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THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN:
SCRIPTURAL AND ROMAN
T HE TEACHING of the Holy Scriptures in regard to the forgiveness of sin through the infinite mercy of God, and the atoning death of Christ, is most explicit and clear, and full of comfort. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool " (Isaiah I. 18). "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon " (Isaiah 1v. 7). "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jer. xxxi. 34). "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins " (Isaiah x1iii. 25). "He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depth of the sea " (Mic. vii. 19). "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." (Ps. ciii. 12). Those passages are from the Old Testament, and their number might be multiplied.
We come to the New Testament, and from the lips of Jesus as He went about doing good, forgiving sin, healing the sick, comforting the sorrowing, to the last utterance of the inspired record from the pen of the beloved disciple John, we hear nothing but the exultant note of joy and thanksgiving over sins pardoned through the power and blood of the Son of God...As Paul expresses it: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour."
When Jesus forgave a man his sins, He imposed no penance, but gave him His blessing, and told him to go and sin no more. When on the day of Pentecost Peter preached to those who, by cruel hands, had crucified the Lord of life, and as they were pricked in their heart and said to Peter and the rest, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said unto them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins."
THINK OF PETER AND THE ELEVEN APOSTLES ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST, HEARING THE CONFESSIONS OF THE THREE THOUSAND CONVERTS ON THAT DAY, GRANTING ABSOLUTION, AND THEN ASSIGNING TO EACH ONE A GIVEN AMOUNT OF PENANCE IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT MAKE SATISFACTION TO GOD FOR ALL THE WRONG THEY HAD DONE. Such an idea is preposterous, and is as foreign to the Spirit and genius of the Gospel as day is from night.
And so all through the history of the Acts of the Apostles, in the founding of the primitive church, we find no trace of priestly absolution or the sacrament of penance. All of that came in after years. The distinctive doctrinal system, and ecclesiastical polity of the Church of Rome has a two-fold object: HOLDING THE LAITY UNDER THE POWER OF THE PRIESTHOOD, AND ENRICHING THE TREASURY OF THE CHURCH.
In the confessional, the penitent is taught to believe that the priest has absolute power to forgive sins. Here are a few quotations from the Catechism of the Council of Trent: " Our sins are forgiven by the absolution of the priest;" "The voice of the priest, who is legitimately constituted a minister for the remission of sins, is to be heard as that of Christ Himself;” "The absolution of the priest, 'which is expressed in words, seals the remission of sins, which it accomplishes in the soul;” “There is no sin, however grievous, no crime, however enormous, or however frequently repeated, which penance does not remit. Without the intervention of penance we cannot obtain, or even hope for, pardon;" "The penitent must also submit himself to the judgment of the priest, who is the vicegerent of God, to enable him to award a punishment proportioned to his guilt” (pp. 239, 240, 242, 245).
The Church of Rome teaches that the absolution of a wicked priest is as valid as that of a pious one. The Council of Trent declares in one of its canons that "if any one says that priests, under mortal sin, have no power to bind or loose, let him be accursed."
The penitent, therefore, holding such exalted notions of the power of the priest, coming into his presence, and in the secrecy of the confessional, unbosoming to him the inmost secrets of the heart and life, secrets that the wife might not reveal to her husband, and thoughts, temptations, possibly partial yieldings, of so delicate a nature that the young maiden would not disclose to her own mother, yet all this must be whispered into the open ear of the confessor, and he in turn "absolves" (?) from sin, and counsels the penitent. WHAT A MIGHTY POWER SUCH A SYSTEM PLACES IN THE HANDS OF A MAN!
Further, this same penitent that has been forgiven by the priest, enters the church, and he beholds the priest occupying the place of Jesus Christ himself, changing by virtue of his priestly office the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ, believing this puts him under the power of the priest.
In proof of the alleged power of the priesthood, I quote a passage from the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori, who is accepted in the Church of Rome as the great Master of Moral Theology. In his work entitled, "Dignity and Duty of a Priest," translated and published but recently in America, London and Dublin, and printed by "the printers of the Apostolic See," Liguori says : "The priest has the power of the keys, or the power of delivering sinners from hell, of making them worthy of Paradise, and of changing them from slaves of Satan into the child of God. And God Himself is obliged to abide by the judgment of His priests, and either not to pardon, or to pardon, according as they (the priests) refuse to give absolution, provided the penitent is capable of it.”
"Were the Redeemer to descend into a church, and sit in a confessional to administer the Sacrament of Penance, and a priest to sit in another confessional, Jesus would say over each penitent, 'I absolve thee,' and the penitent of each would be equally absolved." The same author also says: "Jesus Christ has also given power to His priests to rescue from hell, not only the bodies but also the souls of the faithful."
That the entire doctrinal system and ecclesiastical polity of the Roman Church is planned for the enrichment of its treasury needs but little proof. Note the triple link binding together the mass, indulgences, and purgatory, and see how perfect is the plot for extorting money from the credulous devotee. The Romish doctrine respecting sin has no support in the Bible. The distinction the Church makes between mortal and venial sins is entirely visionary, but it serves well the purpose of the church as it provides for purgatory. And it is the accepted opinion of the doctors of the Church that none who now die go direct to heaven, but are detained in purgatory for an indefinite length of time. Their sufferings, however, in that state are assuaged by what is termed the suffrages of the faithful on earth, that is, prayers, masses, and alms or gifts to the church. Masses, however, for the dead are costly. VAST SUMS OF MONEY are expended for masses for the dead by relatives and friends of the departed, all of which goes to enrich the treasury of the church.