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tion must certainly be in order to absolution, and how could this be in any such order, when it was a business of which they could not expect to be absolved, unless they hoped to sin with a pardon about their necks; and on condition God would be merciful to them in its remission, would come and profess that they were resolved to anger him? In reason, this could be no act of repentance, neither could it, by confession of their own side. It is the doctrine of Hostiensis: and Navarre, and Cardinal Alban confess it to be most commonly received.
ture on it, as to make it sacrilege, or any sin at all, to reveal confessions, in some cases.
1. For first, if because it is delivered as a secret, and such a secret, it is the more closely and religiously to be kept; it is true, but concludes no more, but that it must be a greater cause that must authorize a publication of this, than of the secrets of ordinary commerce between friend and friend.
2. If the licensing of publication of confession be a way to make confession odious, and therefore that it may not be published,—I say, if this concludes, then, on the contrary, it concludes far more strongly, that therefore, in some cases, it may be published, because nothing can make a thing more odious and intolerable, than if it be made a cover for grand impieties, so as to engage a true subject, quietly and knowingly, to see his prince murdered.
3. It was not only not repented of, but by them reputed to be a good action, and so could not be a matter of confession. I appeal to any of their own manuals and penitentiary books. It is culpable, say they. I am sure it is ridiculous in any man to confess, and shrive himself of a good action; and 3. If it be discouragement to the practice of conthat this was such in their opinion, it is plain, by fession, that some sins revealed in it must be pubthat impious answer of Garnet, affirming it a busi-lished, though with peril to the delinquent's fame ness greatly meritorious, if any good might thence and life, then it will be a far greater discourageaccrue to the catholic cause." ment to the sin, when that it shall, by a universal judgment, be so detested, that its concealment may not be permitted, though it be with the hazard of discouraging the holy duty of confession: and when the being guilty of such a sin, shall reduce men into such straits, that either they shall want the benefit of absolution, or submit themselves to a public satisfaction, and so, even in this particular, the benefit is far greater than the imaginary inconvenience.
4. By this their pretended confession they endeavoured to acquire new complices, as is evident "in the proceedings against the traitors." They were therefore bound to reveal it, for it neither was, nor could be, a proper and formal confession. That this is the common opinion of their own schools, see it affirmed by Egidius Coninck."
The first particular then is plain. Here neither was the form of confession, nor yet could this thing be a matter of confession; therefore supposing the seal of confession to be sacredly inviolable, in all cases, yet they were highly blamable for their concealment in the present.
2. But the truth of the second particular is more to be inquired of. That is, that though these things had been only revealed in confession, and this confession had been formal and direct, yet they were bound, in the present case, to reveal it, because the seal of confession is not so inviolable, as that in no case it is to be broken up, and if in any, especially it may be opened in the case of treason.
I never knew any thing cried up with so general a voice, upon so little ground, as is the over-hallowed seal of confession.
True it is that an ordinary secret, committed to a friend in civil commerce, is not to be revealed upon every cause, nor upon many; but upon some it may, as they all confess. If thus, then much rather is this to be observed in the revelation of the secrets of our consciences, not only from the ordinary tie to secrecy, but likewise, lest sins should grow more frequent, if so great a remedy of them be made so odious, as to expose us to a public infamy or danger of the law. The council, therefore, that first introduced this obligation, was very prudent and reasonable, pleads a thousand years' prescription, and relies upon good conveniences. This is all that ever could be proved of it, as may appear anon; but these are too weak a base, to build so great a struc
The conveniences of the seal force no more, than that it is convenient to be observed, not simply and absolutely, in all cases necessary. And perhaps Suarez, the great patron of it, perceived it; however, he lays the burden "super communi consensu ecclesiæ, ejusque perpetuâ traditione." If then I can show, that there is no such catholic consent of the present church, nor any universal tradition of the ancient church, for the inviolable seal, but plainly the contrary, then our church, in her permission of the priests to reveal some confessions, is as inculpable as those of the present church, who (besides herself) teach and practise it, and as the primitive church, whose example in this, as in other things, she strictly follows.
Of the first, the church of England, which observes the seal of confession, as sacredly as reason or religion itself can possibly permit, yet forbids not disclosure, in case of murder or treason, but, in these particulars, leaves us entire in our obedience to the common laws of England; and these command it."
That the church of England gives leave, in some cases, to reveal confessions, is argument enough to prove, that the seal is not founded upon the consent of the present catholic church for it is no more a begging of the question (nor apparently so much) to say, the church of England is a part of the catholic church, and therefore her consent is required to make a thing universal, than to say, the church of Rome is the whole catholic church, therefore her • Ubi suprâ.
See Proceedings against late Traitors.
t In 3 part. D. Thom. disp. 33. sec. 1. n. 2.
consent is sufficient to make a thing catholic. But I shall not need to proceed this way. For,
1. It is apparent, that, of their own side, Altisidiorensis largely and professedly proves the lawfulness of publication, in some cases, as it is to be seen. Lib. 4. Summæ tract. 6. cap. 3. q. 7. and Garnet himself, the man who, if any, had most need to stand in defence of the seal, that the pretence of it might have defended him,-yet confessed of his own accord," Leges quæ celare hæc prohibent, apprimè esse justas et salutares." He adds his reason, and that is more than his authority; for, saith he, it is not fitting that the life and safety of a prince should depend upon the private niceties of any man's conscience. If two, nay, if one dissent, it is enough to destroy a consent. But see further. There are many cases, generally confessed amongst themselves, in which the seal of formal, and, as they love to speak, sacramental confession, may be broken open. I instance but in two or three.
First, Confession may be revealed to clear a doubtful case of marriage. It is the opinion of many great canonists, as you may see them quoted by Suarez de Paz, and Covaruvias, and the case of the Venetian, who married a virgin that was both his sister and daughter;-and that at Rome, under Pope Paul III. almost to like purpose,―were long disputed on both sides, whether they were to be revealed or not; so that at most, it is but a doubtful matter in such cases, whether the tie of secrecy doth oblige. Now if for the proof of marriage, the seal may be broken up, that man and wife might live contentedly, and as they ought, strange it should be unlawful to reveal confessions, in case of treason, for the safety of a prince or state!
In case of heresy, the seal binds not, by their own general confession. It is a rule amongst them,
"Hæresis est crimen, quod non confessio celat."
Now I would fain learn why treason is not as reveal able as heresy? Is heresy dangerous to souls? Then surely so is treason, unless it be none, or a very small crime. May heresy infect others? So may treason, as it did in the present. It may then as well be revealed as heresy. Now that it may something rather, I have these reasons. 1. Because it is not so certain, that such an opinion is heresy, as that such a fact is treason. 2. Because, although both treason and real heresy be damnable and dangerous to souls, yet heresy kills no kings as treason doth. I confess that heresy may, and doth teach it, but then it degenerates into treason. Now, if some heresy may be treason, then that treason is heresy; and so a case of treason may occur, in which, from their own confession, treason is revealable.
3. By the most general voice of their own side, any man may license his confessor to reveal his confession. It is the doctrine of Scotus, Durandus, Almain, Navarre, Medina, and generally of all the
Actio in prodit. lat. p. 99.
y Practic. Crim. Ecclesiast. c. 109.
z Resol. de Matrimon.
L. quod Major ff. ad Municipalem.
Thomists. I infer, if a private man may license his confessor to reveal his confession, then the seal of confession is not founded upon any Divine commandment; for if it were, the penitent could not give the priest license to break it. But, if the penitent may give his confessor leave, because the tie of secrecy is a bond in which the priest stands bound to the penitent, and, he giving him leave, remits of his own right, then much rather may a whole state authorize this publication; for, whatever personal right a private man hath, that the whole state hath much rather, for he is included in it as a part of the whole; and in such cases as concern the whole commonwealth, as this of treason doth most especially, the rule of the law holds without exception, "refertur ad universos, quod publice fit per majorem partem," the delinquent gives leave to the publication of confession, therefore, because the whole state doth, whereof he is one member. I add, that in the case of treason, this is much rather true, for here the delinquent loseth all his right whatsoever, prædial, personal, and of privilege; and, therefore, the commonwealth can the better license the publication, and the breach of the bond of secrecy, in which the confessor stood tied to the penitent by virtue of implicit stipulation.
4. Lastly, even in special, in the very case of treason confessed, many of their own do actually practise a publication, when either they are loyal of themselves, or dare not be otherwise.
I instance first in the church of France. For this, see Bodinus, who reports of a Norman gentleman, whom his confessor discovered for having confessed a treasonable purpose he sometimes had, of killing Francis I., of which he was penitent, did his penance, craved absolution, obtained it, but yet was sentenced to the axe by express commission from the king to the parliament of Paris. confession was made by the lord of Haulterville, when he was in danger of death; which when he had escaped, he incurred it with the disadvantage of public infamy upon the scaffold. I instance not in the case of Barriere, it is every where known as it is reported partly by Thuanus, but more fully by the author of "Histoire de la Paix." Nor yet is France singular in the practice of publication of confessed treason. For at Rome there have been examples of the like, I mean of those who confessed their purpose of killing the pope, who were revealed by their confessors, and accordingly punished.e
Thus then the first pretence proves a nullity, and either our laws are just in commanding publication of confession in case of treason, or themselves very culpable in teaching and practising it in the same, and in cases of less moment. The second is like the first, for it is extremely vain to pretend that the seal of confession is founded upon catholic tradition. Judge by the sequel.
The first word I hear of concealing confessions, b ff. de Regul. Juris. ad sec. refertur. Lib. vii. sec. ult. ff. de pact. d Histoire de Lapaix. e Dominic. e Soto memb. 3. q. 4. concl. 2. de rat. regendi
De Republ. lib. ii. c. 5.
is in Sozomen, relating how the Greek church, about the time of Decius the emperor, set over the penitents a public penitentiary priest, who was bound to be "Vir bonæ conversationis, servansque secretum," "a good man, and a keeper of secrets;" for, indeed, he was bound to conceal some crimes, in particular, those which an adulteress had confessed, I mean, concerning her adultery, as appears in the canons of St. Basil. But yet this priest who was so tied to a religious secresy, did "publish many of them in the congregation before the people," that they might reprove the delinquent and discountenance the sin. The same story is reported by Cassiodore and Nicephorus from the same author.
The lawfulness and practice of publication, in some cases, is as clear in Origen.h If" (saith he) "the physician of thy soul perceives thy sins to be such as to need so harsh a remedy, as to have them published before the assemblies of the people, that others may be admonished, and thou the better cured, he need be very deliberate, and skilful in the application of it." Hitherto, no such thing as a universal tradition for the pretended inviolable sacramental seal; for Origen plainly, and by them confessedly, speaks of such sins, as first were privately confessed to the priest; how else should he deliberate of their publication? but yet he did so, and for all the seal of confession, sometimes opened many of them to no fewer witnesses than a whole assembly. Thus it was, in the Greek church, both law and custom. But now if we look into the Latin church, we shall find that it was taken up from example of the Greeks and somewhile practised, that some particular sins should be published in the church before the congregation, as it is confessed in the council of Mentz, and inserted by Burchard into his decree.i
But when the lay-piety began to cool, and the zeal of some clergymen wax too hot, they would needs heighten this custom of publication of some sins, to a law of the publishing of all sins. This being judged to be inconvenient, expressed the first decree for the seal of confession in the Latin church. Now see how it is uttered, and it will sufficiently inform us both of the practice and the opinion, which antiquity had of the obligation to the seal.
"Illam contra apostolicam regulam præsumptionem," &c. that is, "it was against the apostolical ordinance, that a law should enjoin that the priest should reveal all those sins which had been told him in confession." "k It might be done, so it were not required and exacted, and yet might be so required, so it were not a publication of all. "Non enim omnium hujusmodi sunt peccata;" saith St. Leo: "some sins are inconvenient to be published:" it is not fit the world should know all, therefore some they might, or else he had said nothing. The reason which he gives, makes the business somewhat clearer, for he derives it, not from any simple
f Hist. lib. vii. c. 16.
* Τὰς μοιχευθείσας γυναῖκας καὶ ἐξαγορεύσας δι' εὐλά βειαν δημοσιεύειν οὐκ ἐκέλευσαν οἱ Πατέρες ἡμῶν. --Epist. ad Amphil.
necessity of the thing, or a Divine right, but lest men out of inordinate love to themselves, "should rather refuse to be washed than buy their purity with so much shame." The whole epistle hath many things in it excellently to the same purpose.
I say no more; the doctrine and practice of antiquity is sufficiently evident, and that there is nothing less than a universal tradition for the seal of confession to be observed in all cases, even of sins of the highest malignity.
Thus these fathers confessors are made totally inexcusable by concealing a treason, which was not revealed to them in a formal confession, and had been likewise culpable though it had, there being, as I have shown, no such sacredness of the seal as to be inviolable in all cases whatsoever.
I have now done with the several considerations of the persons to whom the question was propounded; they were the fathers confessors in the day, but it was Christ the Lord, in my text. The question itself follows, "Shall we command fire to come from heaven and consume them ?"
The question was concerning the fate of a whole town of Samaria; in our case it was more, of the fate of a whole kingdom. It had been well if such a question had been silenced by a direct negative, or (as the judges of the Areopagus used to do) put off" ad diem longissimum," that they might have expected the answer three ages after.
"De morte hominis nulla est cunctatio longa ;" no demur had been too long in a case of so much and so royal blood, the blood of a king, of a king's children, of a king's kingdom. Пpiaμos Пpiaμołó te aides, king and kingdom should have been made a solemn sacrifice to appease their solemn deliberate malice. I said "deliberate," for they were loth to be malicious without good advice, and therefore they asked their question, worthy of an oracle even no less than Delphic, where an evil spirit was the "numen," and a witch the prophet. For the question was such of which a christian could not doubt, though he had been fearfully scrupulous in his resolutions. For who ever questioned the unlawfulness of murder, of murdering innocents, of murdering them who were confessed righteous? For such was their proposal; being rather willing that catholics should perish with those whom they thought heretics, than that there should be no blood spilt.
But to the question. It was fire they called for, the most merciless of all the elements, no possibility of relenting when once kindled, and had its object. It was the fittest instrument for merciless men, men of no bowels, whose malice, like their instrument, did " agere ad extremum suarum virium,” "work to the highest of its possibility." Secondly; it was fire indeed they called for, but not like that in my text, not fire from heaven. They might have called as long and as loud as those priests did who contested with Elisha; no fire would have come
h Homil. 2. in Psal. xxxvii. Cap. 10. et 21. lib. xix. c. 37.
* Decret. S. Leonis. P. M. Epist. 83. ad episc. Campan.
from heaven to have consumed what they had intended for a sacrifice. God's anathemas post not so fast as ours do: "Deus non est sicut homo." Man curseth often when God blesseth; men condemn whom God acquits, and, therefore, they were loth to trust God with their cause, they therefore take it into their own hands. And certainly, if to their anathemas they add some faggots of their own, and gunpowder, it is odds but then we may be consumed indeed; and so did they; their fire was not from heaven.
Lastly, it was a fire so strange, that it had no example. The apostles, indeed, pleaded a mistaken precedent for the reasonableness of their demand, they desired leave to do but "even as Elias did." The Greeks only retain this clause, it is not in the Bibles of the church of Rome, and really these "Romano-barbari" could never pretend to any precedent for an act so barbarous as theirs. Adramelech, indeed, killed a king, but he spared the people; Haman would have killed the people, but spared the king; but that both king and people, princes and judges, branch, and rush, and root, should die at once, (as if Caligulas were actuated and all England upon one head,) was never known till now, that all the malice in the world met in this, as in a centre. The Sicilian even-song, the matins of St. Bartholomew, known for the pitiless and damned massacres, were but káπνov oкíaç övap, "the dream of the shadow of smoke," if compared with this great fire. "In tam occupato sæculo fabulas vulgaris nequitia non invenit." This was a busy age; Erostratus must have invented a more sublimed malice than the burning of one temple, or not have been so much as spoke of since the discovery of the powder-treason. But I must make more haste, I shall not else climb the sublimity of this impiety. Nero was sometimes the "populare odium," was "popularly hated;" and deserved it too; for he slew his master, and his wife, and all his family, once or twice over, opened his mother's womb, fired the city, laughed at it, slandered the christians for it, but yet all these were but "principia malorum," the very first "rudiments of evil." Add then to these, Herod's master-piece at Ramah, as it was deciphered by the tears and sad threnes of the matrons in a universal mourning for the loss of their pretty infants; yet this of Herod will prove but an infant wickedness, and that of Nero, the evil
but of one city. I would willingly have found out an example, but I see I cannot, should I put into the scale the extract of all the old tyrants famous in antique stories,
"Bistonii stabulum regis, Busiridis aras, Antiphate mensas, et Taurica regna Thoantis." Should I take for true story the highest cruelty as it was fancied by the most hieroglyphical Egyptian, this alone would weigh them down, as if the Alps were put in scale against the dust of a balance. For had this accursed treason prospered, we should have had the whole kingdom mourn for the inestimable loss of its chiefest glory, its life, its present joy, and all its very hopes for the future. For such was their destined malice, that they would not only have inflicted so cruel a blow, but have made it incurable, by cutting off our supplies of joy, the whole succession of the line royal. Not only the vine itself, but all the "gemmulæ," and the tender olivebranches should either have been bent to their intentions, and made to grow crooked, or else been broken.
And now after such a sublimity of malice, I will not instance in the sacrilegious ruin of the neighbouring temples, which needs must have perished in the flame, nor in the disturbing the ashes of our entombed kings, devouring their dead ruins, like sepulchral dogs, these are but minutes, in respect of the ruin prepared for the living temples.
Let us then return to God the cup of thanksgiving, he having poured forth so largely to us of the cup of salvation. We cannot want wherewithal to fill it, here is matter enough for an eternal thankfulness, for the expression of which a short life is too little; but let us here begin our hallelujahs, hoping to finish them hereafter, where the many choirs of angels will fill the concert.
Praise the Lord, ye house of Levi; ye that fear the Lord, praise the Lord. Praise the Lord out of Sion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem.1
1 Psal. cxxxv. 20, 21.
WHOLE DUTY OF THE CLERGY
LIFE, BELIEF, AND DOCTRINE,
AND PRESSED EFFECTUALLY UPON THEIR CONSCIENCES,
TWO SERMONS ON TIT. II. 7, 8.
PREACHED IN SO MANY SEVERAL VISITATIONS.
the Divine grace, and prophets of righteousness to glorify God in themselves, and in their sermons unto others. But this was like enclosing of the sun; he that shuts him in, shuts him out; and God, who was and is an infinite goodness, would not be circumscribed, and limited to a narrow circle; goodness is his nature, and infinite is his measure, and communication of that goodness is the motion of that eternal being: God, therefore, breaks forth as out of a cloud, and picks out a whole nation; the sons of Israel became his family, and that soon swelled into a nation, and that nation multiplied, till it became too big for their country, and by a necessary dispersion went, and did much good, and gained some servants to God out of other parts of mankind. But God was pleased to cast lots once more, and was like the sun already risen upon the earth, who spreads his rays to all the corners of the habitable world, that all that will open their eyes and draw their curtains, may see and rejoice in his light. Here God resolved to call all the world; he sent into the highways and hedges, to the corners of the gentiles, and the highways of the Jews, all might come that would; for "the sound of the gospel went out into all lands:" and God chose all that came, but all would not; and those that did, he gathered into a fold, marked them with his own mark, sent his Son to be "the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls ;" and they became a peculiar people unto God," "a little flock," "a new election."
As God, in the creation of the world, first produced a mass of matter, having nothing in it but an obediential capacity and passivity; which God separating into classes of division, gave to every part a congruity to their respective forms, which, in their distinct orbs and stations, they did receive in order, and then were made beauteous by separations and a new economy; and out of these he appointed some for servants, and some for government; and some to eat, and some to be eaten; some above, and some below; some to be useful to all the rest, and all to minister to the good of man, whom he made the prince of the creation, and a minister of the Divine glory. So God hath also done in the new creation; all the world was concluded under sin; it was a corrupt mass; all mankind "had corrupted themselves;" but yet were capable of Divine influences, and of a nobler form, producible in the new birth: here then God's Spirit moves upon the waters of a Divine birth, and makes a separation of part from part, of corruption from corruption; and And here is the first separation and singularity first chose some families to whom he communicated of the gospel; all that hear the voice of Christ's the Divine influences and the breath of a nobler first call, all that profess themselves his disciples, life; Seth and Enoch, Noah and Abraham, Job and all that take his signature, they and their children Bildad, and these were the special repositories of are the church, an 'Ekкλŋoia, called out from the