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the wants of our souls may require. Here again, it is self-evident that tbey could apply none of those remedies to us, upless they were thoroughly acquainted with the real state of our souls; and as none but ourselves can lay the state of our souls before them, from this also the necessity of our doing so, by an bumble and sincere exposition of our interior to them, is manifest.
Q. 21. Are there any other proofs from Scripture of the necessity of confessing our sins ?
A. There are those following: (1.) “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity," 1 John i. 8. Here we see, in the most express terms, the confession of our sins declared to be the condition of our obtaining forgiveness for them: "If we confess them, God will forgive them;" and, on the contrary, if we do not confess them, but conceal them, and “ say we have no sin, we only deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This testimony is so strong and clear for the necessity of confessing our sins, that our adversaries bave no other way to escape the force of it, but vainly pretending that the apostle means only the confessing our sins privately to God alone. But that this cannot be the apostle's meaning, is evident for two strong reasons : first, because the confessing our sins is here put in opposition to the saying we have no sin ; these two are opposite to one another, and, therefore, must certainly relate to the same object. Now, who is there, in his senses, that would se riously dare to say to God, in private, that he has no sin? In this part of the sentence, then, the apostle certainly means saying, we have no sin before men; and, consequently, in the opposite part of it, when he says, “If we confess our sins," he pecessarily means the doing so before men also. Be
sides, the apostle here declares, that if “ we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” How comes the fidelity and justice of God to be engaged here? Has he any where engaged his promise to pardon those who confess their sins to him alone in private ? David, indeed, says, “I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord ; and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin," Ps. xxxi. v.; which shews, that, in the old law, when a sinner, “ with a broken and contrite heart, that is, with perfect repentance of his sins, returned to God, and acknowledged his his guilt with sorrow, God, of his infinite goodness, would shew mercy to such a repentant sinner. But we do not read any where, that God ever engaged his fidelity or justice to forgive the sins of any who confessed them in private to him alone ; consequently, in the above text, the apostle oannot mean the confessing to God alone; but, from what we have seen above, it is manifest, that God has solemnly engaged his fidelity and justice to forgive the sins of those who confess them to the pastors of his Church, in the sacrament of penance, when he declares to these pastors, “whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whatsoever ye
shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The effects of this promise cannot be obtained, as we have clearly seen, unless the sinner confess his sins to bis pastor; and when he does that with the proper dispositions, then this sacred promise of Jesus Christ engages bim in fidelity and justice to grant the wished for pardon. We must, therefore, conclude, that when the apostle says, “ if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," his meaning most certainly is, if we confess them sacramentally.
(2.) St. James says, “Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be saved,” Ja. v. 16. Here we see, in express terms,
the confessing our sins to man laid down as a condition of salvation. The only difficulty in this text is in the meaning of the words one another, whicbseem toimply the necessity ofevery one's confessing publicly to other men, whether priests or not. But this difficulty will easily disappear, if we reflect, that sacramental comfession does not necessarily require that it should be done in private; for, in the primitive ages, and even in the apostles' time, confessions were sometimes made in public before the whole people. Thus we read, that many of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds,” Acts xix. 18. But, whether in public or private, it was always considered as of ne. cessary obligation, in order to obtain forgiveness by the absolution of the priest. As both ways were then practised, St. James uses the above expression of “confessing one to anotber," to include both; but declares, that this confession made to a priest, whether to him alone in private, or in presence of others who did the same, and confessed in public before one another, is a necessary condition of salvation.
(3.) St. Paul, speaking of the reconciliation of sipners to God, says, “God bath reconciled us to himself by Christ, and hath given to us the minis. try of reconciliation. For God, indeed, was in Christ, reconciling the world to bimself; and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation ; we are therefore ambassadors for Christ,” 2 Cori v. 18. In these words, the apostle declares, that whereas God, throngh the merits of Jesus Christ, reconciled the world to himself, he was pleased to appoint the apostles, and their successors in office, to be the ministers of this reconciliation; that is, to be his substitutės upon earth for applying to the souls of the people the means ordained by biun for commu. nicating the grace of reconciliation, and for this purpose, says the apostle, “he placed in us the
word “of reconciliation,” by which means we are “ made the ambassadors of Christ.” Hence, then, it manifestly follows, that if the pastors of the Church be the ministers of our reconciliation with God, if the word of reconciliation, the power of pronouncing sentence of absolution upon us, be placed in them, it is of course by their ministry alone that we can obtain this reconciliation. Christ instituted no other way; therefore, it is our strict obligation to bave recourse to them for this benefit, by laying open the state of our souls before them in the sacrament of confession, that they may apply to us the means of our reconciliation in the way that Christ requires of them to do.
Q. 22. Is not the confession of sins to a priest a noveity introduced into the Church in the later
A. This is what some of the adversaries of our holy religion allege, in order to blind the minds of the people; but there certainly cannot be a more gross and palpable misrepresentation. The confession of sins, so far from being a novelty invented in later ages, is more ancient than Christianity itself, was commanded by God in the law, is highly commended in the Books of Wisdom, and was practised by the Jews when our Saviour came among them. It was not then, indeed, a sacramental action, as it is under the gospel, where it is the last condition required on our part, for receiving the forgiveness of our sins, by the infusion of justifying grace. But it was among the Jews a profitable penitential work, a proof of the sincerity of their repentance, a help to restrain them from sin, an act of obedience to the command of God; and, on all these accounts, a powerful means to move God to mercy, and obtain from him the grace of a perfect contrition and repentance. It was also among the Jews, like all the rest of their religion,
a type and figure of the sacrament of penance, and of the sacramental confession, which Jesus Christ was to institute in his Church.
Q. 23. Where does it appear that confession was commanded in the old law, and practised among the Jews ?
A. From the following testimonies of Scripture: “(1.) When a man or woman shall bave committed any of all the sins that men are wont to commit, and by negligence shall have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, they shall confess their sin, and restore the principal, and a fifth part over and above," Numb. v. 6. (2.) “He that hideth bis sips, shall not prosper; but he that shall confess and forsake them, shall obtain mercy;" Prov. xxviii. 13.
“ Be not ashamed to say the truth for the sake of thy soul; for there is a shame that bringeth sin, and
a shame that bringeth glory and grace-Be not ashamed to confess thy sins, but submit not thyself to every man for sin,” Ecclus. iv. 24, 31. See here how much it is commended. (3.) As for the practice of the Jews when St. John the Baptist appeared “in the desert baptizing and preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan ConFESSING THEIR SINS,” Mark i. 5. The same is also attested by St. Matth. chap. iii., where we learn from the word of God itself, that this holy practice of confessing our sins, is as old as revealed religion, and has no other author than God himself. Jesus Christ, therefore, knowing that this was already established among the people of God, thought it nowise necessary to make any new formal express command of it among his followers, especially as the very institution of the sacrament of penance, by giving the power of for