John Donne: Prayer


John Donne

O ETERNAL and most gracious God, who though thou passedst over infinite millions of generations, before thou camest to a creation of this world, yet when thou beganst, didst never intermit that work, but continuedst day to day, till thou hadst perfected all the work, and deposed it in the hands and rest of a sabbath, though thou have been pleased to glorify thyself in a long exercise of my patience, with an expectation of thy declaration of thyself in this my sickness, yet since thou hast now of thy goodness afforded that which affords us some hope, if that be still the way of thy glory, proceed in that way and perfect that work, and establish me in a sabbath and rest in thee, by this thy seal of bodily restitution.

Thy priests came up to thee by steps in the temple; thy angels came down to Jacob by steps upon the ladder; we find no stair by which thou thyself camest to Adam in paradise, nor to Sodom in thine anger; for thou, and thou only, art able to do all at once. But O Lord, I am not weary of thy pace, nor weary of mine own patience. I provoke thee not with a prayer, not with a wish, not with a hope, to more haste than consists with thy purpose, nor look that any other thing should have entered into thy purpose, but thy glory.

To hear thy steps coming towards me is the same comfort as to see thy face present with me; whether thou do the work of a thousand years in a day, or extend the work of a day to a thousand years, as long as thou workest, it is light and comfort. Heaven itself is but an extension of the same joy; and an extension of this mercy, to proceed at thy leisure, in the way of restitution, is a manifestation of heaven to me here upon earth. From that people to whom thou appearedst in signs and in types, the Jews, thou art departed, because they trusted in them; but from thy church, to whom thou hast appeared in thyself, in thy Son, thou wilt never depart, because we cannot trust too much in him.

Though thou have afforded me these signs of restitution, yet if I confide in them, and begin to say, all was but a natural accident, and nature begins to discharge herself, and she will perfect the whole work, my hope shall vanish because it is not in thee. If thou shouldst take thy hand utterly from me, and have nothing to do with me, nature alone were able to destroy me; but if thou withdraw thy helping hand, alas, how frivolous are the helps of nature, how impotent the assistances of art? As therefore the morning dew is a pawn of the evening fatness, so, O Lord, let this day's comfort be the earnest of to-morrow's, so far as may conform me entirely to thee, to what end, and by what way soever thy mercy have appointed me.

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