I’ve listened for years to this beautiful choral track (the piece is also on this King’s Singers album), and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never thought to look up the whole text from which it came. I’m glad I finally did. This is beautiful, soul-stirring stuff:
If I should declare what God hath done (done occasionally,) for my soul, where He instructed me for fear of falling, where He raised me when I was fallen, perchance you would rather fix your thoughts upon my illness, and wonder at that, than at God’s goodness, and glorify Him in that; rather wonder at my sins than at His mercies, rather consider how ill a man I was, than how good a God He is. If I should enquire upon what occasion God elected me, and writ my name in the book of life, I should sooner be afraid that it were not so, than find a reason why it should be so. God made sun and moon to distinguish seasons, and day and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons; but God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of His mercies; in Paradise, the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in Heaven it is always autumn, His mercies are ever in their maturity. We ask our daily bread, and God never says you should have come yesterday. He never says you must again to-morrow, but to-day if ye will hear His voice, to-day He will hear you. If some king of the earth have so large an extent of dominion in north and south, as that he hath winter and summer together in his dominions, so large an extent east and west as that he hath day and night together in his dominions, much more hath God mercy and judgment together; He brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light; He can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring; though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries, all occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons.
—John Donne (1572–1631) from Sermons Preached on Christmas Day