The Parson's Tale


Jer. 6. State super vias, et videte, et interrogate de viis antiquis, que sit via bona, et ambulate in ea; et invenietis refrigerium animabus vestris, etc.


Our sweet Lord God of heaven who wishes no man to perish but wishes that we all come to the knowledge of him and to the blissful life that is everlasting, 75 admonishes us by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "Stand upon the ways and look, ask about the old paths (that is, the old opinions) where the good way is, and walk in that way, and you shall find refreshment for your souls, etc."

Many are the spiritual ways that lead people to our Lord Jesus Christ and to the kingdom of glory. Of these ways, there is one most noble and appropriate that cannot fail any man or woman who through sin has gone astray from the direct way to the heavenly Jerusalem. 80 This way is called Penitence, about which man should gladly hear and inquire with all his heart--to know what Penitence is, why it is called Penitence, how many ways are the actions and workings of Penitence, how many kinds of Penitence there are, and which things belong and are necessary to Penitence and which things hinder it.

Saint Ambrose says that Penitence is the lament of man for the sins he has committed, and to do nothing more for which he should lament. And some Church Father says, "Penitence is the lamenting of man who sorrows for his sin and torments himself because he's done evil." 85

Penitence under certain circumstances is true repentance of a man who holds himself in sorrow and other pain because of his sins. To be truly penitent, he must first bewail the sins he has committed, and steadfastly purpose in his heart to confess and make satisfaction and never do anything more for which he should bewail or complain, and to continue in good works, for otherwise his repentance is of no use. For as Saint Isidore says, "He is a trickster and mocker and no true repentant who soon after does anything for which he ought to repent." Weeping and not to cease sinning is of no use. 90 Men nonetheless hope that every time a man falls, be it ever so often, he may arise through Penitence if he only has grace. But let me tell you, that's in very great doubt. For as Saint Gregory says, "He scarcely can rise out of his sin who is under the burden of evil habit." So repentant people who stop their sinning, renouncing it before sin leaves them helpless, Holy Church considers sure of salvation. As for him who sins and truly repents in his last moments, Holy Church still hopes for his salvation, by the great mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, because of his repentance. But take the surer way.

Now that I've told you what Penitence is, you should understand that there are three functions of Penitence. 95 The first is that if a man is baptized after he has sinned, Saint Augustine says "he cannot begin a new pure life unless he's repentant for his old sinful life." For surely if he is baptized without penitence for his old sins, he receives the mark of baptism but not the grace nor the remission of his sins until he has true repentance. Another need for repentance is when men commit mortal sin after they have received baptism. The third is when men after their baptism fall from day to day into venial sins. 100 Of this, Saint Augustine says, "The penitence of good, humble people is the penitence of every day."

There are three kinds of Penitence. One is solemn, another public, the third private. Solemn penance is in two ways. One way is to be put out of Holy Church during Lent, for such things as slaughtering children. The other is when a man has sinned openly, the sin being reported and discussed in the region, and then Holy Church by judgment constrains him to do open penance. Public penance is when priests enjoin men together in certain cases, perhaps to go on pilgrimages in only an undergarment or barefoot. 105 Private penance is that which men do time and again for secret sins, for which we shrive ourselves privately and receive private penance.

Now you shall understand what is suitable and necessary for true, perfect Penitence. This depends on three things: Contrition of Heart, Confession of Mouth, and Satisfaction. On this Saint John Chrysostom says, "Penitence constrains a man to accept patiently every punishment imposed, with contrition of heart, shrift of mouth, satisfaction, and exercise of all manner of humility." This is fruitful penitence against three things by which we anger our Lord Jesus Christ: 110 delight in what we think, carelessness in what we say, and deeds that are wicked and sinful. Over against these wicked sins is Penitence, which may be likened to a tree.

The root of this tree is Contrition, which hides itself in the heart of him who is truly repentant, as the root of a tree hides itself in the earth. From the root of Contrition springs a trunk that bears branches and leaves of Confession and fruit of Satisfaction. As Christ says in his gospel, "Produce worthy fruit of Penitence"; for men will know this tree by its fruit, not by the root hidden in the heart of man or by the branches or leaves of Confession. 115 As our Lord Jesus Christ says also, "By their fruit you shall know them." From this root springs also a seed of grace, which seed is the mother of security and is tart and tastes hot. The grace of this seed springs from God, through calling to mind judgment day and the pains of hell. "In fear of God," as Solomon says, "man renounces his sin." The heat of this seed is the love of God and the desire for everlasting joy. 120 This heat draws the heart of man to God and causes him to hate his sin. For truly there is nothing that a child savors so well as the milk of his nurse, and nothing is more abominable to him than that same milk mixed with other food. In the same way sin seems the sweetest thing of all to the sinful man who loves it, but from the time he steadfastly loves our Lord Jesus Christ and desires life everlasting, there is nothing more abominable to him. For truly the law of God is the love of God; as the prophet David says, "I have loved your law and hated wickedness and hatred." He who loves God keeps his law and his word. 125 The prophet Daniel saw this tree in spirit, so to speak, right after the vision of King Nebuchadnezzar, whom he counseled to be penitent. Penance is the tree of life to those who receive it, and he who remains in true penitence is blessed; such is the opinion of Solomon.

In this Penitence of Contrition man should understand four things: what Contrition is, what moves a man to Contrition, how he should be contrite, and what Contrition's benefit is to the soul. Thus it is: Contrition is the true sorrow a man feels in his heart for his sins, with firm purpose to shrive himself, do penance, and sin no more. According to Saint Bernard, this sorrow shall be "heavy and grievous, very sharp and poignant in the heart." 130 First because man has offended his Lord and Creator; sharper and more poignant because he has sinned against his heavenly Father; and sharper and more poignant still because he has angered and sinned against him who redeemed him, who with his precious blood delivered us from the bonds of sin, from the cruelty of the devil, and from the pains of hell.

Six motives ought to bring man to Contrition. First, a man should remember his sins, and take care that that remembrance be in no way a source of delight; he should have great shame and sorrow for his sins. For as Job says, "Sinful men do deeds worthy of damnation." And as Hezekiah says, "I'll remember all the years of my life, in bitterness of heart." 135 And God says in the Apocalypse, "Remember from whence you have fallen"; for before the time of your sin, you were children of God and members of the kingdom of God; but because of your sin you have become enslaved and vile, agents of the fiend, the hate of angels, the disgrace of Holy Church, food for the false serpent, and perpetual material for the fire of hell. And yet more foul and abominable because you trespass as often as does the hound who returns to eat his vomit. And fouler yet for your long continuance in sin and your sinful habits, for which you're as rotten as a beast in his dung. Such thoughts make a man feel shame, not delight, for his sin, as God says by the prophet Ezekiel: 140 "You shall remember your ways, and they shall displease you." Sins are truly the ways that lead men to hell.

The second motive that ought to make one loathe sin is this: "Whoever commits sin," as Saint Peter says, "is a slave of sin"; sin puts a man in great servitude. That's why the prophet Ezekiel says, "I went sorrowfully in loathing of myself." Certainly a man should have loathing for sin and withdraw from that servitude and bondage. Look, what does Seneca say on the matter? "Even if I knew that neither God nor man would ever know, I would not stoop to sin." And the same Seneca says, "I am born to greater things than to be enslaved by my body, or to make my body a slave." 145 No man or woman can make a fouler slave of the body than to give that body to sin. Albeit the foulest churl or foulest woman living, and least of all in value, yet fouler would that body be, more in servitude. The farther a man falls, the more he is enslaved, the viler and more abominable to God and to the world. O gracious God, well should man loathe sin! Once free, through sin he's now enslaved. Thus Saint Augustine says, "If you loathe your servant because he has transgressed or sinned, then loathe yourself when you have sinned." 150 Regard your own value, don't be vile to yourself. Alas! well should people loathe being servants and slaves to sin and be sorely ashamed of themselves, since God in his endless goodness has set them in high estate, or given them intelligence, strength of body, health, beauty, prosperity, and redeemed them from death with his heart's blood, and they in return for his noble goodness requite him so unnaturally, so evilly, to the destruction of their souls. O God of goodness, you women of such great beauty, remember the proverb of Solomon: 155 "A fair woman who's unchaste with her body is like a gold ring in a sow's snout." For just as a sow roots in any filth, she roots her beauty in the stinking filth of sin.

The third motive that should bring a man to Contrition is fear of judgment day and of the horrible torments of hell. For as Saint Jerome says, "Each time I think of judgment day, I tremble, for whenever I eat or drink or whatever else I do, the trumpet seems ever to sound in my ear: 160 'Rise up, you who are dead, and come to the judgment.'" O good God, a man ought greatly to fear such a judgment, "where we all shall be," as Saint Paul says, "before the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ," where he shall require an assembly in which none may be absent. Surely there will be no excuse for non-appearance in court, no defense will avail. And not only will our sins be judged, but also our works will be openly known. 165 And as Saint Bernard says, "No pleading shall avail, no trickery. We shall account for every frivolous word." We shall have a judge who cannot be deceived or corrupted. And why? Surely all our thoughts are disclosed to him; neither prayer nor bribery shall corrupt him. Thus Solomon says, "The wrath of God will spare no one for prayer or for gift." So at judgment day there's no hope for escape. That's why Saint Anselm says, "The anxiety of sinners will be great at that time. There the stern and wrathful judge shall sit above, and below the horrible pit of hell will be open to destroy him who must acknowledge his sins, shown openly before God and every creature. 170 There will be on the left side more devils than the heart can imagine, to drag and draw the sinful souls to the torments of hell. And within the hearts of men shall be the biting conscience, and everywhere outside shall be the world afire. Where then shall the sinner flee to hide? Certainly he may not hide, he must come forth and show himself." For surely as Saint Jerome says, "The earth shall cast him out, and the sea also, and the air, which shall be full of thunder and lightning." Now truly, whoever remembers these things, I guess, will not be turned by his sin to delight but to great sorrow for fear of the torments of hell. 175 Thus Job says to God: "Suffer, Lord, that I may wail and weep awhile before I go, without return, to the dark land covered with the darkness of death, to the land of misery and of darkness where there is the shadow of death, where there is no kind of order, only grisly dread that shall last forever."

Look, here you may see that Job prayed for some respite, to weep, bewailing his trespasses, for truly one day of respite is better than all the world's treasure. And inasmuch as a man may acquit himself before God by penitence in this world, not by treasure, he should pray to God to give him some respite, to weep and bewail his trespasses. For certainly all the sorrow that a man might have from the beginning of the world is little compared to the sorrow of hell. 180

That's why Job calls hell "the land of darkness"; he calls it "land" or earth, understand, because it's stable and shall never come to an end, and "dark" because he who is in hell is deprived of physical light. For surely the dark light from the ever-burning fire shall for him turn everything in hell to pain, for it shows him to the devils that torment him. "Covered with the darkness of death"--that is, he who is in hell shall lack the sight of God, for surely the sight of God is life everlasting. "The darkness of death" is the sins that the wretched man has committed that prevent him from seeing the face of God, just like a dark cloud between us and the sun. 185 "Land of misery," because there are three kinds of wants, in contrast to three things in this world that living folks have: honors, pleasures, and riches. Instead of honor, in hell they'll have shame and disgrace. For you well know that men call "honor" the reverence that man shows to man, but in hell is neither honor nor reverence. For certainly no more reverence shall be shown to a king than to a knave. That's why God says by the prophet Jeremiah, "The same people who dspise me shall be despised." Great lordship is also called "honor"; there no man shall serve another but with torment and harm. Great dignity and high social station are also called "honor," but in hell they shall all be trampled upon by devils. 190 "The horrible devils," God says, "shall come and go upon the heads of the damned." And this is because the higher they were in this present life, the more they shall be degraded and trampled upon in hell.

Instead of the riches of this world they shall have the misery of poverty. And this poverty shall be fourfold. First, lack of treasures, of which David says, "The rich who with all their hearts embrace worldly treasure shall sleep in the slumber of death; nothing of all their treasure shall they find in their hands." The misery of hell, moreover, shall be in lack of food and drink. For as God says by Moses, "They shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour them with bitter death; the gall of the dragon shall be their drink, the venom of the dragon their morsels." 195 Their misery shall furthermore be in lack of clothing; they'll be naked in body except for the fire in which they burn and other foul treatment, and naked in soul with respect to all virtue, the soul's clothing. Where then are the bright robes, soft sheets, and fine undergarments? Look what God says of them by the prophet Isaiah: "Under them shall be strewn moths, and their coverlets shall be worms of hell." Furthermore, their misery shall be in lack of friends. For he is not poor who has good friends, but there is no friend in hell; neither God nor any creature shall befriend them, and each shall hate every other with mortal hate. 200 "The sons and daughters shall rebel against father and mother, and kindred against kindred, and they shall chide and despise each other," both day and night, as God says by the prophet Micah. And the loving children, who formerly loved each other so carnally, would eat each other if they could. For how shall they love each other in the torments of hell, when they hated each other in the prosperity of life? Trust well, their carnal love was mortal hate; as says the prophet David, "Whoever loves wickedness hates his soul." And whoever hates his own soul can certainly love no other person in any way. 205 So in hell is neither solace nor friendship, and the more carnal the kinships are in hell, the more cursing, the more chiding, and the more mortal hate among them. Furthermore they shall lack all sensual pleasures. For certainly these follow from the appetite of the five senses, which are sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and smoke, and thus full of tears, and their hearing full of lamentation and gnashing of teeth, as says Jesus Christ. Their nostrils shall be full of awful stench, and, as says Isaiah the prophet, "Their taste shall be full of bitter gall." As for touch, their bodies shall be covered with "fire that shall never be quenched and worms that shall never die," as God says by the mouth of Isaiah. 210

And lest they suppose they may die from pain, fleeing it by their death, they shall understand the words of Job: "There is the shadow of death." Certainly a shadow has the likeness of that of which it is shadow, but it is not the same thing. Such is the pain of hell, it's like death in its horrible anguish. How so? It constantly pains them as though they should die at once, but they certainly shall not die. For as Saint Gregory says, "For such wretched, miserable persons shall be death without death, end without end, lack without lack. For their death shall live forever, their end shall be always beginning, and their lack shall not fail." 215 And thus says Saint John the Evangelist: "They shall seek death and not find it, they shall desire to die and death shall flee them."

Job also said that in hell is no ruling order. For though God has created all things in right order, there being nothing without order or unnumbered, they who are damned are not at all in order and maintain no order, for the earth shall bear them no fruit. As the prophet David says, "God shall destroy the fruit of the earth to deprive them," neither shall water give them moisture, nor the air refreshment, nor fire light. 220 For as Saint Basil says, "God shall give the burning fire of this world to the damned in hell, but the light clear and bright he shall give to his children in heaven," just as the good man gives meat to his children and bones to his hounds. Because there is no hope of escape, Saint Job finally says, "horror and awful dread shall dwell in hell without end."

Horror is always fear of harm to come, and this dread shall dwell in the hearts of those who are damned. They have therefore lost all their hope for seven reasons. First, God who is their judge shall show no mercy toward them; they may not please him or any of his saints; nor may they give anything to be ransomed; 225 nor may they have voice to speak to him; nor may they flee from torment; nor may they have within them, to deliver them from that torment, any goodness to show. Thus Solomon says, "The wicked man dies, and when he is dead he shall have no hope of escaping from torment." Whoso would then well understand these torments, and carefully consider how he deserves these very torments for his sins, should certainly be more inclined to sigh and weep than to sing and play. For as Solomon says, "Whoever had knowledge of the torments established and decreed for sin would lament." "That same knowledge," as Saint Augustine says, "makes a man lament in his heart." 230

The fourth point that should move a man to Contrition is the sorrowful awareness of the good he has omitted to do here on earth, and also the good he has lost. Truly his good works are lost whether he did them before falling into mortal sin or while he lay in it. Surely the good works he did before falling into sin have all been rendered null and void by his frequent sinning, and the good works he did while he lay in sin are utterly dead with respect to eternal life in heaven.

The good works, then, that have been nullified by frequent sinning, the ones that he did while loved by God, shall never be recovered without true penitence. 235 Thus God says by the mouth of Ezekiel that "if the righteous man turns from his righteousness and works wickedness, shall he live?" No, all the good works he has done shall never be remembered, for he shall die in his sin. Here's what Saint Gregory says on the subject: "We should understand this above all, that when we commit deadly sin, it is useless to recall and recite the good works we have done before." Truly the effect of deadly sin is such that we can't depend on any good deed done before to gain eternal life in heaven. 240 But good works nonetheless revive, they come again, helping to gain eternal life in heaven, when we have contrition. Truly, though, the good works that men do while in mortal sin, inasmuch as they were done in mortal sin, shall never return to life. For surely that which never had life can never regain it. Still, though they in no way assist in obtaining eternal life, they do help to reduce the severity of hell's torments, or to get temporal riches, or to have God sooner enlighten and kindle the heart of the sinner that he might repent. They also help accustom a man to do good works, so that over his soul the fiend may have less power. 245 So the merciful Lord Jesus Christ wills that no good work be lost, it shall be of at least some use. But inasmuch as good works done by men while living good lives have all been nullified by later sin, and all good works men do while in mortal sin are utterly dead with respect to everlasting life, well may the man who has done no good sing that new French song, "Jay tout perdu mon temps et mon labour."

For certainly sin deprives a man of both good nature and the goodness of grace. The grace of the Holy Spirit truly acts like a fire that cannot be idle; for fire ceases to exist as soon as it ceases its function, and just so grace ceases to exist as soon as it ceases its function. 250 Then the sinful man loses the goodness of glory, promised only to good men who labor and work. Well may he be sorry, then, who owes his whole life to God from beginning to end and has no goodness with which to pay God his debt for his life. Trust well, "He shall have to account," as Saint Bernard says, "for all the goods given to him in this present life, and for how he has spent them; not so much as a hair of his head shall perish, nor one moment lapse of his time, that he shall not have to account for."

The fifth thing that should move a man to Contrition is remembrance of the passion suffered by our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins. 255 For as Saint Bernard says, "While I live I'll remember the hardships that our Lord Christ suffered in preaching, his weariness in toiling, his temptation when he fasted, his long vigils when he prayed, his tears shed in pity for good people, the woe and the shame and the filth that men said to him, the foul spittle that men spat in his face, the filthy scowls and the buffets men gave him, the insults he received, the nails with which he was nailed to the cross, and all the rest of the passion he suffered for my sins and not at all for any guilt of his own."

And you should understand that in man's sin is every manner of order or orderly arrangement turned upside down. 260 For it's true that God, reason, sensuality, and the body are ordered so that each of these four things should have lordship over the others. That is, God should have lordship over reason, and reason over sensuality, and sensuality over the body. But truly when man sins, this whole orderly arrangement is turned upside down. So when the reason of man will not be subject or obedient to God who is his lord by right, it loses the lordship it should have over sensuality and also over the body. Why? Because sensuality then rebels against reason, that's how reason loses lordship over sensuality and the body. 265 Just as reason is rebel to God, sensuality is rebel to both reason and the body.

And certainly this disorder and rebellion our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed with his dear precious body, and hear in what way. Inasmuch as reason is rebel to God, man deserves to have sorrow and die. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered this for man, after being betrayed by his disciple and arrested and bound, so that his blood burst out at each nail in his hands, as says Saint Augustine. Inasmuch as man's reason, moreover, won't subdue sensuality when it may, man deserves to have shame. And for man our Lord Jesus Christ suffered this, when they spat in his face. 270 Furthermore, inasmuch as man's wretched body is rebel to both reason and sensuality, it deserves to die. And this our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for man on the cross, no part of his body free from great pain and bitter passion. And Jesus Christ suffered all this who never sinned. It may therefore be reasonably said of Jesus: "I am too much afflicted for the things for which I never deserved punishment, and too much defiled by disgrace that man deserves to have." So the sinful man may well say, as says Saint Bernard, "Curst be the bitterness of my sin, for which so much bitterness must be suffered." For it was certainly because of the diverse disorders of our wickedness that the passion of Jesus Christ was ordained, in accordance with diverse things. 275 Man's sinful soul, in coveting temporal prosperity, is certainly deceived by the devil, and in choosing carnal pleasures is scorned by deceit; it's tormented by impatience with adversity, spat upon by servitude and sin's subjection, and at last is finally slain. For this disorder of sinful man was Jesus Christ first betrayed; he was bound who came to unbind us from sin and punishment. He was then scoffed at who should only have been honored in all things. Then his face, which all mankind should desire to see--the face in which angels long to look--was evilly spat upon. Then he was scourged who had no guilt at all. Then finally he was crucified and slain. 280 Thus accomplished was the word of Isaiah: "He was wounded for our misdeeds and defiled for our felonies." Now since Jesus Christ took upon himself the pain of all our wickedness, sinful man should much weep and bewail that for his sins God's Son of heaven should endure all this pain.

The sixth thing that should move a man to Contrition is the hope of three things: forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of heaven with which God shall reward a man for good deeds. And inasmuch as Jesus Christ gives us these gifts through his generosity and noble goodness, he is called Iesus Nazarenus rex Iudeorum. Iesus means "savior" or "salvation," through whom men should hope to have forgiveness of sins, which is properly salvation from sins. 285 That's why the angel said to Joseph, "You shall call his name Jesus, who shall save his people from their sins." And on this point Saint Peter says, "There is no other name under heaven that is given to any man by which he can be saved, but only Jesus." Nazarenus is the same as "flourishing," by which a man should hope that he who gives him remission of sins shall also give him grace to do well. For in the flower is the hope of fruit in time to come, and in the forgiveness of sins is the hope of grace to do well. "I was at your heart's door," says Jesus, "and called that I might enter. He who opens to me shall have forgiveness of sin. I will enter into him by my grace and sup with him" for the good works he shall do, which works are the food of God, "and he shall sup with me," through the great joy that I shall give him. 290 Thus shall man hope, on account of his works of penance, that God shall give him his kingdom, as he promises in the gospel.

Now a man should understand how his contrition should be. I say that it shall be universal and total; that is, a man shall be truly repentant for all the sins he's committed in the pleasure of his thoughts, for pleasure is perilous indeed. There are two kinds of consent. One is called consent of feeling, when a man is moved to sin and takes long pleasure in thinking about that sin; his reason well perceives it's a sin against God's law, yet his reason doesn't restrain his sinful pleasure or appetite, though he sees perfectly well its irreverence. Though his reason doesn't actually consent to committing the sin, some authorities say that such long dwelling pleasure is most perilous, be it ever so little. 295 A man should also sorrow, especially for all he has ever desired, with full consent of his reason, against the law of God, for then without doubt there is mortal sin in consent. For surely there's no mortal sin that isn't first in man's thought, afterwards in his pleasure, and then in consent and deed. So I say that many men never repent or confess such thoughts and pleasures but only great sins outwardly committed. Wherefore such wicked thoughts and pleasures, I say, are subtle beguilers of those who shall be damned. Man ought to sorrow, moreover, for his wicked words as well as for his wicked deeds, for surely to repent one sin and not all, or to repent all sins except one, is useless. 300 For certainly God Almighty is wholly good, and he therefore forgives all or nothing. That's why Saint Augustine says, "I certainly know that God is enemy to every sin." So shall he who persists in one sin have all his other sins forgiven? No.

Contrition, furthermore, should have extraordinary sorrow and anxiety. Then God shall show complete mercy. Therefore when my soul was anxious within me, I remembered God, that my prayer might go to him.

And contrition must be continuous, one must intend steadfastly to confess and to amend his life. 305 For truly as long as contrition lasts, a man may hope for forgiveness; from this comes hatred of sin by which he destroys sin, as much as he can, in both himself and others. Thus says David: "You who love God hate wickedness." For trust well, to love God is to love what he loves and hate what he hates.

The last thing that men should understand about contrition is this: in what way is contrition of use? I say that it sometimes delivers a man from sin; thus "I said," says David (that is, "I faithfully resolved"), "that I would confess, and you, Lord, remitted my sin." And just so, contrition is useless without a firm purpose to confess if one has opportunity, just as confession or satisfaction without contrition is of little worth. 310 Contrition, moreover, destroys the prison of hell, makes weak all the strengths of the devils, and restores the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of all good virtues. And it cleanses the soul of sin, delivering the soul from the pain of hell, from the company of the devil, and from sin's servitude, and restoring it to all spiritual blessings and to the company and communion of Holy Church. Furthermore, it makes him who was a son of wrath into a son of grace. And all these things have been proved by holy writ. So he who would pay attention to these things would surely be wise; truly he should never in his life desire to sin but should give his body and all his heart to the service of Jesus Christ and thereby do him homage. For truly our sweet Lord Jesus Christ has spared us so mercifully in our sins that if he didn't have pity on man's soul, a sorry song we all might sing. 315


Explicit prima pars Penitencia et sequitur
secunda pars eiusdem


The second part of Penitence is Confession, which is a sign of contrition. Now you shall understand what Confession is, whether or not it should be done, and which things are appropriate to true Confession.

First you should understand that Confession is true showing of sins to the priest. "True" means that one must confess all the circumstances that he can relating to his sin. All must be said, nothing excused, hidden, or covered up, and don't boast of your good works. 320

It's necessary, moreover, to understand where sins come from, how they increase, and what they are.

Saint Paul says this about the origin of sins: "Just as by man sin first entered the world, and through that sin death, so death entered all men who sinned." And this man was Adam by whom death entered the world, when he broke God's commandments. Thus he who was first so mighty that he shouldn't have died became one who had to die whether he wished to or not, like all his progeny in this world, who sinned in that same man. Consider, when Adam and Eve, in the state of innocence, were naked without shame in Paradise, 325 how the serpent, wiliest of the beasts that God had created, said to the woman: "Why did God command you not to eat of every tree in Paradise?" The woman answered, "We eat of the fruit of the trees of Paradise, but truly of the fruit of the tree in the middle of Paradise God forbade us to eat, we are not to touch it, lest perchance we die." The serpent said to the woman, "No, no, you shall not die, truly! God knows that on that day when you eat thereof, your eyes shall open and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." The woman then saw that the tree was good for eating and fair to see, a pleasure to the eyes. She took the tree's fruit and ate it, and gave some to her husband and he ate, and at once the eyes of both were opened. And when they knew they were naked, they sewed a kind of breechcloth from fig leaves to hide their sexual organs. 330 There you may see that deadly sin is first suggested by the devil, manifested here by the serpent; afterward comes delight of the flesh, shown here by Eve; and then the consent of reason, shown here by Adam. For trust well, though the fiend tempted Eve or the flesh, and the flesh took delight in the beauty of the forbidden fruit, certainly until Adam or reason consented to the eating of the fruit he still remained in the state of innocence. We took from Adam the same original sin: for we are all physically descended from him and engendered by vile and corrupt material. When the soul is put in our body, original sin is incurred right then, and what was first only affliction of concupiscence is afterward both affliction and sin. Therefore we are all born sons of wrath and everlasting damnation were it not the baptism we receive that takes away our guilt. But truly the affliction dwells with us with respect to temptation, and that affliction is called concupiscence. 335 When wrongfully disposed or ordered in man, this concupiscence makes him sinfully covet, having eyes for earthly things, being covetousness of the flesh, and through pride of being covetousness of high places.

Now speaking of the first kind of covetousness, that is, concupiscence, according to the law of our sexual organs, made lawfully by God in his righteous judgment, I say that inasmuch as man disobeys God who is his Lord, the flesh disobeys him through concupiscence, called also nourishment of sin and cause of sin. So all the while that a man has the affliction of concupiscence within him, he cannot help but be sometimes tempted and moved in the flesh to sin. This will not fail as long as he lives. It may well grow feeble and fail by virtue of baptism and by the grace of God through penitence, 340 but it shall never be so fully quenched that he won't be sometimes inwardly moved, unless chilled by sickness, the evil enchantment of sorcery, or cold drinks. For behold what Saint Paul says: "The flesh strives eagerly against the spirit, and the spirit is against the flesh; they are so contrary and so strive that a man may not always do as he would." This same Saint Paul, after his great penance in water and on land (in water night and day in great peril and pain, on land in famine, thirst, and cold, without adequate clothing, and once almost stoned to death), yet said: "Alas, I, miserable man! who shall deliver me from the prison of my miserable body?" And Saint Jerome, when he had long lived in the desert with no company but wild beasts, with no food but herbs and water to drink, and no bed but the naked earth, so that his flesh was as black as an Ethiopian's because of the heat and almost destroyed by the cold, 345 said that lechery burned and boiled throughout his body. Therefore I know very well that they are deceived who say that they are not tempted carnally. Witness Saint James the Apostle, who says everyone is tempted through his own concupiscence, that is, each of us has reason and cause to be tempted by the nourishment of sin that is in the body. Thus says Saint John the Evangelist: "If we say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and truth is not in us."

Now you shall understand how sin grows or increases in man. First there's the nourishment of sin that I spoke of before, that same fleshly concupiscence. 350 After that comes the suggestion of the devil, that is, the devil's bellows, with which he blows in man the fire of fleshly concupiscence. After that, a man considers whether or not to do as he is tempted. If he withstands and turns aside the first enticing of his flesh and the devil, it's not sin. If it so happens he doesn't do this, he immediately feels a flame of delight. Then it's good to beware and keep well on one's guard or he'll fall right away into yielding to sin; then he'll sin if he has time and place. Here's what Moses said on this matter and the devil: "The fiend says, 'I will keep after the man by wicked suggestion, I will ensnare him by the stirring of sin. I will choose my quarry or prey by deliberation, and accomplish my desire with delight. I will draw my sword in the consenting.'" 355 For as surely as a sword separates something in two, consent separates God from man. "'Then I will slay him with my hand in his sinful deed,' says the fiend." For certainly man is then utterly dead in his soul. Thus is sin accomplished by temptation, delight, and consent, and then the sin is called actual.

In truth there are two kinds of sin: either venial or mortal. When man loves any creature more than Jesus Christ our Creator, truly it is mortal sin. Venial sin is when man loves Jesus Christ less than he should. The commission of this venial sin is truly quite perilous, for it diminishes more and more the love men should have for God. So if a man burdens himself with many such venial sins, though he sometimes unloads them with confession, gradually they will certainly diminish all the love that he has for Jesus Christ. 360 In this way venial passes directly into mortal sin. For surely the more a man burdens himself with venial sins, the more he is inclined to fall into mortal sin. So let's not neglect to discharge ourselves of venial sins. As the proverb says, "Many small make a great." And heed this example. A great wave of the sea sometimes comes with such violence that it sinks a ship. The same harm is sometimes done by the small drops of water that enter through a little crack in the bilge and into the bottom of the ship, if men are so negligent that they don't bail in time. So although there's a difference between the two kinds of sinkings, the ship is still sunk. So it sometimes goes with mortal sin, and harmful venial sins when they multiply so greatly in a man that the same worldly things that he loves and through which he venially sins are as great in his heart as the love of God, or greater. 365 So the love of anything that is not set in God or done principally for God’s sake, though a man love it less than God, is a venial sin. And it's mortal sin when the love of anything weighs as much or more in the heart of man as the love of God. "Deadly sin," says Saint Augustine, "is when a man turns his heart from God, the supreme goodness that may not change, and gives his heart to something that may change and vary." And surely that means everything save God in heaven. For truly if a man gives to a creature the love that he owes to God with all his heart, as much of his love as he gives to that creature he steals from God; and therefore he sins. He is a debtor to God but doesn't pay all his debt, which is all the love of his heart. 370

Now since man understands generally what venial sin is, it's appropriate to tell specially of sins that many a man perhaps doesn't consider to be sins and thus doesn't confess, though they truly are sins, as these clerks have written. Every time a man eats or drinks more than is sufficient to sustain his body, he is certainly sinning. It's also a sin when he speaks more than needed. Also when he doesn't hear graciously the complaint of the poor. Also when he's in good health and, without reasonable cause, won't fast when he should. And when he sleeps more than needed, or for the same reason is late for church or other charitable acts. Also when he uses his wife without the principal desire of engendering to the honor of God, or with the intent of paying to his wife the debt of his body. 375 Also when he won't visit the sick and the prisoner if he may. Also if he loves his wife or child or some other worldly thing more than reason requires. Also if he flatters or blandishes more than he should for any necessity. Also if he reduces or withholds his alms to the poor. Also if he prepares his food more sumptuously than needed or eats too hastily because of fondness for delicious food. Also if he tells idle tales at church or at God's service, or if he speaks idle words of folly or wickedness, for he shall account for it at the day of judgment. Also when he promises or gives a pledge that he will do things that he may not perform. Also when he thoughtlessly or in folly slanders or derides his neighbor. Also when he wickedly suspects something that he knows isn't true. 380 These things and more without number are sins, as Saint Augustine says.

Men should now understand that although no earthly man may avoid all venial sins, one may curb himself by the burning love that he has for our Lord Jesus Christ, and by prayers and confession and other good works, so that it only disturbs a little. As Saint Augustine says, "If a man loves God in such a way that everything he does is truly in and for the love of God, because he burns with the love of God, a venial sin will annoy a man who is perfect in the love of Christ as much as a drop of water will annoy or hurt a furnace full of fire." Men may also curb venial sin by receiving devoutly the precious body of Christ, 385 also by receiving holy water, by almsgiving, by general confession or Confiteor at mass and at compline, and by blessing of bishops and of priests and other good works.


Explicit secunda pars Penitencia

Sequitur de Septem Peccatis Mortabilibus et
dependenciis circumstanciis et speciebus


Now it is necessary to tell of the Seven Deadly Sins, that is, the capital sins. They all run on one leash but in different ways. They are called capital because they are the chief ones, the sources of all other sins. The root of these seven sins is Pride, the general root of all sins, for from this root spring certain branches, as Wrath, Envy, Accidie or Sloth, Avarice or (to common understanding) Covetousness, Gluttony, and Lechery. And each of these capital sins has its branches and twigs, as shall be told in the following sections.


De Superbia


Though no man can fully count the number of twigs and sins that come from Pride, I'll show part of them as you will see. 390 There is Disobedience, Boasting, Hypocrisy, Disdain, Arrogance, Impudence, Haughtiness, Insolence, Contemptuousness, Impatience, Strife, Contumacy, Presumption, Irreverence, Perverse Obstinancy, Vainglory, and many another twig I cannot set down. Disobedient is he who disobeys the commandments of God, his sovereigns, and his spiritual father. A boaster is he who boasts of the evil or the good he has done. Hypocrite is he who doesn't show himself as he is and shows what he is not. Disdainful is he who disdains his neighbor, that is, his fellow Christian, or who disdains to do what he should. 395 Arrogant is he who thinks that he has the good things in him that he doesn't, or believes that he deserves to have them, or who judges himself to be what he isn't. Impudent is he who for pride has no shame for his sins. Haughtiness is when a man rejoices in evil he has done. Insolent is he who despises all others in comparison with his own worth and his knowledge, speech, and bearing. Contemptuousness is when he may suffer neither master nor equal. 400 Impatient is he who will not be taught by or reproved for his vice, and who by strife knowingly makes war upon truth and defends his folly. Contumax is he who through his indignation is against every authority or power of those who are his rulers. Presumption is when a man undertakes an enterprise that he should not or may not do, and this is called audacity. Irreverence is when men do not honor those whom they should, but in turn wait with expectant desire to be reverenced. Perverse obstinancy is when a man defends his folly and trusts too much in his own intellect. Vainglory is to have pomp and delight in his temporal rank and to glorify himself in this worldly estate. 405 Jangling is when a man speaks too much before people, when he clatters like a mill and pays no attention to what he's saying.

Yet there is a private sort of Pride that expects to be greeted first before greeting another though the latter may be worthier. He also expects or desires to sit in a higher place at table, to precede another in walking, kissing pax after mass, or being censed, or to precede his neighbor to the offering, or to do similar things contrary to propriety, all because he aims in the proud desire of his heart to be magnified and honored before the people.

Now there are two kinds of Pride, one within man's heart and the other without. All that I've said and more belong to the Pride in man's heart; the other kinds of Pride are without. 410 Yet one kind of Pride is a sign to the other, just as a tavern's pleasant leafy arbor is a sign of the wine in the cellar. And this is noted in many things such as speech, bearing, and outrageous states of dress. If there had been no sin in clothing, Christ certainly would not so soon have noted and talked about the clothing of that rich man in the gospel. And Saint Gregory says that "precious clothing is blameworthy because of its costliness, softness, and newfangledness, and for its excess or inordinate scantiness." Alas! can men today not see the sinful, costly states of dress, particularly the excess or immoderate scantiness? 415

As for the first sin, that of excessive clothing, it is expensive to the detriment of the people, not only in the costly embroidery, the ostentatious notched ornamentation, the undulating vertical strips, the coiling decorative borders, and such waste of cloth in vanity, but also in the costly fur in their gowns, so much punching with blades to make holes, and so much slitting with shears. Furthermore, the excessive length of these gowns, trailing in the dung and the mire, on horse as well as on foot, both of men and of women, is such that all that trailing cloth is in effect wasted, consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than given to the poor, to their great loss. And that is in various ways; that's to say, the more the cloth is wasted, the more it must cost the people for its scarcity. 420 And furthermore, if they were to give such punched and slit clothing to poor people, it would not be suitable to wear because of their estate, nor sufficient to relieve them from inclement weather.

On the other hand, to speak of the horribly immoderate scantiness of clothing, there are these short cut coats or short jackets that for their brevity, and with wicked intent, don't cover men's shameful members. Alas! some in their tight pants show their protruding shape, their horrible swollen members, till you'd think they had a hernia. And their buttocks look like the hind end of a she-ape at full moon. Moreover, the wretched swollen members that they show through newfangled clothing, in dividing their hose into white and red, make it look like half their shameful private parts were flayed. 425 And if they divide their hose into other colors, such as white and black, or white and blue, or black and red and so forth, then it seems by the variance of colors that half their private parts might be corrupted by Saint Anthony's fire, or by cancer, or by some other mischance. The hindmost part of their buttocks is a real horror to see. For certainly that foul part of their bodies where they purge their stinking ordure they show people proudly in contempt of decency, the sort of decency that Jesus Christ and his friends took care to show during their lives. Now as to the outrageous dress of women, God knows that though the faces of some of them seem chaste and gracious enough, they indicate lechery and pride in their arrangement of apparel. 430 I don't say that style in the clothing of a man or a woman is unsuitable, but certainly excessive or immoderately scanty clothing is blameworthy.

The sin of adornment or ornamentation may also be found in riding, as in too many elegant horses, fair, fat, and costly, being kept for pleasure. And many a base rogue is kept because of them; there's also overly sumptuous harness such as saddlebags, cruppers, poitrels, and bridles covered with precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. Thus God says through the prophet Zechariah: "I will confound the riders of such horses." These people take little note of the riding and harness of God's Son of heaven, when he rode upon the ass with no other trappings but the poor clothes of his disciples. Nor do we read that he ever road on any other beast. 435 I say this with regard to the sin of excess and not to sensible style. Pride, moreover, is notably found in maintaining a great retinue when of little or no profit, especially when that retinue, in the insolence of their high or official position, are cruel and abusive to the people. Certainly such lords sell their authority to the devil in hell when they support the wickedness of their retinue, as do people of low degree such as those who keep hostelries and support theft by their servants in many kinds of deceits. 440 Those kinds of people are the flies that seek honey or the hounds that seek carrion. Such people strangle their authority, and the prophet David says this about them: "Let death come upon their authority and let them go down alive into hell, for in their houses are iniquities and wickedness and not the God of heaven." Certainly they may make amends, but just as God gave his blessing to Laban by the service of Jacob and to Pharoah by the service of Joseph, God will give his curse to authorities who support their servants' wickedness unless they come to amendment.

Pride in one's table appears very frequently, for certainly rich men are invited to feasts and poor people are turned away with rebuke. The excess appears in the different kinds of food and drink, particularly those foods baked in pastry shells and serving dishes, with flames of burning spirits and painted and castellated with paper, all such waste that it's an outrage to imagine. 445 Also in utensils so precious and music so elaborate that a man is stirred all the more to pleasures of lust. If he thereby sets his heart less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, it is surely a sin, and certainly the pleasures might be so great in this case that through them a man might easily fall into sin that is mortal. Truly the kinds that arise from Pride, when they arise from premeditated evil, considered and planned, or from habit, are without doubt mortal sins. When they arise from unpremeditated weakness, and as suddenly disappear, I guess they're not mortal although they're grave sins.

Now men might ask where Pride comes from. I'd say that sometimes it springs from the good things bestowed by nature, sometimes from the benefits bestowed by fortune, and sometimes from the blessings bestowed by God's grace. 450 To be sure, the good things bestowed by nature consist either in goods of the body or goods of the soul. The goods of the body are health, strength, agility, beauty, nobility of birth, and freedom. The goods of the soul are good intellect, acute understanding, subtle ingenuity, native ability, and good memory. Benefits bestowed by fortune are riches, high degrees of lordships, and people's praise. The blessings bestowed by God's grace are such things as personal knowledge, power to endure spiritual suffering, benignity, virtuous contemplation, and withstanding temptation. 455 For a man to pride himself in any of these goods is great folly. Considering the good things bestowed by nature, God knows that sometimes we have by nature as much harm as profit. Bodily health, for example, departs very quickly and is often the cause of the sickness of our souls. The flesh, God knows, is a great enemy to the soul, so the more healthy the body the more we're in danger of falling. To take pride in the strength of one's body is foolish as well. For the flesh strives eagerly against the spirit, and the stronger the flesh the sorrier will the soul be. And on top of all this, bodily strength and worldly rashness drive a man very often to peril and disaster. 460 To take pride in one's nobility also is folly. Often the nobility of the body destroys that of the soul; we are in any case all from one father and one mother, we are all of one nature, rotten and corrupt, both the rich and the poor. Truly only one kind of nobility is praiseworthy, that which adorns a man's spirit with virtues and moral qualities and makes him a good Christian. Trust well, whichever man sin has mastery of is a perfect slave to sin.

Now there are general signs of nobility such as avoiding vice, debauchery, and servitude to sin in word, work, and manner; practicing virtue, courtesy, and purity; and being liberal, that is, generous in moderation, for that which surpasses moderation is folly and sin. 465 Another is to remember kindnesses one has received from other people. Another is to be benign to one's good subordinates; as Seneca says, "There is nothing more appropriate to a man of high estate than graciousness and pity. When these flying insects that men call bees make their king, they choose one that has no prick to sting with." Another is for a man to have a noble and diligent heart to accomplish highly virtuous deeds.

Now certainly for a man to pride himself in the blessings of God's grace is also outrageous folly, for the gift of grace that should have directed him to goodness and remedy directs him to poison and ruin, as says Saint Gregory. 470 Surely also a man who prides himself in the benefits bestowed by fortune is a very great fool. For sometimes he who was a great lord in the morning is a miserable wretch before nightfall. And sometimes a man's riches are the cause of his death; his sensual pleasures are sometimes the cause of the grave malady from which he dies. Indeed, popular approbation is sometimes too false and fickle to trust--today they praise, tomorrow they blame. The desire to have the people's approbation has caused the death, God knows, of many an eager man.


Remedium contra peccatum Superbie


Since you understand what Pride is, what its parts are, and where it comes from, 475 you shall now understand Pride's remedy, which is humility and meekness. That is the virtue through which a man has true self-knowledge, not esteeming nor respecting himself with regard to his just deserts but being always aware of his moral weakness. Now there are three kinds of humility: of heart, of mouth, and of deed. Humility of heart is of four types. One is when a man considers himself worth nothing before God of heaven. Another is when he despises no other man. The third is when he doesn't care if men think him worthless. The fourth is when he isn't sorry for his humility. 480 Humility of mouth is also fourfold: moderate speech, humility of speech, confession with one's own mouth that he's just as he thinks he is in his heart, and praise for rather than belittling of another man's goodness. Humility in deeds is of four kinds as well. The first is when one puts other men before himself. The second is to choose the lowest place in every way. The third is to assent gladly to good counsel. The fourth is to accept gladly the decision of one's sovereign or whoever is in higher degree. Certainly this is a great act of humility.


Sequitur de Invidia


After Pride I will speak of the foul sin of Envy, which according to the philosopher is "sorrow over another man's prosperity"; and Saint Augustine says it is "sorrow over other men's good fortune and joy over other men's misfortune." This foul sin is directly against the Holy Ghost. Although every sin is against the Holy Ghost, goodness belongs naturally to the Holy Ghost, so Envy, coming naturally from malice, is naturally against that goodness. 485 Now malice has two species: one is hardness of heart in wickedness, or such blindness of the flesh that man isn't aware or doesn't think he's in sin, which is the hardness of the devil. The other species of malice is when a man wars against truth when he knows it's the truth, and when he wars against the grace that God has given his neighbor. And all this concerns Envy. Certainly, then, Envy is the worst sin that can be. Any other sin is only opposed to one special virtue, but Envy is against all virtues and all goodness. For it is sorry for all the goodness of one's neighbor, making it different from all other sins. There is scarcely any sin that doesn't have within it some delight, but Envy has within it only anguish and sorrow. 490

The kinds of Envy are three. The first is sorrow over another man's goodness and prosperity, and since prosperity is naturally a matter of joy, Envy is a sin against nature. The second kind of Envy is joy over another man's misfortune, and that's naturally like the devil who always rejoices in man's suffering. From these two kinds comes backbiting, and this sin of backbiting or detraction has certain parts as follows. Sometimes a man praises his neighbor with wicked intent, for at the end he always makes a wicked point, makes a "but," more deserving of blame than the rest is worthy of praise. The second kind is when the backbiter with wicked intent turns upside down all the goodness of a man's action or words. 495 The third is to belittle the goodness of his neighbor. The fourth kind of backbiting happens after men speak well of someone; the backbiter, despising him whom they praise, will say, "By my faith, there's another man better than he." The fifth kind is gladly to consent and listen to the evil that men speak of other people. This is a great sin that constantly increases in proportion to the backbiter's wicked intent.

After backbiting comes grumbling or complaining; sometimes it springs from impatience with God and sometimes with man. It's with God when a man grumbles against the pain of hell, poverty, loss of property, or rain or storm; he grumbles either that scoundrels have prosperity or that good men have adversity. 500 All these things a man should suffer patiently, for they come from the just judgment and ordering of God. Sometimes grumbling comes from avarice, as when Judas grumbled against Mary Magdalene when she anointed the head of our Lord Jesus Christ with her precious ointment. This kind of muttered complaint is like a man grumbling about the goodness that he himself does or what other people do with their property. Sometimes complaining comes from Pride, as when Simon the Pharisee grumbled against Mary Magdalene when she approached Jesus Christ and wept at his feet for her sins. And sometimes grumbling arises from Envy, as when one discloses a man's private misfortune or accuses him falsely of something. 505 Servants often complain, grumbling when their lord bids them do lawful things. As they dare not openly refuse to obey their lord's commandments, for sheer spite they will speak ill and grumble, complaining in private. Men call these words the devil's Pater noster; though the devil never had any Pater noster, the ignorant folk give it such a name. Sometimes it comes from Anger or private hate, which nourishes rancor in the heart as I shall refer to hereafter. Then comes bitterness of heart, through which every good deed of one's neighbor seems bitter or displeasing. 510 Then comes discord that dissolves all sorts of friendships. Then comes scorn of one's neighbor although he does ever so well. Then comes accusation, when a man seeks a pretext to annoy his neighbor, which is like the craft of the devil who waits night and day to accuse us all. Then comes malignity through which a man annoys his neighbor privately if he can; if he can't, nevertheless his wicked will shall not fail to burn his house secretly, or poison or slay his beasts, and such things as that.


Remedium contra peccatum Invidie


I will now speak of the remedy for this foul sin of Envy. First and foremost is the love of God, and loving one neighbor's as oneself, for truly the one may not exist without the other. 515 And trust well that in the name of your neighbor you shall understand the name of your brother, for we all have physically one father and one mother, that is, Adam and Eve, and one spiritual father, God of heaven. You are obliged to love your neighbor and desire for him all goodness. Thus God says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," for salvation both of life and of soul. Moreover, you shall love him in word, including kindly admonition and chastisement, and comfort him in afflictions, and pray for him with all your heart. And in deeds you shall so love him as to do to him in charity as you would have it done to you. Therefore you shall do him no damage with wicked word, nor do harm to his body, property, or soul through enticement by wicked example. 520 You shall not desire his wife nor any of his things. Understand also that included in the name of neighbor is a man's enemy. Certainly a man shall love his enemy by the commandment of God, and truly your friend you should love in God. You should love your enemy, I say, for God's sake by his commandment. For if it were reasonable to hate one's enemy, truly we who are God's enemies would not be received by God to his love.

A man shall do three things in return for three kinds of wrongs that his enemy does to him. In return for hate and rancor he shall love him in heart. For chiding and wicked words he shall pray for his enemy. For his enemy's wicked deeds, he shall do him a good deed. 525 For Christ says, "Love your enemies and pray for them who speak ill of you, also them who harass and persecute you, and do good to them who hate you." This is how our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to act toward our enemies. Truly nature compels us to love our friends, and indeed our enemies have more need of love than our friends, and certainly to those with more need should men do good. In that deed, moreover, we have the example of the love of Jesus Christ who died for his enemies. And as that love is the more difficult to achieve, so much greater is the merit; thus loving our enemies confounds the venom of the devil. Just as the devil is defeated by humility, so is he mortally wounded by our love of our enemy. 530 So love is the medicine that casts out the poison of Envy from man's heart. The kinds of love in this section will be explained more fully in the sections that follow.


Sequitur de Ira


After Envy I will describe the sin of Anger. Truly whoever is envious of his neighbor will commonly find a source of wrath in word or in deed against him whom he envies. Anger comes from Pride as well as from Envy, for he who is proud is envious and is easily angered.

This sin of Anger as described by Saint Augustine is the wicked desire to be avenged by word or deed. 535 According to the philosopher, Anger is a man's hot blood stirred in his heart through which he desires harm to him whom he hates. Truly a man's heart, by the heating and stirring of his blood, becomes so turbulent that he is beyond all rational judgment.

But you should understand that Anger is of two kinds, one good, the other wicked. Good Anger is zeal for goodness through which a man is angry at wickedness and against it. Thus a wise man says that Anger is better than jesting. This Anger is accompanied by kindness and is Anger without bitterness, Anger not against the man but against his misdeeds, as the prophet David says: "Irascimini et nolite peccare." 540 Now understand that there are two kinds of wicked Anger. One is sudden or unexpected Anger with no consideration or consent of reason. This means that man's reason does not consent to sudden Anger and it is therefore venial. Another very wicked Anger comes from evil intent, premeditated in the heart, with wicked will to do vengeance; to this his reason consents and it is therefore a mortal sin. This Anger is so offensive to God that it troubles the soul, from which it chases the Holy Ghost and wastes and destroys the likeness of God, that is, the virtue that is in man's soul. It puts into him the likeness of the devil and takes man away from God who is his rightful lord. 545 This Anger is a great pleasure to the devil, for it's the devil's forge that is heated with the fire of hell. Just as fire is mightier than any other element to destroy earthly things, so Anger is mighty to destroy all spiritual things.

Just as the fire of small coals, almost dead under ashes, will kindle again when touched with brimstone, so Anger will always kindle again when touched by the pride that is hidden in man's heart. Certainly fire may not come out of anything if it wasn't first naturally there, such as fire drawn out of flints with steel. And just as pride is often a matter of Anger, so rancor is the nurse and keeper of Anger. 550 There is a kind of tree, as Saint Isidore says, that will burn a whole year or more when men make a fire from it and cover the coals with ashes. It happens the same way with rancor; once it's conceived in the hearts of some men, it will last perhaps from one Easter to the next and longer. But such a man is a long way from the mercy of God the whole time.

In this devil's forge three scoundrels are busily at work: Pride, that always blows and increases the fire by chiding and wicked words; Envy, holding the hot iron to man's heart with a pair of long tongs of prolonged rancor; 555 and last stands the sin of Contumely, or strife and quarreling, which hammers and forges by evil reproaches. Certainly this cursed sin injures both a man and his neighbor. Almost all the evil that any man does to his neighbor comes from wrath. Certainly outrageous wrath does all that the devil ever commands him to do, for he spares neither Christ nor his sweet Mother. And in his outrageous anger and ire, alas! many a man then feels totally wicked in his heart toward both Christ and all his saints. Is this not a cursed vice? Yes, it certainly is. Alas! it takes away a man's wit and reason and all the gracious spiritual life that should keep his soul. 560 It takes away God's due lordship over man's soul and the love of his neighbor. It wages war against the truth. It robs man of the quiet of his heart and subverts his soul.

From Anger come these stinking offspring: first, hate, which is deep rooted wrath; discord, through which one forsakes his old friend long beloved; and then war and every kind of harm done by man to his neighbor's body or property. From this cursed sin of Anger comes manslaughter also. And understand well that homicide, which is manslaughter, occurs in several ways. Some kinds of homicide are spiritual and some bodily. Spiritual homicide is by way of six things: first, hate, as Saint John says: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer." 565 Homicide is also by backbiting. "They have two swords," says Solomon, "with which they slay their neighbors." For truly it is as wicked to take away a man's good name as his life. Homicide is also in giving wicked counsel by fraud, as in counseling to impose wrongful tributes and taxes. "Like a roaring lion and a hungry bear," as Solomon says, "is a cruel lord" who withholds or reduces the hire or wages of servants, or commits usury or withholds his alms for the poor. Of this the wise man says, "Feed him who is almost dead from hunger"; for truly if you don't feed him, you kill him. And all these are mortal sins.

Manslaughter in deed is when you slay indirectly with your tongue, as by commanding or counseling someone to slay another. 570 One is by law, as when a judge condemns someone who deserves to die. But let the judge be careful to do it justly, not for the delight of splling blood but for the preservation of righteousness. Another homicide is that done out of necessity, as when one man slays another in self-defense, there being no other way to escape with his life. Certainly, though, if he may escape without slaughtering his adversary but slays him, he sins and must suffer penance for mortal sin. 575 Also when a man prevents the conception of a child, and either makes a woman barren by her drinking venomous herbs through which she may not conceive, or else slays a child by potions that produce abortion or by putting certain things in her private places. Also men or women sin unnaturally if they emit their orgastic fluids in a manner or place where no child may be conceived. And if a woman has conceived and hurts herself and slays the child, it is still a homicide. What can we say about women who murder their children for fear of worldly shame? Certainly it's a horrible homicide. It is also homicide if a man approaches a pregnant woman and through his lust the child is killed, or if one deliberately strikes a woman and she loses her child. All these are homicides and horrible mortal sins.

From Anger come many more sins in word, thought, and deed, as when one places the blame upon God, perhaps for something of which he himself is guilty, or when he despises God and all his saints, as do these cursed gamblers in different countries. 580 They commit this cursed sin when their hearts fill with wickedness toward God and his saints. And when they treat irreverently the sacrament of the altar, that sin is so great that it may hardly be remitted except that the mercy of God surpasses all their works, he is so great and benign. Next from Anger comes venomous wrath. When a man is sharply admonished in his confession to renounce his sin, he becomes angry, answers with wrathful scorn, and finds excuse for his sin in the frailty of his flesh. He did it to keep company with his friends, he says, or else the devil enticed him, or he did it because of his youth or a temperament so lascivious that he may not forbear, or else, he says, it is his destiny till a certain age, or he got it from his ancestors, and other such things. 585 These kinds of people are so wrapped up in their sins they don't want to free themselves. For truly no person who perversely excuses himself for his sin may be delivered from his sin until he meekly acknowledges it.

After this comes swearing, which is directly opposed to God's commandment and often occurs because of wrath and Anger. God says, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." And our Lord Jesus Christ, according to Matthew, says, "Do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for that is the throne of God, nor by the earth, for that is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem, for that is the city of the great king, nor by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your speech be 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no,' what's over and above that comes from evil"--thus says Christ. 590 For Christ's sake, do not swear so sinfully, dismembering Christ by soul, heart, bones, and body. You seem to think the cursed Jews had not dismembered Christ's precious body enough, that you should dismember him more. If the law compels you to swear, be ruled in your swearing by the law of God, as says Jeremiah, chapter four: "You shall keep three conditions: swear in truth, in judgment, and in justice." In other words, swear truthfully, every lie is against Christ, for Christ is the real truth. And consider well that in the case of every frequent swearer not compelled by law to swear, the plague shall not depart from his house while he practices such illicit swearing. You must take an oath in court, however, when you're required by the judge to witness the truth. Also, you shall not swear on account of envy, favor, or bribery, but on account of justice and its declaration to the glory of God and to help your fellow Christian. 595 So every man who takes God's name in vain, or falsely swears, or takes on himself the name of Christ to be called a Christian man yet lives contrary to Christ's way of life and his teaching, indeed takes God's name in vain. Consider also what Saint Peter says in the fourth chapter of Acts: Non est aliud nomen sub celo, etc., "There is no other name under heaven given to man whereby we must be saved"; only the name, that is, of Jesus Christ. Note, too, how precious is the name of Christ as Saint Paul says in the second chapter of Philippians: In nomine Jesu, etc., "In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth"; for it is so high and so worshipful that the fiend in hell should tremble to hear it mentioned. It seems, then, that men who swear so horribly by his blessed name revile it more blasphemously than did the cursed Jews or the devil who trembles when he hears that name.

Now since swearing, unless done lawfully, is so strictly forbidden, it is even worse to swear falsely and needlessly. 600

What should we say about those who delight in swearing and consider it a noble act or a manly deed to swear great oaths? And what about those who out of sheer habit will not stop swearing great oaths, though the cause is not worth a straw? Certainly this is a horrible sin. Swearing suddenly without thinking is also a sin. But let's go now to that horrible swearing of exorcism and magic spells, as these false enchanters or necromancers do over basins full of water, or over a bright sword, or in a circle, or on a fire, or over the shoulder bone of a sheep. I can only say that they act cursedly and damnably against Christ and all the faith of Holy Church. What shall we say of those who believe in divination by the flight or noise of birds or beasts, or by lots, necromancy, dreams, creaking of doors, cracking of houses, gnawing of rats, and such contemptible things as that? 605 Certainly all these things are forbidden by God and Holy Church. They are cursed who set their belief on such filth until they are converted to Christian living. If charms for wounds or maladies of either man or beast have any effect, perhaps it is because God allows it, that people might have more faith and more reverence for his name.

I will now speak of lying, which generally is a word falsely meant with the intention of deceiving one's fellow Christian. In some lies there is no advantage to anybody, and in others benefit and profit result for one man and distress and damage for another. One kind of lying is to save one's life or property. Another kind comes from delight in forging a long tale, painted in full detail, with a wholly false basis. 610 Some lies happen because a man would support his word, and others come from carelessness without forethought and such.

Let us now touch on the vice of flattery, which usually occurs only because of fear or covetousness. Flattery is generally wrongful praise. Flatterers are the devil's nurses who nurse his children with the milk of deceit. Solomon says truly that "flattery is worse than detraction." For sometimes detraction makes a haughty man more humble, as he dreads such detraction, but flattery makes a man more arrogant in his heart and countenance. Flatterers are the devil's enchanters, for they make a man think that he is like what he isn't. 615 They're like Judas, they betray a man to sell him to his enemy, the devil. Flatterers are the devil's chaplains, always singing Placebo. I count flattery among the vices of Anger, for often if a man is angry with another he will flatter somebody to get him to support his quarrel.

Now we speak of such cursing as comes from an angry heart. Malediction in general may be said to engender every kind of harm. Such cursing removes a man from the reign of God, as Saint Paul says. And such cursing often turns back upon him who curses, as a bird returns to its nest. 620 Above all things, men ought to avoid cursing their own children, consigning their offspring to the devil, as far as possible. Certainly it is a great peril and a great sin.

Let us speak then of chiding and reproach, which greatly wound a man's heart, for they unsew the seams of friendship within it. Not easily may a man become fully reconciled with him who has openly reviled, reproached, and slandered him. This is a horrible sin as Christ says in the gospel. Now note that he who reproaches his neighbor does so either for some painful physical affliction ("leper," "crippled scoundrel") or for committing some sin. If he reproaches him for a painful affliction, the reproach turns to Jesus Christ, for pain is righteously sent from God and by his permission, whether leprosy, mutilation, or malady. 625 If he reproaches him uncharitably for sin--"you lecher," "you drunken scoundrel," and so forth--then the devil, always joyful when men sin, rejoices. Chiding certainly comes only from a wicked heart. For the mouth often speaks the full heart. Understand, in any case, that when a man chastises another, he should beware lest he chide or reproach him. Truly, unless he be wary, he may very easily kindle the fire of anger and wrath, which he should quench; he may even slay him whom he should chastise with graciousness. For as Solomon says, "The pleasing tongue is the tree of life," that is, of spiritual life, and truly an unrestrained tongue slays the spirit of both the reproacher and the reproached. Look what Saint Augustine says: "There is nothing so like the devil's child as he who often chides." Saint Paul says as well, "The servant of God ought not to chide." 630 While chiding is an evil thing between all kinds of people, it's even more inappropriate between a man and his wife, for then there is never a rest. That's why Solomon says, "A house that is uncovered and leaking and a chiding wife are alike." If a house has many leaks, when a man avoids one leak he gets hit by another. So it goes with a chiding wife; if she doesn't chide him in one place, she chides him in another. Therefore, "a morsel of bread with joy," says Solomon, "is better than a house full of fine foods with chiding." Saint Paul, in chapter three of Colossians, says, "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is proper before God, and you husbands love your wives."

Next we speak of scorn, a wicked sin, especially when one scorns a man for good works. 635 Certainly such scorners behave like the foul toad that can't stand to smell the sweet savor of the vine when it flourishes. These scorners are partners with the devil, for they have joy when the devil wins and sorrow when he loses. They are adversaries of Jesus Christ, for they hate what he loves, that is, salvation of the soul.

Now we will speak of wicked counsel, for he who gives wicked counsel is a traitor. He deceives him who trusts in him, as Achitophel deceived Absolon. Nevertheless, his wicked counsel is first against himself. For as the wise man says, "Every evil living person has this trait: he who would injure another, first injures himself." 640 And men should understand that one ought not receive his counsel from people who are false, angry, or hostile, or who love their own profit too much, or from people too worldly, particularly in counseling souls.

Next comes the sin of those who sow and plant discord among people, a sin that Christ utterly hates. And no wonder, for he died to make concord. They do more shame to Christ than those who crucified him; for God loved friendship among people more than he loved his own body, which he gave up for unity. Therefore they are comparable to the devil always busy making discord. Then there is the sin of the double tongue, such as speaking pleasantly before people and wickedly behind their backs, or speaking with pretense of good intention or playful manner but with wicked intent.

Now comes betrayal of secrets through which a man is defamed; certainly he may not easily repair the damage. 645

Then comes threatening, which is an open folly; for he who often threatens, threatens often more than he may perform.

Next come foolish words, of no profit to him who speaks them or to him who listens. Foolish also are words that are needless or with no ordinary profit intended. Although foolish words are sometimes venial sins, men should fear them nonetheless, for we shall give reckoning for them before God.

Now comes chattering, which may not be without sin. And as Solomon says, "It is a sign of open folly." That's why a philosopher, when asked how to please people, said, "Do many good works and speak few idle words." 650

After this comes the sin of jesters, who are the devil's apes, for they make people laugh at their jesting speech as people do at the pranks of an ape. Saint Paul forbids such jests. Just as virtuous and holy words comfort those who work in the service of Christ, so the evil words and tricks of jesters comfort those who work in the service of the devil. These are the sins that come from the tongue, from Anger and from other sins as well.


Sequitur remedium contra peccatum Ire


The remedy for Anger is a virtue that men call Meekness, that is, Humility, and also another virtue that men call Patience or Long Suffering.

Humility restrains and represses the stirrings of what is in a man's heart so that it does not leap out by way of anger or wrath. 655 Long-suffering endures sweetly all the annoyances and the wrongs that men do. Saint Jerome says of humility, "It neither speaks nor does harm to any person, nor becomes inflamed against reason for any harm that men do or say." This virtue sometimes comes naturally, as the philosopher says: "Man is a perceptive being, by nature humble and amenable to goodness; but when humility is perfected by grace, it is worth all the more." Patience, another remedy for Anger, is a virtue that kindly permits every man's goodness, and by which a man is not angry for any harm done to him. The philosopher says patience is that virtue that endures humbly all the outrages of adversity and every wicked word. 660 This virtue makes a man like God and makes him a good Christian, as Christ says. This virtue vanquishes your enemy. As the wise man says, "If you would vanquish your enemy, learn to endure." And you should understand that man suffers four kinds of bodily or personal grievances for which he must have four kinds of patience.

The first grievance is wicked words. Jesus Christ suffered this so patiently without complaint, when the Jews reviled and reproached him so often. Therefore suffer patiently, for the wise man says, "If you strive with a fool, though the fool may be laughing or angry, you shall have no rest." The second grievance is damage to your property. Christ suffered very patiently when despoiled of all that he had in this life, which was nothing but his clothes. 665 The third grievance is bodily suffering, such as Christ suffered so patiently in his passion. The fourth grievance is to be overworked. It's a great sin, I say, when people work their servants too hard or outside of the proper times, as on holy days. Here again Christ suffered very patiently, teaching us patience, when he bore upon his blessed shoulder the cross upon which he would suffer cruel death.

Here may men learn to be patient; not only should Christians be patient for the love of Jesus Christ and for the reward of blissful eternal life, but even the old pagans, who never were Christian, commended and practiced the virtue of patience.

Once upon a time a philosopher was provoked by his pupil's great trespass, and brought a stick to beat the child. 670 When this child saw the stick, he asked, "What do you plan to do?" "I'm going to beat you," said the master, "for your correction." "In truth," said the child, "you should straighten yourself out first, for you have lost all your patience over a child's offense." "Indeed," said the master, now weeping, "you speak truly. Take the stick, my dear son, and correct me for my impatience."

From patience comes obedience, through which a man is obedient to Christ and to all those to whom he ought to be obedient in Christ. And understand well that obedience is perfect when a man willingly and eagerly, with an entirely good heart, does all that he should do. 675 Obedience generally is to perform the precepts of God and of one's sovereign, to whom one should be obedient in all justice.

Sequitur de Accidia


After the sin of Envy and Anger, I will now speak of the sin of Sloth. For Envy blinds the heart of a man, and Anger troubles him, and Sloth makes him sluggish, moody, and peevish. Envy and Anger make the heart become bitter, which is the mother of Sloth and takes away one's love of all goodness. So Sloth is the anxiety of a troubled heart; as Saint Augustine says, "It is affliction of goodness and joy at others' ill fortune." Certainly this is a damnable sin, for it wrongs Jesus Christ by taking away the service that men owe to Christ with all diligence, as Solomon says. But Sloth is not diligent. It does everything with displeasure and perverseness, slackness and apology, idleness and disinclination. Therefore the book says, "Cursed is he who does the Lord's work negligently." 680 So Sloth is enemy to every period or state of man's existence, for the state of man is in three modes. There is the period of innocence, like the state of Adam before he fell into sin, which constrained him to work for the worship and adoration of God. Another period is the state of sinful man, in which condition men are bound to labor, praying to God for correction of their sins and that he grant they may rise above them. A third period is the state of grace, in which one is bound to works of penitence. Certainly to all these things Sloth is an enemy and contrary, for it loves no activity at all. Now this foul sin Sloth is also a very great enemy to the livelihood of the body, for it makes no provision regarding temporal necessity but idles away and sluggishly wastes all temporal goods by its carelessness. 685

The fourth thing is that Sloth is like those who are in the pain of hell because of their sloth and their indolence. The damned are so bound that they may neither do well nor think well. Sloth makes one feel weary and hindered from doing any good, so that God abominates Sloth, as Saint John says. Now comes Sloth that will suffer no hardship or penance. For truly Sloth is so tender and sensitive, as Solomon says, that he would suffer neither hardship nor penance and thus ruins all that he does.

Against this rotten-hearted sin of Sloth, men should strive to do good works, and manfully and virtuously have the courage to do well, calling to mind that our Lord Jesus Christ rewards every good deed, be it ever so little. Great is the habit of labor, as Saint Bernard says, for it gives the laborer strong arms and hard sinews, while sloth makes him feeble and tender. 690

Then comes the dread to begin any good works. For he who is inclined to sin thinks it is too great an enterprise to undertake works of goodness; he considers in his heart that the circumstances of goodness are such a grievous burden to bear that he dare not start any good works, as Saint Gregory says.

Now comes hopelessness, the despair of God's mercy that comes sometimes from too great a sorrow or from too great a fear, as one imagines he has committed such great sins that it would not avail him to repent them. Through this despair or fear he abandons himself wholeheartedly to every kind of sin, as Saint Augustine says. This damnable sin, if it continues until death, is called sinning against the Holy Ghost. 695 This horrible sin is so perilous that when one is in despair there is no felony or sin that he is afraid to commit, as was shown by Judas. So above all others this sin is most offensive and hostile to Christ. Truly he who despairs is like the cowardly champion who needlessly says "I surrender." Alas! he is needlessly defeated and in needless despair. Certainly the mercy of God is ever ready for the penitent and is above all his works. Alas! can't one recall Saint Luke's gospel, chapter fifteen, where Christ says that "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just who need no penance?" 700 Consider, too, in that same gospel the joy and the feast of the good man who had lost his son, when the son had returned with repentance to his father. Can't they also remember (Saint Luke, chapter twenty three) what the thief who was hanged beside Jesus said? "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." "Truly I say to you," said Christ, "this day you shall be with me in paradise." Certainly there is no sin of man so horrible that it may not be destroyed in his life by penitence through virtue of Christ's passion and death. Alas! why should man then despair, since his mercy is so ready and generous? Ask and receive. 705

Then comes somnolence, being sluggish slumbering, which makes a man indolent and dull in body and soul; and this sin comes from Sloth. Certainly the time when a man shouldn't sleep is the morning, unless there is reasonable cause. For truly morning is most suitable for saying one's prayers, for honoring and thinking of God, and for giving alms to the poor who first come in Christ's name. Consider what Solomon says: "Whoever would awake early in the morning and seek me shall find me."

Then comes negligence or carelessness, caring for nothing. If ignorance is the mother of all evil, negligence is surely the nurse. 710 Negligence has no regard for when or how well he may get something done.

The remedy for these two sins, as the wise man says, is that "he who fears God neglects nothing that he ought to do." And he who loves God will make an effort to please God by his works and devote himself fully in all that he does.

Then comes idleness, the gate of all sins. An idle man is like a place without walls; the devil may enter on every side and shoot at him with temptations while he's unprotected. This idleness is the bilge of all wicked and evil thoughts, all chatter, trifles, and filth. 715 Heaven is surely the reward for those who labor, not for those who are idle. And David says that "those who do not take part in the labor of men shall not be scourged by men"--that is to say, in purgatory. So it certainly seems they'll be tormented by the devil in hell unless they do penance.

Then comes the sin that men called tarditas, as when a man is too tardy or delays in turning to God. And that is a great folly. He is like one who falls in a ditch and won't rise. And this vice comes from a false hope. He thinks he shall live a long time, but that hope very often fails. Then comes laziness. One begins a good work, then neglects it and stops, like those in governance who neglect someone they govern when they encounter hostility or annoyance. 720 These are the modern shepherds who deliberately allow their sheep to run to the wolf in the briers, or take no heed of their own guardianship. From this comes poverty and destruction, both spiritual and temporal. Then comes a kind of coldness that freezes a man's heart. Then comes lack of devotion, through which a man is so blinded, as Saint Bernard says, and has such languor in his soul that he may neither read or sing in church nor hear or think of any devotion, nor may he labor with his hands in any good work without it becoming unpleasant and distasteful to him. He waxes sluggish and slumbrous, and will soon be wrathful, inclined to hatred and envy.

Then comes the sin of worldly sorrow, called tristicia, that slays a man, as Saint Paul says. 725 For such sorrow contributes to the death of the soul and the body as well. A man becomes weary of his own life. Such sorrow, then, often shortens a man's life before his time comes naturally.


Remedium contra Peccatum Accidie


Against this horrible sin of Sloth and its branches is a virtue called fortitudo or strength, a disposition through which a man despises harmful things. This virtue is so mighty and vigorous that it dares to oppose mightily and guard itself from perils that are wicked, and to wrestle against the assaults of the devil. It uplifts and strengthens the soul, just as Sloth casts it down and enfeebles it. For this fortitudo endures by long suffering the hardships that befit it. 730

This virtue has many species, the first called magnanimity, or great courage. For great courage is needed against Sloth lest it swallow the soul by the sin of sorrow or destroy it by despair. This virtue makes people undertake difficult things, wisely and reasonably, by their own free will. And as the devil fights against man more by cunning and trickery than by strength, men should oppose him by intelligence, reason, and discretion. Then there are the virtues of faith and hope in God and his saints to accomplish the good works in which one firmly proposes to continue. Then comes confidence or a sense of security, when a man fears no hardship in the good works he's begun. 735 Then comes great achievement, the performance of great works of goodness, which is why men should perform them, for in the accomplishment of great good works lies the great reward. Then there is constancy, that is, stability of spirit, which should be in the heart by steadfast faith, and in the mouth and bearing, as well as in feeling and deed. There are still other special remedies for Sloth in different works, in consideration of the pains of hell and the joys of heaven, and in trust of the grace of the Holy Ghost, who will give one the might to perform his good intentions.


Sequitur de Avaricia


After Sloth I will speak of Avarice and Covetousness, of which sin Saint Paul, in I Timothy, chapter six, says, "The root of all evils is Covetousness." Truly when a man's heart is encumbered and troubled, and his soul has lost the comfort of God, he seeks the empty solace of worldly things. 740

Saint Augustine describes Avarice as a keen eagerness in the heart to have earthly things. Some others say that Avarice is to acquire many earthly things and to give nothing to those who have need. And understand that Avarice consists not only of land and goods, but sometimes of knowledge and glory. In every kind of excessive thing is Avarice and Covetousness. And the difference between Avarice and Covetousness is this: Covetousness covets what you don't have; Avarice withholds and keeps what you do have, without rightful need. Truly Avarice is a damnable sin, for holy scripture speaks against it and curses it, for it wrongs Jesus Christ. 745 It takes from him the love that men owe him, turns it backward against all reason, and makes the avaricious man have more hope in his goods than in Jesus Christ, to whose service he pays less attention than to keeping his treasure. That's why Saint Paul, in Ephesians, chapter five, says that an avaricious man is in bondage to idolatry.

What is the difference between a worshipper of idols and an avaricious man, except that an idolator perhaps has only one or two idols while the avaricious man has many? For every florin in his coffer is his idol. Certainly the sin of idolatry is the first thing that God prohibited in the ten commandments, as Exodus, chapter twenty, bears witness: 750 "You shall not have strange gods before me, nor shall you make for yourself a graven thing." Thus an avaricious man who loves his treasure before God is a worshipper of idols.

From Covetousness come these severe lordships through which men are oppressed by taxes, customs duties, and tolls, more than their reasonable obligation. They also take from their tenants arbitrary fines, which might more reasonably be called extortions. Some lords' stewards say these arbitrary fines and oppressive exactions are just, as a serf has nothing temporal, they say, that is not his lord's. But these lordships do wrong who seize from their tenants things that they never gave them, as Augustine says in De Civitas Dei, book nineteen.

It is true that the condition of slavery and its first cause is sin, as recorded in Genesis, chapter nine. 755 Thus you may see that sin, not nature, deserves slavery. So these lords should not glory in their lordships, since by natural condition they are not lords over slaves, rather slavery comes first by reason of sin. Furthermore, the law that says the temporal goods of serfs are the goods of their lords should be understood to mean the emperor's goods to defend them in their rights, not to rob or despoil them. Thus Seneca says, "It is prudent to live kindly with your slaves." Those whom you call your serfs are God's people, for humble people are Christ's friends; they are intimate with the Lord. 760

Consider well that serfs originate from the same kind of seeds as lords do. The serf may be saved as easily as the lord. The same kind of death that carries off the serf sweeps away the lord. So I counsel you, do right by your serf as you would that your lord did by you if you were in his shoes. Every sinful man is a slave to sin. I counsel each of you lords to work in such a way with your serfs that they love you rather than dread you. I know well that there are degrees above degrees, as is reasonable, and it's right that men do their duty when it's due, but certainly extortions and contempt for your underlings are damnable.

Furthermore, you know well that these conquerors or tyrants very often make slaves of those who are born of blood as royal as their own. 765 Slavery was unknown until Noah said that his son Canaan should be a slave to his brothers for his sin. What should we say, then, of those who rob and extort Holy Church? Certainly the sword first given to the newly dubbed knight signifies that he should defend Holy Church, not rob or pillage it; whoever does so is a traitor to Christ. And as Saint Augustine says, "They are the devil's wolves that harry the sheep of Jesus Christ." They do worse than wolves, for when the wolf has his belly full he ceases to harry sheep. But not so the pillagers and destroyers of the goods of Holy Church, for they never cease to rob.

Now as I have said, since sin was the first cause of slavery, and this world was all the time in sin, the whole world was in slavery and subjugation. 770 But since the coming of grace, God ordained that some people be higher in estate and degree and some lower, with each served according to his rank and degree. So in some countries where slaves are bought, when slaves are converted to the faith they are freed from slavery. And certainly the lord owes to his man what the man owes to his lord. The Pope calls himself the servant of the servants of God; but the estate of Holy Church might not have been established, nor the common profit preserved, nor peace and rest on earth, if God had not ordained that some men have higher degrees and some lower. So authority was established that lords might keep, maintain, and defend their subjects and underlings according to reason and as far as it lies in their power, not that they might destroy or harass them. So I say that those lords who like wolves wrongfully devour the possessions or goods of the poor, without mercy or moderation and without making amends, 775 shall receive the mercy of Jesus Christ only in the same measure they have meted out to the poor.

Now comes deceit between merchant and merchant. You should understand that there are many kinds of buying and selling; one is material, the other spiritual, one is honest and lawful, the other dishonest and unlawful. The merchandising of material is lawful and honest when a kingdom or country, ordained self-sufficient by God, out of its abundance helps another country in need. Then must merchants bring their goods from one country to the other. That other merchandising that men practice with fraud, treachery, and deceit, with lies and false oaths, is cursed and damnable. 780

Spiritual buying and selling is properly simony, that is, the eager desire to buy spiritual things, things that pertain to God's sanctuary and to those responsible for spiritual welfare. This desire if pursued by a man to the fullest, even though it prove fruitless, is a deadly sin; if he is in holy orders, he is disqualified from practicing them. Certainly simony is named after Simon Magus, who would have bought with temporal goods the gift of the Holy Ghost that God had given to Saint Peter and the apostles. Understand therefore that both he who sells and he who buys spiritual things—whether by goods, contrivance, or worldly entreaty of worldly or spiritual friends or kindred—are called simoniacs. If entreaty is made for one who is not worthy and able, it is true simony if he takes the benefice; if he is worthy and able, it is not. 785 The other kind is when people entreat for a person to be preferred to a benefice only for the wicked worldly regard that they have for that person, and that is foul simony. But in service for which men give spiritual things to their servants, the service must be righteous and not otherwise, without fraudulent dealings, and when the person is worthy. As Saint Damasus says, "All the sins of the world compared to this sin are as nothing." For it is the greatest sin there may be after the sin of Lucifer and the Anticrhist. By this sin God loses completely the Church and the soul that he redeemed with his precious blood to those who give churches to them who are unworthy. For they put in thieves who steal the souls belonging to Jesus Christ and destroy his patrimony. 790 Through such unworthy priests and curates ignorant men have less reverence for the sacraments of Holy Church; and such givers of churches put out the children of Christ and put into the church the devil's own son. Those who ought to protect lambs sell the souls to the wolf that harries them. Therefore they shall never have a share of the lambs' pasture, which is heaven's bliss. Now comes gambling with its appurtenances, such as backgammon and raffles, from which come deceit, false oaths, quarrels, all robberies, blaspheming, renouncing of God, hate of one's neighbors, waste of goods, misspending of time, and sometimes even manslaughter. Certainly gamblers may not be without sin while they practice that craft.

From Avarice as well comes lies, theft, false witness, and false oaths. And understand that these are great sins and directly against the commandments of God, as I have said. 795

False witness is in word and in deed. It's in word when for anger, bribery, or envy you take away by false swearing your neighbor's good name, his goods, or his heritage. You bear false witness when you wrongly accuse him or excuse either him or yourself. Beware you inquests and notaries! Susannah, for false witness against her, was subjected to great sorrow and pain, and many another like her.

The sin of theft is directly opposed to God's commandment both materially and spiritually. Material theft is taking your neighbor's goods against his will whether by force, trickery, or false measure, coming stealthily with false indictments against him, borrowing goods with no intention of returning them, and such things as that. 800 Spiritual theft is sacrilege, that is, damaging holy things or things sacred to Christ, in two ways: Every wicked sin or violence that men do in holy places such as churches or churchyards may be called sacrilege; and they are guilty of sacrilege as well who falsely withhold the prerogatives that belong to Holy Church. Plainly and generally, sacrilege is to rob things, whether holy or unconsecrated, from a holy place, or holy things from an unconsecrated place.


Relevacio contra peccatum avaricie


Now you shall understand that the alleviation of Avarice is generous mercy and pity. Men might ask why this is so. It's because the avaricious man shows no pity or mercy to a man in need; he delights in keeping his treasure, not in rescuing or alleviating his fellow Christian. Therefore I will speak first of mercy. 805

Mercy, as the philosopher says, is a virtue by which a man's courage is stirred by the misery of anyone in distress. After this comes pity in performing charitable works of mercy. To be sure, these things move a man to the compassion of Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins and suffered death for mercy's sake. He forgave our original sin and thereby released us from the pains of hell, reduced the pains of purgatory by penitence, and gave us the grace to do well and attain the bliss of heaven. The kinds of mercy are to lend and to give, to forgive and to release from obligation, to have heartfelt pity and compassion for the distress of one's fellow Christian, and also to chastise where needed. 810

Another kind of remedy for avarice is reasonable generosity. But truly one must consider here the grace bestowed upon us by Jesus Christ in both temporal and eternal goods. One must also remember the death that he shall receive--he knows not when, where, nor how—and that he shall forego all that he has, save only what he has distributed in charity to the poor.

But as some people are immoderate, men ought to avoid that foolish generosity called waste. He who is prodigal does not give his goods, he loses them. Truly whatever he gives to minstrels and such, for vainglory, for worldly renown, is a sin and no work of charity. He sinfully loses his goods who seeks with the gift of them nothing but sin. 815 He's like a horse that seeks to drink stirred up or muddy water rather than clear water from a well. And as they give where they shouldn't, to them belongs that curse that Christ shall give at the day of judgment to those who shall be damned.


Sequitur de Gula


After Avarice comes Gluttony, which is directly opposed to the commandment of God. Gluttony is immoderate desire to eat or drink, or to do enough to satisfy this inordinate craving. This sin has corrupted the whole world, as shown well in the sin of Adam and Eve. Consider, too, what Saint Paul says of Gluttony: "Many so walk of whom I've often told you—-and now I tell it weeping--that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; their end is death, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame to so relish earthly things." 820 He who is addicted to this sin of gluttony may not withstand sin. He must be in servitude to all vices, for it's the devil's hiding and resting place.

This sin has many species. The first is drunkenness, the horrible burial of man's reason. When a man is drunk he has lost his reason, and this is a mortal sin. On the other hand, when a man's not accustomed to strong drink and perhaps doesn't know its strength, or has a weakness in his head or has labored so that he drinks all the more, even if he's drunk it is no mortal sin but venial. The second kind of gluttony is when a man's spirit becomes confused, for drunkenness robs him of the discretion of his wits. The third kind of gluttony is when a man devours his food and has no good manners. 825 The fourth is when, through the great abundance of his food, the humors in his body are distempered. The fifth is forgetfulness from too much drinking, as when a man sometimes forgets before morning what he did in the evening or the night before.

The species of Gluttony are distinguished in other ways according to Saint Gregory. The first is to eat before it's time. The second is when a man procures food or drink that's too rich. The third is when men partake beyond moderation. The fourth is fastidiousness, great attention to preparing and garnishing one's food. The fifth is to eat too greedily. These are the five fingers of the devil's hand by which he draws people to sin. 830


Remedium contra peccatum Gule


Against Gluttony is the remedy of abstinence, as Galen says, but I don't consider that meritorious if done only for the health of the body. Saint Augustine recommends that abstinence be practiced for virtue and with patience: "Abstinence is worth little unless it is willingly done, is strengthened by patience and charity, and is practiced for God's sake and in hope of the bliss of heaven."

The companions of abstinence are moderation, holding to the "golden mean" in all things; shame, which avoids all dishonor; contentment, which seeks no rich foods or drinks and has no regard for extravagant preparation of food; measure, which reasonably constrains the unbridled appetite for eating; soberness, which restrains excessive drinking; and frugality, which restrains the voluptuous pleasure of sitting long and luxuriously at one's food, so that some people, to have less leisure, willingly stand to eat. 835


Sequitur de Luxuria


After Gluttony comes Lechery, for these two sins are cousins so closely related that often they will not part company. This sin is of course very displeasing to God, for he himself said, "You shall not commit adultery." So against this sin he levies great punishments in the old law. If a bondwoman were taken in this sin, she should be beaten to death with staves; if a gentlewoman, she should be slain with stones; and if a bishop's daughter, she should be burned by God's commandment. Furthermore, because of the sin of lechery God inundated the whole world with Noah's flood. And after that he burned five cities with lightning and sank them into hell.

Let us speak then of that stinking sin of Lechery that men call adultery among wedded folk, that is, when either one or both of them be wed. 840 Saint John says that adulterers shall be in hell in a pool of burning fire and brimstone—in fire for their lechery, brimstone for the stink of their filth. The breaking of this sacrament is without doubt a horrible thing. It was made by God himself in paradise and confirmed by Jesus Christ, as Saint Matthew witnesses in the gospel: "A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be two in one flesh." This sacrament signifies the joining together of Christ and Holy Church. And not only did God forbid adultery in deed, he commanded that you should not lust after your neighbor's wife. "In this commandment," says Saint Augustine, "is forbidden all kinds of lecherous craving." Look what Saint Matthew says in the gospel, that "whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." 845 Here may you see that not only is the deed of this sin forbidden but also the desire to do that sin.

This cursed sin grievously harms those who practice it. First in their soul, for they constrain it to sin and punishment of death that is everlasting. It grievously harms the body, too, for it dries it up, wastes it and ruins it, and of his blood one makes a sacrifice to the fiend of hell. It also wastes his property and substance. And certainly if it is a foul thing for a man to waste his property on women, it is a fouler thing yet when women for such filth spend their property and substance on men. This sin, as the prophet says, takes away from men and women their good fame and all their honor. It's very pleasing to the devil, for by it he wins the greatest part of this world. 850 And just as a merchant delights most in the trade that's most profitable, so the fiend delights most in this filth.

This is the other hand of the devil with five fingers to catch people and bring about their bondage. The first finger is the lascivious gaze between men and women; it slays just as the basilisk slays people by the poison of its glance, for craving eyes follow craving of the heart. The second finger is evil touching in a wicked manner. Just as touching warm pitch defiles one's fingers, "whoever touches and handles a woman, says Solomon, "fares like one who handles a scorpion that stings and suddenly slays through poisoning." The third is foul words that like fire immediately burn the heart. 855 The fourth finger is kissing, for truly one would be a great fool to kiss the mouth of a burning oven or furnace. Those who kiss in wickedness--that mouth is the mouth of hell--are greater fools yet, especially these old, senile lechers who would kiss though they can't do more and defile themselves. They are surely like hounds, for when a hound comes by the rose bush or such, though he can't piss he'll heave up a leg and make a pretense of pissing. And many a man thinks he may not sin in any lechery with his wife, but that opinion is false. God knows, a man may slay himself with his own knife, and from his own cask make himself drunk. Whether it's his wife, child, or any worldly thing that he loves more than God, it's his idol and he is an idolator. 860 A man should love his wife in moderation, patiently and temperately; then she's as if she were his sister. The fifth finger of the devil's hand is the stinking deed of Lechery. Certainly the fiend puts the five fingers of Gluttony into a man's belly, and with his five fingers of Lechery grips him by the loins to throw him into the furnace of hell, where men shall have the fire and worms that last forever, the weeping and wailing, the sharp hunger and thirst, and the horror of devils that shall trample them forever without respite.

From Lechery, as I said, arise diverse species, such as fornication, which is between a man and a woman who are not married; this is a mortal sin against nature. 865 Everything that is an enemy and destroyer of nature is against nature. Indeed a man's reason clearly tells him it's a mortal sin, inasmuch as God forbade lechery. And Saint Paul gives him the just deserts due only to one who commits mortal sin. Another sin of Lechery is to rob a maiden of her maidenhood, for whoever does so casts a maiden out of the highest degree of honor in this present life; he robs her of that precious fruit that the book calls a hundredfold. I can say it in no other way in English, but in Latin it's called Centesimus fructus. To be sure, whoever does this is the cause of many damages and shameful injuries--more than any man can reckon--just as he is sometimes the cause of damages done by his beasts in a field when they break through hedge or fence and destroy that which cannot be restored. 870 For maidenhood may not be restored any more than an arm cut off from the body may return again to grow. She may have mercy, I'm well aware, if she's penitent, but she shall never again be undefiled.

Although I've spoken somewhat of adultery, it's good to consider still more of its perils to avoid that soul sin. Adultery in Latin means to approach another man's bed; thus those who were formerly one flesh surrender their bodies to others. From this sin, as the wise man says, result many evils. First there's breaking of faith, and faith is the key of Christian doctrine. 875 When that faith is broken and lost, truly Christianity is without fruit and useless. This sin is also a theft, for theft generally is to seize a man's possessions against his will. Certainly the foulest theft ever is when a woman steals her body from her husband and gives it to her lecher to defile; and she steals her soul from Christ and gives it to the devil. This is a fouler theft than to break into a church and steal the chalice, for these adulterers break spiritually into the temple of God and steal the vessel of grace, that is, the body and the soul, for which Christ shall destroy them, as Saint Paul says. Truly Joseph had great fear of this theft when his lord's wife entreated him to do a villainous evil. "Behold, my lady," he said, "how my master has placed in my guardianship all that he has in this world, leaving nothing that is not in my power except you who are his wife. 880 How then can I do this wicked thing and sin so horribly against God and my lord? God forbid it!" Alas! all too little is such truthfulness found nowadays. The third evil is the filth through which they break God's commandment and defile the founder of matrimony, that is, Christ. As the sacrament of marriage is so noble and worthy, so much the greater is the sin of breaking it; for God made marriage in paradise, in the state of innocence for mankind to multiply in God's service. To break it is therefore more grievous, for often from such breaks come false heirs who wrongfully occupy other people's inheritances. So Christ will put them out of the kingdom of heaven, the inheritance of good people. From this breakage people often unknowingly wed or sin with their own relatives. And in particular these male lechers frequent these lascivious women in their brothels, which may be likened to a common privy where men purge their excrement. 885 What shall we say as well about pimps who live off the horrible sin of prostitution, making women pay them a certain amount from the selling of their bodies, sometimes even that of a pimp's own wife or child? Clearly these are cursed sins. Understand as well that Adultery is aptly set in the ten commandments between theft and manslaughter, for it's the greatest theft that may be, the theft of body and soul. It's also like homicide, for it cuts in two, breaks in two, those first made of one flesh. By the old law they should therefore be slain. But by the new law, that is, the law of mercy, Jesus Christ said to the woman who was found in adultery and should have been stoned according to the law and desire of the Jews: "Go, and have no more will to sin," or "will no more to commit sin." Truly the vengeance for Adultery is under the jurisdiction of the punishments of hell unless prevented by penitence. 890

There are yet more species of this cursed sin, as when one or both of the parties may belong to a religious order, or if one has entered into holy orders, as subdeacons, deacons, priests, or knights hospitalers. And the higher one is in orders, the greater is the sin, greatly aggravated by the breaking of the vow of chastity when the order was received. For it's true that holy orders are specially dedicated to God, are of the special household of God, so when they commit mortal sin they are the special traitors of God and his people. For they live off the people, to pray for the people, but while they're such traitors their prayer does not benefit the people. Priests are angels by the high spiritual worth of their ministry, but in truth Saint Paul says that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. 895 Truly the priest who practices mortal sin may be likened to the angel of darkness transformed into the angel of light. He seems like an angel of light but in truth is an angel of darkness. Such priests are the sons of Eli, shown in the Book of Kings to be the sons of Belial, that is, the devil. Belial means "without judge," and so they fare; they think they're as free, without judge, as a bull in the field that takes whatever cow he likes. So they fare among women, for just as a free bull is enough for a whole farm, a wicked priest's corruption is enough for a whole parish or district. These priests of Eli, as the Bible says, did not serve the people through their priesthood nor did they serve God. As the Bible says, they weren't satisfied with the boiled meat they were offered but took even the raw meat by force. 900 Just so, these scoundrels are not satisfied with meat roasted and boiled, with which the people feed them in great reverence; they would have the raw meat of men's wives and their daughters. And these women who consent to their sexual immorality do great wrong to Christ, to Holy Church, to all saints and all souls. For they rob them of those who should worship Christ and Holy Church and pray for Christian souls. Therefore such priests, and their concubines who also consent to their lechery, shall have the malediction of the whole ecclesiastical court until they are converted to Christian living.

The third kind of adultery is sometimes between a man and his wife. That's when they regard sexual union as just for their fleshly delight, as Saint Jerome says, and care for nothing but their coupling; because they are married, they think everything's all right. 905 But in such people the devil has power, as the angel Raphael said to Tobias, for in their coupling they put Jesus Christ out of their hearts and give themselves over to filth.

The fourth kind is sexual union with blood relatives, with those who are related by marriage, or with those whom their fathers or blood relatives had intercourse with in the sin of lechery. This sin makes them like hounds that don't worry about kinship. And certainly kinship is of two kinds, either spiritual or physical. The spiritual is to couple with one's relatives by baptism. For just as he who engenders a child is his physical father, so his godfather is his spiritual father. In this regard as well a woman may couple with her relative by baptism with no less sin than with her own physical brother.

The fifth kind is that abominable sin of which scarcely any man ought to speak or write. Nevertheless it's openly mentioned in holy scripture. 910 This cursedness men and women do with different intentions and in different ways; although holy scripture speaks of this horrible sin, certainly holy scripture may not be defiled, no more than the sun that shines on the dunghill.

Another sin pertaining to lechery comes during sleep, and as often to virgins as to those who are defiled. This sin, which men call pollution, occurs in four ways. Sometimes it's from faintness due to an overabundance of humors in one's body; sometimes it's from infirmity, enfeebling the ability to retain the physical secretions, as medical science mentions; sometimes it's from excessive food and drink; and sometimes it's from sinful thoughts stored up in one's mind when he goes to sleep and which may not be without sin. Because of these occurrences men must look after themselves wisely, or else they may grievously sin.


Remedium contra peccatum luxurie


Now comes the remedy for Lechery, and that's generally chastity and continence, which restrains all the inordinate impulses that come from lascivious passions. 915 And ever greater the merit he shall have who most restrains this sin's wicked inflaming with passion. And there are two kinds of chastity, specifically in marriage and in widowhood.

Now you should understand that matrimony is the lawful union of a man and woman by virtue of the sacramental bond through which they may not be separated as long as both of them live. This, as the book says, is a great sacrament. God made it, as I've said, in paradise, and would have himself born in marriage. And to hallow marriage he was at a wedding where he turned water into wine. This was the first miracle that he worked before his disciples. A true consummation of marriage cleanses fornication and replenishes Holy Church with good lineage, for that is the end of marriage. And it changes mortal sin into venial sin between those who are wedded, and unites the hearts of the wedded as well as their bodies. 920

This is true marriage that was established by God before sin began, when in paradise natural law was in its proper stage of development. It was ordained, as Saint Augustine says, that one man should have but one woman, and one woman but one man, for many reasons.

First, because marriage is figuratively expressed between Christ and Holy Church. And the other is because a man is head of a woman; at least by God's ordinance it should be so. For if a woman had more than one man, she'd have more heads than one, and that would be a horrible thing before God. Also, a woman might not please too many men at once. There would never be peace nor quiet among them, for everyone would demand what concerned him. Furthermore, no man would know his own offspring nor who should have his heritage, and the woman would be less beloved from the time that she was joined in marriage with many men.

Next comes how a man should behave toward his wife, and that's namely with patient endurance and reverence, as Christ showed when he first made woman. 925 He did not make her from Adam's head, so she shouldn't claim too great a lordship. For where the woman has the mastery she causes too much confusion. There needn't be any examples of this, daily experience should suffice. Also God certainly did not make woman from Adam's foot, so she shouldn't be held too low, for she cannot suffer patiently. But God made woman from Adam's rib, because a woman should be a companion to man. A man should behave toward his wife in faith, truth, and love, as Saint Paul says, and love her as Christ loved Holy Church, so well that he died for it. So should a man die for his wife if need be.

Now Saint Peter relates how a woman should be subject to her husband. First there's obedience. 930 Also as canon law says, a woman, as long as she's a wife, has no authority to swear or bear witness without permission of her husband, who's her lord or at least should be by reason. She should also serve him with most proper behavior and be modest in dress. I know well they should give heed to pleasing their husbands, but not by their elegant clothes. Saint Jerome says that "wives who are dressed in silk and in precious purple may not clothe themselves in Jesus Christ." What does Saint John say in this matter? And Saint Gregory says that "no person seeks precious clothing except for vainglory, to be honored the more before the people." It's a great folly for a woman to have fair clothing outwardly and be inwardly foul. 935 A wife should also be modest in appearance, behavior, and laughter, and discreet in all her words and deeds. And above all worldly things, she should love her husband with her whole heart and be true to him with her body. So also should a husband be to his wife. Since her body is her husband's, so should her heart be, or else between them there is no perfect marriage.

Then shall men understand that for three reasons a man and his wife may have intercourse. The first is the intent to beget children in the service of God, for that is the ultimate purpose of matrimony. Another motive is to pay each other the debt of their bodies, for neither of them has power over his or her own body. The third is to avoid lechery and dishonor. The fourth in truth is a mortal sin. 940 As for the first, it is meritorious; the second as well, for as canon law says, she has the merit of chastity who pays to her husband the debt of her body even though it's against her pleasure and her heart's desire. The third kind is venial sin, and truly there may scarcely be any of these without venial sin because of the corruption and delight. The fourth kind is when they couple for none of the aforesaid causes but only for erotic love, to achieve their burning delight and not caring how often they do it. Truly it's a mortal sin and yet, I'm sorry to say, some people will exert themselves more in doing it than is needed to satisfy their sexual craving.

The second kind of chastity is to be a clean widow, avoiding the embraces of men and desiring the embraces of Jesus Christ. These are wives who have lost their husbands, also women who have practiced lechery and are relieved of guilt through penitence. 945 And if a wife should keep herself completely chaste with her husband's permission, never giving him occasion to sin, it would be for her a great merit. This kind of woman who observes chastity must be clean in heart as well as in body and thought, modest in clothing and in countenance, and abstinent in eating and drinking, in speaking and doing. Such women are the vessel or box of the blessed Magdalene, filling Holy Church with good fragrance.

The third kind of chastity is virginity; it is necessary that one be holy in heart and clean of body. Then is she the spouse of Jesus Christ and the beloved of angels. She is worthy of the praise of this world, and is like the martyrs in equanimity; she has in her that which tongue may not tell nor heart think. Virginity bore our Lord Jesus Christ, and he himself was a virgin. 950 Another remedy for Lechery is to refrain especially from such things as give occasion to that dishonor, such as sensual gratification, eating, and drinking. Surely when the pot boils over, the best remedy is to remove it from the fire. Sleeping long in great quiet is also a great nurse to Lechery.

Another remedy for Lechery is to avoid the company of those by whom one fears to be tempted; although the deed is resisted, there is great temptation. Truly a white wall, although not consumed by the fire of a candle placed next to it, is blackened from the flame. Very often I read that no man should trust in his own perfection unless he is stronger than Samson, holier than David, and wiser than Solomon. 955

Now having told you as I'm able about the Seven Deadly Sins, and some of their branches and their remedies, I would tell you of the ten commandments if I could. But so lofty a doctrine I leave to theologians. Nevertheless I trust they have all been touched on in this treatise, singly and together.


Sequitur secunda pars Penitencie


Now inasmuch as the second part of Penitence, as I began in the first chapter, consists of oral Confession, I say with Saint Augustine: "Sin is every word and every deed, and all that men desire sinfully, against the law of Jesus Christ; and this is to sin in thought, word, and deed by your five senses, which are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling."

The purpose now is to understand the circumstances that make each sin worse. 960 You should consider what you are that commits that sin, whether you are male or female, young or old, nobly born or in bondage, free or in servitude, sound or sick, wedded or single, in orders or lay, wise or foolish, cleric or secular; if she's your relative, bodily or spiritually, or not; if any of your relatives have sinned with her; and many more things.

Another circumstance is whether it's done in fornication or in adultery or not; in incest or not; as a virgin or not; by means of homicide or not; as horrible great sins or small; and how long you have continued to sin.

The third circumstance is the place where you've committed the sin, whether in another man's house or your own; in a field or a church or a churchyard; in a church consecrated or not. For if a man or woman through sin or wicked temptation spills orgastic fluid in a consecrated church, it is cut off from religious privilege until purified by the bishop. 965 And the priest who did such a dishonor should be interdicted; for the rest of his life he should never again sing mass for every time he did so he would commit a mortal sin.

The fourth circumstance is the use of go-betweens or messengers, for enticement or consent to get together for revelry. For such companionship many a wretch would go to the devil in hell. So they who incite or connive in the sin are partners in the sin and the sinner's damnation.

The fifth circumstance is how many times one has sinned, if he can remember, and how often he has fallen. For he who often falls in sin despises the mercy of God, increases his sin, and is ungrateful to Christ. He becomes less able to withstand sin and sins more easily; 970 he arises more slowly, and is more reluctant to confess, particularly to his own confessor. So when people fall again into their old follies, they either forsake completely their old confessors or divide their confessions in different places; but truly such divided confessions do not deserve God's mercy for their sins.

The sixth circumstance is why a man sins, as by which temptation, and if he himself brings that temptation or is incited by other people. It matters if he sins with a woman by force or by her own assent, and whether or not the woman, in spite of all she could do, has been violated. She shall tell in confession whether or not it was for covetousness or poverty, and if by her own contriving, and other such details.

The seventh circumstance is in what manner one has committed his sin; or how a woman has allowed what men have done to her. 975 The man shall tell this in fullest detail, including whether he has sinned with common brothel women, committed his sin on holy days, on fasting days, or before or after his last confession--perhaps breaking the penance imposed—and by whose help and whose counsel, if by sorcery or trickery; all must be told.

All these things, depending on how great or small, oppress a man's conscience. And the priest, who is your judge, by considering your contrition may better decide on your penance. For understand well that if a man, having defiled his baptism by sin, would come to salvation, there is no other way but by contrition, confession, and satisfaction for sin; 980 and especially by the first two, if there's a confessor to whom he may confess, and by the third if he lives to perform it.

Now if a man would make a true and profitable confession, there must be four conditions. First, it must be in sorrowful bitterness of heart, as King Hezekiah said to God: "I will recount all my years in the bitterness of my soul." This condition of bitterness has five signs. The first is that confession be shamefaced, not covering or hiding one's sin, for he has sinned against God and defiled his soul. Thus Saint Augustine says, "The heart labors for shame of his sin"; and because he feels great shame, he deserves to have great mercy from God. 985 Such was the confession of the publican who would not lift up his eyes to heaven, for he had offended God of heaven. For such feeling of shame he had at once God's mercy. So Saint Augustine says that such shamefaced people are nearest to forgiveness and remission. Another sign is humility in confession; of this Saint Peter says, "Be you humbled under the mighty hand of God." The hand of God is mighty in confession, for thereby God forgives your sins, he alone having the power. And this humility shall be in the heart and in outward sign; for just as he has humility before God in his heart, he should outwardly humble his body to the priest who sits in God's place. Since Christ is sovereign, and the priest is intermediary and mediator between Christ and the sinner, the sinner, being lowest by way of reason, 990 should not sit as high as his confessor but kneel before him or at his feet, unless some malady prevents it. For the priest won't remember who sits there but in what place he sits. If a man who has trespassed against a lord and who comes to ask for mercy and makes his accord, sits down right by the lord, men would consider him outrageous, not worthy anytime soon of forgiveness or mercy. The third sign is that your confession should be tearful; if a man can't weep with his eyes, let him weep in his heart. Such was the confession of Saint Peter, for after forsaking Jesus Christ he went out and wept very bitterly. The fourth sign is that one should not be too ashamed to confess. 995 Such was the confession of Mary Magdalene, who spared nothing for shame but before those at the feast went to our Lord Jesus Christ and confessed to him her sin. The fifth sign is that people obediently receive the penance that is enjoined for their sins, for truly Jesus Christ, for the sins of one man, was obedient unto death.

The second condition of true confession is that it be done soon. For truly if a man had a deadly wound, the longer he tarried to cure it the harder the healing, indeed the more it would putrefy and hasten his death. And so it is with sin that is a long time unconfessed. Certainly a man ought to confess his sins soon for many reasons: for fear of death, which often comes suddenly, man knows not what time nor what place; one continuing sin leads to another; 1000 and the longer a man tarries, the farther he is from Christ. And if he delays until his last day, scarcely may he confess or remember his sins or repent them because he is so grievously ill. And as he has never in his life listened to Jesus Christ when he has spoken, he shall cry to Jesus Christ on his last day and scarcely will Christ listen to him.

And understand that this condition must have four essentials. Your confession must be prearranged and with forethought, for wicked haste is unprofitable; a man must confess his sins, whether of pride, envy, or whatever according to species and circumstances; he must comprehend in his mind the number and greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin; he must be contrite for his sins and steadfastly purpose, by the grace of God, never to fall into sin again; and he must dread and watch himself, to flee the occasions of sins to which he is inclined. 1005

Also you should confess all your sins to one man, not a part to one man and a part to another with the intent, for shame or dread, to divide your confession, for that does nothing but strangle your soul. For surely Jesus Christ is entirely good, in him is no imperfection, so he forgives all perfectly or else not at all. I don't say that if you're referred to a confessor who assigns penance for a certain sin, you are bound to show him the remainder of your sins that you've confessed to your curate, unless you wish to for humility, for that's not dividing your confession. Nor do I say when I speak of division of confession that if you have your curate's permission to confess wherever you like to a discreet and honest priest, you can't confess to him all your sins. But let no blot be neglected, let no sin be untold, as far as you can remember. 1010 And when you confess to your curate, tell him all your sins since you last confessed; that's not a wicked intent to divide confession.

Also true shrift requires certain conditions. First that you confess not under constraint but of your own free will, and not to shame anyone nor for malady nor other such things. For it's reasonable that he who trespassed by free will should by free will confess it; that no one but himself tell his sin; and that he not disclaim or deny his sin nor be angry with the priest for his admonition to leave sin. The second condition is that your confession be lawful, that is, that you who confess, and the priest who hears your confession, be truly in the faith of Holy Church, and that a man not lack hope as did Cain or Judas in the mercy of Jesus Christ. 1015 And a man must accuse himself, not another, of his own trespass; he shall blame and impute guilt to himself and his own malice for his sin. But if another man is the cause or instigator of his sin, or a person's estate is such as to aggravate his sin, or if he can't fully confess without naming the person with whom he has sinned, he may tell as long as his intention is not to backbite the person but only to declare his confession. Nor shall you lie in your confession, saying perhaps for humility that you have committed a sin of which you were never guilty. For Saint Augustine says, "If for humility you lie about yourself, then if you were not in sin before you are now for your lying." 1020 You must also declare your sin by your own mouth and not by any writing, unless you have become unable to speak, for you have committed the sin and you should bear the shame. Nor shall you color your confession by fair, subtle words to cover your sin, for then you deceive yourself, not the priest. You must tell it plainly, be it ever so foul or horrible. You shall confess to a priest who is discreet to counsel you; and you shall not confess for vainglory, hypocrisy, or any cause except the fear of Jesus Christ and the healing of your soul. Nor shall you run to the priest suddenly to tell him carelessly your sin, as if to tell a joke or a tale, but go with forethought and great devotion.

And generally, confess often. If you fall often, you may arise often by confession. 1025 And if you confess a sin that you've already confessed before, the greater is the merit. As Saint Augustine says, you shall the more easily have remission and grace from God, both for sin and for pain. To be sure, once a year at least it is lawful to receive Communion, for once a year all things are renewed.

Now I have told you about true Confession, which is the second part of Penitence.


Explicit secunda pars Penitencie,
et sequitur tercia pars eiusdem


The third part of Penitence is Satisfaction by temporal punishment for sin, and that most generally consists of charitable works and bodily pain. Now there are three kinds of charity: contrition of heart, where a man offers himself to God; mercy for the sinfulness of one's neighbor; and giving good counsel and comfort, physically and spiritually, wherever men have need, particularly for food for their sustenance. 1030 And note the things a man generally needs: food, clothing, and shelter; charitable counsel and visits in prison and when sick; and burial of his body in death. If you can't visit the needy in person, visit them by your messengers and by your gifts. These are general alms or works of charity of those who have temporal riches or sound judgment in counseling. You shall hear about these works at the day of judgment.

These works of charity you shall accomplish by your own means, promptly and secretly if you may. But if you can't do it privately, don't fail to work charitably although men see it, so long as it's done not for thanks of this world but only for the favor of Jesus Christ. 1035 For as Saint Matthew witnesses, chapter five, "A city cannot be hidden that is seated on a mountain. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel but rather on a candlestick, that it may give light to all who are in the house. So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven."

Now to speak of bodily pain, it consists of prayers, vigils, fasting, and the virtuous teaching of prayers. And you shall understand that prayers signify a merciful desire of the heart that addresses itself to God and expresses itself by word outwardly to remove evils and spiritual and durable things and sometimes temporal things. In the prayer Pater noster Jesus Christ has included most other prayers. Certainly it is invested with three things that make it worthier than any other prayer. Jesus Christ composed it himself. 1040 It is short, the easier to learn and retain in the heart and to be more often a help. A man shouldn't weary of saying it or excuse himself from learning it, it's so short and easy. And it contains in itself all good prayers. The explanation of this holy prayer so excellent and worthy I entrust to the masters of theology, but this much I will say: when you pray that God should forgive your trespasses as you forgive those who trespassed against you, be sure that you don't lack charity. This holy prayer also diminishes venial sin, and therefore belongs especially to penitence.

This prayer must be truly said in good faith so that men pray to God properly, discreetly, and devoutly; and a man shall always submit his will to the will of God. 1045 This prayer must also be said with great humility, very purely and reverently, without annoying anyone else. It must also be accompanied by works of charity. It is effective also against the vices of the soul; for as Saint Jerome says, "The vices of the flesh are avoided by fasting, and by prayer the vices of the soul."

After this you should understand that bodily pain consists of keeping vigil, for Jesus Christ says, "Watch and pray that you don't enter into wicked temptation." You should understand also that fasting consists of three things: abstinence from food and drink, abstinence from worldly pleasure, and abstinence from mortal sin, that is, a man must keep himself from mortal sin with all his might.

You should understand that God ordained fasting, to which four things belong: 1050 generosity to poor people; spiritual gladness of heart, without anger, annoyance, or complaint about fasting; reasonable hours for eating; and eating in moderation. That is, a man shall not eat at unsuitable times, nor sit the longer at his table to eat because he fasts.

Then shall you understand that bodily pain consists of discipline or teaching, by word, writing, or example, and in wearing next to the skin hair shirts, garments of coarse worsted or of mail, for penance for the sake of Jesus Christ. But take good care that such kinds of penance on your flesh do not make you angry or bitter in heart or annoyed with yourself; for it is better to cast away your hair shirt than the sweetness of Jesus Christ. Thus Saint Paul says, "Clothe yourself as they who are God's chosen, with a merciful heart, kindness, long suffering, and such kinds of clothing." With these Jesus Christ is more pleased than with hair shirts or shirts made of mail. Next is discipline by breast-beating, scourging with rods, kneelings, and tribulations; 1055 by suffering patiently wrongs that are done to you; and by patient endurance of maladies or loss of worldly goods, whether of wife or child or friend.

Then you shall understand which things hinder penance, and these are four in kind: dread, shame, hope, and despair. To speak first of dread, in which one believes that he may not endure penance, its remedy is to consider that bodily penance is not much to dread compared to the pain of hell so cruel and so long that it lasts without end.

Now against the shame that one feels about confession, especially these hypocrites who would be held so perfect that they have no need to confess, 1060 a man should reason that if he wasn't ashamed to do foul things, he certainly shouldn't be ashamed to do fair things like confession. A man should also bear in mind that God sees and knows all his thoughts and deeds, to him nothing may be hidden or covered. Men should also remember the shame that is to come at the day of judgment of those who are not penitent and confessed in this present life. For all creatures in heaven, on earth, and in hell shall see openly all that they hid in this world.

Now to speak of the hope of those who are negligent and sluggish in confessing, it consists of two things. 1065 First, a man hopes to live long and to acquire many riches for his delight; he'll confess afterward, and that, so he says, seems early enough. Another is the overconfidence that he has in Christ's mercy. Against the first vice, he should consider that our life has no certainty, and that all the riches in this world are in jeopardy and pass as a shadow on the wall. As Saint Gregory says, it is appropriate to God's great righteousness that the pain never cease for those who would never withdraw from sin but continue in sin of their own free will; for that perpetual will to commit sin they shall have perpetual pain.

Despair is of two kinds: despair of Christ's mercy, and the thought that one might not persevere long in goodness. 1070 The first despair comes from one's thinking that he has sinned so greatly and so often, and has so long lain in sin, that he shall not be saved. Certainly against that cursed despair he should consider that the passion of Jesus Christ is stronger to unbind than sin is to bind. Against the second despair he shall call to mind that as often as he falls he may arise again by penitence. And though he has lain in sin ever so long, the mercy of God is always ready to receive him. Against the despair of thinking that he should not long persevere in goodness, he shall remember that the feebleness of the devil may accomplish nothing unless men would allow it. And he shall also have the strength of God's help, and Holy Church, and the protection of angels if he desires. 1075

Then men shall understand what is the fruit of penance. According to the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven, where joy exists without opposites such as woe or grievance; there all evils of this present life are past; there is security from the pains of hell; there is the blissful company that evermore rejoices each in the other's joy; there the body of man that used to be so foul and dark is brighter than the sun; there the body that used to be sick, frail, feeble, and mortal, is immortal and so strong and sound that nothing may harm it; there is neither hunger, thirst, nor cold, but every soul filled with the sight of the perfect knowledge of God. This blissful reign men may gain through spiritual poverty, the glory through humility, the fullness of joy through hunger and thirst, and the rest through labor, and the life through death and mortification of sin. 1080


Top | Chaucer's Retraction | Contents | Title Page