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or by stealth: and he that was told of it by him, that should, but did not, conceal it: the seal is to be kept by all means, directly and indirectly, by words and signs, judicially and extrajudicially, unless the penitent give leave: but that leave is to be express, and is not to be asked but in the case of a compelling necessity; neither can the confessor impose a public penance upon him, who hath confessed privately. Which things, especially the last, are most diametrically opposed to the doctrine and discipline of the primitive church, as I have already proved; but these things are expressly taught as the doctrine of the most famous casuists of the church of Rome, by Escobar, who comparing his book in method to the seven seals of the Revelation, which the four living creatures read,-Suarez the ox, Molina the man, Vasquez the eagle, and Valentia the lion,-and twenty-four elders, that is, twenty-four Jesuits also read these seven seals; though when they come to be reckoned, they prove twenty-five, so fatal is that antichristian number to the church of Rome, that it occurs in every accident: but his meaning is, that the doctrine he teaches are the doctrines of all those twenty-five famous leading men; "Penes quos imperium literarum et conscientiarum." If now it be not the catholic doctrine, then is it heretical? And then, why is it not disowned? Why are not they that say so, censured? Why is not the doctrine condemned? Why is it publicly maintained and allowed by authority? Why is it pleaded in bar against execution of justice in the case of treason; as it was by F. Garnet himself, and all his apologists? But if this be the catholic doctrine, then let it be considered, how cheap are the lives of kings in their eyes, who consult more with the safety of a villain, whom they dare not absolved, than of a king, who is worthy ten thousands of his people; and let it be also considered, that, by using all the ways in the world to make confession easy to traitors and homicides, they make it odious to kings and princes, and to all that love the safety of their sovereigns, and of the public. We find that the laws of God yield to charity and necessity, and Christ followed the act of David; who, "when he was hungry, ate the shewbread, which was unlawful to be eaten but by the priest
e Moral. Theol. tract. 7. examen. 4. de Pœnit. sect. 6. n. 63–65, &c.
alone:" and he that commanded us to go, and learn what that means," I will have mercy and not sacrifice," intended not that the seal of confession should, upon pretence of religion, be used to the most uncharitable ends in the world; no, though it had been made sacred by a divine commandment; which it is not, but is wholly introduced by custom and canons ecclesiastical: and when we see that things dedicated to God, and made sacred by religion, and the laws of God confirming such religion, can be aliened and made common in cases of extreme necessity, or great charity; it is a strange superstition, that shall hold that fast with teeth and nails, and never let it go, no, not to save a soul, not to preserve the life of kings, not to prevent the greatest mischief in the world; this is certainly a making the commandments of men greater and more sacred than the commandments of God, and a passing them into a doctrine, great, necessary, and unalterable, as a fundamental article.
Of the imposing Auricular Confession upon Consciences, without Authority from God.
THAT Confession to a priest, is a doctrine taught as necessary in the church of Rome, is without all question; and yet that it is but the commandment of men, I shall, I hope, clearly enough evince; and if I do, I suppose the charge laid against the church of Rome, which is the same Christ laid against the Pharisees, will be fully made good, as to this instance; for this is one of the sorts of that crime, to say, " Dixit Dominus, Dominus autem non dixit;" to pretend a rite to be of divine institution when it is not so, but "humanum inventum," "a device of man's brain."-The other (which is, still supposing an institution to be human and positive, yet to urge it with the same severe religion, as they do a divine commandment) I shall consider in other instances. For the present the inquiry is concerning auricular confession, and its pretended necessity. The first decree concerning it, was in the Lateran council; in which " every person of years of discre
e Can, 21.
tion is commanded to confess all his sins to his own priest, at least once in the year; or to another priest, with the leave of his own; otherwise while he is living, he must be driven from entrance into the church; and when he is dead, he must have no Christian burial."-This is very severe; but yet here is no damnation to them that neglect it; and the duty is not pretended to be by divine commandment: and therefore, lest that severity might seem too much to be laid upon human law, they made it up in the new forge at Trent'; and there it was decreed that, "To confess all, and every mortal sin, which, after diligent inquiry, we remember, and every evil thought or desire, and the circumstances that change the nature of the sin, is necessary for the remission of sins, and of divine institution; and he that denies this, is to be anathema."
Whether to confess to a priest be an advisable discipline, and a good instance, instrument, and ministry of repentance, and may serve many good ends in the church, and to the souls of needing persons,—is no part of the question. We find, that, in the Acts of the Apostles, divers converted persons came to St. Paul, either publicly or privately, “and confessed their deeds f;" and burnt their books of exorcism, that is, did what became severe and hearty penitents, who needed counsel and comfort, and that their repentance should be conducted by wise guides. And when St. James exhorts all Christians" to confess their sins to one another," certainly it is more agreeable to all spiritual ends, that this be done rather to the curate of souls, than to the ordinary brethren. The church of England is no way engaged against it, but advises it, and practises it. The Calvinist churches do not practise it much, because they know not well how to divest it from its evil appendages, which are put to it by the customs of the world, and to which it is too much exposed by the interests, weaknesses, and partialities, of men. But they commending it, shew they would use it willingly, if they could order it unto edification. "Interim quin sistant se pastori oves, quoties sacram cœnam participare volunt, adeò non reclamo, ut maximè velim hoc ubique observari."-
Sess. 14. cap. 6, 7.
f Πράξεις, i. e. magicas incantationes ; simile illud ibidem, ἱκανοὶ τῶν τὰ περίεργα πραξάντων πράξεις nimirum τῶν περιέργων.
Calvin. Instit. lib. 3. cap. 4. sect. 12, 13.
And for the Lutheran churches, that it is their practice, we may see it in Chemnitius, who was one of greatest fame amongst them; and he is noted to this purpose by Bellarmine; only they all consent, that it is not necessary nor of divine institution; and being but of man's invention, it ought not to pass into a doctrine; and, as the apostles said in the matter of circumcision, "a burden ought not to be put upon the necks of the disciples :" and that, " in lege gratiæ, longè difficillimum" too, as Major observes truly, by far greater than any burden in the law of grace, the time of the Gospel. Let it be commanded to all, to whom it is needful, or profitable; but let it be free, as to the conscience precisely, and bound but by the cords of a man, and as other ecclesiastical laws are, which are capable of exceptions, restrictions, cautions, dispensations, rescindings, and abolitions, by the same authority, or upon greater reasons.
The question then is, whether to confess all our greater sins to a priest, all that upon strict inquiry we can remember, be necessary to 'salvation? This the church of Rome now affirms; and this the church of England and all Protestant churches deny; and complain sadly, that the commandments of men are changed into the doctrines of God, by a Pharisaical empire, and superstition. Here then we join issue.
1. And in the first place, I shall represent, that the doctrine of the necessity of confession to a priest, is a new doctrine, even in the church of Rome, and was not esteemed any part of the catholic religion before the council of Trent. For first, the gloss" de Pœnit. dist. 5. c. in Pœnitentiâ," inquiring where or when oral confession was instituted, says, some say it was instituted in Paradise, others say it was instituted when Joshua called upon Achan to confess his sin: others say it was instituted in the New Testament by St. James: "it is better said, that it was instituted by a certain universal tradition of the church, and the tradition of the church is obligatory as a precept. Therefore, confession of deadly sins is necessary with us (viz. Latins) but not with the Greeks; because no such tradition hath come to them,"
h 2. Part. Exam. Concil. Trid. cap. 5. de Poenit.
i Lib. 3. de Pœnit. cap. 1. sect. Martinus Kemnitius.
This is the full state of this affair, in the age when Semeca, who was the glossator, lived; and it is briefly this. 1. There was no resolution or agreement whence it came. 2. The glossator's opinion was, it came from the universal tradition of the church. 3. It was but a kind of universal tradition; not absolute, clear, and certain. 4. It was only a tradition in the Latin church. 5. The Greeks had no such tradition. 6. The Greeks were not obliged to it; it was not necessary to them. Concerning the Greek church, I shall afterward consider it in a more opportune place; here only I consider it as it was in the Latin church: and of this I suppose there needs no better record than the canon law itself, and the authentic glosses upon it; which glosses, although they be not law, but as far as they please, yet they are per. fect testimony as to matter of fact, and what the opinions of the doctors were at that time. And therefore, to the former, I add this; that in cap. Convertimini,' Gratian hath these words: "Unde datur intelligi, quod etiam ore tacente véniam consequi possumus ;"" Without confession of the mouth we may obtain pardon of our sins;" and this point he pursues in all that long chapter; and in the chapter Resuscitatus,' out of St. Austin's doctrine; and in the chapter 'Qui Natus,' out of the doctrine of St. John's Epistle; the conclusion of which chapter is, " Cum ergo ante confessionem (ut probatum est) sumus resuscitati per gratiam, et filii lucis facti; evidentissimè apparet quod solâ cordis contritione sine confessione oris, peccatum remittitur:" and, in the chapter ⚫ Omnis qui non diligit,' he expressly concludes out of St. John's words: "Non ergo in confessione peccatum remittitur, quod jam remissum esse probatur: fit itaque confessio ad ostensionem pœnitentiæ, non ad impetrationem veniæ." And at the end of this chapter, according to his custom in such disputable things; when he says," alii è contrario testantur;" "others witness to the contrary," that, without confession oral, and works of satisfaction, no man is cleansed from his sin; the gloss upon the place, says thus: "Ab hoc loco usque ad 'Sed his auctoritatibus' pro aliâ parte allegat, quod scil. adulto peccatum non dimittitur sine oris confessione, quod tamen falsum est:" only he says, that " Confession doth cleanse, and satisfaction doth cleanse: so that though by contrition of the heart, the sin is pardoned; yet these still