That Jews and Pagans and also false Christians are not reformed effectually through the virtue of the Passion through their own Faults
TWO manner of men are not reformed by the virtue of this passion. One is of them that know it not; another is of them that love it not. Jews and Pagans have not the benefit, because they know it not. Jews understand not that Jesus the son of the virgin Mary is God's Son. Also the Pagans know it not that the sovereign wisdom of God would become the son of man, and in His manhood would suffer the pains of death. And therefore the Jews held the preaching of the Cross and of the Passion nought but slander and blasphemy; and the Pagans held it nought but fancy and folly. But true Christians hold it the sovereign wisdom of God and His mighty power. Thus saith St Paul: We preach unto you Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness; but to those that be called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.161 And therefore these men, through their unbelief, put themselves from the reforming of their own souls, and continuing in this unbelief, shall never be saved nor come to the bliss of Heaven. Forsooth it is, from the beginning of the world to the last ending was there never any man saved, nor shall be, unless he believe generally or specially in Jesus Christ, to come, or already come. For right as all chosen souls, that were before the Incarnation under the Old Testament, believed in Christ that He should come, to reform men's souls; and that either with an open and clear belief, as the Patriarchs and Prophets and other holy men did; or else with a secret and general belief, as children and other simple and imperfect souls had that had no special or explicit clear knowledge of the Mystery of the Incarnation; right so, all chosen souls under the New Testament have belief in Christ already come; either openly and feelingly, as spiritual men and wise men have, or else generally, as children have that are christened, and other simple and unlearned souls have, that are nourished in the bosom of holy Church.
Since this is so, methinks that those men err greatly and grievously who say that Jews and Turks, by keeping of their own law, may be saved, though they believe not in Jesus Christ, as holy Church believeth; inasmuch as they believe that their own faith is good, and secure, and sufficient for their salvation. And in that belief they do as it seems many good deeds of justice and righteousness, and peradventure if they knew that the Christian faith were better than their own, they would leave their own and take it; and therefore they shall be saved. But I say this is not enough, for Christ, God and man, is both the way and the end. And He is the mediator betwixt God and man, and without Him can no soul be reconciled, nor come to the bliss of Heaven, and therefore they that believe not in Him who is both God and man, can never be saved nor come to bliss.
Other men also, that love not Christ, nor His Passion, are not reformed in their souls to His likeness, and these are false Christians, which are out of grace and charity, and live and die in deadly sin. These men know well, as it seemeth, that Jesus is God's Son, and that His passion sufficeth to the salvation of man's soul; and they believe also the other articles of faith. But it is an unshapen and dead faith, for they love Him not, nor choose the fruit of His passion, but lie still in their sins, and in the false love of this world, unto their last end; and so they be not reformed to the likeness of God, but go to the pains of Hell endlessly, as Jews and Turks do, and into much more, and greater pains than they, inasmuch as they had the truth and kept it not; for that makes their sin greater than if they had never known it.
If then thou wilt know what souls are reformed here in this life to the image of God through the virtue of His Passion; verily, only those that believe in Him and love Him; in which souls, the image of God that was misshapen through sin, as it were, into a foul beast's likeness, is restored and reformed to its first shape, and to the worthiness and worship that it had in the beginning; without which restoring and reforming never shall any soul be saved nor come to bliss.
Of two Manners of reforming of this Image, one in fulness, another in part
NOW thou wilt say: How can this be, that the image of God, which is man's soul, should be reformed here in this life to His likeness in any creature? Whereas the contrary seemeth true, nay, it seems that it cannot possibly be so? For if it were reformed, then should it have a stable memory, a clear sight or understanding, a clear burning love to God and spiritual things everlastingly, as it had in the beginning. But these hath no creature living here in this life, as thou perceivest; for as for thyself, thou canst truly say, that thou art far from it. Thy memory, thy reason, and thy love of thy soul, are so much set upon the beholding and loving of earthly things, that of spiritual things thou feelest right little. Thou feelest no reforming in thyself, but art so wrapped about with this black image of sin, for all that thou canst do, that upon what side soever thou turnest, thou feelest thyself defiled and spotted with fleshly stirrings of this foul image; and other changings thou feelest none, fresh fleshliness into spiritualness, neither in the inward faculties of thy soul within, nor in bodily feelings or thy senses without. Wherefore it seems to thee that it cannot be that this image should be so reformed.
Thou askest, therefore, how it can be reformed?
To this I answer, and say thus: There be two manners of reforming of the image of God which is man's soul, whereof one is in fulness, another is in part. Reforming in fulness cannot be had in this life, but is deferred till after, to the bliss of Heaven, where man's soul shall fully be reformed; not to that state that it had at the first by nature, or might have had through grace if it had stood whole; but it shall be restored to much more bliss, and much higher joy through the great mercy and the endless goodness of God, than it should have had if it had never fallen. For then shall the soul receive the whole and the full feeling of God in all its faculties, without any other love or affection to anything else interposing itself. And it shall see mankind in the person of Jesus exalted above the kind or nature of Angels, united to the Godhead, for then shall Jesus, both God and man, be all in all, and only He, and none other but He, as the Prophet saith: Our Lord (Jesus) in that day shall be exalted only.162 And also the body of man shall then be glorified, for it shall receive fully the rich dowry of immortality, with all that belongeth thereto. This shall a soul have with the body, and much more than I can say; but that shall be the bliss of Heaven, but not in this life. For though it be so that the Passion of our Lord be the cause of all this full reforming of man's soul; nevertheless it was not His will to grant it straightways after passion, to all chosen souls that were living at the time of His Passion, but He delayed it unto the last day, and that for this reason: Manifest it is that our Lord Jesus Christ of His mercy hath ordained a certain number of souls to salvation, which number was not fulfilled in the time of His Passion, and therefore it needed that by length of time through natural generation of men that number should be made up; then if it had so been, that so soon as after the death of our Lord, every soul that would have believed in Him should have been blessed and fully reformed by His life, without any further delay, there would no creature that lived then have been that would not have received the Faith for to have been made blessed, and then should generation have ceased. And so should we that are now chosen souls living, and other souls that come after us, not have been born, and so should our Lord have failed of His number. But that might not be, and therefore our Lord provided much better for us, in that He delayed the full reforming of man's soul till the last end, as St Paul saith; God providing better for us, that they should not be consummate without us.163 That is, our Lord providing better for us in the delaying of our reforming, than if He had granted it then, for this reason, that the chosen souls should not make a full end without us that come after.
Another reason is this: Since that man in his first creation was set in his free will, and had free choice whether he would have God fully or no, it was therefore reasonable that since he would not choose God then, but wretchedly fell from Him, if he should afterwards be reformed, that he should be set again in the same free choosing that he was first in, as whether he would become reformed or no. And this may be also a cause why man's soul was not fully reformed speedily upon the Passion of Jesus Christ.
That Reforming in part is in two manners, one in Faith, another in Feeling
ANOTHER reforming of this image is in part, and this may be had in this life, and if it be not had in this life, it will never be had, nor the soul ever come to be saved.
But this reforming is on two manners; one is in Faith only, another is in Faith and in Feeling. The first sufficeth to salvation, the second is worthy to have passing great reward in the bliss of Heaven. The first may be had easily and in short time, the second not so, but through length of time and much spiritual pains. The first may be had, and yet the man may have together with it the stirrings and feelings of the image of sin. For though a man feel nothing in himself but all stirrings of sin and fleshly desires, notwithstanding those feelings, if he do not voluntarily assent thereto, he may be and remain reformed in Faith to the likeness of God.
But the second putteth out the liking in, and delight felt in sensual motions and worldly desires, and suffereth no such spots to abide in this image. The first is only of beginning and profiting souls, and of active men. The second is of perfect souls, and of contemplative men. For by the first reforming the image of sin is not destroyed, but it is left, as it were, all whole in feeling. But the second destroyeth the old feelings of this image of sin, and bringeth into the soul new gracious feelings, through the workings of the Holy Ghost. The first is good, the second is better; but the third, that is in the bliss of Heaven, is best of all. First let us speak of that one, and then of that other, and so we shall come to the third.
That through the Sacrament of Baptism (which is grounded in the Passion of Christ) this Image is reformed from Original Sin
Two manner of sins make the soul to lose the image and likeness of God. The one is called Original, that is the first sin; the other is Actual, that is committed by our own will. These two sins put away a soul from the bliss of Heaven, and damn it to the endless pains of hell; unless, through the grace of God, it be reformed to His likeness, before it pass hence out of this life. Nevertheless, two remedies are there against these two sins, by the which a misshapen soul may be restored again. One is the Sacrament of Baptism against original sin, another is the Sacrament of Penance against actual sin. A soul of a child that is born, as is not christened, by reason of original sin, hath no likeness of God; he is nought but an image of the fiend, and a brand of hell, but as soon as it is christened, it is reformed to the image of God, and through the virtue of the faith of holy Church is suddenly turned from the likeness of the fiend, and made like an Angel of Heaven. Also the same falleth to a Jew or to a Turk, the which before they be christened, are nought but bondslaves of hell; but when they forsake their error, and fall humbly to the truth in Christ, and receive the baptism of water in the Holy Ghost, surely without any further tarrying they are reformed to the likeness of God, so fully that the holy Church believeth that if presently after baptism they should happen to die, they should straight fly up to Heaven without any more letting, though they had before in the time of their unbelief committed never so many or so great sins; nor should they ever feel the pains of hell nor of purgatory, and that privilege should they have by the merit of Christ's Passion.
That through the Sacrament of Penance (that consisteth in Contrition, Confession and Satisfaction) this Image is reformed from Actual Sin
MOREOVER, Christian men or women that have lost the likeness of God through a deadly sin in breaking God's commandments, if he through the touching of grace in his heart doth truly forsake his sin, with sorrow and contrition of heart, and be in full purpose to amend and turn to a good life; and in this foresaid purpose and will receiveth the Sacrament of Penance, if he may come by it, or if he cannot have a will and desire to come by it, surely, I say, that this man or woman's soul, that was before misshapen to the likeness of the devil through deadly sin, is now by the Sacrament of Penance restored and shapen again to the image of our Lord God.
This is a great courtesy of our Lord, and an endless mercy, who so lightly forgiveth all manner of sin, and so suddenly giveth plenty of grace to a sinful soul that asketh mercy of Him. He requireth not great doing of Penance, nor painful suffering in the flesh, before He forgiveth it. But He requireth a loathing of sin, and a full forsaking in the will for love of Him, and a turning of the heart to Him. This He asketh, for this He giveth. And then when He seeth this, without any further delay He forgiveth the sin, and reformeth the soul to His likeness. The sin is forgiven, that the soul shall not be damned, nevertheless, the pain due to the sin is not yet fully forgiven, unless that the contrition and love be the greater. And therefore shall he go and show himself, and make his confession to his ghostly Father, and receive the penance which he enjoineth him for his trespass, and perform it gladly, so that both the sin and the punishment may be done away before he pass hence.
Why Confession is necessary.
And this is the wise ordinance of holy Church, to the great benefit of man's soul, that though the sin be forgiven through the virtue of contrition, nevertheless for the exercise of humility, and for to make entire satisfaction, he shall (if he have means for it) show to his priest a plenary confession, for that is his token and warrant against all his enemies, of the forgiveness of his sins, and such a token or warrant will it be needful for him to have. Just as if a man had forfeited his life against a king on earth, it were not enough for him (as to his full security and discharge) to have only forgiveness of the king, unless he have a charter from him, which may be his token and warrant against all other men. Right so may it be said spiritually, if a man through deadly sin have forfeited his life against the King of Heaven, it is not enough for him (as to his full security) to have forgiveness of God only by contrition between God and him, unless he have a charter also made by holy Church (if he may come by it), and this is the Sacrament of Penance, which is his charter and token of forgiveness. For sith it was so, that he had offended and forfeited both against God and His Church, it is skilful that he have forgiveness from that one, and a warrant from that other. And this is one cause why Confession is needful.
Another reason is this: That since this reforming of a soul standeth in Faith only, and not in Feeling (for the forgiveness is only believed and not felt) therefore a fleshly or sensual man, that is at first gross and rude in understanding, and cannot easily judge and conceive, but only outward bodily things, would not easily have believed that his sins had been forgiven him, if he had not received some outward or bodily token of it, and that is Confession, through the which token he is made secure of forgiveness if he do his part and duty in the business. This is the belief of holy Church, as I understand it. Another reason is this: Though the ground of forgiveness stand not principally in Confession, but in contrition of the heart, and in detestation or forethinking of sin; nevertheless, I believe that there is many a soul that would never have felt true contrition, nor had arrived at forsaking of sin, if Confession had not been, for it falleth out oftentimes, that in the time of Confession, grace of compunction cometh to a soul that before never felt grace, but ever was cold and dry, and farther off from feeling of grace. And therefore sith Confession was so profitable to the more party of Christian men, holy Church ordained, for the more security generally to all Christian men, that every man and woman should once in the year, at the least, confess all their sins to their ghostly Father, that come to their mind, though they had never so much contrition before time. Nevertheless, I hope well, that if all men had been as careful about the keeping of themselves and eschewing of all manner of sin; and had arrived at as great knowledge and feeling of God as some men have, holy Church would not have ordained the said token of Confession as an obligation, for it had not been needful. But because all men are not so perfect, and peradventure much or the greater part of Christians are imperfect, therefore holy Church ordained Confession by way of general obligation, to all Christians that will acknowledge holy Church as their Mother, and will be obedient to her laws.
If this be true, as I hope it is, then erreth he greatly that generally saith that Confession of sins to the priest is neither necessary nor profitable, and that no man is bound thereto; for by that which I have said, it is both necessary and profitable to all those souls who in this wretched life are defiled with sin, and namely to those who through deadly sin are misshapen from the likeness of God, who cannot be reformed to His likeness but by the Sacrament of Penance which principally standeth in contrition and sorrow of heart, and secondarily in confession of mouth following after it if it may be had. And thus through this Sacrament of Penance is a sinful soul reformed to the image and likeness of God.
But this reforming standeth in Faith and not in Feeling. For right as Faith's property is to believe that which thou seest not, so also is it to believe that which thou feelest not. For he that is reformed in his soul by the Sacrament of Penance to the image of God, feeleth not any change in himself, neither in his external corporal nature, nor within in the substance of his soul, other than he did before. For as to his feeling, he is as he was, and feeleth the same stirrings of sin, and the same corruption of his flesh in his passions and worldly risings in his heart, as he did before. Yet he ought to believe that through grace he is reformed to the image of God, though he neither feel it nor see it. He may easily feel in himself a sorrow for his sins, and a turning of his will from sin to cleanness of living, if he have grace and take good heed of himself. But he can neither see nor feel the reforming of his soul, how it is wonderfully and unperceivably changed from the foulness of the fiend unto the fairness of an Angel, through a secret gracious working of the Holy Ghost. This cannot he see but only believe it; and if he believe it, then is his soul reformed in truth. For right as Holy Church believeth, a Jew or Saracen, or a child, by the Sacrament of Baptism duly administered, to be reformed in soul to the image of God, through a secret unperceivable working of the Holy Ghost, notwithstanding all the fleshly stirrings of his body of sin, which he feeleth, after his Baptism as well as before; right so, by the Sacrament of Penance humbly and truly received, a bad Christian who hath been encumbered with deadly sin all his lifetime, is reformed within in his soul, unperceivably, saving that he finds a turning of his will to God through a secret power, and a gracious working of the Holy Ghost, which suddenly worketh, and in a moment or the twinkling of an eye, setteth right a froward soul, and turneth it from a spiritual foulness to an invisible fairness, and maketh her, of a servant of the fiend, a son of joy; and of a prisoner of hell, an inheritor of Heaven, notwithstanding all the fleshly feelings of this sinful image, that is the corporal nature.
The Sacraments of Baptism and of Penance do not utterly destroy and take away the motions of the flesh.
For thou must know, that the Sacrament of Baptism or of Penance, is not of that virtue to hinder and destroy utterly all the stirrings of fleshly lusts and of inordinate passions, that the soul should never feel any risings nor stirrings of them at any time; for if it were so, then were a soul fully reformed here to the dignity it had at its first creation. But that cannot be fully in this life. But it is of that virtue, that it cleanseth the soul from all sins before done; and if she, being in that case, chance to die, it saveth her from damnation; or if it continue in the body, it giveth her grace to withstand the stirrings of sin, or of the passions of the flesh, so that be they never so grievous, they shall not hurt her, nor separate her from God, as long as she doth not willingly consent thereto. So meant St Paul when he said thus: -- There is no condemnation to them that walk not after the flesh.164 That is, those souls that are reformed to the image of God by Faith, through the Sacrament of Baptism or of Penance, shall not be damned for the feeling of this image of sin, if so be that they go not after the motions of sensuality by deed doing.
That we are to believe stedfastly the reforming of this Image, if our Conscience witness to us a full forsaking of Sin, and a true turning of our Will to good living
OF this reforming in Faith speaketh St Paul in these words: The just man liveth by Faith.165 That is, he that is made righteous by Baptism or Penance, he liveth by Faith, which sufficeth to salvation, and also to heavenly peace, as St Paul saith: Being justified by Faith, we have peace with God. That is, we that are made righteous and reformed through Faith in Christ, have peace and accord made betwixt God and us, notwithstanding the vicious motions of our body of sin. For though this reforming be secret, and cannot well be felt here in this life, nevertheless whoso stedfastly believeth it, and is careful to shape his life accordingly, and turns not again to deadly sin, surely when the hour of death cometh, and the soul is departed, then shall he find that true which I say now. St John in comfort of chosen souls that live here in Faith under the feeling of this painful image, saith thus: Little children, now are we the sons of God, and it appeareth not what we shall be; but we know that when Christ shall appear, we shall also appear like Him in glory.166 That is, we are now, whilst we live here, the sons of God, for we are reformed by Faith in Christ to His likeness, but it appeareth not plainly what we are, but it is kept secret. Nevertheless, we know well, that when our Lord shall appear at the last day, then shall we appear with Him, like to Him in glory.
How a man may find out whether his soul be reformed.
If then, thou wouldst know if thy soul be reformed to the Image of God or no, thou mayest be resolved by that which I have said, ransack thy conscience and look what thy will is, for; therein consisteth the whole business. If it be turned from all manner of deadly sin, so that thou wouldst not for all the world wittingly and wilfully break the commandments of God; and for what thou hast done amiss heretofore contrary to His bidding, hast humbly made thy confession, with full intent to leave it, and art sorry that thou didst it; I say then, surely that thy soul is reformed in Faith to the likeness of God.
That all the Souls that live humbly in the Faith of Holy Church, and have their Faith enlivened with Love and Charity, be reformed by this Sacrament, though it be so that they cannot feel the special gift of Devotion or of spiritual feeling
IN this reforming, which is only in Faith, the most part of chosen souls lead their lives, setting their wills stedfastly to flee all manner of deadly sin, and keeping themselves in love and charity to their neighbour, and keeping the commandments of God according to their knowledge. And when it is so that wicked stirrings and evil desires of pride, envy, wrath or luxury, or of any other capital sin rise in their hearts, they resist and strive against them, by being displeased at them in their will, so that they follow not those wicked motions in their deeds; and if through frailty they fall, as it were against their will, and through ignorance, their conscience soon after so grieveth and paineth them for it, that they can take no rest till they have made their confession, and had absolution for it.
Surely all these souls that thus live in this state of reforming, and be found therein at the hour of their death, shall be saved, and shall come to a full reforming in the bliss of Heaven though it were so, that they never had spiritual feeling, nor inward taste of devotion, nor any special gift of grace of sweetness or comfort in all their lifetime. For if thou shouldst say, that no soul shall be saved, unless she were here reformed in spiritual feeling, so that she hath felt devotion and spiritual sweetness in God, as some souls through special grace have done; then should very few souls be saved, in comparison of the multitude of the other.
Nay, it is not so to be supposed, that only for the souls that have had such extraordinary devotion, or have through great grace come to a spiritual feeling, and for no more, our Lord Jesus should have taken upon Him the nature of man, and suffered the bitter passion of His death. It had been such a small purchase for Him to have come from so far to so near, and from so high to so low, for so few souls; no, His mercy is spread larger than so. But on the contrary, if thou imaginest the Passion of our Lord to be so precious, and His mercy so great, that there shall no soul be damned, and namely, no Christian, do he never so wickedly, as some fools do imagine, surely thou errest greatly.
Go, therefore, in the middle way, and hold thee there, and believe as holy Church believeth, and that is, that the most sinful man that liveth on earth, if through grace he turn his will from deadly sin by true repentance to the service of God, he is reformed in his soul, and if he die in this state, he shall be saved. Thus hath our Lord promised by His Prophet, saying: At what time soever a sinner shall be converted, and sorry for his sins, he shall live, and not die.
And on the other side, whoso liveth in deadly sin, and will not leave it, nor amend him thereof, nor receive the Sacrament of Penance, or else if he receive it, taketh it not truly, for the love of God (that is, for the love of virtue and cleanness, but only for dread or shame of the world, or only for fear of the pains of hell), he is not reformed to the image of God, and if he die in that state, he shall not be saved, his Faith shall not save him, for it is but a dead faith, because it lacketh love, and therefore it will not serve his turn. But they that have Faith quickened with love and charity, though it be but the least degree of charity, as are simple souls who feel not the gift of special devotion, nor have spiritual knowledge or feeling of God, as some spiritual men have, but believe in general as holy Church believeth, though they know not fully what that is (for it is not necessary that they should know so fully), but in that belief keep themselves in love and charity to their neighbour as well as they can, and eschew all deadly sin according to their best skill, and do deeds of mercy to their neighbours; all these belong to the bliss of Heaven. For thus is it written in the Apocalypse: Ye that fear God, both great and small, praise Him. By great ones are understood souls that are profiting in grace, or that are perfect in the love of God, which are reformed in spiritual feeling. By small, imperfect souls of worldly men and women, and others that have but a childish knowledge of God, and full little feeling of Him, but are brought forth in the bosom of holy Church, and nourished with the Sacraments, as children are fed with milk. All these ought to love God, and thank Him for the salvation of their souls, which proceedeth from His endless mercy and goodness. For holy Church, which is mother of all these, and beareth tender love to all her ghostly children, prayeth and asketh for them all tenderly of her Spouse, that is of Jesus, and getteth them health of soul through virtue of His Passion; and namely for them that cannot speak for themselves by spiritual prayer for their need.
Thus I find in the Gospel that the woman of Canaan asked of our Lord health for her daughter that was troubled with the fiend; and our Lord at first made dainty of the matter, because she was an alien. Nevertheless she ceased not to cry till our Lord had granted her asking, and said to her thus: O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee as thou wilt. In the same hour was her daughter made whole. This woman betokeneth holy Church, that asketh help of our Lord for simple ignorant souls, that are encumbered with temptations of the world, and cannot speak perfectly to God by fervour of devotion, nor by burning love in Contemplation. And though our Lord seemeth to make dainty at first, because they are, as it were, aliened from Him, nevertheless, for the great faith and desert of holy Church, He granted to her all that she will. And for these simple souls that believe stedfastly as holy Church believeth, and put themselves wholly upon the mercy of God, and submit themselves under the Sacraments and Laws of holy Church, are saved through the prayers and faith of their holy Mother the Church.
That Souls reformed need ever to fight and strive against the Motions of sin while they live here. And how a Soul may know when she assenteth to these Motions and when not
THIS reforming in Faith is easily gotten, but it is not so easily held. And, therefore, that man or woman that is reformed to the likeness of God in Faith, must use much labour and diligence, if they will keep this image whole and clean, that it fall not down again through weakness of will to the image of sin. He may not be idle or careless; for the image of sin is so near fastened unto him, and so continually presseth upon him by divers stirrings of sin, that unless he be very wary, he shall very easily through consent fall again thereto. And, therefore, he needeth to be ever striving and fighting against the wicked stirring of this image of sin, and that he make no accord with them, nor have friendship with them, to be pliable to their unlawful biddings, for in so doing he beguileth himself. But verily if he strive with them, he need not be much afraid of consenting; for striving breaketh peace and false accord. It is good indeed that a man have peace with all things, save with the fiend and this image of sin, for against them ought he ever to fight in his thoughts and in his deeds, till he hath gotten the mastery, which will never be fully in this life, as long as he beareth and feeleth this image. I say not but that a soul may, through grace, have the upper hand of this image, so far that he will not follow nor assent to the inordinate motions of it, but to be clean delivered from it, so that he shall feel no suggestions nor jangling of fleshly affections or of vain thoughts at any time, that can no man come to in this life.
I trow that a soul that is reformed in feeling, by ravishing of love in contemplation of God, may be far from the sensuality and from vain imaginations, and so far drawn out and parted from the fleshly motions for a time, that she shall feel nothing but God; but such a case lasteth not always. And, therefore, I say, that every man ought to strive against this image of sin, and namely he that is reformed in faith only, who may so easily be deceived by the same. In the person of which men St Paul saith: The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.167 That is, a soul reformed to the likeness of God fighteth against the sensual motions of the image of sin, and also this image of sin fighteth against the will of the spirit.
This kind of fighting between these two several images St Paul knew and felt, when he said thus: I find a law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and leading me captive to the law of sin.168 By these two laws in a soul I understand this double image: by the law of the spirit I understand the reason of the soul, when it is reformed to the image of God; by the law of the flesh I understand the sensuality, which I call the image of sin. In these two laws a soul reformed leads his life; as Paul saith in these words: With my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Nevertheless, that a soul reformed should not despair though she serve the law of sin by feeling of the vicious sensuality against the will of the spirit, because of the corruption of corporal nature, St Paul excuseth it, saying thus of his own person: For not that good that I would, do I, but the evil that I hate that I do; but if I do the evil that I hate, it is not I that worketh it, but sin that dwelleth in me. That is, I would feel no fleshly stirrings, but that do I not, but the sinful stirrings of my flesh I hate, and yet I feel them. Nevertheless, since it is so that I have the wicked stirrings of my flesh, and yet I feel them and oft delight in them against my will, they shall not be laid to my charge to my condemnation, as if I had done them. And why? For the corruption of this image of sin doth them, and not I.
These stirrings of sin are not too much to be feared.
Lo St Paul in his own person comforteth all souls that through grace are reformed in Faith, that they should not too much dread the burthen of this image with the inordinate motions thereof, if it be so that they do not willingly and deliberately yield thereto. Yet in this point, many souls that are reformed in truth, are ofttimes much tormented and troubled in vain, as thus: When they have felt fleshly motion of pride, or of envy, of covetousness or luxury, or of any other chief sin, they know not whether they consent thereto or no, and it is no great wonder; for in time of temptation frail man's thoughts are so troubled and so overlaid that he hath no clear sight nor freedom of himself, but is overtaken often with liking unwarily, and so that liking passeth perhaps a good while within him ere he will perceive it, and, therefore, falleth sometime in doubt and dread whether they sinned in time of temptation or no.
As to this point I say, as methinketh, that a soul may discern by this means whether he consent or no. If it be so that he is moved or tempted to any kind of sin, and the liking of it is so great in his fleshly feeling that it troubleth his reason, and, as it were, with mastery possesseth the affection of his soul, and yet he restraineth himself, that he performeth not the sin in deed, nay, nor would not if he might, but is rather pained to feel the liking of that sin, and fain would put it away if he could; and when that stirring is over, is glad and well repaid that he is delivered from it; by this may he gather, that were the liking never so great in his fleshly feeling, yet he consented nor sinned, not especially mortally in the business.
And yet not to be neglected.
Nevertheless, a good and secure remedy it ere for such simple souls being in such a case, and cannot help it, that they be not too bold in themselves utterly weening that such fleshly stirrings with liking are no sins at all, for so they may fall into carelessness and a false security. Neither on the other side that they be too fearful, or foolish, as to deem them all as deadly sins, or as great venials; for neither is true, but that he hold them all as sins and wretchedness, and that he have sorrow for them, and be not too busy in judging them either deadly or venial. But if his conscience be greatly grieved, that he go speedily, and show to his Confessor in general or in special such stirrings, and, namely, every stirring that beginneth to fasten any root in the heart, and most possesseth it, for to draw it down to sin and worldly vanity. And when he hath thus confessed in general or in particular, let him assuredly believe that they be forgiven, and dispute no more about them that are passed and forgiven, whether they were mortal or venial. But let him be the more careful to carry himself better against such as shall afterwards arise. And if he do so, then may he come to have quiet in his conscience. But some are so unwise and so gross that they would feel or see, or hear the forgiveness of their sins, as clearly and palpably as they might see or feel a bodily thing; and because they cannot, therefore they fall oft into such fears and doubts of themselves, and never come to rest; and in that they are unwise, for Faith goeth before feeling.
Our Lord, when He healed a man sick of the palsy, said thus to him: Trust (my son) that thy sins are forgiven thee; that is, believe steadfastly. He said not to him, See, feel, how that thy sins are forgiven (for the forgiveness of sins is done spiritually and invisibly, through the grace of the Holy Ghost) but believe it. On the same manner, every one that desireth to have peace of conscience, it behoveth him (having done what lay in his power) to believe without spiritual feeling and forgiveness of his sins. And if at first he believe it, he shall afterward, through grace, feel it and understand it that it is so. Thus said the Apostle: Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand. Faith goeth before, and understanding cometh after, and this understanding (which I call the light of grace that cometh from God) a soul cannot have but through great cleanness, as our Lord saith: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.169 Not with their fleshly eye, but their inward eye, that is, their understanding, cleaned and enlightened through grace of the Holy Ghost, to see the truth; the which cleanness a soul cannot feel, unless she have firm faith and belief going before, as the Apostle saith: By faith, purifying the heart; that is, our Lord through faith cleanseth the hearts of His chosen. It is necessary, therefore, that a soul first believe in the reforming of himself made through the Sacrament of Penance, though she see it not; and that he dispose himself fully to live righteously and virtuously, as his Faith requireth; so that afterward he may come to sight, and to the reforming in feeling.
That this Image is both fair and foul whilst it is in this Life here, though it be reformed; and of the Differences of the secret Feelings of those that be reformed and those that be not
FAIR is a man's soul, and foul is a man's soul. Fair, inasmuch as it is reformed in faith to the likeness of God. But foul, inasmuch as it is mingled with sensual feelings and inordinate motions of this image of sin. Foul it is without, like a beast; fair within, like an Angel. Foul in the feeling of sensuality, fair in truth of reason. Foul for the fleshly appetites, fair for the good will. Thus is a chosen soul both fair and foul, according to the saying of Holy Writ: I am black, but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, and as the curtains of Solomon.170 That is, O ye Angels of Heaven, that are daughters of the high Jerusalem, wonder not at me, nor despise me for my black shadow. For though I be black without, because of my fleshly nature, as the tents of Kedar, yet am I full fair within, as the Curtains of Solomon, in that I am reformed to the image of God. By Kedar is understood a reprobate soul, which is the tent of the devil. By Solomon is understood our Lord Jesus, for He is peace, or peaceable. By the curtain of Solomon is understood a blessed Angel, in whom our Lord dwelleth, and is hid in him.
Now may a chosen soul with humble trust in God, and joy of heart, say thus: Though I be black, because of my body of sin, like a reprobate soul, that is one of the tabernacles of the fiend; yet within am I fair (through faith and good will) like an Angel of Heaven. For so saith he in another place: Look not upon me, because that I am black, for that the sun hath altered my colour.171 The sun maketh a skin swarth only without and not within; and it betokeneth this fleshly life. Therefore thus saith the chosen soul: Rebuke me not because I am swarth, for the swartness I have is all without, by the touching and carrying about me this image of sin; but it is nothing within. And, therefore, soothly though it be so that a chosen soul, reformed in faith, dwell in this body of sin, and feel the same fleshly stirrings, and use the same bodily works, as doth a tabernacle of Kedar so far forth that in man's judgement there be no difference betwixt the one and the other, yet within in their souls, and in the sight of God there is a full great difference.172 But to know this, which is the one, and which is the other, is only kept to God; for it passeth man's judgement and man's feeling. And, therefore, we ought not to judge any man evil, for that thing that may be used both evil and well.
How to distinguish betwixt the motions of lust in the reformed and unreformed.
A soul that is not reformed is so fully taken up with the love of the world, and so much over laid with the liking of his flesh in all his sensuality, that he chooseth it as a full rest of his heart, and in the secret desires thereof nothing else would he have, but only that he might ever be sure thereof; he feeleth within him no liquor of grace, moving him to loathe his fleshly life, nor to desire Heaven or bliss. And, therefore, we may say that he beareth not this image of sin, but is borne of it; like a man that is sick and so weak that he cannot bear himself, and, therefore, is laid on a bed, and borne in a litter. Right so, such a sinful soul is so weak and impotent, for lack of grace, that he can neither move hand nor foot to do any good deed, nor to resist (by displeasing of will) the least motion of sin, when it cometh, but falls down thereto, just like a beast upon carrion. But a soul that is reformed, though he use his fleshly senses and feel fleshly stirrings, yet he loatheth them in his heart, for he would not for any good rest in them fully, but fleeth any such rest in them, as the biting of an adder, and had rather have his rest and the love of his heart in God, if he could; and sometimes actually aspireth thereto, and often grudgeth at the fleeing of the pleasures of this life, for love of the life everlasting. This soul is not borne by this image of sin, like a sick man, though he feel it; but he beareth it, for through grace he is made mighty and strong to suffer and bear his body, with all the evil stirrings of it, without hurting or defiling himself, inasmuch as he loveth them not, nor followeth them, nor consenteth to deadly sins, as another doth.
This was bodily fulfilled in the gospel by a man sick of the palsy, who was so feeble that he could not go, and therefore was laid and borne in a litter, and brought to our Lord; and then he saw him in that misery, of His goodness He said to him: Arise, and take up thy bed, and go home to thy house;173 and so he did, and was whole. And soothly, right as this man bare upon his back, when he was made whole, the bed that before bare him; right so it may be said in the spiritual sense, that a soul, reformed in faith, heareth this image of sin, which bare him before. And therefore be not too much adread of thy blackness that thou hast by bearing of this image of sin; but only for the shame of the discomfort that thou hast from the beholding of it, and also for the upbraiding that thou feelest in thy heart of thy ghostly enemies, when they say to thee thus: Where is they Lord Jesus? What seekest thou? Where is the fairness that thou speakest of? What feelest thou else but blindness of sin? Where is that image of God, that thou sayest is reformed in thee? Comfort thyself, and be faithful stiffly, as I said before, and if thou do so, thou shalt, by this faith, destroy all the temptations of thy enemies. Thus saith St Paul: Take unto you the buckler of faith, with which thou shalt be able to quench all the burning darts of the enemy.174
Of three sorts of Men, whereof some be not reformed, and some be reformed only in Faith, and some both in Faith and Feeling
BY that which I have said, thou mayest perceive, that according to the divers parts of the soul are divers states of men. Some are reformed to the likeness of God, and some are not; and some are reformed only in faith, and some both in faith and feeling. For thou must understand that a soul hath two parts. The one is called sensuality, and that is fleshly feeling by the five outward senses, which is common to man with beasts; of the which sensuality, when it is unskilfully and inordinately ruled, is made up the image of sin. That is, when it is not ruled after reason, for then is the sensuality sin. The other part is called reason; and that is parted also into two, into the superior and inferior part. The superior part is likened to a man, for it should be master and sovereign, and that is properly the image of God, for by that only the soul knoweth God, and loveth Him. And the inferior is likened to a woman, for it should be obedient to the other part of reason, as woman is subject to man. And this consisteth in the knowing and ruling of earthly things, for to use them discreetly according as we have need of them, and to refuse them when we have no need of them, and to have ever with it an eye upwards towards the superior part of reason with dread and reverence, to follow and be guided by it.
Now may I say, that a soul that liveth after the likings and lusts of his flesh, is, as it were, a brute beast; and neither hath knowledge of God nor desire of virtues, nor of good living, but is all blinded in pride, fretted with envy, overlaid with covetousness, defiled with lechery, and other great sins; is not reformed to the likeness of God; for it lieth and resteth fully in the image of sin, that is, in sensuality. Another soul, that feareth God, and resisteth deadly stirrings of the sensual part, and followeth them not but liveth according to reason in ruling and ordering of worldly things, and setteth his intent and his will for to please God by his outward works, is reformed to the likeness of God in faith; and though he feel the same stirrings of sin as the other doth, they shall not disease him, for he resteth not in them as the other doth. But another soul, that through grace fleeth all deadly stirrings of sensuality, and all venials also, so far forth that he feeleth them not, keeping under the very first risings, is reformed in feeling; for he followeth and is led by the superior part of reason, and this he doth by the beholding of God and spiritual things, as I shall tell thee afterwards.
A WRETCHED man is he then that knoweth not the worthiness of his soul, nor will know it, how it is the most worthy creature that ever God made, except an angel, to whom yet it is like; high above all others, the which nothing can satisfy as its full rest, but only God. And therefore should he not love nor like anything, but Him only, nor covet nor seek anything, but how he may be reformed to His image; for he knoweth not this, therefore seeketh he and coveteth his rest and his liking outwardly in bodily creatures that are worse than himself. Unnaturally doth he, and unreasonably, that leaveth the sovereign Good and everlasting Life (which is God) unsought and unloved, unknown and unworshipped, and chooseth his rest and his bliss in the fading delight of an earthly thing. And yet thus do all the lovers of this world, that have their joy and their bliss in this wretched life. Some have it in pride and vain glory of themselves, that when they have lost the fear of God they travail and study night and day how they may come to the worship and praise of the world, and care not by what means they come thereto, and surpass all other men, either in learning or any other skill, in name or in fame, in riches or in respect, in sovereignty and mastership. Some men have their rest in riches, and in outrageous getting of worldly goods, and set their hearts so fully to get them, that they seek nothing else but how they may come thereto. Some have their liking in fleshly lusts of gluttony and lechery, and other bodily uncleanness, and some in one thing, and some in another.
The proud turned into a lion.
And thus wretchedly these that do thus, misshape themselves from the worthiness of a man, and turn themselves into the likeness of divers beasts. A proud man is turned into a lion, for pride; for he would be feared and worshipped by all, and that none should withstand the fulfilling of his fleshly will, neither in word nor deed. And if any one contradict his proud will, he becometh angry and wroth, and would revenge himself175 on him, as a lion wreaketh himself on a little beast. He that doth this is not a man, for he doth unnaturally and unreasonably against the kind of a man, and so is turned and transformed into a lion.
The envious and angry into hounds.
Envious and angry men are turned into hounds, through wrath and envy, that barketh against his neighbour, and biteth him by wicked and malicious words, and with wrongful deeds grieveth them that have not trespassed against him, harming them both in body and soul, contrary to God's bidding.
The idle into asses.
Some men are misshapen into asses, that are slow to the service of God, and evil willed to do any good deed to their neighbour. They are ready enough to run for worldly profit, and for earthly honour or for pleasing of earthly man. But for procuring reward in heaven, for helping of their own souls, or for the worship of God, they are soon weary, they have no list thereto; and if they must go about any such thing, they go but slowly and with an unwilling mind.
The lustful into swine.
Some are turned into swine, for they are so blind in their understandings and so brutish in their manners that they have no fear of God, but follow only the lusts and likings of the flesh, and have no regard to the virtues and honesty beseeming the noble nature of man, nor to order themselves according to the rules of right reason, nor to refrain the unreasonable motions of sensual nature, but as soon as a fleshly or sensual motion of sin riseth within them, they are ready to fall down thereto, and follow it as swine.
The covetous into wolves.
Some men are turned into wolves, that live by ravening; as bad covetous men do that, through violence or might, rob or deceive their neighbours of their worldly goods; and some are turned into foxes, as false and deceiving people that live in treachery and guile.
All these and many more, that live not in the fear of God, but break His commandments, transform themselves from the likeness of God, and make themselves like beasts, yea and worse than beasts, for they are like to the fiend of hell. And therefore verily these men that live thus, if they be not reformed when the hour of death cometh and their souls part from their bodies then shall their eyes be opened, which are now blinded with sin, and then shall they find and feel the torment of their wretchedness that they lived in here. And, forasmuch as the image of God was not reformed through the Sacrament of Penance in them neither in faith nor feeling here in this life, they shall be cast out from the blessed face of our Creator as cursed, and shall be condemned with the devil into the depth of hell, there to remain for ever. Thus saith St John in the Apocalypse: The fearful and unbelievers, the cursed, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all that love and make a lie, their portion shall be in the pit that burns with fire and brimstone.176 If the lovers of this world would often think of this, how all this world shall pass away, and draw to an end, and how that all wicked love shall be most severely punished, they would in a short time loathe all worldly lusts which they now take most delight in, and would lift up their hearts to love God, and would carefully seek and labour how they might be reformed to His likeness ere they pass hence.