Tell me, I pray you, brother Phronesis, what the signs are which denote true contrition, inasmuch as you have exposed the craft of Antichrist, acutely though obscurely, and say, do the Cæsarean sects, and new orders, which set aside the rules of Christ, and observe and value the new regulations they have devised, sin herein; or is there true penitence in their earnest and bold observance of such rules?
Not only the true believers among us, but the disciples of Antichrist, unite in confessing, that to remove sin, men must experience true contrition of heart. Accordingly, the first tendency to sorrow, what is not sufficient to remove sin, they call attrition; and the grief which follows, and is adequate, they call contrition. But still they are not able to distinguish between them, or to say where contrition really exists. But I have spoken of contrition in the third part of my sixty-four sermons. I have there said, that sorrow is sufficient to take away sin, but that it must be more on account of the loss of grace, than on account of any temporal good whatsoever. And so long as sorrow of this nature shall be wanting to the sinner, he does not grieve in contrition for the loss of the husband of the church. Nor is the quantity of grief to be looked to as regards its intensity, or its duration merely; but as regards both taken together. Wherefore it appears, that so long as we are in this life, we ought to be the subjects of grief for sin, in act or habits, since we protract our grief for temporal calamities to a great length. From all this, it further appears, that the true penitent does not return to his past sin; so that the doctors say, with truth, that to be penitent, is to mourn over past sins, and not to commit again the sins so regarded. Hence it further appears, that it is only the man who is contrite, that will be saved from his sin; the reprobate, by the sudden termination of his sorrow, shows that there is in him no contrition. Hence it follows further, that as the pope and others who administer confession, know not who will be saved, and who is reprobate, so they know not who is contrite. Hence it is a satanic presumption for men falsely to pretend that they will absolutely absolve this man or that from sin by laying their hands on his head. What avails, I ask, this sensible sign, the leaden seal, or the giving of money, to awaken contrition in the heart of the sinner? Verily nothing; and such administrators of confession deceive with their falsehoods, both themselves and those whom they confess.
But it is manifest that the Christian, by his trust in the compassion of Jesus Christ, and in his pain and holy purpose, may know from within himself that his sin is removed, and that he is contrite in spirit. Again, as to further conclusions, be firmly convinced that these new sects sin grievously against Christ, in thus contemning his ordinance, and delighting rather in their own frivolous observances.
Our possessioners ought to know, both from the life of Christ and his apostles, and from the commandments of Scripture, that such endowments as they thus obtain, are repugnant to that state which, in name at least, though falsely, and with a fraudulent intention, they profess. Yet along with these deceitful professions, they are ever plotting to increase their possessions, to defend them, and to destroy those who would impair them. It is repugnant to the Divine justice that such men should go unpunished. The same is true, also, of the friars, who blaspheme God, and defend most anxiously what is in their possession, and bitterly prosecute those who, in the name of the Lord, expose their fraud. The same is true, also, concerning their love of state, or of the Cæsarean or papal law, neglecting the state or law of the land.
This weightiest of sins is not to be taken away by flourishing pompous words, or displaying sensible signs, or by absolutions, or by the invention of indulgences—more especially when the power and opportunity of making satisfaction are within reach, and the sinner remains obstinate in his sin. God discerneth the hearts and intents of men, the condition and circumstances of their passions. It is ill, then, for a man to blaspheme Him, and say that he himself, by a sensible sign he has invented, can absolutely blot out the pollutions of such as are reprobate. Could there be a more presumptuous blasphemy, than for God’s enemy falsely to profess that he can so reconcile God, though God’s everlasting law and clear justice contradict him? Satan has suggested to these possessioners, that should they have such lordship in worldly things, it would be well, for the establishing of their false dominion, to invest themselves, by means of such blasphemies, with an imaginary spiritual power, a power which cannot be assailed, because not palpable to the senses, and thus procure to themselves authority from kings to burn all their opponents as heretics. Thus was the pretended power of Antichrist artfully introduced.