Jeremy Taylor.

The whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) online

. (page 2 of 50)
Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 2 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


not disowned ? Why are not they that say so censured ?
Why is not the doctrine condemned ? Why is it publicly
maintained and allowed by authority ? Why is it pleaded in
bar against execution of justice in the case of treason, as it
was by F. Garnet himself, and all his apologists ? But if this
be the catholic doctrine, then, let it be considered, how cheap
are the lives of kings in their eyes, who consult more with
the safety of a villain, whom they dare not absolve/ than of
a king, who is worthy ten thousands of his people ; and let
it be also considered, that, by using all the ways in the world
to make confession easy to traitors and homicides, they make
it odious to kings and princes, and to all that love the safety
of their sovereigns and of the public. We find that the laws
of God yield to charity and necessity, and Christ followed
the act of David ; who, " when he was hungry, ate the shew-
bread, which was unlawful to be eaten but by the priest

'Moral. Theol. tract vii. examen. 4, de Poenit. sect 6, n. 63-65, &c.
d Script Garnetti apud Is. Casauboni Ep. ad Fron. Ducasum, p. 137.



AURICULAR CONFESSION, &C. 9

alone : " and he that commanded us to go, and learn what
that means, " I will have mercy and not sacrifice," intended
not that the seal of confession should, upon pretence of
religion, be used to the most uncharitable ends in the world ;
no, though it had been made sacred by a Divine command-
ment ; which it is not, but is wholly introduced by custom
and canons ecclesiastical ; and when we say that things dedi-
cated to God, and made sacred by religion, and the laws of
God confirming such religion, can be aliened and made com-
mon in cases of extreme necessity, or great charity ; it is a
strange superstition, that shall hold that fast with teeth and
nails, and never let it go, no, not to save a soul, not to pre-
serve the life of kings, not to prevent the greatest mischief
in the world ; this is certainly a making the commandments
of men greater and more sacred than the commandments of
God, and a passing them into a doctrine, great, necessary,
and unalterable, as a fundamental article.



SECTION XI.

Of the imporing Auricular Confession upon Consciences,
v:ithout Authority from God.

THAT confessian to a priest, is a doctrine taught as neces-
rary in the Church of Rome, is without all question ; and yet
that it is but the commandment of men, I shall, I hope, clearly
enough evince ; and if I do, I suppose the charge laid against
the Church of Rome, which is the same Christ laid against the
Pharisees, will be fully made good, as to this instance ; for
this is one of the sorts of that crime, to say, " Dixit Domi-
nus, Dominus autem non dixit ; " to pretend a rite to be of
Divine institution when it is not so, but " humanum inven-
tum, a device of man's brain." The other (which is, still
supposing an institution to be human and positive, yet to
urge it with the same severe religion, as they do a Divine
commandment) I shall consider in other instances. For the
present the inquiry is concerning auricular confession, and its
pretended necessity. The first decree concerning it, was in
the Lateran Council; 6 in which "every person of years of

Can. 21.



10 AURICULAR CONFESSION

discretion is commanded to confess all his sins to his own
priest, at least once in the year ; or to another priest, with the
leave of his own ; otherwise while he is living, he must be
driven from entrance into the Church ; and when he is dead,
he must have no Christian burial." This is very severe; but
yet here is no damnation to them that neglect it ; and the
duty is not pretended to be by Divine commandment : and
therefore, lest that severity might seem too much to be laid
upon human law, they made it up in the new forge at Trent ; f
and there it was decreed that, " To confess all, and every
mortal sin, which, after diligent inquiry, we remember, and
every evil thought or desire, and the circumstances that
change the nature of the sin, is necessary for the remission of
sins, and of Divine institution ; and he that denies this, is to
be anathema."

Whether to confess to a priest be an advisable discipline,
and a good instance, instrument, and ministry of repentance,
and may serve many good ends in the Church, and to the
souls of needing persons, is no part of the question. We
find that, in the Acts of the Apostles, divers converted per-
sons came to St. Paul, either publicly or privately, " and
confessed their deeds;" 6 and burnt their books of exorcism,
that is, did what became severe and hearty penitents, who
needed counsel and comfort, and that their repentance should
be conducted by wise guides. And when St. James exhorts
all Christians " to confess their sins to one another," cer-
tainly it is more agreeable to all spiritual ends, that this be
done rather to the curate of souls, than to the ordinary bre-
thren. The Church of England is no way engaged against
it, but advises it, and practises it. The Calvinist churches' 1
do not practise it much, because they know not well how to
divest it from its evil appendages, which are put to it by the
customs of the world, and to which it is too much exposed
by the interests, weaknesses, and partialities, of men. But
they commending it, shew they would use it willingly, if
they could order it unto edification. " Interim quin sistant
se pastori oves, quoties sacram ccenam participare volunt

1 Seas. 14, cap. ri. vii.

f Il^lm , i. e. magicas incantationes ; simile illud ibidem, !*< ruv rot

rea^dvruv f^ci^ii; niininilll TUH T'fi'ioyu*.

h Calvin. Insiit. lib. iii. c. 4, sect. 12, 13.



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 11

adeo non reclame, ut maxiine velim hoc ubique observari."
And for the Lutheran churches, that it is their practice, we
may see it in Chemnitius, 1 who was one of greatest fame
amongst them ; and he is noted to this purpose by j Bellar-
mirie ; only they all consent, that it is not necessary nor of
Divine institution ; and being but of man's invention, it ought
not to pass into a doctrine ; and, as the apostles said in the
matter of circumcision, "a burden ought not to be put upon
the necks of the disciples :" and that, " in lege gratiae, longe
difficillimuru" too, as Major k observes truly, by far greater
than any burden in the law of grace, the time of the Gospel.
Let it be commanded to all, to whom it is needful, or profit-
able ; but let it be free, as to the conscience precisely, and
bound but by the cords of a man, and as other ecclesiastical
laws are, which are capable of exceptions, restrictions, cau-
tions, dispensations, rescindings, and abolitions, by the same
authority, or upon greater reasons.

The question then is, whether to confess all our greater
sins to a priest, all that upon strict inquiry we can remember,
be necessary to salvation ? This the Church of Rome now
affirms ; and this the Church of England and all Protestant
churches deny ; and complain sadly, that the command-
ments of men are changed into the doctrines of God, by a
Pharisaical empire, and superstition. Here then we join issue.

1. And in the first place, I shall represent, that the doc-
trine of the necessity of confession to a priest, is a new doc-
trine, even in the Church of Rome, and was not esteemed any
part of the catholic religion before the Council of Trent. For
first, the gloss " de Poenit. dist. 5, c. in Pcenitentia," inquir-
ing where or when oral confession was instituted, says, some
say it was instituted in Paradise ; others say it was instituted
when Joshua called upon Achan to confess his sin ; others
say it was instituted in the New Testament by St. James :
"it is better said, that it was instituted by a certain univer-
sal tradition of the Church, and the tradition of the Church
is obligatory as a precept. Therefore, confession of deadly
sins is necessary with us (viz. Latins) but not with the
Greeks ; because no such tradition hath come to them."

' 2. Part. Exam. Concil. Trid. c.5, de Poenit.

J Lib. iii. de Poenit. c. 1, sect. Martinus Kemnitius.

k In iv. dist. 17, q. 2, ex Scoto.



12 AURICULAR CONFESSION

This is the full state of this affair, in the age when Semeca,
who was the glossator, lived ; and it is briefly this. 1. There
was no resolution or agreement whence it came. 2. The
glossator's opinion was, it came from the universal tradition
of the Church. 3. It was but a kind of universal tradition;
not absolute, clear, and certain. 4. It was only a tradition
in the Latin Church. 5. The Greeks had no such tradi-
tion. 6. The Greeks were not obliged to it; it was not
necessary to them. Concerning the Greek Church, I shall
afterward consider it in a more opportune place ; here only
I consider it as it was in the Latin Church ; and of this I
suppose there needs no better record than the canon law
itself, and the authentic glosses upon it ; which glosses,
although they be not law. but as far as they please, yet they are
perfect testimony as to matter of fact, and what the opinions
of the doctors were at that time. And, therefore to the former,
I add this ; that in * cap. Convertimini,' Gratian hath these
words: " Unde datur intelligi, quod etiam ore tacente
veniarn consequi possumus; Without confession of the
mouth we may obtain pardon of our sins ; " and this point he
pursues in all that long chapter ; and in the chapter ' Resus-
citatus,' out of St. Austin's doctrine ; and in the chapter

* Qui Natus,' out of the doctrine of St. John's Epistle; the
conclusion of which chapter is, " Cum ergo ante confessionem
(ut probatum est) surnus resuscitati per gratiam, et filii lucis
facti ; evidentissime apparet quod sola cordis contritione sine
confessione oris, peccatum remittitur;" and, in the chapter

* Omnis qui non diligit,' he expressly concludes out of St.
John's words : " Non ergo in confessione peccatum remittitur,
quod jam remissum esse probatur : fit itaque confessio ad
ostensionem poenitentiae, non ad impetrationem veniae." And
at the end of this chapter, according to his custom in such
disputable things; when he says, " alii e contrario testantur,
others witness to the contrary," that, without confession
oral, and works of satisfaction, no man is cleansed from his
sin ; the gloss upon the place says thus : " Ab hoc loco usque
ad ' Sed his auctoritatibus' pro alia parte allegat, quod scil.
adulto peccatum non dimittitur sine oris confessione, quod
tamen falsum est:" only he says, that "Confession doth
cleanse, and satisfaction doth cleanse : so that though by
contrition of the heart, the sin is pardoned ; yet these still



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 13

cleanse more and more, as a man is more innovated" or
amended. " But these authorities brought in," viz. that sin
is not pardoned without confession, "if they be diligently
expounded, prove but little." But Friar Maurique, who by
Pius V. made and published a censure upon the glosses, ap-
pointed these words, "quod tamen falsum est," to be left out ;
but the Roman correctors under Gregory XIII. let them
alone ; but put in the rnargent a mark of contradiction upon
it; saying, " Imo verissiraum est." But that was new doc-
trine, and although Semeca, the author of the gloss, affirmed it
expressly to be false, yet Gratian himself was more reserved ;
but yet not of the new opinion, but left the matter indif-
ferent : for after he had alleged Scripture, and authorities
of fathers on one side, and authority of fathers on the other ;
he concludes, " Quibus auctoritatibus vel quibuslibet ratio-
num firmamentis utraque sententia satisfactionis et confes-
sionis innitatur, in medium breviter exposuimus. Cui auteui
liarum potius adhserendum sit, lectoris judicio reservatur.
Utraque enim fautores habet sapientes et religiosos viros." 1
Now how well this agrees with the determination of the
Council of Trent," 1 every man, by comparing, can easily
judge ; only it is certain, this doctrine cannot pretend to be
derived by tradition from the apostles. Of the same opinion
was the Abbot of Panormo ; saying, " That opinion (viz. of
the gloss) does much please me : because there is no mani-
fest authority that does intimate, that either God or Christ
instituted confession to be made to a priest." But it were
endless to name the sentences of the canonists in this ques-
tion ; once for all, the testimony of Maldonat" may secure
us : " Juris pontificii periti, secuti suuin primum interpretem,
omnes dicunt confessionem tantum esse introductam jure
ecclesiastico." But to clear the whole question, I shall, 1.
prove, that the necessity of confessing our sins to a priest
is not found in Scripture ; but very much to disprove it.
2. That there is no reason enforcing this necessity, but very
much against it. 3. That there is no ecclesiastical tradition
of any such necessity ; but apparently the contrary ; and the
consequent of these things will be, that the Church of Rome

I De Poenit. d. i. cap. Quamvis Plenitude.

m Lib. v. de Decret. de Poenit. et Hem. in cap. Omuis utriusque sexus.

II Disp. de Sacr. torn ii. de Confess. Orig. c. 2.



14- AURICULAR CONFESSION

hath introduced a new doctrine, false and burdensome, dan-
gerous and superstitious.

1. If we consider how this article is managed in Scrip-
ture, we shall find that our blessed Saviour said nothing at
all concerning it; the Council of Trent indeed makes their

o *

new doctrine to rely upon the words of Christ recited by St.
John ; " Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted," &c. But
see with what success : for, besides that all the canonists
allow not, that confession was instituted by Christ ; Aquinas,
Scotus, Gabriel Clavasinus, the author of the * Summa Ange-
lica,' Hugo de S. Victore, Bonaventure, Alensis, Tho. Wal-
densis, Ferus, Cajetan, Erasmus, B. Rhenanus, and Janse-
nius, though differing much in the particulars of this ques-
tion, yet all consent that, precisely from the words of Christ,
no necessity of confession to a priest can be concluded.
2. Amongst those of the Roman Church, who did endeavour
to found the necessity of confession upon those words, none
do agree about the way of drawing their argument ; as may
be seen in Scotus, p Aureolus, Johannes Major, Thomas de
Argentina, Richardus, Durandus Almain, Dominicus a Soto,
Alphonsus a Castro, Adrianus, Petrus de Aquila, and others
before the Council of Trent. 3. Though these men go several
ways (which shews, as Scotus expresses it, " hoc verbum non
estprsecisum"),yet they all agree well enough in this, that they
are all equally out of the story, and none of them well performs
what he undertakes ; it is not mine alone, but the judgment
which Vasquez q makes of them, who confuted many of them
by arguments of his own, and by the arguments which they
use one against another, and gives this censure of them : " In-
ter eos, qui plane fatentur ex illis verbis Joh. xx. necessita-
tem confessionis (supple, elici), vix invenias qui efficaciter de-
ducat." And therefore this place of St. John is but an infirm
foundation to build so great a structure on it as the whole
economy of their sacrament of penance, and the necessity of
confession upon it ; since so many learned and acute men,
master builders, believe nothing at all of it ; and others that
do, agree not well in the framing of the structure upon it,
but make a Babel of it ; and at last their attempts prove vain
and useless, by the testimony of their fellow-labourers.
There are some other places of Scripture, which are

"John, ix. 21. Pin lib. iv. Sent.dist. 17. <> Qu. 90, in 3. Thorn, dub. 2.



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 15

pretended for the necessity of confession, but they need no
particular scrutiny ; not only because they are rejected by
their own parties as insufficient ; r but because all are princi-
pally devolved upon the twentieth of St. John ; and the
Council of Trent itself wholly relies upon it. This therefore
being the foundation, if it fails them as to their pretensions,
their building must needs be ruinous. But I shall consider
it a little.

When Christ said to his apostles, " Whose sins ye remit,
they shall be remitted to them ; and whose sins ye retain,
they shall be retained;" he made (says Bellarmine, and ge-
nerally the latter school of Roman doctors) the apostles, and
all priests, judges upon earth; that without their sentence,
no man, that hath sinned after baptism, can be reconciled.
But the priests, who are judges, can give no right or unerr-
ing sentence, unless they hear all the particulars they are to
judge. Therefore by Christ's law they are tied to tell in con-
fession all their particular sins to a priest. This is the sum of
all that is said in this affair. Other light skirmishes there
are, but the main battle is here.

Now all the parts of this great argument must be con-
sidered : and, 1. I deny the argument ; and supposing both
the premises true, that Christ had made them judges, and
that without particular cognizance they could not give judg-
ment according to Christ's intention ; yet it follows not,
that therefore it is necessary, that the penitent shall confess
all his sins to the priest. For, who shall compel the peni-
tent to appear in judgment? Wlftre are they obliged to
come and accuse themselves before the judges ? Indeed if
they were before them, we will suppose the priests to have
power to judge them ; but how can it be hence deduced,
that the penitents are bound to come to this judicatory, and
not to stand alone to the Divine tribunal? A physician may
have power to cure diseases, yet the patients are not bound
to come to him ; neither, it may be, will they, if they can

r Prim urn istorum esset magis conveniens tenendum, si posset evidenler
haberi istud prseceptum ex evangelic*. Nee oportet ad hoc adducere illud Mat-
thaei xvi. ' Tibi dabo claves regni ccclorum,' quia non est nisi proraissio de da-
tione futura. Sed si aliquid in evangelio, videlicet, ad hoc videtur illud Job. xx.
' Accijiite Spir. S. Quorum remiseritis,' &.c. dicitur quod sic, de illo verbo Ja-
cob v. ' Confitemini alterutrum peccata,' &c. sed nee per hoc videretur mibi quod
Jacobus prseceptum hoc dedit, nee prseceptum a Christo promulgavit. Scotus, in
lib. iv. dist, 17, sect, de secundo.



16 AURICULAR CONFESSION

be cured by other means. And if a king sends a judge with
competent authority to judge all the questions in a province ;
he can judge them that come, but he cannot compel them,
to come ; and they may make an end of their quarrels among
themselves, or by arbitration of neighbours ; and if they
have offended the king, they may address themselves to his
clemency, and sue for pardon. And since it is certain, by
their own confession, that a penitent cannot, by the force of
these words of Christ, be compelled to confess his venial
sins, how does it appear, that he is tied to confess his mortal
sins ? For if a man be tied to repent of all his sins, then repent-
ance may be performed without the ministry of the priest,
or else he must repent before the priest for all his sins.
But if he may repent of his venial sins, and yet not go to
the priest ; then to go to the priest is not an essential part
of the repentance : and if it be thus in the case of venial
sins, let them shew from the words of Christ any difference
in the case between the one and the other ; especially if we
consider, that though it may be convenient to go to the
priest to be taught and guided, yet the necessity of going
to him is to be absolved by his ministry. But that of this
there was no necessity believed in the Primitive Church, ap-
pears in this ; because they did not expect pardon from the
bishop or priest in the greatest crimes, but were referred wholly
to God for the pardon of them : " Non sine spe tamen
remissionis, quam ab eo plane sperare debebit qui ejus lar-
gitatem solus obtinet ; et tarn dives misericordise est, ut ne-
mo desperet :" so said the bishops of France in their synod
held about the time of Pope Zephyrinus. To the same pur-
pose are the words of Tertullian : " Salva ilia poenitentice
specie post fidem, quae aut levioribus delictis veniam ab
episcopo consequi poterit, aut majoribus et irremissibilibus a
Deo solo." The like also is in the the thirty-first epistle of St.
Cyprian. Now, first, it is easy to observe how vast the dif-
ference is between the old catholic Church and the present
Roman : these say, that venial sins are not of necessity to
be confessed to the priest or bishop ; and that, without their
ministry, they can be pardoned : but they of old said, that
the smaller sins were to be submitted to the bishop's minis-
try. On the other side, the Roman doctors say, it is abso-
lutely necessary to bring our mortal sins, and confess them,
in order to be absolved by the priest ; but the old catholics



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 17

said, that the greatest sins are wholly to be confessed and
submitted to God, who may pardon them, if he please, and
will, if he be rightly sought to ; but to the Church they need
not be confessed, because these were only and immediately
fit for the Divine cognizance. What is nowadays a reserved
case to the pope, was anciently a case reserved to God ; and
what was only submitted formerly to the bishop, is now not
worth much taking notice of by any one. But now put
these together. By the Roman doctrine you are not, by the
duty of repentance, tied to confess your venial sins ; and by
the primitive, it is to no purpose to bring the greatest crimes
to ecclesiastical repentance, but by their immediate address
to God they had hopes of pardon : from hence it follows,
that there is no necessity of doing one or other, that is,
there is no commandment of God for it ; nor yet any necessity
in the nature of the thing requiring it.

Venerable Bede 3 had an opinion, that those sins only
which are like to leprosy, ought to be submitted to the judg-
ment of the Church : " Caetera vero vitia, tanquarn valetudi-
nes, et quasi membrorum animse atque sensuum, per semet-
ipsum interius in conscientia et intellectu Dominus sanat."
And Goffridus Vindocinensis* tells of one William, a learned
man, whose doctrine it was, that there were but four sorts of
sins which needed confession, the error of Gentilism, schism,
heretical pravity, and Judaical perfidiousness : " Csetera au-
tem peccata a Domino sine confessione sanari." But besides
this, I demand, whether or no hath the priest a power to
remit venial" sins, and that this power (in the words of St.
John, chap, xx.) was given to him by Christ? If Christ did,
in these words, give him power to remit venial sins, and yet
the penitent is not bound to recount them in particular, or
at all to submit them to his judicatory ; it will follow un-
deniably, that the giving power of remission of sins to the
priest, does not infer a necessity in the penitent to come to
confess them. And these things I suppose Vasquez under-
stood well enough ; when he affirms expressly, that it may
well stand with the ordinary power of a judge, that his power

In Lucre Evang. c. 69, torn. v. Colon. Agripp. 1612. * Lib. v. ep. 16.

u Concil. Trid. sess. 14, c. 5. Nam veninlia quibus a gratia Dei non exclu-
dimur, et in quae frequentius labimur, quanquam recte et utiliter citraque omnein
prjesumptionem in confessione dicantur, quod piorum bomiuum ususdemouslrat,
taceri tamen citra culpam, multisque aliis remediis expiari possunt.
VOL. XI. C



18 AURICULAR CONFESSION

be such as that it be free for the subjects to submit to it, or
to end their controversies another way. And that it was so
in this case is the doctrine of Scotus," before cited, and many
others. Add to this, the argument of Scotus, y the priest re-
tains no sins, but such which, some way or other, are declared
to him to have no true signs of repentance ; and yet those,
which are no way manifested to the priest, God retains unto
the vengeance of hell: therefore, neither is that word, " Whose
sins ye remit," precise; that is, if God retains some, which the
priest does not retain, then also he does remit some which the
priest does not remit; and therefore there is no negative affixed
to the affirmative, which shews that the remission or retention
does not necessarily depend on the priest's ministration. So
that, supposing it to be true, that the priest hath a power to re-
mit or retain sins, as a judge, and that this power cannot be
exercised without knowing what he is to judge ; yet it follows
not from hence, that the people are bound to come this way,
and to confess their sins to them, or to ask their pardon. But,
2. The second proposition is also false : for, supposing



Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 2 of 50)