« PredošláPokračovať »
when it presented itself) they died before they could be absolved by the Priest. Do we never reflect, says he, when danger is extreme and when there is no possibility of escaping it, how great a concourse is usually in the church, of both sexes, and of every age ; some demanding Baptism, some to be reconciled, some again the very action of penance itself, and all the consolation and completion of the sacraments and their distribution? When, should the ministers' be absent, how great is the misfortune that attends those who depart this life, either without having been regenerated (baptized) or without having been loosed ? (without having their sins remitted them.) How great also is the lamentation of the faithful, their relatives, who will never have them with them in the enjoyment of eternal life? Thus far St. Austio. Nor does St. Leo write differently in his 91st epist. to Theodorus. From which places we may gather, that sacramental reconciliation, has the virtue to justify, and that it is not a simple declaration only of justification either already received, or about to be received.
In the second place, if Priests do not remit sins in any other manner than by declaring the divine promises; it would be certainly equally vain a.id ridiculous to absolve the deaf and those deprived by sickness of the use of their senses. Where there is no hearing, says the wise man in Ecclesiasticus, chap. 32. 6. pour not out words. But in the primitive church, not only the deaf, but also those who by violence of sickness were bereft of reason, were sometimes reconciled, as is manifest from St. Austin, lib. 1. de adulterinis conjugiis capit, ult, and froin St. Leo,in his epist. cited above to Theodorus, and from the 4th couacil of Carthage, cap. 76, and the Arausican council, can. 12.
In the third place, if absolution were merely a declaration of the remission of sins, either it would be rash, or it would be superfluous. For when the minister says, thy sins are forgiven thee, he pronouncès this, either absolutely, or hypothetically, that is, provided he believe and repent as he ought. If absolutely ; he pronouuces it rashly, as he knows not whether he who solicits to be reconciled, be truly penitent and have faith, such as is requisite for justification, and besides although the minister may in some degree know this, yet the penitent knows it better and consequently does not stand in need of that declaration of the minister, which can add nothing to his certitude. But if the absolution be conditional, (as Calvin teaches) such an absolution can never render a penitent secure and certain, as it depends upon an uncertaio condition, and yet our adversaries rarely admit any other end in the absolution, than to render the individual certain of his justi. fication.
In the fourth place, if the absolution be not a judicial act, but a simple enunciation of the divine promise, which stands recorded in the gospel, any individual, a layman, nay even a woman, a child or an infidel, will be able to absolve no less than the Priest: and although our adversaries admit this, because it flows evidently from their principles, yet it is contrary to the consent of all the Fathers, contrary to the practice of every church, of every age, and even of sound reason.
Before I conclude this chapter, I must bring in confirmation of the above truth, one more proof drawn from the figures which have preceded sacramental confession; from which a two-fold argument may be, formed. In the first place, if the confession which God exacted in the old law was a mere figure, as indeed it was; as all these things happened to them in figure, as St. Paul tells us in his first epist. to the Corinth, chap. 10, it is certainly necessary, that in the new law, there should be a confession of sins commanded by God, and a confession as much more perfect and exact as the thing figured is above the figure. And in the second place, if confession made before a minister of God was deemed necessary at that time, when no power was given to the Priests to remit sin; who is there that will not infer that it was far more necessary that confession should be enjoined in the new law, when we can confess with so much benefit as to obtain a certain and speedy absolution of our sins, by a worthy confession ? · The first figure therefore is found in the 3d and 4th chap, of Genesis, where God first exacted from Adam and Eve, and afterwards from Cain the confession of his sin. In these places confession is exacted, not of the heart only, but also of the mouth, not in general only, but also in particular, not to God only, but also to his minister: for the interrogation was made by an angel appearing in human shape, as appears from his walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Genesis, 3. 8. From . which there appears so great a similarity between that confession and the confession which is now made to a Priest, who is also an angel of the Lord, according to Malachy, chap. 2. 7. that the one may be said with reason to be the figure of the other. Wherefore, this figure is beautifully treated by Tertullian in his second book against Marcion, also by St. Ambrose, in lib. de paradiso, cap. 14. and lib. 2. de Cain and Abel, cap. 9. also by St. Greg. lib. 22. Moralium, cap. 13. and also by St. John Chrysostom, homil. 18. in Gen. who all expound these places as having a bearing upon confession and say, that God wished to
extort à confession from them, that they might wipe away by confession what they had committed by transgressing.
The second figure may be found in the 13th and 14th chap. of Leviticus, where the judgment of the leprosy is committed solely to the Priests, and the lepers were obliged to shew and present themselves to the Priests, and according to their determination either to remain out of the camp, or after their cure, to return to the same: which law our Lord also approved in Matt. chap. 8. when he said to the leper who had been healed by him : Go shen thyself to the Priest; &C.-_That this was a figure of sacramental confession, St. Chrysostom lib. 3. de Sacerdotio, and St. Jerom in cap. 16. Matthæi, equally testify. For from this St. Jerom infers, that the Priests ought to know the different species of the sins ; and St. Chrysostom shews, that the office of Christian Priests is far more excellent, than was formerly that of the Jews, as they had the power pot to heal the leprosy, but to declare it healed : whereas ours have power not to declare the sins healed (that is, remitted;) but to heal (to remit) them in effect.
The third figure is the confession which God instituted in the old law, and in addition to which he exacted as a satisfaction, the oblation of a sacrifice; of which we have a proof in Numb. chap. 5. and also in Levitic. chap. 5. For unquestionably, if figurative confessiop was instituted by God and necessary by the divine law, how much more ought the confession prefigured to be esteemed instituted by God, and niecessary by the divine law? The words of the scripture in the book of Numbers, chap. 5. are these, and the Lord spoke to Moses saying : say to the children of Israel: when a man or woman shall have committed any of all the sins, that men are wont to commit, and by negligence shall have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and offended, they shall confess their sin.' Here two things are to be observed: first, that the Hebrew word correspondent to the term confess is in the conjugation of hitpael, which augments its signification; so that it may correctly be interpreted : they shall expressly and distinctly confess. Secondly, these words: they shall confess their sin, are more clear and explicit in the Hebrew: for thus we there read; they shall confess their sin which they have done. From which we infer, that in this place, an open confession of every sin according to their different species was commanded; for if it was sufficient to confess them in general only, the scripture would not say, they shall openly confess their sin which they have done, but simply, they shall confess their sins.
In Leviticus, chap. 5, where our version has: Let him do penance for his sin ; in the Hebrew we find the same expression as in the book of Numbers; for thus we there read: And it shall be, when he shall sin in any one of these things, that he shall openly confess the sin which he hath sinned.
Moreover, the testimonies of the Rabins, and the practice of the nation sufficiently shew, that this precept is to be understood of distinct confession, and according to the species of the sin, for the expiation of which, sacrifice was to be offered. Respecting the practice of the Hebrews, Thomas Walden in his second tome on the sacraments, chap. 137, writes, that he was informed in Austria of this their custom, by the Jews themselves : and St. Antoninus in the third part of his sum. Theologic, tit. 14, chap. 6, § 1, says, that the more learned
among the Jews were always careful, before their death, to confess all their sins to some Levite, if perchance one could be had. For the testimonies of the Rabins, see Peter Galatinus, lib. 10 chap. 3. who proves from many testimonies of the Rabins, that they conceived it to be necessary in confession to make a full declaration of their sins, according to their different species and circumstances.
Add to this, that it is more than probable, that the book of Ecclesiasticus in the 4th chap. exhorts to the observance of this legal precept, when it says: Be not ashamed to confess thy sins: for there is, generally speaking, very little shame attending a confession made to God alone, or which is made in general terms only to men; but the reverse is but too often the case in a confession made to men, according to the different species of the sin, as experience sufficiently proves.
The fourth figure is found in St. Matthew, chap. 3, and St. Mark, chap. 1, where we read, that many went out to John (the baptist,) and were baptized by him confessing their sins: for as the baptism of John was a figure of the baptism of Christ, so also was the confession which was made to John a figure of the confession, which was to be made to the ministers of Christ. Here it must be also remarked, that those who went out to John, did not declare themselves in general terms, to be sinners, for this would pot, in any manner, be conformable to the words of the Evangelists; but they most evidently made an open and thorough confession of all their sius according to their different species ; for both Evangelists expressly say, that they went out confessing their sins, confitentes peccata sua, or as the Greek has it, itopo dozoumeval tos apagtías avrãr. Now, it is certainly one thing
to confess one's sins to a person, and another, to confess or acknowledge one's-self in general terms to be a sinner.
From which passages therefore, it is manifest, that confession was more than once enjoined even in the law of nature-that it was afterwards more clearly instituted and ordained by God in the old lawmin that it was always considered by the Jews themselves to be of divine institution, and consequently obligatory upon them, and finally, that it was every where practised among them. Which then being the case, how strongly may we infer, that confession in the per jaw is equally of divine institution and no less obligatory, when it is the thing figured, as the holy Fathers unanimously declare ? I shall forbear producing other figures, confirmatory of the same, such as the resurrection of Lazarus, of which St. Ireneus (lib. 5. c. 13.) says; that this was the symbol of a man who had been fettered by the chains of his sins, and therefore our Lord said, (to his apostles, as St. Austin tract. 49. in Joan. and St. Gregory, homil. 26. in Evangel. testify) loose him and let him go, John 11, in order to proceed to shew the practice of confession in the days of the apostles, and how the texts, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, &c. and whose sins you shall forgive, &c. were understood in the primitive church.
THE SAME TRUTH IS CONFIRMED BY OTHER PÁSSAGES
OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
In the preceding chapter we have shown that confession is of divine institution: we shall now prove from the most undeniable testimony, that the apostles and first disciples were impressed with this belief, and acted accordingly,
The first remarkable passage which presents itself, is found in the Acts of the Apostles chap. 19, where we read these words : And many of those who believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds : and many of those who had followed curious things, brought their books together and burnt them before all.
This text, in the first place, is to be understood of the confession of the faithful after baptism; for, they only are properly called believers, as is evident from the 2d. chap. of the Acts, v. 41. and 44; and also, 1st Epist. Thess. 1, and many other places: nor is this denied