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FORMS OF ABSOLUTION.
147 In the same strain, however, this eminent pontiff states the true quality of absolution constantly. Thus, in a letter to the Proconsul Marcellus, he writes as follows:
" And since you have asked that our absolution may be given you, it is fitting that you should satisfy our Redeemer with tears and the whole intention of your mind for these things, as duty requires; because, if He be not satisfied, what can our indulgence or pardon confer?"-(App., Note 108.)
One short extract more, and I shall close this writer's testimony.
" To exercise penitence truly, is to be wail what we have committed, and TO AVOID REPEATING WHAT OUGHT TO BE BEWAILED.”-(App., Note 109.)
Happy would it have been for the Christian world if the Western Church had remained firm at the point to which this matter had arrived in the age of the first Gregory. True, the ancient discipline at Rome had been, to a considerable degree, supplanted by private confession, and the penitent, in general, was only obliged to fulfill the secret directions of the priest in order to be restored. But still there was no enforcement of confession, and no inquisition of the thoughts; neither was there any obligation that all must confess preparatory to the sacrament; nor was the absolution in the indicative form, “ I absolve thee," but in the form of prayer ; nor had the priests dared to place themselves in the tribunal of their divine Master, by representing their judgment as the voice of Christ himself, according to the Trentine Catechism. It
may be well, however, to show still further the actual state of the matter during the age of Gregory, by some extracts from the forms of absolution, taken from the Liber Sacramentorum of this famous pontiff.
"Hear, O Lord, our prayers, and spare the sins of those who confess to thee; that those whom the guilt of their conscience
accuses, the indulgence of thy mercy may absolve. Through the Lord."-(App., Note 110.)
A second form is in these words :
Let thy mercy prevent” (i. e., go before) “this thy servant, we beseech thee, O Lord; that all his iniquities may be blotted out by speedy forgiveness. Through the Lord."-(App., Note 111.)
A third form was used in reconciling the penitent, as follows:
“Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to this thy servant, fruit worthy of penitence, that to thy holy Church, from whose integrity he has deviated by sinning, he may be restored blameless of the misdeeds he has confessed, by obtaining pardon. Through our Lord.”—(App., Note 112.)
There are several curious and interesting examples of confession in the notes and observations of the learned Benedictine, Hugo Menard, appended to the Sacramentary of Gregory. But as they belong to a later period, I shall reserve them until I have considered the testimony of our next witness, Isidore, the bithop of Hispala. His evidence is important, not only because he was a man of great influence and piety, who expressed his opinions with remarkable clearness and precision, but also because his diocese, being in Spain, will afford us another variety in our sphere of investigation. The following extracts will place the reader in possession of his doctrine:
« Penitence is so called as if from punishment, because by it a man may punish in himself the evil he has committed; for those who repent truly do nothing else but this—that they do not suffer their misdeeds to go unpunished.”
" And satisfaction is to exclude the causes and suggestions of sins, and not to commit them any more."
“ But reconciliation is that which is performed after the peni. tence is fulfilled."
Exomologesis is from a Greek word, which in Latin signifies confession; of which word there is a two-fold signification. For confession is understood either as a form of praise, as where it is written, I will confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth ; or when each one confesses his sins, in order to be forgiven by Him whose mercy is unfailing. From this Greek word, therefore, the term Exomologesis is commonly used to express the act in which we confess our guilt to the Lord."
“. Moreover, the confession of error is the profession of discontinuance.... And confession goes before, remission follows; but he is without pardon who knows bis sin, and refuses to confess it. Therefore, Exomologesis is the discipline of prostration and bumiliation, in garments and in food, to lie in sackcloth and ashes, to defile the body with dirt, to abase the mind with sorrow."—(App., Nole 113.)
“ And this penitence is according to the quality of our offenses; for as lighter sins are blotted out by secret prayer, so weighty sins are remitted before the Church through penitence and satisfaction."-(App., Note 114.)
I have marked some further extracts from this author, which may exhibit his testimony yet more plainly.
“Penitence takes its name from punishment, by which the soul is tortured and the flesh is mortified. And, therefore, they who exercise penitence allow their hair and their beard to grow, that they may show” (by this emblem) - the abundance of those crimes by which the head of the sinner is weighed down.... That they must prostrate themselves in sackcloth (for sackcloth is a memorial of sins), is in allusion to the goats which shall be at the left hand of the Saviour. Hence, therefore, they who confess lie prostrate in sackcloth, and are sprinkled with ashes, to remind them that they are dust and ashes.... The Catholic Church confidently enjoins this remedy of penitence to exercise men in the hope of pardon after the one Sacrament of Baptism, which, in accordance with a remarkable tradition, she carefully prohibits from being repeated, and substitutes the aid of penitence as a medicinal remedy.. Only the dignity of honor is preserved, so that penitence is performed by the priests and Levites in the presence of God alone; but by the others with the priest standing solemnly before God, that a fruitful confession may cover whatever our rash appetite or the neglect of ignorance is known to have contracted; for, as in baptism all iniquities are remitted, and as we believe that sin is imputed to no one who suffers martyrdom,
in like manner, by the fruitful compunction of penitence, we may acknowledge all sins to be done away. For the tears of penitents with God are reckoned for baptism."—(App., Note 115.)
Although, through penitence, there is a propitiation for sins, yet no man ought to be without fear, because the satisfaction of the penitent is to be estimated not by human, but only by the divine judgment. For this reason, since the mercy of God is secret, it is necessary to weep without intermission. Nor, indeed, is it right that the penitent should ever have security concerning his sins; for security produces negligence, and negligence often brings the incautious back to his old transgressions." (App. Note 116.)
It is impossible that the sins of that man can be remitted who does not forgive the trespasses committed against himself. For God has justly made our own state the type of his indulgence to us, when he orders us to pray thus : Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors."-(App. Note 117.)
In this interesting evidence of Isidore we may observe a complete contrariety to the modern Romish system in several particulars.
1. That penitence is defined to be a punishment, self-inflicted, for our sins, according to the idea of Augustin. I have already stated my reasons for considering this an error ; but, at all events, it proves that it had no relation to the penance imposed at the dictate of the priest, of which the Catechism of Trent says so much, while Isidore says nothing.
2. That satisfaction is defined to be, not the performance of a penance prescribed by the priest as a compensation to the justice of God, according to the Catechism of Trent, but the forsaking of the sins of which we have professed repentance.
3. That reconciliation, according to Isidore, comes after the fulfillment of penitence, whereas the modern Church of Rome absolves the penitent first, and expects him to fulfill his penitential works afterward.
4. That Isidore, like Augustin, mentions only two kinds of penitence, one private, for venial sins, and
the other public, before the Church (not the priest only), without any reference to auricular confession.
5. That the judgment of the priest was not then supposed to be the voice of Christ,” and therefore the penitent was told that he must sorrow to the close of life, because “the mercy of God was secret,” and he could only hope, but without being perfectly sure, that he was forgiven. In this we have already seen that Gregory the Great agreed with him. But both are in plain contrariety to the Council of Trent, notwithstanding the Church of Rome would have us believe that she is infallible and unchangeable!
ANCIENT FORMS OF CONFESSION.
The learned Benedictine, Hugo Menard, in his Appendix to the Sacramentary of Gregory the Great, has paid particular attention to the forms of confession made by penitents from the sixth to the ninth century, in which it is worthy of note, first, that the confession is addressed to God alone, and not, as in the modern usage of Rome, to the Virgin and the saints also. And, secondly, that there is no specification of any sin, but a general acknowledgment of all sorts of iniquity. The extracts which I shall place before the reader will be acceptable, I trust, not only as exhibiting the progress of the system during those ages, but likewise as being a curious monument of antiquity. I quote the language of Menard, trans