Confession & Absolution

LARGE CATECHISM (Tappert Edition)

A BRIEF EXHORTATION TO CONFESSION (15-19)

15 Note, then, as I have often said, that confession consists of two parts. The first is my work and act, when I lament my sin and desire comfort and restoration for my soul. The second is a work which God does, when he absolves me of my sins through a word placed in the mouth of a man. This is the surpassingly grand and noble thing that makes confession so wonderful and comforting. 16 In the past we placed all the emphasis on our work alone, and we were only concerned whether we had confessed purely enough. We neither noticed nor preached the very necessary second part; it was just as if our confession were simply a good work with which we could satisfy God. Where the confession was not made perfectly and in complete detail, we were told that the absolution was not valid and the sin was not forgiven. 17 Thereby the people were driven to the point that everyone inevitably despaired of confessing so purely (which was impossible), and nobody could feel his conscience at peace or have confidence in his absolution. Thus the precious confession was not only made useless to us but it also became burdensome and bitter, to the manifest harm and destruction of souls.

18 We should therefore take care to keep the two parts clearly separate. We should set little value on our work but exalt and magnify God’s Word. We should not act as if we wanted to perform a magnificent work to present to him, but simply to accept and receive something from him. You dare not come and say how good or how wicked you are. 19 If you are a Christian, I know this well enough anyway; if you are not, I know it still better. But what you must do is to lament your need and allow yourself to be helped so that you may attain a happy heart and conscience.

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