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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Part 16 Article VI: Of Confession and Satisfaction.

The Apology Of The Augsburg Confession by Philip Melanchthon

Part 16 Article VI: Of Confession and Satisfaction.

Good men can easily judge that it is of the greatest importance that the true doctrine concerning the abovementioned parts, namely, contrition and faith, be preserved. [For the great fraud of indulgences, etc., and the preposterous doctrines of the sophists have sufficiently taught us what great vexation and danger arise therefrom if a foul stroke is here made. How many a godly conscience under the Papacy sought with great labor the true way, and in the midst of such darkness did not find it!] Therefore, we have always been occupied more with the elucidation of these topics, and have disputed nothing as yet concerning confession and satisfaction. For we also retain confession, especially on account of the absolution, as being the word of God which, by divine authority, the power of the keys pronounces upon individuals. Therefore it would be wicked to remove private absolution from the Church. Neither do they understand what the remission of sins or the power of the keys is, if there are any who despise private absolution. But in reference to the enumeration of offenses in confession, we have said above that we hold that it is not necessary by divine right. For the objection, made by some, that a judge ought to investigate a ease before he pronounces upon it, pertains in no way to this subject; because the ministry of absolution is favor or grace, it is not a legal process, or law. [For God is the Judge, who has committed to the apostles, not the office of judges, but the administration of grace namely, to acquit those who desire, etc.] Therefore ministers in the Church have the command to remit sin, they have not the command to investigate secret sins. And indeed, they absolve from those that we do not remember; for which reason absolution, which is the voice of the Gospel remitting sins and consoling consciences, does not require judicial examination.

And it is ridiculous to transfer hither the saying of Solomon, Prov.27, 23: Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks. For Solomon says nothing of confession, but gives to the father of a family a domestic precept, that he should use what is his own, and abstain from what is another's, and he commands him to take care of his own property diligently, yet in such a way that, with his mind occupied with the increase of his resources, he should not cast away the fear of God, or faith or care in God's Word. But our adversaries, by a wonderful metamorphosis, transform passages of Scripture to whatever meaning they please. [They produce from the Scriptures black and white, as they please, contrary to the natural meaning of the clear words.] Here to know signifies with them to hear confessions, the state, not the outward life, but the secrets of conscience; and the flocks signify men. [Sable, we think means a school within which there are such doctors and orators. But it has happened aright to those who thus despise the Holy Scriptures and all fine arts that they make gross mistakes in grammar.] The interpretation is assuredly neat, and is worthy of these despisers of the pursuits of eloquence. But if any one desires by a similitude to transfer a precept from a father of a family to a pastor of a Church, he ought certainly to interpret |state| [V. vultus, countenance] as applying to the outward life. This similitude will be more consistent.

But let us omit such matters as these. At different times in the Psalms mention is made of confession, as, Ps.32, 5: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Such confession of sin which is made to God is contrition itself. For when confession is made to God, it must be made with the heart not alone with the voice, as is made on the stage by actors. Therefore, such confession is contrition, in which, feeling God's wrath, we confess that God is justly angry, and that He cannot be appeased by our works, and nevertheless we seek for mercy because of God's promise. Such is the following confession, Ps.51, 4: Against Thee only have I sinned, that Thou mightest be justified and be clear when Thou judgest, i.e., |I confess that I am a sinner, and have merited eternal wrath, nor can I set my righteousnesses, my merits, against Thy wrath; accordingly, I declare that Thou art just when Thou condemnest and punishest us, I declare that Thou art clear when hypocrites judge Thee to be unjust in punishing them or in condemning the well-deserving. Yea, our merits cannot be opposed to Thy judgment but we shall thus be justified, namely, if Thou justifiest us, if through Thy mercy Thou accountest us righteous.| Perhaps some one may also cite Jas.5, 16: Confess your faults one to another. But here the reference is not to confession that is to be made to the priests, but, in general, concerning the reconciliation of brethren to each other. For it commands that the confession be mutual.

Again, our adversaries will condemn many most generally received teachers if they will contend that in confession an enumeration of offenses is necessary according to divine Law. For although we approve of confession, and judge that some examination is of advantage in order that men may be the better instructed [young and inexperienced persons be questioned], yet the matter must be so controlled that snares are not cast upon consciences, which never will be tranquil if they think that they cannot obtain the remission of sins unless this precise enumeration be made. That which the adversaries have expressed in the Confutation is certainly most false, namely, that a full confession is necessary for salvation. For this is impossible. And what snares they here cast upon the conscience when they require a full confession! For when will conscience be sure that the confession is complete? In the Church-writers mention is made of confession, but they do not speak of this enumeration of secret offenses, but of the rite of public repentance. For as the fallen or notorious [those guilty of public crimes] were not received without fixed satisfactions [without a public ceremony or reproof], they made confession on this account to the presbyters, in order that satisfactions might be prescribed to them according to the measure of their offenses. This entire matter contained nothing similar to the enumeration concerning which we are disputing. This confession was made, not because the remission of sins before God could not occur without it, but because satisfactions could not be prescribed unless the kind of offense were first known. For different offenses had different canons.

And from this rite of public repentance there has been left the word |satisfaction.| For the holy Fathers were unwilling to receive the fallen or the notorious, unless as far as it was possible, their repentance had been first examined into and exhibited publicly. And there seem to have been many causes for this. For to chastise those who had fallen served as an example, just as also the gloss upon the degrees admonishes, and it was improper immediately to admit notorious men to the communion [without their being tested]. These customs have long since grown obsolete. Neither is it necessary to restore them, because they are not necessary for the remission of sins before God. Neither did the Fathers hold this, namely, that men merit the remission of sins through such customs or such works, although these spectacles [such outward ceremonies] usually lead astray the ignorant to think that by these works they merit the remission of sins before God. But if any one thus holds, he holds to the faith of a Jew and heathen. For also the heathen had certain expiations for offenses through which they imagined to be reconciled to God. Now, however, although the custom has become obsolete, the name satisfaction still remains, and a trace of the custom also remains of prescribing in confession certain satisfactions, which they define as works that are not due. We call them canonical satisfactions. Of these we hold, just as of the enumeration, that canonical satisfactions [these public ceremonies] are not necessary by divine Law for the remission of sins, just as those ancient exhibitions of satisfactions in public repentance were not necessary by divine Law for the remission of sins. For the belief concerning faith must be retained, that by faith we obtain remission of sins for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of our works that precede or follow [when we are converted or born anew in Christ]. And for this reason we have discussed especially the question of satisfactions, that by submitting to them the righteousness of faith be not obscured, or men think that for the sake of these works they obtain remission of sins. And many sayings that are current in the schools aid the error, such as that which they give in the definition of satisfaction, namely, that it is wrought for the purpose of appeasing the divine displeasure.

But, nevertheless, the adversaries acknowledge that satisfactions are of no profit for the remission of guilt. Yet they imagine that satisfactions are of profit in redeeming from the punishments, whether of purgatory or other punishments. For thus they teach that in the remission of sins, God [without means, alone] remits the guilt, and yet, because it belongs to divine justice to punish sin, that He commutes eternal into temporal punishment. They add further that a part of this temporal punishment is remitted by the power of the keys, but that the rest is redeemed by means of satisfactions. Neither can it be understood of what punishments a part is remitted by the power of the keys, unless they say that a part of the punishments of purgatory is remitted, from which it would follow that satisfactions are only punishments redeeming from purgatory. And these satisfactions, they say, avail even though they are rendered by those who have relapsed into mortal sin, as though indeed the divine displeasure could be appeased by those who are in mortal sin. This entire matter is fictitious, and recently fabricated without the authority of Scripture and the old writers of the Church. And not even Longobardus speaks in this way of satisfactions. The scholastics saw that there were satisfactions in the Church; and they did not notice that these exhibitions had been instituted both for the purpose of example, and for testing those who desired to be received by the Church. In a word, they did not see that it was a discipline, and entirely a secular matter. Accordingly, they superstitiously imagined that these avail not for discipline before the Church, but for appeasing God. And just as in other places they frequently, with great inaptness, have confounded spiritual and civil matters [the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual, and the kingdom of the world, and external discipline], the same happens also with regard to satisfactions. But the gloss on the canons at various places testifies that these observances were instituted for the sake of church discipline [should serve alone for an example before the Church].

Let us see, moreover, how in the Confutation which they had the presumption to obtrude upon His Imperial Majesty, they prove these figments of theirs. They cite many passages from the Scriptures, in order to impose upon the inexperienced, as though this subject which was unknown even in the time of Longobard, had authority from the Scriptures. They bring forward such passages as these: Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance, Matt.3, 8, Mark 1, 15. Again: Yield your members servants to righteousness Rom.6, 19. Again, Christ preaches repentance, Matt.4, 17: Repent. Again, Christ Luke 24, 47, commands the apostles to preach repentance, and Peter preaches repentance Acts 2, 38. Afterward they cite certain passages of the Fathers and the canons, and conclude that satisfactions in the Church are not to be abolished contrary to the plain Gospel and the decrees of the Councils and Fathers [against the decision of the Holy Church]; nay, even that those who have been absolved by the priest ought to bring to perfection the repentance that has been enjoined, following the declaration of Paul, Titus 2, 14: Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

May God put to confusion these godless sophists who so wickedly distort God's Word to their own most vain dreams! What good man is there who is not moved by such indignity?| Christ says, Repent, the apostles preach repentance; therefore eternal punishments are compensated by the punishments of purgatory; therefore the keys have the power to remit part of the punishments of purgatory; therefore satisfactions redeem the punishments of purgatory|! Who has taught these asses such logic? Yet this is neither logic nor sophistry, but cunning trickery. Accordingly, they appeal to the expression repent in such a way that, when the inexperienced hear such a passage cited against us they may derive the opinion that we deny the entire repentance. By these arts they endeavor to alienate minds and to enkindle hatred, so that the inexperienced may cry out against us [Crucify! crucify!], that such pestilent heretics as disapprove of repentance should be removed from their midst. [Thus they are publicly convicted of being liars in this matter.]

But we hope that among good men these calumnies [and misrepresentations of Holy Scripture] may make little headway. And God will not long endure such impudence and wickedness. [They will certainly be consumed by the First and Second Commandments.] Neither has the Pope of Rome consulted well for his own dignity in employing such patrons, because he has entrusted a matter of the greatest importance to the judgment of these sophists. For since we include in the Confession almost the sum of the entire Christian doctrine, judges should have been appointed to make a declaration concerning matters so important and so many and various, whose learning and faith would have been more approved than that of these sophists who have written this Confutation. It was particularly becoming for you, O Campegius, in accordance with your wisdom, to have taken care that in regard to matters of such importance they should write nothing which either at this time or with posterity might seem to be able to diminish regard for the Roman See. If the Roman See judges it right that all nations should acknowledge her as mistress of the faith, she ought to take pains that learned and uncorrupt men make investigation concerning matters of religion. For what will the world judge if at any time the writing of the adversaries be brought to light? What will posterity judge concerning these reproachful judicial investigations? You see, O Campegius, that these are the last times, in which Christ predicted that there would be the greatest danger to religion. You, therefore, who ought, as it were, to sit on the watch-tower and control religious matters, should in these times employ unusual wisdom and diligence. There are many signs which, unless you heed them, threaten a change to the Roman state. And you make a mistake if you think that Churches should be retained only by force and arms. Men ask to be taught concerning religion. How many do you suppose there are, not only in Germany, but also in England, in Spain, in France, in Italy, and finally even in the city of Rome, who, since they see that controversies have arisen concerning of the greatest importance, are beginning here and there to doubt, and to be silently indignant that you refuse to investigate and judge aright subjects of such weight as these; that you do not deliver wavering consciences; that you only bid us be overthrown and annihilated by arms? There are many good men to whom this doubt is more bitter than death. You do not consider sufficiently how great a subject religion is, if you think that good men are in anguish for a slight cause whenever they begin to doubt concerning any dogma. And this doubt can have no other effect than to produce the greatest bitterness of hatred against those who, when they ought to heal consciences, plant themselves in the way of the explanation of the subject. We do not here say that you ought to fear God's judgment. For the hierarchs think that they can easily provide against this, for since they hold the keys, of course they can open heaven for themselves whenever they wish. We are speaking of the judgments of men and the silent desires of all nations, which, indeed, at this time require that these matters be investigated and decided in such a manner that good minds may be healed and freed from doubt. For, in accordance with your wisdom, you can easily decide what will take place if at any time this hatred against you should break forth. But by this favor you will be able to bind to yourself all nations, as all sane men regard it as the highest and most important matter, if you heal doubting consciences. We have said these things not because we doubt concerning our Confession. For we know that it is true, godly, and useful to godly consciences. But it is likely that there are many in many places who waver concerning matters of no light importance, and yet do not hear such teachers as are able to heal their consciences.

But let us return to the main point. The Scriptures cited by the adversaries speak in no way of canonical satisfactions, and of the opinions of the scholastics, since it is evident that the latter were only recently born. Therefore it is pure slander when they distort Scripture to their own opinions. We say that good fruits, good works in every kind of life, ought to follow repentance, i.e., conversion or regeneration [the renewal of the Holy Ghost in the heart]. Neither can there be true conversion or true contrition where mortifications of the flesh and good fruits do not follow [if we do not externally render good works and Christian patience]. True terrors, true griefs of mind, do not allow the body to indulge in sensual pleasures, and true faith is not ungrateful to God, neither does it despise God's commandments. In a word, there is no inner repentance unless it also produces outwardly mortifications of the flesh. We say also that this is the meaning of John when he says, Matt.3, 8: Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance. Likewise of Paul when he says Rom.6, 19: Yield your members servants to righteousness; just as he likewise says elsewhere, Rom.12, 1: Present your bodies a living sacrifice, etc. And when Christ says Matt.4, 17: Repent, He certainly speaks of the entire repentance, of the entire newness of life and its fruits, He does not speak of those hypocritical satisfactions which, the scholastics avail for compensating the punishment of purgatory or other punishments when they are made by those who are in mortal sin.

Many arguments, likewise, can be collected to show that these passages of Scripture pertain in no way to scholastic satisfactions. These men imagine that satisfactions are works that are not due [which we are not obliged to do]; but Scripture, in these passages, requires works that are due [which we are obliged to do]. For this word of Christ, Repent, is the word of a commandment. Likewise the adversaries write that if any one who goes to confession should refuse to undertake satisfactions, he does not sin, but will pay these penalties in purgatory. Now the following passages are, without controversy, precepts pertaining to this life: Repent; Bring forth fruits meet for repentance; Yield your members servants to righteousness. Therefore they cannot be distorted to the satisfactions which it is permitted to refuse. For to refuse God's commandments is not permitted. [For God's commands are not thus left to our discretion.] Thirdly, indulgences remit these satisfactions, as is taught by the Chapter, De Poenitentiis et Remissione, beginning Quum ex eo, etc. But indulgences do not free us from the commandments: Repent; Bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Therefore it is manifest that these passages of Scripture have been wickedly distorted to apply to canonical satisfactions. See further what follows. If the punishments of purgatory are satisfactions, or satispassions [sufferings sufficient], or if satisfactions are a redemption of the punishments of purgatory, do these passages also give commandment that souls be punished in purgatory? [The above-cited passages of Christ and Paul must also show and prove that souls enter purgatory and there suffer pain.] Since this must follow from the opinions of the adversaries, these passages should be interpreted in a new way [these passages should put on new coats]: Bring forth fruits meet for repentance; Repent, i.e., suffer the punishments of purgatory after this life. But we do not care about refuting in more words these absurdities of the adversaries. For it is evident that Scripture speaks of works that are due, of the entire newness of life, and not of these observances of works that are not due, of which the adversaries speak. And yet, by these figments they defend orders [of monks], the sale of Masses and infinite observances, namely, as works which, if they do not make satisfaction for guilt, yet make satisfaction for punishment.

Since, therefore, the passages of Scripture cited do not say that eternal punishments are to be compensated by works that are not due, the adversaries are rash in affirming that these satisfactions are compensated by canonical satisfactions. Nor do the keys have the command to commute some punishments, and likewise to remit a part of the punishments. For where are such things [dreams and lies] read in the Scriptures? Christ speaks of the remission of sins when He says Matt.18, 18: Whatsoever ye shall loose, etc. [i.e.], sin being forgiven, death eternal is taken away, and life eternal bestowed. Nor does Whatsoever ye shall bind speak of the imposing of punishments, but of retaining the sins of those who are not converted. Moreover, the declaration of Longobard concerning remitting a part of the punishments has been taken from the canonical punishments; a part of these the pastors remitted. Although, we hold that repentance ought to bring forth good fruits for the sake of God's glory and command, and good fruits, true fastings, true prayers, true alms, etc., have the commands of God, yet in the Holy Scriptures we nowhere find this, namely, that eternal punishments are not remitted except on account of the punishment of purgatory or canonical satisfactions, i.e., on account of certain works not due, or that the power of the keys has the command to commute their punishments or to remit a portion. These things the adversaries were to prove. [This they will not attempt.]

Besides, the death of Christ is a satisfaction not only for guilt, but also for eternal death, according to Hos.13, 14: 0 death, I will be thy death. How monstrous, therefore, it is to say that the satisfaction of Christ redeemed from the guilt, and our punishments redeem from eternal death, as the expression, I will be thy death, ought then to be understood, not concerning Christ, but concerning our works, and, indeed, not concerning the works commanded by God, but concerning some frigid observances devised by men! And these are said to abolish death, even when they are wrought in mortal sin. It is incredible with what grief we recite these absurdities of the adversaries, which cannot but cause one who considers them to be enraged against such doctrines of demons, which the devil has spread in the Church in order to suppress the knowledge of the Law and Gospel, of repentance and quickening, and the benefits of Christ. For of the Law they speak thus: |God, condescending to our weakness, has given to man a measure of those things to which of necessity he is bound and this is the observance of precepts, so that from what is left, i.e., from works of supererogation, he can render satisfaction with reference to offenses that have been committed.| Here men imagine that they can observe the Law of God in such a manner as to be able to do even more than the Law exacts. But Scripture everywhere exclaims that we are far distant from the perfection which the Law requires. Yet these men imagine that the Law of God has been comprised in outward and civil righteousness; they do not see that it requires true love to God |with the whole heart,| etc., and condemns the entire concupiscence in the nature. Therefore no one does as much as the Law requires. Hence their imagination that we can do more is ridiculous. For although we can perform outward works not commanded by God's Law [which Paul calls beggarly ordinances], yet the confidence that satisfaction is rendered God's Law [yea, that more is done than God demands] is vain and wicked. And true prayers, true alms, true fastings, have God's command; and where they have God's command, they cannot without sin be omitted. But these works, in so far as they have not been commanded by God's Law, but have a fixed form derived from human rule are works of human traditions of which Christ says, Matt.15, 9: In vain they do worship Me with the commandments of men, such as certain fasts appointed not for restraining the flesh, but that, by this work, honor may be given to God, as Scotus says, and eternal death be made up for; likewise, a fixed number of prayers, a fixed measure of alms when they are rendered in such a way that this measure is a worship ex opere operato giving honor to God, and making up for eternal death. For they ascribe satisfaction to these ex opere operato, because they teach that they avail even in those who are in mortal sin. There are works which depart still farther from God's commands, as [rosaries and] pilgrimages; and of these there is a great variety: one makes a journey [to St. Jacob] clad in mail, and another with bare feet. Christ calls these |vain acts of worship,| and hence they do not serve to appease God's displeasure, as the adversaries say. And yet they adorn these works with magnificent titles; they call them works of supererogation, to them the honor is ascribed of being a price paid instead of eternal death. Thus they are preferred to the works of God's commandments [the true works expressly mentioned in the Ten Commandments]. In this way the Law of God is obscured in two ways, one, because satisfaction is thought to be rendered God's Law by means of outward and civil works, the other, because human traditions are added whose works are preferred to the works of the divine Law.

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