« VorigeDoorgaan »
advantage the lessons taught them by passing events. It may be easy to argue against national establishments and the Royal supremacy; the demonstration may be complete of the impropriety of secular legislation in religion, and in favour of unrestricted religious liberty,—that the law should know no man in his religious character,—that all religious bodies should be treated by the State equally and alike, and every Church have a clear stage and no favour. So far as Popery is concerned, I am beginning to be suspicious of carrying this theory partially out; not, indeed, because the theory is itself erroneous, but becanse Popery is not a thing to which it can be applied. Popery is not simply and purely a religion; it is a great and mighty ecclesiastical confederacy, that desires and aims at political pre-eminence; it is a terrible, compact, almost physical unity, animated by a spirit of intense hatred to real liberty, civil or religious. It requires to be held in check by law, not because its tenets are not true, but because its heart is not to be trusted; not because its creed is a corruption of the faith, but because its tendencies are inimical to freedom; not because it ignores this or that Church, but because it is a power dangerous to the State. It will join the Dissenter in his theoretical reasoning when it is low, will applaud him for liberality in striving to gain its own emancipation when it wishes to rise, will shout at times 'religious liberty' and the 'voluntary principle,' will smile and bow, but take everything it can, and look humble, modest, and demure, as long as it is necessary to gain its ends; and when, once gained, any opportunity for a spring forward or upward opens, it will take either with both force and ferocity, and care not if it crush in its headlong career the simple souls that served it in its need. Churchmen may find that, after all, Popery is really worse than Dissent; and Dissenters may find that an ecclesiastical Establishment, though an evil, may, with a Protestant Church, be a less evil than stark Popery without an Establishment.”
The Atlantic Cable has brought news which leaves little hopes of the treaty agreed to by the two Governments, for the settlement of the differences between this country and the United States of America, coming into operation. By the American Constitution, the President has no power to make a treaty except with the consent of two-thirds of the Senate. The proposed treaty was by the Senate referred to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, who have almost unanimously reported against it, and it is almost certain that their report will be adopted by the Senate. The grounds of the objection to the treaty are not yet known; but it will be a disappointment to us if we should find that the principle of a fair arbitration is not assented to.
and chas sielde, which
met, adeavour while misrance
On the Continent of Europe there is little which calls for notice. Greece, as was anticipated, has yielded to the remonstrances of the Great Powers, and Crete is submitting again to the Turkish rule. France and Prussia maintain a sort of armed peace, while mischievous newspapers in both countries are endeavouring to stir up strife. In Spain the Cortes have met, and have not yet advanced beyond the formal measures necessary at the commencement of their sittings. The present Government appear to be favourable to the granting of religious liberty. Protestant worship is freely exercised at Madrid, while the Holy Scriptures are widely distributed, and most gladly received by the people. They are threatened with the loss of their magnificent transatlantic colony, as the insurrection at Cuba gains ground, and that island seems not unlikely to throw off the yoke of the mother country. We trust that, whatever may be the issue of the struggle, the detestable system of slavery may in the course of it receive its death-blow.
We grieve to find that there is springing up another branch of this accursed traffic upon the East Coast of Africa, chiefly through the agency of the two Mahometan kingdoms of Muscat and Zanzebar. This evil must be attacked by all the force of Christian philanthropy. We shall take an early opportunity of adverting to this subject.
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
THE Rev. R. H. Tripp, of Alternon, Cornwall, writes in commendation of the
Article in our last Number on Isaiah vii, 14-17, and desires to call attention to Kennicott's most valuable sermon on this subject, published at Oxford in 1765, as well as an equally valuable dissertation on the Tree of Life. These works, Mr. Tripp fears, are not sufficiently known, and ought to be reprinted
as specially suited to the present times. An old Clergyman of forty years standing “has read with much interest the
excellent paper on public reading in the Church ;" and sends a few suggestions for the correct reading of particular passages. When we are favoured with a sufficient supply of such suggestions, we shall be happy to lay them before our readers.
ERRATA. In our last Number, p. 142, line 8 from bottom, for “Exeter" College, read “ University"; p. 151, line 26 from top, for "house" read " name."
AURICULAR CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION IN THE
CHURCH OF ENGLAND. Had the question been asked thirty years ago, whether the Church of England sanctions Auricular Confession and Absolution, the answer would have been given universally in the negative, though some might perhaps have added, that a degree of countenance is given by the Visitation of the Sick and by an Exhortation before the Communion. At the present day, a large body of the clergy practise auricular confession and absolution, and proclaim in their publications that such practice is sanctioned and enjoined upon them by the Ritual law of our Church! So rapid is the growth amongst us of one of the most noxious weeds of Romanism, so bold become the preten. sions of an unchecked spirit of innovation !
We will not lengthen this article by dilating upon the evils which have flowed from the practice of auricular confession in all ages of the Church. They are acknowledged by the most candid Church historians. The following passage from the work of Dean Waddington must suffice for our present purpose :
"One innovation in the discipline of the Church was introduced by that Pontiff (Leo the Great) which deserves more attentive notice than is usually directed to it. It had been the custom for the more grievous offenders to make the confession of their sins publicly, in the face of the congregation; or at least for the ministers occasionally to proclaim before the whole assembly the nature of the confessions which they had received. Leo strongly discouraged that practice, and permitted, and even enjoined with some earnestness, that confession should rather be private, and confided to the priest alone. The evil most obviously proceeding Vol. 68.-No. 376.
from this relaxation was the general increase, or at least the more indecent practice, of the mortal sins, and especially (as Mosheim has observed) of that of incontinence; unless indeed we are to suppose that the original publicity of confession was abandoned from its being no longer practicable in a numerous body and a corrupt age. But another consequence which certainly flowed from this measure, and which in the eye of an ambitious churchman might counterbalance its demoralizing effect, was the vast addition of influence which it gave to the clergy. When he delivered over the conscience of the people into the hands of the priests,—when he consigned the most secret acts and thoughts of individual imperfection to the torture of private inquisition and scrutiny,-Leo the Great had indeed the glory of laying the first and corner-stone of the Papal edifice--that on which it rose and rested, and without which the industry of his successors would have been vainly exerted, or (as is more probable) their boldest projects would never have been formed."*
It will be the object of this paper to show that the formularies of our Church do, in effect, inhibit the practice of auricular confession, with one apparent exception; and that they have fenced that only exception, namely, in the case of the sick, with such safeguards as clearly distinguish the Protestant Visitation of the Sick from the Romish Confessional.
We must bear in mind that the Church of Rome regards auricular confession to a priest, penance, and absolution pronounced by a priest, as a divine ordinance for conveying pardon to a sinful man; penance being one of the seven sacraments, and an eminent means of grace. This ecclesiastical fiction was not fully developed or formally sanctioned, till the Council of Trent, at about the date of the Reformation in England. In the early Christian Church, confessions were made in the public congregation, and the minister and people united in prayer to God to pardon the sinner. In the middle of the fifth century, private or auricular confession to the priest was first introduced; penances were to be prescribed by the priests, but the absolution was still in the form of a prayer to God to pardon the penitent. Between the twelfth and thir. teenth centuries, the absolution after auricular confession was changed into an affirmative declaration by the priest, “I absolve you.” Many eminent divines, even at that day, protested against this departure from the ancient precatory form of ab. solution, as liable to the construction that man had power on earth to forgive sins. It was defended by the schoolmen on the ground that the priest (Lev. xiv. 11) is said to cleanse when he pronounces a person cleansed. At the Council of Trent the system was definitively settled. Auricular confession was made obligatory upon every member of the Church at
* Waddington's History of the Church, p. 126.
stated times, and pardon was declared to be conveyed by the pronunciation of the priest—"I absolve you." Anathemas were denounced against all who maintain different opinions.
When the First Prayer-book of Edward VI. (1549) was pub. lished, in the twilight of the Reformation, auricular confession and priestly absolution were tolerated; but, so far from being declared any longer compulsory, those who thought them unnecessary were only requested to treat charitably those who still continued the practice. In the Order for the Visitation of the Sick, the priest was unhappily enjoined to use the form of absolution, “I absolve you;" and a Rubric enjoined, “The same form of absolution shall be used at all private confessions."
During the four years which elapsed between the publication of the first and second Prayer-book of Edward VI., the light of the Reformation rapidly unfolded into full day. In the new Prayer-book most important changes were made in respect of auricular confession; but for reasons which are not easily perceived, and still more unhappily, we must add, than in the case of the first Prayer-book, the indicative and individual form of absolution was retained in the Visitation of the Sick.
A careful examination of the alterations of the Second Prayerbook will prove our statement of a virtual prohibition of auricular confession and absolution as an ordinance of the Christian Church : these alterations we will point out.
The Exhortation before the Communion in the First Prayerbook, 1549, contained the following passage bearing upon this subject. The words in italics were altered in the second Pray er-book in 1552. The brackets contain the altered forms: “And if there be any of you whose conscience is troubled and grieved in anything, lacking comfort and counsel [which by the means aforesaid cannot quiet his own conscience, but requireth further comfort and counsel (1)], let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned priest [minister of God's word (2)], and open his grief secretly [omitted (3)] that he may receive such ghostly counsel, advice, and comfort that [as] his conscience may be relieved, and that of us, as of the ministers of God and of the Church, [ by the ministry of God's word (4)], he may receive comfort and absolution (the benefit of absolution (5)] to the satisfaction of his mind to the quieting of his conscience (6)], and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness; requiring such as shall be satisfied with a general confession, not to be offended with them that do use, to their further satisfying, the auricular and secret confession to the priest ; nor those also which think needful or convenient, for the quieting of their own consciences, particularly to open their sins to the priest, to be offended with them that are satisfied with their humble confession to God, and the general confession to the