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own religion : among whom Michael" of Bononia, who was prior general of the order of the Carmelites in the days of pope Urban the sixth, doth conclude strongly out of their own received grounds, " that confession is not necessary for the obtaining of the pardon of our sin :" and Panormitan, the great canonist, professeth that the opinion of Semeca doth much please him, which referreth the original of confession to a general tradition of the Church; “ because* (saith he) there is not any clear authority, which sheweth that God or Christ did clearly ordain that confession should be made unto a priest.” Yea, “ally the canonists, following their first interpreter, say that confession was brought in only by the law of the Church,” and not by any divine precept: if we will believe Maldonat ; who addeth notwithstanding, that “this? opinion is either already sufficiently declared by the Church to be heresy, or that the Church should do well if it did declare it to be heresy.”
And we find indeed, that in the year of our Lord 1479, which was thirty-four years after the death of Panormitan, by a special commission, directed from pope Sixtus the fourth unto Alfonsus Carillus archbishop of Toledo, one Petrus Oxomensis, professor of divinity in the university of Salamanca, was driven to abjure this conclusion, which he had before delivered as agreeable to the common opinion of the doctors, “ that confession of sins in particular was grounded upon some statute of the universal Church, and not upon divine right:" and
* Michael Angrianus in Psal. 29.
* Multum mihi placet illa opinio ; quia non est aliqua authoritas aperta, quæ innuat Deum seu Christum aperte instituisse confessionem fiendam sacerdoti. Panorm. in 5. decretal. de pænit. et remiss. cap. 12. Omnis utriusque. sec. 18.
3 Omnes juris pontificii periti, secuti primum suum interpretem, dicunt, confessionem tantum esse introductam jure ecclesiastico. Maldon, disp. de sacrament. tom. 2. de confess. orig. cap. 2.
2 Sed tamen hæc opinio aut jam declarata est satis tanquam hæresis ab Ecclesia ; aut faceret Ecclesia operæ pretium, si declararet esse hæresim. Id. ib. de præcepto confess. cap. 3.
a Quod confessio de peccatis in specie fuerit ex aliquo statuto universalis Ecclesiæ, non de jure divino. Congregat. Complutens. sub Alfonso Carillo : apud Carranzam in summa concil. sub Sixto IV.
when learned men for all this would not take warning, but would needs be meddling again, with that which the popish clergy could not endure should be touched, as Johannes de Selva, among others, in the end of his treatise De jurejurando, Erasmus in divers of his works, and Beatus Rhenanus in his argument upon Tertullian's book De pænitentia : the fathers of Trent, within seventy-two years after that, conspired together to stop all men's mouths with an anathema', that should deny sacramental confession to be of divine institution, or to be necessary unto salvation. And so we are come to an end of that point.
THE PRIEST'S POWER
FROM confession we are now to proceed unto absolutior : which it were pity this man should receive, before he made confession of the open wrong he hath here done, in charging us to deny that priests have power to forgive sins; whereas the very formal words, which our Church requireth to be used in the ordination of a minister, are these: “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.” And therefore, if this be all the matter, the fathers and we shall agree well enough: howsoever this make-bait would fain put friends together by the ears, where there is no occasion at all of quarrel. For we acknowledge most willingly, that the principal part of the priest's ministry is exercised in the matter of forgiveness of sins: the question only is of the manner how this part of their function is executed by them, and of the bounds and limits thereof, which the pope and his clergy, for their own advantage, have enlarged beyond all measure of truth and reason.
That we may therefore give unto the priest the things that are the priest's, and to God the things that are God's; and not communicate unto any creature the power that properly belongeth to the Creator, who “ will not give his glory unto another:" we must in the first place lay this down for a sure ground, that to forgive sins properly,
a The form of ordering of priests.
b Isai. chap. 48. ver. 11.
directly and absolutely, is a privilege only appertaining unto the Most High. “I'," saith he of himself, “ even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
" Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity ?" saith the prophet Micahd; which in effect is the same with that of the Scribes, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone ?" And therefore, when David saith unto God, “ Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin;" Gregory, surnamed the Great, the first bishop of Rome of that name, thought this to be a sound paraphrase of his words ; who alone sparest, who alone forgivest sins. For who can forgive sins, but God alone ?” He did not imagine that he had committed any great error in subscribing thus simply unto that sentence of the Scribes; and little dreamed, that any petty doctors afterwards would arise in Rome or Rhemes, who would tell us a fair tale : that “ the faithless Jews thought as heretics now-a-days, that to forgive sins was so proper to God, that it could not be communicated unto man;" and that “ true believers refer this to the increase of God's honour, which miscreant Jews and heretics do account blasphemy against God, and injurious to his majesty:" whereas in truth the faithlessness of the Jews consisted in the application of this sentence against our Saviour Christ, whom they did not acknowledge to be God; as the senselessness of these Romanists, in denying of the axiom itself.
But the world is come unto a good pass, when we must be accounted heretics now-a-days, and consorted with miscreant Jews, for holding the self-same thing that the fathers of the ancient Church delivered as a most certain truth, whensoever they had any occasion to treat of this
© Isai. chap. 43. ver. 25.
d chap. 7. ver. 18. e Mark, chap. 2. ver. 7. and Luke, chap. 5. ver. 21. r Psalm 32. ver. 5.
& Tu, qui solus parcis, qui solus peccata dimittis. Quis enim potest pcccata dimittere, nisi solus Deus? Gregor. exposit. 2. Psalmi pænitential.
b Rliemists, annot. in Matt. chap. 9. ver. 5. · Rich. Hopkins, in the memorial of a christian life, pag. 179. edit. ann. 1612.
part of the history of the Gospel. Old Irenæus telleth us, that our Saviour in this place “ forgiving' sins, did both cure the man, and manifestly discover who he was. For if none (saith he) can forgive sins but God alone, and our Lord did forgive them, and cured men, it is manifest that he was the Word of God, made the Son of man : and that, as man, he is touched with compasssion of us ; as God, he hath mercy on us, and forgiveth us our debts which we do owe unto God our Maker.” Tertullian saith, that, “ when the Jews, beholding only his humanity, and not being yet certain of his Deity, did deservedly reason that a man could not forgive sins, but God alone :” he by answering of them, that “the Son of man had authority to forgive sins," would by this remission of sins have them call to mind, that he was “ that only Son of man prophesied of in Daniel", who received power of judging, and thereby also of forgiving sins.” St. Hilary, commenting upon the ninth of Matthew, writeth thus: “Ito moveth the Scribes, that sin should be forgiven by a man. For they beheld a man only in Jesus Christ; and that to be forgiven by him, which the law could not release. For it is faith only that justifieth. Afterward the Lord looketh into their murmuring, and saith that it is an easy thing
k Peccata igitur remittens, hominem quidem curavit, semetipsum autem manifeste ostendit quis esset. Si enim nemo potest remittere peccata, nisi solus Deus, remittebat autem hæc Dominus, et curabat homines ; manifestum est quoniam ipse erat Verbum Dei, filius hominis factus, &c. ut quomodo homo compassus est nobis, tanquam Deus misereatur nostri, et remittat nobis debita nostra, quæ factori nostro debemus Deo. Iren. adv. hæres. lib. 5. cap. 17. pag. 314.
Nam cum Judæi solummodo hominem ejus intuentes, necdum et Deum certi, qua Dei quoque filium, merito retractarent, non posse hominem delicta dimittere, sed Deum solum, &c. Tertullian. lib. 4. adv. Marcion. cap. 10. pag. 421.
millum scilicet solum filium hominis, apud Danielis prophetiam, consecutum judicandi potestatem, ac per eam utique et dimittendi delicta. Id. ibid.
n chap. 7. ver. 13, 14.
• Movet scribas, remissum ab homine peccatum. Hominem enim tantum in Jesu Christo contuebantur; et remissum ab eo, quod lex laxare non poterat. Fides enim sola justificat. Deinde murmurationem eorum Dominus introspicit, dicitque, facile esse filio hominis in terra peccata dimittere. Verum enim, nemo potest dimittere peccata, nisi solus Deus : ergo, qui remittit Deus est, quia nemo remittit nisi Deus. Deus, in homine manens, curationem homini præstabat. Hilar. in Matt. cap. 8. op. pag. 616.