Whether Confession is an Act of Faith
We proceed to the first article thus:
1. It seems that confession is not an act of faith. For the same act does not belong to different virtues, and confession belongs to penance, of which it is a part. It follows that confession is not an act of faith.
2. Again, sometimes a man is prevented from confessing the faith by fear, or by self-consciousness. Thus even the apostle asks others to pray that it may be given unto him |that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel| (Eph.6:19). Now it is through fortitude, which restrains both audacity and fear, that one does not shrink from what is good through either self-consciousness or fear. Hence it seems that confession is an act of fortitude, or of constancy, rather than an act of faith.
3. Again, the fervour of faith causes some to perform other outward good works, just as it causes them to confess the faith. Thus Gal.5:6 speaks of |faith which worketh by love.| Yet these other outward works are not regarded as acts of faith. Hence neither is confession an act of faith.
On the other hand: a gloss on II Thess.1:11, |and the work of faith with power,| says: |that is, confession, which is properly the work of faith.|
I answer: outward acts are properly the acts of that virtue to whose end they refer by reason of their specific nature. For example, fasting is an act of abstinence, since it refers by reason of its specific nature to the end of abstinence, which is to curb the flesh. Now the end to which confession of faith refers by reason of its specific nature is the end of faith, according to II Cor.4:13: |having the same spirit of faith . . . we also believe, and therefore speak.| For outward speaking is intended to convey what is conceived in the heart. Hence just as the inward conception of the things of faith is properly an act of faith, so likewise is the outward confession of them.
On the first point: the Scriptures commend three kinds of confession: first, confession of the things of faith, which is the proper act of faith, since it relates to the end of faith, as we have said; second, confession as an act of thanksgiving or praise, which is an act of glorification, since it is ordained for the outward honour of God, which is the end of glorification; third, the confession of sins, which is part of penance, since it is ordained for the blotting out of sin, which is the end of penance.
On the second point: that which removes an obstacle is not an essential cause, but only an accidental cause, as the philosopher explains in 8 Physics, text 32. Now fortitude removes an obstacle to confession of faith, whether it be fear or a feeling of shame. It is thus as it were only an accidental cause, not the proper and essential cause of confession of faith.
On the third point: inward faith works by love, through which it causes every outward act of virtue by means of the other virtues, which it commands but does not compel. But it produces confession as its own proper act, without any other virtue as a medium.