as my body? Why hath not my soule these apprehensions, these presages, these changes, these antidates, these jealousies, these suspitions of a sinne, as well as my body of a sicknes? why is there not alwayes a pulse in my soule, to beat at the approch of a tentation to sinne? why are there not always waters in mine eyes, to testifie to my spiritual sicknes? I stand in the way of tentations, (naturally, necessarily, all men doe so: for there is a Snake in every path, tentations in every vocation) but I go, I run, I flie into the wayes of tentation, which I might shun; nay, I breake into houses, wher the plague is; I presse into places of tentation, and tempt the devill himselfe, and solicite and importune them, who had rather be left unsolicited by me. I fall sick of Sin, and am bedded and bedrid, pg 93buried and putrified in the practise of Sin, and all this while have no presage, no pulse, no sense of my sicknesse; O heighth, O depth of misery, where the first Symptome of the sicknes is Hell, and where I never see the fever of lust, of envy, of ambition, by any other light, than the darknesse and horror of Hell it selfe; and where the first Messenger that speaks to me doth not say, Thou mayst die, no nor Thou must die, but Thou art dead: and where the first notice, that my Soule hath of her sicknes, is irrecoverablenes, irremediablenes: but, O my God, Job did not charge thee foolishly, in his temporall afflictions, nor may I in my spirituall. Thou has imprinted a pulse in our Soule, but we do not examine it; a voice in our conscience, but we do not hearken unto it. We talk it out, we drinke it out, we sleepe it out; and when we wake, we doe not say with Jacob, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not: but though we might know it, we do not, we wil not. But will God pretend to make a Watch, and leave out the springe? to make so many various wheels in the faculties of the soule, and in the organs of the body, and leave out Grace, that should move them? or wil God make a springe, and not wind it up? Infuse his first grace, and not second it with more, without which we can no more use his first grace, when we have it, than wee could dispose our selves by Nature, to have it? But alas, that is not our case; we are all prodigall sonnes, and not disinherited; wee have recieved our portion, and mis-spent it, not bin denied it. We are Gods tenants heere, and yet here, he, our Land-lord payes us Rents; not yearely, nor quarterly: but hourely, and quarterly; Every minute he renewes his mercy, but wee will not understand, least that we should bee converted, and he should heale us.

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