Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, by John Donne

IV. Medicusque vocatur.

The physician is sent for.

IV. Meditation.

It is too little to call man a little world; except God, man is a diminutive to nothing. Man consists of more pieces, more parts, than the world; than the world doth, nay, than the world is. And if those pieces were extended, and stretched out in man as they are in the world, man would be the giant, and the world the dwarf; the world but the map, and the man the world. If all the veins in our bodies were extended to rivers, and all the sinews to veins of mines, and all the muscles that lie upon one another, to hills, and all the bones to quarries of stones, and all the other pieces to the proportion of those which correspond to them in the world, the air would be too little for this orb of man to move in, the firmament would be but enough for this star; for, as the whole world hath nothing, to which something in man doth not answer, so hath man many pieces of which the whole world hath no representation. Enlarge this meditation upon this great world, man, so far as to consider the immensity of the creatures this world produces; our creatures are our thoughts, creatures that are born giants; that reach from east to west, from earth to heaven; that do not only bestride all the sea and land, but span the sun and firmament at once; my thoughts reach all, comprehend all. Inexplicable mystery; I their creator am in a close prison, in a sick bed, any where, and any one of my creatures, my thoughts, is with the sun, and beyond the sun, overtakes the sun, and overgoes the sun in one pace, one step, everywhere. And then, as the other world produces serpents and vipers, malignant and venomous creatures, and worms and caterpillars, that endeavour to devour that world which produces them, and monsters compiled and complicated of divers parents and kinds; so this world, ourselves, produces all these in us, in producing diseases, and sicknesses of all those sorts: venomous and infectious diseases, feeding and consuming diseases, and manifold and entangled diseases made up of many several ones. And can the other world name so many venomous, so many consuming, so many monstrous creatures, as we can diseases of all these kinds? O miserable abundance, O beggarly riches! how much do we lack of having remedies for every disease, when as yet we have not names for them? But we have a Hercules against these giants, these monsters; that is, the physician; he musters up all the forces of the other world to succour this, all nature to relieve man. We have the physician, but we are not the physician. Here we shrink in our proportion, sink in our dignity, in respect of very mean creatures, who are physicians to themselves. The hart that is pursued and wounded, they say, knows an herb, which being eaten throws off the arrow: a strange kind of vomit. The dog that pursues it, though he be subject to sickness, even proverbially, knows his grass that recovers him. And it may be true, that the drugger is as near to man as to other creatures; it may be that obvious and present simples, easy to be had, would cure him; but the apothecary is not so near him, nor the physician so near him, as they two are to other creatures; man hath not that innate instinct, to apply those natural medicines to his present danger, as those inferior creatures have; he is not his own apothecary, his own physician, as they are. Call back therefore thy meditation again, and bring it down: what’s become of man’s great extent and proportion, when himself shrinks himself and consumes himself to a handful of dust; what’s become of his soaring thoughts, his compassing thoughts, when himself brings himself to the ignorance, to the thoughtlessness, of the grave? His diseases are his own, but the physician is not; he hath them at home, but he must send for the physician.

IV. Expostulation.

I have not the righteousness of Job, but I have the desire of Job: I would speak to the Almighty, and I would reason with God.28 My God, my God, how soon wouldst thou have me go to the physician, and how far wouldst thou have me go with the physician? I know thou hast made the matter, and the man, and the art; and I go not from thee when I go to the physician. Thou didst not make clothes before there was a shame of the nakedness of the body, but thou didst make physic before there was any grudging of any sickness; for thou didst imprint a medicinal virtue in many simples, even from the beginning; didst thou mean that we should be sick when thou didst so? when thou madest them? No more than thou didst mean, that we should sin, when thou madest us: thou foresawest both, but causedst neither. Thou, Lord, promisest here trees, whose fruit shall be for meat, and their leaves for medicine.29 It is the voice of thy Son, Wilt thou be made whole?30 that draws from the patient a confession that he was ill, and could not make himself well. And it is thine own voice, Is there no physician?31 that inclines us, disposes us, to accept thine ordinance. And it is the voice of the wise man, both for the matter, physic itself, The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise shall not abhor them,32 and for the art, and the person, the physician cutteth off a long disease. In all these voices thou sendest us to those helps which thou hast afforded us in that. But wilt not thou avow that voice too, He that hath sinned against his Maker, let him fall into the hands of the physician;33 and wilt not thou afford me an understanding of those words? Thou, who sendest us for a blessing to the physician, dost not make it a curse to us to go when thou sendest. Is not the curse rather in this, that only he falls into the hands of the physician, that casts himself wholly, entirely upon the physician, confides in him, relies upon him, attends all from him, and neglects that spiritual physic which thou also hast instituted in thy church. So to fall into the hands of the physician is a sin, and a punishment of former sins; so, as Asa fell, who in his disease sought not to the Lord, but to the physician.34 Reveal therefore to me thy method, O Lord, and see whether I have followed it; that thou mayest have glory, if I have, and I pardon, if I have not, and help that I may. Thy method is, In time of thy sickness, be not negligent: wherein wilt thou have my diligence expressed? Pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole.35 O Lord, I do; I pray, and pray thy servant David’s prayer, Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are vexed:36 I know that even my weakness is a reason, a motive, to induce thy mercy, and my sickness an occasion of thy sending health. When art thou so ready, when is it so seasonable to thee, to commiserate, as in misery? But is prayer for health in season, as soon as I am sick? Thy method goes further: Leave off from sin, and order thy hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all wickedness.37 Have I, O Lord, done so? O Lord, I have; by thy grace, I am come to a holy detestation of my former sin. Is there any more? In thy method there is more: Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour, and make a fat offering, as not being.38 And, Lord, by thy grace, I have done that, sacrificed a little of that little which thou lentest me, to them for whom thou lentest it: and now in thy method, and by thy steps, I am come to that, Then give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him; let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him.39 I send for the physician, but I will hear him enter with those words of Peter, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole;40 I long for his presence, but I look that the power of the Lord should be present to heal me.41

IV. Prayer.

O most mighty and most merciful God, who art so the God of health and strength, as that without thee all health is but the fuel, and all strength but the bellows of sin; behold me under the vehemence of two diseases, and under the necessity of two physicians, authorized by thee, the bodily, and the spiritual physician. I come to both as to thine ordinance, and bless and glorify thy name that, in both cases, thou hast afforded help to man by the ministry of man. Even in the new Jerusalem, in heaven itself, it hath pleased thee to discover a tree, which is a tree of life there, but the leaves thereof are for the healing of the nations.42 Life itself is with thee there, for thou art life; and all kinds of health, wrought upon us here by thine instruments, descend from thence. Thou wouldst have healed Babylon, but she is not healed.43 Take from me, O Lord, her perverseness, her wilfulness, her refractoriness, and hear thy Spirit saying in my soul: Heal me, O Lord, for I would be healed. Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound; then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb, yet could not he heal you, nor cure you of your wound.44 Keep me back, O Lord, from them who misprofess arts of healing the soul, or of the body, by means not imprinted by thee in the church for the soul, or not in nature for the body. There is no spiritual health to be had by superstition, nor bodily by witchcraft; thou, Lord, and only thou, art Lord of both. Thou in thyself art Lord of both, and thou in thy Son art the physician, the applier of both. With his stripes we are healed,45 says the prophet there; there, before he was scourged, we were healed with his stripes; how much more shall I be healed now, now when that which he hath already suffered actually is actually and effectually applied to me? Is there any thing incurable, upon which that balm drops? Any vein so empty as that that blood cannot fill it? Thou promisest to heal the earth;46 but it is when the inhabitants of the earth pray that thou wouldst heal it. Thou promisest to heal their waters, but their miry places and standing waters, thou sayest there, thou wilt not heal.47 My returning to any sin, if I should return to the ability of sinning over all my sins again, thou wouldst not pardon. Heal this earth, O my God, by repentant tears, and heal these waters, these tears, from all bitterness, from all diffidence, from all dejection, by establishing my irremovable assurance in thee. Thy Son went about healing all manner of sickness.48 (No disease incurable, none difficult; he healed them in passing). Virtue went out of him, and he healed all,49 all the multitude (no person incurable), he healed them every whit50 (as himself speaks), he left no relics of the disease; and will this universal physician pass by this hospital, and not visit me? not heal me? not heal me wholly? Lord, I look not that thou shouldst say by thy messenger to me, as to Hezekiah, Behold, I will heal thee, and on the third day thou shalt go up to the house of the Lord.51 I look not that thou shouldst say to me, as to Moses in Miriam’s behalf, when Moses would have had her healed presently, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not have been ashamed seven days? Let her be shut up seven days, and then return;52 but if thou be pleased to multiply seven days (and seven is infinite) by the number of my sins (and that is more infinite), if this day must remove me till days shall be no more, seal to me my spiritual health, in affording me the seals of thy church; and for my temporal health, prosper thine ordinance, in their hands who shall assist in this sickness, in that manner, and in that measure, as may most glorify thee, and most edify those who observe the issues of thy servants, to their own spiritual benefit.

28 Job, xiii. 3.

29 Ezek. xlvii. 12.

30 John, v. 6.

31 Jer. viii. 22.

32 Ecclus. xxxviii. 4.

33 Ecclus. xxxviii. 15.

34 1 Chron. xvi. 12.

35 Ecclus. xxxviii. 9.

36 Psalm vi. 2.

37 Ecclus. xxxviii. 10.

38 Ecclus. xxxviii. 11.

39 Ecclus. xxxviii. 12.

40 Acts, ix. 34.

41 Luke, v. 17.

42 Rev. xxii. 2.

43 Jer. li. 9.

44 Hosea, v. 13.

45 Isaiah, liii. 5.

46 2 Chron. vii. 14.

47 Ezek. xlvii. 11.

48 Matt. iv. 23.

49 Luke, vi. 19.

50 John, vii. 23.

51 2 Kings, xx. 5.

52 Num. xii. 14.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37