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supersede its use.
In fact, how can this power of forgiving sin, which my opponent admits to have been left by Christ to his church, be brought into operation, if the practice of confession be rejected ? How is the minister to find or to LOOSE, according to the circumstances of the case, but by a knowledge of the state of his penitent, derived from his voluntary declaration ? The duty of confession is, therefore, so intimately connected with the clear commission given by Christ to forgive sin, that their union must be pronounced to be inseparable and indissoluble.
This clear reply to an objection so ostentatiously produced by the catechist and his friends, I beg leave to confirm by the authority of the illustrious St. Augustine ; who, let it be remembered, closed a long life in the year 430. This holy father, after specifying sins which are deemed mortal or deadly, thus expresses himself:
Do penance in such a manner, 'as penance is done in the church ; that the church may pray for you. Let no one say to himself, I secretly do penance;
I do penance before God: God, who pardons me, knows that I do it in my heart.
. Therefore it has been said without effect: WHATSOEVER shall be LOOSED on earth, shall be LOOSED in Heaven. Without effect, therefore, have the keys been given to the church. Do we set at nought the gospel of God? do we cancel the
words of Christ ? Do we promise to you, what he refuses ? ?” This decisive authority of St. Augustine clearly holds up to view the practice of the church at a bright era, of which that great father was a distinguished ornament, and as clearly overturns all the wretched sophistry, subterfuges, evasions, and inconsistencies, which are adopted by the catechist and his friends, on this most momentous affair.
If the catechist would wish to see a more ancient authority than that of St. Augustine, let him read the work of Tertullian on Penance, and particularly the tenth chapter, where, speaking of those who delay the manifestation of their crimes in the order of doing penance, he represents them as persons consulting their feelings rather than their salvation ; and compares them to those who labour under some concealed disorder, and from fear of disclosing it to a physician, perish from an untoward bashfulness. On this interesting point he exclaims : conceal any thing from the knowledge of man,
- If we
· St. Aug. 49, Hom. in Verb. Apost. Legat. fungimur, &c. p. 181. tom. 10. edit. Colon. Agripp. 1616. Vid. etiam de pæniten. Dist. Can. agite. Agite poenitentiam, qualis agitur in Ecclesiâ, ut oret pro vobis ecclesia. Nemo sibi dicat, occulte ago, apud Deum ago: Novit Deus, qui mihi ignoscit, quia in corde ago. Ergo sine causâ dictum est, quæ solveritis in terrâ, soluta erunt in cælo ? Ergo sine causâ sunt claves datæ Ecclesiæ Dei? Frustramus Evangelium Dei? Frustramus verba Christi ? Promisimus vobis quod ille negat?
shall we hide it from God? Is it thus that the opinion of men and the omniscience of the Deity are placed in opposite scales ? Is it better thus to remuin concealed in a state of damnation, than openly to be absolved? That is truly a wretched mode of making a confession”l. Here Tertullian evidently speaks of confession as necessary to salvation ; and, as an essential preparation, to be juridically absolved by the priest. He confines it not to the declaration of public crimes, which, by the discipline of that age, were visited with public pains and penalties ; but extends to those secret transgressions, where shame prevents disclosure.
A short period after this, St. Cyprian speaks of the discipline of the same age, on this subject, in such a manner as to preclude all doubt. In his celebrated treatise On the Lapsed, he labours to induce sinners to declare not only their public and avowed crimes, but even their sins of thought, the secret designs of their hearts; and, in pursuing this direction, he says: “He (God) sees the hearts of each, and will pass sentence not only on actions, but on our words and our thoughts. He beholds the minds and wills of all mankind,
· Tertull. de Poenitent. c. 10. Videlicet si quid humanæ notitiæ subduxerimus, proinde et Deum celabimus ? Adeone existimatio hominum et Dei conscientia comparantur ? An melius est damnatum latere, quam palam absolvi. Miserum est sic ad exomologesim pervenire.
existing in the concealment of an interior receptacle. Finally, in proportion as persons are more eminent for faith, and the fear of the Lord, though they may not be chargeable with the crime of offering sacrifices to idols, or of having procured attestations to that effect, yet as they have thought of it, they confess this circumstance with grief and simplicity to the priests of God; they make a confession of their conscience ; they unload their souls ; they seek a salutary remedy for their small and inconsiderable wounds, well knowing that it is written: God is not mocked 1."
To this declaration of St. Cyprian in favour of private auricular confession, no rational objection can be made. For he clearly requires confession not only in the case of public crimes, which at that period were subjected to public penance, but he even demands the confession of transgressions comparatively inconsiderable, at the hazard of displeasing God. Deus non irridetur—God is not mocked. Accordingly, this and similar testimonies from the remotest antiquity, have had
St. Cyprian de Lapsis, versus fin: denique quanto et fide majores et timore meliores sunt, qui quamvis nullo sacrificii aut libelli facinore constricti, quoniam tamen de hoc vel cogitaverunt, hoc ipsum apud sacerdotes Dei dolenter et simpliciter confitentes exomologesim conscientiæ faciunt, animi sui pondus exponunt, salutarem medelam parvis licet et modicis exquirunt, scientes esse scriptum, Deus non irridetur.
such an effect among many protestant divines, that they have fairly given up the point in debate. Instead, therefore, of accumulating a mass of evidence from the holy fathers of the church, I have only to treat my opponent with a few specimens of honesty and candour, in which the fathers of the established church have acknowledged the truth.
“ It is confessed,” says the learned Bishop Montague, “that all priests, and none but priests, have power to forgive sins ; that private confession is a very ancient practice in the church. We urge it in extremes; we require it in cases of perplexity?.” This is a fair admission, but not more explicit than what is seen in the
pages Dove. “To advise,” says he, “the use of private confession to the priest, is no popish innovation, but agreeable to the constant practice of this church. And if any call it auricular, because private and in the priest's ear, I know not why they should be condemned of popery.” It appears from these evidences, that the doctrine of the Catholic church and that of the Protestant establishment, may be considered to be in accordance on the subject; except that the Catholic regards confession as a matter of strict and
i Gagger Gagged, p. 78, et seq. ? Dove's Innovations unjustly charged, p.557.