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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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The verbal acknowledgment which a Christian makes of his sins. Among the Jews, it was the custom, on the annual feast of expiation, for the high priest to make confession of sins to God, in the name of the whole people: besides this general confession, the Jews were enjoined, if their sins were a breach of the first table of the law, to make confession of them to God; but violations of the second table were to be acknowledged to their brethren. Confession, according to Dr. Watts, is the third part of prayer, and includes,

1. A confession of the meanness of our original, our distance from God, our subjection to him, and constant dependence on him.

2. A confession of our sins, both original and actual, in thought, life, omission and commission.

3. A confession of our desert of punishment, and our unworthiness of mercy.

4. A confession or humble representation of our wants and sorrows of every kind. Confession also may be considered as a relative duty, or the acknowledgment of any offence we have been guilty of against a fellow-creature. The Romish church requires confession not only as a duty, but has advanced it to the dignity of a sacrament. These confessions are made to the priest, and are private and auricular; and the priest is not to reveal them under pain of the highest punishment.

This, however, is both unnecessary and unscriptural; for in the first place, there is no proof that the power of remitting and retaining sins (the pretended ground of sacramental confession) was imparted to any but the apostles, or at the most to those to whom a discernment of spirits were communicated.

2. If our Saviour had designed this to have been a duty, he would most probably have delivered us an express command to this purpose.

3. This authority of pardoning sins immediately in relation to God (the foundation of the pretended duty of secret confession, ) without any reference to church censures, was never claimed for many ages after Christ. Notwithstanding, however, private auricular confession is not of divine authority, yet, as one observes, "there are many cases wherein men under the guilt and trouble of their sins can neither appease their own minds, nor sufficiently direct themselves without recourse to some pious and prudent guide: in these cases men certainly do very well, and many times prevent a great deal of trouble and perplexity to themselves by a timely discovery of their condition to some faithful minister; and to this purpose a general confession is for the most part sufficient: and where there is occasion for a more particular discovery, there is no need of raking into the particular circumstances of men's sins to give that advice which is necessary for the ease and comfort of the penitent."

See ABSOLUTION; Watts on Prayer; Tillotson's Ser., ser. 160, 161; Smith's Errors of the Church of Rome.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Confession'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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