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is no example in the Acts of persons confessing their sins, after baptism, either to the apostles or to any one else. But the main point to be remarked is, that the Roman Catechism states the system of auricular confession to the priest as a thing of divine institution, grounded on the express commission of Christ, saying, “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted,” &c. (which I have already shown to be connected with baptism, p. 71); while Basil, on the contrary, claims no such authority, but places his rule on the analogy of human discretion, comparing the case of sinners disclosing their transgressions to the priests with the custom of sick men telling their diseases to the physicians. Secondly, he says nothing of secrecy, nor of private absolution, nor of any sacramental vir. tue connected with the act of the priest, all of which are indispensable to the Roman system. Thirdly, the very fact that such questions were propounded on be. half of the monks, affords reasonable evidence that the priests of those days had not yet arrogated any such prerogative. Fourthly, the rule for the monasteries must be understood in consistency with the other passages, where Basil speaks of penitence according to the old practice of keeping transgressors from the communion for years together, and exhorts sinners to disclose to their brethren, without shame, those sins which had been secretly committed. But lastly and especially, when Basil speaks of confessing their sins before those who are able to cure them, he evidently makes no allusion to any act of priestly absolution, but only to the results of pastoral oversight; for he explains himself by saying, that the sins were to be “ taken away by care and diligence."
And with this accords the testimony of Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen, the cotemporary and friend of
Basil. I shall cite him, therefore, as my eleventh witness to the established system of the primitive day:
“Do not think it grievous to confess thy sin, knowing in what covenant John baptized: that by the shame of the present life thou mayest escape the shame and ignominy of the life to come, and mayest make it manifest that thou hatest and detestest sin, seriously and sincerely, while thou dost treat it as if worthy of contumely, and expose it to scorn, and accomplish thy triumph over it." -(App., Note 36.)
These reiterated exhortations of the ancient fathers to disregard the shame of public penitence, in order to obtain the pardon of their sins, afford the strongest proof that the papal system had not been yet invented. For why should any man expose himself to a public disgrace who could obtain equal benefit from a private tribunal of strict secrecy? And why should he be told to wait for years without absolution and restoration to the communion, when he could receive them both by the secret authority of a single priest without any delay whatever ?
But it is time to close this chapter, lest I weary the patience of my readers by too long a list of proofs without the relief of an occasional pause. many witnesses to bring forward, and I must invoke the spirit of persevering attention, in order that their evidence may be considered with care and reflection, and that the labor of collecting their testimony be not in vain.
I have yet
TESTIMONY OF AMBROSE AND JEROME.
AMBROSE, the celebrated bishop of Milan, is my twelfth witness to prove the established doctrine and practice of the primitive Church, and his testimony may be taken as extending from the year 374, when he was made bishop, to the year 397, when he died. My extracts from this author are so numerous, that it will be expedient to classify them under the following heads : 1. The publio and the private exercise of penitence. 2. The mode of performing private penitence. 3. The mode of performing public penitence. 4. The absolution given by the priesthood when the penitent was restored to the communion. 5. The general results of the divine correction and discipline to the penitent sinner.
1. The Public and the Private Exercise of Penitence. • Those persons are justly to be censured who think that penitence may be exercised often, because they grow wanton in Christ; for if they would exercise penitence truly, they would not think of repeating it afterward, because, as there is but one baptism, so there is but one penitence, which, nevertheless, is performed publicly, for we ought to repent, indeed, of our daily sin; but this penitence is for lighter offenses, that for the more weighty."-(App., Note 37.)
Here we see Ambrose asserting the same doctrine of one exercise of public penitence, and no more, which Tertullian had recognized nearly two centuries earlier. But daily private penitence was held by all the fathers to be a constant duty.
2. The Mode of performing Private Penitence. " I said, O LORD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME; HEAL MY SOUL, FOR I HAVE SINNED AGAINST THEE. This may also have been said in the person of King David, who, seeing in the Spirit the victory and grace of Christ, asks that in that remission of all sins He would have mercy also upon his. Therefore he confesses his sin, that he may receive forgiveness, and may find the gift of general pardon."—(App., Note 38.)
" He saith further, I WILL DECLARE MY INIQUITY TO THE LORD. It is not enough, however, that we confess our error; but if we desire also to be corrected, let us ask of the Lord that He will teach us His righteousness, lest we may err again. Therefore he seeks to be taught by the Lord, because One is our Master, as saith Christ. Nor does he seek this in vain, for he is not blessed whom man teacheth, but he whom Thou instructest, O Lord.”—(App., Note 39.)
“ Therefore he whose sins Christ has pardoned, rightly saith: Recompense thy servant, that I may live, and I will keep thy word. As in the book of the prophet He himself testifies, saying, I, I am He who blotleth out thine iniquities, and will remember them
Whoever, therefore, declares his iniquities to the Lord, is justified; and whoever is justified, does not fear recompense, but asks for it; and he who does not fear recompense shall live.”—(App. Note 40.)
• But humility recommends prayer. Thus that Pharisee was reproved who enumerated his fasts as if they were benefits, and, as it were, thrust them before God, and counted himself guilt less of all transgressions. But the publican was commended, who, standing afar off, would not lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, O Lord God, be merciful to me a sinner. And so the divine sentence preferred him, saying, This publican went down justified rather than the Pharisee. For he is justified who confesses his own sin, as the Lord himself has testified: Declare thine iniquities, that thou mayest be justified." -(App., Note 41.)
All this may be properly understood of the daily private exercise of penitence, and here there is no allusion whatever to the intervention of the priest, or the tribunal of sacerdotal confession, but the whole is the habitual utterance of the humble soul direct to God, followed by the divine acceptance and blessing.
111 I have next, however, to consider the statements of our author under a different head.
3. The Mode of performing Public Penitence. “He who exercises penitence ought to be prepared to bear opprobrium, and submit to reproaches, nor should he be moved if any one taunts him with his crime. For when he should accuse himself, why should he not bear the accusation of another?" -(App., Note 42.)
Father, saith the prodigal son, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. This is the first confession to the Author of nature, the Prince of mercy, the Judge of guilt. But although God knows all things, He waits for the voice of thy confession. For with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. In vain wouldst thou conceal aught from Him, whom nothing can deceive, and thou mayest disclose without danger what thou art aware is already known. Rather confess that Christ may undertake for thee, for He is our Advocate with the Father; let the Church pray for thee, and let the people weep. Nor shouldst thou fear that thou wilt not obtain. Thine Advocate assures thee pardon, thy Patron promises grace, the Proclaimer of paternal piety pledges to thee a reconciliation. Believe, because it is truth : submit, because it is virtue.”—(App., Note 43.)
“ I have found more easily those who have preserved their innocence than those who have exercised penitence thoroughly. Can any one deem that to be penitence where there is the ambition of acquiring dignity, and the pouring out of wine, and the use even of conjugal pleasure? The world should be renounced; the very sleep which nature requires should be abridged; he must be hindered by groanings, interrupted by sighs, drawn off by prayers; he must live as if dead to the uses of mortality; the man must deny himself and be wholly changed.”—(App., Note 44.)
“ If any one, therefore, having committed secret crimes, would nevertheless, for Christ's sake, diligently exercise penitence, how does he receive the fruits of penitence if the communion is not restored to him? I will that the culprit should hope for pardon ; let him seek it with tears, let him seek it with groanings, let him seek it with the bowailings of all the people, let him beseech that he may be forgiven; and when his communion is delayed a second and a third time, let him believe that he has supplicated too remissly, let him increase his weeping, let him afterward return more wretched, let him embrace