If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention: let him be anathema.


If any one saith, that, in the sacrament of Penance, it is not necessary, of divine right, for the remission of sins, to confess all and singular the mortal sins which after due and diligent previous meditation are remembered, even those (mortal sins) which are secret, and those which are opposed to the two last commandments of the Decalogue, as also the circumstances which change the species of a sin; but (saith) that such confession is only useful to instruct and console the penitent, and that it was of old only observed in order to impose a canonical satisfaction; or saith that they, who strive to confess all their sins, wish to leave nothing to the divine mercy to pardon; or, finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins: let him be anathema.


If any one saith, that the confession of all sins, such as it is observed in the Church, is impossible, and is a human tradition to be abolished by the godly; or that all and each of the faithful of Christ, of either sex, are not obliged thereunto once a year, conformably to the constitution of the great Council of Lateran, and that, for this cause, the faithful of Christ are to be persuaded not to confess during Lent: let him be anathema.


If any one saith, that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a bare ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven to him who confesses; provided only he believe himself to be absolved, or (even though.) the priest absolve not in earnest, but in joke; or saith, that the confession of the penitent is not required, in order that the priest may be able to absolve him: let him be anathema.


If any one saith, that priests, who are in mortal sins, have not the power of binding and loosing; or, that not priests alone are the ministers of absolution, but that, to all and each of the faithful of Christ it is said:Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven; and, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained; by virtue of which words every one is able to absolve from sins, to wit, from public sins by reproof only, provided he who is reproved yield thereto, and from secret sins by a voluntary confession: let him be anathema. 


If any one saith, that bishops have not the right of reserving cases to themselves, except as regards external polity, and that therefore the reservation of cases hinders not, but that a priest may truly absolve from reserved cases: let him be anathema.


If any one saith, that God always remits the whole punishment together with the guilt, and that the satisfaction of penitents is not other than the faith whereby they apprehend that Christ has satisfied for them: let him be anathema. 


If any one saith, that satisfaction for sins, as to their temporal punishment, is nowise made to God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, by the punishments inflicted by him, and patiently borne, nor by those enjoined by the priest, nor even by those voluntarily undertaken, as by fastings, prayers, alms-deeds, or by other works of piety; and that, therefore, the best penance is merely a new life: let him be anathema.


If any one saith, that the satisfactions, by which penitents redeem their sins through Jesus Christ, are not a worship of God, but traditions of men, which obscure the doctrine of grace, and the true worship of God, and the benefit itself of the death of Christ: let him be anathema.


If, any one saith, that the keys are given. to the Church, only to loose, not also to bind; and that, therefore, priests act contrary to the purpose of the keys, and contrary to the institution of Christ, when they impose punishments on those who confess; and that it is a fiction, that, after the eternal punishment has, by virtue of the keys, been removed, there remains for the most part a temporal punishment to be discharged: let him be anathema. 

From these decrees and canons of the Council of Trent, in which the Roman Catholic Church sets forth its doctrine on its sacrament of Penance, we may make the following observations and draw the following conclusions. 

First, the Romish doctrine of the sacrament of Penance considers this sacrament as consisting of three parts: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Rome emphatically denies that there are only two parts of penance, to wit, a smitten conscience because of the burden of sin, and the faith which is generated by the gospel of Christ whereby the sinner believes that his sins are forgiven him only for the sake of Christ and His atoning blood. These three parts, contrition and confession and satisfaction, constitute the matter of this sacrament. The form of the sacrament is the act of absolution on, the part of the priest. 

Secondly, this confession must be auricular and include all our mortal sins (when Rome speaks of mortal sins it refers to sins that are deadly, sins that incur the penalty of eternal death, as opposed to venial sins, sins that are excusable, pardonable, slight and trivial). This confession must occur to the priests whom Christ, when about to ascend from earth to heaven, appointed to be His vicars upon the earth, in order that they, in accordance with the power of the keys, may pronounce the sentence of forgiveness or retention of sins. These priests do not merely declare a sinner’s sin to be forgiven. They are presidents and judges, who actually forgive or retain sin. Rome declares that this sacramental absolution of the priest is a judicial act, not merely a bare ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven. And Rome anathemizes anyone who denies that the priest absolves sins in earnest. We teach that the power of forgiving or retaining sins does not 1i.e in a priest, in any office bearer, but only in the Word, and that this Word, as the Word of Christ, is enforced by Christ in the consciences of men. When, therefore, the. Church declares to a person, upon the basis of the Word of God, that he stands within or outside the Kingdom of God, that his sins are either forgiven him or not forgiven, then it is not the office bearer who has the power to forgive sins or retain them, but it is Christ alone Who has the power of those keys and also exercises those keys in connection with and through the Word of God. It is exactly here that we have a very clear and marked distinction between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. The former stresses the Word of God and the latter lays all emphasis upon the Church, that is, upon the Roman hierarchy and priesthood. Upon this element of the priesthood the entire structure of Roman Catholicism is built. This is also characteristic of Rome’s doctrine of the sacraments.

Thirdly, Rome declares that this sacrament of penance, as including the three parts mentioned above (contrition, confession, satisfaction), is necessary unto salvation. Now it is true, of course, that there are things which we must do that constitute a very necessary and vital part of salvation; We are certainly not stocks and blocks. We must surely confess our sins in order to enjoy their forgiveness. One that refuses to confess his sin can never taste or experience the blessedness of forgiveness and justification. And the Heavenly Father will not forgive us our trespasses if we forgive not the brother his trespass. We must certainly crucify our old nature and walk in a new and godly life. We must walk in all good works, deny ourselves and the things that are of the flesh, and fight the good fight of faith. However, all these things we must do, not as contributing anything unto our salvation, but as the fruits thereof. Never can anything we do ever serve as a substitute for the blood of the Lamb of Calvary. Jesus alone is our forgiveness. Through faith alone we receive this forgiveness. Justification is bestowed upon us as a free gift of grace. Only, this faith in Christ Jesus, through which we receive the forgiveness of our sins, is a living faith. It is this truth that is emphasized in the epistle of James. James does not contrast faith and works, but he draws a sharp contrast between a living faith and a dead faith. This living faith in Christ imparts unto us a new life. And to live out of Christ Jesus, by a true and living faith, necessarily implies that we walk in a new and godly life. 

Rome, however, views penance as necessary, of itself, unto salvation and to procure the forgiveness of sins and pardon. Rome, we know, ascribes meritorious value to our works of satisfaction. Rome anathemizes anyone who clings to the blood of the cross as the sole forgiveness of his sins. Rome places intermediaries between Christ and the sinner. It is evident that Rome denies the complete efficacy of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rome denies the keynote of the gospel: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, repudiates the apostle Paul when he declares that he was determined to know nothing else in the Church of Christ than Christ and Him crucified. 

It is indeed true what Hodge writes in his Systematic Theology, Vol. III, page 494, and we quote: “This doctrine that no real sin, committed after baptism, can be forgiven unless confessed to a priest; that the priest has the power to remit or retain; that he carries at his girdle the keys not only of the visible Church on earth, but also of heaven and hell; and that he opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens, is one of the strongest links of the chain by which the Church of Rome leads captive the souls of men. No wonder that she says that the power of a priest is above that even of angels and archangels.”—end of quote. 

This concludes our articles on the Roman Catholic doctrine on its sacrament of Penance. Next time, the Lord willing, we will call attention to another sacrament of Rome, namely, the sacrament of Extreme Unction.