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loose, shall be loosed ; but rather, whatsocver thou shalt loose, was loosed, and whatsoever you shall loosé, was loosed.
But some may say, this is true: priests have the power to bind and to loose, but it does not follow, that it is necessary to appear before their tribunal: for Jesus Christ does not say: and whatsoever you shall not loose, shall not be lovsed. Wherefore, they liave indeed the power to loose, should apy one be incliped to make use of their ministry: but a sinner can be also reconciled in another manner independently of their ministry. As in the case where public judges are constituted with judicial authority; they are empowered, it is true, to judge all who shall recur to them; yet those who have cause are not compelled to appear before them, they may choose their own arbitrators, or may even settle their differences by themselves.
But this objection is easily answered. For although private individuals are able to adjust the differences they may have among themselves, withoat the decision and interference of public judges constituted for that purpose, it does not follow, however, that they are able to adjust those which they may have, for example, with a king or the first magistrate of a country as such, unless they present themselves before him whom the king or first magistrate shall have delegated as judge in his place. Now, all siós are causes which we have with God himself, and consequently as God has entrusted the judgment of sin to the priests of his church, those who are members of the church cannot, if they have such causes, obtain a reconciliation with God without the judgment of the priests. Wherefore, although this negation: Whatsoever you shall not loose, shall not be loosed, be not expressed in this passage of the gospel, yet it manifestly flows as well from the above affirmation, Whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed, by which priests are constituted the future judges in all causes against God, as also from that: whatsoever you shall bind, shall be bound; for, to bind is not only to add a new bond, as for instance, that of excommunication, but also, is to confirm and retain the bonds of sin, as is explained in another passage of the gospel, and in short to be unwilling to loose. Because, should the guilty be able to obtain the absolution of their sins, without the sentence of the priests, the promise of Christ, whatsoever you shall bind shall be bound, &c. would certainly not be true.
III. The third and principal passage upon which the belief of the Catholic church respecting the divine institution and absolute necessity of confession is grounded, is found in the 20th chapter of St.
John, where Christ after his resurrection thus addresses his disciples, V. 21, 22. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them, and he said to them : Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose you shall retain, they are retained. By which remarkable action and not less expressive words, says the Council of Trent, in the 1șt chap. 14th session, the holy fathers have always unanimously understood, that the power of remitting and of retaining sin was imparted to the apostles and their lanful successors for the reconciliation of the faithful, fallen after baptism. And indeed, either the words of Christ just quoted mean nothing at all; (which, it would be impious even to think, or, they manifestly mean, that Christ did grant thereby to his apostles and their lawful successors, the power not only to forgive; but also to retain sins. This being once supposed, which capnot be denied, the Catholic divine in support of the necessity and divine institution of confession, forms this upanswerable argument : Christ in the above passage has constituted the apostles and their lawful successors judges between God and the sinner, and accordingly las invested them with the power not only to forgive, but also to retaip sios : but unless confession be of divine institution and of absolute necessity for the sinner's reconciliation, the use and exercise of this
power would be altogether nugatory and useless, nay, even utterly impossible, which cannot be asserted without blasphemy: therefore, confession is of divine institution and of absolute necessity for the sinner's reconciliation. The major proposition being made up of the words of Christ wants neither explanation nor proof. The minor is equally certain; for it is not less clear than evident, that if confessioq be not of divine institution and of absolute necessity for the reconciliation of the sinner, that is, if there be other ordinary means to obtain the remission of sins committed after baptism, different from confession, the use and exercise of the power of forgiving and retaining sins would be rendered thereby wholly useless and nugatory. For who is there, if he knew of any easier mode of reconciliation than that of coufession, that would not prefer it? Who is there that would be so fascinated by the charms of humiliation and self-denial, as to submit, in opposition to his most darling passions of pride and selflove, to the mortifying law of auricular confession? For the correctness of this reasoning, I appeal to the reader's own good sense. But supposing even that some sinners should be found penetrated with so vehement a sorrow and contrition as to recur to the Priests for their
greater humiliation, even yet, the use and exercise of the power grans ted them would be impossible without confession. For, as they have received the power not only to forgive but also to retain sins, a power which conformably to the intention of Christ, they are to exercise not at random, but prudently and with discretion, it must be a part of their office as judges, to discern what sins they are to bind, and what to loose, what sins to retain, and what to forgive. Now, how are they to form a just judgment, how can they make a just discernment, how can they distinguish amongst a crowd of supplicants the penitents to be absolved, from the penitents to be excluded, if they know not the sins which have been committed? And how are they to know the sins, if the penitents themselves do not declare them? How could a civil or criminal judge, ever be able to decide and determine, agreeably to the invariable rules of justice and equity, the degree of punishment proportionable to the number, quality and aggravating circumstances of the culprits crimes, unless he be made acquainted with them? As little would it be possible for the apostles and their successors to enjoin a penance proportionate to the guilt of the sinner, without knowing the degree of this guilt. The absolute and indispensable necessity of confession, therefore, flows naturally from the above words of Christ. It is essentially connected with the power granted thereby not only to forgive, but also to retain sins, a power, the exercise of which, without sacramental confession, would manifestly be vain and useless, nay even impossible.
But it may be objected, that although Christ gave power to his Apostles to bind and to loose, to forgive and to retain sins, it does not follow that their successors have that power.
This objection is so futile in itself, that I should have deemed it unworthy of uotice, had I not been assured of its being frequently urged to prop a bad argument. The power of binding and loosing was certainly given to be exercised till the end of the world, no less than the commission of preaching, baptizing, &c. which, though addressed to the Apostles, was certainly designed to continue with their successors, the Pastors of the church, for ever according to that of Christ, Matt. 28. 20. Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.
But it will be farther objected, that from the doctrine contended for above, this monstrous absurdity would follow viz. that man can forgive sins, which is a prerogative belonging only to God.
To this I answer, that the Jewish scribes and Pharisees were former
ly under a similar impression, but they were severely reprehended for it, and put to confusion by our Saviour Christ; for when our Saviour (as we read in St. Matthew and St. Mark,) had told a man who was sick of the palsy, that his sins were forgiven him, some of the scribes and Pharisees who were there present, concluded immediately, in their hearts, that this was blasphemy, this man, say they, blasphemeth, for who can forgive sins except God alone? But our blessed Redeemer, who came on purpose into the world for the remission of our sins, was instantly sensible of this wrong notion of the Jews, and therefore before they could even express their thoughts, he said to them, Why do you think evil in your hearts ? For, that you may see that the son of
hath power on earth to forgive sins, he turns to the sick man saying, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.
The Jews were here under two mistakes : In the first place, they thought our Saviour was not God; and in the second place, they thought that being man, he could not forgive sins; therefore, our Saviour Christ, for our instruction concerning the remission of sin, was pleased on this occasion to pass by (in some degree) the first mistake, and more expressly to confute the second; on which account it ought to be noticed, that he does not say, that you may see that I am God, or that you may see that in quality of God, I can forgive sins; but to let you see that in quality of man pon earth, I have power to forgive sins.
It might be said that our Saviour would have used (against the Scribes and Pharisees to prove himself God from their own principles) some such argument as this; you grant, that he who forgives sias is God; now by this miracle which I have wrought, I shew you that I can forgive sins; copsequently, according to your own principles, it follows that I am God. But our blessed Redeemer did not openly make use of this argument; for although tacitly and in fact, especially in discovering to the Jews their own thoughts, he gave them sufficiently to understand that he was God, the searcher of hearts : yet in the curing of the man sick of the palsy, what he more express: ly made appear was, that even in quality of man, he had power to forgive sins; this being the intention of the miraculous cure; that you may know, says he, that (not only the Son of God, but also) the son of Man has power even upon earth to forgive sins, arise sick man, take up thy bed and go into thy house. Upon this, as it is related in the chapters above cited, all the people were astonished and seized with fear, and all glorified God, not because God himself had such
power which they knew before, but because he had given such power even to men.
Now as from the divinity of our Saviour down to his humanity is derived and descends an unlimited power of remitting sin, so from our Saviour, who is our head, down to the ministers of his church who are his members, is also derived and descends a power of remitting all sing, of what kind soever they be, pot indeed in their name, or by their own authority, but in the name and by the authority of God, As the Father hath sent me, so I send you. John 20, 21. He hath sent me to save the world; you shall also become in some sort its Saviours. He has sent me to destroy sin, to sanctify sinners, to reconeile men with him. Go, complete this great work, and to this effect, receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgiué, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain they are retained. John 20.
There is no absurdity therefore in saying, that man can forgive sins when empowered by God so to do. It would indeed be not only absurd but blasphemous to say, that he can forgive sins by his own power, as do man by his own power can raise the dead to life; because both the one and the other equally belong to the power of God. But as God has sometimes made men his instruments in raising the dead to life; so the Catholic belieres that he has been pleased to appoint, that his ministers should in virtue of his commission, as his instruments and by his power absolve repenting sinners; and as this is evident from the texts cited above, it cannot be but false zeal, under pretext of maintaining the honour of God, to contradict this commission which he has se '. evidently given to his apostles and their lawful successors.
The same doctrine is proved from the Fathers of the church, who unanimously expound the above cited passage of the scripture to signify, that the Priests are actually constituted judges by Christ and inyested with the power truly to forgive siņs, apd not to declare them simply, to be forgiven. I shall forbear, (to avoid repitition) giving their testimony in this place as I intend to arrange it afterwards in different chapters according to the different centuries in which they lived.
The same is also proved by various reasons. In the first place, if Priests be not indeed judges and have no power truly to remit sins, but simply to declare them to be remitted, it is certain, that no one would be lost from this cause alone, viz: that they could not procure a Priest to reconcile them. But St. Austin in his 180th epist. to Honoratus explicitly writes, that some desiring to be reconciled, and of course believing in Christ, were eternally lost, because (having neglected the opportunity