John Donne on God’s Never Despising Us

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John DonneToday in 1631 John Donne died. For those who know him at all, he is known mainly for his poetry. He was born in London in 1572. As a Roman Catholic he became disillusioned and was converted to the Anglican faith.

He took a doctor of divinity at Cambridge in 1618 and was appointed as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1621. He was there till his death. He married Ann Moore in 1601 who bore him 12 children before she died in 1617. He never remarried.

He was careless and erotic in his early years, but in the end became a devout lover of Christ. His poetry is among the greatest Christian verse in English.

I read some lines of Donne recently that moved me deeply because of a conversation Noël and I were having about how God disciplines us in love, but never despises us. We were trying to see how the Lord delights in us because of our position in Christ, while at the same time being grieved with us because of our sin. We agreed that the Lord may “spank us” as his children (Hebrews 12:6), but that he never treats us with contempt.

It was moving to find this in Donne’s poem “A Hymne to Christ at the Author’s last going into Germany”:

Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise
Thy face; yet through that maske I know those eyes,
  Which though they turn away sometimes,
      They never will despise.