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Seint Ambrose saith, that penitence is the pleynyng of man for the gult that he hath doon, and no more to do ony thing for which him oughte to pleigne. And som doctour saith, penitence is the waymentynge of man that sorweth for his synne, and peyneth himself for he hath mysdoon. Penitence, with certeyn circumstaunces, is verray repentaunce of man, that holt him. self in sorwe and in woo for his giltes; and for he schal be verray penitent, he schal first bywaile the synnes that he hath do, and stedfastly purposen in his hert to haven schrifte of mouth, and to doon satisfaccioun, and never to do thing for which him oughte more to bywayle or to complayne, and to continue in goode werkes, or elles his repentaunce may nought avayle. For, as saith seint Isidor, he is a japere and a gabbere, and no verray repentaunt, that eftsoone doth thing for which him oughte to repente. Wepynge, and nought for to stynte to doon synne, may nought avayle. But natheles, men schal hope that at every tyme that men fallith, be it never so ofte, that he may arise thorugh penitence, if he have grace; but certeyn it is gret doute. For as saith seint Gregory, unnethe arist he out of his synne that is charged with the charge of yvel usage. And therfore repentaunt folk that stinte for to synne and forlete synne er that synne forlete hem, holy chirche holt hem siker of her savacioun. And he that synneth, and verraily repentith him in his last ende, holy chirche yit hopeth his savacioun, by the grete mercy
of oure Lord Jhesu Crist, for his repentaunce; but take ye the siker way.
And now sith that I have declared yow, what thing is penitence, now schul ye understonde, that ther ben thre acciouns of penitence. The first is, that if a man be baptized after that he hath synned. Seint Augustyn saith, but if he be penitent for his olde synful lif, he may not bygynne the newe clene lif. For certes, if he be baptized withoute penitence of his olde gilt, he receyveth the mark of baptisme, but nought the grace, ne the remissioun of his synnes, til he have repentaunce verray. Another defaute is this, that men doon deedly synne after that thay have receyved baptisme. The thridde defaute is, that men fallen into venial synne after here baptisme fro day to day. Therof saith seint Austyn, that penitence of goode men, and of humble folk, is the penitens of every day.
The spices of penitence ben thre. That oon of hem is solempne, another is comune, and the thridde is pryvé. Thilke penaunce that is solempne, is in tuo maners; as is to be put out of holy chirche in lente, for slaughtre of childre, and such maner thing. Another is, whan a man hath synned openly, of which synne the fame is openly spoken in the contré; and thanne holy chirche by juggement streyneth him to doon open penaunce. Comune penaunce is, that prestes enjoynen men comunly in certeyn caas, as for to goon peradventure naked in pilgrimage, or barfot. Privé penaunce is thilk that men doon alday for privé synnes, of whiche we schryve us prively, and receyven privé penaunce.
Now schalt thou understonde what bihoveth and is
necessarie to verray perfyt penitence; and this stondith in thre thinges, contricioun of hert, confessioun of mouth, and satisfaccioun. For whiche saith seint Johan Crisostom, penitence distreyneth a man to accepte benignely every peyne that him is enjoyned with contricioun of herte, and schrift of mouth, with satisfaccioun, and werking of alle maner humbleté. And this is fruytful penitence agayn tho thre thinges, in whiche we wraththe oure Lord Jhesu Crist; this is to sayn, by delit in thinking, by rechelesnes in speking, and by wicked synful werkyng. Again these thre wickid gultes is penitence, that may be likned unto a tre.
The roote of this tre is contricioun, that hydith him in the hert of him that is verray repentaunt, right as the roote of a tree hidith him in the eorthe. Of the roote of contricioun springeth a stalk, that bereth braunches and leeves of confessioun and fruyt of satisfaccioun. For whiche Crist saith in his Gospel, doth digne fruyt of penitence, for by this fruyt may men knowe this tree, and nought by the roote that is hyd in the hert of a man, ne by the braunches ne the levys of confessioun. And therfore oure Lord Jhesu Christ saith thus, by the fruyt of hem schul ye knowe hem. Of this roote eek springeth a seed of grace, the which seed is mooder of sikurnes, and this seed is egre and hoote. The grace of this seed springeth of God, thorugb remembraunce of the day of doom, and of the peynes of helle. Of this matier saith Salomon, that in the drede of God man forleteth his synne. The hete of this seed is the love of God, and the desiring of the
joye perdurable. This hete draweth the hert of man to God, and doth him hate his synne. For sothe, ther is nothing that serveth so well to a child, as the milk of his norice, ne nothing is to him more abhominable than the milk whan it is melled with other mete.? Right so the synful man that loveth his synne, him semeth, it is to him most swete of eny thing; but fro that tyme that he loveth sadly oure Lord Jhesu Crist, and desireth the lif perdurable, ther nys to him nothing more abhominable. For sothly the lawe of God is the love of God. For which Davyd saith, I have loved thy lawe, and bated wikkednesse and hate; he that loveth God, keepeth his lawe and his word. This tree saugh the prophete Daniel in spirit, upon the avysioun of Nabugodonosor, whan he counseiled him to do penaunce. Penaunce is tre of lif to hem that it recegven; and he that holdeth him in verray penitence, is blessed, after the sentence of Salomon.
In this penitence or contricioun men schal understonde foure thinges, that is to sayn, what is contricioun, and whiche ben the causes that moeven men to contricioun, and how he schulde be contrit, and what contricioun availeth to the soule. Thanne it is thus, that contricioun is the verray sorwe that man receyveth in his herte for his synnes, with sad purpos to schryve him, and to doo penaunce, and never more to don synne.
And this sorwe schal be in this maner, as
1 serveth so wel. Tyrwbitt adopts the reading savoureth 80 sute.
3 melled with other mete. The words with other, which seem necessary for the sense, although omitted in the Harl. MS., are adopted from the Lansd. MS.
saith seint Bernard; it schal ben hevy and grevous, and ful scharp and poynaunt in herte; first, for man hath agilted his Lord and his creatour; and more scharp and poynaunt, for he hath agiltid his fader celestial; and yit more scharp and poynaunt, for he hath wratthed and agilt him that bought him with his precious blood, and hath delyvered us fro the bondes of synne, and fro the cruelté of the devel, and fro the
peynes of helle.
The causes that oughten to moeve a man to contricioun ben vj. First, a man schal remembre him of
But loke that thilke remembraunce be to no delyt of him by no way, but gret schame and sorwe for his gilt. For Job saith that synful men doon werkes worthy of confessioun. And therfor saith Ezechiel, I wol remembre alle the
of in bitternesse of myn herte. And God saith in thapocalips, remembre yow from whens that ye ben falle, for biforn that tyme that ye synned, ye were the children of God, and lymme of the regne of God ; but for youre synne ye be woxe thral, and foul, and membres of the feend, hate of aungels, sclaunder of holy chirche, and foode of the fals serpent, perpetuel matier of the fuyr of helle, and yet more foule and abhominable, for yo trespassen so ofte tyme, as doth the hound that torneth to ete his spewyng; and yet ye ben fouler for youre longe continuyng in synne, and youre synful usage, for whiche ye ben roten in youre synne, as a beest in his
3 and lymme ... God. These words, omitted in the Harl. MS., are supplied from the Lansd. MS.