Home      Back to Trinity 19





Christ's Treatment of the Suppliant
John Donne
Excerpt from
Sermon 64 in Volume III Works of John Donne, 1839
Taken from Wings of an Eagle: 
An Anthology of Caroline Preachers with 60 Extracts from their Sermons. 
Ed. G.Lacey May, London, SPCK, 1955.
Matt. 9. 2: ďJesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.Ē
Where we see first, our Saviour Christ opening the bowels of compassion to him, and receiving him so, as if he had issued out of his bowels, and from his loins, in that gracious appellation, Fili, My son. He does not call him brother; for greater enmity can be no where, than is often expressed to have been between brethren; for in that degree, and distance, enmity amongst men began in Cain and Abel, and was pursued in many pairs of brethren after, in sacred and in secular story. He does not call him friend; that name, even in Christís own mouth, is not always accompanied with good entertainment; Amice, quomodo intrasti, says he, Friend, how came you in? and he bound him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness. He does not call him son of Abraham, which might give him an interest in all the promises, but he gives him a present adoption, and so a present fruition of all, Fili, My son. His son, and not his son-in-law; he loads him not with the encumbrances, and half-impossibilities of the law, but he seals to him the whole Gospel, in the remission of sins. His son, and not his disinherited son, as the Jews were, but his son, upon whom he settled his ancient inheritance, his eternal election, and his new purchase, which he came now into the world to make with his blood. His son, and not his prodigal son, to whom Christ imputes no wastefulness of his former graces, but gives him a general release, and quietus est, in the forgiveness of sins. All that Christ asks of his sons, is, Fili da mihi cor, My son give me thy heart; and till God give us that, we cannot give it him; and therefore in this son he creates a new heart, he infuses a new courage, he establishes a new confidence, in the next word, Fili confide, My son be of good cheer.

Christ then does not stay so long wrestling with this manís faith, and shaking it, and trying whether it were fast rooted, as he did with that woman in the Gospel, who came after him, in her daughterís behalf, crying, Have mercy upon me, O Lord, thou Son of David, for Christ gave not that woman one word; when her importunity made his disciples speak to him, he said no more, but that he was not sent to such as she; this was far, very far from a Confide, filia, Daughter, be of good cheer, but yet, this put her not off, but (as it follows) She followed, and worshipped him, and said, O Lord help me: and all this prevailed no farther with him, but to give such an answer, as was more discomfortable than a silence, It is not fit to take the childrenís bread, and cast it unto dogs. She denies not that, she contradicts him not; she says, Truth Lord, it is not fit to take the childrenís bread to cast it unto dogs, and Truth Lord, I am one of those dogs; but yet she perseveres in her holy importunity, and in her good ill-manners, and says, Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masterís table: and then, and not till then comes Jesus to that, O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee, even as thou wilt: and her daughter was healed.

But all this, at last, was but a bodily restitution, here was no dimittuntur peccata in the case, no declaration of forgiveness of sins: but with this man in our text, Christ goes farther, and comes sooner to an end; he exercises him with no disputation, he leaves no room for any diffidence, but at first word establishes him, and then builds upon him.

Now beloved, which way soever of these two God have taken with thee, whether the longer, or the shorter way, bless thou the Lord, praise him, and magnify him for that. If God hath settled and strengthened thy faith early, early in thy youth heretofore, early at the beginning of a sermon now, a day is as a thousand years with God, a minute is as six thousand years with God, that which God hath not done upon the nations, upon the Gentiles, in six thousand years, never since the Creation, which is, to reduce them to the knowledge and application of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, that he hath done upon thee, in an instant. If he have carried thee about the longer way, if he have exposed thee to scruples, and perplexities, and storms in thine understanding, or conscience, yet in the midst of the tempest, the soft air, that he is said to come in, shall breathe into thee; in the midst of those clouds, his Son shall shine upon thee; in the midst of that flood he shall put out his rainbow, his seal that thou shalt not drown, his sacrament of fair weather to come, and as it was to the thief, thy cross shall be thine altar, and thy faith shall be thy sacrifice. Whether he accomplish his work upon thee soon or late, he shall never leave thee all the way, without this Confide fili, a holy confidence, that thou art his, which shall carry to the dimittuntur peccata, to the peace of conscience, in the remission of sins.