And now I ask you before God who searcheth the heart:But we tend to view sin therapeutically today and so such language is no longer in fashion. Nor is it popular to emphasize the need for such confession before receiving the Sacrament. In fact, our rightful encouragement of more frequent communion has been accompanied by an equal decline in confession. On the one hand, we do not take all that seriously our sins and on the other we simply presume that just as it is God's job to forgive, so it is ours to give Him something to forgive. So in this atmosphere, closed communion, with its primary emphasis not on those who hold denominational member but who have been examined and absolved, seems ever strange and antiquated among us.
Do you sincerely confess that you have sinned against God and deserved His wrath and punishment?
Verily you should confess: for Holy Scripture declares: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Do you heartily repent. . .
Do you sincerely believe that God, by grace, for Jesus' sake will forgive you. . .
Do you promise with the aid of the Holy Ghost you will henceforth amend your sinful life. . .
Do you believe that through me, a called servant of God, you will receive the forgiveness of all your sins?
Each question answered with an I do and a Verily that placed you within the context of the sinners who have repented and believed the Word and promise of God to forgive them. . .
Here are a couple of tidbits from the sometime Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo:
“The people should not only be urged to receive Holy Communion frequently,” he wrote, “but also how dangerous and fatal it would be to approach the Sacred Table of Divine Food unworthily.” In a separate sermon on the subject, he stressed: “The Most Holy Eucharist is properly a sacrament of the living, it requires that those who receive it be spiritually living, for it was instituted for the sake of sustaining and increasing life. Therefore, he who remains in death, who is in mortal sin, should stay far from the Table. . . . Let him first hasten to life, to penance. . . . For the Sacrament of Confession is the first and necessary disposition for the Eucharist.”The early Lutherans oft included an exhortation to communicants which emphasized not only the Sacrament of the Altar but also the proper prelude to its worthy reception, examination and absolution. Sadly, the main argument against open communion has been the unfaithful doctrinal heterodoxy but that is not where it begins or it ends. It begins and ends with the examination and absolution of those who commune. And this happens easiest, but not only, when the pastor knows his people and when he encourages those people to regular and frequent private confession. The general confession before the Divine Service was never meant to replace this and it is not up the heavy lifting that private confession is able to do.
We sometimes forget that the function of the Christ's Church is not to accommodate or enable sin or even to make us feel better about our sin or being sinners, but to teach what is right and wrong, that our hearts may be brought to repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit and believe the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified. There is no reform of the Church that does not begin with this call to personal repentance and faith and there is no successful reform without the faithful rejoicing in what God's mercy has bestowed upon them, unworthy sinners though they are, and without the desire, under the guidance of the Spirit, to live holy, honorable, and upright lives. There is no gain in getting folks to feel better about themselves if it comes at the cost of their eternal salvation. So, while we encourage frequent communion, we do so best by encouraging this sober evaluation of heart and life, by encouraging repentance, and by offering to the repentant the comfort of a clear conscience through absolution. Then in "repentant joy" they may approach the Lord's Table worthily and go forth from the Lord's House in possession of all the gifts and graces of that blessed communion, not in the least of which is living out their vocation as the baptized children of God in the world.
Well said and true.
Martin Luther in his Small Catechism wrote:
"That person is truly worthy and well-prepared who has faith
in these words, "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness
"The general confession before the Divine Service was never meant to replace this and it is not up the heavy lifting that private confession is able to do."
O almighty God, merciful Father,
I, a poor, miserable sinner,
confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.
Yup. Not a lot of heavy lifting going on here...
Lutherans have been taught that before God we must confess all sins.
We may confess sins which trouble our conscience with our pastor.
So there is no mandatory private confession in Lutheranism.
The so-called mandatory private confession in the Roman Catholic
Church has become a sham.
Yup. Not a lot of heavy lifting going on here...
Uhhhhh heavy lifting is naming your sin, out loud, before a pastor, and owning it by admitting your full responsibility. If you think that the general confession is heavy, you probably are not up to confessing your sin privately and specifically.
"Uhhhhh heavy lifting is naming your sin, out loud, before a pastor, and owning it by admitting your full responsibility."
Congratulations, you just described the general confession.
So where in the general confession do you actually name your sin out loud? You confess generally to being a sinner, to have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by commission and omission, but nowhere do you specify a particular sin, admit it, and own it before the Pastor. The general confession was unknown until more modern times and Luther knew nothing of it. To say that the general confession is all that confession and absolution is supposed to be is to miss the mark of what it is and what it is not.
The medieval mass included a general confession and absolution. The Lutheran church order for Mecklenberg (1562) had a general confession and absolution. The Lutheran Nuremberg church order (1533) had a general confession and absolution, which Osiander excised until Luther intervened and reestablished it.
Lutherans have never been required from the Reformation onward to enumerate all their sins, since biblically speaking this is impossible.
1] We have always urged that Confession should be voluntary and that the pope's tyranny should cease. As a result we are now rid of his coercion and set free from the intolerable load and burden that he laid upon Christendom. As we all know from experience, there had been no rule so burdensome as the one that forced everyone to go to Confession on pain of committing the most serious of mortal sins. 2] That law also placed on consciences the heavy burden and torture of having to list all kinds of sin, so that no one was ever able to confess perfectly enough. 3] The worst was that no one taught or even knew what Confession might be or what help and comfort it could give. Instead, it was turned into sheer terror and a hellish torture that one had to go through even if one detested Confession more than anything. 4] These three oppressive things have now been lifted, and we have been granted the right to go to Confession freely, under no pressure of coercion or fear; also, we are released from the torture of needing to list all sins in detail; besides this we have the advantage of knowing how to make a beneficial use of Confession for the comfort and strengthening of our consciences.
On the subject of "private confession and absolution" in the Lutheran Reformation, see The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany by Ronald K. Rittgers (Harvard University Press, 2004). The author, after discussing the "sacramental status" of the rite in the eyes of the Lutheran Reformers, about which they disagreed among themselves - indeed, Luther vacillated on whether there were two sacraments or three, the third being "holy absolution" - focuses on a long-running dispute in Nuremberg between its leading Lutheran clergy and the city authorities over whether public/general confession was the same as private auricular confession (which Osiander, the leading pastor of the city, denied), and on the theological legacy of that conflict. Osiander and his followers thought that public general confession was a confession of sins in general, not of particular sins, and that the ensuing pastoral response was just a promise of absolution to the repentant in general, but not an absolution from particular concrete sins applied to particular individuals, for which (he thought) private individual confession - not necessarily of all sins, but of particularly "grievous" ones - followed by absolution was necessary. When the Nuremberg authorities consulted Luther on the subject, his response was that private individual confession-and-absolution was preferable, but that both forms were equally efficacious.
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