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another copy of it is in Sir Robert Cotton's library. 3. True it is, there is in that Penitential no such words as "ut Græci," but a direct affirmation, "Confessionem suam Deo soli, si 'necesse est, licebit agere." 4. That Theodore should take this chapter out of the second council of Cabaillon, is an intolerable piece of ignorance or negligence in so great a scholar as Bellarmine; when it is notorious, that the council was after Theodore, above one hundred and twenty years. 5. But then lastly, because Theodore, though he sat in the seat of Canterbury, yet was a Greek born; his words are a good record of the opinion of the Greeks, that "Confession of sins is, if there be need, to be made to God alone." But this I shall prove with firmer testimonies; not many, but pregnant, clear, and undeniable.
St. Gregory Nyssenc observed, that the ancient fathers before him, in their public discipline, did take no notice of the sins of covetousness, that is, left them without public penance, otherwise than it was ordered in other sins; and therefore, he interposes his judgment thus. "But concerning these things, because this is pretermitted by the fathers, I do think it sufficient to cure the affections of covetousness with the public word of doctrine, or instruction, curing the diseases, as it were, of repletion by the word." That is plainly thus: the sins of covetousness had no canonical penances imposed upon them and therefore many persons thought but little of them therefore, to cure this evil, let this sin be reproved in public sermons, though there be no imposition of public penances. So that there is a remedy without penances, a cure without confession, a public sermon instead of a public or private judicatory.
But the fact of Nectarius, in abrogating the public penitentiary priest upon the occasion of a scandal, does bear much weight in this question. I shall not repeat the story; who please, may read it in Socrates, Sozomen, Epiphanius, Cassiodore, and Nicephorus; and it is known everywhere. Only they who are pinched by it, endeavour to confound it, as Waldensis and Camus: some by denying it, as Latinus Latinius; others by disputing concerning every thing in it;
c Epist. Canon. ad Letorum.
d Relect. de Pœnit. part. 5. sect. Ad sextum. p. 31. edit. Salmanticæ, 1563. per Matthiam Gartium.
some saying, that Nectarius abrogated sacramental confession; others, that he abrogated the public only, so very many say and a third sort, who yet speak with most probability, that he only took away the office of the public penitentiary, which was instituted in the time of Decius, and left things as that decree found them; that is, that those who had sinned those sins, which were noted in the penitential canons, should confess them to the bishop, or in the face of the church, and submit themselves to the canonical penances. This passed into the office of the public penitentiary; and that into nothing, in the Greek church. But there is nothing of this, that I insist upon; but I put the stress of this question upon the product of this. For Eudæmon gave counsel to Nectarius and he followed it, that he took away the penitentiary priest," ut liberam daret potestatem, uti pro suâ quisque conscientiâ ad mysteria participanda accederet." So Socrates, and Sozomen, to the same purpose: "Ut unicuique liberum permitteret, prout sibi ipse conscius esset et confideret, ad mysteriorum communionem accedere, pœnitentiarium illum presbyterum exauctoravit." Now if Nectarius, by this decree, took away sacramental confession, as the Roman doctors call it, then it is a clear case, the Greek church did not believe it necessary; if it was only the public confession they abolished, then, for aught appears, there was no other at that time; I mean, none commanded, none under any law, or under any necessity: but whatever it was that was abolished, private confession did not, by any decree, succeed in the place of it; but every man was left to his liberty and the dictates of his own conscience, and according to his own persuasion, to his fears or his confidence, so to come and partake of the divine mysteries. All which is a plain demonstration, that they understood nothing of the necessity of confession to a priest of all their sins, before they came to the holy
And in pursuance of this, are those many exhortations and discourses of St. Chrysostom, who, succeeding Nectarius, by his public doctrine could best inform us, how they understood the consequence of that decree, and of this whole question. The sum of whose doctrine is this: It is not necessary to have your sins revealed, or brought in public, not e Lib. 5. c. 19. Eccl. Hist. lib. 7. cap. 16,
only in the congregation, but not to any one, but to God alone. "Make a scrutiny, and pass a judgment on your sins inwardly in your conscience, none being present but God alone, that seeth all things." And again: "Declare unto God alone thy sin, saying, Against thee only have I sinned and done evil in thy sight; and thy sin is forgiven thee. I do not say, Tell to thy fellow-servant, who upbraids thee, but tell them to God who heals thy sins." And, that after the abolition of the penitentiary priest nothing was surrogated in his stead, but pious homilies and public exhortations, we learn from those words of his; "We do not bring the sinners into the midst, and publish their sins; but having propounded the common doctrine to all, we leave it to the conscience of the auditors, that out of those things which are spoken, every one may find a medicine fitted for his wound h❞ "Let the discussion of thy sins be in the accounts of thy conscience; let the judgment be passed without a witness: let God alone see thee confessing; God who upbraids not thy sins, but out of this confession blots them out" "Hast thou sinned, enter into the church, say unto God, I have sinned. I exact nothing of thee, but that alone.". The same he says in many other places: now against so many, so clear, and dogmatical testimonies, it will be to no purpose to say, that St. Chrysostom only spake against the penitentiary priest set over the public penitents; and this he did, in pursuance of his predecessor's act. For, besides that some of these homilies were written before St. Chrysostom was bishop, viz. his one-and-twenty homilies to the people of Antioch, and the fourth homily of Lazarus, which was preached at Antioch before he came to Constantinople, when he was but a priest under Flavianus his bishop; and his homilies on St. Matthew; besides this, it is plain that he not only speaks against the public judicial penance and confession; but against all, except that alone which is made to God; allowing the sufficiency of this for pardon, and disal
f Homil. 56. sive 8. de Poenit. tom. 1.
⚫g Homil. 9. de Pœnit. sive homil. 59. homil. 2. in Psal. 1. homil. Quod peccata non sint evulganda. vid. tom. 57.
Homil de Pœnit, et Confessione, tom. 58. tom. 5. homil. 68. tom. 5.
i Homil. 31. in Ep. ad Hebr. homil. 20. in Matt. homil. 28. in 1 Cor. homil 21. ad Pop. Antioch. sis adgíavras, homil. 4. de Lazaro.
lowing the necessity of all other. To these things Bellarmine, Perron, Petrus de Soto, Vasquez, Valentia, and others, strive to find out answers; but they neither agree together, neither do their answers fit the testimonies; as is evident to them, that compare the one and the other, the chief of which I have remarked, in passing by. The best answers that can be given, are those which Latinus Latinius and Petavius give; the first affirming, that these homilies, 1. are not St. Chrysostom's: or, 2. that they are corrupted by heretics; and the latter confessing they are his, but blames St. Chrysostom for preaching such things. And to these answers I hope I shall not need to make any reply. To the two first of Latinus, Vasquez hath answered perfectly; and to that of Petavius, there needs none; Petavius, instead of answering, making himself a judge of St. Chrysostom. I suppose if we had done so in any question against them, they would have taken it in great scorn and indignation; and, therefore, we choose to follow St. Chrysostom, rather than Master Petavius.
I do not deny, but the Roman doctors do bring many sayings of the Greek and Latin fathers, shewing the usefulness of confession to a priest, and exhorting and pressing men to it but their arts are notorious, and evident; and what, according to the discipline of the church at that time, they spake in behalf of the exomologesis or public discipline, that these doctors translate to the private confession; and yet whatever we bring out of antiquity against the necessity of confession to a priest, that they will resolvedly understand only of the public. But, besides what hath been said to every of the particulars, I shall conclude this point with the sayings of some eminent men of their own, who have made the same observation. "In hoc labuntur theologi quidam parùm. attenti, quòd, quæ veteres illi de hujusmodi publicâ et generali confessione, quæ nihil aliud erat quàm signis quibusdam et piaminibus ab episcopo indictis, se peccatorem, et bonorum communione indignum agnoscere, trahunt ad hanc occultam et longè diversi generis:" so Erasmus'. And B. Rhenanus says, "Let no man wonder that Tertullian speaks nothing of
k In 3. part. Tho. tom. 4. q. 90. a. 1. dub. 3. n. 31.
In S. Hieron. epist. ad Oceanum, sive Epitaph. Fabiola.
the secret or clancular confession of sins; which, so far as we conjecture, was bred out of the (old) exomologesis, by the unconstrained piety of men. For we do not find it at all commanded of old "."
The conclusion of these premises is this, that the old ecclesiastic discipline being passed into desuetude and indevotion, the Latin church especially, kept up some little broken planks of it; which, so long as charity and devotion were warm, and secular interest had not turned religion into arts, did, in some good measure, supply the want of the old better discipline; but when it had degenerated into little forms, and yet was found to serve great ends of power, wealth, and ambition, it passed into new doctrines, and is now bold to pretend to divine institution, though it be nothing but the commandment of men, a snare of consciences, and a ministry of human policy; false in the proposition, and intolerable in the conclusion.
There are divers other instances reducible to this charge, and especially the prohibition of priests' marriage, and the abstinence from flesh at certain times; which are grown up from human ordinances to be established doctrines, that is, to be urged with greater severity than the laws of God; insomuch that the church of Rome permits concubinate and stews at the same time, when she will not permit chaste marriages to her clergy. And for abstinence from flesh at times appointed, "veluti parricida penè dixerim rapitur ad supplicium, qui pro piscium carnibus gustârit carnes suillas." But I shall not now insist upon these; having so many other things to say, and especially, having already in another placen verified this charge against them in these instances, I shall only name one testimony of their own, which is a pregnant mother of many instances: and it is in their own canon law: "They that voluntarily violate the canons, are heavily judged by the holy fathers, and are damned by the Holy Ghost, by whose instinct they were dictated 1. For they do not incongruously seem to blaspheme the Holy Ghost." And a little after: "Such a presumption is manifestly one of the kinds of them, that blaspheme against the
m Præfat. in lib. Tertul. de Pœnit.
n Rule of Conscience, lib. 3. cap. 4. rule 13. 19. and 20.
P Dicati pro dictati.