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LIFE OF DR. JOHN DONNE, DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S.
(With a Portrait.)
JOHN DONNE was born in London, 1572, "of good and virtuous parents." By his father he was descended from an ancient and respectable family in Wales, and by his mother, from Judge Restall, an eminent English lawyer, and also from the celebrated Sir Thomas More.
His early education was domestic; and at eleven years of age, when he was esteemed a good Latin and French scholar, he was sent to Oxford, whence, in his fourteenth year, he removed to Cambridge. When seventeen years of age, he returned to London, and as it was intended that he should study the law, he applied, successfully, for admission into Lincoln's Inn. His father had died not long before; and left him a fortune in money of £3000, under the care of his mother, who was, to say the least, strongly inclined to Popery, and endeavoured, together with the Popish tutors she provided him, to instil their favourite religious principles, the effects of which attempts seem never to have entirely left him. All his writings show that he was prepossessed with the notion that what in Scripture is called, THE CHURCH, by way of eminence, was an external and visible society. This point he seems never to have examined, but to have received VOL. X. Second Series.
it as a first principle, making it the point of departure in his succeeding investigations; so that though his studies, by the overruling grace of God, preserved him from ultimate Popish error, they made him only an inconsistent Protestant, strongly inclined to those views which are destructively anti-evangelical, even when study, and grace, and Providence had made him decidedly spiritual, and therefore decidedly evangelical. That which is in Scripture the one, holy, and universal church of Christ, is not to be identified with any organized human society. Such a society is only a church, and there may be many such; whereas the one church is Christ's mystical body, all the members of which are alive in their living Head: a spiritual house, constructed of lively stones.
In his earlier years, Donne appears to have yielded to "the love of the world," and thus, though far from being abandoned by a most merciful God, and by the Spirit which convinceth men of sin, to have been, in truth of Scripture language, "dead while he lived:" happily, 'the chastened prodigal was brought back to this heavenly Father. Certainly, however, his earlier poems, whatever power of fancy they may exhibit, show that it was not by divine love that he was chiefly influenced.
In his nineteenth year he was greatly perplexed to which of the two Churches, the Roman or the Anglican, he should join himself; and he set himself to study with great diligence the subjects controverted between them. He was in earnest, and saw the necessity of prayer as well as study; and to this may be attributed his deliverance from the Papacy. In his twenty-fourth year he attended the Earl of Essex in his voyage to Cadiz and elsewhere, and spent some time subsequently in travelling on the Continent. Not long after his return to England, he became secretary to Lord Ellesmere, then Chancellor, and continued in that office five years. While in this situation, a mutual attachment was formed between him and a niece of his patron's lady, which issued in marriage. The father of his wife, Sir George More, was so exasperated, that he not only refused to give her any fortune, but instituted legal proceedings, by which the husband's patrimony was seriously injured, and for some
time he was exposed to painful pecuniary embarrassment. Several years elapsed before the parties were reconciled; but at length, Sir George, discovering the true worth of his sonin-law, freely forgave him, and agreed to allow him the sum of £800, in quarterly instalments of £20 each, till the whole should be paid. To his wife he was most affectionately attached. They struggled together through years of trial, and just as his prospects began to brighten, she was taken from him. Her memory was so dear to him, that he would never hear of any second matrimonial engagement.
Many circumstances show, and indeed his life as a Christian Minister proved, that the chastenings of his earlier days were productive of much spiritual benefit to him. His biographer has not recorded the particulars, but some passing allusions show that they were truly evangelical and spiritual. Several references are made to his happiness in the assurances of the divine favour which he possessed; and on one occasion, when he had for a short time incurred the displeasure of the capricious James, he went to the King to offer what he thought were needful explanations; and having given them, he kneeled down, and desired-so "honest Izaac Walton" tells us-that he might not rise, till, as in like cases he always had from God, so he might have from His Majesty some assurance that he stood fair in his opinion. It is evident that he was no stranger to present answers to prayer in reference to a conscious acceptance with God; that he enjoyed that of which St. Bernard speaks, "This is the testimony that the Holy Spirit bears, saying, Thy sins be forgiven thee."
When he was little more than forty years of age, his friends pressed on him to enter the ministry. Some saw his devoted piety; some were desirous that he might thus obtain a comfortable secular provision. For some time he resisted, laying stress on the holiness required of those who are to be ambassadors for Christ. But their urgency continued. The King was very pressing. At length, says Walton, "being inspired with an apprehension of God's particular mercy to him," and saying himself, "Seeing that God is so merciful to me as to move my heart to embrace this holy motion," he consented. In his own language, "Thy notions I will and do embrace;