XVIII. A prest assoil|ing a feynar sinnith.
An oþer poynt is þis; a prest assoiling a feyner synniþ deadly. Soþly me semiþ þat he synniþ, for if he soile him neligently, þow God asoyle him not, me semiþ he synniþ greuously, weþer a presum, as autor, to assoile him, and bring him out of sin of peyn, or to mak him fre þerof; wheþer he denounce him so as a minster, or he hiȝt him þat God doþ so; weþer he do it of luf, or hat, or drede, or oþer vniust or vnordinat cause; weþer he do it vnwysly, reclesly, or bi error, or be vniust ordre or maner, and wen þe cause perteniþ not to him, for he schuld send him to his soueren. And þus wyle he reformiþ not þis man to lefe þis syne, nor to mak a mendis þerfor, as he schuld, and ellis telle him þat he mai not asoyle him, he synniþ, and namli, wan þe man trestiþ of þis absolu|coun, wening him siker, and contuniþ forþ, and mendiþ not, os he schuld, if þe prest refusid him as he auȝt, for þan he wold schame, and dred, and mend. And in þis defaut is be gilid, and þe prest beriþ fals witnes, and seiþ him to wit and do þing þat he noiþer Page 67 wot nor doþ, and refiþ God his regaly, and makiþ þe man to tryst in lesing, and so do sacrifice to þe fend. Of swilk prestis God pleyniþ þus bi þe prophet Ezechiel, Who worþ þeis þat sewen*. [Ezech. xijjo.] cursing vnder þe hewow of iwan, and maken pilleworþis vnder þe hedis of ilk age, for to tak soulis; and wan þei tuk þe soulis of mi peple, þei quikynd þer soulis, and foilid me to mi peple, for an hanful of barly, and on gobeþ of bred, þat schuld sle soulis þat dien not, and quiken soulis þat lyuen [not]; lying to my peple, trowing to lesingis; þerfor seiþ þe Lord, lo I to ȝor cursing be wilk ȝe tak soulis fleing, and I schal reue hem fro ȝor armis, and þe souls þat ȝe tak I schal to fliȝt; and I schal reue ȝor quyschinis, and liuer my peple fro ȝour hand, þei schal no more be in ȝour handis to robbe; and ȝe schal wit for I be Lord. For þat ȝe lyingly han maad þe hertis of þe iust man to be euy, wam I euid not, and han comfortid þe hert of þe vnpitous, þat he turnid not from his iuel wey and lyue, þerfor he schal no lengar see veyn þingis nor deueyn lesing. And vpon þis seiþ Gregor þus, Oft it falliþ þat he haldiþ*. [Gregor.] þe sted of a iuge, to wam þe lif a cordiþ not. And is don oft þat oþer he dampniþ þe vnworþi, or louse oþer þat are bound; and oft he folowiþ his steringis, and not þe meritis of causis in sugetis to be lousid or bound. And þus is don þat he priue himsilf power of bynding and lowsing, þat vsiþ it after his lustis, and not after meritis of sugetis. Oft is don þat þe hirid be sterid aȝen his neȝ|bor bi hat or grace, and þerfor þei may not iuge ritly of þer sugetis þat in þer causis folawen hat or grace; werfor rit is seid bi þe*. [Ezek. xiijo.] prophet, þey quikid soulis þat liuid not, and slen þe soulis þat died not; forsoþ he sleþ him þat dieþ not, þat dampniþ þe iust man; and he enforciþ to quiken him þat liuiþ not, þat enforciþ to asoyle fro torment him þat dwelliþ in his gilt. Þerfor þe causis are to be peysid, and þan power of bynding and soiling is to be vsid; þerfor it is to see wat synne went be forn, and wat forþinging folowiþ after þe synne; þat þe sentens of þe chepherd asoile þeis Page 68 þat Almiȝty God visitiþ bi for bi grace of compunccoun. For þan is þe asoiling of þe president verrey, wen it folowiþ þe dome of þe innar juge. Þat þei reysing of Laȝar fowr daies dead tokuniþ wel and schewiþ, for first þe Lord reysid and sterid and quiknid þe dead man, seying, Laȝar cum forþe, and after he þat was bounden*. [Joh. xio.] ȝed out, and was lowsid of þe disciplis, as is writun, wan he was gon out þat was bound wiþ bondis, þan seid Ihu to his disciplis, Vnbyndiþ him, and lat him go. Lo þe disciplis lowsid him liuing, wam dead þe maister had reisid; for if þe disciplis had lowsid him dead, þei schuld schew more stynk þan vertewe. Of wilk consi|deracoun it is to see, þat we owe to lowse bi autorite of herd wam we know our autor to haue quicknid be grace resing. And so þe dead man cum out, þe synnar knowleche his synne; þe disciplis lowse þe comar out, for þe schepherdis of þe kirk owe to moue to him þe penaunce þat he deseruiþ, þat lettid not for schame to knowleche þat he dede. Þis haue we seid schortly of þe wordre of lowsing, þat schepherdis of þe kirk ow to bind and lowse vnder gret moderacoun. Þis seiþ Gregor. And þus seiþ Bede; Now is*. [Bede.] þis office committid in bischopis and prestis of þe kirk, þat þe causis of þe synnars knowen, þei doing mercy assoyle hem fro þe dred of perpetual deþ, wen þei able and verrey repentaunt; and þat he schewe hem to be bound wiþ ai lasting tormentis, þat he knawiþ to stond touȝly in þer synnis þat þei han don. And to þis acorden mani oþer seingis of doctors and decreis of þe kirk; þerfor be þei ware þat asoylun feynars þat God forbediþ to asoyle for harmis þat folowen; for þus seiþ God bi þe prophet Eȝechiel, A*. [Ezech. xiuo.] man of þe house of Israel, þat haþ sett his vnclennes in his hert, and haþ set of his wickidnes aȝens his face, and comiþ to þe prophet, asking me bi him, I þe Lord schal ansuere to him in þe multitude of his vnclennes, þat þe hous of Israel be tan in þer hert, in wilk þei han gon a wey fro me, in al þer idols. Þerfor be ȝe turnid, and departiþ fro alle ȝour idols, and turniþ awey ȝour facis fro al ȝour Page 69 folthis; for þe man wat euer he be þat be alienid fro me, and sett his idols in his hert, and þe sclaunder of his wickidnesse aȝen his face, and cum to þe prophet þat he aske me bi him, I þe Lord schal answere him bi my self, and I schal sett mi face vp on þat man, and mak him in to prouerb and ensaumple, and schal scater him fro þe middis of my peple; and þe prophet wan he schal erre in speche of word, I þe Lord haue ben fro him, and he schal bere his wickydnes; after þe wickydnes of þe ascar schal be þe wickidnes of þe prophet; and I schal streke out my hand on him, and do him a wey fro þe middis of mi peple; þat þe house of Israel erre no more fro me, but be mi peple, and I þer God; and þat þei be no more polutid in all þer trespasses. By þis man is vnderstondyn feynar þat is fals, and lufiþ his synne, and seiþ he wel forsak it and lieþ, and cumiþ to þe prest to be asoylid, and to ask mercy. But wan þe prest erriþ, and behytiþ suelk an absolucoun aȝen þe bid|ding of God, he schal bere þe wickidnes wiþ þe synnar; for þi þat he is cause þat þe synnar contuniþ in his iuel, and mendiþ nout, os he schuld, if þe prest putt him be syd til þat he be mendid. To þis sentens acordiþ Seynt Ambrose, as is put in decreis, wer he*. [Ambrose.] seiþ þus; If ani man be mouid bi prayors of sonis, or teris of þe wif, and wen him to be soylid, to wam þe affeccoun of steyling biddiþ ȝet, schal he not be tak innocentis to distruccoun, þat ben fre þat þenkun to distroy many? Forsoþ if he lay doun þe suerd, or lousiþ þe bondis, he opuniþ þe distroyingis. Wy pulliþ he not a wey, in þe mekist wey þat he may, faculte of steyling, þat miȝt not bow þe wille? Also bi twix two, þat is þe accuser and þe gilty, striuing of euen perel of þe hed, þe ton if he had not prouid, þe toþer if he were conuictid of þe accusing, if þe iuge folow not þis þat is of riȝtfulnes, but haþ mercy of þe toþer, oiþer he schal dampne þe prouar, or til he fauor þe accusar, þat miȝt not proue, schal iuge þe vngilty; þis mai not be seid iust mercy. In þat kirk wer ani owe to do mercy, and how most to be holden in þe forme Page 70 of riȝtfulnes, þat non draw a wey fro þe comyn of feiþfulmen, get wrongly, of þe liȝtnes of þe prest, comyn wiþ schort ter and dred|ful, a tyme þat he ow to axe wiþ mo tymis and plentiuous teris. Weþer not wan he forȝeuiþ þe vnworþy, he prouociþ al to þe smit of falling; liȝtnes of ȝeuing ȝeuiþ kyndling of trespassing. Þis seiþ Ambrose. Þe prest may wit þat he haþ not power to soyl, but as God ȝeuiþ him bidding; but God seiþ þus, If þi broþer synne,*. [Matt. xuiijo.] blame him; and if he leue his synne, leue þu to blam him, and if [he] wil not leue his syn, proced forþ aȝen him bifor witness. And if he wyl not her ȝowe, be he þan to þe as a heþen or publi|can. And wam þat ȝe þus bynd, schal be bound, and wam þat ȝe bring out of synne, þe peyn schal be forȝeuen hem. He biddiþ not here to curse him þat synniþ not, nor to asoyle him þat bidiþ in synne; but aȝenword to asoile him þat leuiþ his synne, and put him out of cumpany þat lastiþ in his synne.