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In treating the subject of confession, the catechist appears to labour under the pressure of contradictory and jarring ideas. The leading object of the question is to prove that confession is not necessary to salvation; still he has no objection to the practice, however painful and humiliating to nature : on one side, he disdains the ministry of the Catholic priest, who derives his authority from those, that can prove their connexion with Christ and his apostles ; while, on the other, he accepts the services of a minister of the Anglican church, who can trace his connexion no higher than to the civil power of the realm. As an obedient member of the church of England, he must also admit, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath left power in his church to absolve all sinners who truly repent; he must consequently acknowledge the validity of the absolution pronounced by the minister over the sick person, who has made a confession ; yet with a glorious inconsistency, which sets even ridicule at defiance, he is obliged to believe, at least exteriorly to profess, that penance, including confession, is not a sacrament grounded upon divine authority, but a mere ceremony, an unavailing formality, which may be omitted at pleasure.


Compare the Visitation of the Sick, in the Common Prayer Book, with the 25th Article.


That penance is a sacrament we have already shown, when we demonstrated the existence of seven sacraments; and of this no rational inquirer can entertain a doubt, even from the admission recorded in the book of Common Prayer. It is there solemnly asserted", that our Redeemer has left in his church a power of remitting sin by the ministry of the priest, who pronounces the words of absolution over the repenting sinner. Now such an admission is a clear acknowledgment of the existence of penance as a sacrament.

For what understand we by a sacrament, but a sacred sign, or an external rite, to which internal grace is annexed, by the positive institution of Christ himself ? To admit, therefore, the remission of sin by the ministry of the priest, and at the same time to deny the existence of the sacrament, by which sin is so remitted, forms such a palpable contradiction, as the ingenuity of man can never unravel.

That the confession of sin to a priest forms an essential part of this sacrament, is demonstratively evident from its very nature and properties, and from the terms in which it is established. We have only to recur to the mode, in which our Redeemer conveyed the knowledge of this celebrated institution: He first promised to establish a method of opening the kingdom of Heaven to those, who would otherwise have been excluded by their crimes ; and then he gradually proceeded to the performance of the promise thus deliberately given. He said to Peter', I will give unto thee the Keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatSOEVER thou shalt Bind on earth, shall be BOUND in Heaven; and WHATSOEVER thou shalt LOOSE ON earth, shall be LOOSED in Heaven. And again, to all the Apostles : VERILY I say unto you, WHATSOEVER you shall Bind on earth, shall be boundin Heaven; and WHATSOEVER You shall Loose on earth, shall be LOOSED in Heaven. After his resurrection, he redeemed this solemn pledge in the following manner: As my Father hath sent me, even so I SEND you. And when he had said this, he breathed upon them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost : WHOSESOEVER Sins yeremit, they are remitted unto them; and wHOSESOEVER sins ye retain, they are retained. Here our Redeemer, by the force of the grant, evidently constitutes his apostles, and consequently their lawful successors in the sacred ministry, physicians, to heal the wounds of sin, and judges, to pronounce on the cases that came under their cognizance. He does not, absolutely and without any restriction, direct them indiscriminately to absolve all sinners, without attention to their dispositions. The minister of Christ must provide suitable remedies, analogous to the spiritual wants of his penitents; he must suggest means by which depraved habits may be overcome, relapses may be prevented, and every obstacle to divine grace may be removed. By the nature of his office, established by this commission, he must, by a judicial act, determine who are to be BOUND, and who are to be LOOSED. Now let me ask the catechist, with a triumphant decision, which nothing under heaven can repress, how is all this to be accomplished without the use of confession? How is a physician to administer to the spiritual wants of his patient, unless these wants be revealed to him by the party concerned ? How is the judge to pass sentence, either of BINDING or LOOSING, without a knowledge of the cause, derived from the manifestation of the culprit ? There is no possible mode, open to the ingenuity of man, of carrying into effect the institution of Christ in this most momentous concern, but that which arises from the voluntary, humble, plain, entire, and submissive declaration of the penitent. Hence St. John, evidently alluding to the distinct remedy instituted by Christ for forgiving sin after baptism, and addressing himself to those who had been baptised, has these remarkable words : If

i Loc. cit.

1 Matt. xvi. 19.

2 Matt. xviii. 18.

3 John xx. 22, 23.

that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we coNFESS Our sins, he is FAITHFUL and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'. If the passage be compared with the direction of St. James?, Confess your faults one to another, for the obvious purpose of being forgiven, there will remain no doubt whatever that auricular confession was considered by the apostles as the regular and necessary mode, instituted by Christ, in order to obtain the remission of sin.

we say

Here the catechist may possibly exclaim, I admit confession, but that kind only which consists in confessing to God alone, by true contrition, or, in the language of David, with a contrite and humble heart, which God will not despise. The reply to this trite objection is extremely simple and obvious. A real and sincere sorrow for past sin, with a full determination of not sinning in future, is an indispensable step to obtain a reconciliation with God; but yet this is not all that is required. The same holy dispositions are required in an adult before baptism ; still that sacrament becomes necessary to salvation, because it is written, Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God'. In the same manner, a sincere sorrow, including a full and effectual resolution of avoiding all sin, and all the occasions of sin, is a previous disposition to confession, though it does not assuredly

1 1 John, i. 8, 9.

2 James, v.


3 John, iii. 5.

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