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9 The Declaration of Absolution, or Remission of Sins ; (8.) to be made by the PRIEST alone, (9.) standing ; (10.) the People still kneeling.
ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death
of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from
transacting with him the grand affair of repentance, less eligible posture, than exclude numbers of our and reconciliation to his favour, upon which their fellow Christians from being tolerably accommoeverlasting bappiness depends. Let them there- | dated for joining in worship with us. F fore not behave themselves after a careless and ing, though greatly preferable, is not prescribed as slovenly manner; let them not utter the words in indispepsably necessary. “The children of Israel,” such a tone as betokens irreverence, and proves we read in the book of Nehemiah, “ were assemthat they do not mind what they say, or to whom bled fasting,” and, probably for the reason just they speak; but consider the vast importance of mentioned, “stood and confessed their sins," the duty of prayer, and the indispensable necessity Nehem. ix. 2. The penitent publican did not fail of a due performance of it, and that confession of of being accepted, though he stood, when he said, sins is the most solemn part of prayer. Let these “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke xviii. 13. considerations sink deep into them, and prevail | And on some days the early Christians did not upon them so to perform this duty, that it may ob kneel at all.
Abp. Secker. tain a remission, and not add to the number of their Kneeling is the attitude prescribed to us in this sins.
Dr. Bennet. solemn act of confession. This visible expression And especially they should remember, that, since of humility will be adopted, so far as circumstances none are fit to pray till they have confessed their will permit, by every faithful worshipper. Un. sins, it is necessary for every one to come early to doubtedly every reasonable allowance will be made prayers, and always to be there so soon as to join for age and bodily infirmity : but a wilful negliin this Confession, which, if duly considered, will gence, or a fashionable carelessness, in this part of greatly assist and direct us in the exercise of our our devotions must be unjustifiable, and therefore repentance. Dean Comber. inexcusable.
Rogers. (7.) There is nothing that we do in this world * At the General Convention of 1835, the House comparable to the public acts and exercises of of Bishops, at the instance of the House of Clerical religion; and therefore nothing deserves or re and Lay Deputies, expressed the following opinions, quires a greater solemnity. For which reason the which have been adopted as the rule of the Church requires us, in all our prayers and confes Church, viz: sions, to be on our knees: for which we have the It is the opinion of the Bishops, that a regard to example of our Saviour, and of all good men in all uniformity with what is practised in other parts of ages, who have always performed their public de- | the Liturgy, and also the avoiding a needless advotions with humble and lowly gestures, and most dition to the length of the service, and to its most commonly in this particular posture of kneeling. decent performance, requires that in repeating the
Dr. Hole. General Confession in the Morning and Evening And that posture in prayer, especially in this Prayer, the people should unite with the minister part, hath not only ancient authority but nature in saying it aster him in the same manner as is itself, on its side: and doth so strongly both ex- | usually practised in saying the Creeds, the Lord's press and excite inward humility, that it should Prayer, and the Confession in the Communion never be omilled wilfully, or negligently, in favour Service. It is also their opinion ti at in those parts of ease and indolence: considerations, very un- of the Liturgy in which the minister and people worthy of notice at such a time. Still they, whose unite in saying the whole, as in the Confession, the infirmities will not permit them to be on their knees | Creeds, the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria in Excelsis, without pain or hurt, may doubtless allowably the Trisagion, and the Last Prayer for Ash-Wedstand, or even sit: for God “ will have mercy, and nesday, the word “Amen " should be printed in not sacrifice.” Matt. ix. 13 ; xii. 7. And fariher; the Roman letters, and the minister unite with the as in many full congregations this rule cannot be people in saying it; and that in all cases where the observed by every one without taking up more word " Amen” is the response of the people to room than can with convenience be spared; certain- what the minister alone says, it should be printed ly the superior rule, of doing "the things where | in italics.
T. C. B. with one may edify another," Rom. xiv. 19, binds | (8.) Pardon of sin and reconciliation with God us rather to be content with standing though a through the atoning sacrifice and righteousness of truly repent, and infeignedly believe his holy gospel. Wherefore, let us beseech him o grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit ; that those things may please him
which we do at this present, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy: so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christ, are the grand peculiarities of the Gospel. It | desire” of it. The Minister here says "By the is one of the distinguishing excellencies of the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ committed to Church, and a characteristic which must greatly me, I absolve thee from all thy sins," &c. endear her services to all who worship within her The English commentators have generally considcourts, that she keeps these blessed peculiarities ered this Form as relating only to the absolution of the Gospel constantly in view. It appears to be and remission of Ecclesiastical censures, but the her especial object to do so in the interesting part compilers of our Liturgy have prudently omitted it of the Liturgy which now comes under our consid altogether, since it is susceptible of a different intereration ;-THE ABSOLUTION.
pretation, which may be thought to savour too much In the Rubrick which precedes the Absolution it of the abuses of absolution in the Romish Church. is designated as follows:-" The declaration of It has indeed been ably vindicated from any such Absolution, or remission of sins; to be made by imputation, but as it was not thought expedient to the PAIEST alone, standing ; the people still give it a place in our Liturgy, it is not necessary to kneeling,"
give, in this place, any abstract of the arguments This Rubrick has been slightly altered from that by which it has been defended. in the English Book. It is there called “ The Ab Of the two Forms of Absolution used in our solution, or remission of sins, to be pronounced, Liturgy, the first in order was composed for King &c." The alteration was probably made in conse- | Edward's second edition of the Book of Common quence of some objections which had been brought Prayer. This edition was prepared with the asagainst the English Rubrick, and is calculated to sistance of several distinguished foreign Protestants remove all grounds of cavil. The objections could of the Presbyterian Communion ; and the Absoluhave been deserving of no great weight, for the tion, so far from countenancing any Romish superform of the Absolution is clearly declaratory, and stition, was levelled directly against the doctrines must have sufficiently explained the Rubrick; and of Popery. The Papish Absolutions were given in though the word "pronounced” is derived from private, separately to each particular person, posi. the Latin pronuncio, which sometimes signifies to tively and without any reservation or condition, in gire sentence, yet in its common acceptation, it the name of the Priest alone, and by his authority sigoifies no more than to make declaration. as derived solely from the chair of St. Peter. Our
In the English Liturgy there are three several Absolution is given in public, to the whole congreForms of Absolution. The first is declaratory. gation at once, on the condition that they are truly It is used after the general Confession, in the Mor penitent, and solely in the name and by the auning and Evening service, and is the same as that thority of God. which stands first in order in our Liturgy. It is a The second form was used both in the Greek solemn promulgation of pardon, by a person duly and Latin Churches, in their primitive state, and authorised and commi-sioned to publish it, to all scarce any other form is to be found in their Ritwho unfeignedly repent, and sincerely believe in tuals, or in Ecclesiastical History, till within the the way of salvation unfolded in the Gospel. The last four or five hundred years. It is borrowed imsecond is petitionary, and stands after the Con mediately from the Liturgy of the Greek Church ; fession in the Communion Service. It is retained where it is sometimes expressed with slight variain the same place in our Liturgy, and is moreover tions, as “Almighty God pardon you, by me, his authorised to be used after the general Confession unworthy servant,” &c. Or,“ Lord pardon them; in the morning and evening service, instead of the for thou hast said, whose sins ye remit, they are declaratory form. In this petitionary absolution, remitted," &c.--Sometimes expressing, and always the Minister as an Embassador of God, first lays including, God's commission. down the divine promise of pardon, upon the con Concerning the special efficacy of the declaraditions of faith and repentance, and then, upon this tion of Absolution, there has been much diversity ground, in the same character, begs God to make of sentiment. Some have considered the office as the promise good.-- The third Form, in the English of no more import or efficacy than a mere declaration Book, is more authoritative and judicial. It is of the terms of pardon, which any private Christian used in the Office for the “ Visitation of the Sick," might make, since these terms are plainly expressafter the penitent has made special confession of . ed in the Gospel. Others have gone to an oppohis sins; and only upon his “humble and hearty | site extreme, bordering on the Romish supersti
The People shall answer here, and at the end of every Prayer, Amen.
Or this. (11.)
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father who of his great mercy, hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who, with hearty
tions. The Church clearly considers it as a min- the satisfaction of those who took exception against isterial act, which the priest, as an Embassador the word, Absolution, as having too popish a of Christ, has received “power and command sound.
T. C. B. ment" to perform, upon certain conditions; and (9.) The Rubrick prescribes that the “ declaration when the conditions are sincerely complied with, of Absolution” shall be " made by the Priest she supposes that God will give validity to what is alone.” That is, by the Priest, not only in conthus done by his authority and in his name. She tradistinction to the people, but likewise to the inconsiders it more than the declaration of a private ferior order of Deacons. The authority being deChristian, and as a function pertaining to those in rived from the Apostles to their successors (John wbom is committed “the ministry of reconcilia. xx. 23) is by the office of Ordination conferred on ion.” (2 Cor. v. 18.) She finds its efficacy on the the order of Priests alone, and not on that of Deasacerdotal Commission; “Go ye, therefore, and cons.— The word Priest, in the Rubrick, has been teach all nations, baptising them in the pame of the substituted in the place of Minister, which is in Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost-And some respects equivocal. This was done by order lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the of the Savoy Conference. The Presbyterian Diworld-As my Father hath sent me, even so send vines who attended the Conference, required that I you—Whose soever sins ye remit, they are re- the word Minister should be used throughout the mitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye re- | Book of Common Prayer. But the Bishops retain, they are retained.” (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; and plied that there were some offices which a Deacon John xx. 21, 23.) This power of the remission of might not perform,"particularly the Absolution sins, the Church, therefore, supposes to be derived and Consecration," and that it was necessary to from the Apostles to their successors ;-with this preserve the word Priest, for the purpose of distinabatement, that the Apostles bad the power of dis guishing the two orders. They therefore refused cerning the spirits and hearts of men, which their to make the alteration required, and even directed successors have not, and who can only pronounce the word Priest to be inserted in this Rubrick inconditionally. It is most true indeed, that God stead of Minister, to prevent any misapprehension alone can forgive sins, for he is the sole author of of its meaning. As a further guard against misall blessings, both temporal and spiritual; but that take, the word is printed in Roman Capitals, in the he can declare his gracious assurances of pardon, American Book, while the rest of the Rubrick is and convey his blessings to us, by what means and in Italics. instruments he thinks fit, is no less certain. In If it should be enquired what course the officiawhatever way he vouchsafes to do it, it is our duty ting Deacon is to pursue, when he comes to the dehumbly and thankfully to receive them, and not to claration of Absolution ? The answer seems to be dispute his wisdom in the choice of those means obvious;—He should remain kneeling, and proceed and instruments. It is no absurdity to say that with the Lord's Prayer. If it were admissable to God pardons, when the declaration of Absolution interpolate any thing not expressly autborized, a is made by his Minister, in the way of his ap- preference might be given to the collect for Ashpointment, and upon the conditions of the Gospel : Wednesday. This is a prayer for pardon and Nor is it an invasion of the prerogatives of God; sanctification, and may be regarded as a precatory any more than it tends to impair the privileges of a Absolution. temporal Governor, when an Officer of his appoint- Since the declaration of Absolution is to be made ment delivers a sealed pardon to a condemned by the Priest alone';Since he does it in the charmalefactor. And if, when the declaration is made acter of an Embassador of God-having received by the Minister, according to the evangelical con "power and commandment” so to do, it is the ob ditions, any present should not be truly pardoned, vious duty of the people to listen to it with reverit will not be for want of authority in the Priest, but ence and in silence.- Some persons fall into the for want of real penitence in the person.
impropriety of repeating the words with the Min As this Rubrick originally stood in the second ister, in a low lone of voice, which not only mar book of King Edward VI. the office was called the beauty of the service, but if it were done wili “ The Absolution," simply ;-the words “or re any significancy would be an usurpation of thi missi m of sins," were added, by way of explica- | Priestly office.
T. C. B. tion, by the authority of the conference at Hamp- / (10.) The gesture of standing and turning u ton Court, in the reign of King James First, for the congregation, indicates a message of Godt
repentance and true faith, turn unto him ; 1 | Then the Minister shall kneel, and say have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver the Lord's Prayer ; (13.) the People still you from all your sins, confirm and strength kneeling, and repeating it with him, en you in all goodness, and bring you to both here, and wheresocver else it is ererlasting life, through Jesus Christ our used in Divine Service. Lord. Amen. (12.)
OUR Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed bis people by the month of his Priest: While the ihe minister pronounces pardon only to the peniattitude of kneeling, betokens, on the part of the tent, he pronounces it effectually to all who are so; people, the humility, contrition and reverence, with nor will it be withheld from any who are qualified which they ought to receive the gracious message to receive it.—And here it is the duty of all, silently of pardon to the penitent.
to pray to God ihat he will confirm and give efficacy Tl:e declaration of Absolution, which stands first to this declaration of his Minister, and enable them in order in our service, consists of three parts: effectually to fulfil the conditions of faith and reThe general official promulgation of the pardoning pentance required of them. These are by Christ mercy of God to the repentant sinner :- The spe and the Apostles, made the conditions of all the cial, conditional declaration of pardon, founded on Gospel promises. (Mark i. 15; Acts XX. 21.) it;-and an exhortation to the people to unite They who have these, no man may condemn; and with the Minister in imploring God to grant them | they who have them not, no man may absolve.-It true repentance and the assistance of his Holy should always be borne in mind, huwever, that Spirit, that they may be enabled to perform the while faith and repentance are essential conditions conditions required of them, and thus render his of forgiveness, they are by no means the meritopardon effectual to their everlasting salvation. rious cause of it. That is to be sought alone in the
The Absolution commences, like some of the | righteousness of Christ, who is exalted to be a Epistles of the Apostles, by representing Almighty Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, God, in the character of " The Father of our Lord and forgiveness of sins." The Absolution being Jesus Christ;" and in him, " the Father of mer thus declared for our comfort, the Church may cies, and the God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. i. 3.) well exhort us to “ beseech Almighty God to grant And nothing surely can be more proper for humble us true repentance and his Holy Spirit :" A conpenitents, after having confessed their sins to God, tinued and abiding repentance, that we may bring than to consider him as the fountain of all good
forth fruits worthy of it; and the constant assistance ness, derived to them through the merits of his of the Holy Spirit, “ that the things which we do blessed Son.-For the confirmation of our faith, at this present;" that our penitence, our prayers, our and in condescension of our infirmities, God has de praises, and our thanksgivings, “may be pleasing clared to us, and verified it to us by an oath, that he in his sight;" "and that the rest of our life here*desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that after may be pure and holy;" “so that at the last" he should turn from his wickedness and live." ¡ we may receive the reward of our faith and our Such a declaration is calculated alike to prevent our obedience, even “his eternal joy," through the presumption and our despair; and shows us that if merits of our blessed Redeemer;—who by his preGod desires our happiness as the end, he also wills cious death has purchased for us pardon and absocur holiness as the means. He would have us live in lution of all our sins; who is now a prevailing inhis eternal glory, but his desires cannot be accom tercessor with the father for the blessings we im plished, unless we lurn from our wickedness by re plore; and who will at his coming to judge the pentance. It is upon this, and similar declarations world, receive us into those heavenly mansions, of the mercy of God, and in virtue of the “power which he has gone before us to prepare for every and commandment” derived from him, through penitent and sincere believer.
T. C. B. the ministerial Commission, that the Priest is au (11.) The form of Absolution which stands thorized to say, “He pardoneth and absolveth all second in order, in our service, is petitionary. But those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his though, according to ancient usage, it be put in 2oly Gospel."— The minister does not presume to the form of a request, yet like the paternal benepardon or absolve in his own right, nor to publish dictions recorded in Scripture, it may be considerabsolution in his own game, but only in the name ed in some way instrumental in conveying the or power of God. “ He pardoneth and absolveth ;"— blessing it invokes. Thus Isaac besought a blessThe word " He” refers to Almighty God, at the ing upon Jacob, (Gen. vii. 28.) thus Jacob blessed commencement of the Absolution. Nor is the de the sons of Joseph, (Gen. xlviii. 15, 16.); and God claration absolute, and without condition or limita- was pleased to ratify and fulfil their benedictions. boa: ji is restricted io such only as “truly repent And since this prayer for absolution is made by a and unfeignedly believe his Holy Gospel.” But as I commissioned Embassador of Christ, and is ground
ed on the divine promises, we need not doubt but truth in the form applies at any time, and by whamGod will mercifully pardon all those for whom it is soever said, the proper conditions being found; and offered up, if with “hearty repentance and true that the only difference between its being declared faith they turn unto him.”
by a proper minister, or by another person, is, that With respect to the contents of this Absolution, the former is acting under commission, a circumthe Priest begins by reminding the people, that he stance the most likely to wing what he says with who is “ Almighty," and who only can forgive comfort.
BP. WITTE sins, is also their "heavenly father," and full of (12.) At the close of the Absolution, is the follow compassion towards them :-“Like as a Father ing Rubrick ; “ The People shall answer here, pitieth his own children, even so is the Lord mer and at thc end of every Prayer, Amen." ciful unto them that fear him.” (Ps. ciii. 13.) He The word here enjoined to be used is originally then intimates that God is not only engaged by his Hebrew, and signifies the same in English as “ So paternal affection but also by bis truth to forgive be it.” As it is used in the Common Prayer, it them, for he hath “promised” that he will freely bears somewhat different significations according pardon, and be fully reconciled to all such as un to the different forms to which it is annexed. At the feigoedly repent of their sins, and cast themselves end of Prayers and Collects, it is addressed to God, upon his mercy.-The latter part of the Absolution and signifies “so be it, O Lord, as in our prayers contains every encouragement of mercy, pardon, we have expressed :" but at the end of exhortations, and deliverance, which the contrite heart can need absolutions, and creeds, it is addressed to the Priest; or desire. Are we miserable? The "mercy” of and ther the meaning of it is either," so be it, this God is invoked upon us. Are we sinful? There is our sense and meaning," or "so de it, we entireis “ pardon" for us. Are we liable to punishment ? ly assent to and approve what has been said." The message of " deliverance” is proclaimed to us. The practice of signifying assent by the word Are we desirous, but unable to do good ? There is Amen, was common in the Jewish Church. So “strength and confirmation" for us. Are we fear it was also in the Christian Church, in the Aposful of death and hell? The benediction of heaven tles' days: “How shall he, that occupieth the room and everlasting life is imprecated on us. All this of the unlearned, say Amen, at thy giving of thanks, is asked of God, by one whom he has commission seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest ?” ed to declare his mercy and dispense his blessings. (1 Cor. xiv. 15.) Ecclesiastical writers inform us It is therefore only necessary that our repentance that it used to be pronounced audibly and ferventshould be sincere, and our faith unfeigned, and we ly; each one expressing his own faith or desire, may be assured that God will ratify in heaven, and animating that of his fellow worshippers. We what is thus done by his authority on the earth. should therefore give this proof, among others, that
T. C. B. we not only hear the service with attention, but The introducing in this place of the second Ab- join in it with earnestness. solution, the same as in the communion service, In the English Book it may be observed that the has been objected to on a ground not foreseen. Amen is sometimes printed in Italics, and someMy view of the subject, and I suppose that of times in Roman letters. The reason is believed others, was as follows. The words of the first to be this:-At the end of the Collects and PrayAbsolution, fall short of the precatory form which | ers which the Priest is to repeat or say alone, it is prevailed in the primitive church, and indeed printed in Italick, a different character from the seems below its name; for although it affirms a prayers themselves, to denote that the minister is certain authority in the speaker, he is not made to to stop at the end of the prayer, and to leave the exercise the authority on those before him, however Amen to be responded by the people. But at the possessed of necessary requisites. The other form / end of the Lord's Prayer, Confessions, Creeds, and used in the office for the visitation of the sick," Doxologies, and wheresoever the people are to joir and properly discarded from ours, is in a tone not aloud with the Minister, as if taught and instructed warranted by ancient usage. The unforeseen ob by him what to say, there it is prinied in the same jection, has been grounded on a wish to restrict | character as the offices themselves, as an intima the precatory form to the time and to the recipients tion to the Minister that he is still to go on, ani of the communion.. I fear that this countenances by pronouncing the Amen himself, to direct thi the delusion of recourse to the holy ordinance, as a people to do the samie, and so to set their zeal a periodical sponge. Perhaps, a similar abuse may last to what they had been before pronouncing be incidental to Mr. Wheatley's notion of the pass Though the American Printers have not preserve ing of pardon at tae instant of the minister's this typographical distinction, propriety seems reading of the Absolution in the service. The dictate that the Ministers should not neglect it. correct doctrine, as apparent to me, is, that the But after all, it must be carefully borne in mio