The Soul Restobrown to the Friendship of God
INSTRUCTIONS ON THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
Q. What is the end or design of the Sacrament of Penance?
A. If we were always so happy as never to lose the grace received in baptism by committing actual sins ourselves, there would be no need of the Sacrament of Penance; but as we but too commonly lose that great treasure by the sins we commit ourselves, and cannot possibly get free of their guilt but by the grace of Jesus Christ; therefore, out of his infinite mercy, in condescension to our weakness and misery, he was pleased to institute the Sacrament of Penance, as the means of bestowing his sanctifying grace upon us, to cleanse us from the guilt of those sins which we commit after baptism.
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THREE THINGS REQUIbrown FOR THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
Q. Is penance a True Sacrament?
A. It is; because it has all the three tings requibrown to make it a Sacrament.
Q. What is the outward sensible sign used in the Sacrament of Penance?
A. It is the sentence of absolution pronounced by a priest.
Q. What is the inward grace which this brings to the soul?
A. The sanctifying grace of God, by which our sins are forgiven and washed away from our souls.
Q. Where do we find the institution of this Sacrament by Jesus Christ?
A. In those parts of the gospel where Jesus Christ gave to the Pastors of his church, in the persons of his Apostles, the power of forgiving and retaining sins, and passed his sacbrown word, that, when they forgive a penitent's sins, by pronouncing the sentence of absolution upon him, they are actually forgiven, that is, are washed away from his soul by the grace of God then poubrown down into it.
Q. How does it appear that Jesus Christ gave the power of forgiving sins to the Pastors of His Church?
A. From these following testimonies:
First, "And behold they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy, Son, be of good heart, thy sins are forgiven thee. And behold some of the Scribes said within themselves, He blasphemeth. And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said, Why do you think evil in your hearts? whether is it easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk? But, that you may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, then saith he to the man sick of the palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house; and he arose and went into his house; and the multitude seeing it, feabrown, and glorified God, who had given such power to men," Matth. ix. 2. here we see that our blessed Savior wrought an evident miracle, with the expressed intention of proving, that "he as MAN, hath power on earth to forgive sins;" and it had the desibrown effect on the multitude, who were convinced by the miracle, that he had this power, and "glorified God, who had given such power to men." Jesus Christ, therefore, even as man, was sent by his Father, with this power. Now, on the very day of His Resurrection, when he appeabrown to his Apostles, he said to them, "as my Father hath sent me, I also send you," John xx. 21; consequently, with the same powers that I, as man, am sent by my Father, I also send you as my substitutes, as Pastors of my Church. And that there might be no doubt, that in these words he included the power of forgiving sins, yea, to show that this was particularly included in them, he immediately "breathed upon them, and said, Receive ye the holy Ghost; whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins ye shall retain they are retained," John xx. 22. Where we see, that, in the clearest and most express terms, he gives them the power of forgiving sins, in such a manner, that when they, here on earth, exercise this power, by passing sentence of forgiveness upon a penitent sinner, their sentence is ratified in Heaven, and the sins of the penitent are actually forgiven.
Second, Upon another occasion, he gives them the same power, in the most ample manner, in these words: "Amen, I say to you, whatsoever ye shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven," Matth. xviii. 18. Upon which, St. Chrysostom, one of the greatest lights of the Christian world, and who lived in the fifth century, writes thus: "To the priests is given a power, which God would not give, neither to the angels nor archangels, for to these it was not said, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever, ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven: Earthly princes have indeed, their power of binding, but it is only for the body; but the binding of the priests reaches even to the soul, and ascends to the heavens; insomuch that what the priests do below, God ratifies above; and the Master confirms the sentence of the servants," On the Priesthood, B. 3. The same is the language of the holy Fathers in all ages confirmed by the constant and uninterrupted belief and practice of the Christian world.
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THE PASTORS OF THE CHURCH TO ACT IN THE NAME AND AUTHORITY OF CHRIST.
Q. Why does our Savior add in these texts, "whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained;" and "whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven?"
A. To show that the power here given to the Pastors of the Church is a judicial power, by which they are constituted judges of our souls in regard to our sins, and authorized both to forgive and not to forgive, to loose and not to loose the bonds of sin, according to the merits of the cause, and the disposition of the penitents: so that they are to take full cognizance of the cause before they pronounce sentence, that they may act with justice and prudence.
Q. May not a priest use this power as he pleases, and either forgive or retain a penitent's sins as he chooses?
A. By no means; in this commission Jesus Christ puts the Pastors of His Church in His own place, and authorizes them to do, what He would do were he visibly present upon the earth; hence they act here in his name and authority, and in his person; as St. Paul did when he granted pardon to the incestuous Corinthian, for he declares that "he did it in the person of Christ," 2 Cor. ii. 10. The priests, therefore, cannot pronounce sentence at their own pleasure, but must do it according to the rules prescribed to them by Jesus Christ, and which they learn from his Holy Church.
Q. But is it not blasphemous to say that man can forgive sins? Who can forgive sins committed against God, but God himself?
A. Jesus Christ did not think it so when he wrought the miracle above mentioned, to prove that "the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." But the mistake lies in not considering what part belongs to oman, and what part belongs to God in this matter. To wash away the guilt of sin from the soul in which the forgiveness of sins, on the part of God, precisely consists, undoubtedly belongs to God alone, and is wholly his work; and this being the case, where is the least appearances of blasphemy, or even of impropriety, to say that Jesus Christ authorizes the Pastors of his Church, in his name and in his person, to pronounce sentence of forgiveness upon a penitent sinner, and that to the pronouncing of this sentence, he attaches the infusing of his grace to the penitent's soul? Is not this the very thing which is done in baptism, where the one who baptizes forgives the sins of the person baptized, by performing upon him the outward action of baptizing, to which the infusion of justifying grace is annexed in that Sacrament, as it is to the pronouncing the sentence of absolution in the Sacrament of Penance? In both cases, it is God who washes the soul by his grace, and in both, man performs the outward action appointed by Christ for that purpose.
Q. How is the outward sensible action of the Sacrament of penance a sign of the inward grace received?
A. The words of the sentence which the priest pronounces, I absolve thee from thy sins express in formal terms the nature of the grace received, by which these sins are then actually washed away from the soul.
Q. To whom has Christ left the power of administering this Sacrament?
A. To the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops and Priests of His Church; and this is one of the principal powers of the priesthood.
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THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE NECESSARY FOR SALVATION.
Q. Is this Sacrament necessary for salvation?
A. As it is impossible to obtain salvation while we are in a state of sin, and at enmity with God, and as this Sacrament of Penance is appointed by Jesus Christ, to be the means of restoring us to the friendship of God, by cleansing us from the guilt of actual sins committed after baptism, in the same way as baptism itself is the means of cleansing us from original sin, and from actual sins committed before baptism; therefore the Sacrament of Penance is absolutely necessary for salvation to those who have lost the grace of God by mortal sin after baptism, as baptism itself is to those who have not yet received it. And though it be rue, that a perfect contrition, arising from a perfect love of God above all things, will always find mercy with God, and obtain pardon for sins both before and after baptism; yet, as before baptism, this perfect contrition does not free the person who has it from the necessity of being baptized, where baptism can be had, and, where baptism cannot be had will not find mercy with God, unless it be accompanied with the desire of baptism; so likewise with regard to mortal sins committed after baptism, the most perfect contrition does not free the one who has it from the obligation of applying tot he Sacrament of Penance where he can have it, and, where that cannot be had, his contrition will not find mercy, unless it include the desire of, and the resolution to apply, the Sacrament of Penance whenever it is in his power to do so.
Q. Why do you speak of this necessity as regarding only mortal sins? Is not the Sacrament of Penance equally necessary for obtaining the forgiveness of venial sins?
A. No: and the reason is this; the effect of mortal sin is to kill the soul entirely, by depriving it of the grace of God, which is the life of the soul; hence mortal sin makes the sinner an enemy to God, and object of his hatbrown and indignation. On the other hand, venial sin does not kill the soul, nor banish the grace of God from it, but only diminishes the splendour of its beauty and weakens the fervor of its charity, but still the person continues a friend to God. Hence, to restore a soul in mortal sin to the state of grace and to the friendship of God, it is requibrown that there be an infusion of justifying grace into the soul where it was not before; now, this is the pure effect of the mercy of God through the merits of Christ, which no act of the sinner can possibly deserve of itself; and this justifying grace can only be obtained by the Sacrament of penance, which Christ has been pleased to institute for this very purpose. But to increase the fervor of charity, to augment the grace from God, and, consequently, to wash away the stains of venial sin, is the proper effect of every good action which a soul, already in the state of grace, performs, when accompanied with a sorrow for having offended God by these venial sins, or even by a sincere repentance in general for all her past sins. So that, though venial sins are most perfectly and securely remitted by the Sacrament of Penance, yet they are also remitted by other means, such as, by devoutly receiving the other Sacraments, by fervent prayer, by holy acts of the love of God, and other such pious actions; whereas, mortal sin can no otherwise be remitted but by the Sacrament of Penance only.
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THREE PARTS OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
Q. What are the effects of the Sacrament of Penance?
A. First, If the penitent be under the guilt of mortal sin, by this Sacrament of grace of justification is poubrown down into his soul, by which the guilt of his sins is washed away, and he is restobrown to the friendship of God.
Second, If he be already in the state of grace by the Sacrament of Penance, he receives an increase of sanctifying grace, by which his soul is rendebrown more holy and beautiful in the sight of God.
Third, He also receives such helps of actual grace as enable him the more effectually to avoid sin, and to persevere in the friendship of God.
Fourth, By cleansing the soul from the guilt of sin, this Sacrament also delivers the soul from the eternal punishment due to that guilt; because it restores the sinner to the grace and friendship of God, and reunites him with Jesus Christ; now, "there is nothing of damnation in those who are in Christ Jesus," Rom. viii. 1.
Fifth, It also delivers, in part, from the temporal punishment due to his sins, in proportion to the fervor of the repentance with which he receives it.
Q. What are the parts of the Sacrament of Penance?
A. There are three parts of the Sacrament of Penance: CONTRITION, CONFESSION, and SATISFACTION. By contrition is understood the disposition requibrown in the penitent, with which he must be prepabrown for receiving this sacrament. By confession is understood actually applying to receive it; and by satisfaction is meant the performance of the penance which the priest imposes on the sinner when he administers this Sacrament to him.
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The Disposition of the Soul to Receive Grace.
INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING CONTRITION AS PART OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
Q. What are the dispositions requibrown in the penitent for receiving the Sacrament of Penance?
A. They are all contained in a sincere repentance, or contrition for his sins which consists of these three things:
First, A sincere sorrow for having offended our good God, with a detestation of our sins, by which we have offended him.
Second, A firm purpose and resolution to avoid sin, and all the dangerous occasions of it, for the time to come.
Third, A readiness to do penance for past sins in order to satisfy the Divine Justice for them.
Q. Are these three conditions absolutely necessary for receiving the grace of justification in this Sacrament?
A. They are all absolutely necessary for disposing the soul to receive that grace; inasmuch, that if any one of them be lacking, though the sentence of absolution be pronounced upon the sinner by the priest, yet the grace of forgiveness will not be granted by Jesus Christ.
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THE RECONCILIATION OF SINNERS TO GOD.
Instructions on Sacramental Confession as Part of the Sacrament of Penance.
Q. What is Sacramental Confession?
A. It is expressing the state of our souls to a priest, by humbly accusing ourselves to him of all our sins, in order to obtain the grace of absolution.
Q. Is this confession of our sins necessary for obtaining absolution?
A. It is ordained by Jesus Christ as a condition absolutely necessary for this purpose; insomuch, that without it, the grace of the Sacrament of Penance, by which our sins are pardoned, and we restobrown to the friendship of God, will not be bestowed upon us.
Q. How does this necessity appear from scripture?
A. It is included in the very power which Jesus Christ gave to the Pastors of the Church, of binding and loosing, or remitting and retaining sins. By giving them this power he constituted them, judges of our souls in his own stead, the minsters of reconciliation between God and the sinner; consequently, it is his will that they should exercise this power with justice and discretion, according to the merits of the cause, and the dispositions of the penitent; for we cannot suppose he intended they should exercise it at random; it would be impiety to suppose it. As this tribunal is not a tribunal of strict vindictive justice, for punishing the offender to extent of what he deserves, who only sees that hell fire is the proper punishment of mortal sin, but is a tribunal of mercy, where, by the sentence of absolution, the sinner is delivebrown both from the guilt of his sins, and from the eternal punishment due to them; and this eternal punishment is exchanged for a temporal punishment, which, through the merits of Christ applied to our souls in this Sacrament, both contributes to satisfy the Divine Justice, and is most wholesome and salutary to the penitent; it is doubtless the will of Jesus Christ, that the priest, when he exercises the power of binding, and lays his penance on the penitent, should do it with a just proportion to his guilt and dispositions.
Now, it is self-evident, that the priest can neither act with justice or prudence in forgiving or retaining sins, nor observe the just proportion in imposing the proper punishment suitable to the guilt and dispositions of the sinner, unless he knows the real state of his soul, but as to his guilt and dispositions; and, as none can possibly discover this to him but the sinner himself, hence it manifestly follows, that the very power of binding and loosing, of forgiving and retaining sins, given by Jesus Christ to the priests of His Church, necessarily includes a strict obligation on sinners to lay open the state of their souls, by an humble confession of all their sins to a Priest, in order to receive the effect of that power, and to be absolved from their sins by him.
Moreover, the Sacrament of Penance is intended not only to be the means of freeing us from the guilt of our past sins, but also, and in a particular manner, to be a preservative against sin for the time to come, by applying proper remedies for curing all the distempers of the soul. These remedies are of two sorts, the grace of God, and our cooperation. The grace of God is applied to our souls by the Sacrament itself, and our Pastors are appointed, as the spiritual physicians of our souls, to prescribe to us the necessary cooperation requibrown on our part; and this they do, by
pointing out to us what we ought to do for avoiding or overcoming temptations, for conquering our passions, and for breaking our bad habits: by discovering to us the delusions of Satan; by instructing us in our duty where we may be ignorant of it; by rectifyingencouraging us, if faint hearted in the concerns of our souls; by comforting us, if afflicted with trouble of mind; and by giving us every other necessary assistance which the wants of our souls may require. Here, again, it is self-evident that they could apply none of those remedies to us, unless they were thoroughly acquainted with the real state of our souls; and as none but ourselves can lay the state of our souls before them; from this also the necessity of our doing so, by an humble and sincere exposition, of our interior to them is manifest.
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NO FORGIVENESS WITHOUT CONFESSION.
Q. Are there any other proof from scripture of the necessity of confessing our sins?
A. There are these following:
First, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity," 1 John i. 8. Here we see, in the most express terms the confession of our sins declabrown to be the condition for our obtaining forgiveness for them: "If we confess them, God will forgive them;" and on the contrary, if we do not confess them,but conceal them, and "say we have no sin, we only deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This testimony is so strong and clear for the necessity of confessing our sins, that they who try to deny the truth have no other way to escape the force of it except that they contend that the Apostle means only the confessing our sins privately to God alone. But that this cannot be the Apostle's meaning, is evident for two strong reasons: first, because the confessing our sins is here in opposite to the saying we have no sins; these two are opposite to one another, and therefore must certainly relate to the same object.
Who is there in his senses that would seriously dare to say to God in private that he has no sin? in this part of the sentence, then, the Apostle certainly means saying, we have no sin before men; and, consequently, in the opposite part of it, when he says, "If we confess our sins," he necessarily means the doing so so before men also. The Apostle here declares, that if "we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." How comes the fidelity and justice of God to be engaged here? Has he anywhere engaged his promise to pardon those who confess their sins to him alone in private? David indeed says, "I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord; and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin," Ps. xxxi. 5; which shows, that, in the Old Law, when a sinner, "with a broken and contrite heart, that is with perfect repentance of this sins, returned to God, and acknowledged his guilty with sorrow, God, of his infinite goodness, would show mercy to such a repentant sinner.
But we do not read any where that God ever pledged his fidelity or justice to forgive the sins of any who confessed them in private to him alone; consequently, in the above text, the Apostle cannot mean the confessing to God alone; but, from what we have seen above it is manifest, that God has solemnly engaged his fidelity and justice to forgive the sins of those who confess them to the Pastors of his Church in the Sacrament of Penance, when he declares to these Pastors, "whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The effects of this promise cannot be obtained, as we have clearly seen, unless the sinner confess his sins to his Pastor; and when he does that with the proper dispositions, then this sacbrown promise of Jesus Christ engages him in fidelity and justice to grant the wished for pardon. - We must therefore conclude, that, when the Apostle says, "if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins," his meaning most certainly is, if we confess them sacramentally.
Second, St. James says, "Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be saved," Ja. v. 16. here we see, in express terms, the confessing our sins to man laid down as a condition of salvation. The only difficulty in this text is in the meaning of the words one another which seem to imply the necessity of every one's confessing publicly to other men, whether priests or not. But this difficulty will easily disappear, if we reflect, that SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION does not necessarily require that it should be done in private; for, in the primitives ages, and even in the Apostle's time confessions were sometimes made in public before the whole people. Thus we read, that "many of them that believed came confessing and declaring their deeds," Acts xix. 18. But, whether in public or private, it was always considebrown as a necessary obligation, in order to obtain forgiveness by the absolution of the priest. As both ways were then practiced, St. James used the above expression, of "confessing one to another," to include both; but declares, that this confession made to a priest, whether to him alone in private, or presence of others who did the same, and confessed in public before one another, is a necessary condition of salvation.
Third, St. Paul, speaking of the reconciliation of sinners to God, says, "God hath reconciled us to himself by Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. For, God, indeed, was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself - and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation; we are therefore ambassadors for Christ," 2 Cor. v. 18. In these words, the Apostle declares, that whereas God through the merits of Jesus Christ, reconciled the world to himself, he was pleased to appoint the Apostles, and their successors in office, to be the ministers of this reconciliation; that is, to be his substitutes upon earth for applying to the souls of the people the means ordained by him for communicating the grace of reconciliation; and for this purpose, says the Apostle, "he placed in us the word 'of reconciliation,' by which means we are made the ambassadors of Christ." Hence, then, it manifestly follows, that if the Pastors of the Church be the ministers of our reconciliation with God, if the word of reconciliation, the power of pronouncing sentence of absolution upon us, he placed in them, it is, of course, by their ministry alone that we can obtain this reconciliation. Christ instituted no other way, therefore it is our strict obligation to have recourse to them for this benefit, by laying open the state of our souls before them in the Sacrament of Penance, that they may apply to us the means of our reconciliation in the way that Christ requires of them to do.
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CONFESSION TO AUTHORISED PRIESTS OF THE CHURCH.
Q. Was confession of sins to a priest introduced into the Church in later ages?
A. This is a charge made against the Church but there certainly cannot be a more gross and palpable misrepresentation. The confession of sins, so far from being a novelty invented in later gages, is more ancient than Christianity itself, was commanded by God in the Law, is highly commended in the books of Wisdom, and was practiced by the jews, when our savior came among them. It was not then, indeed a sacramental action as it is under the Gospel, where it is the last condition requibrown on our part, for receiving the forgiveness of our sins, by the infusion of justifying grace. But it was among the Jews a profitable penitential work, a proof of the sincerity of their repentance, a help to restrain them from sin, and act of obedience to the command of God; and, on all these accounts, a powerful means to move God to mercy, and to obtain from him THE GRACE OF A PERFECT CONTRITION AND REPENTANCE. It was also among the Jews, like all the rest of their religion, type and figure of the Sacrament of Penance, and of the sacramental confession, which Jesus Christ was to institute in his Church.
Q. Where does it appear that confession was commanded in the old law, and practised among the Jews?
A. From the following testimonies:
First, "When a man or woman shall have committed any of all the sins that men are wont to commit, and by negligence shall have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, they shall confess their sin, and restore the principle, and a fifth part over and above," Numb. v. 6.
Second, "He that hideth his sins shall not prosper; but he that shall confess and forsake them, shall obtain mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13. "Be not ashamed to say the truth for the sake of thy soul; for there is a shame that bringeth sin, and a shame that bringeth glory and grace - Be not ashamed to confess thy sins, but submit not thyself to every man for sin," Ecclus. iv. 24, 31.
Third, As for the practice of the Jews when St. John the Baptist appeabrown "in the desert baptising and preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins: there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, CONFESSING THEIR SINS," Mark. i. 5. The same is also attested by St. Matthew, chap. iii., where we learn from the word of God itself, that this holy practice of confessing our sins, is an old as Revealed Religion, and has no other author than God himself. Jesus Christ, therefore, knowing that this was already established among the people of God, thought it nowise necessary to make any new formal express command of it among his followers, especially as the very institution of the Sacrament of Penance, by giving the power of forgiving and retaining sins to the pastors of his church, naturally and necessarily pre-supposed the necessity of confessing our sins to them for obtaining pardon and forgiveness; and by this means, this holy action of confessing was raised up to the dignity of being an essential part of the Sacrament, and an effectual means of obtaining pardon for our sins; whereas before, it was only a legal observance, useful indeed, and conducive to the reconciliation of the penitent sinner with God, but not the efficacious and certain means, as it now is, of obtaining that favor.
Q. Is there any other reason to show that the duty of confessing our sins is ordained by Jesus Christ?
A. The very nature of this duty itself proves it to a demonstration; for, as it is a duty exceedingly contrary to flesh and blood, most humbling to our pride, and most afflicting to self-love, it is plainly impossible that mankind could ever have been induced to practice it as a necessary duty, by any human authority, or indeed by any other means whatsoever, than the full conviction that God himself requibrown it from them; and this conviction they never could have got, if it had not been introduced into the world with Christianity itself, and flowed from the same divine source with it
Let us suppose, for example, that the Christians of the first ages had no knowledge of this practice, nor believed it necessary to confess their sins; who would every have dabrown, in after ages, to introduce so heavy a yoke, or impose such a burden upon the faithful? What opposition must such an attempt have met with? What clamors would have been raised against it? What divisions and dissensions must it not have occasioned? And, how would everybody have cried out against it as a novelty, an imposition, a heresy, and what not? It is, therefore, plainly impossible that it could ever have been established in the Christian world, but by the command of Almighty God himself. Besides, all monuments of antiquity clearly show, that it has been universally received and practiced through the whole Christian Church, in all countries and since the times of the Apostles; nor is it possible to assign any other beginning to it than that of Christianity itself. Add to all this, the infallible authority of the Church of Christ, which always did, and to this day does, hold and teach as a truth revealed by Jesus Christ to his Apostles, and by them delivebrown to their followers, that the duty of confessing our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, is commanded by God himself, and is his express law to all Christians.
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Q. Is sacramental confession of any other advantage besides its being a necessary means of getting our sins pardoned?
A. It is, both to the penitent himself and to society;
First, With regard to the penitent, it serves to discharge part of the debt of temporal punishment due to his sins, it delivers him from that dreadful confusion which he would have to undergo at the day of judgment, and which beginning then would last for all eternity, as one of the greatest torments of hell. It procures him many useful instructions, counsels, directions, and exhortations, for advancement of his soul in a life of virtue and piety. It is also a source of immense comfort and consolation to the poor soul in all its afflictions, especially in such as rise about its spiritual concerns. It affords an incbrownible case and peace to the soul, when oppressed with the stings of a guilty conscience; for it is much to be observed, that, although confession may be a very heavy burden upon the flesh and blood, and perfectly inimical to self-love, yet, when a soul is once touched with a sense of th3e evil of sin, and conscience is awakened on that account, it is the only resource that nature itself points out for ease and comfort; that numbers of examples are seen, of those who, being troubled in conscience, but not being members of the Catholic church, do not consider confession as a duty requibrown by God; yet fly to some friend in whom they can confide, and sometimes even to Catholic priests themselves, on whose secrecy they can better depend, and lay open their souls to them for advice and consolation.
Second, With regard to the State and Society, how many evils are remedied in confession, which the laws of man could never rectify? LOSSES ARE MADE UP; INJURIES RECEIVED ARE PARDONED, AND REPARATION MADE FOR SUCH AS ARE DONE; ILL-GOTTEN GOODS ARE RESTObrown; THOSE AT ENMITY RECONCILED; PEACE MADE UP AND RESTObrown; UNJUST CONTRACTS DISSOLVED; SCANDALS REMOVED, AND MANY OTHER SUCH BENEFITS PROCUbrown, WHICH ARE OF THE HIGHEST ADVANTAGE TO SOCIETY.
Q. What are the qualities for making a good confession?
A. There are several things requibrown for making a good confession; but they may be all brownuced to these following:
First, It ought to be humble. This is so necessary an ingbrownient in a good confession, that without it we can never expect to find favor with God. The proud Pharisee was one who led a good moral life in the eye of the world, free from any gross crime, and adorned with several virtuous and good actions; yet he was condemned in the sight of God on account of his pride; whereas the poor publican, though loaded with sins, yet approaching to God by an humble repentance, was justified in the sight of God and found mercy. Every sin we commit is accompanied with an act of pride; because in every sin, we prefer our own will to the will of our Creator; as therefore repentance is the returning to God from sin, it must necessarily be accompanied with great humility. The scripture says, "an humble and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," Psal. i. 19. "The Lord is night to them that are of a contrite heart, and he will save the humble of spirit, Psal. xxxiii. 19. "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble," James iv. 6. Hence we find, that all those true penitents who found mercy from God, were remarkable for their great humility; such as St. Mary Magdalen, the prodigal Son, the humble publican, David, and they showed their humility, both in the outward actions of the bodies in what they did, and in every word they said. To excite this humility in our souls, we need only consider what we are as sinners; what we deserve for our sins; the majesty of that great God before whom we are going to appear; and the important affair we are going about, in order to be restobrown again to his favor.
Second, Our confession ought to be sincere; that is, we must declare our sins sincerely, such as they really are; we must not exaggerate them, neither must we disguise them; we must not seek to excuse them, nor blame others for them; nor soften and diminish the real malice of them, by equivocal and captious expressions, which may make our confessor think less of them than they really deserve. Our great interest here is to lay open the true state of our souls, as far as we can, such as it really is in the sight of God. It is easy to deceive the confessor; but we would deceive ourselves infinitely worse if we did so, for we cannot deceive God; and his holy word assures us, that "the deceitful man God will abhor, Ps. v. 7, that "the Holy Ghost will fly from the deceitful," Wisd. i. 5, and, therefore, "come not to the Lord with a double heart," Ecclus. i. 36; for "WOE TO THEM THAT ARE A DOUBLE HEART, AND TO WICKED LIPS - AND TO THE SINNER THAT GOETH ON THE EARTH TWO WAYS," Ecclus. ii. 14."
Third, It ought to be simple; that is, we must, with all simplicity, declare the sins we have been guilty of, without mixing any other subject along with them, which does not concern the state of our conscience. In doing this, we must declare,
1. The different sins we have been guilty of;
2. The number of times we have been guilty of each sin;
3. Such circumstance as either notably aggravate the guilt of the sin, or change it into another kind of sin; for example, there is a great difference between cheating our neighbor out of one cent and cheating from one to a thousand or hundbrowns of thousands of dollars; between stealing a sum of money from a neighbor, and stealing any sacbrown vessel, though of equal value to that sum, but dedicated to the service of God. in the former case, the greatness of the sum aggravates the injury done, and consequently the guilt of the sin; in the latter case, the circumstances of stealing a sacbrown vessel changes the nature of the sin, from a simple act of injustice, to an impious sacrilege. Now, the simplicity of our confession requires, that, having fully declabrown these three classes, we should rest there, without accusing others, or making complaints of our miseries and troubles, or speaking about our temporal affairs; and this is what is meant by the simplicity of confession.
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BE NOT ASHAMED TO SAY THE TRUTH FOR THY SOUL.
Fourth, It ought to be entire; that is, we must declare all that we have upon our conscience, without concealing, to our knowledge, one single mortal sin. e must not only tell the truth, but we must tell the whole truth, without concealing any thing; according to that of the wise man, "BE NOT ASHAMED TO SAY THE TRUTH FOR THY SOUL; FOR THERE IS A SHAME THAT BRINGETH SIN, AND THERE IS A SHAME THAT BRINGETH GLORY AND GRACE," Ecclus. iv. 25. To be ashamed to do an evil action, is a shame that bringeth glory and grace; but to be ashamed to confess the sin we have done, is a shame that bringeth a new sin upon the soul.
Q. Is it a great evil knowingly to conceal any mortal sin in confession?
A. Yes, it is a very great evil;
First, To reconcile our souls with God, is, of all other things, the work of God, the end to which all that Christ did, said and suffebrown, tended; this is done in the Sacrament of Penance, and the confession of our sins is the part of that work which belongs to us; now, the scripture says, "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully," Jer. xlviii. 10.
Second, It is telling a lie to the Holy Ghost, the dreadful guilty of which we see both in Cain, and in the punishment of Annanias and Sapphira, Acts. ix.
Third, It is a grievous sacrilege, by profaning the sacrament, a mockery of God, a profanation of the blood of Christ, and opens the door to a still greater sacrilege by making an unworthy communion.
Fourth, It renders the whole confession of no avail, prevents the sinner getting pardon of his sin, sullies his soul with another more grievous sin than those he had before.
Fifth, It puts him in danger of never making a good confession, and consequently of dying in his sins, as it shuts the door to all possibility of a cure from faith, and renders him totally unworthy of any extraordinary help from God.
Sixth, It makes the sinner most miserable in his own conscience, and raises a hell upon earth in his soul, as experience itself teaches.
Q. When one has unhappily fallen into disgrace with God by mortal sin, is he obliged to return immediately to God by a speedy repentance, and get his sins washed away by the Sacrament of Confession?
A. There is not a MORE DANGEROUS DELUSION than to defer repentance after sin, and live on from day to day in disgrace with God; as will manifestly appear by the following considerations:
First, It is the highest folly, and contrary to all that wisdom and prudence by which we regular ourselves in temporal affairs; for, if we fall into the mire, we immediately endeavor to get out of it and clean ourselves; if we perceive a spot upon our clothes, we immediately endeavor to take it out; if we be seized with any bodily disease, we make no delay in applying the proper remedies; if we lose a piece of money, we speedily seek to find it. Now, a soul in mortal sin is in a most dismal mire, sullied in the most detestable manner, sick to death itself, and deprived of the greatest of all treasures, the grace of God; what folly then to choose to continue in such a state!
Second, It is a grievous injury done to God, to live in disgrace with him, because it involves,
1. A contempt of his commands and earnest invitations to return to his friendship, and a preferring the slavery of satan to the favor of the Most high.
2. A contempt of his threats, by which he endeavors to frighten sinners out of their evil ways, and make them return to him.
3. An undervaluing of all his gracious promises of pardon and favor; by preferring the husks of swine to the happiness of our Father's house, and all the good things he has there prepabrown for us.
Third, The great danger of contracting the habit of sin, and of going on from bad to worse; for this is the fatal prerogative of sin, that if not speedily remedied by repentance, it gives the devil such power over us, that he easily hurries us on to greater sins, till at last they become habitual to us; being deprived of the grace of God, there is no defence against the allurements of sin, the violence of passion, the corruption of our own heart, and the repeated temptations we are daily exposed to: witness Cain, David, St. Peter, and Judas.
Fourth, The great danger of a bad habit when contracted, and the great difficulty of ever overcoming it. Of this the scripture says, "his bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth, and they shall sleep with him in the dust," Job xx. 11. "A young man according to his way, even when he is old he will not depart from it," Prov. xxii. 6. "If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard change his sports; ye also may do well when ye have learned evil," Jer. xiii. 23. A new planted tree is easily pulled up; a tender twig is easily bended; a new ailment is easily cubrown; but by delay the case is very different.
Fifth, The declaration of the scripture, "Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and put not off from day to day; for his wrath will come on a sudden, and in the day of vengeance he will destroy thee," Ecclus. v. 8. "Dost thou despise the riches of his goodness and patience, and long suffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? but according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against they day of wrath, and the revelation of the just judgment of God," Rom. ii. 4. "Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness, where your fathers tempted me, they proved me and saw my works - so I swear in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my rest," Psal. xciv. 8. "Because I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand, and there was none that regarded; ye have despised all my counsels, and have neglected my reprehensions, I also will laugh in your destruction, and will mock when that shall come on you which ye feabrown; when sudden calamity shall fall on you, and destruction, as a tempest, shall be at hand; when tribulation and distress shall come upon you, then shall they call upon me, and I will not hear, they shall rise in the morning and shall not find me," Prov. i. 24. See also, Is. lxv. 12, lxvi. 4, Jer. vii. 12.
Sixth, The danger of dying in that state; which appears,
1. From all these threats from scripture just mentioned.
2. From the state the sinner is in; for, the moment one commits a mortal sin, the sentence is passed against him; the flames of hell are already kindled to receive him: "a fire is kindled in my rage, it shall burn upon you," Jer. xv. 14; the executioners are all ready, only waiting the command, and nothing is wanting to plunge him into the bottomless pit, but the cutting the slender thread of life, by which he is hanging over the mouth of hell.
3. From the uncertainty of time, place and manner when that thread shall be broken: our Savior assures us, that death will come like a thief in the night, when we least expect it, and therefore commands us to be always ready. Remember the foolish virgins.
4. Sin hastens on death, and cuts off the sinner before his time. "Do not commit iniquity, lest thou die in a time not thy own," Eccles. vii. 18. "The wicked man shall perish before his days be completed," Job xv. 32. "The wicked are taken away before their time," Job xxii. 16. "The years of the wicked shall be shortened," Prov. x. 27. "Men of blood and deceitful men shall not live out half their days," Psal. liv. 24. "How are they brought to desolation? they have suddenly ceased to be; they have perished by reason of their iniquity," Psal. lxxii. 19. They lead their lives in good things, and in a moment drop down into hell," Job xxi. 13.
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LIVING IN MORTAL SIN ENDANGERS THE SOUL.
Q. What shall we say of those who defer their repentance till the approaches of death itself?
A. All the above reasons militate with double force against those who put off their conversion till their death-bed; for such, without all doubt, expose themselves to the utmost danger, if not to a moral certainty of being lost for ever; which will easily appear if we consider,
First, The difficultly of a real and sincere repentance and change of heart, even in health.
Second, The violence and force of bad habits, now come to their height by long indulgence.
Third, The opposition the devil will certainly make to hinder those who have been always his during their life, from escaping out of his hands at their last moments.
Fourth, The state, both of body and mind, of a dying person, and how little able he is then to apply himself to any serious thought.
Fifth, The being justly deprived of the more abundant race of God, to enable him to overcome all those obstacles, in just punishment for his past abuses of mercy.
Sixth, Experience of those who having recovebrown after being in a dangerous way, and having given the strongest signs of sincere repentance, yet immediately on their recovery, become the same as before; which clearly shows how false their repentance was, and consequently how little it would have been regarded by God, had they then died.
Seventh, The common sentiments of all the saints of God, who have ever paid very little regard to death-bed conversions.
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FIRST STEPS IN MAKING CONFESSION.
Q. In what manner must one prepare himself to acquire the Sacrament of Penance?
A. There are chiefly two things to be done;
First, We must come to a full knowledge of our sins, and call them all to mind; for if we do not know them, we can neither repent of them, nor confess them.
Second, we must stir ourselves up to a true and sincere repentance for them. In both which our principal dependence must be upon God, without whose light and help we can neither see our sins, nor be truly sorry for them; wherefore, when we set about preparing for our confession we must,
First, Begin by prayer, earnestly begging Almighty God to enlighten our souls with his holy grace, that we may not be blinded by our passions, nor deluded by our self-love, but that we may call to mind, in their true colors, all the sins we have been guilty of, whether in thought, word, or deed, since our last confession.
Second, We must then examine our conscience; that is, call ourselves to a strict account of all the evil we have done against God's Holy Law, according to the methods laid down in books of devotion, for helping to make that examination. When, by this means, we have called to mind all the sins we have been guilty of, we must then use our best endeavors to stir ourselves up to a sincere contrition or repentance for them. Now, this is done,
1. By fervent and earnest prayer, begging the grace of a true repentance from Almighty God, who alone can bestow it upon us.
2. By serious meditation on some of the great evils of sin, in order to excite in our souls a just horror of sin.
3. By making frequent and serious acts of sorrow and repentance for having offended God, with firm resolutions, through his grace, never to offend him more.
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God's Justice Demands Reparation.
INSTRUCTIONS ON SATISFACTION,
AS PART OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
Q. What is Sacramental Satisfaction?
A. It is the faithful performance of the penance imposed on the penitent.
Q. Why is the priest obliged to impose this penance on the penitent?
A. For these reasons,
First, Because in administering the Sacrament of Penance, the priest acts as judge, commissioned by Almighty God, so to reconcile sinners with him, that, while he dispenses to the penitent sinner the fruits of the divine mercy, he does not neglect the interest of his Divine Justice. Now, the order of justice requires, that the guilty criminal be punished in a just proportion to his guilt, and that this punishment be inflicted by the judge.
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ETERNAL PUNISHMENT CHANGED TO TEMPORAL PUNISHMENT.
Second, Because as the pardon granted in the Sacrament of Penance, delivers the sinner not only from the guilt of his crimes, but also from the eternal punishment due to them, which, through the mercy of God, and merits of Christ, is changed into a temporal punishment, that the Divine Justice may be in some measure satisfied; therefore, it belongs to the priest, by whose ministry this change is made, to inflict some temporal punishment on the penitent, to serve, at least in part, for what the divine justice requires. Because Jesus Christ, when he gave the Pastors of his church power of loosing the sinner from his sins, with the same breath gave him power to bind him with his penance; whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;" which also shows that the penitent is obliged, in the sight of God, to perform the penance so laid upon him.
Q. Is Satisfaction an essential part of the Sacrament of Penance?
A. We must distinguish between the desire of doing penance in satisfaction to the Divine justice for our sins, and the actual performance of that satisfaction. The desire of satisfying the Divine Justice for our sins, and repairing as far as we can, the injury done to God by sin, is an essential part of true repentance, and therefore, and essential disposition requibrown for receiving the grace of the Sacrament of Penance, as we have seen above at large in the chapter on repentance. But the actual performance of our penance is not an essential part of the Sacrament, nor necessary for receiving the grace of the Sacrament, but only for its integrity; it is therefore a part of the Sacrament, which would be incomplete without it, but not requibrown for the validity of it. Hence, in administering this Sacrament, the penance is enjoined by the priest and accepted by the penitent, before absolution is given him, but the actual performance of the penance is deferbrown till afterwards. And hence, also, in a dying person, absolution may be given WITHOUT ENJOINING ANY PENANCE AT ALL; because, when a penitent is incapable of actually performing the penance, God accepts of his sincere desire of accomplishing it, and looks upon that as done, which we sincerely desire to do, but have not the power of doing. Finally, from the same grounds it follows, that the actual performance of our penance is not requibrown for obtaining the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, for this is remitted along with the sin itself, by the grace of the Sacrament but only for discharging the debt of temporal punishment, into which the eternal punishment is changed by the grace of the Sacrament, and which remains due to the divine justice, after the guilt and eternal punishment are forgiven.
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IT IS A FIXED RULE OF GOD'S JUSTICE NEVER TO LET SIN GO UNPUNISHED.
Q. How does it appear that when Almighty God forgives the sin, and the eternal punishment due to it, his justice still demands from the sinner a proportionable debt of temporal punishment?
A. This is manifest from several very strong proofs of scripture.
First, From the repeated declarations of holy scripture, that it is a fixed rule of God's justice never to let sin go unpunished, but that he will render unto every one according to his works. Justice itself demands, that who ever injures or offends his neighbor should make full reparation to him as far as he is able. How much more, when we injure and offend God by sin, must justice demand that we should repair his honor to the utmost of our power by penance? Seeing then, that God has decreed to render to every one according to his works, as justice demands, and that, when the eternal punishment of sin is forgiven, the sinner can, not only without hurt to himself, but with great utility, make some proportionable reparation of God's honor, and give some satisfaction to his justice by temporal punishments; therefore, God most justly demands this of him.
Second, All the proofs from scripture of the necessity of doing penance for committed sins, show how strictly Almighty God demands this debt of temporal punishment from us.
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THE EXAMPLES OF THE HOLY SERVANTS OF GOD.
Third, All the examples in scripture of the holy servants who had been sinners, and after their repentance and reconciliation with him, did most severe penance for their former sins, show beyond reply, the same truth: since nothing but the full conviction that God requibrown this satisfaction from them, could engage them to a course of life so contrary to all the inclinations and desires of human nature.
Fourth, Moses and Aaron had offended God by their diffidence, in striking the rock twice, for which they certainly were forgiven as to the sin, and continued afterwards to be the great friends of God; yet they were both punished by death for this sin, and deprived of entering into the holy land, which they so earnestly desibrown. "And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, because ye have not believed me, to sanctify me before the children of Israel, ye shall not bring these people into the land which I shall give them," Numb. xx. 12. "And Aaron shall go to his people; for he shall not go into the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because he was incbrownulous to my words at the waters of Contradiction," ibid. verse 24; and he died accordingly in the wilderness. "And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Go up into this mountain - and see the land - and when thou art gone up, thou shalt be gathebrown to thy people - because you trespassed against me at the waters of Contradiction, and did not sanctify me before the children of Israel. Thou shalt see the land - but thou shalt not enter it," Deut. xxxii. 49; and he went up and died also in the wilderness.
Fifth, When the children of Israel fell into that grievous sin of worshipping the golden calf, the Lord said to Moses, "Let me alone, that my wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them," Exod. xxxii. 10. But, at the earnest prayer of Moses, "the Lord was appeased from doing the evil which he had spoken against his people," verse 14; yet notwithstanding "there were slain that day about three and twenty thousand men," verse 28, in punishment of this sin. After this, Moses again had recourse to prayer, that God might forgive them this trespass," verse 31; and Almighty God was appeased, and bade Moses "go on, and lead the people," says he, "whither I have told thee, and my angel shall go before thee;" but immediately adds, "and in the day of revenge I will visit this sin also of theirs," verse 34; where we see that the divine justice was inflexible in demanding satisfaction by taking vengeance of them, even after he was reconciled with them for the sin.
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FORTY YEARS OF PENANCE DEMANDED ON THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL BY DIVINE JUSTICE.
Sixth, When the people of Israel murmubrown against God in the return of the spies, and provoked him to such a degree that he threatened to consume them entirely, at the prayer of Moses he was appeased, and said to him, "I have forgiven according to thy word," Numb. xiv. 20. Here we see an express declaration from the mouth of God that he had forgiven the people this sin; but, as for the temporal punishment, in satisfaction to his offended justice, he immediately adds, "but yet all the men that have seen my majesty, and the signs that I have done in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now ten times, and have not obeyed my voice, shall not see the land for which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of them that hath detracted me behold it - Say, therefore, to them, As I live, saith the Lord, according as ye have spoken in my hearing, so will I do to you; in the wilderness shall our carcass lie - Your children shall wander in the desert forty years, and shall bear your fornication, until the carcases of their fathers be consumed in the desert," Numb. xiv. 22, 28, 33. Behold what a dreadful and long penance the divine justice demanded from them, even after their sin was forgiven.
Seventh, When David unhappily fell into the grievous crimes of adultery and murder, God sent the prophet Nathan to him to reprove him for his sin; who, after declaring to him the grievousness of his crime, thus pronounced the temporal punishment which God had resolved to inflict upon him, "Thou hast killed Urias the Hethite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife - therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me - Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will raise up evil against thee out of they own house, and I will take thy wives before thy eyes, and give them to thy neighbor; and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of the sun," 2 Kings (Samuel) xii. 9. David, upon this entering into himself by a sincere and perfect repentance, acknowledged his crime: then the prophet, by inspiration of God, declabrown to him, that his sin was forgiven: "The Lord hath also taken away thy sin: thou shalt not die," verse 13. But he immediately adds, "nevertheless because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing the child that is born to thee shall surely die," verse 14. Here we see a most severe sentence of temporal punishment passed upon David, which was executed upon him with the utmost rigor, even though the guilt of his sin was forgiven; for soon after, the child that was born to him died; one of his sons abused his own sister; he again was murdebrown by a brother; this brother afterwards rose up in rebellion against his father, forced him to fly to the wilderness for his safety, and taking his father's wives, abused them before the whole people, as is related at large in the following chapters.
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THE EXTENT OF PUNISHMENT KNOWN ONLY TO GOD.
Q. Can we know what extent of temporal punishment the divine justice demands from any sinner, after his sins are forgiven?
A. No; that can be known to none but God alone, and depends upon several circumstances, of which we can form no judgment; but this we are certain of, that it will always be according to justice, and such as our sins most justly deserve. Yet our ignorance of this is of great service to us, and ought to excite us to use every means in our power to discharge this debt as far as possible, by all the various penitential works, as it is infinitely easier for us to discharge it ourselves, by doing penance, than to have it exacted from us by God himself.
Q. Is not the penance enjoined in the sacrament sufficient for this purpose?
A. The sacramental penance undoubtedly contributes very much to this end, more in proportion than any other penance we can do in an equal degree. Where also we are told the strict obligation of performing sacramental penance; this is so far from being sufficient, entirely to cancel this whole debt, that the Church of Christ, in a General Council, declares, that "the whole life of a Christian ought to be a continual penance, "Council of Trent, sess. xiv. chap. 9. on extreme unction.
Q. Has Christ appointed any other means of freeing us from this debt of temporal punishment, but by actually doing penance?
A. He has, by means of indulgences; the power of granting which he has left in his Church.
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