Jas 5:16; "confess your faults one to another (the apostle does not say to the priest), and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." The "faults" (paraptoomata) are literally "falls" in relation to one another. But the Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus manuscripts and Vulgate read "sins" (hamartias). Confession is desirable
(1) in case of wrong done to a neighbor, Mt 18:15;
(3) open confession of any wrong done to the church, which has caused scandal to religion, in token of penitence. Not auricular: Mt 3:6; Ac 19:18, "many confessed and shewed (openly, not in the ear of a priest under the seal of secrecy) their deeds."
In Eng. the words 'confess,' 'confession' denote either a profession of faith or an acknowledgment of sin; and they are used in English Version in both of these meanings.
1. Confession of faith.
There are two applications of this word, one of which is apt to be overlooked. The one is the confession of sin. This was enjoined by the law, and if accompanied with a sacrifice it led to forgiveness. Le 5:5; Nu 5:7. It is beautiful to see how Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel confessed the sins of the people as if they had been their own. Ezr 9; 10:1; Ne 1:6; 9:2-3; Da 9:4-20. When John the Baptist was fulfilling his mission, the people 'confessed' their sins, and were baptised, Mt 3:5-6; and of the Christian it is said, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1Jo 1:9: cf. Ps 32:5. We are exhorted to confess our faults one to another. Jas 5:16.
The other application of the term is confessing the Lord Jesus. The Jewish rulers agreed that if any one 'confessed' that Jesus was the Christ he should be excommunicated. Joh 9:22. On the other hand, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved . . . . . Confession is made unto salvation." This is PROFESSION, as indeed the same word, ????????, is translated. "Let us hold fast our profession"
CONFESSION signifies a public acknowledgment of any thing as our own: thus Christ will confess the faithful in the day of judgment, Lu 12:8.
2. To own and profess the truths of Christ, and to obey his commandments, in spite of opposition and danger from enemies, Mt 10:32.
3. To utter or speak the praises of God, or to give him thanks.
4. To acknowledge our sins and offences to God, either by private or public confession; or to our neighbour whom we have wronged; or to some pious persons from whom we expect to receive comfort and spiritual instruction; or to the whole congregation when our fault is published, Ps 32:5; Mt 3:6; 16'>Jas 5:16; 1 John 1:9. 5. To acknowledge a crime before a judge, Jos 7:19.
2. In the Jewish ceremony of annual expiation, the high priest confessed in general his own sins, the sins of other ministers of the temple, and those of all the people. When an Israelite offered a sacrifice for sin, he put his hand on the head of the victim, and confessed his faults, Leviticus 4. On the day of atonement, the Jews still make a private confession of their sins, which is called by them cippur, and which is said to be done in the following manner: Two Jews retire into a corner of the synagogue. One of them bows very low before the other, with his face turned toward the north. He who performs the office of confessor gives the penitent nine-and-thirty blows on the back with a leathern strap, repeating these words, "God, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not; yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath." As there are only thirteen words in this verse recited in the Hebrew, he repeats it three times, and at every word strikes one blow; which makes nine-and-thirty words, and as many lashes. In the meantime, the penitent declares his sins, and at the confession of every one beats himself on his breast. This being finished, he who has performed the office of confessor prostrates himself on the ground, and receives in turn from his penitent nine-and-thirty lashes.
3. The Romish church not only requires confession as a duty, but has advanced it to the dignity of a sacrament. These confessions are made in private to the priest, who is not to reveal them under pain of the highest punishment. The council of Trent requires "secret confession to the priest alone, of all and every mortal sin, which, upon the most diligent search and examination of our consciences, we can remember ourselves to be guilty of since our baptism; together with all the circumstances of those sins, which may change the nature of them; because, without the perfect knowledge of these, the priest cannot make a judgment of the nature and quality of men's sins, nor impose fitting penance for them." This is the confession of sins which the same council confidently affirms "to have been instituted by our Lord, and by the law of God, to be necessary to salvation, and to have been always practised in the catholic church." It is, however, evident, that such confession is unscriptural. St. James, indeed, says, "Confess your faults one to another," Jas 5:16; but priests are not here mentioned, and the word faults seems to confine the precept to a mutual confession among Christians, of those offences by which they may have injured each other. Certain it is, that from this passage the necessity of auricular confession, and the power of priestly absolution, cannot be inferred. Though many of the early ecclesiastical writers earnestly recommend confession to the clergy, yet they never recommend it as essential to the pardon of sin, or as having connection with a sacrament. They only urge it as entitling a person to the prayers of the congregation; and as useful for supporting the authority of wholesome discipline, and for maintaining the purity of the Christian church. Chrysostom condemns all secret confession to men, as being obviously liable to great abuses; and Basal, Hilary, and Augustine, all advise confession of sins to God only. It has been proved by M. Daille, that private, auricular, sacramental confession of sins was unknown in the primitive church. But, though private auricular confession is not of divine authority, yet, as Archbishop Tillotson properly observes, there are many cases in which men, under the guilt and trouble of their sins, can neither appease their own minds, nor sufficiently direct themselves, without recourse to some pious and prudent guide. In these cases, men certainly do very well, and many times prevent a great deal of trouble and perplexity to themselves, by a timely discovery of their condition to some faithful minister, in order to their direction and satisfaction. To this purpose a general confession is for the most part sufficient; and where there is occasion for a more particular discovery, there is no need of raking into the minute and foul circumstances of men's sins to give that advice which is necessary for the cure and ease of the penitent. Auricular confession is unquestionably one of the greatest corruptions of the Romish church. It goes upon the ground that the priest has power to forgive sins; it establishes the tyrannical influence of the priesthood; it turns the penitent from God who only can forgive sins, to man who is himself a sinner; and it tends to corrupt both the confessors and the confessed by a foul and particular disclosure of sinful thoughts and actions of every kind without exception.
CONFESSIONS OF FAITH, simply considered, is the same with creed, and signifies a summary of the principal articles of belief adopted by any individual or society. In its more common acceptation, it is restricted to the summaries of doctrine published by particular Christian churches, with the view of preventing their religious sentiments from being misunderstood or misrepresented, or, by requiring subscription to them, of securing uniformity of opinion among those who join their communion. Except a single sentence in one of the Ignatian Epistles, (A.D. 180,) which relates exclusively to the reality of Christ's personality and sufferings in opposition to the Docetae, the earliest document of this kind is to be found in the writings of Irenaeus, who flourished toward the end of the second century of the Christian aera. In his treatise against heresies, this father affirms that "the faith of the church planted throughout the whole world," consisted in the belief of "one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and sea, and all that are in them; and one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and one Holy Spirit, who foretold, through the Prophets, the dispensations and advents, and the generation by the virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension in the flesh into heaven, of Jesus Christ our beloved Lord, and his appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father, to unite together all things under one head, and to raise every individual of the human race; that unto Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, and Saviour and King, every knee may bow, and every tongue confess; that he may pronounce just sentence upon all." In various parts of Tertullian's writings similar statements occur, (A.D. 200,) which it is unnecessary particularly to quote. We shall only remark, that in one of them, the miraculous conception of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost is distinctly mentioned; that in another, he declares it to have been the uniform doctrine from the beginning of the Gospel, that Christ was born of the virgin, both man and God, ex ea natum hominem et Deum; and that in each of these, faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit, is recognised as essential to Christianity. The following passage we cite, for the purpose of marking its coincidence with the Apostles' Creed, to which we shall have occasion soon to advert: "This," says he, "is the sole, immovable, irreformable rule of faith; namely, to believe in the only God Almighty, maker of the world; and his Son Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, the third day raised from the dead, received into heaven, now sitting at the right hand of the Father, about to