Every wise man that claims his heritage, asks great pardon, keeps busily, and oft has mind upon the charter of his challenge. Therefore, let each man learn to live virtuously, and keep, and have mind upon the charter of heaven’s bliss, and study steadfastly the meaning of this decree, for the pardon thereof shall endure without end.
Understand well that the charter of this heritage, and the built of this everlasting pardon, is our Lord Jesus Christ, written with all the might and virtue of God.
The parchment of this heavenly charter is neither of sheep nor of calf, but it is of the body of our Lord Jesus, a lamb that never was spotted with spot of sin. And there never was skin of sheep or of calf so sorely and so hard strained upon the tenter or harrow of any parchment maker, as the blessed body of our Lord Jesus Christ, for our love, was strained and drawn upon the cross. No man ever heard from the beginning of the world until now, nor shall hear from hence to doomsday, that a writer ever wrote upon sheep skin or upon calf-skin, with such hard and hideous pens, so bitterly, so sorely, and so deeply, as the accursed Jews wrote upon the blessed body of our Lord Jesus Christ, with hard nails, sharp spear, and sore pricking thorns, instead of their pens. They wrote so sorely and so deep, that they pierced his hands and feet with hard nails. They opened his heart with a sharp spear. They pressed upon his head a crown of sharp thorns. The wounds upon that blessed body are the letters with which our charter was written, by which we may claim our heritage, if we live rightly, and keep the charter steadfastly in mind.
The sentence and understanding written within and with out this blessed charter, and body of Jesus Christ, is our belief. For he is the coffer, in whom is inclosed and locked all this treasure of knowledge, and wisdom of God. Upon this blessed charter was written wailing, or mourning, and sorrow. Wailing or mourning for sorrow of our sins — for the which to be healed and washed away, Christ, God and man, must suffer such hard and painful wounds. Upon Christ’s body, that is our heavenly charter, was written joy and singing, to all those that perfectly forsake their sins. For they have full medicine and help, by virtue of the bitter wounds and precious blood of Jesus. And upon the wounds of Jesus, may be read sorrow to all them that for false liking-, and lust which endures but a while, bind themselves to sin and serving of the fiend, and lose the help of the heavenly charter, and so lose their heritage, and go blindly to sorrow that endures for ever.
The laces of this heavenly charter are the promises of God; and that God may not lie, for he is sovereign truth. The first, is his promise, that what day or hour a sinful man or woman leave their sin, wholly, and heartily, with bitter sorrow, and turn them to him, he shall receive them to his mercy. But let each man beware that he tarry not too long, lest for his unkindness, grace be taken from him. The second, is the full trust we have that God may not lie, neither be false of his promise. And herein depends surely our trust of our heritage. By these two hang the seal of our charter, sealed with the blood of the Lamb, even Christ. That is Christ’s flesh taken of the virgin Mary, more marvellously, than ever any bee engendered the wax of flowers of the field.
The print of this seal is the form of our Lord Jesus hanging for our sin on the cross. He hath his head bowed down, ready to kiss all those that truly turn to him. He hath his arms spread abroad, ready to embrace them. He is nailed fast, hand and foot, to the cross, for he will dwell with them, and never go away from man, but man forsook him first through sin. He hath all his body spread abroad, to give himself wholly to us, cleaving to him, and he hath his side opened, and his heart cloven for our sake, so that without hinderance we may creep into Christ’s heart, and rest there by steadfast belief and hearty love.
This charter no fire can burn, nor water drown, nor thief rob, nor any creature destroy. For this scripture the Father of heaven hath hallowed or made steadfast, and sent it into the world, which scripture may not be undone, as the gospel witnesses. This scripture is our Lord Jesus Christ, the charter of our heritage of heaven. Lock not this charter in thy coffer, but set it, or write it in thine heart, and none of the creatures, either in heaven, or on earth, or in hell, can steal it, or bereave it from thee; but if thou govern thyself from assenting to sin, and keepest well this charter in the coffer of thine heart with good living and devout love, lasting to thine end — as trustily and truly as he is true God, by virtue of this charter, thou shalt have thine heritage of bliss, enduring without end.
Therefore, haste we to repentance, as Augustine bids, and let the last day be often before our eyes. Refrain we our bodies from vices and evil covetings, and ever let our heart think heavenly things, that when we shall come thither we may fully use heavenly goods. For why? We believe that when our soul shall be unknit from the bond of flesh, if we have lived well and rightly before God, the companies of angels shall bring us to worship the true Doomsman.
If we live, as I said, and do those things that are pleasing to God, then peace shall be our compass and security. Then we shall not dread the fiery darts of the devil, nor any manner of enemy that desires to hurt our souls. The flesh shall no more be adversary to the spirit, nor shall we dread any perils. Then the Holy Ghost shall give to us a dwelling in heavenly things, and we, glad and joyful, shall abide the day of doom to come, in which the souls of all men shall receive for their deeds. Then sinners and unpiteous men shall perish. Ravenous and greedy men, proud men and adulterers, wrathful and covetous men, cursers and forsworn men, in vain shall weep most bitterly, and shall not get forgiveness of their evils, who left not their sins with bitter sorrow in their life. In most wailing shall they behold, who serve unlawful lusts of their flesh. And they shall be in mourning and everlasting sorrow who served vices and unreasonable desires. And when all these shall deserve to be sentenced to the fire of hell for their sins and their great trespasses, so, if we please God while we are here in body, we shall have everlasting reward with saints. Therefore let us despise all things that are vain and failing, that we may receive great glory of Christ, doing mercy. Therefore turn we away from vices and go we to virtues, nor let supei*fluous words come out of our mouths, for we shall yield reckoning for idle words in the day of doom. Neither accustom we our tongues to curse any man; which tongues are formed to bless and praise God in all things. Whatever is unmeasured, makes dissolution of the soul, and negligence concerning the Lord’s commands. Neither does he readily call his trespass to mind, and so, forgetting himself, he stirs not himself to penance, and so by little and little he goes from goodness, and he shall not have true compunction of heart where unlawful covetings dwell. But where sorrow shall truly be, the spiritual fire is kindled, which lights the inward parts of the soul and shows to it heavenly things.
Therefore, use thou the fellowship of perfect men, and turn not away thine ears from their words. For the words of men that fear God, are words of life and holiness of soul to them that hear and perceive them. As the sun rising, drives away the mist, so the teaching of holy men casts away the darkness from our hearts.
I beseech you, shun proud men, envious men, backbiters, liars, forsworn men, and men despising their salvation, who are dead to virtues, and joy in their own lusts, and want God’s joy. I speak not only of those that are in thy house, but wherever thou shalt hear such, shun them, and come thou not with such men if thou canst not dissuade them from their error. For by one sickly sheep all the flock is defiled, and a little portion of gall turns much sweetness into bitterness. For though a man seem to thee clean in clothing, and noble in bringing forth sweet words, nevertheless if he does the contrary works, his feignings hurt more than his figure or his words can please.
And every work that thou thinkest to do, first think thou in God, and examine diligently if that thou thinkest is of God; and if it be rightful before God, perform it, or else cut it away from thy soul. And likewise be aware of each wickedness and sin, in word and deed, in thought, in hands, in feet, in sight, and in hearing, and keep we our body and our soul.
For Jesus Christ our Lord God, the Son of God the Father, that came down from heaven to earth, he was lifted up on the cross, and died for us sinners, to deliver us from the tormenting of the devil. He suffered pain to deliver us from everlasting pain. He suffered death to deliver us from death. He again arose from death, that we should again rise in body and soul in the last day of the great doom. And therefore it is said of the first church, that one heart, one will, and one soul is in them to the Lord. For the charity and love of Christ hath joined them in one; and so must all christian men and women if they will be saved. But fleshly men and women, and lovers of this world, are parted against themselves and separated, moving slanders each to the other, strifes, wraths, chidings, dissensions, manslaughters, forswearings, thefts, rapines, licentiousness, drunkenness, and all things which the world and the flesh loveth; according to what the apostle saith, He that sows to the flesh shall reap corruption. In such flesh it is that the devil sows his seed. Our flesh indeed would ever be mighty in malice, but in abstinence and fastings, watchings and prayers, and good works, it feigns itself to be sick. But the flesh coveteth, and it ever shows evil enticing. The flesh stirs venomous doings, the flesh calls for wrath, the flesh stirs murder, the flesh stirrs adultery, the flesh sits in drunkenness, the flesh covetes all of this world, and the flesh desires all evils.
Oh, thou wretched flesh! Not only do you slay yourself, but also the soul. Thine own loss suffices thee not, but also thou desirest that thy soul be drowned in hell. Wo to thee, soul, which hast taken the flesh contrary to thee, which neither enters nor suffers thee to enter into the kingdom of God. Wherefore, as Christ saith, it behoves to wake and to pray. Lord, make thou my soul to have glory in thee; that vainglory and boasting come not out of me; but that the bitterness of sin be assuaged.
Also, Lord, give me grace to hold righteousness in all things; spiritual hardiness and temperance, and make simpleness to be prudent within me, that I lead cleanly blessed life, and prudently flee evil. And that I may understand the treacherous and deceitful falseness of the devil, lest he beguile me under the likeness of goodness, make me mild, well-willing, peaceable, courteous, and temperate, and to accord goodness without feigning, unto all. And make me steadfast and strong, in wakings, in fastings, in prayers. And also. Lord, give thou to me, to act in mildness, that I be silent in words, that I speak what be seemeth, and that I speak not that which it is not right to speak. Give me grace to keep the faith unspotted without any errors, and that my work henceforth be worthy. All this sentence saith Augustine.