Introduction

[Based on the Holt edition, ll. 1-108]

All humankind, from Adam, was made from the earth by the Lord, continually to Christ’s death on the rood was coming; he went to hell entirely for that sin that Adam had committed, in that he disregarded God’s commandment for little need, for he could [have] preserved himself well, if he wished to preserve himself, from that only tree that the Lord had forbidden, there where he found [it] among other trees, good enough trees. And because he went against the Lord by his own accord, thus the great wretch was placed back into that misery rightly.

Because the great misery was indeed that all folk went to hell, to be there without end because of one man’s sin, and it was nevertheless incredibly right, which you know well indeed, that all folk were rendered guilty because Adam was rendered guilty, for all folk were that same race that Adam had generated. And all folk were rendered guilty, therefore, when Adam was rendered guilty.

Adam happened to become the devil’s servant in that he did his will, and all those who were begotten through him were generated in that same [way], to be under the devil’s service and all to go to hell. And it was proper that humankind was under the devil’s power, just as Adam was, who had generated them all, as it is here between you and your earthly lord, for as you serve him, so your son shall serve him, unless he is freed from his service bonds.

Now you can see that it was right that humankind went to hell after Adam went, who had generated them all, and all went wholly, therefore, to hell’s darkness—yes, those who were good people; yes, those who were evil. There were many good people before Christ’s coming who pleased God through holy life and through innocence, and, nevertheless, not any person can escape out of the devil’s bond and out of hell-power through his good deeds. But as soon as the time came that God wished to correct it, God grieved for humans and because he was made from the earth.

Of all the angel-flock that fell from heaven’s place to hell, he did not grieve so that he wished to release them from pain because they were not guilty through the infirmity of the flesh, but through that loathsome pride that comes wholly from themselves. Thus, he did not grieve himself for them, nor for their pain, but the Lord grieved for man because he was made from the earth.

And as soon as the time came that God wished to release us out of the hateful spirit’s bond, out of the devil’s power, he immediately sent us his word, his knowledge, his Son, his power, his nature to receive our human nature, to become human on earth, to release humankind out of the devil’s power through his death.

But you all ought to understand here that St. John the Baptist was born in this middle-earth through God’s dear will, to come forth among humans, to preach and to baptize before Christ Almighty God, to prepare his ways. Just as a messenger ought to be sent to prepare and to furnish way in advance for his lord there where he shall come soon, just in that way John came before Christ’s coming, to prepare people for Christ, to receive with his instruction. And here I will show you all how St. John the Baptist was sent by God before Christ, to prepare Christ’s ways.

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