[Article XII(VI):] Of Confession and Expiation (Satisfaction)
Written in Latin by Philip Melanchthon (1531)
Translated from the Latin into German by Justus Jonas (1531)
English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by W. F. Lehmann (1854)
Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)
[98(1)] Pious and worthy Christians can easily perceive the importance of having and maintaining in the churches the true and indubitable doctrine of repentance, or contrition and faith. For the great imposition of indulgences, etc., and the inappropriate doctrines of the sophists, have sufficiently taught us the great evils and dangers arising from mistakes on this subject. How many a pious soul most laboriously sought under Popery the right way in this matter, without finding it in such darkness!
We have, therefore, always taken great pains, to teach clearly, definitely, and correctly on this subject. With respect to confession and expiation we have not contended much; [99(2)] because we also retain confession, on account of absolution, which is the Word of God, absolving us from our sins by the power of the keys. [100(3)] It would, therefore, be contrary to the will of God to abolish absolution in the churches.
[101(4)] Those who contemn absolution, have no conception of the remission of sins or of the power of the keys. [102(5)] But in our Confession we have already stated our view, that God does not command the enumeration of sins. [103(6)] For their declaration,--as every judge must hear the cases and offences, before he pronounces judgment, so must our sins be enumerated, etc.,--is not applicable to the case. Absolution is simply the command to acquit, and not a new court of inquiry into sin; for God is the judge. He committed to the Apostles no judicial authority, but the execution of grace, to absolve those who desire it. [105(8)] And, indeed, they release and absolve from sins which are not remembered. Absolution is therefore a voice of the Gospel, through which we receive consolation, and it is no judgment or law.
[106(9)] But it appears ridiculous and absurd to intelligent men, to apply the declaration of Solomon, Prov. 27:23: Diligenter cognosce vultum pecoris tui, that is, "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks," etc., to confession or absolution; for Solomon is not speaking here of confession, but is commanding the heads of families to be satisfied with their own, and to abstain from what belongs to others; he is here simply commanding each one to be diligent in taking care of his flocks and possessions, and not to forget the fear, the law, and Word of God, through avarice.
But our adversaries distort the Scriptures to suit their fancy, contrary to the natural import of the plain terms in the passage: Cognosce vultum pecoris, etc. Here cognoscere is made to signify hearing confession; cattle or sheep must signify men; and stabulum (stable) we think, must mean a school containing such doctors and orators. It is, however, perfectly natural for those who thus despise the holy Scriptures and the arts, to make such gross grammatical blunders. Even if anyone felt a desire to compare the head of a family, in this passage of Solomon, with a pastor, vultus would here mean, not arcana conscientiae, (secrets of the conscience or heart,) but the external walk.
[107(10)] We shall, however, let this pass. Confession is mentioned in several places in the Psalms; as in 32:5: "I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid." This confession and acknowledgment, made to God, are contrition itself; for when we confess to God, we must acknowledge in our hearts, that we are sinners, and not merely repeat the words with the lips, as the hypocrites do. Therefore the confession, made to God, is the contrition, which makes the heart sensible of the serious displeasure and wrath of God, approves his anger and the impossibility of his being reconciled by our merits; and yet, prompts us to seek mercy, since God has promised grace in Christ. [108(11)] Such is the confession in the 51st Psalm, 4th verse: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest;" that is, I confess that I am a sinner, and that I deserve eternal wrath, and cannot appease thy wrath with my works or merit; I therefore say that thou art just and justly punishest us. I acknowledge thy justice, though the hypocrites condemn thee for not regarding their merits and good work. Yes, I know that my works cannot stand before thy judgment; but we shall be justified, when thou, in thy mercy, regardest us as just.
[109(12)] Perhaps someone will refer to James 5:16: "Confess your faults one to another." But James is not speaking of confession to the priest, but of reconciliation and acknowledgments between brethren.
[110(13)] But our adversaries condemn many of their own teachers, when they maintain that an enumeration of sins is necessary and commanded of God. For, although we retain confession, and believe it to be expedient to question the young and ignorant, in order that they may be the better instructed; yet it must be kept within such bounds as not to ensnare the conscience, which can never be at peace while it is under the false impression that the specification of sins is a duty to God.
[111(14)] Accordingly, the assertion of our adversaries, that our salvation requires a complete confession of every sin, is entirely false, because such a confession is impossible. O, how miserably have they perplexed and tormented many a pious soul, by teaching that confession must be complete, and that no sin dare remain unconfessed! For how can we always be sure of having confessed all?
[112(15)] The Fathers likewise advert to confession; they do not, however, speak of the enumeration of secret sins, but of a ceremony of public penance; because formerly those who lived in open vice, were not reinstated into the church, without a public ceremony and reproof. They were therefore required to make a special confession of their sins to the priest so that expiations might be imposed, according to the magnitude of the transgression. But this whole matter was unlike the enumeration of sins, of which we are speaking; for this confession was not made because sin cannot be remitted before God without it; but because, without a knowledge of the sin, external chastisement could not be imposed.
[113(16)] From this external ceremony of public penance the word satisfactio or expiation originated. The Fathers would not receive those again, who were found living in open vice, without reproof. There were many reasons for this; for it served to show, that open vice would be punished, even as the comment in the Decrees says. Besides, it was improper to permit those who had fallen into public sins, immediately to approach the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, without examination. All these ceremonies have long since discontinued, and it is unnecessary to reestablish them; because they contribute nothing to reconciliation before God. [114(17)] Nor was it at all the opinion of the Fathers, that men could thus obtain the remission of their sins; although such outward ceremonies easily lead the inexperienced to believe that they contribute to salvation. Now, such a view is altogether Jewish and heathenish; for the heathens also had certain purifications, which they imagined would reconcile them to God.
[115(18)]But now while this mode of public penance has passed away, the name satisfactio or expiation has remained; and the shadow of that old custom still continues, in the imposition of penances, in confession, which they call opera non debita; we call them satisfactiones canonicas. [116(19)] With respect to these and to the enumeration of sins, we teach, that God has not commanded these external ceremonies, that they are unnecessary, and do not contribute to the remission of sins; for this doctrine must, above all things, be maintained and preserved, that we obtain the remission of sins through faith, and not through our works, performed either before or after we are converted or born anew in Christ.
And we have especially spoken of these satisfactions, that no one might so misapprehend them, as to believe that we could merit the forgiveness of sins by our works; and that the doctrine of faith might not be suppressed. [117(20)] For the dangerous error concerning satisfaction or expiation, was established and supported by certain incorrect views advanced by our adversaries, namely, that expiation reconciles the divine wrath and displeasure.
[118(21)] Our adversaries themselves, however, confess that satisfactiones, or expiations, do not remove guilt before God, and set up the fiction, that they only take away the pain or punishment. For they teach that, when sin is forgiven, God forgives only the guilt or culpa, without means; and yet, because he is a just God, he does not leave sins unpunished, and changes eternal into temporal punishment. They further add, that a part of the temporal punishment is remitted through the power of the keys; but a portion must be redeemed by satisfactiones or expiations. It is impossible to understand which part of the punishment or penalty is released through the power of the keys, unless they mean that a portion of the pain of purgatory is remitted; from which it would follow, that expiations liberate only from the pains of purgatory. They assert, moreover, that expiations are efficacious before God, although made by those who have fallen into mortal sin; as if God could be reconciled by those who are in mortal sin, and are his enemies.
[119(22)] These are nothing but visionary, fictitious doctrines and assertions, having no foundation whatever in the Scriptures, and being repugnant to all the writings of the ancient Fathers. Nor did even Lombardus speak thus of expiations. [120(23)] The scholastics, it is true, understood from hearsay, that at some time or other expiations (satisfactiones) were customary in the church, but they did not bear in mind that it was an external ceremony, in which (publice poenitentes) the penitents had to appear before the church, in a rite, instituted:--first, as a deterrent and an example, from which others might take warning; secondly, as a test, whether these sinners or penitents, who desired forgiveness, had sincerely repented. In a word, they did not perceive that such expiation was an external discipline and chastisement, like other worldly discipline, instituted as a restraint and deterrent. They taught, moreover, that it is not only a discipline, but also effects reconciliation with God, and is essential to salvation. But as they have, in many other instances, confounded the spiritual kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of the world and external discipline; so they have likewise done in regard to expiations. [121(24)] The notes to the canons, however, repeatedly show, that these expiations were intended to serve only as an example before the church.
[122(25)] But here let us observe, how our adversaries demonstrate and establish their wild conceits in the Confutation, which they at last obtruded on your Imperial Majesty. They quote many passages from the Scriptures, to make it appear to the uninformed, that their doctrine relative to expiations, is founded on the Scriptures, which, however, was not yet known in the days of Lombardus. They refer to: "Repent ye," Mark 1:15; "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance," Matt. 3:8; again, "Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness," Rom. 6:19; that Christ said "Repent;" that he commanded the Apostles to preach repentance, Luke 24:47; and that Peter preached repentance, Acts 2:38. Afterwards they quote certain passages from the Fathers and Canons, and arrive at the conclusion, that expiations shall not be abolished in the church, contrary to the Gospel, to the Decrees of the Fathers and the councils, and to the decision of the holy church; but those who obtain absolution, shall perform the penance and expiation imposed on them by the priest.
[123(26)] May God confound these impious sophists, who so basely distort the holy Gospel to their idle dreams. What pious and honest heart will not be deeply grieved by such a monstrous abuse of the divine Word? Christ says "Repent;" the Apostles also preach repentance. Do these passages prove that God does not forgive sin, except on account of this imaginary expiation? Who taught these rude, shameless dolts such reasoning? But to trifle with God's Word, thus wantonly and disgustingly, is neither reasoning nor even sophistry, but simple knavery. Hence they insidiously quote the Scripture passage, "Repent," etc., so that the ignorant may think, when they hear these words cited against us from the Gospel, that we do not at all approve of repentance. Such are the wicked artifices they practice towards us. Although they know that we teach the truth in regard to repentance; yet they attempt to excite suspicion and animosity against us, and to induce the ignorant to cry, "Crucify, crucify these dangerous heretics who despise repentance, and are so manifestly proved to be liars."
[124(27)] But we comfort ourselves, knowing that among godly, honorable, pious, and upright men, such shameless falsehoods and perversion of the holy Scriptures will be harmless. And the Lord God, as surely as he lives, will not long suffer such bold blasphemy and unheard-of wickedness; for the First and Second Commandments of God will certainly confound them.
As our Confession embraces nearly every prominent article of the whole Christian doctrine, nothing under the sun can be more momentous. This all-important cause concerns the entire, holy, Christian religion, the welfare and harmony of the whole Christian church, and of numberless souls throughout the world, now and hereafter. Our opponents should of right, therefore, have taken the greatest pains to select more pious, intelligent, experienced, able, and honest men to act for them in this business, men more sincerely devoted to the common good, the harmony of the church, and the welfare of the empire, than the wicked, frivolous sophists who wrote the Confutation.
[125(28)] And you, sir, Cardinal Campegius, the sagacious agent, to whom these affairs were entrusted at Rome, and whose wisdom is applauded, even if you care for nothing but the honor of the Pope and the See of Rome, should have managed these affairs better, and made every effort to prevent such sophists from writing a miserable confutation like this, on a subject so great and important. This fact must inevitably, both now and in the future, subject you to derision, injure your reputation and name, and bring eternal, irrevocable disgrace upon you.
[126(29)] Ye Romanists, perceive that these are the latter days, in which Christ warns us that many dangers shall befall the church. Now, as you would be called the watchmen, the shepherds, and the rulers of the church, you should exercise the greatest caution and vigilance at such a time as this. There are already many evidences before us, indicating that, unless you properly shape your course according to the present state of things, a radical change will come upon the whole Roman See and all its affairs. [127(30)] Nor need you undertake, or expect, to retain the congregations and churches for yourselves and the Roman See, by force alone; for good men are calling for truth and proper instruction from the Word of God; [128(31)] and to them death even is less painful, than uncertainty and doubt in doctrine. They must, therefore, seek instruction somewhere. If you would keep the churches in your connection, you must endeavor to provide for correct instruction and preaching, by which you can secure their good will and constant obedience.
[131(34)] We shall now return to our subject. The passages of Scripture, quoted by our adversaries, do not speak of the expiations or satisfactions, about which our adversaries are contending. It is nothing but a distortion of the Scriptures, therefore, to explain the Word of God according to their opinions. We say, where there is true repentance, a genuine renovation of the heart by the Holy Ghost, there good fruits and good works surely follow; it is impossible, that conversion to God, repentance and sincere contrition should take place without being followed by good works or fruits; for the heart or conscience, that has fully felt its wretchedness and sins, and is truly alarmed, will not relish or seek the lusts of the world; and whosoever has faith, is thankful to God and sincerely regards and loves his commandments. Nor can the heart be truly penitent, when we manifest no external good works and Christian patience. [132(35)] And this is the meaning of John the Baptist, when he says: "Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance," Matt.3:8; and of Paul, who says: "Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness," Rom. 6:19. And Christ, when he says: "Repent," Mark 1:15, undoubtedly refers to the whole of repentance, and to the whole new life and its fruits. He does not mean the hypocritical expiations, of which the scholastics dream, boldly asserting, that they pass for punishment before God, even when performed by those who have fallen into mortal sin. A precious service of God, indeed!
[133(36)] There are likewise many other reasons, showing that the above passages of Scripture do not accord with these expiations of the scholastics. They set up the fiction, that expiations are works which we are not under obligation to do. But the Holy Scriptures, in these passages, require works that we are bound to do; for the Word of Christ: "Repent," is a divine commandment.
[134(37)] Again, our adversaries say that those who confess, although unwilling to accept the expiations imposed on them, do not sin on that account, but must suffer punishment and make expiation in purgatory. Now, there can be no doubt whatever, that the passages: "Repent," etc.; "Yield your members servants to righteousness," and others of this kind, are the words of Christ and of the Apostles, and do not refer to purgatory, but to this life alone.
They cannot, therefore, be applied to the imposed expiations, which may be accepted or not; for the commandments of God are not thus left to our discretion, etc.
[135(38)] In the third place, the Canon-law of the Pope declares, that indulgences remit such expiations, Cap. Cum ex eo, de pœnitentiis. But indulgences release no one from the commandments: "Repent," "Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance," etc.
It is, therefore, evident that these passages of Scripture are altogether misapplied, when referred to expiations; [136(39)] for if the punishments of purgatory are expiations, (satisfactiones or satispassiones,) or if expiations are an acquittal from the pains of purgatory, the above words of Christ and Paul must likewise prove that the souls descend into purgatory, and there suffer punishment. Now as this necessarily follows from the views of our adversaries, all these passages must appear in a new light, and be explained thus:--Facite fructus, etc. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance; that is, suffer in purgatory after this life. [137(40)] But it is an irksome task, thus to multiply words about the obvious errors of our adversaries; for it is well know, that these passages of Scripture refer to the works which we are bound to do, and to the whole new life of the Christian, etc.; not to the fictitious works to which our adversaries allude, but which we are not required to perform. And yet, with these falsehoods, they defend their monastic system, the traffic in the Mass, and numberless other traditions, saying that these works expiate the punishment, though not the crime before God.
[138(41)] Now, as the passages cited from the Scriptures, do not at all say, that the works, which we are not required to perform, pay for eternal punishment or for purgatory, our adversaries have no ground whatever to assert, that such expiations remove the punishment of purgatory.
Neither has the power of the keys received authority to impose penalties, or to remit them in part, or altogether. Such dreams and falsehoods are nowhere found in the Scriptures. Christ refers to the remission of sins, when he says: "Whatsoever ye loose," etc., Matt. 18:18. When our sins are forgiven, death is likewise removed, and eternal life is given. And the text: "Whatsoever ye loose," etc., does not speak of the imposition of punishment, but of the retention of the sins of those who do not repent.
[139(42)] Now, although we maintain that good fruits and works should follow genuine repentance, to honor God and to thank him, (these good works and fruits, such as fasts, prayer, alms, etc., are enjoined by him,) yet the Scriptures nowhere teach, that the wrath of God, or eternal punishment, can be removed by the punishment of purgatory, or by satisfactiones or expiations, that is, by certain works which, moreover, we would not be bound to do, nor that the power of the keys has authority to impose punishment, or to remit a part of it. Now, our adversaries should prove these things from the Scripture, but they will not attempt this.
[140(43)] It is, moreover, certain that the death of Christ is an expiation, not only for guilt before God, but also for eternal death, as Hosea 13:14, clearly says: "O death, I will be thy plagues." What an outrage then, to say that while the death of Christ expiates our guilt before God, the punishment which we suffer redeems us from eternal death! Thus the language of the Prophet, "O death, I will be thy plagues," is applied, not to Christ, but to our works, nay, to miserable human ordinances, which God never commanded. Moreover, they have the boldness to say, that these works expiate eternal death, even when performed by those who are in mortal sin.
[141(44)] This improper language of our adversaries must, of course, painfully affect the pious heart; for whosoever reads and considers it, must indeed be deeply grieved at this manifest doctrine of the devil, which Satan himself has disseminated in the world, to suppress the true doctrine of the Gospel, in order that no one, or but few, might be instructed in the law or the Gospel, repentance, faith, or the benefits of Christ.
[142(45)] Thus they say concerning the law: God, considering our infirmities, ordained a certain measure of works, that man is under obligation to fill, (the works of the Ten Commandments, etc.;) so that by means of the superfluous works, operibus supererogationis, that is, by the works which he is not required to do, he might expiate his errors and sins.
Now, they imagine that man can so fulfil the law of God, as to do even more than it requires; whereas the holy Scriptures and the Prophets all show, that the law of God requires much more than we can ever do. But they fancy, that the divine law and God himself are satisfied with external works, and they neglect to see how that the law requires us to love God with all our heart, etc., and to be free from every lust. Accordingly, no one on earth does as much as the law requires.
Their fiction, therefore, that we are able to do even more than the divine law requires, must appear altogether absurd and puerile to intelligent men; for although we are able to perform the paltry external works, which are commanded, not of God, but of men, and which Paul calls beggarly ordinances, yet it is idle and absurd to believe, that by their means we fulfil the law of God, nay, even do more than he requires.
[143(46)] Again, God has enjoined true prayer, alms, and fasts; and, having been ordained by him, they cannot be omitted without sin. But those works, as they are not commanded in the divine law, but framed according to the will of man, are nothing but the ordinances of men, of which Christ says: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines, the commandments of men," Matt. 15:9; for instance, certain fasts, which were instituted not to mortify the flesh, but to honor God, and as Scotus says, to release from eternal death; and particular prayers and alms, designed to be a service to God, to reconcile us to him, ex opere operato, and to liberate us from everlasting condemnation. For they maintain, that such works, ex opere operato, that is, through their very performance, expiate sin, and that such expiation is valid even against mortal sin.
[144(47)] There are, moreover, other works, still less authorized by divine command; such as rosaries, and pilgrimages of various kinds; for some go in full armor to St. James, others with bare feet, etc. This Christ calls vain and useless worship; hence such works have no power to reconcile God, as our adversaries say. Such works, as pilgrimages, they exalt as great and precious, calling them opera supererogationis; and, what is even more base,--nay, blasphemous,--that the honor is ascribed to them which belongs to the blood and death of Christ alone, as if they were the pretium, or treasure, by which we are redeemed from eternal death. It is the infamous work of the devil himself, thus to defame and revile the holy and precious death of Christ.
[145(48)] In this manner, these pilgrimages are preferred to the genuine works prescribed in the Ten Commandments, and thus the law of God is obscured in two ways; first, because they suppose that they have satisfied the law, by performing these external works; secondly, because they regard the insignificant ordinances of men more highly than the works which God has commanded.
[146(49)] Moreover, the doctrine of repentance and grace is likewise suppressed; for we cannot be acquitted from eternal death and the terrors of hell, in the way they imagine; a far different and greater treasure than our works is required to redeem us from death, eternal anguish, and pain. For the righteousness of works is inefficient, and the self-righteous do not even taste what death is; but as the wrath of God cannot be overcome otherwise than by faith in Christ; so also death is subdued by Christ alone, as Paul says: "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. 15:57. He does not say, which giveth us the victory through our expiations.
[147(50)] Our adversaries treat very indifferently and vaguely the remission of sins before God, not perceiving that the forgiveness of such guilt, and redemption from God's wrath and from eternal death, are things of such great importance, that they cannot be obtained, except through the only Mediator, Christ, and by faith in him.
Now, as the death and blood of Christ are the proper expiation for eternal death, and, as our adversaries themselves acknowledge, we are under no obligation to do such works of expiation which are human ordinances, and which Christ (Matt. 15:9,) calls vain worship, we may safely conclude, even from their own assertions, that God has not enjoined such expiations, and that they do not redeem us from eternal punishment and guilt, or from the punishment of purgatory.
148(51)] Our adversaries will perhaps reply, that punishment properly belongs to repentance; for Augustine says: "Repentance is vengeance, anguish, and punishment, on account of sin." Answer: Our opponents display the grossest stupidity, in referring his remarks on contrition and the whole of repentance to the ceremonies of expiation, and by adding, that such expiation is to merit the remission of eternal death.
We hold also that in repentance there is punishment of sin; for the great terror, which is a judgment against our sins, is a far greater punishment than pilgrimages and such jugglery; but this terror has nothing to do with expiation, nor does it merit the remission of sins, or of eternal death, nay, if we were not consoled by faith, this alarm and chastisement would be nothing but sin and death. This is what Augustine teaches concerning punishment. [149(52)] But our adversaries, the great dolts, do not know at all what repentance or contrition is; they are occupied with their jugglery, their rosaries, pilgrimages, and the like.
[150(53)] They say, however, that God, as a righteous judge, must punish sin. Certainly, he punishes sin, when in his wrath, he so greatly distresses and alarms our consciences in their terror, as David says, Psalm 6:1: "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure" And Jeremiah 10:24, says: "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." Here he surely speaks of great unspeakable anguish; and our adversaries themselves acknowledge, that contrition can be so deep and violent, as not to require satisfaction. Contrition is, therefore, more certainly a punishment, than expiation or satisfaction.
[151(54)] The saints, moreover, must endure death and all kinds of crosses and afflictions, like others, as Peter says, 1 Pet. 4:17: "For the time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God." And although these afflictions are frequently penalties and punishments of sin, yet they are designed for a different purpose in the case of the Christian, namely, to urge and train him to see the weakness of his faith in temptations, and to teach him to turn to God for aid and consolation; as Paul says of himself: "That we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life; but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead," 2 Cor. 1:8-9. And Isaiah (26:16,) says: "Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them;" that is, affliction is the paternal discipline which God applies to the saints. [152(55)] Again, God sends afflictions upon us, to mortify and subdue the sins remaining in us, that we may be renewed in spirit, as Paul says, Rom. 8:10: "The body is dead because of sin;" that is, it will daily be more and more mortified on account of the sins remaining in the flesh; [153(56)] and death itself tends to put down our sinful flesh, and to raise us from the dead altogether holy and renewed.
[154(57)] We are not liberated from these tribulations and penalties by our expiations; therefore it cannot be said that they pass for such crosses and afflictions, and that they remove the temporal punishment of sin; for it is certain that the power of the keys can release or absolve no one from crosses, or other common tribulations. And if they wish the poenae (by which satisfaction is made) to be understood of common tribulations, how can they teach, that we must make expiation in purgatory?
[155(58)] They allege against us the example of Adam, and of David who was punished on account of his adultery. These examples they set up as a rule, that every sin must have its own temporal punishment, before it is forgiven. [156(59)] We have already stated that Christians suffer tribulations, by which they are disciplined, that they are subject to alarm in their conscience, and to many struggles and trials. Thus God imposes special penalties on some sinners, as an example. With these punishments the power of the keys has nothing to do; it belongs to God alone, to impose and remit them, at his pleasure.
Nor does it at all follow, because a special punishment was inflicted on David, that, besides the common crosses and afflictions of Christians, there is also a purgatorial punishment, in which each sin receives its proper degree and measure of punishment. [157(60)] For we nowhere read in the Scriptures, that we cannot be redeemed from eternal pain and death, except by means of such sufferings and expiations; but they everywhere testify that we obtain the remission of sins without merit, through Christ, and that Christ alone conquered death and sin; therefore we should not patch our merits upon it. And although Christians must endure all kinds of penalties, chastisements, and tribulations, yet the Scripture shows that these are imposed on us to humble and mortify our old Adamic nature, and not to liberate us from eternal death.
[158(61)] The Scriptures excuse Job, as not being afflicted on account of any evil deed. Hence afflictions and trials are not always evidences of divine wrath; and men should be carefully taught to view them in a far different light, namely, as evidences of favor, and not to think that God has forsaken them, when they are afflicted. The other proper fruits of the cross should be considered, namely, that God lays his hand upon us, and performs a strange work, as Isaiah says, (28:21,) "that he may do his own work" in us,--as he shows in a long, consolatory discourse in his 28th chapter. [159(62)] So, when the disciples inquired concerning the blind man, John 9:3, Christ answered: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." And Jeremiah, the prophet, says: "They whose judgment was not to drink of the cup, have assuredly drunken," Jer. 49:12. Thus the prophets were slain, thus John the Baptist, and other saints, were put to death.
[160(63)] Accordingly, afflictions are not always punishments for former sins, but works of God, designed for our benefit, that his power and strength may be more clearly seen in our weakness, and to show that he is able to help even in the midst of death. Thus says Paul, 2 Cor. 12:9: God's "strength is made perfect in weakness." We ought, therefore, to sacrifice our bodies to the will of God, in order to manifest our obedience and patience, and not to liberate ourselves from eternal death or everlasting punishment; because, for this purpose, God appointed another remedy, namely, the death of Christ, his Son, our Lord.
[161(64)] In this manner St. Gregory explains the example of David, saying: "If God threatened, on account of that sin, that he should thus be humbled by his son, why did he issue the menace, when the sin was already forgiven? The answer is, that the remission was granted in order that this man might not be prevented from receiving eternal life; nevertheless the threatened punishment followed, to try him and keep him humble." Thus God also imposed natural death on man, and does not remove it, even when his sins are forgiven, in order that those whose sins are remitted, may be established, and proved, and sanctified.
[162(65)] Now, it is evident that the power of the keys does not remove these common chastisements, such as, wars, famine, and similar calamities; again, that canonical expiations (canonicae satisfactiones) do not relieve us from these afflictions, so as to save us from them, even when we are guilty of mortal sin. Our adversaries themselves confess, that they do not impose expiations for these common plagues, but for purgatory; hence their expiations are mere fictions and dreams.
[163(66)] But some quote the declaration of Paul, 1 Cor. 11:31: "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." From this they infer, that if we impose punishment on ourselves, God will exercise greater clemency in chastising us. Reply:--Paul is here speaking of the reformation of the whole life, and not of external punishment and ceremonies; therefore, this passage has nothing to do with expiations; for, what does God care for punishment without reformation? Yea, it is horrid blasphemy to teach that our expiation, even when made while we are in mortal sin, mitigates the punishments of God. [164(67)] Paul is speaking of contrition and faith, of our entire reformation, not merely of external chastisement. This passage therefore simply means that, if we reform, God will avert his punishment. This is true; nay, it is profitable, consolatory, and necessary to preach, that God mitigates our punishment when we amend our lives, as he did in the case of Nineveh. This is what Isaiah teaches, 1:18: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow," if you amend your lives. [165(68)] Now, this reformation does not consist in canonical expiations, but in other parts of repentance, in contrition, in faith, in good works which follow faith; and yet our adversaries apply these consolatory passages to their false and fantastic views of expiation.
[167(70)] In reference to the fact, that the ancient teachers and Fathers mention expiations, and that the councils made canons concerning them, we have already stated, that they simply were an external ceremony, and that it was not the opinion of the Fathers, that this ceremony of repentance would blot out our guilt before God, or its punishment. Now, although some of the Fathers mention purgatory, yet they themselves say, by way of explanation: Though it exist, yet it is not a liberation from eternal death and punishment, which Christ alone effects; but it is a purification and purgation (as they say) of imperfect souls. Thus Augustine says: "Daily sins are consumed and wiped out; such as distrust in God, and the like."
[168(71)] The Fathers occasionally use the word satisfactio, or expiation, which, as we have said, originally came from the ceremony of public penance, for true contrition and the mortifying of the old Adamic nature. In this manner Augustine says: "True satisfactio, or expiation is, to cut off the cause of sin; that is, to mortify the flesh," etc.
Again: "To restrain and mortify the flesh; not that eternal death or punishment is blotted out thereby, but that the flesh may not lead us to sin."
[169(72)] Gregory says with regard to the restitution of the property of others, that our repentance is false, unless we make satisfaction to those whose goods we hold unjustly; for he that continues to steal does not repent that he has stolen; and as long as he retains the goods of others, he is a thief or a robber. The restitution we owe to others, should be made; but it is not necessary here to discuss this civil satisfaction, Eph. 4:28.
[171(74)] Again, the Fathers say, that it is sufficient, once in the whole life to perform the public penance, or repentance, to which the canones satisfactionum (canons pertaining to satisfaction) refer. This shows, that they did not believe these canons to be necessary to the remission of sins; for, aside from these ceremonies of public repentance, they frequently speak of Christian repentance, without mentioning the canones satisfactionum (canons of expiation).
[172(75)] The stupid writers of the Confutation say, that the abolition of expiations contrary to the express Gospel, cannot be allowed. We have heretofore very clearly shown, that this canonical expiation, that is, the works which (they say) we are not under obligation to do, are not founded in the Scriptures.
[173(76)] This appears from the very nature of the thing; for if we are not bound to perform expiatory works, why do they assert that we teach contrary to the plain Gospel? Now, if it were the doctrine of the Gospel, that such works remove everlasting punishment and death, we would be bound before God to perform them. But they teach these things, for the purpose of deluding the inexperienced, and quote passages from the holy Scripture, which speak of true Christian works that we are in duty bound to do, while they base their expiations on works which we are under no obligation to perform, and which they call opera non debita.
They even concede in their schools, that such expiations may be omitted without committing fatal sin. Hence their assertion is false, that the Gospel expressly enjoins these expiations.
[174(77)] We have, moreover, frequently stated, that genuine repentance is always accompanied by good works and fruits, and the Ten Commandments teach what good works really are; namely, sincerely, cordially, and most highly to revere, to fear and love God, to call upon him cheerfully in time of need, to thank him always, to confess his Word, to hear it, to teach and console others with it, to be obedient to our parents and government, to attend to our office and vocation faithfully, to avoid bitterness, hatred, and murder, to be agreeable and friendly to our neighbors, to assist the poor according to ability, to abstain from fornication and adultery, and in all respects to restrain the flesh. All this is to be done, not to make satisfaction for eternal death or everlasting punishment, which is Christ's office alone; but that we may not give way to Satan, provoke God's anger, and offend the Holy Spirit. God requires these fruits and good works; they are also rewarded, and should be brought forth for the sake of God's honor and commandments.
But, that eternal punishment cannot be remitted, except by expiation in purgatory, or by certain good works of human appointment, is nowhere taught in the holy Scriptures. [175(78)] Public penitents are frequently released by indulgences from the penances and expiations imposed, that they may not be too severely pressed. Now, if men have power to remit expiations and penances, God has not enjoined them; for no man can abolish divine commandments.
But, inasmuch as the ancient custom of public penance and expiation has long since been abolished,-- the bishops having permitted this from time to time,--indulgences are unnecessary; and yet this name has continued in the church. Now, as the word satisfactio (expiation) has ceased to be understood as an ordinance and a ceremony of the church; so, the term "indulgences" was also misinterpreted as grace and forgiveness, by which souls are redeemed from purgatory; [176(79)] whereas the whole power of the keys extends no farther than to the earth, as the passage says: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven," Matt. 16:19.
Consequently, the power of the keys has no authority to establish special punishments or services of God; but only to remit the sins of those who repent, and to excommunicate those who do not repent; for to loose here signifies to forgive sins; to bind means not to forgive them. Christ is speaking of a spiritual kingdom, and God has commanded, to release those from sin, who truly repent; as Paul says, 2 Cor. 10:8: [177(80)] The Lord has given us authority for edification, and not for your destruction.
Hence the reservation of certain cases, by the Pope and the bishops, is likewise an outward worldly matter. For it is a reservation of the absolution of canonical punishment, and not of guilt before God. Our adversaries are right, therefore, when they themselves say that in the hour of death, such reservation should not supersede true, Christian absolution.
[178(81)] We have now set forth the substance of our doctrine concerning repentance, and feel assured, that it is not only Christian, but most useful and highly important to pious hearts. If godly, pious, and honorable men will consider this most weighty matter, as it should be, and compare our, nay, Christ's and the Apostles' doctrine, with the many bungling, confused, puerile dissertations and writings of our adversaries, they will discover that they have altogether omitted the most excellent and needful thing, namely, faith in Christ, without which it is impossible to teach or learn anything good, and through which alone men can be truly comforted. They will likewise perceive many inventions of our adversaries, respecting the merit of attrition, the enumeration of sins, and expiations, all of which are unscriptural, altogether visionary, and not understood by our adversaries themselves.
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