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CHAPTER XXXIX

“Sin is the sharpest scourge. . . . By contrition we are made clean, by compassion we are made ready, and by true longing towards God we are made worthy”

SIN is the sharpest scourge that any chosen soul may be smitten with: which scourge thoroughly beateth122122"al forbetyth." S. de Cressy: "all to beateth," Judges ix. 53. man and woman, and maketh him hateful in his own sight, so far forth that afterwhile123123 "otherwhile." he thinketh himself he is not worthy but as to sink in hell,—till [that time] when contrition taketh him by touching of the Holy Ghost, and turneth the bitterness into hopes of God’s mercy. And then He beginneth his wounds to heal, and the soul to quicken [as it is] turned unto the life of Holy Church. The Holy Ghost leadeth him to confession, with all his will to shew his sins nakedly and truly, with great sorrow and great shame that he hath defouled the fair image of God. Then receiveth he penance for every sin [as] enjoined by his doomsman124124 S de C.: "Dome's-man, i.e.. Confessarius." that is grounded in Holy Church by the teaching of the Holy Ghost. And this is one meekness that greatly pleaseth God; and also bodily sickness of God’s sending, and also sorrow and shame from without, and 78 reproof, and despite of this world, with all manner of grievance and temptations that we be cast in,125125MS. "will be cast in." bodily and ghostly.

Full preciously our Lord keepeth us when it seemeth to us that we are near forsaken and cast away for our sin and because we have deserved it. And because of meekness that we get hereby, we are raised well-high in God’s sight by His grace, with so great contrition, and also compassion, and true longing to God. Then they be suddenly delivered from sin and from pain, and taken up to bliss, and made even high saints.

By contrition we are made clean, by compassion we are made ready, and by true longing toward God we are made worthy. These are three means, as I understand, whereby that all souls come to heaven: that is to say, that have been sinners in earth and shall be saved: for by these three medicines it behoveth that every soul be healed. Though the soul be healed, his wounds are seen afore God,—not as wounds but as worships. And so on the contrary-wise, as we be punished here with sorrow and penance, we shall be rewarded in heaven by the courteous love of our Lord God Almighty, who willeth that none that come there lose his travail in any degree. For He [be]holdeth sin as sorrow and pain to His lovers, to whom He assigneth no blame, for love. The meed that we shall receive shall not be little, but it shall be high, glorious, and worshipful. And so shall shame be turned to worship and more joy.

But our courteous Lord willeth not that His servants despair, for often nor for grievous falling: for our falling hindereth126126 letteth not Him to love us. not Him to love us. Peace and love are ever 79 in us, being and working; but we be not alway in peace and in love. But He willeth that we take heed thus that He is Ground of all our whole life in love; and furthermore that He is our everlasting Keeper and mightily defendeth us against our enemies, that be full fell and fierce upon us;—and so much our need is the more for [that] we give them occasion by our falling.127127See chap. lxviii. In both passages the Brit. Mus. MS. seems to have "him," not "hem" = them. The reading here might be: "For we give Him occasion by our falling" -- occasion to keep and defend us: and so in lxxviii.: "He keepeth us mightily and mercifully in the time that we are in our sin and among all our enemies that are full fell upon us; -- and so much we are in the more peril. For we give Him occasion thereto and know not our own need." Or possibly the sense is (1): He defendeth us "so much [as] our need is the more" [so much more as]; and (2) "so much [more as] we are in the more peril." But S. de Cressy's version has in both passages "them," and this reading agrees with chap. lxxvi.: "We have this [fear] by the stirring of our enemy and by our own folly and blindness" -- we who "fall often into sin."


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