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Q. 4. What is the inward grace which this brings to our soul?
A. The sanctifying grace of God, by wbich our sins are forgiven, and washed away from our souls.
Q. 5. Where do we find the institution of this sacrament by Jesus Christ?
A. In those parts of the gospel where Jesus Christ gave to the pastors of his Church, in the persons of his apostles, the power of forgiving and retaining sins, and passed his sacred word, that, when they forgive a penitent's sins, by pronouncing the sentence of absolution upon him, they are actually forgiven, that is, are washed away from his soul by the grace of God then poured down into it.
Q. 6. How does it appear that Jesus Christ gave the power of forgiving sins to the pastors of bis Church ?
A. From these following testimonies: (1.) “And behold they brought to him a wan sick of the palsy, lying on a bed. And Jesus seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy, Son, be of good heart, thy sins are forgiven thee. And behold some of the Scribes said within themselves, He blasphemeth. And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said, Why do you think evil in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say, thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say, arise and walk? But, that you may know that the Son of Man hath power on carth to forgive, sins, then saith he to the man sick of the palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house; and he arose and went into his house; and the inultitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God, who had given sucb power to men.” Matth. ix. 2. Here, we see that our blessed Saviour wrought an evident miracle, with the express intention of proving that “he, AS MAN, hath power on earth to forgive sins ;” and it had the desired effect on the multitude, who were convinced by the miracle, that
he had this power, and “glorified God, who had given such power to men. Jesus Christ, therefore, even as man, was sent by his Father, with this power. Now, on the very day of his resurrection, when he appeared to his apostles, he said to them,
Father hath sent me, I also send you,” John xx. 21.; consequently, with the same powers that I, as Man, am sent by my Father, I also send you as my substitutes, as pastors of my Church. And that there might be no doubt, that in these words he included the power of forgiving sips, yea, to shew that this was particularly included in them, he immediately “breathed upon them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained,” John xx. 22. Where we see, that, in the clearest and most express terms, he gives them the power of forgiving sins, in such a manner, that when they, here on earth, exercise this power, by passing sentence of forgiveness upon a penitent sinner, their sentence is ratified in heaven, and the sins of the penitent are actually forgiven.
(2.) Upon another occasion, be gives them the same power, in the most ample maoner, in these words: “Amen, I say to you, whatsoever ye shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven and wbatsoever ye shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven," Matth. xviii. 18. Upon which, St. Chrysostom, one of the greatest lights of the Christian world, and who lived in the fifth century, writes thus: “To the priests is given a power which God would not give neither to the angels nor archangels, for to these it was not said, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven." Earthly princes have, indeed, their power of binding, but it is only for the body ; but the binding of the
priests reaches even to the soul, and ascends to the heavens, insomuch that what the priests do below, God ratifies above; and the Master confirms the sentence of the servants,” On the priesthood, B. 3. The same is the language of the holy Fathers in all ages, confirmed by the constant and uninterrupted belief and practice of the Christian world.
Q. 7. Why does our Saviour add in these texts, “ whose sips ye shall retain, they are retained ;" and “whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven?”
A. To shew that the power here given to the pastors of the Church is a judicial power, by which they are constituted judges of our souls in regard to our sips, and authorized both to forgive and not forgive, to loose and not to loose the boods of sin, according to the merits of the cause, and the dispositions of the penitents; so that they are to take full cognizance of the cause before they pronounce sentence, that they may act with justice and pru. dence.
Q. 8. May not a priest use this power as he pleases, and either forgive or retain a person's sins as he chooses !
A. By no means; in this commission Jesus Christ puts the pastors of his Church in his own place, and authorizes them to do, what he himself would do were he visibly present upon the earth; hence they act here in his name and authority, and in his person, as St. Paul did when he granted pardon to the incestuous Corinthian, for he declares, that he did it in the person of Christ,” 2 Cor. ii. 10. The priests, therefore, cannot pronounce sentence at their own pleasure, but must do it according to the rules prescribed to them by Jesus Christ, and which they learn from his boly Church.
Q. 9. But is it not blasphemous to say that man can forgive sins ? Who can forgive sins committed against God, but God himself?
A. Jesus Christ did not think it so when he wrought the miracle above mentioned, to prove that “ the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” But the mistake lies in not considering what part belongs to man, and what belongs to God in this matter. To wash away the guilt of sin from the soul, in which the forgiveness of sins, on the part of God, precisely consists, undoubtedly belongs to God alone, and is wholly his work; and this being the case, where is the least appearance of blasphemy, or even of impropriety, to say that Jesus Christ authorized the pastors of his Church, in his name and in his person, to pronounce sentence of forgiveness upon a penitent sinner, and that to the pronouncing of this sentence, he attaches the infusing of his grace to that penitent's soul? Is not this the very thing which is done in baptism, where the one who baptizes forgives the sins of the person baptized, by performing upon him the outward action of baptizing, to which the infusion of justifying grace is annexed in that sacrament, as it is to the pronouncing the sentence of absolution in the sacrament of penance ? In both cases, it is God who washes the soul by his grace, and in both, man performs the ontward action appointed by Christ for that purpose.
Q. 10. How is the outward and sensible action of the sacrament of penance a sign of the inward grace received ?
A. The words of the sentence which the priest pronounces, I absolve thee from thy sins, express in formal terms the nature of the grace received, by which these sins are then actually washed away from the soul.
Q. 11. To whom has Christ left the power of administering this sacrament ?
A. To the apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests of his Charch; and this is one of the principal powers of the priesthood.
Q. 12. Is this sacrament of penance necessary for salvation ?
A. As it is impossible to obtain salvation while we are in the state of sin, and at enmity with God, and as this sacrament of penance is appointed by Jesus Christ, to be the means of restoring us to the friendship of God, by cleansing us from the guilt of actual sins committed after baptism, in the same way as baptism itself is the means of cleansing us from original sin, and from all actual sins committed before baptism; therefore, the sacrament of penance is absolutely necessary for salvation to those who have lost the grace of God by mortal sin after baptism, as baptism itself is to those who bave not yet received it. And though it be true, that a perfect contrition, arising from a perfect love of God above all things, will always find mercy with God, and obtain pardon for sins both before and after baptism, yet, as before baptism, this perfect contrition does not free the person who has it from the necessity of being baptized, where baptism can he had, and, where baptism cannot be had, will not find mercy with God, unless it be accompanied with the desire of baptism; so likewise with regard to mortal sins committed after baptism, the most perfect contrition does not free the one who has it from the obligation of applying to the sacrament of penance where he can have it, and where that cannot be had, his contrition will not find mercy unless it include the desire of, and the resolution to apply to, the sacra. ment of penance whenever he has it in his power to do so.
Q. 13. Why do you speak of this necessity as regarding only mortal sins? Is not the sacrament VOL. II.