John Donne: Expostulation XXI. Atque annuit ille
MY God, my God, how large a glass of the next world is this! As we have an art, to cast from one glass to another, and so to carry the species a great way off, so hast thou, that way, much more; we shall have a resurrection in heaven; the knowledge of that thou castest by another glass upon us here; we feel that we have a resurrection from sin, and that by another glass too; we see we have a resurrection of the body from the miseries and calamities of this life. This resurrection of my body shows me the resurrection of my soul; and both here severally, of both together hereafter. Since thy martyrs under the altar press thee with their solicitation for the resurrection of the body to glory, thou wouldst pardon me, if I should press thee by prayer for the accomplishing of this resurrection, which thou hast begun in me, to health.
But, O my God, I do not ask, where I might ask amiss, nor beg that which perchance might be worse for me. I have a bed of sin; delight in sin is a bed: I have a grave of sin; senselessness of sin is a grave: and where Lazarus had been four days, I have been fifty years in this putrefaction; why dost thou not call me, as thou didst him, “with a loud voice,” [John 11:43] since my soul is as dead as his body was?
I need thy thunder, O my God; thy music will not serve me. Thou hast called thy servants, who are to work upon us in thine ordinance, by all these loud names—winds, and chariots, and falls of waters; where thou wouldst be heard, thou wilt be heard. When thy Son concurred with thee to the making of man, there it is but a speaking, but a saying. There, O blessed and glorious Trinity, was none to hear but you three, and you easily hear one another, because you say the same things.
But when thy Son came to the work of redemption, thou spokest, [John 12:28] and they that heard it took it for thunder; and thy Son himself cried with a loud voice upon the cross twice, [Matt. 27:46, 50] as he who was to prepare his coming, John Baptist, was the voice of a crier, and not of a whisperer.
Still, if it be thy voice, it is a loud voice. “These words,” says thy Moses, “thou spokest with a great voice, and thou addedst no more,” [Deut. 5:22] says he there. That which thou hast said is evident, and it is evident that none can speak so loud; none can bind us to hear him, as we must thee.
“The Most High uttered his voice.” What was his voice? “The Lord thundered from heaven,” [2 Sam. 22:14] it might be heard; but this voice, thy voice, is also a “mighty voice”; [Psalm 68:33] not only mighty in power, it may be heard, nor mighty in obligation, it should be heard; but mighty in operation, it will be heard; and therefore hast thou bestowed a whole psalm upon us, to lead us to the consideration of thy voice. It is such a voice as that thy Son says, “the dead shall hear it”; [John 5:25] and that is my state.
And why, O God, dost thou not speak to me, in that effectual loudness? Saint John heard a voice, and “he turned about to see the voice”: [Rev. 1:12] sometimes we are too curious of the instrument by what man God speaks; but thou speakest loudest when thou speakest to the heart. “There was silence, and I heard a voice,” says one, to thy servant Job. [Job 4:16] I hearken after thy voice in thine ordinances: and I seek not a whispering in conventicles; but yet, O my God, speak louder, that so, though I do hear thee now, then I may hear nothing but thee. My sins cry aloud; Cain's murder did so: my afflictions cry aloud; “the floods have lifted up their voice” (and waters are afflictions), “but thou, O Lord, art mightier than the voice of many waters”; [Psalm 93:3, 4] than many temporal, many spiritual afflictions, than any of either kind: and why dost thou not speak to me in that voice? “What is man, and whereto serverth he? What is his good and what is his evil?” [Ecclus. 18:8] My bed of sin is not evil, not desperately evil, for thou dost call me out of it; but my rising out of it is not good (not perfectly good), if thou call not louder, and hold me now I am up. O my God, I am afraid of a fearful application of those words, “When a man hath done, then he beginneth”; [Ecclus. 5:7] when this body is unable to sin, his sinful memory sins over his old sins again; and that which thou wouldst have us to remember for compunction, we remember with delight. “Bring him to me in his bed, that I may kill him,” [1 Sam. 19:15] says Saul of David: thou hast not said so, that is not thy voice.