The John Donne Memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. (Photo by Stephen Burrows via Alamy)

Things Worth Remembering: The Resurrection of the Body and the Immortality of the Soul

Preacher-poet John Donne gave voice to his faith with a sermon on how God will raise the dead.

Welcome to Douglas Murray’s column, Things Worth Remembering, in which he presents great speeches from famous orators we should commit to heart. To listen to Douglas read and reflect on John Donne’s Sermon LXXXI, scroll to the end of this piece. 

I wonder if there has ever been a bigger change in our collective way of thinking than in our transition from the age of faith to the age of doubt. Inevitably, it is on my mind this Easter.

Millions of people around the world believe in the literal resurrection, when God lifts His believers into heaven. I suppose untold numbers are unsure or doubtful about this, while keeping within the borders of faith. For myself, I can’t help looking back at the age of faith—or even certainty—with envy.

Last year, I wrote in this space about the great English poet John Donne. He was perhaps the greatest of the “metaphysical” poets, a man whose work was laced with a raciness and a realness that, for some, lay in contradiction with his position as a clergyman and dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Personally, I don’t see any contradiction. He was a person able to appreciate and understand all of humankind—nodding to it even when he didn’t embrace it. As well as the joys of the body, he was intensely interested in its dissolution and destruction. 

But then he lived in a time when death stalked life more brutally and obviously than it does today. He and his wife Anne lost three of their children before they had all reached their tenth birthdays. Another two of their children were stillborn. Donne, meanwhile, was often ill, and in one of his illnesses he wrote to a friend that:

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