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ly, I shall exhibit in their own language the declarations of all the more important fathers. Fifthly, I shall consider the Acts of the Councils, from the first Council of Carthage to the Council of Trent, and the Council of Milan; in connection with which I shall discuss the forms of Confession in use, from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries, and the change in the words of absolution, from the ancient mode of prayer to the novel form of, “ I absolve thee.” Sixthly, I shall quote largely from the admissions of the most candid of the Roman ecclesiastical historians. And, seventhly, I shall notice the practical proof of experience, to show the total inefficacy of the Roman discipline, and the utter absurdity of placing it in competition with the unerring teaching of the Bible, as a guard of Christian morals, or an incentive to Christian piety. Thus I hope to furnish to my readers what may fairly be considered The History of the Confessional ; in which the gradual changes will be marked, and its progress be made manifest to any reasonable and reflecting understanding; and the result, I trust, will demonstrate the comparative novelty and dangerous errors of the Roman scheme, and the truth and scriptural authority of our own really catholic and primitive system.
It may be necessary to add, that I have endeavored throughout to base my arguments so far as my subject allowed on the evidence acknowledged by the Romanists themselves, in order that their own witnesses might be compelled to prove their innovations. For this reason I have generally quoted the Scriptures from their own Doway Bible. I have cited the Latin fathers from their own editions, and the Greek fathers and Councils from their own Latin versions; and at the end of the volume I have append. ed all my authorities in full, each extract being marked with its own number; so that every scholar who may choose to undertake the task, can test for himself the fidelity of my translation.
And now I submit my work to the reader, only warning him beforehand that a patient and attentive perusal will be required on his part, if he would derive from it any serious benefit. May the labor which it has cost me be made useful, by the Divine blessing, to the establishment of truth, and I shall ask no other reward.
THE ROMAN DOCTRINE STATED IN THE CATECHISM OF
THE COUNCIL OF TRENT.
That all men are sinners, by nature and by practice, against the laws of the Almighty, and that the forgiveness of sin is only promised through “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” --that gracious Redeemer " who died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification”—these are propositions about which, among Christians, there can be no dissension. The questions which I am pledged to discuss do not directly impugn these simple elements of divine truth, but turn altogether upon the authority of the clergy to compel sinners to confess their sins in secret to the priest, and to receive from his lips the conveyance of absolution, as well as the positive injunction to perform such acts of penance as he may think fit to appoint by way of satisfaction, in order that they may have assurance of forgiveness, and be admitted, as worthy partakers, to the communion of the faithful in the Church on earth, and to the society of the blessed in the kingdom of Heaven.
According to the order which I have prescribed, I have to set forth, in the first place, from the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Roman doctrine upon the whole subject of what they call the Sacrament of Penance. It is a long and ingenious document, and I must bespeak for it a careful perusal.
“ As the frailty and weakness of human nature are universally known and felt,” saith this celebrated Catechism, no one can be ignorant of the paramount necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. Its exposition demands an accuracy superior to that of Baptism. Baptism is administered but once, and can not be repeated; Penance may be administered, and becomes necessary, as often as we may have sinned after Baptism, according to the definition of the Fathers of Trent. For those who fall into sin after Baptism,' say they, the Sacrament of Penance is as necessary to salvation as is Baptism for those who have not been already baptized. On this subject the words of S. Jerome, which say that Penance is 6 a second plank,' are universally known, and highly commended by all who have written on this sacrament. As he who suffers shipwreck has no hope of safety unless, perchance, he seize on some plank from the wreck; so he that suffers the shipwreck of baptismal innocence, unless he cling to the saving plank of Penance, may abandon all hope of salvation.”*
“ But to enter more immediately on the subject, and to avoid all error to which the ambiguity of the word may give rise, its different meanings are first to
* Catechism of the Council of Trent, first Am. ed., p. 234-5.
CHAP. II.] MEANINGS OF THE WORD PENANCE. 15 be explained. By penance some understand satisfaction; while others, who wander far from the doctrine of the Catholic faith, supposing penance to have no reference to the past, define it to be nothing more than newness of life. The pastor, therefore, will teach that the word (pænitentia) has a variety of meanings. In the first place, it is used to express a change of mind; as when, without taking into account the nature of the object, whether good or bad, what was before pleasing is now become displeasing to us. In this sense the apostle makes use of the word when he
applies it to those whose sorrow is according to the world, not according to God, and therefore worketh not salvation, but death. In the second place, it is used to express that sorrow which the sinner conceives for sin, not, however, for the sake of God, but for his own sake. A third meaning is, when we experience interior sorrow of heart, or give exterior indication of such sorrow, not only on account of the sins which we have committed, but also for the sake of God alone whom they offend.
To all these sorts of sorrow the word (pænitentia) properly applies.”*
“When the sacred Scriptures say that God repented, the expression is evidently figurative. When we repent of any thing, we are anxious to change it; and thus when God is said to change any thing, the Scriptures, accommodating their language to our ideas, say that He repents. Thus we read that it repented Him that He had made man. And also that it repented Him to have made Saul king. But an important distinction is to be made between these different significations of the word : to repent, in its first meaning, argues imperfection; in its second, the agitation of a disturbed mind; in the third, penance is a
Catechism of the Council of Trent, first Am. ed., p. 235-6.
virtue and a sacrament, the sense in which it is here used."*
“ We shall first treat of penance as a virtue, not only because it is the bounden duty of the pastor to form the faithful, with whose instruction he is charged, to the practice of every virtue, but also because the acts which proceed from penance as a virtue, constitute the matter, as it were, of penance as a sacrament; and if ignorant of it in this latter sense, it is impossible not to be ignorant, also, of its efficacy as a sacrament. The faithful, therefore, are first to be admonished and exhorted to labor strenuously to attain this interior penance of the heart, which we call a virtue, and without which exterior penance can avail them very little.
little. This virtue consists in turning to God sincerely and from the heart, and in hating and detesting our past transgressions, with a firm resolution of amendment of life, hoping to obtain pardon through the mercy of God. It is accompanied with a sincere sorrow, which is an agitation and affection of the mind, and is called by many a passion. It must, however, be preceded by faith, for without faith no man can turn to God.”+
“ That penance is a virtue, may also be inferred from the ends which the penitent proposes to himself. The first is to destroy sin, and efface from the soul its every spot and stain; the second, to make satisfaction to God for the sins which he has committed ; and this is an act of justice toward God. Between God and man, it is true, no relation of strict justice can exist, so great is the distance between the Creator and the creature; yet between both there is evidently a sort of justice, such as exists between a fa
* Catechism of the Council of Trent, first Ám. ed., Ibid., p. 236-7.