« PreviousContinue »
After this manner did the Disciples of our Saviour, and the best of Christians in those ages of the Church nearest to his time, offer their praises to Almighty God. And the reader of St. Augustine's life may there find, that towards his dissolution he wept abundantly, that the enemies of Christianity had broke in upon them, and profaned and ruined their Sanctuaries, and because their Public Hymns and Lauds were lost out of their Churches. And after this manner have many devout souls lifted up their hands, and offered acceptable sacrifices unto Almighty God, where Dr. Donne offered his, and now lies buried.
But now, Oh Lord! how is that place1 become desolate! Before I proceed further, I think fit to inform the Reader, that not long before his death he caused to be drawn a figure of the body of Christ extended upon an Anchor, like those which painters draw, when they would present us with the picture of Christ crucified on the Cross: his varying no otherwise, than to affix him not to a Cross, but to an Anchor, the emblem of Hope;-this he caused to be drawn in little, and then many of those figures thus drawn to be engraven very small in Heliotropium stones, and set in gold; and of these he sent to many of his dearest friends, to be used as seals, or rings, and kept as memorials of him, and of his affection to them.
His dear friends and benefactors, Sir Henry Goodier, and Sir Robert Drewry, could not be of that number; nor could the Lady Magdalen Herbert, the mother of George Herbert, for they had put off mortality, and taken possession of the grave before him but Sir Henry Wotton, and Dr. Hall, the then late deceased Bishop of Norwich, were; and so were Dr. Duppa, Bishop of Salisbury, and Dr. Henry King, Bishop of Chichesterlately deceased-men, in whom there were such a commixture of general Learning, of natural Eloquence, and Christian Humility, that they deserve a commemoration by a pen equal to their own, which none have exceeded.
And in this enumeration of his friends, though many must be omitted, yet that man of primitive piety, Mr. George Herbert, may not; I mean that George Herbert, who was the author of The Temple, or Sacred Poems and Ejaculations; a book, in which by declaring his own spiritual conflicts, he hath comforted and raised many a dejected and discomposed soul, and charmed them into sweet and quiet thoughts; a book, by the frequent reading whereof, and the assistance of that Spirit that seemed to inspire the Author, the Reader may attain habits of Peace and Piety, and all the gifts of the Holy Ghost and Heaven and may, by still reading, still keep those sacred fires burning upon the altar of so pure a heart, as shall free it from the anxieties of this world, and keep it fixed upon things that are above. Betwixt this George Herbert and Dr. Donne, there was a long long and dear friendship, made up by such a sympathy of inclinations, that they coveted and joyed to be in each other's company; and this happy friendship was still maintained by many sacred endearments; of which that which followeth may be some testimony.
TO MR. GEORGE HERBERT ;
Sent him with one of my Seals of the Anchor and Christ. A Sheaf of Snakes used heretofore to be my Seal, which is the Crest of our poor family.
Qui priùs assuetus serpentum falce tabellas
Adopted in God's family, and so
My old coat lost, into new Arms I go.
Is Christ, who there is crucified for us.
God gives new blessings, and yet leaves the old-
And, as he rounds the earth to murder, sure
Both works and prayers, pawns and fruits of a friend.
To you that bear his name, large bounty deal.
In Sacram Anchoram Piscatoris
Quòd Crux nequibat fixa clavique addita,-
Although the Cross could not here Christ detain,
I return to tell the reader, that, besides these verses to his dear Mr. Herbert, and that Hymn that I mentioned to be sung in the choir of St. Paul's Church, he did also shorten and beguile many sad hours by composing other sacred ditties; and he writ an Hymn on his death-bed, which bears this title:
AN HYMN TO GOD, MY GOD, IN MY SICKNESS
Since I am coming to that holy room
Where, with thy Choir of Saints, for evermore
I shall be made thy music, as I come
I tune my instrument here at the door,
And, what I must do then, think here before.
Since my Physicians by their loves are grown
So, in his purple wrapt, receive my Lord!
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own,
'That he may raise; therefore the Lord throws down.'
If these fall under the censure of a soul, whose too much mixture with earth makes it unfit to judge of these high raptures and illuminations, let him know, that many holy and devout men have thought the soul of Prudentius to be most refined, when, not many days before his death, 'he charged it to present his God each morning and evening with a new and spiritual song'; justified by the example of King David and the good King Hezekiah, who, upon the renovation of his years paid his thankful vows to Almighty God in a royal hymn, which he concludes in these words; The Lord was ready to save; therefore I will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days my life in the Temple of my God.'
The latter part of his life may be said to be a continued study; for as he usually preached once a week, if not oftener, so after his Sermon he never gave his eyes rest, till he had chosen out a new Text, and that night cast his Sermon into a form, and his Text into divisions; and the next day betook himself to consult the Fathers, and so commit his meditations to his memory, which was excellent. But upon Saturday he usually gave himself and his mind a rest from the weary burthen of his week's meditations, and usually spent that day in visitation of friends, or some other diversions of his thoughts; and would say, 'that he gave both his body and mind that refreshment, that he might be enabled to do the work of the day following, not faintly, but with courage and cheerfulness."
Nor was his age only so industrious, but in the most unsettled days of his youth, his bed was not able to detain him beyond the hour of four in the morning; and it was no common business that drew him out of his chamber till
past ten; all which time was employed in study; though he took great liberty after it. And if this seem strange, it may gain a belief by the visible fruits of his labours; some of which remain as testimonies of what is here written for he left the resultance of 1400 Authors, most of them abridged and analysed with his own hand: he left also six score of his Sermons, all written with his own hand; also an exact and laborious Treatise concerning selfmurder, called Biathanatos; wherein all the Laws violated by that act are diligently surveyed, and judiciously censured: a Treatise written in his younger days, which alone might declare him then not only perfect in the Civil and Canon Law, but in many other such studies and arguments, as enter not into the consideration of many that labour to be thought great clerks, and pretend to know all things.
Nor were these only found in his study, but all businesses that passed of any public consequence, either in this or any of our neighbour-nations, he abbreviated either in Latin, or in the language of that nation, and kept them by him for useful memorials. So he did the copies of divers Letters and Cases of Conscience that had concerned his friends, with his observations and solutions of them; and divers other businesses of importance, all particularly and methodically digested by himself.
He did prepare to leave the world before life left him; making his Will when no faculty of his soul was damped or made defective by pain or sickness, or he surprised by a sudden apprehension of death: but it was made with mature deliberation, expressing himself an impartial father, by making his children's portions equal; and a lover of his friends, whom he remembered with legacies fitly and discreetly chosen and bequeathed. I cannot forbear a nomination of some of them; for methinks they be persons that seem to challenge a recordation in this place; as namely, to his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Grimes, he gave that striking clock, which he had long worn in his pocket; to his dear friend and executor, Dr. King,—late Bishop of Chichester-that Model of Gold of the Synod