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The Texts examined which Papists cite out of the Bible for the
Proof of Their Do&rine
I MPR IM A TU R.
May 29. 1688.
HE Church of Rome taking all courses, whether direct or indirect, to bring Men over to her Communion, or at least to make them out
of love with ours, as in other cases, so in this of Confeffion, pretends sometimes a great Friendship, at other times a great Enmity with the Church of England : sometimes we are reported to hold Confection just as that Church does ; at other times we want one of the Christian Sacraments, and best means to promote a Religious and Godly Life. By the first of these they endeavour both to keep our diiTenting Brethren at as great a distance as they can from us, and to tempt the more unwary amongst our selves to step out of our Church into another, betwixt whom they are made to Q99
believe there is already so close a Correspondence; by the other they sometimes insnare the more ignorant and more devout, who are too apt to be misled by the specious pretence of better means of Salvation than they at present enjoy.
Now being engaged to examine those Scriptures by which the Doctrine of Auricular Confession is by that Church defended, that all Parties may understand one another aright, and there may be no mistake about our or their holding either too little or too much concerning it, I shall set down how far we agree, and wherein we disagree as to the fore-mentioned Point.
First, We agree that all ought to confess their Sins unto Almighty God. Not because God does not know them before (for he is intimately acquainted with all our' most secret Faults) but because without Repentance there can be no hopes of Pardon; and Repentance never can
be rightly performed without Confeffion: Having acted contrary to God's moft righteous Laws, we become thereby obnoxious to Punishment; but such is God's Kindness to us, that for the sake of a Crucified Saviour he is willing to pardon fuch our Offences, provided we are heartily sorry for them, and resolve to forsake them ; but how can we be heartily forry for them, or disposed to forsake them, unless we are willing to own and confess them? By publishing our Offences before God, we discern the folly thereof, and God's Hatred against them; and by making fuch discoveries, we become more ashamed of our felves, and more inclinable to make Resolutions of never being guilty of the like Follies for the future.
And this indeed is the true end of Confession, viz. to make Men reform their Lives. Let them confess never fo much, it will all signifie nothing to them, unless it help to make them more vertuous, by causing them to reflect upon their past Actions, and by showing them how much they had formerly been mistaken, that so they might be aware how they were any more misled after the same manner.
Now as to this Confession which is made to God, it is either in the publick Offices of the Church, or in private.
In the Publick Offices of the Church, both we and they of the Church of Rome have Forms of Confession, but our are certainly much more useful, because our are in a Language which every one understands, but their are nor: We, if we be present when the general Forms of Confession are repeated by the Minister, know how to joyn with him in them, and to make particular Reflections upon our most private, and most secret Sins, under those general terms which he useth. But they of the Church of Rome, unless they understand Latin, can do nothing of this.
As to Confession to God in private, this is left to the discretion of every particular Person to manage as he shall judg most for his advantage. In which case sometimes it may be sufficient to use such general terms wherein we own our selves to have been grievous Offenders, and therefore do heartily beg God Almighty's Pardon. At other times, the enumeration of such Circumstances as do set forth the heinousness of our Offences, may be of great use to make us more sorrowful for what is past, and more resolute not to be guilty of the like Follies for the future. For this, as I said before, is the true end of Confession, viz. to make us Q992
mend, and therefore in that consists our greatest Prudence, viz. fo to manage it as that the end may be obtained. For if this be done, it is no matter whether it be by a general acknowledgment of our past Follies, or by a more particular enumeration of them.
Secondly, We agree that in case of publick Scandal given to the Church by any notorious Crime, a publick Confession thereof ought to be made before the Church.
This is what the Primitive Church was very follicitous about, and what the first Penitents did chearfully submit to.
This the Church of Rome does at this day more especially take care of in all cases of Heresy. For altho in most other cases Auricular Confession be allowed of as sufficient; yet in case of Heresy 'no Reconciliation is to be had without a publick Recantation.
And as for the Church of England, she wisheth (as we read in the Commination) that the Godly Discipline, which was in use in the Primitive Church, were restored'; and in the Rubrick to the Communion-Service, forbids the Minister to admit any one, who has done any ill thing, whereby the Congregation is offended; to the Communion, before the Congregation be satisfied ; which cannot be without an acknowledgment of his fault and the prospect of amendment for the time to
Thirdly, We agree that private Confeffion of Sin may be made to all sorts of People, whether of the Laity or of the Clergy; And that
1. When any Injury has been done another. Every body is bound to make fome sort of reparation for
having injured his Neighbour. Now it may happen in some cases, either upon the account of the Injury it felf, or the Circumstances in which he who has done it is placed, that the only Reparation, which can be made is a free acknowledgment thereof; and in other cases where there is a possibility of making some other Reparation, yet still it cannot be done without the like acknowledgment, and begging of Pardon of the injured Party for the Injuries which have been done him.
Besides, such Acknowledgments do discover the sincerity of his Repentance who has done the Injury, ja that he is willing to endure the shame of having his fault known by him, from whom, if he were not heartily forry for what he had done, heshad most reafon to conceal it.
2. In case of any doubt or scruple. Some People are apt to entertain wrong Apprehensions both of God and themselves, and from thence to be very much perplex'd in their Minds in reference to their spiritual Condition, and the real well-fare of their Souls. Now in such cases what can be more fit and reasonable, than that they freely declare themselves to fuch whom they believe best able to give them fatisfaction. He wlid cannot resolve all fcruples which arise within his mind concerning himself, if he has any wise and discreet Friend; whether of the Laity or Clergy; whom he knows to be able to assist him in such lis perplexity, is much to be blamed, if he does not what' he is wont to do, when he is at a loss as to the management of his Temporal Concerns, viz. open his Difficulties unto him, and make the best advantage he can of his Ad. vice and Directions.