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SECTION I: That a Man is the Image of God after the Soul and not after the Body; and how he is restored and reformed thereto that was misshapen by Sin
FORASMUCH as thou desirest greatly, and askest it for charity, to hear more of that image of which I have spoken in the former book in part; therefore I shall willingly, with fear, fall to thy desire, and by the help of our Lord’s grace, in whom I fully trust, shall open to thee a little more of this image.
I tell thee in truth, that I understand nought else thereby, but thy soul. For thy soul and my soul and every rational soul is an image, and that a worthy one, for it is the image of God, as the Scripture saith: Man is God’s Image and made to the image and likeness of Him;160160 Gen. 1. not in His bodily shape without, but in his faculties within, as holy Writ saith: Our Lord God shaped man in His soul to His own image and likeness. This is the image that I have spoken of. This image, made after the image of God in its first shaping, was wonderful fair and bright, full of burning love and ghostly light, but through the sin of the first man Adam it was disfigured and misshapen into another likeness, as I have said before, for it fell from that ghostly light and that heavenly feeding into painful darkness and lust of this wretched life, exiled and driven out from the inheritance of Heaven, that it should have had if it had continued, into the wretchedness of this earth, and afterward into the prison of hell, there to have been without end; from which prison it should never return to the heavenly inheritance until it were reformed to the first shape and likeness. But that reforming could not be made by any earthly man, for every man was in the same mischief, and none was sufficient to help himself, and so much less another man. Therefore it needed to be done by Him that was more than man, that is God alone. And it was needful that He should reform and restore man to bliss (if ever he were to be saved) who of His infinite goodness first created him thereto. Now, then, I shall tell thee, how he might be reformed, and how he is reformed to his first likeness by Him that first made and framed him, for that is the intent of this writing. The justice of God requireth that a sin committed be not forgiven, unless that amends be made for it, if it may be done. Now it is certain that mankind that was perfect in Adam the first man (sinning so grievously against God, when he broke His special command, and assented to the false counsel of the devil) deserved justly to be separated from Him, and damned to hell without end, so far forth, that according to God’s Justice, he could not be forgiven, unless amends were first made, and full satisfaction given. But this amends could none make that was man only, and proceeded out of Adam by generation; because that the trespass and dishonour done to God was endless great, and therefore it passed man’s power to make amends for it. And, secondly, because he that had offended, and would make amends for it, ought to give and pay unto him whom he had offended, all that he owed him, though he had not offended, and over and besides that, to give and pay him something that he owed not, in regard of the same offence and injury done. But mankind had not wherewith to pay God for his trespass, over and above that which he owed him, for what good soever man could do in body or soul was but his debt; for every man ought, as the Gospel saith: For to love God with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his might; and better than this could he not do; and nevertheless this deed was not sufficient to the reforming of mankind, nor could he do this until he was first reformed. Then needed it, that if man’s soul should be reformed, and the trespass made good, that our Lord God Himself should reform this image, and make amends for the trespass, since no man could. But that might He not do in His Godhead, for He might not, nor ought not, to make amends by suffering pain in His own nature, therefore it was necessary, that He should take the same nature that had trespassed, and so become man. And that could He not do by the common way of generation, for it was impossible for God’s Son to be born of touched woman, therefore must He become man through a gracious generation by the working of the Holy Ghost of a pure gracious virgin our Lady St Mary; and so it was done; for our Lord Jesus, God’s Son, became man; and through His precious death which He suffered, made amends to the Father of Heaven for man’s guilt. And that could He well do, for He was God, and ought not anything for Himself, but only as He was man, born of the same kind that Adam was that first trespassed, and so though He ought it not for His own person, for that He had not sinned. Nevertheless He ought it of His free will, for the trespass of mankind, having taken upon Him their nature for the salvation of man, out of His endless mercy.
Forsooth it is, there was never any man that could yield to God anything of his own which he owed not, but only this blessed Jesus, for He could pay God something which He owed not, for Himself, which was but one thing, namely, to give His precious life by voluntary undertaking death for love of justice, this He owed not. As much good indeed as He was able to do in this life, for the honour of God was all but due debt; but to undergo death for the love of justice, He was not bound thereto. He was bound to justice, but He was not bound to die: for death is only a pain ordained to man for his own sin. But our Lord Jesus Christ never sinned, neither could sin, and therefore He ought not to die. Since then He ought not to die, and yet died willingly, therefore paid He to God more than He ought. And since that was the best man’s deed, and most worthy that ever was done, therefore, was it reasonable that the sin of mankind should be forgiven. Inasmuch as mankind had found a man of the same kind, without spot of sin, that is Jesus; that might make amends for the trespass done, and might pay our Lord God all that He ought; and over and above, that which He ought not. Since, then, that our Lord Jesus, God and man, died thus for the salvation of man’s soul, it was just that sin should be forgiven, and man’s soul, that was His image, should or might be reformed and restored to the first likeness, and to the bliss of Heaven.
This passion of our Lord, and this precious death is the ground of all the reforming of man’s soul; without which man’s soul could never be reformed to the likeness of Him, nor come to the bliss of Heaven; but blessed be He for all these His works. Now so it is, that through the virtue of His precious passion, the flaming sword of the Cherubim that drove Adam out of Paradise is now put away; and the endless gates of Heaven are open to every man that will enter in thereto. For the person of Jesus is both God and King of Heaven in the bliss of the Father, and as man, He is porter at the gate, ready to receive every soul that will be reformed here in this life to His likeness. For now may every soul, if he will, be reformed to the likeness of God; since that the trespass is forgiven, and the amends through Jesus is made for the first guilt. Nevertheless though this be true, yet all souls have not the profit nor the fruit of this precious passion, nor are reformed to the likeness of Him.
SECTION II: 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.161161 1 Cor. 1. 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.
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