The Angel Answerd
to this Question
`Now', quod this Angel,
`take hede a lytel what I shal sey to the, and as I
suppose I shal appese the somwhat. Sothe it is, if a
man would telle the that he had eten notes, thou
woldest nought vnderstonde that he had ete the bark
of the note, ne the scale withouten, but only that
he had eten the kernel. And yet it is euerydele to
geders cleped the note.
`Ryght so it is of Helle, as it is of a note. The kernel, that is al withynne as the principal parte of the note, is kouered withoute with three partes.`Fyrst & next the kernel is the pyle, that is as it were the bordure of this kernel, whiche closith it aboute, right as an appel is closid with the parynge. Thenne calle I this kernel the bytter peynes of Helle after the ryght name, where al tho ben put that by their owne consent hauen deserued the eternal wrecche & indignacion of our Souerayne Lord.
`But in this bordure withouten, ther ben put the children that ben not baptised ne clensid fro Synne Orygenal, ne hauen not deserued in dede the hye wreeche of God. They ben alwey ther in derkenes, and neuer perceyuen lyght. The peyne of these is only that they lacken the syght of God, and alwey shall lacke, as doctours haue determyned.
`This is cleped the peyne of harme that is withouten felyng. Here in this mater many mans hertes ben gretely enbryked, and they asken this question: how myght it stande, that God, whiche is not only ryghtwys, but pyteous and merciful, and of his Mercy, as Dauyd seith, there may be lymyted none ende ne nombre, that he shold thus punysshe sely sowles to endeles dampnacion of peyne and derkenesse, that neuer offendid in thought ne in dede, but only ben infecte with the Synne Orygenal? And why ne may nought the Passion of Criste stande them in stede of socour and saluacion, that neuer ne synned, although they were nought wesshen personelly, as wel as it did them that were before Cristes deth, that hadden some of them full greuously offendyd bothe in thought and dede personelly? And why shold the good Lord sorer punysshe the synne of Adam in such an innocent withouten ony mercy than he dyd the sore synnes of many mysdoers that after, by theyr owne repentaunce & by the Passion of Cryst, were fully releuyd & brouht in to the hye ioye of Paradys, namely syth hym self seyth by the prophete37 "The b sone shal not bere thec synnes of the fader, ne thed fader shal not bere thee synne of [46r]38 the sone, but eueryche shal be punysshed for his owne forfet". For yf it so shold be that these innocent for defaute of baptym shold be tormented in eternal peyne, it semeth that the Passion of Crist shold harmen theym, as by occasion hit sholde, be cause of theyr meschyef. For had not Crist ben incarnatid ne suffred Passion, than had not baptym be nedeful, or elles it shold not haue auayled, ne no creature haue ben dampned for defaute therof, none other wise but as they were bifore the Incarnacion of Crist?'
To this ansuerd myn Angel, & said in this wise. `As touchyng this mater, the soth it is, that Seynt Austyn holdeth vtterly, & Holy Chirche sewyng, his sentence, whiche sentence is grounded in the wordes of Cryste to Nychodemus, as Seynt Iohn39 recordeth. He seith that an Innocent dyeng withoute baptym is dampned withouten ende, & soth it is. But thenne nedeth hit not to taken this dampnacion so largely, that this Innocentes shold be peyned & tormented, lyke to that haue deseruyd peynes by theyr vnthryfty werkes. But they ben dampned, that is to seye excludid and exiled, for euer oute of the ioyeful Presence of our Lord, lackynge the reward and that mede that a Cristen man shal haue by merite of Cristes Passion. And this peyne is clepyd peyne of harme. But peyne of felyng haue they none at alle, for fire ne hete of fyre felyn they. Only they ben in derkenes, not knowyng of ioye, ne nought felyng of peyne ne sensyble dysese.
`And sothe it is that God ne punyssheth them not sorer than tho in the Old Testament, but ryght as in that tyme he that lacketh the Prerogatyf of Blysse that to that Lawe bilongeth, yeuen of God to his chosen peple, ryght so these in the Newe Testament that lacken the lauement of baptym shalle lacken also the Grace that bylongeth of ryght to euery trewe Cristen.
`Ne this sentence of oure Lord that the sone shal not bere the synne of the fader is nought to vnderstande so largely, that it stretche to the Synne of Adam, fader of mankynde, for only that Synne it is, for whiche the Innocentes nought baptised hauen this greuous damage. But the actuel synnes of their forn faders ne shal not be punysshed vpon the children, ne the childers synne vppon their rather faders, excepte that if either haue yeue cause and occasyon of synne to other, than shal these causers of that synne be punysshed, and nought therby the synners be excused.
`And leue it wel, thatf though the passiong of Crist profite not these Innocentesh to their ful saluacioni , yet it profiteth them so moch thatj Sathanas lyeth loken in the depthe of Helle, so that he ne may not, ne none of his mynystres, [44r] annoyen ne tormenten none Innocent, as their malyce wold, ne harmen none persone, but by his owne assent, or by specyal leue yeuen hym of oure Lord aboue.
`We haue made in this mater ouer long digression, for yet haue we to speke of the thyrdde parte of this note. That is the schale, whiche I lykene to this present peyne of Purgatory whiche thou felyst. As now it nedeth nought to telle the therof.
Aboue this noteshale isk the couerynge that we clepyn the huske, wherto I lyke this ouer spere whiche I clepid rather Abrahams Bosome, in to whiche oure Lord Ihesu descendid and spoiled it of the chosen sowles that had hym plesid in Erthe.
`Wherfore thou shalt nought suppose that Holy Chirche erre in this mater, for as these four partes ben clepyd the hole note, ryght soo al these four places to geders ben clepyd Helle within and withoute, as for to speke largely. But streytely for to taken Helle, as comyn fok conceyueth, hit is only that place of meschyef where that dampned soules ben peyned and tormented.
`Thorugh oute this ouermost bordure of Abrahams Bosome passen al pylgryms when they ben purged, for I vnderstande wel the tyme that many of oure forn faders, that were ful holy men and ryghtwys, in the Old Testament, were here in Purgatory brennyng theyr fardels, as thy self dost, ful long tormentid in this fire, in to the tyme that oure Lorde of his Mercy delyuerd them froo thens, and lete them passe in to this ouer place, there to abyden withoute peyne, sauf only lack of his ioyeful Presence, in to the tyme of his Gracious Comynge for mannes saluacion, when that hit plese hym to bycome man and dye for mannes sake. For in to that tyme the entre in to Paradys was closyd soo fast, that none ne miht entre, al were he neuer so rihtwys, or neuer so clene purged of synne. But after tyme that he hadde suffred dethe for mannes redempcion, the entre was opened, andl he had them thenne oute of that place in to hye Heuene.'
What tyme that al this parlement was fynysshed, thennem sayd to me myn Aungel `hit is now tyme', quod he, `that thou see other thynges, wherof thou mayst haue mynd herafter, and mater for to preyse and thanke thy Blysful Lord God.'
And soo he took me anone by the hand, ledyng me with hym. And not for that, yet lefte me not the brennynge that I felte before, but alwey my peynes shewed me where I yede, or elles that I wente alweye costeyenge this fyre whiche was wele more than alle the Erthe. For withynne it wasn [44v] enclosed the Erthe and al that was therynne.
So in the eyre along by the Erthe I wente, as me semyd, as I byfore haue vsed for to goo, but moche more lyghtely and subtyly, so that ther was no walle so hard ne soo thycke, ne toure ne hous so strong, that let me of my weye. The sonne hath nought more lyghter passage thorugh oute the glas, than was my passage thorugh oute al thyng where that I went. And soo sawe I other goo also wel as I, that with me were in the same peyne.