The English works of Wyclif hitherto unprinted.Edited by F. D. Matthew.
Wycliffe, John, d. 1384., Matthew, Frederic David, 1838-1918.
Page  325

XXIII. OF CONFESSION.

DR. SHIRLEY says that this tract is the same as the Latin De Eucharistia et Pœnitentia. The latter is found only at Vienna, and I have not been able to compare the two. I have, however, no doubt that this is genuine. Its presence in the Ashburnham MS. tells much in its favour, while the evidence of style seems to me to mark it as decidedly Wyclif's. His predestinarian doctrines are incidentally referred to on p. 329: "who is he þat lettiþ god to saue men as he haþ ordeyned . . . before þe world was made?"

There are curious notices on pp. 333 and 335 of the prevalent fashion of keeping private confessors and of the influence which such men wielded.

The attack on transubstantiation at the end of the tract shows it to be late.

Copied from the Dublin MS. CC, and collated with the Ashburnham MS. MM.

SUMMARY.Page  326
Two virtues are in man's soul: holiness and knowledge. Holiness is the more important. To holiness confession is needful. Definition of confession. Con|fession of sin is made to God or to man. The latter may be either open or private, but must be voluntary p. 327
Private confession is unnecessary, unauthorized by Christ or by the practice of the early Church. It is a device to increase the power of the Pope 328
It is limiting God's power to say a man cannot be saved without shrift. Private confession gives occasion to sin 329
Possible abuses from the law of regular confession. The proper priest may be unfit. Confession hinders preaching 330
The methods of absolution vary. Some seem to claim fellowship with God for the priest. Arbitrary assignment of penance. Leads to buying sin for money 332
The devil wishes all men to believe that priests only have power to absolve, and the four orders of friars unite to maintain this. Evil of private confessors 334
It would be well to have two priests to hear penance, as it would prevent mischief and increase wholesome shame. Some confessions would be better divulged p. 335
Confession has done much good and much harm. It should not be obligatory. None of the confessors are equal to the task they undertake. General and open confession sufficient 336
All sin is offence against God 337
Need of sorrow for sin. God's free grace a reason for avoiding sin 338
Antichrist argues that without the outward sign of shrift the sacrament of penance is destroyed 339
God's courtesy does not in all cases require audible confession, and all good deeds may be called sacraments 340
The keys given to St. Peter are knowledge and power, which were given also to the other apostles. The knowledge is knowledge of God's law, the power is that of preaching and teaching 341
Antichrist cites the ten lepers that Christ bid show themselves to the priest 342
It was Christ that healed them; and we should follow the Samaritan's example and thank Christ for forgiveness 343
Arguments of Antichrist from James v. 16; from the raising of Lazarus; and from John's baptism, shown not to bear on private confession to priests 343
Exhortation to priests to attend to preaching and to avoid claiming to perform miracles in the transubstantiation of the Host 345

Page  327

Nota de Confessione.

[page 127b] Two virtues ben in mannes soule by whyche a man shuld be rewled;*. [CC inserts in.] hoolynesse in mannes wille, & good kunnyng in his witt. hoolynesse shuld put out synne, & good*. [þis MM.] kunnyng shuld put out foly; but as wille haþ principalite to-fore witt of mannes soule, so hoolynesse is more worþe þenne is kunnynge of synful man. for wuckud aungels han myche kunnyng, but þei han nouȝt of hoolynesse. And ellis iche man were hoolier aftur þat he is more kunnynge; but poule seiþ þat mannes kunnyng bolniþ hym bi pride. but in oure*. [[1] Cor. viii. [1.]] lord ihesu crist was kunnynge & hoolynesse euen, for he was ful & heierst in kunnyng & heierst hooly, boþe god & man. and þus he seith in Iones gospel: "who of ȝou shal reproue me of synne," 3as ȝif crist wolde seye to hem "y may*. [John viii. [46.]] not synne3*. [3_3 omitted CC.] siþ I am god; and þus nouȝt may reproue me of synne." but crist seiþ next aftur þat sith he seiþ treuþe; whi 4trowen þei4*. [4_4 trowe ȝe CC.] not to hym? In þise two wordis þat crist haþ seid, may we see hoolynesse & kunnynge. and hou hoolynes goþe before & kunnyng sueþ in worþinesse; for lyue a man hooly lyf, and kunnynge I-now wil folow aftur. To make hoolynesse in men is confession nedful; and þerfor shuld hooly churche witt sumwhat of confession. Confession gene|raly is knowlechynge made wiþ wille; and sum confession is made wiþ-oute synne, and sum is knowlechynge of synne; & boþe þise two ben goode in man, but þe first is more worþe in crist. Mathew telliþ hou crist confessed to his fadur, 5lord of þis world,5*. [5_5 omitted CC.]*. [Mt. 2o. [should be Matt. xi. 25.]] & ȝitt crist myȝt not synne, and þis confessioun myȝt not be veyne. Confessioun þat man makiþ of synne is made of man in two maners. Summe is mad oonly to god truly by herte or mouþe. And sum confessioun is made to man, and þat may be on many maneres; ouþer opynly &*. [or CC.] generaly, as men Page  328 confesseden in þe oolde lawe; Or priuely & rownyngly, as men confessen nowe-a-daies. whenne a man is constreyned by bodily*. [omitted MM.] peyne to telle his gilte, [page 128] he confesseþ not; but*. [for MM.] confession mut be wilful, or ellis it is not medeful to man.

It were to wite ouer in þis mater,*. [omitted CC.] wheþer priue confession*. [Cm 2m MM.] made to prestis be nedeful to*. [CC inserts þe.] synful men, & wher þis confessioun is groundid. and it semeþ þat it is not nedful, but brouȝt in late be þe fend; for crist alwitty vsed it not, ne noon of hise apostles aftur. And if it were nedful to man, crist wolde have vsed it or tauȝt it. Whenne crist forȝaue marie magde|leyne hir synnes, he vsed not siche rownynge; and whenne he forȝaue petir hise synnes, & poule his, & oþer men heren þat he clensid, he vsid not sich rownyng in ere, ne siche asoylyng as prestis vsen nowe; and þus whenne crist clensed þe a|woutrer, þat þe Iewes alegeden shulde be stoned, crist vsed not þis confession to hir, but bad hir go and wilne to synne*. [John viii. [11.]] no more. and siþ þat crist myȝt not faile in ordynaunce to hise chirche, & he left þis confessioun, it semyth þat it is not nedeful; for if it were, þenne crist faylid in leuynge it; and also petre & alle oþer apostles, and also alle oþer popis faileden þat weren til Innocens cam, whenne þe fende was loused, and ȝitt men weren clensed of her synne þicker & bettur þenne þei weren aftur, for I rede in þe boke þat luk wroto of apostles dedis, hou þre þousand turned in oon daye fro Iewes fables to cristis lawe, & noon of hem was þus confessid*. [Acts ii. [41.]] to prestis. as þe story telliþ,*. [shewiþ MM.] petir bade hem generaly haue sorowe & be baptized ychoon; but god telliþ not here of shrifte, but þat þei token þe hooly goost; and þus here synnes weren forȝyuen of god wiþ-outen siche confessioun as we nowe vsen. and þus it semiþ to many men þat cristen men myȝten wele be saued wiþ-outen sich confessioun; as þei were be-fore pope Innocent, and þus it semeþ presump|cioun of þis pope to make þis lawe; for hooly churche shuld Page  329 not þus be charged wiþ newe lawes, [page 128b] whenne oolde sufficeden; and þus men seyne þat þe fend kest this for wynnyng & hiȝnes of preestis: and in token of þis defaute makers of þis lawe weren so marrid þat her lawe byndeþ noo persone but only suche þat ben boþe men & wymmen. þis semiþ a feendis presumpcion to him þat knoweþ not kynd of lawe to ordeyne lawe in siche a maner,*. [mater MM.] of whiche noo siche shulde be made. and þus it semeþ to many men þat antecrist haþ cast þis cast to make alle men soget to the pope; & lede hem aftur þat hym likiþ. lord, where is fredom of crist whenne men ben costen*. [castun MM.] in siche bondage? Crist made hise seruauntes free, but antecrist haþ made hem bonde aȝeyne. And certis þer is noo autorite þat gaue him leue to make men þus þrallis.

Ȝitt it were to wite þe reson of goddis lawe whi men*. [Cm 3m MM.] shulden hoolde hem in here bondes, & not make lawe fro cristis ordre. It is oft seid in goddis lawe þat men shulden*. [Deut. iv. [2.]] not adde þerto ne take þerfro, lest þei failen, siþ it is made at poynt deuyse; and þus it semeþ a feendis presumpcioun, þat hiȝeþ himsilf a-bouen god, to make þus a newe lawe wiþ|outen leeue of þe furst treuþe. Also þis lawe of confessioun þat iche man mut nedis shryuen oonys in þe ȝer priuely to his propur prest, it semeþ opun aȝens reson. for a man may be baptized in tyme þat he*. [omitted CC.] haþ discrecioun, &*. [omitted CC.] anon aftur be ded wiþ-outen doynge of dedly*. [dely CC.] synne. lord, whi shuld þis man be dampned al if he shriue him not þus 6in þe ȝeer6*. [6_6 omitted CC.]? Ion baptist shroof hym neuer þus, ne any apostle of crist; and ȝitt bileue nediþ vs to graunte þat þei ben seyntes in heuen. and þus it may fallen of many martyres, & of men þat han no propur prest. who is he þat lettiþ god to saue men as he haþ ordeyned before þe pope & his lawe camen inne, & before þe world was made? Also god gyueþ frely his grace, not-wiþ|stondynge mannes lawe. whi may not [page 129] god do grace to hise Page  330 treue seruauntes þat seruen him wele, al if þer were noo siche prest nor pope? as sumtyme was non. hou-euer antecrist glauer, he letteþ not god to do his wille; for he may disseyue*. [distroyȝe CC.] foolis, but not god, hou-euer he speke. also beleeue techiþ men þat if a man be contrite, god þenne forȝyueþ him his synne; but who may lette god fro þis? David spekeþ to god þus: "I seide, i shulde shryue my synnes aȝens me*. [[Psalm xxxii.15.]] to þee, lord; & þou forȝauest me my synnes." lord, wher god be not as merciful as he was in þe olde*. [wolde CC.] lawe? No þing shuld lett þer-to, but þat he becam man for mercy; & þus it seemeþ a blasfeme heresie to seie þat man*. [he CC.] may not ellis come to heuen, but if he fulfille þis roten lawe þat was þus late made of antecrist. Also god may not ȝyue occasioun to two persones for to synne, for þenne he were auctor of synne & contrarie to himsilf; but bi þis priueye shrift a frere & nunne may synne to-gidre; and close hemsilf in a chaumbre bi lok in-sted of feyned assoylynge; for I suppose as knowen þing, þat whenne a lawe is feyned wiþouten god, & of þis lawe comeþ myche synne, þis lawe ȝyueþ occasion to al þat synne; 4but þis lawe ȝyueþ occasioun to do so as it falliþ ofte.4*. [4_4 omitted CC.]*. [[Job xxxi. 1.]] lord, wheþir god, þat seiþ bi Iob þat a man shuld make couenaunt wiþ hise wittis to þenke not on*. [wiþ CC.] a virgyne, ordeyned sich a lawe to men, þat prestis & wymmen shulde turne her faces to-gider, & speke of lustful*. [synful CC.] þoutes & dedis, which myȝt do harme to hem boþe; but þis lawe ȝyueþ occasioun to do synne as it falliþ oft. Also þus may lordus & laidis be nedid to trowe sich men, & lettid to holde goddis lawe, and to stonde for riȝt on cristis syde. lord, if iche lord of ynglond & his wiif haden two schariotis to lede hem & her meyne and her werkis to þe puple, hou liȝtly myȝt antecrist conqwere þe churche and distruyȝe cristis rewme?

[page 129b] And ȝit men maken moo resons to meue þe chirche to*. [Cm 4m MM.] knowe þe treuþe & fredam of goddis lawe, so þat þe churche Page  331 be not made bonde bi noo disceitis of antecrist, but stonde in þe same fredam þat crist haþ ȝouen. God ȝyueþ non occasion to antecrist for to synne; but bi þis feyned assoylyng he haþ occasion to synne in þe churche, and þus þis power is not of crist, wherby þis assoylyng is feyned; and þus þe fend mut nedis gabb whenne his prestis assoilen þus. for þus þe pope myȝt kepe to hym to name whom euer he wolde propur prestis, and make couenaunt wiþ þis prest þat he assoyleþ no man but if he ȝyue so myche mone; or ellis beheyȝt to holde on his syde, and þus antecrist myȝt soone conqwere lordshipes & eke rewmes to hym. and þus curatis & parishe prestis myȝten spuyle þe puple as freres done; and þus it were a benyfice to purchace of þe pope to be a propur preste þus. and it falleþ oft þat sich propur prestus ben vn-able to here shriftis; and þe maker of þis lawe may not make alle siche propre prestis able, and so he constreyneþ men in cas to shryue hem to an vnable prest. but who shuld preise þis lawe þerfore? siþ yuel frute witnessiþ yuel rote. As*. [al CC.] if a pope make a lawe þat who euer he lymytiþ to here confessioun of þis man or confession of þis comu[n]atee, he shal here þise mennes shrift, & he*. [omitted CC.] is founden vnable aftur, þenne þis popis lawe wiþ treuþe in-dede may liȝtly ȝyue occasioun of syne. and if þou seist þat siche bullis of þe pope vndurstonden euer a condicioun; þat if þis persone bi goddis lawe shal profiȝt in*. [into CC.] fulfillyng of þise popes bulles, þenne þe popes bullis shulen haue strengþe, & elles þei shulen not stonde in stede: Certis if þise popis bulles shulen be undurstonden wiþ sich a label, þen-ne þei weren not profitable to þe purchasour ne to þe churche; [page 130] for who 4shuld take ony benyfiss of þe puple4*. [4_4 who shuld not take eny benyfice of þe pope CC.] wiþ sich bullis, if his ablete shulde be proued in werk be-fore he were acceptid? soþe it is þe more able man to god shuld qwenche þis ablete of þis man; and þis skil moued hooly men to stryue not for suche ablete. but crist ȝaf reule Page  332 to þe Iewes to iuge hym able bi hise werkis, but wele men witen þat neþer popis bullis ne traueile for hem by coueitise makiþ þis man but more vnable*. [vnableþ hym CC.] to gete ouȝt by suche bullis. Also þis lawe is full suspecte, for it letteþ bettur occupying, & askeþ werse occupyinge, þat is not grounded in goddis lawe. þat prelate þat shriueþ shuld preche þe puple, and he þat is shriuen shuld here goddis worde; but bi þis shriften ben boþe þise lettid. and noo drede þei weren bettre, siþ crist vsed hem & not þis shrift, & bad hem be vsed, & not þis. So it semeþ þat antecrist bi þis puttiþ cristis ordynaunce abake; and we taken here as opynly knowen, þat whenne eny harm comeþ of a lawe, & þat lawe is not groundid in skyl, it ȝyueþ occasioun of þis harme; for reson excuseþ not þis lawe, þat ne it makeþ blamefuly þis harme. and if it were reson in þis popis tyme to make þis lawe to þe churchis profite, it were as myche resoun þat þis lawe had ben vsed bi-fore þis popis tyme; but þenne weren crist & petre & oþer popes to blame þat leften it þus. lord, what meued þis late popes to make furst þis lawe, whenne þe fend was vnbounden, and god meued not crist ne hise vikers to sue it, whenne it semed as myche skil. wher þis pope was god of heuen, so þat men*. [god CC.] may not know his*. [þis CC.] reson.

But ȝitt þer comeþ more harme of þis lawe of confessioun,*. [Cm 5m MM.] ffor confessours varien in wordis of assoylyng, as þei done in wordis of her cursyng, & gabben commynly wiþ blasfeme wordis aȝens beleeue; and it is licly to many men siþ þe pope kan not teche þise wordis þat prestis shulden seie [page 130b] bi goddis lawe, he can not grounde þis lawe in reson. Summe prestis seyne symply "I assoyle þe of þi synnes;" & leyne her hondes on her hedes, or ellis touchen hem wiþ a ȝerde. Summe prestis seyne a more raunge; þei preyen furst þat god assoyle hym, & afftur þei assoylen hym bi autorite ȝouen to hem.*. [hym CC.] þe þridde maner & leste yuel, þat men seyn þat greks han, is þat þe prest preyeþ þat god Page  333 assoyle hym & leuyng worde of assoylyng; and þus he myȝt assoyle at home hym þat were a þousand myle fro hym. and lewed men þat weren bettur myȝten þus assoyle bettur þenne wickid prestis. ffor it is licly þat a prest ordeyned to be dampned assoyleþ not þus; but what prest or man con|fessid wot wher þis prest shal be dampned. and þis shrift þus brouȝt inne semeþ to marre þe churche in bileeue, as þe prest made hym goddis felow, as god and he shulden assoile to|gidre; or ellis þat god mut nedis assoile whenne þe prest makiþ his sygne. Suche many blassefemys aȝeynes þe beleue ben sowen of antecrist in þis mater, ffor god, þat ȝyueþ grace & is in þe soule, assoyleth & doþ a-wey synne, and þis may not þe prest do, siþ it is propur to god, and, siþ no man shuld liȝe a lytle lesyng to saue þe worlde, a prest shuld not seye, "y assoyle," whenne he not neuer wheþir god assoyle. ffor he knoweþ neiþer wher þis man confessid seye treuþe vpon conscyence, or wher þat he be contrite, as he knoweþ not hym-self; and I suppose he wite þe soþe, ȝitte he knowiþ not þe quantite of peyne þat god wole þat þis man haue for hise trespase aȝeynes god, for penaunce is arbitrarie, now more & nowe lesse, aftur þat þe prest wole lymyte, be he neuer so grete a fool. And here spryngen many errours aȝens beleue on boþe sydis; for þe prest gedreþ hym ofte*. [of CC.] moneye or money worþe by suche penaunce, and so bi priuey symony he harmeþ hem boþe & þe churche. and þus a frere or a prest haþ as*. [CC inserts myche.] leue to be seurerly a confessour of a lord or of a [page 131] lady as 3to be3*. [3_3 omitted CC.] a simple bischop; for bi þis office he takiþ his worship & his wynnyng, as if he were pope. and it were hard to telle þe harme þat comeþ be many of þise confessours, for þe pope & þe emperour myȝte priuely be poysened bi suche fadres, and rewmes myȝten liȝtly be destruyȝed by counseilis þat þei ȝyuen to lordis, for no drede þei ben cause of mennes synne confessid to hem. anentis þe persone þat is confessid fallen many errours aȝens bileeue, as þat he þat is Page  334 confessid trowe as bileeue þat al his synne is forȝyuen be-for god, as þe confessour telleþ hym. and ȝitt it may falle þat boþe þise shulen ben dampned for her foly; for ofte þe confessid is not contrite & turneþ aȝeyne to his synne; and siche treting*. [tretee MM.] ȝyueþ occasioun þat þei boþe ben disceyued; and þe man þat is confessed weneþ þat god doiþ him wrong if he haue euer more peyne for his synne þenne þe prest enioyneþ. and þus synne myȝt be bouȝt for money, as who byȝe an ox or a kowe; and so riche men haden occasioun to drede not for to synne, whenne þei myȝten for a lytle moneye be þus assoyled of alle her synnes; and pore men myȝten dispeire, for þei haden not to byȝe þus synne. Such many errours fallen & fewe men speken aȝeynes hem.

But ȝitt þe feend feyneþ here a lesynge to excuse prestis*. [Cm 6m MM.] hise seruauntis; he seiþ þat alle men shulden beleue þat what man þat his prest assoyleþ, what ever penaunce he enioyneþ, he is assoiled be-fore god; and þus popes & prelates kepen to hem silf assoylyng, in which lyþe wynnyng; and þus who|euer aȝeyne seye þis is pursued as an heretike, & þus by hise olde*. [omitted CC.] wiles he knyttiþ to-gidre men to helpe popis & cardinales, bischopes & freres to crie þis as bileeue; & freris mouen lordis & ladies to defend þis lawe by strengþe, and bi þis gile þei leden lordis as a man lediþ a prisoner; & cristis secte is made pore, & þise foure ben enhaunsed hiȝe; so þat, but if crist helpe his secte, þe foure new wolen brynge [page 131b] it a-down; and þei foure ben knyttid to-gidre in þis confessioun þat her maister haþ tauȝt, as if oon seid to anoþur, "helpe me here, & I shul helpe þee." a þus a frere þat is a confessour to kyng or to a duke is ympe or pere to a bishop, by þe feyning of þis confessioun, for þei seien he lediþ his soule eeuen to heuen by goddis lawe. and qwenes, duchesses, and oþer ladies han confessours of grete name, for as þise ladies ben felowes to lordis, so her confessours ben felowis to oþur. and þus þise lordis þat shulden be free, ben oft made þral bi ygnoraunce Page  3351of suche confessours1*. [1_1 omitted MM.]; for assoylinge of suche confessours haþ lytel vertu or non; but assoilyng of god aftur þat a mannes liif is worþi fordoþe synne, & punyseþ it til þat it be fully for|ȝyuen. it is seide communly, þat coupabilnesse of synne is for-ȝyuen, and ȝit þat synne dwelliþ to be punyshid, but not for to be dampned in helle. & al þis þing is priuey to god, boþe*. [but CC.] to know it & to do it; as an erþly lord ȝyueþ not to his seruaunt power to forȝyue his trespasse, but þat he doiþ in his owne wille, & makeþ his seruaunt to telle it. miche more god of heuen forȝyueþ synne, when he knoweþ man þat he is worþi for sorowe of herte & for treue seruyce þat he doiþ aftur. and þus it is a blasfemy þat confessours seyn in þis mater, þat þei forȝyuen synne don aȝens god, & treten peyne aftur her lykyng. Al þis is propur to god, but whi shulde he make hem here his felowis? and it shal be shewed aftur, þat þis beleue may not be grounded; but þe feende is about to turne falsehed in-to treuþe, and turne hope in-to bileue, & dedis of hate in-to charite; & þus fredam, þat crist gaf to hise children, he wole turne falsely in-to þraldam. for now it is a lordly þing to have sich a proper confessour, and god wot, but þe lord wot not, wher he be a feend of helle; and algatis if he feyne hym power to assoyle more þenne he haþ; for by [page 132] sich ypocrisie may he drawe hem boþe to helle, and do harme to þe churche þus more þenne he doþe on þe toþur syde.

And ȝitt it semiþ þat suche prestis þat heren confessiouns oblischen hem folily to here þus confessions; and so non were discrete prest þus shryuyng, as þe popes lawe biddiþ. and ȝitt þe pope biddiþ in his lawe þat confessours be discrete, & þei here aloon mennes synnes; but it semeþ vndiscretly spoken, for it were better ioyne two prestis to be witnesse of mannes shrifte. for two witnessis ben bettre þenne oon, & more acordyng to goddis lawe; for boþe in þe oolde lawe, & in þe newe, men tolden commynly her synne; as þat þeef Page  336 tolde in þe crosse to crist hise fordone synne; he shroue hym more medefully, þenne don 1men now1*. [1_1 omitted CC.] rownyng with prestis, for crist telliþ in þe gospel þat he behyȝt hym þat he shulde be wiþ hym in paradise þat same daye; & sich absolucion ȝaue no pope aftur þis lawe. & if þou seist þat no man wolde shriue hym at oonys to many prestis, & so shulde mannes synne be hidde, & many dampned þat now ben saued. Certis siþen þei shulde haue shame to telle her synnes þus to oo prest, & þis shame is þe moost part of penaunce, and makeþ penaunce more*. [omitted MM.] medeful,*. [nedeful CC.] It semeþ it were more medeful*. [nedeful CC.] to shriue togidre to twey prestis. hou oft ȝauen men glorie to god shriuyng to mo men þenne to two; as whenne tweyn prestis seien nyȝe masse, many shryuen hem to boþe to-gidre. And but ȝif þis shrift were medeful, þe churche vsed it wiþ-outen cause. and þus as men hiden here synnes to shriue hem to|gidre to many prestis, so many men hiden here synnes to shriue hem to oo preest alone. And siþen prestis han not þe craft to enioyne a iust penaunce, it semeþ þat þei ben foolis to take so grete a charge vpon hem; and if a man þat slouȝ a lord shulde be hanged for*. [þis dede MM.] his deþe,*. [þis dede MM.] more shulde þat leche þat slouȝ a mannes soule be hanged of god for his foly. see we what penaunce was [page 132b] sumtyme enioyned to men þat synneden greuously, and see we penaunce nowe enioyned; & þise two a-corde ful litil, and as lawers moten graunt þat þis penaunce writen was goode; so þei moten graunt þat synners lyuen as longe as summe of hem diden, and it were as myche nede to leye now as myche penaunce to summe, as was þenne nede to many of hem; and þus noo prest þat lyueþ nowe haþ þis craft to leye euen þis penaunce. what wisedam were þenne to make þis lawe, or prestis to take þis craft on hem? and specialy siþ prestis ben bounden on grete peyne to hele þis synne; and hit myȝt fellen in many caice þat it were boþe almes & nede to shewe mennes synne þat ben shriuen, but Page  337 whi shulden prestis ben punyshed herfore? Men han*. [MM inserts seen.] writen in latyn many resouns ageyne þis shrift.

Men dreden here to seie þe treuþe, but summen þenken þat*. [Cm 8m MM.] it standes in þis; þat confession made to god, wiþ worþi penaunce ioyned þerwiþ, is better þan þis*. [any CC.] confessioun made to any prest or pope. but I wot þat þise newe confessiouns han don myche good in þe churche, & þerwiþ myche harme; and god woot wheþer was more of hem. and it is certeyne þat þis newe shrifte be-gan by ordynaunce of þe pope, for no man can telle ellis hou & whenne þis shrifte beganne, and þis witnessiþ her propur doctour of þe popes lawe opynly; and so it semeþ to many men þat þis lawe shuld not be holden as goddis lawe ne euer more, but in þat tyme whenne reson of god shulde moue mennes consciens þat þis confessioun wold don hem good. and if any man aske more, he axiþ more þenne god wole axe, for god ordeyneþ neuer a lawe ne men to perfourme it but if þis lawe were grounded in resoun, and men shulden perfourme it wiþ wille; for ellis it were noo meede*. [nede CC.] to do it, but if it were wilful sumtyme; and þus þis [page 134] lawers han nede to grounde þis lawe vpon reson, & to teche wheche ben able prestis to here þus mennes confessioun; for ellis shuld no man bi resoun telle þus his schrift to any prest. and þus men of conscience wolen not telle here þus her synne to prestis; for þei seyne þat no prest is able, but oonly crist, to here þus shriftes; and if eny diffame hem or pursue hem by þis lawe, þei baden shewe hem an able prest to here þus synnes of hem, and þei wolen bleþely shryue hem þus, and ellis not, as þis lawe techiþ. but what prest þat it be, þat is synful & couetouse, & proferiþ him þus to here mennes schrifte, shewiþ himself vnable þerby? for if he had not couetise of worldly goodis & subiectioun of folk, he shuld preche to þe puple, & leue al siche rownyng þat is un|grundid; for sich preching by cristis lawe made many men to leue her synne, but I rede not in goddis lawe þat þis rownyng made euer man iust; and if it dide, it was becase, Page  338 as a wronge may sumtyme make riȝt; and algatis synful men þat han prestis suspect of couetyse & of vnkunnyng in þis craft shuld kepe þis shrift fro sech prestis. but begynne we at þe pope, & aske him of dedly synne, & hou men shulden know contricion, & whi siche penaunce shal be enioyned; and it semeþ to many men þat alle þe popes & þere clerkis kunnen not telle on of þise þre; and þerfore þei wolen shryue hem to god. general schrifte & opyn to man wole þei make, & þat is I-nowȝ, so þat it come of contricion & treue penaunce þat men speken of.

For it were not to ȝyue occasion to horde synne & to holde*. [Cm 9m MM.] it, þerfor men shulden by goddis lawe moue men to forsake synne, and þus shulden prestis do be prechyng; but antecrist haþ suspendid hit now. man shuld have sorowe of his synne, for gretnesse of þe kynd lord, & harm of leesing of his grace, & for oblishyng to grete peyne. No man synneþ as we speken here but if he synne [page 134b] aȝen god, for who euer synneþ not aȝens hym, be his trespas neuer so myche punyshed here, he may not be dampned in helle þerfore, and ellis it were no synne of man. & þus men punyshen ofte men here in mennes courte ful greuously for dedis þat men callen tres|passes, & ȝitt god is not wroþe for*. [wiþ CC.] hem; but it may falle oft þat men erren, & punyshen not þe trespasses of god, ne for þat it is don aȝens god, but for mennes wynnyng; or for þat it misse-likiþ hem. and þenke we hou a man wole meke him to a worldly lord for trespasse don to hym; & bi oure feiþ god is more lord wiþouten mesure þenne any erþly kynge; herfore we shulden be meke to god for trespasses þat we han don to hym, and specialy for his kyndenesse þat he made vs first of nouȝt, & siþen bouȝt vs fro þe fendes prisoun, & giueþ vs aye grace in alle oure goodis; and he is redy to ȝyue vs blisse, if we seruen him perfiȝtly. and þus boþe þe gretnesse of þis lord & his kyndenesse shuld meue us to sorow for oure synnes. a man haþ a myche forþinkyng for leesyng of loue & of an erþely lorde; what witt or treuþe is in þat man Page  339 þat soroweþ not for losse of goddis grace? we han sorowe for losse of two goodis, of worldly goodis, & goodis of kynde; and ȝitt we sorowen to lytil for lesyng of goodis of grace; & ȝitt þei ben þe moost goodis of þise þre goodis þat a man haþe. and siþen beleeue techiþ vs þat men þat breken goddis hestis, & maken not a-seeþe þerfore, moten nedis be dampned in helle, Drede of þis grete peyny shuld moue men to sorowe for synne. & þus ambrose & gregory seyne þat þenne a man haþ fully sorowe, whenne hym displesiþ fordon synne, & not eft wil synne ageyne; an þus is þat man contrite of synne, þat he vngodeli to god haþ don, þat he haþ perfit wille to leue it, and for no þing wil synne aȝeyne. þise men þat han [page 135] a litil displesyng & ben ful nyȝ to synne aȝeyne han no penaunce of her synne, be þei neuer so oft I-shriuen; and þus þe shrift þat is þus made makeþ men hardy to synne aȝeyne, for contricioun mut be groundid in sad loue of ihesu crist, so þat contricioun seye sad sorowe for synne þat is don, and sadde loue to synne not aȝeyne, as myche or more as was likyng to synne. and þis kunne not we knowe ful certeyne, but han glymeryng & supposyng, & þus we moten lyue here in beleue & in hope to crist, þat riȝt entent & goode werkis grounde vs in hope, þat crist wole saue vs. and he þat trustiþ to popis bulles or assoylinge fro peyne & synne, or oþur wordis of confessours, þat þei feynen*. [eynen CC.] bisyde goddis lawe, is folily disceyued in hise bileue & in hope, & þus he dispeyreþ; but we shulden beleue þat grace of god is so gret & plentyuouse, þat if a man synne neuer so miche ne so longe in his lyue, if he wole aske of god mercye & be contrite for his synne, god wole forȝyue him his synne wiþouten siche iapes feyned of prestis. but be men war of þis perile, þat continuaunce of mannes synne wiþouten sorowe & displesaunce wole make his synne harde, & bereue him power to sorowe þerfore, & to gete mercy, and þus men shulden euer drede synne, & flee to knytt on to a-noþer; for whenne a man synkis in þe myre, at þe laste he may not helpe hym self. Page  340

It were to witt to assoyle skils þat antecrist makiþ aȝens*. [Cm 10m MM.] þis waye. ffurst he seiþ þat heretikes wolun distruyȝe þe seuen sacramentis; for þat stondiþ in confessioun of mouþ, & sorow of hert, & a-seet makyng, and herfor seiþ david in*. [Psalm 1 xxi. 22.] his boke: "þou god þat art my god, I shal synge to þe in an harpe." an harpe haþe þre partis of hym; þe ouermost in which ben stringis wrastid, þe secounde is þe holow part of þe harpe, þe þridde knytteþ þise two to-gidre. Riȝt so in*. [omitted CC.] þis sacrament mut be contricioun for þe furst part, & aftur a man mut [page 135b] synge to god in voice for þe secound part, and þe þridde tyme he must make a-seeþ & knytt þise two partes to-gidre. what herityke or fool is he þat wold distruȝe þis gostly harpe? here men seyen þat trewe entent shuld be to declare riȝt beleue, hou men shulden harpe here to god, as david did & oþer seyntis; for many kunne not*. [omitted CC.] wrast þis harpe, & oþur kunne not harpe whenne it is diȝt. Suche wittis gyuen to goddis worde ben goode whenne þei ben wele taken; and þis witt þat here is seid telliþ þat a man shulde shriue hym to god, & makiþ no mynde of rownynge shrift, þat is late brouȝt inne bi þe pope. and iche man þat holdiþ beleeue granteþ þat a man shuld shriue him to god, ȝe, & to man, bi voice of mouþe, and haue sorow for his synne, & þerfor make to god a-seeþ for synne; but þis is*. [omitted CC.] don apertly to prestis, when þei ben good & louen more þe heele of mennes soules þenne her goodis by coueytise. but here men shulden vndurstonde þat þe curtesie of god askiþ not of iche man to shriue him þus by voice of mouþe; for as many synnen greuously wiþ-inne in herte, as did þe fend, so many men maken aseeþ bi sorow of herte, þat may not speke or wanteþ oportunytee to shryue hym to man bi voice; and riȝt so as a man may synne, so he may here make aseeþe; for god is as redy to ȝyue mercy as he is redy to take veniaunce. triste wele to god & holde his lawe, & þenne þou shriuest þe wele to him; & synge to him wiþ ten stringis, þat ben kepinge of þe ten hestis; and sorowe of trespasse aȝeyns hem Page  341 ten shal wraste þis harpe to a-corde welle. and many men failen in þis wrastyng & in goostly syngyng aftur; and so þis priuey sorowe of herte is no sacrament of þe churche, ne priuey rownyng late brouȝt inne, for sacramentis ben open & knowen. but whenne a man wiþ contrite herte shriueþ him opynly to god or man, þenne his voice, þat is token of his hooly sorowe of herte, may be cal [page 136] led a sacrament, as men knowen þat discriuen it. & þus we largen in sacramentis, for iche good sensible dede þat we don, or þat springiþ of mannes charite, may be callid a sacrament; and þus þre reisyngis of dede bodies þat crist dide, as þe gospel telliþ, may be called þre sacramentis, for þre turnyngis of man to god. Summe men turnen to god wiþ-inne, & summe aftur þat þei han synned wiþ-outward, and summe fro 1þat þei han1*. [1_1 þat þat CC.] synned in custom; and þus þe rysyng of þe*. [omitted MM.] lasar was a grete sacrament, as men reden in þe churche. and antecrist may bigyle foolis bi sich lewde resouns as he makiþ, but goddis lawe telliþ wele þe falshed of suche resouns.

And ȝitt gruccheþ antecrist, and seiþ þat crist telliþ in þe*. [Cm 11m MM.] gospel how crist specified to petre to ȝyue hym þe keyes of heuen; and so petre mut haue a viker þat shuld specialy bere þe keyes, and þise keyes shulden opyn & bynde to for-ȝyue synnes, and opyn men heuen, & to curse oþur men þat don aȝen goddis lawe.

Here we seyne be goddis techyng þat mich errour is in þis poynt. Summe ben so nyȝ beestis, þat þei vndurstonden bodily keyȝes, by whiche heuen ȝates shulden be openid and stokune,*. [sperid MM.] & petur is porter in þis office. þe secounde errour in þis poynt is more perelouse in þe churche, for pharesees alargen her browes & gogelen fer*. [foule MM.] fro goddis lawe; þei seyn þat þise keyes ben goostly wittis & power, ȝyuen to hem to bynde & assoile men aftur þe witt approprid to hem; and herby*. [herfor CC.] þe fend feyneþ oft bi his viker antecrist many errours in þe churche, & doþe myche harme to foolis.

The þride weye of bileeue seiþ þat þer ben many keyȝes; Page  342 siþ crist, þat may not synne, calleþ boþe þe keyes of heuenes & þe ȝates of helle; and no doute to grete witt þe keyes of heuen ben vndurstonden witt & power, þat prestis han to telle men þe wille of god, & to wurche aftur þis witt; and so god ȝaue to petre þes two keies for him & hise; and af [page 136b] turward god ȝaue to þe apostles þes two keyȝes for hem & hers. and þus antecrist auȝte to shame to chalenge oonly petres keyȝes, but he had passyngly witt & lijf aftur petur; for if he reuerse him in þise two, he is porter of helle ȝates. and þis witt þat crist spekiþ of stondeþ not in mannes lawe, ne in oþur curiouse lawes, as matematik,*. [makamete CC.] or lawes of kynde, but it stondeþ in goddis lawe to holde men in mesur þerof, & to teche cristen men hou þei shulden lyue to god & man, & come to heuen. and I dar not seie for drede of god, þat þis power stondeþ in assoilyng & cursyng as men practisen to|daye; for petre forfendid to curse, & vsed not þis assoilynge; but by autorite of god to preche & to teche cristis weie, & to repreue wickud men boþe in word & in dede; þat semeþ to be þe power þat god ȝaue petur & his felowes. and it semeþ to many men þat if a prest presume for pride þat he haþ passyngly þis power, in þat he*. [omitted CC.] shewiþ þat he wantiþ it; but it semeþ þat iche prest þat telliþ trewly þe lawe*. [wille MM.] of god haþ þis power, more or lesse, aftur þat god wole ȝyue him, & mennes rules or mennes chesing*. [clensyng CC.] ben not gospel in þis poynt, ne any beleue þat þei ben soþe, if þe gospel grounde hem not; and þerfore kepe wele goddis*. [cristis MM.] lawe, & lyue þou in bileue of crist. and þus sumwhat bi þise wordis may antecristis resoun be asoyled. But we sufficen not to shewe now þe errours þat ben grounded in þis mater.

But ȝitt argueþ antecrist þat þis sentence is heresie, for*. [Cm 12m MM.] crist bad ten leprouse men go & shewe hem to þe prestis; and bi þis he tauȝt opynly þat it nediþ to be shriuen at prestis, and to þis crist gaue prestis power, but wherto but to assoyle? Here men seyne aftur austyn, þat no witt of holi Page  343 writt, but if[it] be literal witt, proueþ ouȝt by autorite of it; but þe literal witt is þis: crist bad ten leprouse men go & shewe hem to prestis, as it was boden in þe [page 137] olde lawe, but þise prestis in þe oolde lawe assoileden not rownyngly, as we don nowe, but bi signes of goddis lawe þei sheweden wheche men weren leprouse, & which weren not leprouse, and to her iugement shulden men stonde. but crist tauȝt in þis gospel þat he cam not to destruȝe þe lawe, but to fulfille it, as he telliþ be-fore bi mathewe; and to þis entente crist bad þe mesels*. [Matt. v. 17.] go and shewe hem to prestis. and þus freris myȝten telle þe puple þat holy writt haþ mystily*. [iustly CC.] þis witt what euer þei wolen seye; and þus men tellen þat freris tellen þat what treuþe þat þei seyne, if it be noteful to þe puple, þenne þat trewþe is þe gospel; and þus alle synnes þat þe freris don, or any trewþe þat [þei] may teche men is þe gospel of crist. but god forbede þat it were so; for no drede þise mennes defautis ben soþe, & it is profitable þat þei ben knowen to þe puple, lest þat þei disceyue hem. þus men vndurstonden not þe gospelle of ihesu crist but þei taken þe lettir þer-off, & aftur vndurstonden it vp þe grammer, and seyntes han tauȝt þat*. [& CC.] þat furst witt is þe gospel. and gyue we to aduersaries here þat men shulden goo & shewe hem to prestis, for so men diden bifore tyme boþe in þe oolde lawe & in þe newe, but hou shulde men take of þis to roune wiþ*. [wist CC.] prestis & þus to be assoiled? and marke we wele þis gospels witt, & it semeþ opyn þerby þat þise ten cammen not to þe prestis; for crist he-ledde hem by þe weye, and so þis gospel techiþ vs hou crist him self clensiþ of synne; & to him is þis thanke propur, & neyþur to pope ne confessour; for crist takeþ a-wei þe synne, & þei not, but disceyuen men; & þus men shulden be aliens, as was þis samaritan, and turne aȝen & þanke crist, & not gyue money to þise prestis; for crist wole assoyle men wele, al if þei gon not þus to rome. for crist bi his godhed is in iche place of þe worlde, and bi þat he takeþ away Page  344 synne whenne he makiþ men able þer-to; & pilgrimage wiþ siche offrynge vnabliþ men oft to be assoyled of god.

[page 137b] But ȝitt argueþ antecrist þat Iames biddiþ men shriue*. [Cm 13m MM.] her synnes; and no drede god biddiþ bi Iames þat iche synful man do so; & þat prestis shuld assoyle men techiþ*. [James v. 16.] crist in þe risynge of lazar, for crist bad to hise apostlis þat þei shulden vnknytt his bondis. and þus men shriuen in cristis tyme, whenne Ion baptist washed hem. why shuld not ȝitt men do so, bi þe fourme of holy churche?

Here men seyne þat it were good to holde þe fourme of hooly churche, as men diden before þat tyme þat þe fend was vnbounden & þis lawe made. for þenne crist assoiled þicker men þenne he dide aftur þe tyme of þis lawe. and to þe first autorite þat is aleggid of Iames epistle; men shulden merke hou Iames biddiþ þat men shulden shriue iche to oþur þe synnes þat þei fellen inne, & þus þei shulden knowleche mekeli þe freelte þat þei weren inne, and not oon feyne as an ypocrite þat he were more hooly before a-noþur, & had vertu to forȝyue synne. & þis worde þat Iames spekiþ makiþ not for þe emperour prelatis; for bi þis word þat Iames spekiþ iche man shulde shriue him to his broþur, and knowleche mekely þe freelte þat he is inne. siþ crist seiþ þat iche man þat hiȝeþ himsilf shal be lowid, hou shuld not þise emperour prelatis be lowid bi þe sentence of crist, siþ þei hiȝen hemsilf wiþ-outen skil of þing þat is approprid to crist? and þus þise emperour prelatis synnen aȝen þis worde þat Iames biddiþ. And as a-nentis þe secound worde þat crist bad to hise apostlis whenne he had qwickened lazar, he brouȝt him out of his sepulcre al knyttid in hise bondis, & bad hem to vnbynde him. Þis mysty witt of þise dedis telliþ vnto true men þat crist appropriþ to himsilf to qwiken dede men gostly, & to make hem stonde in grace. but ȝitt crist leueþ bondis of synnes, þat ben yuel costoms to falle in synnes, and crist [page 138] biddiþ apostlis & prestis to vnknytt þise bondis bi trewe preching. but þis office is dispised*. [suspended MM.] & cristes owne Page  345 office is misse-taken; for now prestis prechen not to þise men þat ben conuertid bi grace of crist, but þei seyn þei fordon synne and þat is more þenne any prechynge, and þus þei gon bifore crist, & leuen þe maundement þat he biddiþ, and antecrist can-not dispreue þis witt bi resoun ne godis lawe. And as a-nentis þe þridd worde, þat men þat weren baptized of Ione confesseden here synnes, & so shulde we; I graunt þis word þat is seid, but þe gospel seiþ neþir þat þei shrouen her synnes to Ion, ne bi þis rounynge to prestis. but it is lickly þat ychone of hem shryuen mekely his synne to oþur, and so her baptym was medeful.*. [nedeful CC.] & so what man shryueþ him mekely to god or to man, no drede god forȝyueþ him his synne, & ȝyueþ him grace; but þis falleþ not euer more whenne a man shriueþ him to þe emperour clerk; ȝe, if he shriue him to þe pope. & þus alle autorites þat ben founden in goddis lawe, þat 2techen þat2*. [2_2 omitted CC.] men shulden shriue hem, ben to graunt to þis witt; þat men shulden shriue hem to god, and in case to her broþur, whenne it profitiþ to hem. but antecrist shulde shame here þat if men shulden þus shriue hem, þenne þei shulden telle þe emperour clerkis in her eeris alle her synnes, & do what þei bidden hem do, for ellis god wole not assoile hem. if þou be a prest of cristis secte, holde þe payde of his lawe to teche his puple cristis gospel, al if þou feyne þee no*. [omitted CC.] more power; for crist haþ ȝyue power I-nowe to his prestis to teche his churche; & enioyned hem siche office þat ȝyueþ hem not occasioun to synne. & þus power þat prestis han standeþ not in trans|substansinge of þe oste, ne in makyng of accidentis for to stonde bi hemsilf; for þis power graunted not god to crist ne to any apostle, and so crist haþ speciali power to do awey mennes synne; & þise miracles þat ben feyned þat no man may see ne knowe, as þei waxen*. [weren MM.] without profit, so þei han no grounde in god.*. [5_5 only in MM.]

Explicit tractatus 5de confessione & penitencia.5