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Chap. III. of reconciliation68 committed to him by God, and hath both
power and commandment (as it is expressed in this form) to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the abfolution and remisson of their fins; therefore when he does, by virtue of this power and commandment, declare and pronounce such Absolution and Remission regularly in the congregation; those in the congregation that truly repent and unfeignedly believe God's holy Gospel, (though the Priest does not know who or how many they are that do so,) have yet their pardon conveyed and sealed to them at that very instant through his ministration ; it being the ordinary method of God with his church, to communicate his blessings through the ministry of the Priest.
I am sensible that this is carrying the point higher than many that have delivered their judgments before me. Even the learned translator of St. Cyprian's works, who contends that this is an authoritative form, yet explains himself to mean nothing more by authoritative, than that it is *«.an act of office warranted by God, and pursuant to the .6 commission which the Priest hath received for publishsing authoritatively the terms of pardon at large and in “ general, and then for pronouncing by the same autho“ rity, that when those terms are fulfilled, the pardon is “ granted.” But this explanation feems only to make it an authoritative declaration, and not to suppose (as, with submission to this gentleman, I take both the rubric and form to imply) that it is an effective form, conveying as well as declaring a pardon to those that are duly qualified to receive it. My reasons for this I shall have another occasion to give iminediately : for though what this learned gentleman asserts does not come up to my notion of the form ; yet it is a great deal more than another learned author is willing to allow; who does not seem to think the forın to be authoritative in any sense at all, or that there is any need of a commission to pronounce it. For “ it may be asked (saith the Reverend Dr. Bennet upon « this place) whether a mere Deacon may pronounce this “ form of Abfolution : and to this (faith he) I answer, " that in my judgment he may. The reason that he gives « for it is, that he cannot but think it manifest, that this 6 forin of Absolution is only declaratory : that it is only “ saying, That all penitent finners are pardoned by God “ upon their repentance: and consequently that a mere
68 2 Cor. V. 18, 19.
69 See Dr. Marshal's Preface to his translation of St. Cyprian.
« Deacon has as much authority to speak every part of Sect. IV. " this form, as he has to say, When the wicked man turneth “ away from his wickedness, c. which is the first of the “ sentences appointed to be read before Morning Prayer : “ nay, that a mere Deacon has as much authority to pro“nounce this form, as he has to preach a sermon about “ repentance. And that therefore it seems to be a vulgar “ mistake, which makes the Deacons deviate from their “ rule, and omit either the whole, or else a part of this “ form, or perhaps exchange it for a'collect taken out of “ some other part of the Liturgy 70.”
But now, with submission to the learned doctor, I beg Designed leave to observe, that this form is expressly called by the by the rubric, The Abfolution or Remision of Sins. It is not called
11. church to a Declaration of Alsolution, as one would think it should ihan decla. have been, if it had been designed for no more ; but it is rative. positively and emphatically called THE Abfolution, to denote that it is really an Absolution of fins to those that are entitled to it by repentance and faith.
Again, the term used to express the Priest's delivering or declaring it, is a very folemn one: it is to be pronounced (saith the rubric) by the Priest alone. A word which fignifies much more than merely to make known, or declare a thing: for the Latin pronuncio, from whence it is taken, signifies properly to pronounce or give sentence : and therefore the word pronounced, here used, must fignify that this is a sentence of Absolution or Remission of fins, to be authoritatively uttered by one who has received commission from God.
But farther, if the repeating this Absolution be no more than saying, That all penitent finners are pardoned by God upon their repentance, as the learned doctor affirms; I cannot conceive to what end it should be placed just after the Confeflion: for as much as this, the doctor himself tells us, is said before it, viz. in the first of the sentences appointed to be read before Morning or Evening Prayer, When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, c. and there I think' indeed more properly : for such a declaration may be a great encouragement to draw men to confeffion and repentance; but after they have confessed and repented, the use of it, I think, is not so great. It is indeed a comfort to us to know that God will pardon us upon our repentance : but then it must be supposed that the hope of this pardon is one chief ground of our re
70 Dr. Bennet on the Common Prayer, p. 27.
Chap. III. pentance : and therefore it cannot be imagined that the
church should tell us that after the Confession, which it is necessary we should know before it, as being the principal motive we have to confess.
All that I know can be said against this (though the doctor indeed does not urge so much) is, that “ after the 66 minister has declared the Absolution and Remifsion of 66 the people's fins, he goes on to exhort them to pray and “ beseech God to grant them true repentance, &c. which reso pentance is necessary, it may be said, beforehand, in or“ der to their pardon ; because God pardoneth and ab“ folveth none but those who truly repent. And there“ fore since the minister here exhorts the people to pray 6 for repentance, after he has pronounced the Abfolution 6 and Remission of their fins; it may be thought that the “ Abfolution does not convey a pardon, but only promise “ them one upon their repentance." But in answer to this, we may grant in the first place, that one part of repentance, viz. the acknowledging and confesing of our fins, must be performed before we are pardoned ; fince, unless we acknowledge that we have tranfgressed God's laws, we do not own that we stand in need of his pardon. And for this reason the church orders the people to make their confession, before she directs the Priest to pronounce the Absolution. But then there are two other parts of repentance, which are as necessary after our fins are forgiven us, as they are before ; and they are Contrition and Amendment of Life : for first, Contrition (by which I mean the lamenting or looking back with forrow upon our fins) is certainly neceffary even after they are forgiven us : since to be pleased with the remembrance of them, would be (as far as lies in our power) to act those fins over again, and consequently, though God himself should at any time have declared them pardoned with his own mouth, yet such repetition of them would render even that Absolution ineffectual. And, secondly, as to endeavours after Amendment of Life, if there be any difference, they are certainly more necessary after our former fins are forgiven than before ; because God's mercy in pardoning us is a new obligation upon us to live well, and is what will enhance our guilt, if we offend afterwards. And therefore our being pardoned, ought to make us pray the more vehemently for repentance, and God's holy Spirit ; left, if we should return to our sins again, a worse thing should happen unto us. From all which it appears, that though repentance be a necessary dispoßtion to pardon, so as that
neither neither God will, nor man can, absolve those that are im- Sect. IV. penitent; yet, in some parts of it, it is a necessary confequent of pardon, insomuch as that he who is pardoned ought still to repent, as well as he who seeks a pardon : and if so, then the praying for repentance after the minister has declared a pardon, is no argument, that such declaration does not convey a pardon.
But, secondly, the design of the church in this place is, not only to exhort the congregation to repentance, by declaring to them that God will forgive and pardon their fins when they shall repent, but also to convey an instant pardon from God, by the mouth of the Priest, to as many as do, at that time, truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel; seems evident from the former part of the Absolution, where the Priest reads his commission before he executes his authority. For this part would be wholly needless, if no more was intended by the Absolution than what Dr. Bennet tells us, viz. “ a bare declaration, that " all penitent sinners are pardoned by God upon their re“ pentance:" for since, as he himself confesses, there is no more contained in such a declaration than what is implied in the first of the sentences before Morning Prayer; it will be very difficult to account why the church should usher it in with fo folemn a proclamation of what Power and Commandment God has given to his ministers. But since the church has directed the Priest to make known to the people, that God has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Abfolution and Remission of their fins; it is very reasonable to suppose that, when in the next words the Priest declares that God pardoneth and abfolveth all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel, he does, in the intent of the church, exercise that power, and obey that commandinent, which God has given him.
But, lastly, the Persons to whom this Absolution must be pronounced, is another convincing proof that it is more than merely declarative. For if it implied no more than that all finners are pardoned by God upon their repentance; it might as well be pronounced to such as continue in their fins, as to those that have repented of them; nay, it would be more proper and advantageous to be pronounced to the former than to the latter : because, as I have observed, such a declaration might be a great inducement to forward their conversion. But yet we see that this form is not to be pronounced to such as the church desires should repent, but to those who have re
lating te faid to to those with
Chap. III. pented. The Absolution and Remission of fins, which the
Priest here declares and pronounces from God, is declared
that can be given. Not to be $. 3. And if so, then the question the learned doctor pronounced
ed here introduces, must receive a different answer from what con, he has given it. For Deacons were never commissioned
by the church to give Absolution in any of its forms: and therefore when a Deacon omits the whole, or part of this form, he does not deviate from his rule, as the doctor asserts, but prudently declines to use an authority which he never received ; and which he is expressly forbid to use in this place by the rubric prefixed, which orders the Absolution to be pronounced by the Priest alone. I am very readily inclined to acknowledge with the doctor, that the word alone was designed to serve as a directory to the people, not to repeat the words after the minister, as they had been directed to do in the preceding Confeflion; but silently to attend till the Priest has pronounced it, and then, by a hearty and fervent Amen, to testify their faith in the benefits conveyed by it. But then as to what the
he has Hurch to Seacon om