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of themselves all-abundant, and considered as directed to the end of sustaining us in affection towards him, by making us feel what he suffered for our sakes; and yet, do not all agree, even those who differ from us, with regard to the real character—the essential character of the sacrament of the eucharist. Do not they, at least, agree that it is an institution for the purpose of applying to ourselves those feelings, at least, which he intended to excite by his sufferings and death? And is not this again an outward ministration? Is not this done through the agency of man; and is it not, at the same time, by outward acts declara. tory on the part both of the minister of Christ and of him who receives it, that such an application is intended to be made ? Did not our Saviour come among us to teach? Did he not establish a code of doctrines, and of morals, and a system of law for our direction, both in faith and in conduct? And has he not left outward instruments also for this? Has he not left his written word? Has he not left a ministry, and constituted a hierarchy, to whom he has committed the care of his flock, with power and authority to instruct? And is not here again one of the most signal and most important benefits which our Saviour intended to communicate to mankind by his coming? Is it not here again communicated through outward means, by institutions founded by himself for that purpose?
Now, therefore, should we not expect that the great end for which he came on earth was the abolition of sin, and not merely the cancelling of sin as a general debt; but as supplying the means whereby each individual was himself to have the benefit of that redemption ? When we see that every other great benefit which he intended to confer on mankind, was attached to an outward observance; that some given form was committed into the hands of ministers destined for that purpose, can we believe that there is such an inconsistency in his method of acting—that the system is so broken, and so imperfect, that for this purpose only there should have been no visible and outward means instituted by him on earth? Is it not natural to expect, on the contrary, that, as in the least important case (I say, less important, if we view it in reference to the character of the guilt) of original sin, and in which we have no personal participation, he was not contented that the child or the adult should merely be recognised by any inward act of other men, or by his own inward act as a member of the cburch, by giving his adhesion to its belief, or by mentally possessing himself of the merits of Christ; but that he should appear in the attitude of a culprit, and so on asking and soliciting forgiveness, that he should in this way be examined, and a promise required of him, and that his guilt should be by himself, in the face of the church, confessed before mankind. Can we believe, that in the more important case, when the great end
for which Christ came on earth, was to be wiped away, when the much deeper and much more enormous guilt of particular offences, whereby we have especially outraged the majesty and glory of God, were to be removed, that he should have left on the one hand no road, no outward and visible means of applying his salvation, and then on the other, that he should require no compensation in the sight of man?
Now, therefore, it is upon these grounds, upon even approaching the subject at a distance, that no one can consider it inconsistent with the views, with the ordinary course, with the obvious line of providential conduct towards mankind in the establishment of Christianity, to suppose that there should be left in the church an express institution for the cancelling of sin, through the application of the all-redeeming and all-sufficient blood of Christ.
We come then, in the next place, to see what is the Catholic doctrine regarding the nature of this institution. The Catholic church teaches, that Christ did establish upon earth a means whereby forgiveness could be imparted to the guilty conscience; whereby, upon the performance of certain acts, the sinner, who had offended, could obtain authoritative forgiveness. It is generally said, (I mean by those who preach contrary to our doctrines, and who write also against them), that the institution which the Catholics maintain to have been established by Christ is, CONFESSION. This, in the first place, is an error; the catholic believes, that it is the sacrament of PENANCE, consisting of three parts, whereof confession is only one, and that one not the most essential. Here, therefore, is manifestly a mis-statement; and, if I may so say, a misrepresentation, however unintentional, of our belief; because I will now proceed to show you, that the Catholic church urges and teaches the necessity of every thing which any other church requires, and that even in more complete perfection than any other system of religion. We believe, therefore, that the sacrament of penance consists, as I said, of three things : contrition, or sorrow; confession, or its outward manifestation; and satisfaction, or an acț demonstrating our perseverance in that which we have before expressed.
With regard to the first, the Catholic church teaches, that sorrow, or contrition, which involves all that any other church means by repentance, has always been necessary on earth to obtain the forgiveness of God. It maintains that without that sorrow no forgiveness can possibly be obtained in the new law; that without a deep and earnest sorrow, and a determination not to sin again, no absolution of the priest has the slightest worth or value in the sight of God; tbat, on the contrary, any one who shall ask for or obtain absolution without that sorrow, instead of thereby obtaining forgiveness of sin, commits a most enormous sacrilege, adds to the load of his former guilt, and goes away from the
- feet of the confessor still more heavily laden with iniquity than when he approached unto him. This, therefore, is the Catholic doctrine with regard to the most essential portion of the elements of forgiveness.
But what is this sorrow or contrition, which the Catholic church requires ? I believe, that if any one would take the trouble to analyze the doctrines of the reformed churches on the exact meaning of the term repentance, distinguishing the steps from the instrument—that is, the means whereby men are to arrive at the last act whereby they are purged from their sins, he would find it exceedingly difficult to arrive at any tangible system, or any forms of apprehension which would bear a strict logical examination. In the articles, for instance, of the Church of England, every thing is laid down in the vaguest manner. We have it simply said, that men are justified by repentance, and by faith in Christ; by believing in the merits of Christ; and we are referred to the homily of justification, for a further explanation. If any one will read over that homily, he will find that it is repeated again and again, that man is justified by faith alone, without works. He will find, however, that works are necessary, he will find that love is an ingredient of this faith ; but you are never told how the sinner is conducted to this faith ; you are never told when for the first time, for instance, like the prodigal son, he begins to be sensible of the wretched state in which he is placed-in what way he is to be conducted to the faith which justifies the sinner. We are not even told what that faith is, or in what way we are to believe in the merits of Christ. Are we to be simply satisfied with a firm persuasion or conviction that the merits of Christ are sufficient to purge us from our sin ? or, are we to believe, in our own individual case, that the blood is applied to us, and that we are forgiven? But, by what process is this application to be made? Is it simple conviction ? Then I ask, what is the condition to that conviction? What is it that authorizes you to feel that conviction in yourself? What are the previous acts which have made you worthy of that application? If you are supposed, then, to entertain the conviction, (for unless the con. viction is equivalent to the actual possession of that of whose possession you are convinced, the conviction is deceitful) there should be a criterion, or means of knowing, before you are allowed to be convinced, whether you have grounds for that conviction. Now, on all this we are left completely in the dark ; each one is given up, as it were, to the opinions or the devices of his own heart. And hence it is, that we have as many theories on justification, when we come to examine its special application, as there are persons who have written on this subject ?
But if we look into the works of the foreign reformers, of those who may be considered the fathers or the founders of the reformation, although, in them also, there is a considerable contradiction and an incon
sistency, between different portions of their writings; yet we have, at least, an attempt made to show the steps whereby the justification of the sinner is attained. We are told constantly, both in the works of Luther and in the articles of several of the churches, that the first step is the terror of conscience; that the soul, contemplating the dreadful abyes of misery, whereby it is surrounded, seeing itself necessarily upon the brink of eternal damnation, is thereby excited to sorrow for sin; and that, turning to the merits of Christ, by an act of faith in him, the sinner is justified that is to say, his sins are covered and taken away in the sight of God.
The preliminary step, therefore, required by this is simply terror or a dread of God's judgments; the next, and the final step, is an act of faith in his power to redeem, and in the efficacy of his blood. Now, brethren, not only does the Catholic church require all this, but it considers these as merely intuitive acts—imperfect germs of that sorrow and contrition which it demands, before absolution can be valid. The council of Trent has, in perhaps one of the most beautiful and pbilosopbic passages written in modern times, upon subjects connected with interior theology, laid down the steps whereby the soul is brought to turn away from sin, and to an efficacious desire of reconciliation with God. It does indeed represent, in the first place, the soul as terrified by the idea of God's judgments, as struck with horror on hearing from his word the awful state into which sin bas introduced it. But this, so far from being the immediate step which is to precede justification, is but the distant, and the most distant germ of these more beautiful and perfectly Christian virtues, which are to come into bloom. For the sinner, thus terrified by the sentence of God's judgments, is, for a moment, lost in apprehension, and then, turning naturally to look around for relief, he sees on the other hand, the immense mercy and goodness of God; and balancing them with his more awful attributes, sees how far they exceed all his other perfections, and is instantly buoyed up with hope in finding there is mercy; that he may arise and return to his Father's house, with the prospect of being restored, at least, as one of the smallest and the lowest of his servants. But this, again, is only another step towards that feeling of affection, which must necessarily be excited at thinking God can be so merciful; that his kindness can extend so far as to receive even such a wretched being once more into his arms, and then, in a moment, fear is banished; for, as St. John says, “ perfect love sendeth forth fear.” The soul so inflamed with ardent affection and love to God, is thus brought into that state whereof it is said in the New Testament, that “much is forgiven, because they have loved much.”
While faith, therefore, is the principle, the root of all justification, there are yet other acts, other developments of virtue more congenial
to the thought of the attributes of God, and a great deal more consistent with the order of his institution in the new law, through which the soul gradually passes up to that last act which seals its justification.
Now, St. Paul bas said again and again, that except through faith no man can be justified; that all justification comes through the redemption of Christ, and through faith in him; and thus does the progress of justification, therefore, begin in that faith, and, as we shall see afterwards, end in the application of his blood, as the only means of salvation. Thus far, therefore, we have every thing included in the progress, and in the preparatory acts of forgiveness, required in any other religion for the justification of the sinner. And I will simply ask, before I come to treat on more difficult points, can it be true, as it is said a thousand times, that this is a system favourable to crime? that the Catholic has his forgiveness and his absolution so completely attached to an outward act, that he is reckless of the commission of offences or transgressions, because he considers that the soul can be cleansed of sin, as easily as the body may be cleansed of outward defilement? that it is as a bath, a laver, wherein, by an easy and wholesome application, the soul is once more restored to its original purity ?
But we are not as yet arrived at the close of this important subject; for, it must be observed, that these are only the ingredients, or almost the mere preparatory steps for that act of sorrow or contrition which is the essential concomitant of confession—nay, not only its concomitant, but so much superior, and so much more important, that the Catholic church believes and teaches, and in her daily practice, that belief is shown forth-that, if from circumstances, there are no means of having approach to the act of confession; that if illness surprise the sinner before the minister of repentance can approach him; if circumstances place him out of the reach of such a comforter ; and there is no one to apply to him this institution, then the act of contrition, including necessarily a willingness to practice confession, if in the power of the individual, because it is an institution established by Christ for the forgiveness of sin, would of itself forgive all sin and reconcile the sinner to God as completely as if he had confessed all his crimes, and received absolution. I say, our practice shows this, because it is the feeling not merely of every ecclesiastic; but it is well known to the most illiterate, and least instructed among us, that in case of sudden danger or surprise by death, or under other peculiar circumstances, a fervent act of sorrow is equivalent to all that Christ has instituted for the forgiveness of sins.
And what is this sorrow? I will read you the definition in the words of the Council of Trent-of that council which most clearly defines the Catholic doctrine on the subject.
“ Contrition,” that is, sorrow, such is the technical term used for it in the church, “ which holds the first place among the acts of penance,