[Based on the Holt edition, ll. 1-334]
Now, Brother Walter, my brother in blood and Christendom, by baptism and in God’s house, also in a third way, by that rule-book we have taken to follow the order of canons and life, just as St Augustine set. I have done just as you asked and done your will.
I have turned into English the holy instruction of the Gospels according to the little knowledge that my Lord has granted me.
You thought that it might well turn into a great benefit if English folk, for love of Christ, would yearn to learn it, and follow it, and fulfill it with thought, with word, with deed. And therefore you wished that I ought to perform this work, and I have carried it out for you, but all through Christ’s help. And it behooves us both to thank Christ that it is brought to an end.
I have gathered in this book nearly all those Gospels that are in the Missal throughout the year at Mass and always after the Gospel stands [for] that which the Gospel means, that it behooves a person to preach to the people about the necessity of their soul. And still further you must find in there much more about that which Christ’s holy people ought to believe properly and follow.
I have placed here in this book among the Gospels’ words, all by myself, many words so as to fill the meter, but you must find that my words, anywhere they are added, can help those who read to see and understand it all the better, how it behooves them to understand the Gospel. And because I believe that you ought to endure well my words, you can find them anywhere among the Gospels’ words, for whosoever can tell a sermon of the Gospel to unlearned people, he can add many words properly among the Gospels’ words. And I cannot always fill my verse well with the Gospels’ words, and therefore very often I needed to put my words among the Gospels’ words in order to fill my verse.
And I entrust to you this book, as it appears to be a lofty duty, to examine entirely each verse, and to look through it often, so that in all this book be not one word against Christ’s instruction, nor one word that is not very right to believe and to follow.
We two ought to tread underfoot and entirely reject the opinion of all the hateful company, which is deceived through evil that derides what is to praise through malicious pride.
They must think scornfully of our labor, dear brother, and they must take it wholly in vain and in idleness, and not through skill, but all through evil, and all through their sin. And it behooves us two to beseech God that he forgive them their sin. And we both ought to love God from whom it was begun and thank God it is brought to an end by his help, for it can help those who gladly hear, love, and follow it with thought, with word, with deed.
And whoso shall desire to write in this book again another time, I ask him that he write it correctly, just as this book teaches him, throughout according to what it is upon this first example, with all the same meter as is placed here, with all the many words, and that he sees to it that he writes twice one letter anywhere that it is written in that way in this book. He must see to it that he writes it so, for he cannot write correctly the word in English otherwise, which he knows truly.
And if a person wishes to know why I have done this deed, why I have turned the Gospels’ holy instruction into English, I have done it because the salvation of all Christian folk is owing to that one, that Gospels’ holy teaching that they follow right with complete virtue through thought, through word, through deed, for that is needed ever on earth for Christian folk to follow in faith and in deed. The Gospels’ holy lessons teach them and thus whoever learns and follows it with deeds will be worthy to be saved by God in the end.
And therefore I have turned it into English speech because I wished earnestly that all English people should listen to it with ears, believe it with their heart, speak it with their tongues, follow it with their deeds to gain the soul’s true salvation by God in Christendom. And if they wish to hear it and follow it with deeds, I have helped them under Christ to gain their salvation.
And I shall have for my labor a good reward by God in the end, given that I, for the love of God and for the reward of heaven, have turned it into English for them for the necessity of their souls and if they reject it all, it will turn them to sin, and I shall have earned the Lord Christ’s mercy, by whom I have made this book for their souls’ need, though they reject it through pride.
The Gospel in English is called good word and good tiding and good message because it was made entirely by holy Gospel writers. [They] first came to write in a book of Christ about how the true God became human for the need of all humankind, and humankind was released from hell through his death. And he rose certainly from death on the third day, and, indeed, he went up into heaven, and he shall come again to judge all people and to pay each person according to their own deeds.
The Gospel brings us the good word, message, and tiding of all this, and thus it can properly be called a good message because one can see in the Gospel book seven goods our Lord Jesus Christ has done on earth for us. He came to people and became human on earth.
For one benefit the Lord Christ has done on earth for us: that he came to become human for the need of all humankind.
Another benefit the Lord Christ has done on earth for us: that he was baptized in the river Jordan for our need because he wished to consecrate the water-kind to our baptism for us, by which he wished to be baptized in water on earth himself.
The third benefit the Lord Christ has done on earth for us: that he gave his own life with his complete will, to endure death on the rood-tree guiltless without blame, to release humankind by his death from the devil’s power.
The fourth benefit the Lord Christ has done on earth for us: that his holy soul went from the rood down into hell to take out of hell-woe all those good souls that had pleased him in this life through true innocence.
The fifth benefit the Lord Christ has done on earth for us: that he rose from death on the third day for our benefit, and let the apostles see him well in his human nature because he wished to fasten such true belief in their breasts, that he, truly indeed, was risen up from death and in that same flesh that was nailed on the rood for us. Because he wished to fix well this belief in their breasts, he let the apostles see him often on earth the forty days after he resurrected.
The sixth benefit the Lord Christ has done on earth for us: that he went up into heaven’s bliss for our benefit, and afterwards sent the Holy Ghost to his learning-knights [disciples] to comfort and to encourage them to stand against the devil, to give them enough good knowledge of all his holy instruction, to give them good will, good virtue, to endure all the woes, all for the love of God and not to gain earthly praise.
The seventh good Lord Christ shall yet do on earth for us: he shall give us heaven’s bliss on Doomsday, if we are worthy of God’s grace.
Thus our Lord Christ has given us seven benefits through that which he came to humans to become human on earth. And in that holy book that is called Apocalypse, the apostle St. John wrote by the Holy Ghost’s instruction for us that he saw in heaven a book beset with seven seals and closed so well that no being can open without God’s holy Lamb whom he saw in heaven also. And through those seven seals, that sevenfold goodness that Christ did for us through his coming was signified very properly. And no being can open the seven seals without God’s Lamb, who came, for it must mean no being, no angel, no man, nor creature of any kind can, by himself, reveal those seven benefits to humankind, so that it can release humankind from hell, and not give humankind the will, the power, to gain heaven’s bliss.
And also God’s Lamb, entirely through his own power, can easily and well enough open those seven seals, as the Lord Jesus Christ, entirely by his own power, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God and all one nature, as truly well and easily enough he can wholly reveal to humankind by himself those seven seals so that he can release humankind from hell well enough and give humankind the love, desire, power, knowledge, and will to continue to please God to gain heaven’s bliss.
And because that holy Gospel book reveals to us all this goodness, this sevenfold goodness that Christ did for us through his mercy, thus all Christian folk ought to follow the Gospels’ instructions. And therefore I have turned it into English speech because I wished earnestly that all English people should listen to it with ear, believe it with heart, speak it with tongue, follow it with deed to gain true salvation of the soul by Christ in Christendom.
And may God Almighty grant us the power, desire, knowledge, and will to follow this English book that is entirely holy instruction so that we may be worthy to enjoy heaven’s bliss. Amen. Amen. Amen.
I have put this in English to teach English folk; there I was christened and named Orm. And I, Orm, very inwardly with mouth and also with heart, ask here those Christian people who hear or read this book, I ask they pray for me: that brother who first wrote and made this English writ, may he find true bliss as a reward for his labor. Amen.