To speak in general, antichrist is every man that liveth against Christ; as St. John saith. Forsooth now there are many antichrists. And therefore saith St. Augustine, ” Whoso liveth contrary to Christ, he is an antichrist.” Be thou within, be thou without, if thou live contrary to Christ, thou art but chaff. Of which Christ saith. Matthew 3. The chaff shall burn with fire that may not be quenched. And the soul that is chaff, shall ever suffer, and never die, as the prophet saith, Isaiah 9. Six sins there are against the Holy Ghost, that turn the wretched soul into this chaff. The philosopher saith, “There is no evil fled unless it be known.” Therefore we shall name them in this little treatise for the more learning of small understanders.
Condition One: Presumption
The first of these sins is presumption — that is high swelling of the spirit, without dread of God’s righteousness. And of this sin all manner of malice and wickedness taketh root, that reigneth among mankind, in ignorant or learned. In whomsoever this sin of presumption hath no lordship, in him the devil is overcome.
Condition Two: Despair
The second sin is desperation or despair — that is, too little trust on the mercy of God. St. Augustine saith, “Dread of God’s righteousness, and hope of God’s mercy, are two gates of life.” For by them we enter, here into grace, and after into bliss, as the prophet saith, Psalm 147. It is well pleasing unto the Lord upon them that dread him, and in them that trust on his mercy. And again, presumption and desperation are two gates of death, by which men enter into sin and trouble, and afterwards into the pains of hell without end. St. John teacheth against this sin, and saith. My little sons, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not in the sin of despair; but if it be so that any of us have sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, our just Lord; and he is the mercy-asker for our sins; not only for our sins, but also for the sins of all the world. Jesus is, as to say “a Saviour,” in our tongue. For he hath plenty of medicine to save all mankind, if they would take this medicine and be safe. For Gregory saith, “He slayeth himself that will not keep the bidding of his leech.” (physician.)
Condition Three: Obstinancy
The third sin is, obstinacy or hardness of heart, which will not be contrite for compunction, nor made soft with pity, nor moved with prayers or preachings, and setteth nought by beatings. It is unkind against good deeds, unfaithful to counsels, fierce and raging against judgments, unshamefaccd in foul things, neither fearful in perils, nor manful in manhood, foolhardy against God, forgetful of time that is past, negligent in time that is present, not providing for time that is to come. And, to speak shortly, this is that sin which neither dreadeth God nor shameth man. Thus saith St. Bernard. And a medicine for this hard heart, Lincoln (Grosthead) teaches, when he says, “A hard heart should be brayed in a mortar of stone with a heavy pestle.” This mortar is the body of Christ, wounded in his passion. This pestle is the dread of damnation that follows this sin. Thus then, thou obstinate man, thou man indurate in sin, thou hard-hearted wretch! Come thou nigh to the body of Christ. For dread of damnation conform thee to Christ’s passion.
Condition Four: Unrepentance
The fourth sin is, finally unrepentant. That is he that will never do true penance, [or be sorrowful for his sins,] but leadeth his life continually after the desires of his Hesh, overcome with the fiend, and the false world. For no man doeth true penance to God, but he that fully leaveth that sin for which he suffereth penance. Thus saith St. Augustine, ” They make a feigned shrift to a priest, and take part of sacraments; they build churches, and find priests to read and sing. They relieve the poor needy, and mend places that are perilous, but still they are hard congealed as frost, in old custom of sin.” Upon this saith Gregory, “He that giveth meat or clothing to the poor needy, and is defouled in wickedness of body and soul, that which is most, he giveth to sin, that which is least, he giveth to righteousness.” His goods he giveth to God, himself to the devil. For he setteth more price by worldly riches, than he doth by the body or the soul, and loveth most that which God loveth least; wherefore his love is turned to hate.
God hath given to man five precious gifts. The least of all is worldly goods; better than these is man’s body which God hath endowed with natural strength, and granted in reason to use this world, himself to chastise, clothe, and feed. Above these two is man’s soul, which beareth God’s Image and his likeness. Lord ! what profit were it to win this world, and put loss to this soul? and the body is a hateful carrion when the soul is gone therefrom. But God’s grace passeth these three. For where this faileth, no wisdom availeth. Look these are not spent amiss, nor work beside their order; but that they stretch all to one end, to win the fifth, that is, the bliss of heaven, for ever. Thou that changest this order upside down, St. Paul asketh this question of thee; Whether despisest thou the riches of the goodness and patience, and long abiding of thy God? Knowest thou not that the goodness of God leadeth or ordaineth thee to penance? (repentance.) Yet after thine hardness, and unrepentant heart, thou treasurest to thee wrath in the day of wrath, and showing of righteous judgment of God, that shall yield to each man after his works, Romans 2.
Condition Five: Envy
The fifth sin is, envy of thy brother’s grace, [as when thy neighbour is wise, well governed, praised, or borne up, rich, wealthy, strong, fair or virtuous in abundance of grace, then this envious man slanders, upbraids, reproves, despises, hates, hinders, scorns, and pursues to defoul his brother’s grace as much as he may,] as the wise man saith, A man walking: in the highway, and dreading God, is despised of him that walketh in the wrong way.
When Jesus Christ cast out a devil from a man that was dumb, then scribes and pharisees, envious sects, that were a false private religion, slandered, that Christ wrought this miracle in Beelzebub that was prince of devils. Since these sects durst say thus to Christ, the head of man’s soul, how much worse should they dare to his followers? Thus prelates and friars in these days shamefully slander their simple brethren, that travail through Christ’s holy law to cast evil manners from their souls, preaching the gospel according to Christ’s intent, to turn the people to virtuous living. They have brought their malice about to slander for Lollards, those that speak of God, and they drive the people from the faith, that they dare not work or speak for slander. But assuredly they are not worthy Christ, that stay for the barking of these hounds. For none is worthy to be with this Lord who is ashamed to be in his service, in weal or in wo. And such men show themselves traitors to God, who with their slanders hinder their brethren, and say, the fiend may and will make wise his members that serve him in sin, but so will not Christ his loved servants, who live in cleanness, to serve him in virtue. This dispute stretches unto the Godhead, to be punished in the day of judgment. That a priest should not be hindered to preach the truth, nor God’s people to speak of their belief, is openly taught in the book of Numbers 11. There it is read that Eldad and Medad prophesied, although they were not licensed by Moses. Joshua grudged against these men, and made his plaint unto Moses; and Moses said, Why art thou envious for me? Who may forbid that all the people prophesy? and God grant his Spirit unto them. This is confirmed in the gospel. St. John said unto Christ, We have seen a man casting out devils in thy name, who followeth not us, and we have forbidden him. Jesus said, Forbid him not. Alas! How dare our bishops for shame offend against these God’s laws. Here the enemies of truth object, and bring Paul, where he saith, Romans 10. How shall they preach unless they are sent? With this they blind many folk, cutting the meaning from the words. For Paul meaneth that priests should preach, for they are sent both of God nud of the bishop, to do that office. How shall these bishops maintain their constitutions against their God, and holy sects? It shall be more sufFerable to Sodom and Gomorrah, than to this people that disturb God’s ordinance.
Condition Sixth: Opposing Truth
The sixth sin is, fighting against the truth which a man knoweth. That is, when the truth is told to the guilty who disposes himself not to be amended, then he makes blind ungrounded reasonings, with subtle arguments and foul sophistications, and damneth the truth against his conscience, with a bold forehead that cannot shame, as the prophet saith, Jeremiah 3. As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses in the sight of Pharaoh, so these againstand the truth, men corrupted in their minds. St. Peter calleth these men by name, when he saith, These are master-liars that shall bring in among the people sects of perdition. Though ye rise with Lucifer, and make yourselves nests among the stars, from thence ye shall be drawn and thrown to the ground. When will ye mark the words of Christ, who curseth you for your apostasy, and for that ye pull children from their fathers? Christ saith unto you, (Matthew 23) Wo to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, that compass about the sea and the land, to make you a novice; and when ye have found him, ye make him a hell-brand double than yourselves. As the foolishness of Pharaoh’s philosophers was made known, so the false impugning of the truth by these subtle hypocrites shall speedily be made open. All men take heed of these six sins.