Article XIIa (V): Of Repentance.
1 In the Twelfth Article they approve of the first part, in which we set forth that such as have fallen after baptism may obtain remission of sins at whatever time, and as often as they are converted. They condemn the second part, in which we say that the parts of repentance are contrition and faith a. b They c deny that faith is the second part 2 of repentance. What are we to do here, O Charles, thou most invincible Emperor? The very voice of the Gospel is this, that by faith we obtain the remission of sins. d This voice of the Gospel these writers of the Confutation condemn. We, therefore, can in no way assent to the Confutation. We cannot condemn the voice of the Gospel, so salutary and abounding in consolation. What else is the denial that by faith we obtain remission of sins than to treat the blood and death of Christ with scorn? 3 We therefore beseech thee, O Charles, most invincible Emperor, patiently and diligently to hear and examine this most important subject, which contains the chief topic of the Gospel, and the true knowledge of Christ, and the true worship of God e. For all good men will ascertain that especially on this subject we have taught things that are true, godly, salutary, and necessary for the whole Church of Christ f. They will ascertain from the writings of our theologians that very much light has been added to the Gospel, and many pernicious errors have been corrected, by which, through the opinions of the scholastics and canonists, the doctrine of repentance was previously covered.
4 Before we come to the defense of our position, we must say this first: All good men of all ranks, and also of the theological rank, undoubtedly confess that before the writings of Luther appeared, the doctrine of repentance was very much confused. 5 The books of the Sententiaries are extant, in which there are innumerable questions which no theologians were ever able to explain satisfactorily. The people were able neither to comprehend the sum of the matter, nor to see what things especially were required in repentance, where peace of conscience was to be sought for. 6 Let any one of the adversaries come forth and tell us when remission of sins takes place. O good God, what darkness there is! They doubt whether it is in attrition or in contrition that remission of sins occurs. And if it occurs on account of contrition, what need is there of absolution, what does the power of the keys effect, if sins have been already remitted? Here, indeed, they also labor much more, and wickedly detract from the power of the keys. 7 Some dream that by the power of the keys guilt is not remitted, but that eternal punishments are changed into temporal. Thus the most salutary power would be the ministry, not of life and the Spirit, but only of wrath and punishments. Others, namely, the more cautious, imagine that by the power of the keys sins are remitted before the Church and not before God. This also is a pernicious error. For if the power of the keys does not console us before God, what, then, will pacify the conscience? 8 Still more involved is what follows. They teach that by contrition we merit grace. In reference to which, if any one should ask why Saul and Judas and similar persons, who were dreadfully contrite, did not obtain grace, the answer was to be taken from faith and according to the Gospel, that Judas did not believe, that he did not support himself by the Gospel and promise of Christ. For faith shows the distinction between the contrition of Judas and of Peter. But the adversaries take their answer from the Law, that Judas did not love God, but feared the punishments. g 9 When, however, will a terrified conscience, especially in those serious, true, and great terrors which are described in the psalms and the prophets, and which those certainly taste who are truly converted, be able to decide whether it fears God for His own sake h, or is fleeing from eternal punishments? i These great emotions can be distinguished in letters and terms; they are not thus separated in fact, as these sweet sophists dream. Here we appeal to the judgments of all good and wise men j. They undoubtedly will confess that these discussions in the writings of the adversaries are very confused and intricate. And nevertheless the most important subject is at stake, the chief topic of the Gospel, the remission of sins. This entire doctrine concerning these questions which we have reviewed, is, in the writings of the adversaries, full of errors and hypocrisy, and obscures the benefit of Christ, the power of the keys, and the righteousness of faith k.
11 These things occur in the first act. What when they come to confession? What a work there is in the endless enumeration of sins, which is nevertheless, in great part, devoted to those against human traditions! And in order that good minds may by this means be the more tortured, they falsely assert that this 12 enumeration is of divine right. And while they demand this enumeration under the pretext of divine right, in the mean time they speak coldly concerning absolution, which is truly of divine right. They falsely assert that the Sacrament itself confers grace ex opere operato, without a good disposition on the part of the one using it; no mention is made of faith apprehending the absolution and consoling the conscience. This is truly what is generally called ἀπιέναι πϱὸ τῶν μυστηϱίων, departing before the mysteries. l
13 The third act m remains, concerning satisfactions. But this contains the most confused discussions. They imagine that eternal punishments are commuted to the punishments of purgatory, and teach that a part of these is remitted by the power of the keys, and that a part is to be redeemed by means of satisfactions. 14 They add further that satisfactions ought to be works of supererogation, and they make these consist of most foolish observances, such as pilgrimages, rosaries, or similar observances which 15 do not have the command of God. Then, just as they redeem purgatory by means of satisfactions, so a scheme of redeeming satisfactions which was most abundant in revenue n was devised. For they sell o indulgences which they interpret as remissions of satisfactions. And this revenue p is not only from the living, but is much more ample from the dead. Nor do they redeem the satisfactions of the dead only by indulgences, but also by the sacrifice of the Mass. 16 In a word, the subject of satisfactions is infinite. Among these scandals (for we cannot enumerate all things) and doctrines of devils lies buried the doctrine of the righteousness of faith in Christ and the benefit of Christ. Wherefore, all good men understand that the doctrine of the sophists and canonists concerning repentance has been censured for a useful and godly purpose. For the following dogmas are clearly false, and foreign not only to Holy Scripture, but also to the Church Fathers:–
17 I. That from the divine covenant we merit grace by good works wrought without grace.
18 II. That by attrition we merit grace.
19 III. That for the blotting out of sin the mere detestation of the crime is sufficient.
20 IV. That on account of contrition, and not by faith in Christ, we obtain remission of sins.
21 V. That the power of the keys avails for the remission of sins, not before God, but before the Church.
22 VI. That by the power of the keys sins are not remitted before God, but that the power of the keys has been instituted to commute eternal to temporal punishments, to impose upon consciences certain satisfactions, to institute new acts of worship, and to obligate consciences to such satisfactions and acts of worship.
23 VII. That according to divine right the enumeration of offenses in confession, concerning which the adversaries teach, is necessary.
24 VIII. That canonical satisfactions are necessary for redeeming the punishment of purgatory, or they profit as a compensation for the blotting out of guilt. For thus uninformed persons understand it. q
25 IX. That the reception of the sacrament of repentance ex opere operato, without a good disposition on the part of the one using it, i.e., without faith in Christ, obtains grace.
26 X. That by the power of the keys our souls are freed from purgatory through indulgences.
27 XI. That in the reservation of cases not only canonical punishment, but the guilt also, ought to be reserved in reference to one who is truly converted.
28 In order, therefore, to deliver pious consciences from these labyrinths of the sophists, we have ascribed to repentance r these two parts, namely, contrition and faith. If any one desires to add a third, namely, fruits worthy of repentance, i.e., a change of the entire life and character for the better s, 29 we will not make any opposition. From contrition we separate those idle and infinite discussions, as to when we grieve from love of God, and when from fear of punishment. t But we say that contrition is the true terror of conscience, which feels that God is angry with sin, and which grieves that it has sinned. And this contrition takes place in this manner when sins are censured by the Word of God, because the sum of the preaching of the Gospel is this, namely, to convict of sin, and to offer for Christ's sake the remission of sins and righteousness, and the Holy Ghost, and eternal life, and that as regenerate men we should do good works. 30 Thus Christ comprises the sum of the Gospel when He says in Luke 24, 47: That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in My name among all nations. 31 And of these terrors Scripture speaks, as Ps. 38, 4. 8: For mine iniquities are gone over mine head, as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me… I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. And Ps. 6, 2. 3: Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak; O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed; but Thou, O Lord, how long? And Is.38, 10. 13: I said in the cutting off of my days, I shalt go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years … I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will He break all my bones. u 32 In these terrors, conscience feels the wrath of God against sin, which is unknown to secure men walking according to the flesh v. It sees the turpitude of sin, and seriously grieves that it has sinned; meanwhile it also flees from the dreadful wrath of God, because human 33 nature, unless sustained by the Word of God, cannot endure it. Thus Paul says, Gal. 2, 19: I through the Law am dead to the Law. 34 For the Law only accuses and terrifies consciences. In these terrors our adversaries say nothing of faith; they present only the Word, which convicts of sin. When this is taught alone, it is the doctrine of the Law, not of the Gospel. By these griefs and terrors, they say, men merit grace, provided they love God. But how will men love God in true terrors when they feel the terrible and inexpressible wrath of God? What else than despair do those teach who, in these terrors, display only the Law?
35 We therefore add as the second part of repentance, Of Faith in Christ, that in these terrors the Gospel concerning Christ ought to be set forth to consciences, in which Gospel the remission of sins is freely promised concerning Christ. Therefore, they ought to believe that for Christ's sake 36 sins are freely remitted to them. This faith cheers, sustains, and quickens the contrite, according to Rom. 5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This faith obtains the remission of sins. This faith justifies before God, as the same passage testifies: Being justified by faith. This faith shows the distinction between the contrition of Judas and Peter, of Saul and of David. The contrition of Judas or Saul is of no avail, for the reason that to this there is not added this faith, which apprehends the remission of sins, bestowed as a gift for Christ's sake. Accordingly, the contrition of David or Peter avails, because to it there is added faith, which apprehends the remission of sins granted for Christ's sake. 37 Neither is love present before reconciliation has been made by faith. For without Christ the Law w is not performed, according to x Rom. 5, 2: By Christ we have access to God. And this faith grows gradually and throughout the entire life, struggles with sin y in order to overcome sin and death. 38 But love follows faith, as we have said above. And thus filial fear can be clearly defined as such anxiety as has been connected with faith, i.e., where faith consoles and sustains the anxious heart. It is servile fear when faith does not sustain the anxious heart z.
39 Moreover, the power of the keys administers and presents the Gospel through absolution, which aa is the true voice of the Gospel. Thus we also comprise absolution when we speak of faith, because faith cometh by hearing, as Paul says Rom. 10, 17. For when the Gospel is heard, and the absolution ab is heard, the conscience is encouraged and receives consolation. 40 And because God truly quickens through the Word, the keys truly remit sins before God ac according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth you heareth Me. Wherefore the voice of the one absolving 41 must be believed not otherwise than we would believe a voice from heaven. And absolution ad properly can be called a sacrament of repentance, as also the more learned scholastic theologians speak. 42 Meanwhile this faith is nourished in a manifold way in temptations, through the declarations of the Gospel ae and the use of the Sacraments. For these are af signs of ag the New Testament, i.e., signs of ah the remission of sins. They offer, therefore, the remission of sins, as the words of the Lord's Supper clearly testify,
Matt. 26, 26. 28: This is My body, which is given for you. This is the cup of the New Testament, etc. Thus faith is conceived and strengthened through absolution, through the hearing of the Gospel, through the use of the Sacraments, so that it may not succumb while it struggles 43 with the terrors of sin and death. This method of repentance is plain and clear, and increases the worth of the power of the keys and of the Sacraments, and illumines the benefit of Christ, and teaches us to avail ourselves of Christ as Mediator and Propitiator.
44 But as the Confutation condemns us for having assigned these two parts to repentance, we must show that ai Scripture expresses these as the chief parts in repentance or conversion. For Christ says, Matt. 11, 28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Here there are two members. The labor and the burden signify the contrition, anxiety, and terrors of sin and of death. To come to Christ is to believe that sins are remitted for Christ's sake; when we believe, our hearts are quickened by the Holy Ghost 45 through the Word of Christ. Here, therefore, there are these two chief parts, contrition and faith. And in Mark 1, 15 Christ says: Repent ye and believe the Gospel, where in the first member He convicts of sins; in the latter He consoles us, and shows the remission of sins. For to believe the Gospel is not that general faith which devils also have aj, but in the proper sense it is to believe that the remission of sins has been granted for Christ's sake. For this is revealed in the Gospel. You see also here that the two parts are joined, contrition when sins are reproved, and faith, when it is said: Believe the Gospel. If any one should say here that Christ includes also the fruits of repentance or the entire new life, we shall not dissent. For this suffices us, that contrition and faith are named as the chief parts.
46 Paul almost everywhere, when he describes conversion or renewal, designates these two parts, mortification and quickening, as in Col. 2, 11: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, namely, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. And afterward, 2, 12: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Here are two parts. ak One is putting off the body of sins; the other is the rising again through faith. Neither ought these words, mortification, quickening, putting off the body of sins, rising again, to be understood in a Platonic way, concerning a feigned change; 47 but mortification signifies true terrors, such as those of the dying, which nature could not sustain unless it were supported by faith. So he names that as the putting off of the body of sins which we ordinarily call contrition, because in these griefs the natural concupiscence is purged away. And quickening ought not to be understood as a Platonic fancy, but as consolation which truly sustains life that is escaping in contrition. Here, therefore, are two parts: contrition and faith. For as conscience cannot be pacified except by faith, therefore faith alone quickens, according to the declaration, Hab. 2, 4; Rom. 1, 17: The just shall live by faith
48 And then in Col. 2, 14 it is said that Christ blots out the handwriting which through the Law is against us. Here also there are two parts, the handwriting and the blotting out of the handwriting. The handwriting, however, is conscience, convicting and condemning us. The Law, moreover, is the word which reproves and condemns sins. Therefore, this voice which says, I have sinned against the Lord, as David says, 2 Sam. 12, 13, is the handwriting. And wicked and secure men do not seriously give forth this voice. For they do not see, they do not read the sentence of the Law written in the heart. In true griefs and terrors this sentence is perceived. Therefore the handwriting which condemns us is contrition itself. To blot out the handwriting is to expunge this sentence by which we declare that we shall be condemned, and to engrave the sentence according to which we know that we have been freed from this condemnation. But faith is the new sentence, which reverses the former sentence, and gives peace and life to the heart.
49 However, what need is there to cite many testimonies since they are everywhere obvious in the Scriptures? Ps. 118, 18: The Lord hath chastened me sore, but He hath not given me over unto death. Ps. 119,28: My soul melteth for heaviness; strengthen Thou me according unto Thy word. Here, in the first member, contrition is contained, and in the second the mode is clearly described how in contrition we are revived, namely, by the Word of God, which 50 offers grace. This sustains and quickens hearts. And 1 Sam. 2, 6: The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up. By one of these, contrition is signified; 51 by the other, faith is signified. And Is. 28, 21: The Lord shall be wrath that He may do His work, His strange work, and bring to pass His act, His strange act. He calls it the strange work of the Lord when He terrifies, because to quicken and console is God's own work. al But He terrifies, he says, for this reason, namely, that there may be a place for consolation and quickening, because hearts that are secure and do not feel the wrath of God loathe consolation. 52 In this manner Scripture is accustomed to join these two, the terrors and the consolation, in order to teach that in repentance there are these chief members, contrition, and faith that consoles and justifies. Neither do we see how the nature of repentance can be presented more clearly and simply. am