Death's Duell, or A Consolation to the Soul, against the dying Life and the living Death of the Body

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Death's Duell  (1630)  by John Donne
or A Consolation to the Soul, against the dying Life and the living Death of the Body

Delivered in a Sermon at White Hall, before the Kings Majesty, in the beginning of Lent, 1630.

To the Reader.

This Sermon was, by Sacred Authoritie, stiled the Authors owne funeral Sermon. Most fitly: whether wee respect the time, or the matter. It was preached not many dayes before his death; as is, having done this, there remained nothing for him to doe, but to die: And the matter is, of Death; the occasion and subject of all funerall Sermons/ It hath beene observed of theis Reverend Man, That his Faculty in Preaching continually encreased: and, That as hee exceeded others at first; so, at last hee exceeded himselfe. This is his last Sermon; I will not say, it if therefore his best; because, all his were ecvellent. Yet this much: A dying Mans words, if they be concerne our selves; doe usually make the deepest impression, as being spoken most feelingly, and with less affectation. Now, whom doth it not concerne to learn, both the danger, and benefit of death? Death is every mans enemy, and intends hurt to all; although to many, hee be occasion of greatest goods. This enemy wee must all combate dying; whom hee living did almost conquer; having discovered the utmost of his power, the utmost of his crueltie. May wee make such use of this and other the like preparatives, That neither death whensoever it shall come, may seeme terrible; not life tedious; how long soever it shall last.



Buildings stand by benefit of their foundations that sustain and support them, and of their butteresses that comprehend and embrace them, and of their contignations that knitt and unite them: The foundations suffer them not to sink, the butteresses suffer them not to swerve, and the contignation and knitting sufferes them not to cleave. The body of our building is in the former part of this verse: It is this, he that is our God is the God of salvation; and salutes, of salvations in the plurall, so it is in the originall; the God that gives us spirituall and temporall salvation too. But of this building the foundation, the butteresses the contignations are in this part of the verse, which constitutes our text, and in the three divers acceptations of the words amongst our expositiors, Unto God the Lord belong the issues of death. For first the foundation of this building, (that our God is the God of all salvations) is laid in this; That unto this God the Lord belong the issues of death, that is, it is in his Power to give us and issue and deliverance, even then when wee are brought to the jaws and teeth of death, and to the lips of that whirlpool, the grave. And so in this acceptation, this exitus motre, this issue of death is liberatio á morte, a deliverance from death, and this is the most obvious and most ordinary acceptation of these words, and that upon which our translation laies hold, the issues from death. And then secondly, the butteresses that comprehend and settle this building, That hee that is our God, is the God of all salvation, are thus raised; unto God the Lord belong the issues of death, that is, the disposition and manner of our death: what kind of issue and transmigration wee shall have out of this world, whether prepared or sudden, whether violent or naturall, whether in our perfect senses of shaken and disordered by sicknes, there is no condemnation to bee argued out of that, no Judgement to bee made upon that, for howsoever they dye, precious in his sight is the death of his saints, and with him are the issues of death, the wayes of our departing out of this like are in his hands. And so in this sense of the words, this exitus mortis, the issue of death, is liberatio in morte, A deliverance in death; Not that God will deliver us from dying, but that hee will have a care of us in the houre of death, of what kinde soever our passage be. And this sense and acceptation of the words, the naturall frame and contexture doth well and pregnantly administer unto us. And then lastly the contignation and knitting of this building, that hee that is our God is the God of all salvation, consists in this Unto this God the Lord belong the issues of death, that is, that this God