John Donne: Prayer XXIII. Metusque, relabi.
O ETERNAL and most gracious God, who, though thou beest ever infinite, yet enlargest thyself by the number of our prayers, and takest our often petitions to thee to be an addition to thy glory and thy greatness, as ever upon all occasions, so now, O my God, I come to thy majesty with two prayers, two supplications.
I have meditated upon the jealousy which thou hast of thine own honour, and considered that nothing comes nearer a violating of that honour, nearer to the nature of a scorn to thee, than to sue out thy pardon, and receive the seals of reconciliation to thee, and then return to that sin for which I needed and had thy pardon before. I know that this comes too near to a making thy holy ordinances, thy word, thy sacraments, thy seals, thy grace, instruments of my spiritual fornications. Since therefore thy correction hath brought me to such a participation of thyself (thyself, O my God, cannot be parted), to such an entire possession of thee, as that I durst deliver myself over to thee this minute, if this minute thou wouldst accept my dissolution, preserve me, O my God, the God of constancy and perseverance, in this state, from all relapses into those sins which have induced thy former judgments upon me.
But because, by too lamentable experience, I know how slippery my customs of sin have made my ways of sin, I presume to add this petition too, that if my infirmity overtake me, thou forsake me not. Say to my soul, “My son, thou hast sinned, do so no more”; [Ecclus. 1:21] but say also, that though I do, thy spirit of remorse and compunction shall never depart from me.
Thy holy apostle, St. Paul, was shipwrecked thrice, [2 Cor. 11:25] and yet still saved. Though the rocks and the sands, the heights and the shallows, the prosperity and the adversity of this world, do diversely threaten me, though mine own leaks endanger me, yet, O God, let me never put myself aboard with Hymenaeus, nor “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience,” [1 Tim. 1:19] and then thy long-lived, thy everlasting mercy, will visit me, though that which I most earnestly pray against, should fall upon me, a relapse into those sins which I have truly repented, and thou hast fully pardoned.