Donne on the Auctoritas of the Priest

Following the Protestant doctrine of the two kingdoms and royal supremacy, John Donne denies that the presbyterium has power over persons:

‘First, then, for our office towards you, because you may be apt to say, You take too much upon you, you sonnes of Levi; We the sonnes of Levi, open unto you our Commission, and we pursue but that we professe, that we are sent but to pray, but to intreat you; and we accompany it with an outward declaration, we stand bare and you sit covered. When greater power seems to be given us, of treading upon Dragon and Scorpions, of binding and loosing, of casting out Devills, and the like, we confesse these are powers over sinnes, over Devills that doe, or endevour to possesse you, not over you, for to you we are sent to pray and intreat you. Though God sent Jeremy with that large Commission, Behold this day, I have set thee over the Nations, and over the Kingdomes, to pluck up, and to rout out, to destroy and to throw down; and though many of the Prophets had their Commissions drawn by that precedent, we claime not that, we distinguish between the extraordinary Commission of the Prophet, and the ordinary Commission of the Priest, we admit a great difference between them, and are farre from taking upon us, all that the Prophet might have done; which is an errour, of which the Church of Rome, and some other over-zealous Congregations have been equally guilty, and equally opposed Monarchy and Soveraignty, by assuming to themselves, in an ordinary power, whatsoever God, upon extraordinary occasions, was pleased to give for the present, to his extraordinary Instruments the Prophets; our Commission to the pray, and to intreat you.’

What the priest has is persuasion, not the right of potestas held over kings and governors.


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