The Dogmatic and Mystical Theology of John Donne

By Itrat Husain | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I JOHN DONNE AND THE ANGLICAN CHURCH

IT is not necessary here to describe Donne's reputation as a great preacher and controversialist in the seventeenth century, for this has already been done by Mr. Pearsall Smith1 and Mrs. E. M. Simpson,2 but in spite of his significant revival in this century, he has received no recognition as an eminent Anglican divine and theologian, for it has been generally assumed that circumstances and the lack of court preferment forced him to become a priest, and that his love of the Anglican Church was not so sincere as that of George Herbert or Bishop Andrewes. In fact, Sir E. Gosse, commenting on the three unpublished sonnets,3 said that they betrayed his leanings to "certain Romish doctrines"4 and that "they seem to prove that even after the death of his wife and his subsequent conversion, he hankered after some tenets of the Roman faith, or at least that he still doubted as to his attitude with regard to them."

This is to bring a very serious charge of insincerity against the greatest Anglican preacher of his age whom Walton called a "second Austin," and whose art of preaching he compared to the ecstasy of S. Paul,5 and whom another contemporary likened to S. Chrysostom.6 Donne himself had a very high conception of the office of the preacher; and we can hardly expect him to be defending and preaching the Anglican doctrines in the pulpit, while writing divine sonnets to express his personal doubts about them. Donne declared in one of his sermons:

Elegy by R.B.

____________________
1
In his Introduction to Selected Passages from Danne's Sermons.
2
In A Study of the Prose Works of John Donne, by E. M. Simpson ( Oxford), 1924.
3
He is referring to the three sonnets beginning with the lines:
a. "Show me, dear Christ, Thy spouse so bright and clear."
b. "Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one."
c. "Since she whom I knew hath paid her last debt."
4
The Life and Letters of John Donne, by E. Gosse, II, pp. 109, 110.
5
Walton says of Donne's preaching "carrying some, as S. Paul was to Heaven in holy raptures, and enticing others by a sacred art and courtship to amend their lives."
6
"Where wee that heard him, to ourselves did faine Golden Chrysostome was alive again."

-1-

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The Dogmatic and Mystical Theology of John Donne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter I John Donne and the Anglican Church 1
  • Chapter II 23
  • Chapter III John Donne and Revealed Theology 43
  • Chapter IV John Donne and the Doctrine of the "Fall" and Sin 77
  • Chapter V John Donne and Soteriology 94
  • Chapter VI 112
  • Chapter VII John Donne and Mystical Theology 120
  • Appendix to Chapter II 144
  • Bibliography 148
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