Equity and Charity in the Lincoln's Inn Sermons
This chapter continues to track Donne's preoccupation with the Augustinian idea of charity in his Lincoln's Inn sermons. When preaching to an audience of lawyers, Donne emphasizes the public and political dimensions of charitable judgement; he does so by drawing analogies with a key concept in legal argument and reasoning: the idea of equity. Focusing on interpretive precepts articulated in Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana, Donne emphasizes the parallels between charitable and equitable modes of judgement. This rhetorical manoeuvre has an acutely political dimension: discussions about the role of equity were at the centre of legal debate in the 1610s and 1620s, which attempted to adjudicate the relative claims of common law and royal prerogative justice. Donne thus finds a new application for charity, but the Lincoln's Inn sermons also demonstrate a new mode of Augustinian recourse: rather than giving exact citations, Donne alludes to familiar Augustinian precepts, which are mediated through Luther.
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