A DISCOURSE CONCERNING Auricular Confession, As it is prescribed by the COUNCIL OF TRENT, And practised in the CHURCH of ROME.

With a Post-script on occasion of a Book lately printed in France, called Historia Confessionis Auricularis.

LONDON, Printed by H. Hills Jun. for Benj. Tooke at the Sign of the Ship in St. Paul's Church-yard; and Fincham Gardiner at the Sign of the White-Horse in Ludgate-street. 1648.

OF Auricular Confession.

THE Zealots of the Church of Rome, are wont to Glory of the singular advanta­ges, in the Communion of that Church, especially in respect of the greater means and helps of Spiritual comfort, which they pretend are to be had there, above and beyond what are to be found amongst other Societies of Christians. Which one thing, if it could be as substantially made out, as it is confidently asserted, could not fail to sway very much with all Wise men, and would undoubtedly prevail with all devout per­sons, (who were made acquainted with the secret) to go over to them. But if contrariwise it appear upon search, that their pretensions of this kind are false and groundless, and that the methods of Administring consolation, which are peculiar to that Church, are as well unsafe and deceitful, as singular and unnecessary: Then the same Prudence and Sincerity, will oblige a man to suspect that Communion, instead of becoming a proselyte to it, and to look upon the aforesaid boast­ings as the effect either of designed imposture, or at the least of Ignorance and Delusion.

Amongst other things, that Church highly values it self upon, the Sacrament of Penance (as they call it) and as deeply blames and condemns the Church of England, and other Reformed Churches, for their defect in, and neg­lect [Page 2] of so important and comfortable an Office. And under that specious pretext, her Emissaries (who are wont according to the phrase of the Apostle, to creep into houses, and lead Captive silly Women, &c.) insinu­ate themselves into such of the People as have more Zeal then knowledge, and now and then wheadle some of them over into their Society. To that purpose, they will not only harangue them with fine stories of the ease and benefit of it, as of an Ancient and useful Rite, but will also Preach to them the necessity of it as of Divine Institution, and that it is as important (in its kind) as Baptism or the Lords Supper▪ For that Confession to a Priest, and his Absolution there­upon obtained, is the only means appointed by God for the procuring of Pardon of all mortal sins com­mitted after Baptism.

As for Original sin, or whatsoever actual trans­gressions may have been committed before Baptism, Concil. Trid. sess. 14. c. 2. all those they acknowledg to be washed away in that sacred Laver. And for sins of Infirmity or Venial sins, these may be done away by several easy methods, by Contrition alone say some, nay, by Attrition alone Vid. Becan. Tract. de Sa­cramentis in specie. (say others) by Habitual Grace says a third, &c. But for mortal sins committed after a man is admitted into the Church by Baptism▪ for these there is no other door of Mercy, but the Priests Lips, nor hath God appointed, or will admit of any other way of Recon­ciliation then this, of Confession to a Priest, and his Absolution.

This Sacrament of Penance therefore is called by them, Secunda Tabula post naufragium, the peculiar re­fuge of a lapsed Christian, the only Sanctuary of a gu [...]lty Conscience, the sole means of restoring such a person to Peace of Conscience the Favour of God, and the hopes of Heaven. And withal, this method is [Page 3] held to be so Soveraign and Effectual a remedy, that it cures toties, quoties; and whatever a mans in fear­riages have been, and how often soever repeated, if he do but as often resort to it, he shall return as pure and clean as when he first came from the Font.

This ready and easie way (say they) hath God allow­ed men, of quitting all scores with himself, in the use of which they may have perfect peace in their Consciences, and may think of the day of Judgment without horror, having their Case decided beforehand by Gods Deputy the Priest, and their Pardon ready to produce, and plead at the Tribunal of Christ.

What a mighty defect is it therefore in the Prote­stant Churches, who wanting this Sacrament, want the principal ministry of reconciliation? And who would not joyn himself to the Society of that Church, where this great Case is so abundantly provided for? For if all this be true, he must be extreamly fool-hardy and deserve to perish, who will not be of that Com­munion from whence the way to Heaven is so very easie and obvious, no wonder therefore I say, if not only the loose and vicious are fond of this Communion where they may sin and confess, and confess and sin again without any great danger, but it would be strange if the more Virtuous and Prudent also, did not out of more caution think it became them to com­ply with his expedient. For as much as there is no man who understands himself, but must be conscious of having committed sins since his Baptism, and then for fear some of them should prove to be of a mortal nature, it will be his safest course to betake himself to this refuge, and consequently he will easily be drawn to that Church, where the only remedy of his disease is to be had.

But the best of it is, these things are so oner said then [Page 4] proved, and more easily phansied by silly People, then believed by those of discretion. And therefore there may be no culpable defect in the reformed Churches, that they trust not to this remedy in so great a Case. And as for the Church of England in particular, though she hath no fondness for Mounte­bank Medicines, as observing them to be seldom successful; yet she is not wanting in her care, and com­passion to the Souls of those under her guidance, but ex­presseth as much tenderness of their peace and com­fort, as the Church of Rome can pretend to. Indeed she hath not set up a Confessors Chair in every Parish, nor much less placed the Priest in the Seat of God Al­mighty, as thinking it safer, at least in ordinary Cases, to remit men to the Text of the written word of God, and to the publick Ministry thereof, for resolution of Conscience, then to the secret Oracle of a Priest in a corner, and advises them rather to observe what God himself declares of the nature and guilt of sin, the ag­gravations or abatements of it, and the terms and conditions of Pardon, then what a Priest pronounces. But however this course doth not please the Church of Rome, for reasons best known to themselves, which if we may guess at, the main seems to be this, they do not think it fit to let men be their own carvers, but lead them like Children by the hand; my meaning is, they keep People as much in Ignorance of the Holy Scripture as they can, locking that up from them in an unknown Tongue; now if they may not be trusted with those Sacred Records, so as to inform themselves of the terms of the New Covenant, the conditions of the Pardon of sin, and Salvation, it is then but reasonable that the Priest should Judge for them, and that they await their doom from his Mouth. Yet I do not see why in a Protestant Church, [Page 5] where the whole Religion is in the Mother Tongue, the Old and especially the New Testament constantly, and conscientiously expounded, and the People allowed to search the Scriptures, and to see whether things be so or no, I see not, I say, Why in such a case the Priest may not in great measure be excused the trouble of at­tending secret Confessions, without danger to the Souls of men.

But besides this, there is a constant use of Confessi­on and Absolution too, in the Church of England, in every Days Service; which though they be both in ge­neral terms, as they ought to be in publick Worship, yet every Penitent can both from his own Conscience supply the generality of the Confession by a remorse­ful reflection upon his own particular sins, as well as if he did it at the knees of a Priest; and also by an Act of Faith can apply the general Sentence of Absolution to his own Soul, with as good and comfortable effects, as if it had been specially pronounced by his Confessor.

But this publick Confession doth not please the Ro­manists neither, and they know a Reason for their dis­like; namely, because this doth not conciliate so great a Veneration to the Priest-hood, as when all men are brought to kneel to them for Salvation: Neither doth this way make them to pry into the secret thoughts of Men, as Auricular Confession doth, wherein the Priest is not only made a Judge of mens estate, but a Spy up­on their behavior, and is capable of becoming an In­telligencer to his Superiors of all the Designs, Interests, and even Constitutions of the People.

Moreover the Church of England allows of private Confessions also, as particularly in the Visitation of the sick, (which office extends also to them that are trou­bled in Mind or Conscience, as well as to the afflicted in Body) where the Minister is directed to examine [Page 6] particularly the state of the Decumbents Soul, to search and romage his Conscience, to try his Faith, his Re­pentance, his Charity, nay, to move him to make a special Confession of his sins, and afterwards to absolve him upon just grounds.

Nay further yet, if (besides the case of Sickness) any Man shall either out of perplexity of Mind, scrupu­losity or remorse of Conscience, or any other devout consideration, think it needful to apply himself to a Priest of the Church of England for advice, ease, or re­lief, he hath incouragement and direction so to do in the first Exhortation to the Holy Communion, and may be sure to find those who will tenderly, and faithfully, as well as secretly administer to his necessities. So that I see not what defect or omission can be objected to this Church in all this Affair, or what Temptation any Man can have upon this account to go from us to the Church of Rome.

But all this will not satisfy them of the Church of Rome, they are neither contented with publick con­fession, nor with private, no nor with secret neither, if it be only occasional or voluntary: It is the univer­sality and necessity of it which they insist upon, for it is not with them a Matter of Ecclesiastical Discipline, to prevent the Scandal of the Society, to conserve the Reverence of the Church, or to rest rain men from sin­ning, or much less an Office of Expediency and Pru­dence to be resorted to upon exigencies, or such as may accidentally become necessary upon emergency as sup­pose upon the atrocity of some fact committed, the scandalousness of some persons former life, which may make him more doubtful of his Pardon, the weak­ness of his Judgment, the Melancholy of his Temper, or the Anxiety of his Mind, or any such like occasion▪ but it must be the standing indispensable duty of all [Page 7] men, as the condition of the Pardon of their Sins; in one word it must be a Sacrament of Divine institu­tion, and of Universal Obligation.

For so the Council of Trent determins, Sess. 4. Canon

1. Si quis, dixerit in Ecolesiâ Catholica poenitentiam nom esse verè & propriè Sacramentum pro fidelibus, quoties post Baptismum in peccata labentur, ipsi Deo reconciliandi [...] a Domino nostro institutum, Anathema sit; i. e. Let him be accursed, who shall affirm that Penance is not truly and properly a Sacrament instituted and appointed in the Universal Church, by our Lord Christ himself, for the reconciling those Christians to the Divine Majesty, who have fallen into Sin after their Baptism.

And in the Doctrinal part of that Decree they teach and assert more particularly; First, That our Saviour instituted this Sacrament expresly, Joh. 20. 22.

2. That this Sacrament consists of two parts, viz. the Matter and the Form; the Matter of the Sacrament Sess. 14. Cap. 2. (or quasi materia as they cautiously speak) is the act or acts of the Penitent, namely, Contrition, Confessi­on, and Satisfaction; the Form of it is the act of the Priest in these words, Absolvote.

3. That therefore it is the duty of every Man who hath fallen after Baptism, as aforesaid, to confess his sins Cap. 3. at least once a year to a Priest.

4. That this confession is to be secret; for publick Con­fession Cap. 5. they say is neither commanded nor expedient.

5. That this confession of Mortal sin be very exact and Ibid. particular together with all circumstances, especially such as speciem facti mutant [...], alter the kind or degree of sin, and that it extend to the most secret sins, even of thought; or against the 9th. and 10th. Command­ment. Ibid.

6. That the Penitent thus doing, the Absolution of Cap. 6. the Priest hereupon pronounced is not conditional or declarative only, but absolute and judicial.

[Page 8] Now in opposition to this Doctrine and Decree of theirs, and the practice of that Church pursuant there­of, as well as in defence of the Doctrine and Practice of the Church of England in that particular, I will here endeavor to make good these Three things.

1. That our blessed Lord and Saviour hath neither in his Gospel instituted such an Auricular Confession as aforesaid, nor much less, such a Sacrament of Penance as the Church of Rome supposes in the recited De­cree.

2. That Auricular Confession hath not been of constant and universal use in the Christian Church, as the Romanists pretend, much less looked upon as of Sa­cramental and necessary Obligation.

3. That Auricular Confession as it is now used in the Church of Rome, is not only unnecessary and burden­some, but in many respects very mischievous to Piety, and the great ends of Christian Religion.

If the first of these appear to be true, then (at the worst) the want of such an Auricular Confession in the reformed Churches, can be but an irregularity, and no essential defect.

If the second of these assertions be made good, then it can be no defect at all in those Churches that use not such a Rite, but a novelty and imposition on their parts who so strictly require it.

But if the third be true, it will be the corruption and great fault of the Church of Rome to persevere in the injunction and practice of it, and the excellency and commendation of those Churches which exclude it.

I begin with the first, that it doth not appear that our Saviour hath instituted such an Auricular Con­fession, of such a Sacrament of Penance as the Church of Rome pretends and practises.

I confess it is a Negative which I here undertake to [Page 9] make good, which is accounted a difficult Province, but the Council of Trent hath relieved us in that parti­cular by founding the Institution expresly upon that one passage of the Gospel, Joh. 20. 22. So that we shall not need to examine the whole Body of Scripture to discover what footsteps of Divine Institution may be found here or there, for the Council wholly insists and relies upon that Text of St. John, and therefore if that fail them, the whole Hypothesis falls to the ground.

Now for the clearing of this, let us lay the words before us; and they are these, He breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whosoever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Now here I appeal to any Man that hath Eyes in his Head, or Ears to hear, whether in this Text there be any one word of Auricular Confession, or much less of such a circumstantiated one as they require; And this is so manifest and notorious, that their own ancient Canonists and several of their learned Divines are asha­med of the pretence of Divine Institution founded upon this or any other passage of Scripture, and therefore are content to defend the practice of the Church of Rome in this particular, upon the account of the Authority, and general usage of the Church; which we shall come to examine by and by in its due place.

In the mean time I cannot choose but admire the mighty Faith of a Romanist, who can believe in spight of his own Eyes. It seemed to us an unsuperable dif­ficulty heretofore, for a Man to persuade himself that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist Bread was transub­stantiated into Flesh, because it was against the express Testimony of Sense, yea, although for that there was [Page 10] the countenance of Five figurative (but mistaken) words to support the credulity; but this of the Sa­crament of Penance clearly out-does it, for here a Man must believe a thing to be, when as there is not so much as one word for the ground of his Faith, or the proof of the thing in question. How many Sacraments may not such men have if they please? What voluminous Creeds may not they swallow and digest? What Mountains may not such a wonderful Faith remove?

But let us hear what they have to say for themselves; perhaps in the first place they will plead the Authority of the Council of Trent, which hath peremptorily de­termined the sense of the passage of the Gospel to the purpose aforesaid. Indeed that Council in the third Canon of their fourteenth Session, doth damn all those who deny that a Sacrament of Penance and Auricular Confession is prescribed in that Text of St. John, or who apply it to any other purpose. But in so doing, they both usurp a Prerogative which was never pre­tended to or practised by any Council before them, and withal they betray a consciousness that the Text it self yielded no sufficient evidence of the thing which they designed to countenance by it; for what Councils (ever till now) brought a Text, and then imposed an Interpretation upon it contrary to the words? And then backt that Interpretation with an Anathema? If the Text were plain or could be made so, why was not that done? And to be sure if that cannot be done by other means, the curse will not do it; at least to any but very obedient Roman Consciences. Besides if this course be allowed, I see not but a Council may bring in what Religion they please, having first made a Nose of Wax of the Holy Scripture, and then writhed it into what shape they best phansy; for in such a case, if the words of the Gospel do not favour me, I can go­vern [Page 11] the sense, and if the letter be silent or intractable, I can help that with an Interpretation; and if I have authority or confidence enough to impose that, under the peril of Anathema, I am no longer an Interpreter or a Judg, but a Law-giver, and need not trouble my self with Scriptum est, but may (if I will speak plain) say decretum est, and the business is done.

But if neither the Letter of Scripture, nor the Au­thority of a Council will do in this case, then in the second place they think they have at least some colour of Reason to relieve them; and if they cannot find Au­ricular Confession in the Text, yet they will by con­sequence infer it thence; for they say although indeed it is true it is not here expresly mentioned, yet it is cer­tain that our Saviour in the Text before us instituted a Sacrament of Penance, and therefore Auricular Con­fession must necessarily be implied because absolution cannot be without Confession.

Here the Reader will observe that the point in Que­stion between us is very much altered▪ for we are now fallen from the consideration of the Divine Institution of Auricular Confession in particular to that of a Sacra­ment of Penance in general, i. e. from a direct proof to a subintelligitur. But we will follow them hither also, and for the clearing of this matter we will brief­ly consider these three things.

1. Whether that can properly be said to be of Di­vine institution, and necessary to Salvation, which de­pends on an inference, and is proved only by an innuendo?

2. Whether it can be reasonable to assert that our Saviour there institutes a Sacrament of Penance, where not only Auricular Confession, but the whole matter of such a Sacrament is lest undefined?

3. Whether if our Saviour (had done that which it is plain he hath not, that is,) had here instituted and [Page 12] appointed all those things, which by the Church of Rome are required as the material parts of Penance, yet this could have been esteemed a Sacrament?

1. For the first of these, we have no more to do but to consider the force and signification of this word In­stitution. Now that in the common use of men (espe­cially of those which speak distinctly and understand­ingly) implies a setting up de novo, or the appointing that to become a duty, which was not knowable, or at least not known to be so before it became so appointed. For this word Institution is that which we use to express a positive command by, in opposition to that which is Moral in the strictest sense, and of natural obligation. Now it is very evident that all things of this Nature ought to be appointed very plainly and expresly, or else they can carry no obligation with them; for see­ing the whole Reason of their becoming matter of Law or Duty, lies in the will of the Legislator, if that be not plainly discovered, they cannot be said to be insti­tuted, and so there can be no Obligation to observe them, because where there is no Law, there can be no Trans­gression; and a Law is no Law in effect which is not sufficiently promulged. Is it not therefore a very strange thing to tell us of an Institution by implication only, and yet at the same time to tell us that the mat­ter so (pretended to be) instituted, is no less then ab­solutely Sess. 14. C. 2. necessary to the Salvation of Sinners?

2. The second of these will easily be resolved by con­sidering what we observed before from the Council of Trent, viz. that this Sacrament of Penance consists of Sess. 14. C 3 Matter and Form; the Form is the Priests Absolution, but the Matter or Materials of this Sacrament are Con­trition, Confession to a Priest, and Satisfaction or Perfor­mance of the Penance enjoyn'd by him; now it is evident that not only Auricular Confession (of which we have [Page 13] spoken hitherto but also Contrition and Satisfaction, are wholly omitted and past over in silence by the Evange­list in this passage of Scripture, from whence they fetch their Sacrament of Penance; and is it not a won­derfully strange thing, that our Saviour should be sup­posed to institute a Sacrament without any Materials of it at all? Surely therefore this must be either a very Spi­ritual Sacrament, or none at all.

Let us guess at the probability of this in proportion to either of the other undoubted Sacraments. Suppose our Saviour instead of that accurate form in which he instituted the Eucharist had only said, I would have you my Disciples and all that shall believe on my Name to keep a Memorial of me when I am gone: Or suppose he said only as he doth, Joh. 6. 55. My Flesh is Meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed, would any one have concluded here, that our Saviour in so saying, had appointed Bread and Wine to be con­secrated, to be received in such a manner, and in a word that he had (without more ado) instituted such a Sacrament as we usually celebrate? No certainly, and therefore we see our Saviour is the most express and particular therein that can be, for he takes Bread, blesses it, breaks it, gives it to them, saying, Take eat, this is my body, &c. and after Supper he takes the Cup, blesses it, gives it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this, for this is the New Testament in my Blood, &c. and then adds, do this in remembrance of me. Now who is there that observes this accuracy of our Saviour in the Eu­charist, can imagine that he should intend to institute a Sacrament of Penance, and that as necessary to Sal­vation (in the Opinion of the Romanists) as the other, only with this Form of words, Whosoever sins ye remit they are remitted, &c. and without the least mention of Confession, Contrition, or any other Material or necessary Part of Circumstance of it.

[Page 14] 3. But in the third and last place, let us suppose that our Saviour had in the Text before us instituted Pe­nance, and had appointed particularly all those things, which they call the Material parts of it, (as it is evi­dent he hath not) yet even then, and upon that Sup­position, Penance would not have proved to be a Sa­crament properly so called.

I confess according to a loose acceptation of the word Sacrament, something may be said for it; for so there are many things have had the name of Sacrament applied to them. Tertullian somewhere calls Elisha's Ax the Sacrament of Wood, and in his Book against Marcion he stiles the whole Christian Religion a Sacrament. St. Austin in several places calls Bread, Fish, the Rock, and the Mystery of Number, Sacraments, for he hath given us a general Rule in his Fifth Epistle, viz. That all signs when they belong to divine things are called Sacraments: And in consideration hereof it is acknow­ledged by Cassander, that the Number of Sacraments was indefinite in the Church of Rome it self, until the times of Peter Lombard. But all this notwithstanding, and properly speaking, this Rite of Penance taking it altogether (and even supposing whatsoever the Ro­manists can suppose to belong to it) cannot be reputed a Sacrament, according to the allowed definitions of a Sa­crament delivered by their own Divines. Some of them define a Sacrament thus, Hugo de S. Vict. lib. de Sacram. Sacramentum est corporale ele­mentum foris sensibiliter propositum, ex similitudine reprae­sentans & ex institutione significans, & ex Sanctificatione continens invisibilem gratiam. And the Magist. Sent. lib. 4. dist. 1. Master of the Sentences himself describes it somewhat more briefly, but to the same effect in these words: Sacramentum est invisibilis gratiae visibilis forma, ejusdem gratiae imagi­nem gerens & causa existens; both which definitions are acknowledged and applauded by the Jesuite Becanus Tract. 2. de Sacramentis. Becanus: [Page 15] And the plain truth is a Sacrament cannot be better exprest in so few words, then it is by St. Aug. c. Faust. Lib. 19. C. 16. Austin when he calls it verbum visibile a visible Word or Gospel: For it pleased the Divine Wisdom and Goodness by this institution of Sacraments to condescend to our weak­ness, and thereby to give us sensible Tokens or Pledges of what he had promised in his Written word, to the intent that our dulness might be relieved, and our Faith assisted; forasmuch as herein, our Eyes and other Senses as well as our Ears are made Witnesses of his gracious intentions. Thus by Baptismal washing he gives us a sensible token and representation of our re­generation, and the washing away of our sins by the Blood of Christ; and by the participation of Bread and Wine in the Lords Supper we have a Token and Symbol of our Union with Christ, our Friendship with God and Communion with each other.

But now it is manifest there is no such thing as this in their Sacrament of Penance (as even Bellarmine him­self confesses.) For they do not say or mean that the Ab­solution of the Priest is a Token or Emblem of God's forgiveness, but that the Priest actually pardons in God's stead, by Virtue of a Power delegated to him. So that according to them, here must be a Sacrament, not only without any material parts instituted, but also without any thing Figurative, Symbolical or Significative which seems to be as expresly contrary to their own Doctrine in the aforesaid definitions as to the truth it self.

Nay, further to evince the difference of this Rite of Penance from all other proper Sacraments; it deserves observation, that whereas in those other acknowledged Sacraments, the Priest in God's Name delivers to us the Pledges and Symbols of Divine Grace. Here in this of Penance we must bring all the material Parts and Pledges our selves, and present them to God, or [Page 16] to the Priest in his stead: My meaning is, that where­as (for instance) in Baptism the Priest applies to us the Symbol of Water, and in the Eucharist delivers to us the consecrated Elements in token of the Divine Grace, contrary-wise here in Penance we must on our parts bring with us Contrition, Confession, and Sa­tisfaction too, in which respect we may be rather said to give Pledges to God, then he to us; which is wide­ly different from the Nature of other Sacraments, and seems no less to be contrary to the Reason and Notion of a Sacrament in general.

The Sum of what we have hitherto discoursed, amounts to this; First, That here is no Auricular Con­fession instituted by our Saviour, Joh. 20. 22. as was pretended. Secondly, Nor, any Sacrament of Penance in which it can be included or implied; no nor indeed any Sacrament at all.

I confess I might have spared all the words I have used in proving the latter, for so long as I have made appear that private Confession is not instituted, it was not so very material to consider whether Penance could be a Sacrament or no; but this I added to shew the im­perious dictates of that Church, and their extrava­gancy in imposing the most Sacred Names upon their own inventions, thereby to give them the greater ve­neration with the People.

And thus I would dismiss the first part of my under­taking, but yet the Romanists will not forego their pre­tensions for Auricular Confession; for they will yet urge, that whether or no we will call it a Sacrament which our Saviour institutes in the Text before us, it is however certain here is a Power conferred on the Apostles, and their Successors, of remitting and retain­ing sins; for by these words, Whosoever sins ye remit they are remitted, &c. Christus con­stituit Sacer­dotes sui ipsius Vicarios. Sess. 14. Prasides & Judices Ib. c. 4. Our Saviour hath made the [Page 17] Priest a judge of Mens consciences and conditions; Sacerdos solvit peccata po­testate quadam praetoria Bel­lar. lib. 1. de sacram. c. 10. Christus ra­tam habet sen­tentiam à Sa­cerdote latam. id. lib. 3. c. 2. wherefore that he may not proceed blindly and in­discriminately it is necessary that he know the merits of the Cause, and not only understand the matter of fact, but all the circumstances which may aggravate or extenuate it, all which cannot be attained with­out the Confession of the party, therefore Auricular Confession is as necessarily implied in the Text, as Absolution or Retention of sins is exprest in it. So they.

But I crave leave to demand in the first place, Is it certain that upon such a Confession as they require, the Priest (as such) will be able to make a right judgment of a Mans case that addresses himself to him, especially considering the intricacy of some Cases, and the ignorance of some Priests; upon this account are those memorable words of St. Austin Confess. lib. 10. c. 3. Quid mihi ergo est cum homini­bus ut audiant Confessiones meas, quasi ipsi sanaturi sint omnes languores meos, & unde sciunt cum à meipso de meipso audiunt, an verum dicam? Quando quidem ne­mo scit hominum quid agitur in homine, nisi spiritus hominis qui in ipso est. i. e. ‘To what purpose should I Con­fess my sins to Men who cannot heal my wounds? For how shall they (who know nothing of my heart but by my own Confession) know whether I say true or no? For no one knows what is in Man, but the Spirit of Man that is in him.’ O yes, they will say clave non errante, that is to say, if he judge right, he judges right, and no more, and this is mighty comfort to a distressed conscience.

Secondly, Though we grant our Saviour hath given the Priest Authority to Remit and Retain sins, yet how doth it appear that this extends to Secret sins; sins; in thought only, or as the Council expresses it [Page 18] against the ninth and tenth Commandments? Of open sins and publick scandals the Church hath cognizance, and hath a right which she may insist upon, or recede from, if she see cause, because such sins are an injury to the Society as well as an offence against God, and therefore here the Officers of the Church may dispense her Authority, and Remit or Retain (as we shall see more by and by;) but in secret sins where only God is injured, and to which he is only pri­vy, what hath the Church to do, unless they be volun­tarily discovered to her? Otherwise they are pro­perly reserved Cases to the Tribunal of God.

Thirdly, I would be bold to enquire further, why may not sins, especially such as we last named, be Remitted upon Confession to God, without Con­fession to the Priest also? And I the rather ask this for these two reasons, First I observe that this very Council of Trent saith, that until the times of our Sess. 14. c. 1. Saviour, and his Institution of this Sacrament, sins were remitted upon contrition only, and application to the mercies of God, without Auricular Confession. They cannot therefore now say, remission implies this Confession, for that cannot be said to be implied in the nature of a thing, when the thing it self can be had without it.

They will answer that it is sufficient, that it is now made necessary by our Saviour. But I reply, Then that Institution which now makes it necessary, must be better proved then yet it hath been, or else Men will be very apt to hope they may now under the Gospel obtain Pardon (at least) upon as easie terms as it was to be had at before.

My Second reason of asking that Third Question is this; I observe that their own Schoolmen acknow­ledg Aquinas summ. part. 3. Q. 68. sins to be remitted under the Gospel by the [Page 19] Priest without any Confession to Men, particularly in the Administration of Baptism, by which it plain­ly appears, that Confession is not implied in the nature of Remission, but one may be had without the other, and then why may not a sinner after Baptism, hope for Pardon upon his contrite and de­vout application to the Word and Sacraments, with­out this new device and pick-lock of Conscience, Au­ricular Confession.

But so much for that.

Sect. 3. I proceed now to the second thing propoun­ded, namely, to inquire historically whether or no Auricular, or such a secret, and Sacramental Con­fession, as aforesaid, hath been of constant and univer­sal use in the Christian Church, as the Romanists pre­tend, and as the Council of Trent asserts, Sessi. 14. Chap. 5.

This inquiry is not into matter of Law or Divine Right, as the former was, but of Fact only, yet never the less it is of great moment upon a double account:

1. Because this is the ground which the Old Roman Canonists wholly went upon, (as I noted before;) they exploded all pretence of Divine Institution in the case, as having more modesty (it seems) then to pretend so high upon no better evidence, or at least they contented themselves to prescribe for it only upon the Authority of constant and universal practice; now if we shew the falseness, of this ground, as well as of the other, then will their Hypothesis of Auricular Confession have no foot to stand upon.

2. Because the Credit of what hath been already said under the former head doth very much depend upon this, and that Discourse will be confirmed or impaired respectively to what shall be evidently made out in this second point. Forasmuch as if on the one [Page 20] side it be made apparent that such a Rite hath been of constant use in the Christian Church, it will afford a great presumption that it took its rise at first from Divine Institution, notwithstanding all we have of­fered to the contrary. So on the other side, if the Evidence here answer not the Pretension, and no suffi­cient footsteps of constant and universal practice ap­pear: Then will all that which we have hitherto dis­coursed, be greatly strengthened and confirmed; be­cause it is by no means probable, that if there had been a Divine Law in the case, that such a thing would have been generally neglected by the Christian Church.

Now for the clearing of this, though I am here on­ly upon the defensive, and so bound to no more then to examine the proofs which the Romanists bring for their pretensions, yet I will deal ingenuously, as seek­ing not to find Flaws, but to discover the Truth, and therefore give these instances as so many reasons for the Negative.

In the first place I crave leave to premise this: If Auricular Confession were so great a Gospel mystery, so wonderfully efficacious a method of saving Souls, as to be typified in the Law (as the Romanists teach) as well as instituted in the Gospel and practised by the whole Church, one might seem justly to wonder how it comes to pass that there should be no mention, nor appearance of it in the whole course of our Saviours own Ministry; he used to be an example, as well as a Law-giver to the Church, he washed his Disciples Feet, before he enjoined them to wash one another; he ex­emplified the other Sacraments before he prescribed his Apostles to administer them, & one would have thought such an Instance of his example had been more necessa­ry in this business of Penance, rather than any other, if it [Page 21] had been but to make way for the Understanding of so obscure an Institution; since especially, one would have thought to find some Traces of this in the Ministry of our Saviour, because he daily conversed with sinners, he reproved them, instructed them, healed them, pardoned them, but never brought any of them to such a Con­fession as we are treating of; viz. To a particular enu­meration of their sins with the circumstances, nor up­on so doing formally absolved them. His very Disciples (some of which had been great sinners) were admit­ted without it; the Woman of Samaria was told by him all that ever she did, but she was not brought on her knees to make her own Confession; but most strange of all it is, that the Woman taken in Adultery, when he had made her accusers slink away, was not privately brought to it; it may be they will say, there was no need of Confession to him who knew all before, but yet it might have been necessary to bring these Sinners to be ashamed of themselves by that means to work Re­pentance, and fit them for Pardon, at least if this Me­thod had been of such mighty use and wonderful necessi­ty as is pretended.

2. But to let pass that; in the next place it is mat­ter of wonder that nothing of this practice appears in the Ministry of the Apostles; they went about preach­ing the Gospel, calling Men to Repentance, ere­cting and governing Churches, but never set them­selves down in a Confessors Chair for penitents, secret­ly to tell them in their Ear, the Story of their vicious Lives; indeed we read, Acts 19. 18. That some came in and shewed their deeds; but first it was voluntary, and in a fit of Holy Zeal, for we cannot find that they were required to do it, as of Sacramental Obligation; & besides, the Confession was publick before the Church, not clancular, and whispered in secret; it is true al­so [Page 22] that St. James, chap. 5. 16. advises the Christians to confess their faults one to another, (which is made a mighty evidence in this Case;) but it is as true, that this was spoken in an extraordinary Case, as appears v. 14. in bodily sickness and distress of Conscience, they are advised to lay open their condition, in order to relief and succour, by the more ardent and affecti­onate Prayers of those who should be made privy to it, but it is not made a standing and universal rule for all Men to comply with, whether they be sick or well, in prosperity or adversity, perplexed or quiet in their Consciences, much less of Sacramental and Necessary Obligation, as in the Roman Church.

3. Let us go on in the next ages after the Apo­stles, for about two hundred years we find not one word of this kind of Confession, which we en­quire for. Indeed the writings of that time which are extant, are not many, but if this business had been of such consequence as is pretended, it is strange that those Holy Men Ignatius, Clemens and Justin Martyr, should not have any mention of it.

Indeed Bellarmine brings us one instance within this Period, and that is from Irenaeus, who speaking of Certain Women who had been abused by Mar­cion the Heretick, saith they afterwards came and Confessed all, with shame and sorrow, to the Church. But what is this to the purpose? We dispute not a­gainst publick Confession, which is acknowledged to be truly Primitive, and we wish it had been con­stantly maintained in after ages, it is only the neces­sity of Clancular Confession that we are unsatisfied in and this passage speaks nothing at all to that Case.

[Page 23] 4. In Tertullians time, which was also much about Two hundred Years after our Saviour, we find great things said of Confession, but it is of that which was publick, and in the face of the Church, not to a Priest in a Corner, and this indeed was greatly incoura­ged and required by the Holy Men of those times, as that which in the Case of open and scandalous sins, freed the Church both from the guilt, and from the reproach of them, and in the Case of secret sins, was a means (by open shame) to bring Men to Repentance, and so to Pardon. And the Confession was princi­pally directed to God, who was the person offended by the sin, yet it was made before Men to raise a fervency in their Prayers, as is noted before, and to obtain their effectual intercession with God on be­half of the penitent. This that Ancient writer makes manifest to be his Sense in his Book de Poeni­tentia in these words Plerumque vero jejuniis preces alere▪, ingemiscere, lachrymari, & mugire dies noctésque ad Dominum Deum tuum, Presbyteris advolvi, & aris (or rather charis) dei adgeniculari, omnibus fratribus lega­tiones saae deprecationis injungere, haec omnia ex homolo­gesis ut poenitentiam commendet, &c. the penitent often joyns Fasting to his prayers, weeps, wails and moans night and day before God, casts himself at the feet of the Priests, kneels to all holy people, and in­treats all the Brethren to be his Intercessors with God Almighty for his Pardon: This is penitential Con­fession, Tertull. Apol. c. 39. &c. And in his Apology more plainly; Coimus in Caetum, &c. ibidem exhortationes, castigationes & censura divina nam & judicatur magno cum pondere ut apud certos de Dei conspectu, summum (que) futuri judicii praejudicium est si quis it a deliquer it ut à communione, &c. religetur; we have (saith he) in our Ecclesiastical As­semblies, a Spiritual Judicature, and with great gra­vity [Page 24] censure offenders, &c. But I need say no more of this; for we have the Testimony of Beatus Rhenanus, one of the Roman Church and of great insight into Ecclesia­stical Affairs, who gives us this account of Tertullian Beatus Rhenan. in praef. ad Tertull. de poe­itent. and his times, nihil illum de clancularia illa poenitentiâ loqui, quae id temporis penitus ignorabatur; there was no such thing as secret or Clancular Confession in use in Tertullian's time, which was a thing not so much as known by the Christian Church in those days.

5. To go a little lower, such was the manner of proceedings in St. Cyprian's time, as he himself describes it, the sinner by outward gestures and tokens shew'd St. Syprian. Lib. 3. Eph. 15. himself to be sorrowful and penitent for his sin, and then made humble Confession thereof before the whole Congregation, and desired all the Brethren to pray for him; which done, the Bishop and Clergy laid their hands upon him, and so reconciled him: So it was al­so in Origen's time, and once for all, to deliver the Cu­stom of the Church in those times, touching this Origen in Ps. 37. particular, I will add the words of the Historian, Rei Sozomen L. 7. Cap. 16. ad terram se pronos abjiciunt, &c. they that are Con­scious to themselves to have offended, fall down flat upon the ground with Weeping and Lamentations in the Church, on the other side the Bishop runs to them with tears in his Eyes, and falls down to the ground, also in token of Sorrow and Compassion, and the whole Congregation in the mean while Sympathizing with both, is overwhelmed with tears, &c.

6. If we go lower yet to the times of St. Chrysostom and St. Austin, we find those Holy Men speaking very St. Chrysost. ad Hebr. Homil. 31. Id. in Serm. de Confess. & poe­nit. &c. slightly of Confessions to Men, so little did they think of Auricular Confession being a Sacrament. St. Au­stin's Judgment in the case we have heard before, in the Tenth Book of his Confessions, and third Chapter; and for the other, the Testimonies out of him are so [Page 25] many, and so well known, that I cannot think it ne­cessary to transcribe them; and as for St. Jerom who lived about the same time, I think it sufficient to repeat the account of Erasmus, who was very conversant in his Writings, and indeed of all the other Fathers, and who had no other fault I know, but that he did use Mordaci radere vero, to be too great a Tell-truth; which sure will not invalidate his Testimony; his words are these, Apparet tempore Hieronimi nondum institutam fuisse secretam admissorum Confessionem.—Verùm in hoc labuntur Theologi quidam parum attenti, quòd quae veteres scribunt de publica & generali confessio­ne, ea trahunt ad occultam & longe diversi generis, i. e. It is evident (saith he) that in St. Jerom's time (which was about Four hundred years after our Saviour) there was no such thing as Secret Consession in use; but the mistake is that some few later and inconsiderate Divines have taken the instances of general and publick Confession then practised, for arguments of that Auricular Con­fession which is now used, though quite of a different nature from it.

Thus we have traced the Current of Antiquity for Four or Five hundred years to search for the Head of this Nilus, the source and rise of that kind of Confessi­on which is so highly magnified by the Church of Rome, but hitherto we have found nothing of it, and this methinks should be sufficient to stagger an impar­tial inquirer, (at least it is as much as can be expected in so short a Treatise as this is intended to be) and may satisfy the unprejudicate, that there is as little of Anti­quity to favour this Rite, as there is of Divine Institu­tion to be pleaded for it. But yet I know on the other side, that the Romanists pretend to bring abundance of Testimonies for it, and Bellarmine particularly goes from Century to Century with his Citations to pre­scribe [Page 26] for the constant and uninterrupted use of it, but I do sincerely think that these Four following short Observations will inable a Man to answer them all.

1. I observe that whereas this word Exomologesis is commonly used by diverse of the Fathers, as the Phrase whereby they intend to express the whole na­ture of Repentance in all the parts and branches of it, as is evident by the passage I cited out of Tertullian de Poenit. even now, and is acknowledged by Bellarmine himself; nevertheless, merely because that word signi­fies Confession properly, and nothing else, these Ro­mish Sophisters, where they find this word Exomologesis, force it into an Argument for that Confession, which they contend for; and so several Discourses of the Fathers, concerning Repentance in general, are made to be nothing but Exhortations to, or Encomiums of Confession in particular, and that must be nothing else neither but Auricular Confession, the thing in Questi­on. A cast of his skill in this way, Bellarmine gives us in Irenaeus, the very first Author he cites for Auri­cular Confession in the last quoted Book and Chapter of his Writings De Sacramentis.

2. Whereas the Novatians excluded all hopes of Repentance or Pardon for sins committed after Bap­tism, but the true Church contrariwise admitted to hopes of Pardon upon their Repentance; upon this oc­casion, when some of the Fathers justly magnify the advantages, and comfortableness of the true Church above the Schismatical, as that it set open a Door of Hope to those who confessed their sins, and applied themselves to her Ministry: Hence these witty men will persuade the World, that every true Church had a Confessors Chair, and such a formal way of pardoning as they now practise at Rome; as if there was no re­mission [Page 27] of Sin, where there was no Auricular Con­fession, and as if all that excluded the latter, rejected the former too, and were no better than Novatian Hereticks; whenas in Truth the Power of the Keys is exercised in all the Ministries of the Church, and she Pardons and retains Sins, otherwise than by the Oracle of a particular Confessor, as we have seen al­ready. This piece of jugling the same Bellarmine is Bellarm. de Poenit. Lib. 3. C. 8. also guilty of in his Citation of Lactantius.

3. Whereas the Ancient Writers are much in the Commendation of Confession of Sins, whether it be to God or to the Church, but generally intending that which is Publick, it is common with those of the Church of Rome, to lay hold of all such sayings as were intended to persuade to, and incourage publick Confessions, and to apply them to Auricular or Clan­cular Confessions, thus particularly the aforesaid Au­thor does by Tertullian in his Citation of him. Id. Lib. 3. C. 6.

4. And Lastly, Whereas it is also true that several of those Holy Men of Old, do in some cases very much recommend Confession of secret sins, and persuade some sorts of Men to the use of it, namely those that are in great perplexity of Conscience, and that needed Ghostly Counsel and Advice, or to the intent that they might obtain the assistance of the Churches Prayers, and make them the more ardent and effectu­al on their behalf, whereas I say, they recommended this as an expression of Zeal, or a prudent expedient, or at most as necessary only in some cases pro hîc & nunc. These great Patrons of Auricular Confession do with their usual artifice apply all these passages, to prove it to be a standing and universally necessary duty, a Law to all Christians, this is a very common fault amongst them, and particularly St. Cyprian is thus misapplied by the same forementioned Writer, Lib. 3. Cap. 7.

[Page 28] Hitherto inquiring into the most Ancient and Purest times of the Church, by the Writings of the Fathers of those times, we have not been able to discover any suffi­cient ground for such an Auricular Confession, as the Church of Rome pretends to, much less for a constant and uninterrupted succession of it. But now after all I must acknowledge there is a passage in Ecclesiastical Socrat. Hist. Lib. 5. Cap. 19. Sozomen. Lib. 7. C. 16. History which seems to promise us satisfaction herein, and therefore must by no means be slightly passed over without due consideration; it is the famous story of Nectarius Bishop of Constantinople, and Predecessor to St. Chrysostom which happen'd something less then Four hundred years after our Saviour.

The Story as it is related by the joint Testimony of Socrates and Sozomen runs thus: In the time of this Nectarius there was (it seems) a Custom in that Church (as also in most others) that one of the Presby­ters of greatest Piety, Wisdom, and Gravity should be chosen Penitentiary, that is, be appointed to the pe­culiar Office of receiving Confessions, and to assist, and direct the Penitents in the management of their Repentance: Now it happens that a certain Woman of Quality, stricken with remorse of Conscience, comes to the Penitentiary (that then was) and according to Custom, makes a particular Confession of all such sins, as she was conscious to her self to have committed since her Baptism, for which he according to his Office appointed her the Penance of Fasting, and con­tinual Prayers to expiate her Guilt, and give proof of the Truth of her Repentance. But she proceeding on very particularly in her Confessions, at last amongst other things comes to declare that a certain Deacon of that Church had lien with her; upon notice of which horrid Fact, the Deacon is forthwith cashier'd and cast out of the Church: By which means the mis­carriage [Page 29] takes Air, and coming to the knowledge of the People, they presently fall into a mighty commo­tion and rage about it, partly in detestation of so foul an Action of the Deacon, but principally in contempla­tion of the Dishonour, and Scandal thereby reflected on the whole Church. The Bishop finding the Honour of the whole Body of his Clergy extreamly concern'd in this accident, and being very anxious what to do in this case, at last by the Counsel of one Eudaemon a Presbyter of that Church, he resolves thenceforth to abolish the Office of Penitentiary, both to extinguish the present flame, and to prevent the like occasion for the future; and now by this means every Man is left to the Conduct of his own Conscience, and permitted to par­take of the Holy Mysteries at his own peril. This is the matter of fact faithfully rendered from the words of the Historian; but this if we take it in the gross, and look no further then so, will not do much towards the deciding of the present Controversy, we will there­fore examine things a little more narrowly by the help of such hints as those Writers afford us, perhaps we may make good use of it at last; and to this pur­pose,

1. I observe in the first place, that though at the first blush here seems to be an early and great example of that Auricular Confession which we oppose, foras­much as here is not only the Order of the Church of Constantinople, for Confession to a Priest, but that to be of all sins committed after Baptism, and this to be made to him in secret; notwithstanding upon a more thorough view it will appear quite another thing from that pleaded for, and practised by the Church of Rome, and that especially in the respects following: First, In the Auricular Confession in the Story, there is some remainder of the ancient Discipline of the Church [Page 30] (whose Confessions used to be open and publick, as I have shewed) in that here a publick Officer is appointed by the Church to receive them, such an one as whose Prudence, and Learning, and Piety she could confide in for a business of so great nicety and difficulty, and it is neither left to the Penitent to choose his Confident for his Confessor, nor at large for every Priest to re­present the Authority of the Church in so ticklish an Affair as that of Discipline, but to a publick Officer appointed by the Church for this purpose; so that Confession to him cannot be said to be private, seeing it is done to the whole Church by him. To confirm which, Secondly, This Penitentiary it seems was bound (as there was occasion) to discover the matters (opened to him in secret) to the Church, as appears in the Crime of the Deacon in the Story; there was no pre­tence of a Seal of Confession in this Case, as in the Church of Rome, by Virtue of which a Man may con­fess and go on to sin again secretly, without danger of being brought upon the Stage, whatsoever the atroci­ty of his Crime be, and indeed without any effectual course in Order to his Repentance and Reformation. Again, Thirdly, This Confession in the Story doth not pretend to be of absolute necessity as if a Mans sins might not be pardoned without it; but only a prudent Provision of the Church to help Men forward in their Repentance, to direct the Acts and Expres­sions of it, and especially to relieve perplexed and weak Consciences, and to assist them in their prepara­tions for the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper; and this appears, amongst other things, by the account which the Historian gives us of the consequence of abolishing it, viz. That now every Man is left to his own Conscience about his partaking of the holy Mysteries; but it is not said or intimated that he was left under the guilt of [Page 31] his Sins, for want of Confession. To which add in the last place, that this Office whatever it was, was not reputed a Sacrament, but rather, as I noted before, an expedient to prepare men for it, for doubtless nei­ther that Bishop, nor that Church would have ever consented to the abolition of a Sacrament, for the sake of such a Scandal as happen'd in the mismanagement of it, or if they had done so, much less can it be ima­gined that the greatest part of the Christian Church would have concurred with them in it, as we shall by and by see they did.

2. I observe concerning the beginning of this Peni­tentiary Office, the time and occasion of this usage; namely, that the Historians do not pretend it to have been Apostolical, much less of strictly Divine Institu­tion, but they lay the Heat of its first rise about the time of the Decian Persecution, which was about Two hun­dred years after our Saviour. I confess Nicephorus would Nicephor. Lib. 12. Cap. 28. persuade us of its greater Antiquity, and that it was rather revived then instituted at that time, for he speaking of the bringing it into use at the Decian Per­secution saith, [...], i. e. the Church pursuant of the Ancient Ecclesiastical Canons constituted a Penitentiary, &c. And Petavius is so ad­dicted to the Roman Hypothesis, as very unreasonably to favour this Conceit; but the Truth seems to be (as Valesius very ingenuously acknowledges) only this, that here was a mistake of the import of the words of the Historian, who saith only that when the Church had chosen their Penitentiary [...], they added him to the Canon, that is to the number of those in the Matricula or Roll of such as were to be maintain'd in and by the Church, or as we would say they made him Canon of the Church; not that he was Constituted in such an Office, pursuant of an An­cienter [Page 32] Law or Canon, as Nicephorus carelesly or will­fully mistakes. Besides afterwards when the Historian observes that the Novatians universally withstood this Order from the beginning of it, he calls it [...]; q. d. this new Institution, or Addition, or Supplement of the Ancient Rites of the Church; so that there is no reason we should date this Institution higher then the Historian doth, namely, after the Decian Persecution.

But what should be the ground and reasons of erecting this new Office, and Officer in the Church then, if it was not before? Of this I give two accounts.

First, The Church being now very nume­rous, and the Zeal and Devotion very great; and what by the compassionate reception which the Church gave to Penitents, and her ardent Prayers for them, what by the earnest harangues of Holy Men to move People to repentance, abundance were incli­ned to confess their sins, and this Confession being till that time accustomed to be open, and publick in the face of the Congregation, it must needs happen (all those circumstances considered together) that a great many things would be brought upon the Stage, the Publication of which would be attended with great in­conveniences; for some sins are of that Nature, that they scarce can take Air without spreading a Con­tagion, some Confessions would make sport for light and vain Persons, and besides abundance of other inconveniences (easy to be imagined by any one) the publication of some sins might expose the Penitents to the Severity of the Pagan Criminal Judge; upon these and such like considerations, the Church thought fit therefore I (as have intimated before) to appoint one wise and very grave Person in her stead to [Page 33] receive the Confessions; who by his discretion might so discriminate matters, that what things were fit for silence, might have private Methods applied to them, but what were fit to be brought upon the Stage, might be made Publick examples of, or receive a Pub­lick remedy.

Secondly, But the Historian leads us to a more special Reason of this Institution at that time; namely, that the rage of the Decian Persecution cruelly shook the Church, and abundance of her weaker members fell off in the Storm, and, which was worst of all, the Church was distracted about the restitution or fi­nal rejection of those that had so miscarried; for though the best and wisest of the Church were so mer­ciful and considerate of humane infirmity, as to be willing to receive those in again, upon Repentance, over whom the Temptation of fear had too much prevailed, yet the Novatians a great and Zealous part of Christianity, looked upon such as desperate, who had once broken their baptismal Vow, and would ra­ther separate from the Church themselves, than suffer such to be restored to it. Here the Church was in a great strait, either she must be very severe to some, or she shall seem very unkind to others, she must either let the weak perish, or she must offend them that counted themselves strong. Now in this case she be­ing both tenderly compassionate towards those that had fallen, and withal willing to satisfie those Nova­tian Dissenters, or at least to deliver her self from Scandal, takes this course, she requires that those who had fallen, and desired to be restored again to her Society, should acknowledge their faults, and make all the Penitent satisfaction that was possible for them to perform, that so neither they may be too easily tempted to do so again by the gentleness of the remedy, nor the [Page 34] Novatians reproach her Lenity, or take pet, as if no difference was made between the sound and the lapsed; for these causes, though the most publick Penance was thought little enough to be undergone by the lapsed; but yet on the other side, considering wisely the incon­veniences of publick Penance in some cases (as I speci­fied before) she therefore took this middle course; namely, she appointed a publick Confessor, who ha­ving first heard privately the several cases of the Peni­tents, should bring into publick, only such of them as (without incurring any of the aforesaid dangers) might be made exemplary. And this appears to be the true reason of this Institution, and the bottom of this affair, by this remarkable passage in the Historian; That whereas the generality of the Orthodox closed presently with this wife temperament, the Novatians only, those self conceited Non-conformists, rejected [...], this expedient as a new invention; they were too humoursome to comply with such a temperament.

But here another Question arises, viz. How far this new expedient was imbraced by the Orthodox Churches, for if it was only received by that of Con­stantinople, the Authority would not be so great; for it is possible to imagine, that other Churches might al­low every private Priest to confess, and so admit of no publick Penitentiary.

To which I answer, that by the History it seems plain enough, that this was not the peculiar manner of the Church of Constantinople only, but the usual Me­thod in that time of most other Churches also; but I must needs say, I do not find that the Church of Rome complied with them herein, though it was not much to her Honour to be singular, where there was so much Prudence and Piety to have inclined her to Uni­formity. [Page 35] However this is gained, which is my point, that the Church of Rome is not countenanced in her practice of private and clancular Confessions, by the general usage of the Church, as they pretend.

3. I observe concerning this Office of Penitentiary, that as it was erected upon prudential considerations, so it was upon the same grounds abolished, by the same Authority of the Church which first instituted it, and that after about Two hundred years continuance in the time of Nectarius, as we have seen; & therein he was followed, saith Sozomen by almost all the Bishops and Churches in the World; this therefore was far from being thought either a Divine or Apostolical Consti­tution: Petavius would here persuade us, that it was only publick Confession, and not private, which was upon this occasion so generally laid aside, as we have seen, but this is done by him more out of tenderness of Auricular Confession, than upon good reason; and Valesius goes beyond him, and will needs persuade us, that neither publick nor private Confession were put down in this juncture, but only that the lately erected Officer of Penitentiary was cashier'd; but I must crave leave to say, there is no sufficient reason for either of these conjectures, but on the contrary plain Evidence against them, for Socrates, who is the first and princi­pal relater of this whole story saith he was perso­nally acquainted with this Presbyter Eudemon, who gave the advice to Nectarius to make this change in the Discipline of the Church, and that he had the afore­said relation of it from his own Mouth, and expostu­lated with him about it, giving his reasons to the contrary, and suggested his suspicions that the state of Piety would be much endamaged by this change, and in plain words tells him, that he had now bereft men of assistance in the conduct of their Consciences, and [Page 36] hindred the great benefit men have, or might have one of another by private advice and correption. Now this fear of his had been the absurdest thing in the World, if upon this counsel and advice of his, only one certain Man in the Office of publick Confessioner had been laid aside, but both the use of publick and private Con­fessions had been kept up and retained.

But after all (for ought appears) the Church of Rome kept her old Mumpsimus, she tenacious of her own customs especially of such as may advance her Interest and Authority, complies not with this Inno­vation or Reformation (be it for better or worse) but her Priests go on with their Confessions, and turn all Religion almost into Clancular Transactions, in de­spight of the example of other Churches. It may be she met with opposition sometimes, but she was for­ced to disemble it till the Heroick Age of the School-men, and then those lusty Champions with their Fu­stian-stuff of videtur quod sic, & probatur quod non, make good all her pretensions. After them in the year 1215 comes the Fourth Lateran Council, and that decrees Auricular Consession to be made by every body once a year at the least; and last of all comes the Council of Trent, and declares it to be of Divine Institution, ne­cessary to Salvation, and the constant and universal custom of the Christian Church: And so we have the Pedigree of the Romish Auricular Confession.

Sect. 4. I come now to the third and last Stage of my undertaking, which is, to shew that Secret or Auricular Confession, as it is now prescribed and practised in and by the Church of Rome, is not only unnecessary, and burdensom in it self, but also very mischievous to Piety, and the great ends of Christian Religion.

For the former part of this charge, if it be not evi­dent enough already, it will easily be made out from [Page 37] the Premises, for they cannot deny that they make this kind of Confession necessary to Salvation, at least as necessary as Baptism it self is, (supposing a Man hath sinned after Baptism) now if it be neither made so by Divine Institution, nor acknowledged to be so by the constant Opinion of the Church, what an hor­rible imposition is here upon the Consciences of Men, when in the highest and worst sense that can be they teach for Doctrines the Commandments of Men, and make Salvation harder than God hath made it, and suspend mens hopes upon other terms then he hath done? If it was prescribed by the present Church as a matter of Order and Discipline only, or of convenience and ex­pediency, we should never boggle at it upon this ac­count, or dispute the point with them; or if it was only declared necessary pro hîc & nunc, upon extraor­dinary emergency, by the peculiar condition of the Penitent, his weakness of judgment, the perplexity of his Conscience, his horrible guilt or extream Agonies, we would not differ with them upon that neither; but when it is made necessary universally, and declared the indispensable duty of all men whatsoever who have sinned after Baptism (when God hath required no such thing, but declares himself satisfied with true contrition and hearty remorse for what is past, and sincere Refor­mation for the time to come; this I say is an intolerable Tyranny and usurpation upon the Consciences of Men. And that is not all neither, for besides its bur­densomness in the general, it particularly aggravates and increases a Mans other burdens, for instead of re­lieving perplexed Consciences, which is the true and principal use of Confessions to Men, this priestly Con­fession as it is prescribed by the Council, intangles and afflicts them more; for that injoyns that the Penitent lay open all his sins, even the most secret, although [Page 38] but in thought or desire only, such as against the Ninth or Tenth Commandment, (according to their Divi­sion of the Decalogue,) now this is many times diffi­cult enough; but that's not all, he must also recount all the circumstances of these sins, which may increase or diminish the guilt, especially such as alter the spe­cies and kind of sin: Now what sad work is here for a Melancholy Man? All the circumstances are innume­rable, and how can he tell which are they that change the Species of the act, unless he be as great a School-man as his Confessor. Besides all this, it may be he is not very skilful in the distinction between venial and mortal sins, and if he omit one mortal sin, he is undone; therefore it is necessary for him (by conse­quence) to confess all venial sins too, and then where shall the poor Man begin, or when shall he make an end Such a Carnifieina such a rack and torture, in a word, such an Holy Inquisition is this business of Auricular Confes­sion become. And that Eminent Divine of Strasburgh (of whom Beatus Rhenanus speaks) seems very well to have understood both himself, and this matter who pro­nounces that Scotus and Thomas had with their tricks, and subtilties, so perplexed this plain Business of Con­fession, that now it was become plainly impossible And so much for that.

But as for the second part of this impeachment, viz. That the Auricular Confession now used in the Church of Rome, is mischievous to Piety; This remains yet to be demonstrated, and we will do it the rather in this place, because it will be an abundant Confirmation of all that which hath been discoursed under the two former Heads; and might indeed have saved the la­bour of them, but that we were unwilling to leave any pretence of theirs undiscussed; for if this practice of theirs appear to be mischievous to Prety, it will [Page 39] never by any sober man be thought either to have been instituted by our Saviour, or to have been the sense and usage of the Catholick Church, whatever they pretend on its behalf.

Now therefore this last and important part of my charge I make good by these Three Articles following.

First, This Method of theirs is dangerous to Piety, as it is very apt to cheat People into an Opinion that they are in a better Condition then truly they are, or may be in towards God, as that their sins are par­doned, and discharged by him, when there is no such matter. The Church-men of Rome complain of the Doctrine of some reformed Divines touching assurance of Salvation, that it fills men with too great confi­dence, and renders them careless and presumptuous; but whatsoever there is in that, it is not my business now to dispute it, however methinks it will not very well become a Romanist to aggravate it, till he have acquitted himself in the point before us; for by this Assurance Office of theirs they comply too much with the self flattery of Mens own Hearts, they render Men secure, before they are safe, and furnish them with a confidence like that of the Whore Solomon speaks of, who wipes her Mouth, and saith I have done no evil. For Men return from the Confessors Chair (as they are made to believe) as Pure as from the Font, and as In­nocent as from their Mothers Womb; as if God was concluded by the act of the Priest, and as if he being satisfied with an humble posture, a dejected look, and a lamentable murmur, God Almighty would be put off so too.

Ah nimium faciles qui tristia crimina, &c.
Ah cheating Priests who made fond Men believe,
That God Almighty pardons all you shrieve.

[Page 40] Perhaps they will say this is the fault and folly of the Men, not of the Institution of the Church: But why do they not teach them better then? Nay, why do they countenance and incourage them in so dange­rous mistakes? For whither else tend those words in the Decree of the Council of Trent, ipsi Deo reconcili­andis? q. d. that by this way of Confession, &c. Sess. 14. Can. 1. men are reconciled to the Divine Majesty himself; or those other forecited, where the Priest is said to be the Vicar of Christ, and in his stead, a Judge or President; or Ibid. Cap. 5. especially what other meaning can those words have where it is said, that this Rite is as necessary as Bap­tism, for as in that all sins are remitted which were com­mitted Ibid. Cap. 2. in former time, so in this all sins committed after Baptism are likewise remitted?

Now I say, what is the natural tendency of all this, but to make People believe that their Salvation or Damnation is in the Power of the Priest, that he is a little God Almighty, and his discharge would cer­tainly pass current in the Court of Heaven. But there is sophistry and juggle in all this, as I thus make appear; for,

1. The Priest cannot pardon whom he will, let him be called Judex and Praeses never so; for if his Sentence be not according to Law it will be declared Null at the Great Day; only it may be good and va­lid in the mean time in foro Ecclesiae; and here lies the cheat.

2. Nor are all sins retained or unforgiven with God, that are not pardoned by the Priest; it is true in publick Scandals, till the Sinner submit to the Church, God will not forgive him; For what that binds on Earth is in this sense bound in Heaven; but what hath the Church to do to retain, or to bind the Sinner in the case of secret sins, where it can charge no guilt on him?

[Page 41] 3. Nor is it properly the act of the Priest which pardons, but the Tenor of the Law, and the disposition of Mind in the Penitent agreeable thereunto, qualifying him for Pardon, to which the Pardon is to be imputed: As it is not the Herald which pardons, but the Prince who by his Proclamation bestows that Grace upon those who are so and so qualified.

4. Nor, Lastly, Can the Priest be said to pardon so properly by those Majestick words, absolvo te, as by his whole Ministry, in instructing People in the Terms of the New Covenant, and making Application of that to them by the Sacraments; this he hath Com­mission to do, but those big words I cannot find that he hath any where Authority to pronounce, and therefore (as I think I observed before) the Ancient Church had no form of Absolution, but only receiving Peni­tents to the Communion: And the Greek Church had so much modesty as to Absolve in the third Person, not in the first, to shew that their Pardon was Mini­sterial and Declarative only.

All these things notwithstanding the People are let to go away with such an Opinion as aforesaid (because it is for the Grandeur and Interest of the Priesthood, that they should be cheated; but these misapprehensions would vanish, if their teachers would be so just as to distinguish between God's Absolution, and the Abso­lution of the Church; the first of which extends to the most secret sins, the latter to open Scandals only; the one delivers from all real guilt, the other from external Censure only; of the latter the Priest may (by the leave of the Church) have the full dispensation, so that he is really pardoned with her that hath satisfied the Priest; but of the former he dispenses but conditio­nally. To confirm all which I will here add only two Testimonies of the judgment of the Ancient Church.

[Page 42] The first is of Firmilianus Bishop of Caesarea in his Epistle to St. Cyprian, reckoned the Seventy Fifth of St. Cyprians, where speaking of holding Ecclesiastical Councils every Year, he gives these reasons for it; Ʋt si qua graviora sunt communi consilio dirigantur, lapsis quoque fratribus, & post lavacrum salutare à Diabolo vul­neratis, per poenitentiam medela quaeratur; non quasi à nobis remissionem peccatorum consequantur, sed ut per nos ad intelligentiam delictorum suorum convertantur, & Domino plenius satisfacere cogantur; partly (saith he) that by joint advice, and common consent, we may agree upon an uniform Order in such weighty Affairs as concern our respective Churches, partly that we may give relief, and apply a remedy to those who by the temptation of the Devil have fallen into sin after Baptism; not that we can give them Pardon of their sin, but that by our Ministry they may be brought to a knowledge of their sins, and directed into a right course to obtain Pardon at the Hands of God. The other is of Theodorus Arch-Bishop of Canterbury whose words are these: Confessio quae soli Deo fit purgat pecoata: Ea Theod. Can­tuar. apud Beat. Rhen. in praef. ad Tertul. de­poenit. vero quae Sacerdoti fit, docet qualiter purgentur. Confes­sion to God properly obtains the Pardon of Sin; but by Confession to Men, we are only put into the right way to obtain pardon. Thus they:

But now in the Church of Rome, the case is other­wise; there the Priest sustains the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and is not so much his Delegate as his Plenipotentiary, and his Pardon is as full and good as if the Judge of the World had pronounced it pro Tribunali; so that if the most lewd and habitual Sinner have but the good fortune to go out of the World un­der the Blessing of his Ghostly Father, that is to say, either death came so soon after his last Absolution, or the Priest came so opportunely after his last sin, that he [Page 43] hath not begun a new score, he is sure to go Heaven without more ado. This I represent as the first mis­chief attending their Doctrine, and Practice of Auri­cular Confession. But this is not all, for

Secondly, It corrupts and debauches the very Do­ctrine and Nature of Repentance which the whole Gospel lays so much stress upon: Making Attrition (which is but a slight sorrow for sin, or a dislike of it in Contemplation of the Wrath of God impendent over it) pass for Contrition, which implies an hatred and detestation of it for its own moral evil and deformity, with a firm resolution of amendment. This they many of them are not ashamed to teach, and their practice of Absolution supposes and requires it. The Jesuites in particular, who have almost ingrost to them­selves the whole Monopoly of Confessions, avow this as their Principle. Father Bauny, Escobar, and Sua­rez declare their Judgment, that the Priest ought to absolve a Man upon his saying, that he detests his sin, although at the same time the Confessor doth not be­lieve that he does so. And Caussin saith, if this be not true, there can be no use of Confessions amongst the greatest part of Men. These things (it's true) are disliked by some others of the Romanists, and the Curees of France are so honest as to cry shame of it be­fore all the World; for, say they, Attrition is but the work of Nature, and if that alone will serve for Par­don, then a Man may be pardoned without Grace. But therefore, say the others, the Sacrament of Pe­nance doth it alone, and this is for the Honour of the Sacrament; greatly for the Honour of it (say I) that it is of greater power then our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Gospel, which cannot help a wicked Man to Hea­ven, whilest he continues so, but this Sacrament it seems can. Nor can they excuse this matter by say­ing [Page 44] these odious assertions are but the private Opi­nions of some Divines. For they are plainly favoured by the determinations of the Council of Trent; I con­fess that Council delivers it self warily and cunningly Conc. Trident. Sess. 14. Cap 4. in this point (as it uses to do in such cases) yet these are their words, Illa vero contritio imperfecta quae at­tritio dicitur, quamvis sine Sacramento Poenitentiae perse ad justificationem perducere peccatorem nequeat, ta­men eum ad▪ Dei Gratiam in Sacramento Poenitentiae im­petrandam disponit, &c. Which is as much as to say, though Attrition or a superficial Sorrow for Sin, bare­ly, alone, and without Confession to a Priest, will not justify a Man before God, yet Attrition and Confession together will do it, for then they are as good as true Repentance. And in this sense Melchior Canus long since thought he understood the Council well enough.

Thirdly, This business of Auricular Confession, as it is practised in the Church of Rome, is so far from being a means to prevent and restrain sin, as it highly pre­tends to be (and I am sure as it ought to be, if it be good for any thing) that contrariwise it is either lost labour, and a meer Ceremony, or it greatly in­courages and imboldens, and hardens Men in it, both by the Secrecy, the Multitudes, and the Frequency of these Confessions, by the cursory, hypocritical and evasive ways of confessing, by the slight Penances im­posed, and the cheapness, easiness, and even prostitu­tion of Absolutions.

It were easy to be copious in instances of all these kinds, but it is an uncomfortable subject, and I hasten to a conclusion; therefore I will only touch upon them briefly.

1. For the privacy of these Confessions. In the An­cient Church (as I have noted before) the Scandalous Sinner was brought upon the Stage before a great [Page 45] Assembly of Grave and Holy Men, he lay prostrate on the ground, which he watered with his Tears, he crept on his Knees, and implored the Pitty and Prayers of all present, in whose countenances (if for shame he could look up) he saw abhorrence of his fact, indig­nation at God's dishonour, conjoined with compassion to his Soul, and joy for his Repentance; his Confes­sion was full of remorse and confusion; the remedy was as sharp and disgustful to Flesh and Blood as the Disease had been pleasant, and the pain of this ex­piation was able to imbitter the sweet of Sin to him ever after. Or if the Confession was not made be­fore the whole Church, but to the Penitentiary only, yet he was a Grave and Holy Person, chosen by the Church, and representing it, a Person resident in that Church, and so able to take notice of, and mind the future Conversation of those that addressed themselves to him; a Person of that Sanctity and Reverence that he could not choose but detest and abhor all base and vile actions that should come to his knowledge: Now it must needs be a terrible cut to a Sinner to have all his lewdness laid open before such an one, and then to be justly, and sharply rebuked by him, to have his sins aggravated, and to be made to see his own ugly shape in a true glass held by him, besides to be enjoined the per­formance of a strict Penance of Fasting and Prayer, and after all (if this do not do) to have the Church made acquainted with the whole matter (as in the case of the Deacon aforesaid.) This course was likely to work something of remorse in the Sinner for what was past, and to make him watchful and careful for the time to come.

But what is the way of the Church of Rome like to this? Where a Man may confess to any Priest, to him that knows him not, and so cannot observe his future [Page 46] life and carriage; nay, perhaps that knows not how to value the guilt of sin, or to judge which be Venial, and which Mortal Sins, or especially what circum­stances do alter the species of it, and it may be too, he may be such an one that makes no Conscience him­self of the sins I confess to him. Now, when all is trans­acted between me and such a Priest in a corner, and that under the inviolable Seal of Confession, what great shame can this put me to? What remorse is it likely to work in me? What shall discourage me from going on to sin again, if no worse thing happen to me?

2. And then for the multitude of Confessions in the Church of Rome, that also takes off the shame, and weakens the efficacy of it, so that if it do no harm, it is not likely to do any good; for who is con­cern'd much in the doing that which he sees all the World do as well as himself; if only notori­ous Sinners were brought to Confession (as it was in the Primitive Church) then it might pro­bably and reasonably provoke a blush, and cause a re­morse in him to whom such a remedy was prescribed; but when he sees the whole Parish, and the Priest too brought to it, and Men as generally complying with it, as they approach to the Lord's Table; What great wonders can this work? What shame can it inflict upon any Man! What effect can be ex­pected from it, but that it ordinarily makes Men secure and careless, and grow as familiar with sin as with the remedy, or at least think as well of themselves as of other Men, since it seems they have as much need of Confession and absolution as him­self?

3. To which the frequency and often repetitions of these kind of Confessions adds very much; it is very [Page 47] likely that modesty may work much upon a Man the first or second time he goes to Confession, and it may something discompose his Countenance when he lays open all his secret miscarriages, to a Person especially for whom he hath a Reverence (for we see every thing, even sin it self is modest in its beginnings;) and no doubt it is some restraint of sin whilst a Man is sensible that he must undergo a great deal of pain and shame in vomiting up again his sweet Morsels which he eats in secret: But by that time he hath been used to this a while, it grows easie and habitual to him, and custom hath made the very pu­nishment pleasant as well as the sin; especially, if we add,

4. The formal, cursory, hypocritical, and illusive ways of Confession in frequent use amongst them; as that a Man may choose his own Priest, and then to be sure the greatest Sinner will have a Confessour right for his turn, that shall not be too severe and scrupu­lous with him; that a Man may confess in transitu, in a hurry or huddle, and then there can be no remark made upon his Person nor his sins; that a Man may make one part of his Confession to one Priest, and re­serve the other part for another, so that neither of them shall be able to make any thing of it; that he may have one Confessour for his Mortal sins, and another for his Venial; so that one shall save him, if the other damn him; nay, for failing, the forgetful sinner may have another Man to confess for him, or at least he may confess, that he hath not confessed; these and abundance more such illusive Methods are in daily use amongst them, and not only taken up by the licentious and unconscionable People, but allowed by some or other of their great Casuists; now let any Man judge whether this be a likelier way to restrain sin, [Page 48] or to encourage it; whether the easiness of the reme­dy (if this be one) must not of necessity make the Disease seem not very formidable; in a word, whether this be not a ridiculing their own Religion, and, which is worse, a teaching Men to be so fool hardy as to make a mock of sin.

5. This sad reckoning will be inflamed yet higher if we consider the slight Penances usually imposed by these Spiritual Judges upon the greatest Crimes. The Council determines that the Confessour must be exactly made acquainted with all the circumstances of the sin, that so he may be able to adjust a Penance to it; now when some great sin is confessed and that in very foul circumstances, if the Penance proportioned to it, by the Priest be to say two or three Pater Nosters, or Ave-Maria's extraordinary, to give a little Money in Alms to the Poor or some Pious use, to kneel on his bare knees before such a Shrine, to kiss such an Image, to go on Pilgrimage a few Miles to such a Saint, or at most to wear an Hair Shirt, or it may be to fast with Pish, and Wine, and Sweetmeats, &c. doth not this make that sin which is thus mawled and stigmatized, look very dreadfully, can any Man find in his Heart to sin again, when it hath cost him so dear alrea­dy?

Oh, but they will tell us these Penances are not in­tended to correspond with the guilt of the sin, but on­ly to satisfy the debt of Temporal punishment. But we had thought that the end of Penance had been, to work in the Penitent a disposition for Pardon, by gi­ving him both opportunities and direction to express the sincerity of his Repentance; and this was the use of Penance in the Primitive Church, together with the taking off the Scandal from the Society; and for that other end how doth the Church of Rome know [Page 49] so certainly that there is a debt of Temporal punish­ment remaining due, after the sin is pardoned before God; it is true, God may pardon so far only as he pleases, he may resolve to punish temporally those whom he hath forgiven eternally, as we see he did in the case of David; but that this is not his constant Method appears by this that our Saviour releases the Temporal punishment to many in the Gospel, whose diseases he cured, saying to them, Your sins are forgiven you, when as yet it did not appear that all Scores were quitted with God so, but that they might have perished eternally, if they did not prevent it by Faith and Repentance.

6. But lastly, to come to an end of this sad story, the easiness and prostitution of their absolutions in the Church of Rome contributes, as much to the encoura­ging of Vice and carelesness in Religion as any of the former; for what else can be the natural effect and consequence of that ruled case among their Casuists (as I shew'd before) that the Priest is bound to ab­solve him that confesses, and saith, he is sorry for his sin, though he doth in his Heart believe that he is not contrite, but that either the Priests Pardon is a very cheat, or else that Pardon is due of course to the most impenitent Sinner, and there is no more to do but Con­fess and be Saved? or what is the meaning of their common practice to absolve men upon their Death-beds, whether they be contrite, or attrite, or neither, at least when they can give no Evidence of either? If they intended this only for absolution from the Cen­sures of the Church it might be called Charity, and look something like the practice of the Primitive Church, which released those upon their Death-beds, whom it would not discharge all their lives before, tho not then neither without signs of Attrition and con­trition [Page 50] too; but these pretend to quite another thing; namely to release men in foro Conscientiae, and to give them a Pass-port to Heaven without Repentance, which is a very strange thing, to say no worse of it. Or to instance one thing more, what is the meaning of their practice of giving Absolution before the Pe­nance is performed (as is usual with them) unless this be it, that whether the Man make any Conscience at all how he lives hereafter, yet he is pardoned as much as the Priest can do it for him, and is not this a likely way of reformation?

I conclude therefore now upon the whole matter that Auricular Confession, as it is used in the Church of Rome, is only an Artifice of greatening the Priest, and pleasing the People; a trick of gratifying the un­devout and impious as well as the Devout and Reli­gious; the latter it imposes upon by its outward ap­pearance of Humility and Piety; to the former it serves for a palliative Cure of the Gripes of Conscience, which they are now and then troubled with; in reality it tends to make sin easie and tolerable by the cheap­ness of its Pardon, and in a word, it is nothing but the Old Discipline of the Church in Dust and Ashes. And therefore though the Church of England in her Liturgy, piously wishes for the Restauration of the An­cient Discipline of the Church, it can be no defect in her that she troubles not her self with this Rub­bish.

FINIS.

A POST-SCRIPT.

AFter I had finished the foregoing Papers, and most part of them had also past the Press, I happened to have notice that there was a Book just then come over from France, written by a Divine of the Sorbone, which with great appearance of Learning maintained the just contrary to what I had asserted (especially in the Historical part of this Question) and pretended to prove from the most Ancient Monuments of the Holy Scriptures, Fathers, Popes and Councils, that Auri­cular Confession had been the constant Doctrine, and Universal and Uninterrupted usage of the Christian Church for near 1300 years from the Times of our Sa­viour to the Laterane Council.

So soon as I heard this, I heartily wished, that ei­ther the said Book had come out a little sooner, or at least that my Papers had been yet in my hands; to the intent that it might have been in my Power, to have corrected what might be amiss, or supplied what was defective in that short Discourse, or indeed if oc­casion were, to have wholly supprest it.

For as soon as I entered upon the said Book, and found from no less a Man than the Author himself, that he had diligently read over all that had been written on both sides of this controversy, and that this work of his was the product of Eighteen years study, and that in the prime of his years, and most flouri­shing [Page 52] time of his parts, that it was published upon the maturest deliberation on his part, and with the greatest applause and approbation of the Faculty, I thought I had reason to suspect, whether a small Tract, written in haste by a Man of no Name, and full enough of other Business, could be fit to be seen on the same Day with so elaborate a work.

But by that time I had read a little further, I took Heart, and permitted the Press to go on; and now, that I have gone over the whole, I do here profess sincerely, that in all that learned Discourse I scarcely found any thing which I had not foreseen, and as I think in some measure prevented. But certain I am, nothing occurred that staggered my Judgment, or which did not rather confirm me in what I had writ­ten; for though I met with abundance of Citations, and a great deal of Wit, and Dexterity in the manage­ment of them, yet I found none of them come home to the point; for whereas they sometimes recommend and press Confession of Sin in general sometimes to the Church, sometimes to the Priest or Bishop as well as to God Almighty: Again sometimes they speak great things of the Dignity of the Priest-hood, and the great Honour that Order hath in being wonderfully useful to the relief of Guilty or Afflicted Consciences; other while they treat of the Power of the Keys, and the Authority of the Church, the danger of her Cen­sures, the Comfort of her Absolution, and the severi­ty of her Discipline, &c. but all these things are ac­knowledged by us without laborious proof, as well as by our Adversaries: That which we demand, and ex­pect therefore, is, where shall we find in any of the Ancient Fathers, Auricular Confession said to be a Sacrament, or any part of one? Or where is the Uni­versal necessity of it asserted? Or that secret sins com­mitted [Page 53] after Baptism, are by no other means, or upon no other terms pardoned with God, then upon their being confessed to men? In these things lies the hinge of our dispute, and of these particulars one ought in Reason to expect the most direct and plain proof ima­ginable, if the matter was of such Consequence, of such Universal practice and notoriety as they pretend; but nothing of all this appears in this Writer more than in those that have gone before him. In contem­plation of which I now adventure this little Tract in­to the World, with somewhat more of Confidence then I should have done, had it not been for this oc­casion.

But lest I should seem to be too partial in the Case, or to give too slight an account of this Learned Man's performance, the Reader who pleases shall be judge by a Specimen or two which I will here briefly represent to him.

The former of them shall be the very first argument or Testimony he produces for his Assertion, which I the rather make my choice to give instance in, because no Man can be said ingenuously to seek for faults, to pick and choose for matter of exception, that takes the first thing that comes to hand.

The business is this, Chap. 2. Page 11. of his Book he cites the Council of Illiberis (with a great deal of circumstance) as the first Witness for his Cause, and the Testimony is taken from the Seventy Sixth Canon, the words are these, Si quis Diaconum, &c. i. e. If any Man shall suffer himself to be ordained Deacon, and shall afterwards be convicted to have formerly com­mitted some Mortal (or Capital Crime;) if the said Crime come to light by his own voluntary Confessi­on, he shall for the space of Three years be debarred the Holy Communion, but in case his sin be discover­ed [Page 54] and made known to the Church by some other hand, then he shall suffer Five years suspension, and after that be admitted only to Lay Communion.

Now who would have ever thought this passage fit to be made choice of as the first proof of Auricular Confession, or who can imagine it should be any proof at all, much less a clear or direct one?

Oh, but here is Confession! It may happen so if the party please, but it is not enjoyned, but voluntary, and that not Auricular neither, but unto the Church, at least for ought appears.

And it is confession of a secret Sin too! True it was so, till it was either confessed or betrayed.

And here is Penance imposed for a secret sin: True when it was become publick.

And here is a different degree of Penance imposed upon him that ingenuously confesses, from him that stays till he is accused, and hath his sin proved upon him: And good Reason, for the one gave tokens of Repentance, and the other none. But then here is—What? no Sacrament of Penance, no declared absolute necessity of Confession to Men in order to par­don with God, but only a necessity that when the Fact is become notorious, whether by the Confession of the Party, or otherwise, that the Church use her endea­vours to bring the Sinner to Repentance, and free her self from Scandal by making a difference betwixt the Good and the Bad, the more hopeful, and the less.

If this be a clear and proper Argument for the ne­cessity of Auricular Confession: God help poor Pro­testants that cannot discern it; but oh the Wit of Man, and the Power of Learning and Logick! What may not such Men prove if they have a mind to it?

The other passage I instance in, is in his Tenth Chap­ter, Pag. 156. viz. the Critical and Famous Business [Page 55] of the Nectarian Reformation at Constantinople, of which I have spoken somewhat largely in the forego­ing Papers. Now for this: This Learned Gentleman after he hath acknowledged very frankly that pub­lick Confession of sins was the Ancient use of the Church in the times of St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cy­prian, and Origen; that is, for the space of about Three hundred years, and that instead of that ancient usage (upon occasion of the Decian Persecution) a public Penitentiary was appointed at Constantinople, and most other Orthodox Churches, and in short, after he had with more ingenuity then some others of his party, owned the undoubted Truth of the Relations of So­crates and Sozomen touching this Affair, and made some Observations thereupon not much to the advan­tage of his cause, he at length delivers that which would be very much to his purpose, if it could be cre­dible; namely, that upon the whole matter Nectarius in abolishing the Penitentiary, neither abolished pub­lick nor private Confessions, but instead of obliging Men to go to the Penitentiary left every Man bound to resort to his respective Diocesan, and confess his sins to him; and so Auricular Confession is after this change every whit as necessary as it was be [...]e; very true (say I) it is as necessary now as it was be­fore, for it was only voluntary before, and so it may be after. But if the intention of Nectarius, and the effect of that alteration was only the change of the Person, and every Man still obliged to confess to some body, how comes it to be said in the story that every Man was left to his own Conscience, doth that word signify the Bishop? then we have found out a right Fanatic Diocesan, for they will all readily confess to this Bishop, and believe his Absolution as sufficient as any Romanist of them all doth: And yet it seems to be un­deniably [Page 56] plain that Socrates after this Reforma [...] thought of no other Confessor but this, nor imagi [...] Men now bound to make any other Confession, this (which if it was not Auricular was very se [...] for otherwise how comes it to pass that he expo [...] lates the matter with Eudaemon who advised change, and bewail'd the danger of this liberty wh [...] was hereby given men, if they were as strictly bo [...] still to confess to their Bishop as they were before the Penitentiary; therefore the Truth of the Busi [...] seems evidently to be this, that men were now at [...] berty to make their Confessions of secret Sins volu [...] rily, as they were no doubt before the Institution Penitentiary. And now what hath this Learned G [...] tleman gotten by mustering up this story; well h [...] ever the Conclusion must be held, let the Prem [...] look to themselves.

I could find in my Heart (now my hand is in) proceed further and to observe; what pittiful s [...] he is put to, in his Thirteenth Chapter, to evade Testimonies brought by Monsieur Daillè out of [...] Chrysostom against his Hypothesis. And the ra [...] because (out of mere tediousness of writing) I in foregoing Papers omitted to specify the most remar [...] ble discourses which that excellent Author hath up [...] this Subject. But the Authorities are so plain and answerable, and the Evasions of this Gentleman forced and palpable, that I think it needless to about to vindicate the one, or confute the other; in spight of Art this same Thirteenth Chapter (speak of) will afford no less than Thirteen Argume [...] against the necessity of Auricular Confession.

FINIS.

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