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The Small Catechism Of Martin Luther by Martin Luther

V. How You Should Teach the Uneducated to Confess

What is confession?

Confession has two parts: First, a person admits his sin Second, a person receives absolution or forgiveness from the confessor, as if from God Himself, without doubting it, but believing firmly that his sins are forgiven by God in Heaven through it.

Which sins should people confess?

When speaking to God, we should plead guilty to all sins, even those we don't know about, just as we do in the |Our Father,| but when speaking to the confessor, only the sins we know about, which we know about and feel in our hearts.

Which are these?

Consider here your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Are you a father? A mother? A son? A daughter? A husband? A wife? A servant? Are you disobedient, unfaithful or lazy? Have you hurt anyone with your words or actions? Have you stolen, neglected your duty, let things go or injured someone?

Please suggest to me a simple way to confess.

You should speak to your confessor this way:

Honorable, dear Sir: Would you please hear my confession and pronounce forgiveness according to God's will.

He will respond: Yes. Please go ahead.

Then say:
I confess in the presence of God that I am a poor sinner and guilty of every kind of sin. I specifically admit to you that I am a servant, maid, etc., but I'm afraid that I have served my master unfaithfully. >From time to time, I have not done what I was told to do. I have angered them and caused them to swear at me. I have neglected my duty and allowed damage to be done. My words and actions have been shameful. I have been angry with my peers. I have complained about my master's wife and sworn at her, etc. I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.

A master or a lady of the house should speak this way: I specifically confess to you that I have not faithfully led my children, servants or wife to God's glory. I have cursed. I have set a bad example with my obscene words and actions. I have hurt my neighbor and spoken evil things about him. I have charged him too much, cheated him and sold him badly made goods.

Let him also confess any other sins against God's commandments and his place in life, etc.

If a person is not burdened with sins such as these or greater sins, he should not look for other sins or invent them, because that would turn confession into torture. Instead, he should mention one or two that he knows about. For example: specifically I confess that I once cursed. Once I used inappropriate language. Once I neglected to do this or that thing, etc. Let that be enough.

If you do not know of anything you have done wrong (which does not seem possible), do not say anything in specific, but receive forgiveness based upon the general confession you make to God in the presence of your confessor.

After this, the Confessor will say:
May God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith!

Then he will ask:
Do you also believe that the forgiveness I give is God's forgiveness?

Then you will answer:
Yes, dear sir.

After this, he will say:
May what you believe happen to you. And by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive your sins in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace! The confessor will know how to use additional passages to comfort and to encourage the faith of those who sorrow, are troubled or whose conscience is greatly burdened. This is only meant to be a general confession for the uneducated.

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