Christ, not compelling, but freely counselling each man to perfect life, saith thus. If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take his cross and follow me (Luke 9). Then let us forsake ourselves, such as we have made us in doing sin, and dwell we such as we are made by grace. If a proud man be converted to Christ and is made meek, he hath forsaken himself If a covetous man ceases to covet and gives his own things, he hath denied himself If an evil liver changes his life, he hath denied himself The cross of Christ is taken when despising for the love of truth are not forsaken, but taken; — when the flesh is punished by abstinence, and when compassion and pity towards our neighbour is truly kept; when man is crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him, setting the joy thereof at nought.
[Wickliff enforces these doctrines by further arguments very similar to those which he has used in other pieces, and proceeds,] —
But let us not make sure of the Lord’s mercy, that we heap sins upon sins; neither say we while youth endureth. Let us follow our desires, and at last, in age do penance for our sins, for the Lord is merciful, he shall not have a mind of our sins. — Lord Jesus, turn us to thee, and then we shall be turned. Heal thou us, and we shall be truly whole. For without thy grace and help no man may be truly turned or healed. For they are but scorners who to-day turn to God, and to-morrow turn away. What is turning to God? None but turning from the world, from sin, and from the fiend. What is turning from God? None but turning to the changeable goods of this world, to the pleasing likeness of creatures, to the works of the fiend, and the lusts of the flesh. To be turned from the world, is to set at nought, and to put out of mind, all likings, joys, and mirths thereof, and to suffer meekly all bitterness, slanders, and troubles thereof, for the love of Christ; and to leave all occupations unlawful and unprofitable to the soul, so that man’s will and thought be dead to seek anything that the world seeks and loves.
Therefore the prophet speaks in the person of souls perfectly turning to God, saying, my eyes, that is, my thought and intent, shall ever be to God. For he shall draw my feet, that is my soul and my affections, out of the snare, and the net of the love of this world. He that is truly turned to God flees from vices, beholds not the solaces or comforts of this world; but sets his mind so steadfastly on God, that he well nigh forgets all outward things; he gathers himself all within; he is reared up wholly into Christ.
Those that will turn truly to Christ must flee occasions, words, sights, and deeds, exciting to sin. For when the fiend sees one among a hundred who withstands his enticings, and turns to God and follows the steps of Christ, by virtues, despising the joys of this present life, and seeking to love everlasting heavenly things, he finds a thousand frauds to beguile and trouble, and a thousand manners of temptations to cast him down from God’s love to the love of the world. And he begins at the least, that by foul thoughts he makes him be foul towards God. He brings to man’s mind the lusts which he hath used before and tells to his thought that he may not leave all his worldly and fleshly likings; and saith. It is too hard for a man to put himself from all present mirth. He stirs up fantasies, and vain thoughts innumerable, and unprofitable affections which before were asleep.
The fiend rears against such a soul, slanders, backbitings, persecutions, tribulations, false challenges, false accusations of divers sins, and divers manner of hates. One time he tempts by sharp outward diseases; another time by false glossings and likings, and so forth. He calls again to mind delight in things loved before. He inflames the heart and the flesh with foul burnings. He begins by small enticings and pursues to the greatest flame of wickedness. And he studies thus busily to blow against us all manner of temptations and tribulations, by how much he sees that by the mercy of God we are escaped out of his power. For he seeks nothing so much as to separate a man from the holy and everlasting love of Jesus Christ, and to make him love failing things and uncleanness of this world.