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Patristic and Contemporary Borrowing in the Caroline Divines

  • P. G. Stanwood (a1)


'A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.'

The celebrated opening of T. S. Eliot's ‘Journey of the Magi' adapts a passage from Lancelot Andrewes’ fifteenth sermon on the Nativity (1622). This is well known, but less familiar may be the fact that Andrews himself was making free use of St. John Chrysostom's Homily vi on Matt. 2:1,2—the scriptural text which describes the coming of the ‘wise men’ from the east to Jerusalem to worship Jesus. The number of wise men (once thought to be twelve), their station in life, their origin, and the nature and meaning of their journey were questions which gave rise to a long tradition of patristic and later commentary on the Epiphany, as the manifestation of Christ to the world and the commemorative feast of the Church came to be called.



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1 See, for example, the eight sermons on the Epiphany by St. Leo the Great, esp. the first: ‘Epiphaniae celebritas quid insinuet, et de trium Magorum adventu ac muneribus’ (Opera … Coloniae Agrippinae … M.D.LXTX., fob. 22-29, or J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina, LIV, 234-237). See also Gerhard Ebeling, ‘Evangesische Evangelienauslegung,’ Forschungen zur Geschichte und Lehre des Protestantismus, Zehnte Reihe Bd.i (München, 1942), app. in: Luthers Auslegung von Mt.2,1-12 aufdie exegetischen Quellen zurückgeführt. Parallel passages are given to show how the Epiphany theme was treated by Gregory, Hilary, Jerome, and Tauler, compared with Luther.

Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was held in great esteem by the Anglo-Catholic preachers who regularly cite him in their sermons. Of all the Fathers, Chrysostom's employment of rhetoric was most influential. W. Fraser Mitchell remarks that ‘there is an oriental richness and profusion of epithets and images noticeable in his work which mark him off from other preachers of all ages. His remained the great name; he was the “goldenmouthed” preacher; and any luxuriance or excessive embroidery occurring in the sermons of later preachers must necessarily fall so far short of his that they were bound to appear to their composers rather to be unsuccessful strivings after an unobtainable ideal than to err by excess the unrivalled wealth of his writings became a mine from which preachers might dig’ (see English Pulpit Oratory from Andrewes to Tillotson, London, 1932; rpt. 1962, pp. 142-144).

2 Webber, Joan, ‘Celebration of Word and World in Lancelot Andrewes’ Style,’ Journal of English and Germanic Philology, LXTV (1965), 263.

3 Mitchell, pp. 164-166 et passim.

4 (translation by Professor C. W.J. Eliot). Cf. also Chrysostom's subsequent homilies on Matt. 2, esp. vII and vIII.

5 XCVI. Sermons (1629), pp. 143-144. The extract from the fourteenth sermon is at p. 137. A modern edition is G. M. Story's (Oxford, 1967): see pp. xxxix-xlii, xlvi, and 99-118 (all of Andrewes’ sermons were last printed in The Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, ed. J. P. Wilson, 5 vols., Oxford, 1841-43, vol. 1 containing the seventeen sermons on the Nativity). The copy of the first edition of Andrewes’ Sermons from which I quote, in the University Library, Cambridge, belonged to John Hacket whose autograph signature appears on the title page.

6 Mueller, Janel M., ‘A Borrowing of Donne's Christmas Sermon of 1621,’ Huntington Library Quarterly, xxx (1967), 207216. Mrs. Mueller describes the extensive use Cosin made of Donne's sermon in his own Nativity sermon of 1651 (see Cosin's Works in The Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, Oxford, 1843, I, 276-290, and my article ‘John Cosin as Homilist,’ Anglican Theological Review, XXVII [July, 1965], 276-289). The extract is quoted from Cosin's autograph sermons in the Chapter Library of Durham Cathedral (class mark A.rv.31), on which the printed text is based (Works, 1, 19). For the sermon of January 5, 1623, see Works, 1, App. 1, and for the sermon of 1653,1, 291-305.

Cosin owned both of the first folio editions of Donne's sermons, LXXX Sermons (1640) and Fifty Sermons (1649), according to the list of his books compiled by William Flower in about 1668 (in the Cosin's Library in Durham). Cosin's copy of the later edition is lost; the earlier folio, however, is still among his books in the library which he founded at Durham (1669). Cosin's extensive annotations in it show that he read the whole collection with great attention. There is a name and date at the top of the page which begins Walton's Life, not in Cosin's hand, ‘Re Jermyn June the 14 1644'; but some jottings, in French, on the last leaf of the volume, are unmistakably Cosin's. Evidendy he had the first folio of Donne's sermons at hand during his long exile in Paris and most probably he had the second one as well; it contains the 1621 sermon on John 1:8 for Christmas Day (no. 36), from which Cosin borrowed.

7 Hacket was Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (from 1661 until his death). See Scrinia Reserata: A Memorial Offer'd to the Great Deservings of John Williams … (1693).

8 A Century of Sermons, pp. 124-126, 136.

9 Mitchell calls his sermons ‘the high-water mark of Anglo-Catholic preaching’ (op. cit., p. 176). He was a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1634 (where Andrewes had been a Fellow and Master before); he was ejected in 1644, along with Cosin who was then Master of Peterhouse, but he returned at the Restoration to his Fellowship and in 1662 became Master of the College.

10 LI Sermons (1672), “The First Sermon on the Epiphany,’ pp. 184, 190-191. Frank's sermons were reprinted in ‘The Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology,” 2 vols. (Oxford, 1849).

11 LI Sermons, p. 208.

12 ‘Pastoralis curae,’ in Opera (Paris, 1619), Pars III, Admonitio 32, m, 220F, or Migne, PL, LxxvII, 112D, and the translation by Henry Davis in Ancient Christian Writers, No. II (Westminster, Md., 1950), p. 209; ‘For sin in words is sin in act, but sin that is cried out is sin committed with deliberation. On the other hand, those who confess their evil deeds, but do not avoid them, must be admonished to weigh betimes what they will say to excuse themselves when confronted with the strict judgment of God, seeing that they cannot excuse themselves from the guilt of their grave sins even when they are their own judges. What else, then, are these men but their own accusers? They prefer charges against their sins, and drag themselves to judgment as guilty of misdeeds.’ St. Gregory writes again of ‘peccatum cum voce’ in his ‘Expositio secundi Psalmi poenitentialis’ (i.e., Ps. 32); see Opera (ed. 1619), II, 933E, or Migne, PL, LXXTX, 561A.

13 The Sermons of John Donne, ed. E. M. Simpson and G. R. Potter (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1953-62), 1, 171, II.126-131 and vII, 361, II.455-462; and see also n, 113, II.681-685, a passage which seems to recall the same figure. For the quotation from Cosin, see my edition (Oxford: the Clarendon Press, 1967), p . 238 and the comment on pp. 354-355.

14 Janel M. Mueller is preparing an annotated text of Donne's Prebend Sermons; but Story's recent edition of twelve of Andrewes’ sermons (cited in n. 5) unfortunately made almost no attempt at any sort of annotation.

Patristic and Contemporary Borrowing in the Caroline Divines

  • P. G. Stanwood (a1)


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