Week 22: Of Repentance (part 2) » Of Confession and Satisfaction (part 1)


ConcordCast Week 22

Of Repentance (part 2) » Of Confession and Satisfaction (part 1)

Thanks to Charles Wiese, Kyle Richardson, and Christopher Hogan for their contributions this week.

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Apology XIIa, Of Repentance: 68-97

68] But they have authors of a great name, Scotus, Gabriel, and the like, and passages of the Fathers which are cited in a mutilated form in the decrees. Certainly, if the testimonies are to be counted, they win. For there is a very great crowd of most trifling writers upon the Sententiae, who, as though they had conspired, defend these figments concerning the merit of attrition and of works, and other things which we have above recounted. [Aye, it is true, they are all called teachers and authors, but by their singing you can tell what sort of birds they are. These authors have taught nothing but philosophy, and have known nothing of Christ and the work of God; their books show this plainly.] 69] But lest any one be moved by the multitude of citations, there is no great weight in the testimonies of the later writers, who did not originate their own writings, but only, by compiling from the writers before them, transferred these opinions from some books into others. They have exercised no judgment, but just like petty judges silently have approved the errors of their superiors, which they have not understood. Let us not, therefore, hesitate to oppose this utterance of Peter, which cites the consensus of the prophets, 70] to ever so many legions of the Sententiaries. 71] And to this utterance of Peter the testimony of the Holy Ghost is added. For the text speaks thus, Acts 10:44: While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which 72] heard the Word. Therefore, let pious consciences know that the command of God is this, that they believe that they are freely forgiven for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of our works. And by this command of God let them sustain themselves against despair, and 73] against the terrors of sin and of death. And let them know that this belief has existed among saints from the beginning of the world. [Of this the idle sophists know little; and the blessed proclamation, the Gospel, which proclaims the forgiveness of sins through the blessed Seed, that is, Christ, has from the beginning of the world been the greatest consolation and treasure to all pious kings, all prophets, all believers. For they have believed in the same Christ in whom we believe; for from the beginning of the world no saint has been saved in any other way than through the faith of the same Gospel.] For Peter clearly cites the consensus of the prophets, and the writings of the apostles testify that they believe the same thing. Nor are testimonies of the Fathers wanting. For Bernard says the same thing in words that are in no way obscure: For it is necessary first of all to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God, but add yet that you believe also this, namely, that through Him sins are forgiven thee. This is the testimony which the Holy Ghost asserts in your heart, saying: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” For thus the apostle judges that man is justified freely through faith. 74] These words of Bernard shed a wonderful light upon our cause, because he not only requires that we in a general way believe that sins are remitted through mercy, but he bids us add special faith, by which we believe that sins are remitted even to us; and he teaches how we may be rendered certain concerning the remission of sins, namely, when our hearts are encouraged by faith, and become tranquil through the Holy Ghost. What more do the adversaries require? [But how now, ye adversaries? Is St. Bernard also a heretic?] Do they still dare deny that by faith we obtain the remission of sins, or that faith is a part of repentance?

75] Thirdly, the adversaries say that sin is remitted, because an attrite or contrite person elicits an act of love to God [if we undertake from reason to love God], and by this act merits to receive the remission of sins. This is nothing but to teach the Law, the Gospel being blotted out, and the promise concerning Christ being abolished. For they require only the Law and our works, because the Law demands love. Besides, they teach us to be confident that we obtain remission of sins because of contrition and love. What else is this than to put confidence in our works, not in the Word and promise of God concerning Christ? But if the Law be sufficient for obtaining the remission of sins, what need is there of the Gospel? What need is there of Christ if we obtain remission of sins because of our own work? 76] We, on the other hand, call consciences away from the Law to the Gospel, and from confidence in their own works to confidence in the promise and Christ, because the Gospel presents to us Christ, and promises freely the remission of sins for Christ’s sake. In this promise it bids us trust, namely, that for Christ’s sake we are reconciled to the Father, and not for the sake of our own contrition or love. For there is no other Mediator or Propitiator than Christ. Neither can we do the works of the Law unless we have first been reconciled through Christ. And if we would do anything, yet we must believe that not for the sake of these works, but for the sake of Christ, as Mediator and Propitiator, we obtain the remission of sins.

77] Yea, it is a reproach to Christ and a repeal of the Gospel to believe that we obtain the remission of sins on account of the Law, or otherwise than by faith in Christ. This method also we have discussed above in the chapter Of Justification, where we declared why we confess that men are justified by faith, not by love. 78] Therefore the doctrine of the adversaries, when they teach that by their own contrition and love men obtain the remission of sins, and trust in this contrition and love, is merely the doctrine of the Law, and of that, too, as not understood [which they do not understand with respect to the kind of love towards God which it demands], just as the Jews looked upon the veiled face of Moses. For let us imagine that love is present, let us imagine that works are present, yet neither love nor works can be a propitiation for sin [or be of as much value as Christ]. And they cannot even be opposed to the wrath and judgment of God, according to Ps. 143:2: Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. Neither ought the honor of Christ to be transferred to our works.

79] For these reasons Paul contends that we are not justified by the Law, and he opposes to the Law the promise of the remission of sins, which is granted for Christ’s sake, and teaches that we freely receive the remission of sins for Christ’s sake. Paul calls us away from the Law to this promise. Upon this promise he bids us look [and regard the Lord Christ our treasure], which certainly will be void if we are justified by the Law before we are justified through the promise, or if we obtain the remission of sins on account of our own righteousness. 80] But it is evident that the promise was given us and Christ was tendered to us for the very reason that we cannot do the works of the Law. Therefore it is necessary that we are reconciled by the promise before we do the works of the Law. The promise, however, is received only by faith. Therefore it is necessary for contrite persons to apprehend by faith the promise of the remission of sins granted for Christ’s sake, and to be confident that freely for Christ’s sake they have a reconciled Father. 81] This is the meaning of Paul, Rom. 4:16, where he says: Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure. And Gal. 3:22: The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given them that believe, i.e., all are under sin, neither can they be freed otherwise than by apprehending by faith the promise of the remission of sins. 82] Therefore we must by faith accept the remission of sins before we do the works of the Law; although, as has been said above, love follows faith, because the regenerate receive the Holy Ghost, and accordingly begin [to become friendly to the Law and] to do the works of the Law.

83] We would cite more testimonies if they were not obvious to every godly reader in the Scriptures. And we do not wish to be too prolix, in order that 84] this case may be the more readily seen through. Neither, indeed, is there any doubt that the meaning of Paul is what we are defending, namely, that by faith we receive the remission of sins for Christ’s sake, that by faith we ought to oppose to God’s wrath Christ as Mediator, and not our works. Neither let godly minds be disturbed, even though the adversaries find fault with the judgments of Paul. Nothing is said so simply that it cannot be distorted by caviling. We know that what we have mentioned is the true and genuine meaning of Paul; we know that this our belief brings to godly consciences [in agony of death and temptation] sure comfort, without which no one can stand in God’s judgment.

85] Therefore let these pharisaic opinions of the adversaries be rejected, namely, that we do not receive by faith the remission of sins, but that it ought to be merited by our love and works; that we ought to oppose our love and our works to the wrath of God. Not of the Gospel, but of the Law is this doctrine, which feigns that man is justified by the Law before he has been reconciled through Christ to God, since Christ says, John 15:5: Without Me He can do nothing; likewise: I am the true Vine; ye are the branches. 86] But the adversaries feign that we are branches, not of Christ, but of Moses. For they wish to be justified by the Law, and to offer their love and works to God before they are reconciled to God through Christ, before they are branches of Christ. Paul, on the other hand [who is certainly a much greater teacher than the adversaries], contends that the Law cannot be observed without Christ. Accordingly, in order that we [those who truly feel and have experienced sin and anguish of conscience must cling to the promise of grace, in order that they] may be reconciled to God for Christ’s sake, the promise must be received before we do the works of the Law. 87] We think that these things are sufficiently clear to godly consciences. And hence they will understand why we have declared above that men are justified by faith, not by love, because we must oppose to God’s wrath not our love or works (or trust in our love and works), but Christ as Mediator [for all our ability, all our deeds and works, are far too weak to remove and appease God’s wrath]. And we must apprehend the promise of the remission of sins before we do the works of the Law.

88] Lastly, when will conscience be pacified if we receive remission of sins on the ground that we love, or that we do the works of the Law? For the Law will always accuse us, because we never satisfy God’s Law. Just as Paul says, Rom. 4:15: The Law worketh wrath. Chrysostom asks concerning repentance, Whence are we made sure that our sins are remitted us? The adversaries also, in their “Sentences,” ask concerning the same subject. [The question, verily, is worth asking; blessed the man that returns the right answer.] This cannot be explained, consciences cannot be made tranquil, unless they know that it is God’s command and the very Gospel that they should be firmly confident that for Christ’s sake sins are remitted freely, and that they should not doubt that these are remitted to them. If any one doubts, he charges, as 1 John 5:10 says, the divine promise with falsehood. We teach that this certainty of faith is required in the Gospel. The adversaries leave consciences uncertain and wavering. 89] Consciences, however, do nothing from faith when they perpetually doubt whether they have remission. [For it is not possible that there should be rest, or a quiet and peaceful conscience, if they doubt whether God be gracious. For if they doubt whether they have a gracious God, whether they are doing right, whether they have forgiveness of sins, how can, etc.] How can they in this doubt call upon God, how can they be confident that they are heard? Thus the entire life is without God [faith] and without the true worship of God. This is what Paul says, Rom. 14:23: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. And because they are constantly occupied with this doubt, they never experience what faith [God or Christ] is. Thus it comes to pass that they rush at last into despair [die in doubt, without God, without all knowledge of God]. Such is the doctrine of the adversaries, the doctrine of the Law, the annulling of the Gospel, the doctrine of despair. [Whereby Christ is suppressed, men are led into overwhelming sorrow and torture of conscience, and finally, when temptation comes, into despair. Let His Imperial Majesty graciously consider and well examine this matter; it does not concern gold or silver, but souls and consciences.] Now 90] we are glad to refer to all good men the judgment concerning this topic of repentance (for it has no obscurity), in order that they may decide whether we or the adversaries have taught those things which are more godly and healthful to consciences. Indeed, these dissensions in the Church do not delight us; wherefore, if we did not have great and necessary reasons for dissenting from the adversaries we would with the greatest pleasure be silent. But now, since they condemn the manifest truth, it is not right for us to desert a cause which is not our own, but is that of Christ and the Church. [We cannot with fidelity to God and conscience deny this blessed doctrine and divine truth, from which we expect at last, when this poor temporal life ceases and all help of creatures fails, the only eternal, highest consolation: nor will we in anything recede from this cause, which is not only ours, but that of all Christendom, and concerns the highest treasure, Jesus Christ.]

91] We have declared for what reasons we assigned to repentance these two parts, contrition and faith. And we have done this the more readily because many expressions concerning repentance are published which are cited in a mutilated form from the Fathers [Augustine and the other ancient Fathers], and which the adversaries have distorted in order to put faith out of sight. Such are: Repentance is to lament past evils, and not to commit again deeds that ought to be lamented. Again: Repentance is a kind of vengeance of him who grieves, thus punishing in himself what he is sorry for having committed. In these passages no mention is made of faith. And not even in the schools, when they interpret, is anything 92] added concerning faith. Therefore, in order that the doctrine of faith might be the more conspicuous, we have enumerated it among the parts of repentance. For the actual fact shows that those passages which require contrition or good works, and make no mention of justifying faith, 93] are dangerous [as experience proves]. And prudence can justly be desired in those who have collected these centos of the “Sentences” and decrees. For since the Fathers speak in some places concerning one part, and in other places concerning another part of repentance, it would have been well to select and combine their judgments not only concerning one part but concerning both, i.e., concerning contrition and faith.

94] For Tertullian speaks excellently concerning faith, dwelling upon the oath in the prophet, Ezek. 33:11: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. For as God swears that He does not wish the death of a sinner, He shows that faith is required, in order that we may believe the one swearing, and be firmly confident that He forgives us. The authority of the divine promises ought by itself to be great in our estimation. But this promise has also been confirmed by an oath. Therefore, if any one be not confident that he is forgiven, he denies that God has sworn what is true, than which a more horrible blasphemy cannot be imagined. For Tertullian speaks thus: He invites by reward to salvation, even sweating. Saying, “I live,” He desires that He be believed. Oh, blessed we, for whose sake God swears! Oh, most miserable if we believe not the Lord even when He swears! 95] But here we must know that this faith ought to be confident that God freely forgives us for the sake of Christ, for the sake of His own promise, not for the sake of our works, contrition, confession, or satisfactions. For if faith relies upon these works, it immediately becomes uncertain, because the terrified conscience sees that these 96] works are unworthy. Accordingly, Ambrose speaks admirably concerning repentance: Therefore it is proper for us to believe both that we are to repent, and that we are to be pardoned, but so as to expect pardon as from faith, which obtains it as from a handwriting. Again: It is faith which covers our sins. 97] Therefore, there are sentences extant in the Fathers, not only concerning contrition and works, but also concerning faith. But the adversaries, since they understand neither the nature of repentance nor the language of the Fathers, select passages concerning a part of repentance, namely, concerning works; they pass over the declarations made elsewhere concerning faith, since they do not understand them.

Article VI, Of Confession and Satisfaction: 1-24

1] Good men can easily judge that it is of the greatest importance that the true doctrine concerning the above-mentioned 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. 2] 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. 3] Therefore it would be wicked to remove private absolution from the Church. 4] Neither do they understand what the remission of sins or the power of the keys is, if there are any who despise private absolution. 5] But in reference to the enumeration of offenses in confession, we have said above that we hold that it is not 6] necessary by divine right. For the objection, made by some, that a judge ought to investigate a case 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 8] 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.

9] 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. [Stable, 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.

10] 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. 11] 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.” 12] 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.

13] 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. 14] 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? 15] 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.

16] 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 decrees 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. 17] 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 18] 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. 19] 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. 20] 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.

21] 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. 22] 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. 23] 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. 24] 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].