Order of Contents
On Making Confession of Sins & on Auricular Confession to a Priest
James 5:16 says, ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.’
If we sin against another, we ought confess that sin to the person we sinned against, and pray for each other. If we commit private sins, or feel the weight of our sinfulness, it is also good to confess that to other trusted brothers or sisters in the Lord in order to find help.
Romanism, through time, twisted this Biblical teaching into one being obligated to use a confessional to a ‘priest’, with the attendant corruptions of sacramentalism and the ‘priests’ forgiving people’s sins.
A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology & of as Much Didactic Theology as is Necessary trans. J. Wesley White MTh thesis (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009), ch. 17, ‘The Sacraments’, p. 239-40
“§X. And since before the Eucharist, priests are accustomed to hear confession, we add this. We admit public confession of sins:
1. Made by the whole Church to God.
2. Of particular parts of the whole Church (2 Cor. 2:6).
1. Made to God.
2. To those whom we have injured.
3. By the troubled and doubting conscience to any believer who can console us.
§XI. But we disapprove of confessions:
1. Being forced,
2. Of all sins,
3. Including secret sins.
4. Only to the ears of the priest.
5. For obtaining from the priest remission of sins.
Controversy – Is it necessary for someone seeking remission of sins to tell his secret sins to a priest? We deny against the Papists.
1. Christ remits the sins of the one who believes, including those not recounted in detail (Mt. 9:2), “and as the Father sent him, so He sends us” and wants us to do the same (Jn. 20:21).
2. Saints who confessed their sins only to God obtained remission (Ps. 32:5, Lk. 18:13-14).
3. No one has to reveal his own wickedness (Jude v. 13).
4. God alone, not priests, can remit and wipe away sins (Lk. 5:21).
5. This is pure tyranny over consciences.
1. Then, for what purpose was the power of remitting sins given (Jn. 20:23, 2 Cor. 5:19)? Reply: This is nothing else than proclaiming remission of sins in the name of God to the penitent.
2. “Many confessed their sins” (Acts 19:18). Reply: Those who had lived profanely before conversion and performed magic confessed publicly not to a priest in the ear that they had lived wickedly.
3. Confess your sins one to another (Jas. 5:16). Reply: Then why not the priests to the people? This refers to someone who is afflicted on account of sins. We are warned concerning these sins that we should not deny them.
4. If we confess our sins, He will remit them (1 Jn. 1:9). Reply: If we confess to God, God remits.”
Calvin, John – 4. ‘Penitence, as explained in the sophistical jargon of the Schoolmen, widely different from the purity required by the Gospel. Of Confession and Satisfactions.’ in Institutes of the Christian Religion tr. Henry Beveridge (1559; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), vol. 2, bk. 3, pp. 182-235
In the context against Romanism, Ussher surveys the Early Church on the confession of sin and how this turned into the Romanist bondage of the Confessional.
Alting, Henry – “The State of the controversy is: Whether private confession and absolution is necessary? [No] Whether bowing of the knees and an uncovering of the head is at the mention of the name of Jesus has been commanded? [No] and lastly, whether Latin songs may be allowed in public assemblies? [No] The Lutherans affirm; we deny.” in A Syllabus of Controversies with the Lutherans, pt 2, ‘Controversies About Ceremonies’, Controversy 2, ‘Of Other Certain Rituals’ in A Logical & Theological Exegesis of the Augsburg Confession… (Amsterdam, 1647), pp. 274-78
On Penance & Human Satisfactions
Calvin, John – Institutes of the Christian Religion tr. Henry Beveridge (1559; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), vol. 2, bk. 3
Pemble, William – section 7, ch. 1, ‘None can be justified by their own satisfaction for the transgression of the Law. A brief sum of Popish doctrine concerning human satisfactions for sin’ in Vindiciae fidei, or a Treatise of Justification by Faith… (Oxford: John Lichfield, 1625), pp. 219-31
Davenant, John – The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge trans. Josiah Allport (1634; 1846) bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia... trans. Josiah Allport (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2
Question 8, ‘Works of Penance are Not Satisfactions to Divine Justice’, pp. 262-65
Question 33, ‘When Guilt is Remitted, its Punishment is Remitted’, pp. 391-93
Question 36, ‘The Sacrifice Made by Christ is Alone Truly Expiatory’, pp. 404-8
Turretin, Francis – 31. ‘Are confirmation, penance, orders, marriage and extreme unction true sacraments? We deny against the Romanists.’ in Institutes of Elenctic Theology, tr. George M. Giger, ed. James Dennison Jr. (1679–1685; P&R, 1994), vol. 3, 19th Topic, p. 548 ff.
Syllabus of Theological Problems (Utrecht, 1643), pt. 1, section 2, tract 3 Abbr.
2. Of Human Satisfactions (with many absurd questions, including about Purgatory, Intercessions for the Dead, Indulgences, Release from Purgatory, Vows, Things Vowed & Pilgrimages)
65. ‘Pseudo-Mortifications of the Papacy’ in Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht, 1659), vol. 3, pp. 946-60
Whether the Latin Vulgate says “Do Penance”? No
“Why the Roman Church is being dishonest when it says the Vulgate supports their sacrament of penitence when it says poenitentiam agite (Mt. 3:2):
1. The term that the reformers preferred for repentance, resipiscentia, is nowhere used in the Vulgate. In fact it’s not common at all in ancient Latin texts. So either the early Church had no concept of repentance, or they referred to it with the term poenitentia.
2. The Vulgate uses the term poenitentia throughout the Old Testament, before the sacrament of penance was instituted according to the Roman view. So something else is clearly in view.
3. The Vulgate uses poenitentia to refer to repentance at the time of conversion, whereas in the Roman view the sacrament of penance is for restoration for sins committed after baptism. For example Acts 19:4, “Joannes baptizavit baptismo poenitentiae populum“, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance”.
4. The term poenitentia is sometimes used to express how God does not turn from his plans, which is more fitting to the idea of repentance than penance. For example Rom. 11:29, “Sine poenitentia enim sunt dona et vocatio Dei.”, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance”. See also 1 Sam. 15:29, “Porro triumphator in Israel non parcet, et poenitudine non flectetur: neque enim homo est ut agat poenitentiam.” It is even used positively in reference to God, such as Jer. 18:10, “Si fecerit malum in oculis meis, ut non audiat vocem meam, poenitentiam agam super bono quod locutus sum ut facerem ei.”
5. Poenitentia is often parsed in the Vulgate as a turning aside from sin. 1 Sam. 15:29, “Porro triumphator in Israel non parcet, et poenitudine non flectetur: neque enim homo est ut agat poenitentiam.”
6. 1 Kings 8:47 says that poenitentia may be done in one’s heart, which does not fit the nature of the sacrament of penance. “et egerint poenitentiam in corde suo in loco captivitatis“.”