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we, since in their Common Prayer Book, in the order for the Visitation of the Sick, we find this rubric: “ Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession the priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it) after this sort:
“ Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
How do you prove from the text above quoted of John xx. 22, 23, and Matt. xviii. 18, the necessity of the faithful confessing their sins to the pastors of the church, in order to obtain the absolution and remission of them ?
Because, in the text above quoted, Christ has made the pastors of the Church his judges in the court of conscience, with commission and authority to bind, or to loose, to forgive, or to retain sins, according to the merits of the cause, and the disposition of the penitents. Now, as no judge can pass sentence without having a full knowledge of the cause; which cannot be had in this kind of causes, which regard men's consciences, but by their own confession; it clearly follows, that he who has made the pastors of the Church the judges of men's consciences, has also laid an obligation upon the faithful to lay open the state of their consciences to them, if they hope to have their sins remitted. Nor would our Lord have given to his Church the power of retaining sins, much less the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. xvi. 19, if such sins as exclude men from the kingdom of heaven might be remitted independently of the keys of the Church.
Have you any other texts of scripture which favour the Catholic doctrine and practice of Confession
Yes. We find in the old law, which was a figure of the law of Christ, that such as were infected with the leprosy, which was a figure of sin, were obliged to show themselves to the priests, and subject themselves to their judgment. See Lev. xiii. and xiv., Matt. viii. 4. Which, according to the holy Fathers, was an emblem of the confession of sins in the sacrament of penance. And in the same law a special confession of sins was expressly prescribed. Num. v. 6, 7. “ When a man or woman shall conimit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty: Then they shall confess their sins which "they have done." The same is prescribed in the New Testament, James v. 16, “ Confess your faults one to another ;" that is, to the priests or elders of the Church, whom the apostle had ordered to be called for, ver. 14. And this was evidently the practice of the first Chris
Acts xix. 18," Many that believed, came and confessed, and showed their deeds." The passages quoted from SS, John and Matthew are those upon which the Pope and his clergy found their claims to bless or curse whom they please*. But, before we proceed farther, we must beg here to notice a Popish reason which will be seen in the fifth chapter, where we are told that, as an excuse for taking the cup from the laity, Christ, when he said, “ Drink ye all of it,” only addressed himself to the Apostles who were the ALL.-And who, we ask, were those to whom he addressed himself when he said, “Whosesoever sins ye remit,” &c. ? However, this method of Popish reasoning is too contemptible for us to follow, since we are opposed to Garnet's Safeguard of Equivocation t. Let us examine the question on its own merits; but we must once more protest against the repeated efforts of Popery to assimilate her own tenets-mor drawing any invidious comparisons between them and those of the Reformed Church; a Church which, to say the very least of it, holds the doctrine of auricular confession as decidedly hostile to Scripture, and most subversive of morality. Christ, undoubtedly, used the expressions quoted from John and Matthew-expressions in themselves clear and explicit ; and which, we think, none but men who deemed their temporal interests of more importance than their spiritual welfare could have misinterpreted; but we do not see quite so clearly as the Pope and Dr. Challoner, that by these words the most distant allusion is made to a Pope; and, it so happened, that there was not a Christian at Rome at the time Christ spoke them. The Scriptures do not tell us that either of the Apostles was a Bishop of Rome, nor that Peter was ever there, as was Paul; but assuming that he had been there, and that he had appointed a successor, &c. &c., by the same rule that the Pope claims a right of granting or selling pardons, every Christian may,
* By the Bulla in Coena Domini (read annually at Rome), “the excommunication and anathematization of all Heretics whatsoever, and their favourers,” &c. is too clearly expressed to be misunderstood by the most credulous; all Protestant and Popish sovereigns also, who do not annul, &c. all laws contrary to the tenor of this Bull, are alike objects of its ban; and as such a circumstance never occurred, nor ever will occur, all the world are anathematized ; and (by the 24th Section of Paul V.) past the power that Pope, or any of his successors, to absolve them !!!The Uni. versity of Coimbra says (Hist. des Papes, tom.v. p. 476,) it “knows that by the mouth of the Sovereign Pontiff it is God himself who speaks”!!!-(See p. 32.)
† Henry Garnet, the Jesuit, whom Romanists venerate as a martyr, and whom Protestants execrate as a traitor. We will meet each party half-way, in the words of Mr, Townsend, (Accus, of Hist., p. 278) “He died the death of a hypocrite, for his falsehood was justified by his faith ; and he might have believed it to be sanctioned by his Church. By wickedness he would have served God; by equivocation he would have supported religion. He died a martyr, a liar, and a traitor !"
This Garnet was one of the principal conspirators against the British throne and nation, and who complotted with the King of Spain to send over troops to destroy buth, the year previous to Elizabeth's death. In 1604, he was a chief agitator of the Gunpowder plot; and on the 1st day of October in that year, as Mr. Townsend tells us, (p. 265) “Garnet openly prayed for the good success of the great action, about to happen at the commencement of the Parliament." This wretched man was the patronizer of a book, (see the above work, p. 271) entitled " Treatise on Equivocation," which was written " in defence of lying and fraudulent dissimulation," wherein such holy exertious might be deemed necessary by afflicted Papists, who could thus do justice to the “good cause” of Popery and save themselves_by equivocation! Arch-priest Blackwell also approved of this book. It was found in the desk of Francis Tresham (a colleague of Garnet's in the Gynpowder plot) after his death. Speaking of the perjuries of Garnet, “This,” says Sir Edward Coke, (in a letter to Lord Salisbury, dated March 24, 1605-6State Paper, No. 208.) “This is the fruit of equivocation, (the book whereof was found in Tresham's desk,) to affirm manifest falsehoods, upon his salvation, in ipso articulo mortis. It is true, no man may judge in this case ; but it is the most fear. ful example that I ever knew to be made so evident as this is.".
in the name of Christ, (Mark xvi. v. 18.) “take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.' These expressions were used by our Saviour at the same time as those above :
-Yet who, save Prince Hohenlohe alone, has appeared publicly to the world, as a miracleworker in the present age, and even his Highness has evinced a most judicious shrewdness in chiefly confining his operations to the nervous ladies within the walls of some cloister, who, we apprehend, very naturally exerted themselves, in aid of the pious endeavours of the Prince, to effect their own recovery?
No Christian can doubt the miraculous powers conferred upon the Apostles, nor of their power of conferring them upon others :-Yet, who but ignorant or bigoted Papists, if we may assume there are such, believe that this power still
exists? And is it for erring mortals, such as we are, to inquire when the Almighty thought fit no longer to place such power in the creatures of his hand ?
We have already said, when the Reformation took place no alterations were made for the sake of novelty. In the year 1548, our most learned Bishops reduced the principles and forms of the Protestant religion as nearly as possible to the primitive standard of the first and purest ages of Christianity; and to which end they carefully inspected the Missals, Breviaries, Rituals, Pontificals, Graduals, Psalters, Antiphonals, and all other service books, then in use*. The criticism of envious malignity cannot impugn our Liturgy ; and why are we to be told by Popery that by the Rubric alluded to we acquiesce in her doctrines, which we decidedly reject ? The Protestant clergyman does not seek to obtain a confession of a sick penitent as a necessary means of his (the penitent’s) salvation; on the contrary, he tells the sinner truly to repent, and implore the pardon of his God, who can alone judge of his sincerity. But if “any weighty matter” still hang upon his conscience-some guilty secret perhaps, by the disclosure of which the minister may prevent crime, or render some act of justice, &c.-should not such a secret be divulged? A Protestant minister is not bound to conceal confessions of intended murder, treason, &c. &c., so communicated by a dying penitent; and although the Protestant clergyman, by virtue of the promise of Christ to his Church, absolves the sinner if he truly repent, yet he does not assume a power which Christ did not leave to it:-he does not say, however contrite a heart may be offered up to Almighty God, it shall not be accepted by Divine Mercy, unless he himself be applied to, and first pass his own opinion of what portion of worldly annoyance he may think proper to inflict in the way of penance.
* See Downes’ Appendix to the Lives of the Compilers of the Liturgy, p. 150, at supra ; London, 1722.
penance. The Protestant clergyman does not affect a power of sending souls to heaven or hell, as they may purchase his indulgence, or deny his authority; in short, let any Popish priest who would insinuate to his followers that the Protestant minister teaches such doctrines as we have denied, make the statement plainly, and he will • soon be called upon for his proofs.
We deny that Christ ever made Popery a judge in “ the court of conscience,” and defy her to prove that there is the least allusion to her future existence made by Christ or his Apostles, throughout the whole of the Scriptures, otherwise than as the “ Antichrist” of the Revelations, if she choose so to apply it to herself. The Court of Inquisition is the court wherein the most clear explanations are given of the power of “ binding and loosing,” as it has been exerted by Popery. Why has not Pius IV. shown us his scriptural authorities for these establishments ? He was himself their patron and supporter; and his piety in publishing his Bull against those, who, in the most disgusting and horrible manner, abused the “sacramental confession,” might have been more eloquently expatiated upon by his admirers, had he not, after creating irremedial misery in hundreds of families, with the most condescending love for the “pastors of his Church” condemned their vices—to repose in eternal oblivion*. Pope Pius IV. could have told us by what means
*“ Those who solicit women, or boys, to dishonourable actions in the sacramental confession are subject to this tribunal (the Inquisition.) Pope Pius IV. published a bull against them; and when the bull was first brought into Spain, all persons were commanded by a public edict, solemnly published throughout the archbishopric of Seville, that whosoever knew or had heard of any monks or clergymen who had abused the sacrament of confession to these crimes, or had in any manner acted in this vile manner at confession with their wives or daughters, they should discover them within thirty days to the Holy Tribunal ; and very grievous censures were annexed lo such as should neglect or contemn it. When the decree was published, so large a number of women went to the palace of the Inquisitors in the city of Seville only, to make their discoveries of these most wicked confessors, that twenty Secretaries, with as many Inquisitors, were not sufficient to take the depositions of the witnesses! The lords Inquisitors being thus overwhelmed with the multitude of affairs, assigned another thirty days for the witnesses; and when this was not sufficient they were forced to appoint the same number a third and a fourth time! For, as to women of reputation, and others of higher condition, every time was not pro