One of the main points of pastoral contention between Puritans, Catholics and Anglicans, at least during the turn of the 16th century, was over the question of “concupiscence,” or sin, remaining in the believer. Both the Catholics and the Puritans, although with different theological reasons, forced the Christian into a state of angst-ridden introspection. For the former, the ever-present fear of sudden death in a state of mortal sin gave rise to compulsive “Eucharist” taking. For the latter, even the genuine, heartfelt sense of being saved could be (what William Perkins called) a “real, but not effectual, calling.”

Then there were the real “via-media” Anglicans. Contrary to popular belief, they were more of a halfway point between Geneva and Wittenburg than between Rome and London. With Calvin and the Puritans, Anglicans could rest doctrinally in God’s sovereignty as a “most wholesome doctrine,” particularly because it gave people the assurance of extrinsic–completely outside of themselves–Justification. And pastorally, with the Lutherans, Anglicans such as Donne would point not to any sense of “growth” or “moral progress,” but to an ever-deepening sense of their own moral failings and unworthiness, which would put the mercies of God in Christ in that much starker relief. Here is a poem from Donne, one of such Anglicans–Enjoy!

by John Donne

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done ;
I fear no more.