ON SINCERITY IN CONFESSION
Consider first, the necessity of being sincere in the confession of
our sins, if we hope for the forgiveness of them. All hypocrisy and
double-dealing, in matters of this consequence, is abominable in the
sight of God. The prophet pronounces a curse against them 'that do the work of the Lord deceitfully,'
Jer. xlviii. 10. And surely they must be guilty, in the highest
degree, of doing the work of God deceitfully, that go to confession with
fraud and deceit, and while they outwardly profess humility and
sincerity, conceal though the pride of their heart, and disguise by lies
the guilt of their consciences. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead
by a visible judgment of God, for telling 'a lie to the Holy Ghost,'
Acts v. And are not all such as are insincere in the confession of
their sins, guilty in like manner of telling a lie to the Holy Ghost,
whilst they seek to impose upon the minister of God, in this most solemn
and sacred function? They are guilty also of a grievous sacrilege, as
often as they receive absolution in this case, by their profaning the
sacrament of penance, which sacrilege is commonly followed by another
still greater, by their making themselves also guilty of the body and
blood of Christ by an unworthy Communion, and thereby receiving
damnation to themselves. Good God, preserve us from so heinous and so
dreadful an evil!
Consider 2ndly, the dismal consequences of suffering one's self to be imposed upon in such a manner by the father of lies, as to conceal any matter of moment in confession, either through shame, or fear, or pride of heart. Alas! to avoid a little present confusion, which would be immediately followed by the recovery of God's favour, with peace of conscience, comfort, and joy, what a bottomless pit of dreadful and endless evils does the soul cast herself headlong into! What inextricable difficulties, pains, and perplexities! For she has no sooner yielded herself up to the old serpent by this criminal concealment but this dumb devil takes such possession of her as to make her apprehend the confession of her guilt more than either death or hell. Hence she goes on adding sin to sin, sacrilege to sacrilege, burthened all the while by her own conscience, gnawed with a remorse which she seeks in vain to stifle, and carrying about with her a painful imposthume in her heart which never suffers her to be easy. She deludes herself indeed with vain purposes of confessing some time or other hereafter; but in the meantime her difficulties increase, the devil daily acquires more and more power over her, till at length mercy abused gives place to justice, and when she least expects it she is cut off in her sins, and carries down with he the guilt of them all, to be confessed too late in hell.
Consider 3rdly, how little reason there is for a penitent to be so much ashamed of the confession of his sins. Sin, indeed, is shameful, but the confession of one's sin is not so. No, the humble confession of a sinner gives glory to God, is honourable to the penitent himself, and affords joy to the whole court of heaven. And as to the confessor, besides that he is bound by all laws to an eternal secrecy, and can make no manner of use of the knowledge he receives by confession that can anywise be disagreeable to the penitent, he is so far even in his own mind from despising or thinking worse of the prodigal child, returning home by confession, or having less regard or affection for his penitent on that occasion that, on the contrary, as he more clearly sees the hand of God in the humility and sincerity of the confession, he rejoices in this happy change, he likes the penitent better than before, and conceives greater hopes of him for the future, and thinking no more of what is past, he has a more tender regard than ever for a soul that has thus unbosomed herself to him. In the meantime, the penitent finds himself in a manner in paradise, by the comfort and joy that he feels in having discharged his conscience of its load, and let out the imposthume that would not suffer him to be easy.
Conclude to beware of the tricks of the father of lies, who hates nothing so much as an humble confession, and therefore makes use of innumerable artifices to induce Christians to pass over, or disguise at least, their sins in the sacrament of penance. Ah, how many thousands of souls has he deluded by these artifices, and drawn down into the bottomless pit? Alas! how easy it is for persons to be deceived on these occasions, who in effect have a mind to be deceived, and are willing, at any rate, to form to themselves a false conscience, by some pretext or other, to spare themselves the shame of confessing their sins. See, my soul, this never be thy case, and therefore whensoever thou findest a repugnance to confess any part of thy guilt, and a willingness to find some reason to dispense either thyself, be sure to confess the sooner that which thou findest this repugnance to declare , for fear of thy being imposed upon by pride or self love.