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cientiae privilegium manet." As therefore the bishop, or the
priest, can give the Holy Ghost to a repenting sinner, so he
can give him pardon, and no otherwise : that is, by prayer,
and the ministry of the sacraments to persons fitly disposed,
who also can and have received the Holy Ghost, without any
such ministry of man ; as appears in St. Peter's question ;
" What hinders these men to be baptized, who have received
the Holy Ghost as well as we?" And it is done everyday,
and every hour, in the communion of saints, in the immis-
sions and visitations from heaven, which the saints of God
daily receive, and often perceive and feel. " Every man is
bound by the cords of his own sins, which ropes and bands
the apostles can loose, imitating therein their Master, who
said to them, * Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be
loosed in heaven.' * Solvunt autem eos apostoli, sermone Dei,
et testimoniis Scripturarum, et exhortatione virtutum,'" saith
St. Jerome/ For the word of God, which is intrusted to the
ministry of the Church, is that rule and measure by which
God will judge us all at the last day ; and, therefore, by the

Summ.part.iv. q.21,memb.l. P Tom. OperumAug. Scala Parad.c. 3.

1 De Operibus Cardiaalibus Christ! inter Cypriani opera ; sed varius Arnold!
Bonaevallensis. ' Lib. vi. Comment, in Isai. c. xiv.



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 29

word of God we stand or fall, we are bound or loosed : which
word when the ministers of the Gospel dispense rightly, they
bind or loose ; and what they so bind or loose on earth, God
will bind and loose in heaven. That is, by the same mea-
sures he will judge the man, by which he hath commanded
his ministers to judge them by ; that is, they preach remis-
sion of sins to the penitent, and God will make it good ; and
they threaten eternal death to the impenitent, and God will
inflict it. But other powers of binding and loosing than
what hath been already instanced, those words of Christ
prove not. And these powers, and no other, do we find
used by the apostles : " To us (saith St. Paul) 5 is committed
the word of reconciliation : now then we are ambassadors for
Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you
in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Christ is the
great minister of reconciliation ; we are his ambassadors to
the people for that purpose : and we are to preach to them,
and to exhort them: to pray them, and to pray for them;
and we also, by our ministry, reconcile them ; and we par-
don their sins ; for God hath set us over the people to that
purpose: but then it is also in that manner that God set the
priest over the leprous; bliavtei ftiavcTavrbv o hgsvs, " The priest
with pollution shall pollute them,"' and the priest shall
cleanse him, that is, shall declare him so. And it is in the
same manner that God set the prophet Jeremy" over the na-
tions, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, to throw
down, to build, and to plant: that is, by "putting his word
into his mouth" to do all this, to preach all this, to promise
or to threaten respectively, all this. The ministers of the
Gospel do pardon sins, just as they save men; " This doing,
thou shalt save thyself, and them that hear thee ;" that is,
* by attending to and continuing in the doctrine of Christ :' x
and " He that converts a sinner from the error of his way,
saves a soul from death, and covers a multitude of sins." y
Bringing the man to repentance, persuading him to turn from
vanity to the living God; thus he brings pardon to him, and
salvation. And if it be said, that a layman can do this ;
I answer, it is very well for him if he does; and he can, if
it please God to assist him : but the ordinary ministry is

2 Cor. v. 19, 20. Lev. xiii. 41, 45, 47. " Jer. i. 10.

* 1 Tim. iv. 16. 1 Janiej, v. 2 ..



30 AURICULAR CONFESSION

appointed to bishops and priests : so that although a layman
do it extraordinarily, that can be no prejudice to the ordi-
nary power of the keys in the hands of the clergy ; which is
but a ministry of prayer, of the word and sacraments : ac-
cording to the saying of their own Ferus z upon this place:
" Christ in this word shews how, and to what use, he at this
time gave them the Holy Ghost, to wit, for the remission of
sins ; neither for the apostles themselves alone ; ' sed ut eundem
Spiritum, eandemque remissioneni peccatorum verbo praedi-
cationis, et sacramentis verbo annexis, distribuerunt.' " And
again, he brings in Christ saying, " I therefore choose you,
and I seal your hearts by the Holy Ghost unto the word of
the Gospel, and confirm you, that going into the world, ye
may preach the Gospel to every creature, and that ye may
distribute that very remission by the word of the Gospel, and
the sacraments." For the words of Christ are 'general and
indefinite ; and they are comprehensive of the whole power
and ministry ecclesiastical : and in those parts of it which
are evident and confessed, viz. preaching remission of sins
and baptism, a special enumeration of our sins is neither
naturally necessary, nor esteemed so by custom, nor made so
by virtue of these words of Christ ; therefore it is no way
necessary, neither have they at all proved it so by Scripture.
And to this I add only what Ambrosius Pelargus, a divine of
the elector of Triers, said in the Council of Trent ; " that the
words of our Lord, * Quorum remiseritis,' were perhaps not
expounded, by any father, for an institution of the sacrament
of penance : and that by some they were understood of bap-
tism ; by others, of any other thing by which pardon of sins
is received. " a

But since there is no necessity declared in Scripture of
confessing all our sins to a priest, no mention of sacramental
penance, or confession, it must needs seem strange, that a
doctrine, of which there is no commandment in Scripture,
no direction for the manner of doing so difficult a work, no
otfice or officer described to any such purpose ; that a doc-
trine, I say, of which in the fountain of salvation there is no
spring, should yet become, in process of time, to be the con-
dition of salvation: and yet for preaching, praying, baptizing,
communicating, we have precept upon precept, and line

z Jo'.m, xx. a Hist. Coacil. Trid. A.D. 15o, sub Julio Tertio.



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 31

upon line ; we have in Scripture three epistles written to
two bishops, in which the episcopal office is abundantly
described ; and excellent canons established ; and the parts
of their duty enumerated : and yet no care taken about the
office of ' father confessor.' Indeed we find a pious exhorta-
tion to all spiritual persons, that, " if any man be overtaken
in a fault, they should restore such a one in the spirit of
meekness ;" ' restore him,' that is, to the public peace and
communion of the Church, from which by his delinquency
he fell ; and restore him also, by the word of his proper
ministry, to the favour of God ; by exhortations to him, bv
reproving of him, by praying for him : and besides this, we
have some little limits more, which the Church of Rome, if
they please, may make good use of in this question ; such
as are, " that they who sin, should be rebuked before all men,
that others also may fear;" b which indeed is a good war-
ranty for public discipline, but very little for private confes-
sion. And St. Paul charges Timothy, that he should " lay
hands suddenly on no man," that he be not partaker of other
men's sins; which is a good caution against the Roman way
of absolving them that confess, as soon as they have con-
fessed, before they have made their satisfactions. The same
apostle speaks also of " some that creep into houses, and
lead captive silly women ;" I should have thought, he had
intended it against such as then abused auricular confession ;
it being so like what they do now ; but that St. Paul knew
nothing of these lately introduced practices : and lastly he
commands every one that is to receive the holy communion
" to examine himself, and so let him eat:" he forgot, it seems
to enjoin them to go to confession to be examined : which
certainly he could never have done more opportunely than
here ; and, if it had been necessary, he could never have
omitted it more indecently. But it seems, the first Christians
were admitted upon other terms by the apostles, than they
are at this day by the Roman clergy. And indeed it were
infinitely strange, that since, in the Old Testament, remission
of sins was given to every one, that confessed to God, and
turned from his evil way, c that in the New Testament to

b 1 Tim. v. 20.

c Isiii. i. Ki-18. Ezek. xviii. 22; xxxiii. 1.5, 16. Isa : . xx:,. 15. secundum
LXX. "Gray a.fQffroa.Qili frivu+n;, TOTI tru'tntr?.



32 AURICULAR CONFESSION

which liberty is a special privilege, and the imposed yoke of
Christ infinitely more easy than the burden of the law ; and
repentance is the very formality of the Gospel covenant; and
yet, that pardon of our sins shall not be given to us Christians
on so easy terms as it was to the Jews ; but an intolerable
new burden shall be made a new condition of obtaining
pardon. And this will appear yet the more strange; when
we consider, that all the sermons of the prophets concerning
repentance, were not derivations from Moses's law, but homi-
lies evangelical, and went before to prepare the way of the
Lord ; and John Baptist was last of them ; and that, in this
matter, the sermons of the prophets were but the Gospel
antedated; and, in this affair, there was no change but to the
better and to a clearer manifestation of the Divine mercy, and
the sweet yoke of Christ ; the disciples of Christ preached
the same doctrine of repentance that the Baptist did, and the
Baptist the same that the prophets did, and there was no
difference ; Christ was the same in all, and he that com-
manded his disciples to fast to God alone in private, intended
that all the parts of repentance transacted between God and
our consciences, should be as sufficient as that one of fasting,
and that other of prayer: and it is said so in all; " for, if we
confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." It is God alone
that can cleanse our hearts, and he that cleanses us, he alone
does forgive us ; and this is upon our confession to him : his
justice and faithfulness are at stake for it; and therefore it
supposes a promise: which we often find upon our confessions
made to God, but it was never promised upon confession made
to the priest.

But now, in the next place, if we consider, whether this
thing be reasonable, to impose such a yoke upon the necks
of the disciples, which upon their fathers was not put in the
Old Testament, nor ever commanded in the New ; we shall
find, that, although many good things might be consequent
to the religious, and free, and prudent use of confession ; yet,
by changing into a doctrine of God, that which, at most, is
but a commandment of man, it will not, by all the contingent
good, make recompense for the intolerable evils it intro-
duces. And here first I consider, that many times things seem
profitable to us, and may minister to good ends ; but God



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 33

judges them useless and dangerous : for he judges not as we
judge. The worshipping of angels, and the abstaining from
meats, which some false apostles introduced, looked well,
and pretended to humility, and mortification of the body ;
but the apostle approved them not : and of the same mind
were the succeeding ages of the Church ; who condemned the
dry diet, and the ascetic fasts of Montanus, though they
were pretended only for discipline; but when they came to
be imposed, they grew intolerable. Certainly men lived
better lives, when, by the discipline of the Church, sinners
were brought to public stations and penance, than now they
do by all the advantages, real and pretended, from auricular
confession ; and yet the Church thought fit to lay it aside,
and nothing is left but the shadow of it.

2. This whole topic can only be a prudential consider-
ation, and can no way infer a divine institution ; for though
it was as convenient before Christ, as since, and might have
had the same effects upon the public or private good, then,
as now; yet God was not pleased to appoint it in almost
forty ages ; and we say, he hath not done it yet. However,
let it be considered, that there being some things which,
St. Paul says, are not to be "so much as named" amongst
Christians ; it must needs look indecently, that all men and
all women should come and make the priest's ears a common
sewer to empty all their filthiness ; and that which a modest
man would blush to hear, he must be used to, and it is the
greatest part of his employment to attend to. True it is, that
a physician must see and handle the impurest ulcers ; but it
is, because the cure does not depend upon the patient, but
upon the physician, who, by general advertisement, cannot
cure the patient, unless he had a universal medicine, which
the priest hath : the medicine of repentance, which can in-
differently cure all sins, whether the priest know them or
no. And, therefore, all this filthy communication is therefore
intolerable, because it is not necessary : and it not only pol-
lutes the priest's ears, but his tongue too ; for, lest any cir-
cumstance, or any sin, be concealed, he thinks himself ob-
liged to interrogate, and proceed to particular questions in
the basest things. Such as that which is to be seen in Bur-
chard, d and such which are too largely described in Sanchez ;

d Lib. xix. Decret. de Matrimonio.
VOL. XI. D



34 AURICULAR CONFESSION

which thing does not only deturpate all honest and modest
conversation, but it teaches men to understand more sins
than ever they (it may be) knew of. And I believe, there
are but few in the world at this day, that did ever think of
such a crime, as Burchard hath taught them by that ques-
tion ; and possibly it might have expired in the very first
instances, if there had been no further notice taken of it. I
need not tell how the continual representment of such things
to the priest, must needs infect the fancy and the memory
with filthy imaginations, and be a state of temptation to
them that are very often young men and vigorous, and al-
ways unmarried and tempted. <i>8iieovaiv ffiq %?!<&' 6/^/X/a/ xaxai.
Aretine's tables do not more pollute the heart through the
eyes, than a foul narrative of a beastly action with all the
circumstances of perpetration does through their ears ; for,
as it was said of Thomas Cantipratanus, "vexatis exteriiis
auribus, interius tentationum stimulis agitabatur." 6 And
Marcus Eremita, that lived in that age, in which this auri-
cular confession began to be the mode of the Latin Church,
speaks against it severely : "If thou wilt offer to God an
unreprovable confession, do not recount thy sins particularly,
for so thou dost greatly defile thy mind ; but generously en-
dure their assaults, or what they have brought upon thee." f
We need no further witness of it, but the question and
case of conscience which Cajetan puts: " Utrum confessor
cognoscens ex his quae audit in confessione, sequi in seipso
emissionem seminis sibi displicentem, peccet mortaliter au-
dierido vel prosequendo tales confessiones?" g The question
is largely handled, but not so fit to be read ; but instead of
it, I shall only note the answer of another cardinal : " Con-
fessarius, si forte dum audit confessiones, in tales incidit
pollutiones, non ob id tenetur non audire alios, nisi sit peri-
culum complacent!* in pollutione ; tune enim tenetur relin-
quere confessiones, et auferre peccati occasionem ; secus
non." h This question and this answer I here bring to no
other purpose, but to represent that the priests dwell in
temptation ; and that their manner of receiving confessions
is a perpetual danger, by which he that loves it, may chance

In vita ejus apud Hagiolog. Brabant.

f De iis qui putant se operibus justificari. Biblioth. Po/rwm, torn. Gr. Lat.

K Opusc. Cajet. tract, xxii.

h Lib. v. Inst. Sacerd. c. 3, sub. fig. 5, edit. Paris. 1619, p. 372.



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 35

to perish. And of this there have been too many sad exam-
ples remarked, evidencing that this private confession hath
been the occasion and the opportunity of the vilest crimes.
There happened but one such sad thing in the ancient Greek
Church, which became public by the discipline of public con-
fession, but was acted by the opportunity of the private in-
tercourse ; and that was then thought sufficient to alter that
whole discipline : but it is infinitely more reasonable, to take
off the law of private confession, and in that manner as it is
enjoined; if we consider the intolerable evils which are com-
mitted frequently upon this sense. Erasmus' makes a sad
complaint of it, that the penitents do often light upon priests,
who, under the pretext of confession, commit things not to be
spoken of; and instead of physicians, become partners, or
masters, or disciples, of turpitude. The matter is notorious,
and very scandalous, and very frequent : insomuch that it
produced two bulls of two popes ' contra sollicitantes in con-
fessione ;' the first was of Pius the Fourth to the bishop of
Seville, A.D. 1561, April 16; the other of Gregory the
Fifteenth, 1622, August 30, which bulls take notice of it,
and severely prohibit the confessors to tempt the women to
indecencies, when they come to confession. Concerning
which bulls, and the sad causes procuring them, even the
intolerable and frequent impieties acted by and in confes-
sions, who desires to be plentifully satisfied, may please to
read the book of Johannes Escobar a Corro, a Spanish law-
yer ; which is a commentary on those two bulls ; k and in the
beginning he shall find sad complaints and sadder stories.
But I love not to stir up so much dirt. That which is alto-
gether as remarkable, and, it may be, much more, is, that this
auricular confession not only can, but oftentimes hath been,
made the most advantageous way of plotting, propagating,
and carrying on, treasonable propositions and designs. I
shall not instance in that horrid design of the gunpowder
treason ; for that is known every where amongst us ; but in
the holy league of France. "When the pulpits became unsafe
for tumultuous and traitorous preachers, the confessors in pri-
vate confessions did that with more safety ; they slandered
the king, and endeavoured to prove it lawful for subjects to

1 In Exomolog. p. 128, 129, &c.

k Videatur etiam Orlandini Hist. Scciet. J. lib. ix. sect. 70.



36 AURICULAR CONFESSION

covenant or make leagues and confederacies without their

o

king's leave ; they sometimes refused to absolve them, unless
they would enter into the league ; and persuaded many mis-
erable persons to be of the faction. But this thing was not
done so secretly, but notice enough was taken of it ; and
complaint was made to the bishop, and then to Franciscus
Maurocenus, the cardinal legate ; who gave notice and caution
against it ; and the effect it produced was only this ; they pro-
ceeded afterward more warily ; and began to preach this doc-
trine ; that it was as great a fault if the confitent reveal what
he hears from the confessor in confession, as if the priest
should reveal the sins told him by the penitent : " this nar-
rative I have from Thuanus. 1 To which I add one more,
related in the life of Padre Paola ; that " Hippolito da Lucca
fu in fama sinistra d' haver nelle confessioni, e ragionamen-
ti corrotto con larghe promesse e gran speranza persuaso
alia Duchessa d' aderire alia fazione ecclesiastica ; Hip-
politus of Lucca was evil reported to have, in discourse or in
confession, persuaded the Duchess of Urbin against Caesar
d'Este, and to have corrupted her into the faction of the
Church." For which he was made a bishop, and in Rome
was always one of the prelates deputed in the examination
of that controversy. If it were possible, and if it could be
in the world, I should believe it to be a baser prostitution
of religion to temporal designs, which is written of F. Ar-
nold the Jesuit," confessor to Lewis the Thirteenth of
France ; that he caused the king at confession solemnly to
swear, never to dislike what Luines, the great favourite, did,
nor himself to meddle with any state affair. Now what
advantage the pope hath over Christian princes in this parti-
cular, and how much they have, and how much more they
may suffer, by this economy, is a matter of great consider-
ation : " Admonetur.omnis aetas posse fieri, quod jam factum
vidimus."

3. There is yet another very great evil, that attends upon
the Roman way of auricular confession ; and that is, an eter-
nal scruple of conscience, which to the timorous and melan-
choly, to the pious, and considering, and zealous, is almost

1 Hist. lib. hcxxv. p. 100, in Leida, 1646.

m By Card. Aldobrandino, the nephew of P. Clement VIII.

n Meraoires de Due de Rohan, lib. i.



IMPOSED UPON CONSCIENCES. 37

unavoidable. For, besides that there is no certainty of dis-
tinction between the mortal and venial sins ; there being no
catalogues of one and the other, save only that they usually
reckon but seven deadly sins ; and the rest are, or may be,
easily by the ignorant supposed to be venial ; and even those
sins, which are under those seven heads, are not all mortal ;
for there are amongst them many ways of changing their mor-
tality into veniality ; and consequent to all this they are either
tempted to slight most sins, or to be troubled with perpetual
disputes concerning almost every thing : besides this, I say,
there can be no peace (because there can be no certain rule
given) concerning the examination of our consciences ; for
who can say, he hath done it sufficiently, or who knows what
is sufficient ; and yet if it be not sufficient, then the sins which
are forgotten by carelessness, and not called to mind by suffi-
cient diligence, are not pardoned, arid then the penitent hath
had much trouble to no purpose. There are some confessions
imperfect but valid, some invalid for their imperfection, some
perfect, and yet invalid : and they that made the distinction,
made the rule, and it binds as they please ; but it can cause
scruples beyond their power of remedy ; because there is no
certain principle, from whence men can derive peace and a
certain determination, some affirming, and some denying,
and both of them by chance, or humour. There are also
many reserved cases ; some to the bishop, some to the pa-
triarch, some to the pope ; and when you shall have run
through the fire for these before the priest, you must run
once or twice more ; and your first absolution is of no force :
and amongst these reserved cases, there is also great differ-
ence ; some are reserved by reason of censures ecclesiastical,
and some by reason of the greatness of the sin ; and these
things may be hidden from his eyes, and he, supposing him-
self absolved, will perceive himself deceived ; and absolved
but from one half. Some indeed think, that if the superior
absolve from the reserved cases alone, that grace is given by
which all the rest are remitted : and on the other side, some
think if the inferior absolves from what he can, grace is given
of remitting even of the reserved : but this is uncertain, and
all agree, that the penitent is never the nearer, but that he
is still obliged to confess the reserved cases to the superior,
if he went first to the inferior ; or all to the inferior, in case



38 AURICULAR CONFESSION

he went first to the superior, confessing only the reserved.
There are also many difficulties in the confession of such
things, in which the sinner had partners : for if he confess
the sin so, as to accuse any other, he sins ; if he does not,
in many cases he cannot confess the circumstances, that
alter the nature of the crime. Some, therefore, tell him, he
may conceal such sins till a fitter opportunity ; others say,
he may let it quite alone : others yet say, he may get another
confessor ; but then there will come another scruple, whe-
ther he may do this with leave, or without leave ; or, if,
he ask leave, whether or no, in case it be denied him, he may
take leave in such an accident. Upon these and many other
like accounts, there will arise many more questions con-
cerning the iteration of his confession ; for if the first confes-
sion be by any means made invalid, it must be done over
again. But here, in the very beginning of this affair, the
penitent must be sure that his former confession was invalid.



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