LENT: They Took My Lord Away, by John Donne

They took my lord away John Donne

From: The Showing Forth of Christ

They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.  This was one strain of Mary Magdalene’s lamentation, when she found not her Savior in the monument.  It is a lamentable case to be fain to cry so, They have taken; other men have taken away Christ, by a dark and corrupt education.  But when the casting away of God which is so often complained of by God in the prophets is pronounced against you, when you have had Christ offered to you by the motions of his grace and sealed to you by his sacraments, and yet will cast him so far from you that you know not where to find him; when you have poured out at your eyes in profane and counterfeit tears which should be your soul’s rebaptizing for your sins; when you have blown him away in corrupt and ill intended sighs, which should be the voice of the turtledove to sound your peace and reconciliation with your God; yes, when you have spit him out of your mouth in execrable and blasphemous oaths; when you have not only cast him so far as that you know not where to find him, but have made so ordinary and so indifferent a thing of sin as you know not when you did lose him, no, nor do not remember that ever you had him; no, nor do not know that there is any such man as Jesus, that is your Lord; the taking away is dangerous, when others hide Christ from you, but the casting away is desperate, when you yourself cast him away.

To lose Christ may befall the most righteous person that is; but then he knows where he left him; he knows at what time he lost his way, and where to seek it again.  Even Christ’s imagined father and his true mother, Joseph and Mary, lost him, and lost him in the holy city at Jerusalem.  They lost him and knew it not.  They lost him and went a day’s journey without him and thought him to be in the company.  But as soon as they comprehended their error, they sought and they found him, when as his mother told him, his father and she had sought with a heavy heart.

Alas we may lose him at Jerusalem, even in his own house, even at this moment while we pretend to do him service.  We may lose him by suffering our thoughts to look back with pleasure upon the sins which we have committed, or to look forward with greediness upon some sin that is now in our purpose and prosecution.  We may lose him at Jerusalem, how much more, if our dwelling be a Babylon in confusion and mingling God and the world together, or if it be a Sodom, a wanton and intemperate misuse of God’s benefits to us.  We may think him in the company when he is not; we may mistake his house; we may take a conventicle for a church; we may mistake his apparel, that is, the outward form of his worship; we may mistake the person, that is, associate ourselves to such as are no members of his body.

But if we do not return to our diligence to seek him, and seek him, and seek him with a heavy heart, though we began with a taking away – yet we end in a casting away, we ourselves cast him away since we have been told where to find him and have not sought him.  And let no one be afraid to seek or find him for fear of the loss of good company; faith is no sullen thing, it is not a melancholy, there is not so sociable a thing as the love of Christ Jesus.

It was the first word which he who first found Christ of all the apostles, Saint Andrew, is noted to have said, We have found the Messiah; and it is the first act that he is noted to have done, after he had found him, to seek his brother Peter and take him to Jesus, so communicable a thing is the love of Jesus when we have found him.

But where are we likeliest to find him?  It is said by Moses of the words and precepts of God, They are not hid from thee, neither are they far off.  Not in Heaven that you should say, Who shall go up to Heaven for us to bring them down?  Nor beyond the seas, that you should go over the sea for them.  But the word is very near you, even in your mouth and in your heart; and so near is Christ Jesus, or you shall never find him.

You must not so seek him in Heaven, as that you cannot have immediate access to him without intercession of others, nor so beyond the sea as to seek him in a foreign church, either where the church is but an antiquary’s cabinet full of rags and fragments of antiquity but nothing fit for that use for which it was first made, or where it is so new-built a house with bare walls that it is yet unfurnished of such ceremonies as should make it comely and revered.  Christ is at home with you, he is at home within you, and there is the nearest way to find him.

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