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therefore, "draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort;" but before you do so, confess your unworthiness; before ye draw near to partake of the pardon, lay bare the sinfulness of your hearts at the throne of grace, have no reserve, no excuses, no evasions before God, but strip and lay naked your soul in the presence of your Creator. Then comes
the public confession of sins, no auricular or private explanation to the ear of a sinful man like ourselves, but the open and spiritual confession of unworthiness, error, and sin, before the pure and righteous God. "We
bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, we are heartily sorry for our misdoings, the remembrance of them is grievous to us, the burden of them is intolerable," and as each individual repeats the words, he calls to mind. his own personal deficiences; all that he has said, done, and thought, contrary to God's word since the period when he last partook of that holy rite, stand vividly called up before his imagination, and thus prostrating himself in the presence of God, a confessed sinner, a confessedly unworthy partaker of all God's gifts, yet a confident claimant for pardon in the merits of Jesus the Saviour,
the Priest, in the name and by the authority of that Saviour, pronounces
And now pause, once more, to contemplate the scene. The Christian brethren, brethren in charity, brethren in faith, brethen in infirmity, are kneeling before the altar. Their hearts are all open and undisguised. thoughts are all laid bare before their great Creator, each soul is pouring forth its secret words of prayer and intercession, each heart is anticipating in faith the reconciliation of God, all they ask is, forgiveness; all they hope is, remission of the past: and then the minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon His promise, and upon His authority, pronounces the pardon that is asked, the pardon of every repentant sinner.* "May the Almighty God
* The Roman church pronounces confession to the priest, and absolution by the priest, necessary to salvation. The Council of Trent, sess. xiv. canon vi. says, as follows: "If any shall deny, that sacramental confession was instituted, and is necessary for salvation by divine right, or shall say that the custom of confessing secretly to the priest alone, is foreign to the institution and command of Christ, "Let him be accursed:" and again, canon ix. “If any shall say that the sacramental absolution of a priest is not a judicial act, but a mere ministration. declaring, and pronouncing that the penitent's sins are forgiven, provided only he believes that he is absolved; or that the confession of the penitent is not necessary, that the priest may absolve him; 'Let him be accursed.'" But the church of
have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life."
Are they miserable, here is comfort. they desponding, here is hope. Are they liable to punishment, here is deliverance. Are they fearful of death, here is everlasting life. Are they "as little children," now in the years of their youth, approaching God's altar for the first time with hesitating steps, here is the voice of assurance: "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." Are they the "thief upon the cross," up to a late
England assumes no such power for her ministers. The church is willing to listen to the private confession of any sinner, if he should desire to make it, and so the priest is directed to say in the exhortation previous to the Eucharist, "Let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned minister of God's word, and open his grief, that by the ministry of God's holy word, he may receive the benefit of absolution," but the confession on the part of the sinner is to be voluntary, and the absolution in part of the priest is to be by God's authority, and not a judicial act of his own. Nicholls paraphrases the Absolution in our service of the Eucharist, thus :
"The Almighty God, who is invested with all power in heaven and earth, has promised that he will pardon repentant sinners that turn to him. (Isai. lv. 7. John iii. 16.) This same good and gracious God hath ordered me, his minister, to declare and pronounce this mercy to you. And I put up my prayers for
in a constant habit of virtue
you, that he may confirm you and piety as long as you live in this world, and at last bring you to the everlasting happiness of the other. Amen."
period of life sinners, and only now in their old age, or in approaching death, venturing to draw near, here is the voice which permits of no despair: "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Are they the "prodigal son," returning to their Father, with distant longings and fearful anticipations, here is the welcome of the rejoicing father, the ring on the finger, and the fatted calf. Are they "the magdalen," bathing the feet of Christ with their tears, and wiping them with the hair of their head, here is the same Saviour who loved and cherished, forgave and blessed. Are they the "woman taken in adultery," while all mankind are pointing with the finger of scorn, and yet each one, thinking of his own sins, retires and makes way, here is the voice of charity and of admonition, coupled with love: "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." Joy then takes the place of sorrow: repentance worketh its sure fruit and recompense. "Hear," continues the minister of Christ, "hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn unto him: 'So God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'" And then, all standing up, the sorrow that arose from confession of sins being lost in the sense of pardon promised in the abso
lution, there comes the invitation of the minister, "Lift up your hearts," and the answer, "We lift them up unto the Lord." "Let us give thanks unto our Lord God," and the answer, "It is meet and right so to do." Upon which the priest takes up the words of the people, and gives his PRAYER OF "It is very meet and right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee:" upon which, in return, the people take up the words of the priest, and join with him, with uplifted voices, in
thrice holy-hymn of thanksgiving. hearts replenished, their faith confirmed, their conscience unburdened, they sing aloud "with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee, and saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord, most High."
Hence the name of EUCHARIST, which means, giving of thanks: the exact imitation of our Saviour, who before he took the bread, gave thanks, and before he delivered the cup, gave thanks. In ancient times this thanksgiving contained a full enumeration of God's dealings with man. It recounted the glories of his crea