Gathering pearl

Daily Reading for December 20

Divers men may walk by the seaside

and the same beams of the sun giving light to them all,

one gathereth by the benefit of that light

pebbles or speckled shells for curious vanity,

and another gathers precious pearl or medicinal amber by the same light. . . .

But, if thou canst take this light of reason that is in thee,

this poor snuff that is almost out in thee,

thy faint and dim knowledge of God that riseth out of this light of nature,

if thou canst in those embers, those cold ashes,

find out one small coal

and wilt take the pains to kneel down and blow that coal with thy devout prayers,

and light thee a little candle

(a desire to read that book which they call the Scriptures,

and the Gospel, and the Word of God);

if with that little candle thou canst creep humbly into low and poor places;

if thou canst find thy Savior in a manger,

and in his swathing clouts, in his humiliation,

and bless God for that beginning . . .

Thou shalt see that thou by thy small light

hath gathered pearl and amber.

From a sermon by John Donne preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Christmas Day, 1621, in John Donne: Selections from Divine Poems, Sermons, Devotions, and Prayers, edited by John Booty (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1990).

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