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that they regarded him, whom, however they exalt, they still consider but as a mere man, as capable of being head of the church too. It is not too much to speak of Christ as both the foundation and head of the church, but to speak of Peter, poor Peter, as we are accustomed to call him when we think of the scene of the denial, as both foundation and head of the church, is really carrying the matter rather far. How little Peter thought he was both, when "he went out and wept bitterly ! How little he knew of himself!

The Pope the head of the church !! Then the church is the Pope's body!! Alas for the church!

15. The Power to Forgive Sins.

Seculum modestum I rather suppose will not be the designation by which the 19th century will be distinguished in history from her sister centuries. I know not whether any age has been more remarkable for cases of unfounded pretension than the present. The case, however, of which I am to take notice, did not originate in the 19th century. It has existed many

I do not wonder at its surviving the dark ages, but that it should have lived so far into the luminous 19th does somewhat surprise me. The pretension to which I allude is that made by the Catholic priesthood. What do you think it is which they pretend they can do ? Forgive sins. They pretend that they have power over sins, to remit or retain them.

hundred years.

They claim that the prerogative of pardon is lodged with them. And that is the reason why they receive confessions. Confession to a priest would be a farce, if it was not thought that he could forgive.

The first thing that strikes me is the contrariety of this notion to common sense.

The idea of being pardoned by any other than the being offended, seems absurd. What! a fellow-sinner of a priest pardon sins against God! It is as if of two debtors, one should play the creditor and forgive the other his debt, without any consultation with the real creditor. That would be a strange way of getting rid of debts. I always thought he to whom the debt is due ought to have a say in the matter of remitting it. If I had disposed of a debt in that manner I should always be afraid that it would some day or other be exactedthat the real creditor would appear and ake his demand. Then it would be a poor come off for me to say

that my fellow-debtor forgave me the debt. I will tell you what I expect. I expect that a great deal which the priests forgive will be exacted notwithstanding. Catholics talk of going to the priest and getting their old scores wiped off, just as if it were but a slate and pencil memorandum, which any one can rub out. The sin of man is not thus recorded. It is “written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond.” It is not so easily obliterated.

But is there not Scripture in support of the priests' claim? See John, 20 : 23. Does not Christ say to his disciples: “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained ?" Yes, he says that to his disciples -the apostles. But pray, what right have the priests

to found a claim of theirs on a grant made to the apostles? They do indeed come after the apostles, but they are their successors in no other sense. I should like to know how the priests prove that they inherit the apostolical power of remitting sins. But I forget that they scorn a resort to proof.

The power communicated in that grant to the apostles was merely ministerial and declarative. It was no less true after than before that grant was made, that none can forgive sins but God only. That the power was declarative merely, that is, that the apostles were empowered to remit and retain sins only as they were authorized and enabled to make a correct statement to mankind of the way and means of salvation, to express the conditions of pardon and condemnation, and to propose the terms of life and death, is clear to me from the fact that the conferring of it was immediately preceded by the Savior's breathing on them, and saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Now, this communication of the Spirit qualified them for the declarative remission and retention of sins. They were thereby inspired to pronounce on what grounds sins are remitted and retained by God.

This was the power over sins granted to the apostles, and I shall show presently that this declarative power is all they pretend ever to have exercised. Now, the priests have no right to claim even this power, except in that subordinate sense in which it is possessed by all who are authorized to preach the Gospel. Did Christ ever breathe on them, and say to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” that they should claim equality with the apostles? The effect of the inspiration is not so manifest in the case of the priests as it was in the case of the apostles, if I may be permitted to express an opinion.

But the priests claim far more than ever entered the thoughts of the apostles. They are not satisfied with the ministerial and declarative power over sins. They claim a magisterial and authoritative power to remit and retain them. Consequently they call sinners to come and confess their sins to them. Did Peter and the other apostles, the very men to whom Christ said, “whosesoever sins ye remit,” &c. ever do such a thing? You read in the Acts of the Apostles of synagogues and proseuches, or places of prayer, but do


any thing about confession-boxes there? Does there seem to have been any thing auricular in the transactions of the day of Pentecost ?

There is the case of Simon Magus that strikes me as in point. If Peter and John had had the power of forgiving sin, could they not have exercised it in favor of Simon ? But we find Peter addressing him just as any Protestant minister would have done: “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” How differently the Roman priest would have done! He would have said, “Well, Simon, and what have you to say for yourself? Ah, that is very bad, very bad. But if you are sorry, Simon, I forgive you. Only I cannot let you off without doing som penance. You must say so many paternosters, and you must not eat meat for so many days.” This is the way in which the boasted successors of Peter manage these matters. But, they will say, Simon was not penitent, otherwise perhaps Peter would have pardoned him. But I wonder if pardon would have waited for Peter's action in the matter, if there had been penitence in the heart of the sorceror. I suspect not. I suspect the gracious Lord, when he sees contrition in any soul, does not withhold pardon till a priest or even an apostle shall intervene and act in the matter. And when the good angels have ascertained that a sinner has repented, I rather suppose they do not suspend their rejoicing until he has gone to confession, and has got absolution from the priest.

What a glorious book the Bible is! I wish the authorities of the Catholic church would condescend to strike it off the list of prohibited books, and allow the Lord to speak to his creatures. I wish they would let their people, the many thousands that on the Sabbath crowd their chapels and cathedrals, read, or hear what Jehovah says to “every one" in that wonderful chapter, the 55th of Isaiah. It is indeed a wonderful chapter. But the Catholics don't know any thing about it. No; and they have never heard of that precious and glorious verse, the 18th of the 1st chapter of Isaiah, in which thus saith the Lord to the sinner,

and let us (you and I, sinner !) “reason together.” And then follows the reasoning, 6 though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Ask the awakened sinner, or the recently pardoned, what he would take for that passage. He esteems it above all price; and to the Christian it becomes every day more and more a theme of wonder and delight. But the Catholics don't know that the Lord has ever made any such kind and condescending proposal to his creatures. They never hear of the call of God to come and reason with him.


6 Come now,

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