When thou hast done, I fear no more

There have been a few poems here in the last few weeks.  An earlier one by John Donne finally prompted me to get the biography of Donne by John Stubbs – published some time ago now – down from the bookshelves and read it.  The book has its weaknesses –  I’m not quite sure that the author really succeeded in getting inside a serious Christian’s sensibility and faith – but it is a pretty compelling portrait of Donne’s early and middle life, much of which was anything but easy, and not what might conventionally be thought of as “holy”, or set apart.

A day or two after Easter, I thought it might be timely to run the first Donne poem I ever encountered, his “A Hymn to God the Father”.  I sang in a church choir for a time, and a musical setting of this poem that we sang back in 1984/85 has stayed with me, and in some sense been my prayer, ever since.

A Hymn to God the Father

By John Donne
Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
         Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
         And do run still, though still I do deplore?
                When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
                        For I have more.
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
         Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
         A year or two, but wallow’d in, a score?
                When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
                        For I have more.
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
         My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
         Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
                And, having done that, thou hast done;
                        I fear no more.
There are a series of clever plays on words, especially the done/Donne, but also Son/sun, but it is the simple intensity of the prayer, and of the faith and hope with which he ends that drew me in and holds my attention to this day.   By God’s grace, manifest in the resurrection of Jesus (which we celebrate now), and the gift of the Holy Spirit (which we will celebrate in a few weeks’ time), neither Donne nor we –  who put our trust in Christ, penient and thankful –  need fear no more.  Christ placed himself between our sin(s) –  deep and persistent as they are – and their just reward.
Thanks be to God.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s