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The TEXTS examined which Papists cite out of the Bible for the Proof of Their Doctrine
+ By Thomas Lynforri.
May 29. 1688.
HE Church of Rome taking all courfes, whether direct or indirect, to bring Men over to her Communion, or at leaft to make them out
of love with ours, as in other cafes, fo in this of Confeffion, pretends fometimes a great Friendship, at other times a great Enmity with the Church of England: fometimes we are reported to hold Confefion juft as that Church does; at other times we want one of the Chriftian Sacraments, and beft means to promote a Religious and Godly Life. By the first of these they endeavour both to keep our diffenting Brethren at as great a distance as they can from us, and to tempt the more unwary amongst our felves to ftep out of our Church into another, betwixt whom they are made to
believe there is already fo clofe a Correfpondence; by the other they fometimes infnare the more ignorant and more devout, who are too apt to be misled by the fpecious pretence of better means of Salvation than they at prefent enjoy.
Now being engaged to examine thofe Scriptures by which the Doctrine of Auricular Confeffion is by that Church defended, that all Parties may underftand one another aright, and there may be no mistake about our or their holding either too little or too much concerning it, I fhall fet down how far we agree, and wherein we difagree as to the fore-mentioned Point.
First, We agree that all ought to confefs their Sins unto Almighty God. Not becaufe 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 fuch is God's Kindness to us, that for the fake of a Crucified Saviour he is willing to pardon fuch our Offences, provided we are heartily forry for them, and refolve to forfake them; but how can we be heartily forry for them, or difpofed to forfake them, unless we are willing to own and confefs them? By publishing our Offences before God, we difcern the folly thereof, and God's Hatred against them; and by making fuch discoveries, we become more afhamed of our felves, and more inclinable to make Refolutions of never being guilty of the like Follies for the future.
And this indeed is the true end of Confeffion, viz. to make Men reform their Lives. Let them confefs never fo much, it will all fignifie nothing to them, unlefs it help to make them more vertuous, by caufing them to reflect upon their paft Actions, and by fhowing them. how much they had formerly been mistaken, that so they might be aware how they were any more mifled after the fame manner.
Now as to this Confeffion 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 Confeffion, but our are certainly much more useful, because our are in a Language which every one understands, but their are not: We, if we be prefent when the general Forms of Confeffion are repeated by the Minifter, know how to joyn with him in them, and to make particular Reflections upon our most private, and moft fecret Sins, under thofe general terms which he ufeth. But they of the Church of Rome, unless they understand Latin, can do nothing of this.
As to Confeffion to God in private, this is left to the difcretion of every particular Perfon to manage as he fhall judg moft for his advantage. In which cafe fometimes it may be fufficient to ufe fuch general terms wherein we own our felves to have been grievous Offenders, and therefore do heartily beg God Almighty's Pardon. At other times, the enumeration of fuch Circumftances as do fet forth the heinousness of our Offences, may be of great ufe to make us more forrowful for what is paft, and more refolute not to be guilty of the like Follies for the future. For this, as I faid before, is the true end of Confeffion, viz. to make us
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mend, and therefore in that confifts 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 paft Follies, or by a more particular enumeration of them.
Secondly, We agree that in cafe of publick Scandal given to the Church by any notorious Crime, a publick Confeffion 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 fubmit to.
This the Church of Rome does at this day more especially take care of in all cafes of Herefy. For altho in most other cafes Auricular Confeffion be allowed of as fufficient; yet in cafe of Herefy no Reconciliation is to be had without a publick Recantation.
And as for the Church of England, fhe wifheth (as we read in the Commination) that the Godly Difcipline, which was in ufe in the Primitive Church, were reftored, 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 fatisfied; which cannot be without an acknowledgment of his fault and the profpect of amendment for the time to
Thirdly, We agree that private Confeffion of Sin may be made to all forts 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 fort of reparation for
having injured his Neighbour. Now it may happen in fome cafes, 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 cafes where there is a poffibility of making fome other Reparation, yet ftill it cannot be done without the like acknowledgment, and begging of Pardon of the injured Party for the Injuries which have been done him.
Befides, fuch Acknowledgments do difcover the fincerity of his Repentance who has done the Injury, in that he is willing to endure the fhame of having his fault known by him, from whom, if he were not heartily forry for what he had done, he had moft reafon to conceal it.
2. In cafe of any doubt or fcruple. Some People are apt to entertain wrong Apprehenfions both of God and themselves, and from thence to be very muchperplex'd in their Minds in reference to their fpiritual Condition, and the real well-fare of their Souls. Now in fuch cafes what can be more fit and reasonable, than that they freely declare themselves to fuch whom they believe beft able to give them fatisfaction. He who cannot refolve all fcruples which arise within his mind concerning himself, if he has any wife and difcreet Friend, whether of the Laity or Clergy, whom he knows to be able to affift him in fuch his perplexity, -is much to be blamed, if he does not what he is wont to do, when he is at a lofs as to the management of his Temporal Concerns, viz. open his Difficulties unto him, and make the beft advantage he can of his Advice and Directions.