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for more than two centuries. From this they take their texts; from this they quote their biblical proofs in argument; to this they refer their people; and thus it possesses all the sanction in their power. At least, therefore, it holds the highest rank among all Roman Catholics to whom the English is the vernacular tongue ; and it is not for any bishop or priest belonging to that extensive and important class to deny its authority.
It may also be said that our own version of the Church of England is far from being immaculate, and that many of our scholars have suggested a number of passages in which it would admit of emendation. This is true, doubtless, and must always be true of any version, since there never has been a translation of any book in any language which could be, in all respects, acknowledged as a perfect substitute for the original. But it is one thing to admit the existence of blemishes incident to the nature of such a work, and quite another thing to allege a willful deviation in matters which belong to the integrity of Christian doctrine.
We may safely defy the world to specify a single error in our English Bible which affects or can possibly affect the interests of religious truth. And it is only because the Doway Bible is fairly chargeable with a systematic corruption, for the obvious purpose of giving a Roman aspect to the teaching of Christ and his apostles in a point of high doctrinal and practical importance, that I hold it to be worthy of such decided reprobation.
THE DOCTRINE OF SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION AND ABSO
LUTION TESTED BY THE SCRIPTURES.
HAVING shown the true meaning of the terms of Scripture, I now proceed to the argument in favor of auricular confession and priestly absolution, which the learned and ingenious authors of the Catechism of the Council of Trent have attempted to adduce from the Word of God in favor of their doctrine.
I would first observe, however, that in the whole economy of the Levitical and ceremonial law it is not pretended that any trace can be found of such a system. Throughout the old Testament, the confession of sin is constantly inculcated, and the examples of it among the chosen people are numerous and edifying. But it was invariably confession to God, followed by an acknowledgment to men, whenever they were conscious of having offended or injured them. And as to the pardon of sin, this was well understood to be the sole prerogative of the Almighty. Hence, when our Saviour said to the penitent, “ Thy sins be forgiven thee,” He was immediately accused of having spoken blasphemy, on the principle so familiar to every Israelite, “ Who can forgive sins, except God only ?”
That such is still the system of the Jews, is set forth distinctly in the learned Buxtorf's Synagoga Judaica,* where he treats of the ceremonies on the great day of the yearly expiation as follows, viz. :
Chap. xxv. (p. 517, ed. of 1712).
“If any enmity arises among them, they come together, and he who did the injury ought to ask pardon of the injured party, which pardon the injured person ought willingly to grant, for so likewise God will speedily pardon his sins. If, at the first application, he is not willing to forgive, he who seeks forgiveness may take three others with him, and beseech him a second and a third time; if this fails to move him, the other party may take with him ten more, not of necessity, but of abundant diligence, and beseech him again. If the injured party then forgives, it is well. If otherwise, his neighbor, having discharged his duty, is free and safe, and has nothing to fear from his former offense against his fellow, when he hopes for pardon from God. But the other, who refused to pardon, is called cruel, and can not expect the remission of his own sins from the Almighty. For it is said : On the day of atonement, the sins with which man has immediately offended God are remitted, according to Levit., xvi., 30 : In the day of atonement that He may
cleanse you, ye shall be cleansed from all your sins before God; that is, Whatever ye have sinned before God shall be expiated on that day, and ye shall be cleansed from it. But by no means does this extend to offenses between a man and his neighbor, until the offender has appeased his brother, and is reconciled with him, even if the offense consists in nothing more than irritating language.
On this day, also, they confess their sins to God, which they call Viddui, because this is the day of atonement, the day of the remission and expiation of sins, and they say that it is necessary on this day for every one to make his confession, as we read in the 0. T. concerning all the sacrifices which were made for the expiation of sins : And they shall confess the sins which they have committed, &c. In like manner as the high-priest also, on the day of atonement, makes confession for himself and for all Israel, as it is said, He shall make atonement for himself and for his house, and for all Israel : the meaning of which is, that he shall confess his own sins, and then the sin of Israel.
“ The form of confession is very long, and is contained in the books of their prayers. It is expressed in alphabetic order, so that every letter embraces some sin committed more gravely or more frequently; to which, afterward, those who are more devout and contrite, and excel in judgment, add the special sins of which they are conscious, or to which they are more inclined and addicted by nature, asking remission of these at the same time from God.
5. If any one reads or recites this form publicly and with a clear voice, he is not obliged to insert in it the special enumeration of his sins; but if he confesses privately, and with a low voice, he does well who numbers all the sins which he is able to remember, because in this way he may be the more stimulated to exercise repentance. Thus they say Moses did when, praying for the Israelites, he said, I beseech Thee, this people have sinned a great sin, for they have made to themselves gods of gold.
- This confession should be made standing (to testify greater humility), and with a sincere and perfect heart; and they must often repeat it, at the least ten times on that day.”— Appendix, Note 1.
Here we see, in the settled practice of the Jewish people, the two species of confession mentioned by the Lord, and specified in our Homily, confession to God, and confession to man, when the Israelite was conscious of having injured another. Once in every year, on the great day of atonement, this confession was to be made publicly and with a clear voice, according to the form set down in the Jewish Liturgy; but if the penitent thought fit, he added to this a special confession of his sins, privately and in a low voice, being intended for no human ear, but addressed to the Deity alone, in order that the sinner might the better excite his feelings to exercise repentance.
The Romanists, then, giving up the vain hope of proving auricular confession and priestly absolution by the Old Testament, rest them on the promise of our Lord to the Apostle Peter (Matt., xvi., 19): “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." In connection with this, however, they place great reli. ance on the parallel passage in the Gospel of St. John, XX., 22, where the evangelist relates that our blessed Redeemer breathed on his Apostles, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”' Here the Church of Rome holds that the priesthood have a complete warrant for the whole system of compulsory auricular confession and sacramental absolution for the remission of sins. And yet it will require but a moderate degree of attention to perceive that these texts, when fairly interpreted, yield them no support whatever.
For, 1. In reference to the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” all interpreters agree that the kingdom of heaven signifies the Church of Christ on earth, since such is unquestionably the meaning which our Lord gives to the phrase in Matt., xiii., 24, 31, 33. The keys of the kingdom of heaven are, therefore, the keys of the Church in her militant state ; and as the use of the key is either to unlock or to fasten the door of the house, therefore it is obvious that the promise had respect to the ministerial power which the Saviour conferred upon St. Peter and his colleagues to proclaim the Gospel of His kingdom; to admit into the Church, by the administration of baptism, those whom they should judge to be penitent and believing; to exclude them, after they were admitted, from the communion of the faithful, if they proved to be unworthy; and to receive them again, when it was apparent that their repentance was sincere. In this plain and obvious sense the power of the keys, as it is called, was a most important faculty, and has continued with the successors of the Apostles to this day, and will so continue until the end of the present dispensation.
2. But an important part of our Lord's promise to St. Peter may be justly applied to the extraordinary commission of the Apostles, and therefore it ceased