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Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose you shall retain, they are retained. St. John, c. xx, v. 23.

THE Sacrament of Confession, so necessary for sinners, and which has so beneficial an influence on the morals of Catholics, shall be the subject of the present discourse. Jesus Christ, my brethren, (blessed for ever be that adorable name!) after his triumphant resurrection, appearing to his apostles, exhibited to their view and to their touch, that same real and substantial body, which they had seen expire on the cross; but which, by his own omnipotent power, he had rescued from the iron bonds of death, and raised to a glorious immortality. Having thus confirmed them in the full belief and conviction of his divinity, and, by the mighty event which they now beheld, prepared their minds to receive with implicit credit his every word; he chooses this important juncture to announce-what he had never expressly

announced before, lest, perhaps, the magni tude of the favor might have staggered their rising faith-namely, that he transmitted unto them the power which he had himself received from his Eternal Father, and empowered them and their successors to remit, or retain, upon judicial investigation in the holy tribunal of penance, the sins and iniquities of mankind. "Peace be to you," says he. "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." And then, to express, as well by solemn act as word, the communication of his Divine Spirit to them, he "breathes" upon them, and adds: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them and whose you shall retain they are retained."

Who could have believed this, if Truth itself had not spoken? The Patriarchs and Prophets; the inspired writers and teachers of the Jewish nation; the saints and workers of prodigies of the ancient covenant; even Moses himself, the great mediating lawgiver and thaumaturgus of the people of God, never exercised the power of remitting the slightest offence offered to the Almighty Majesty. Nay, when Jesus Christ himself, after having given the most incontestible proofs of his divinity, pronounced the words of absolution over the paralytic, saying, Mark, ii, 5, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee;" did not those who heard him, cry out in their hearts, "Blasphemy?" How much more, then, ought not Heaven and

Earth to be surprised, when they behold an apostle, a disciple, a bishop, a priest; when they behold me, the unworthy minister of God's eternal mercy, receive into my hands the keys of the celestial kingdom, to unlock or leave closed the gates of salvation, to such as lay their sins at my feet! being, in fact, so fully constituted the instrumental dispenser of the redemption of mankind, that, were I, without sufficient reason, or (which God forbid!) from mere malice and hatred; were I, even so unwarrantably, to refuse to any sinner the blessing of absolution, the penitent, thus unjustly rejected, would, nevertheless, still continue to groan under the burthen of his crimes, if he wilfully neglected to have his bonds loosed by the hands of some other priest empowered to absolve. Who, let me ask again, could have believed all this, if Christ had not said to his apostles, aud in them, to us their successors, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are for. given them; and whose you shall retain they are retained?"

Thanks to thee, O Divine Jesus, for this soul-redeeming institution, so admirably adapted to the wants of the depraved heart of man, and so powerfully calculated for its amendment! In vain have the innovating and corrupting sons of Luther and of Calvin, raised their heretical voices against this bulwark of public and private morality, and blasphemously exclaimed with the Jews, Mark,

ii, 7, "Who can forgive sins, but God only?" Answer. Men can, in the name and on the part of God, when God has given them the power.-In vain have these Pretended Reformers, who have, not reformed, but deformed the Christian system into a skeleton of religion; without sacrifice, and almost without sacraments; without Mass, and without Confession; in vain have they, at one moment, under the cloak of an affected zeal, hypocritically murmured, that we encourage vice by absolving from sin. Answer. Jesus Christ would not leave his penitent children to the alternative, on both sides ruinous, of a black despair, or a vain presumption. One of which would almost inevitably be the result, if, when they sinned, they were to act the judge in their own case, without any rational or unbiassed pledge of reconciliation with their God. This pledge they have, and it is the judicial sentence of acquittal, pronounced by his minister and representative; pronounced too, after the confession, contrition, and satisfaction of the criminal; that is, after the judge has ascertained, upon the best possible evidence, namely, that of the culprit's own conscience, the three essential points of his criminality, his sorrow, and his amendment. In vain have these Pretended Reformers; these pharisaical zealots of virtue, these broachers of contradictory and self-refuting doctrines; in vain have they, at another mo ment, in direct opposition to their former objection; in vain have they, I say, unblush. ingly asserted, that, so far from "encouraging vice," Confession was, on the contrary, nothing

Jess than a most "tyrannical, and absolutely insupportable burthen, imposed by Priestcraft on the consciences of the Christian people!" For, if these complaisant soothers and flatterers of man's depravity are to be credited, the disciple is far above his Master, and the delicate members of a Head crowned with thorns, may, by a phantom of faith, unaccompanied with good works, most commodiously obtain the remission of their most flagrant offences, without ever once submitting to a practise, so humilia ting to the pride of corrupt nature!

Oh, would to God! that these enemies of Confession had candidly weighed the inconsistency of their own objections; and, instead of spurning this salutary institution, had rather adored the wisdom of the Redeemer, in so admirably blending therein his mercy and his justice; his indulgence and his rigour; indulgence, in communicating to his ministers the prerogative of his all-forgiving Father; and rigour, in obliging his penitent children to earn this forgiveness by the humility of self-accusation. Would to God! that these innovators had been cautious how they calumniated the Catholic Priesthood; and had seriously reflected, that it was impossible for them to have framed this law for the people; seeing, that the whole Ministry of the Church, from the Pope down to the lowest Clerk, are as much subjected to it as the people themselves. Would to God! that these new-gospel-forgers had not impugned this most obvious truth-that, as the Divine Author of all the sacraments has been pleased,

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