This is a short series of Wednesday postings taking us through Luther's Small Catechism.
LSC WEDNESDAY #5
HOW THE UNLEARNED SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO CONFESS
What is Confession?
Answer: Confession has two parts: the one is that we confess our sins; the other is that we receive Absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no way doubt, but firmly believe that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven by this.
What sins should we confess?
Answer: Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those that we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess only those sins that we know and feel in our hearts.
Which are these?
Answer: Here consider your calling according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a manservant or maidservant. Consider whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, or slothful. Consider whether you have grieved anyone by words or deeds, whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted, or done other harm.
PLEASE GIVE TO ME A BRIEF FORM OF CONFESSION
Answer: You should speak to the confessor like this, “Reverend and dear sir, I ask you to hear my confession, and to pronounce forgiveness to me for God’s sake.”
I, a poor sinner, confess myself guilty of all sins before God. I especially confess before you that I am a manservant (a maidservant, etc.). But, unfortunately, I serve my master unfaithfully. For in this and in that I have not done what has been commanded me. I have provoked him and caused him to curse. I have been negligent ‹in many things› and permitted damage to be done. I have also been immodest in words and deeds. I have argued with my equals, grumbled, and sworn at my mistress, and so forth. For all this I am sorry, and I pray for grace. I want to do better.
A master or mistress may say this:
In particular I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my children, domestic servants, and wife ‹family› for God’s glory. I have cursed, set a bad example by rude words and deeds. I have done my neighbor harm and spoken evil of him. I have overcharged, sold inferior products, and have given people less than they paid for.
And whatever else he has done against God’s command and his calling, and such.
But if anyone does not find himself burdened with these sins or greater sins, he should not trouble himself or search for or invent other sins, and thereby make confession a torture. He should mention one or two sins that he knows. Say, “In particular I confess that I once cursed. Further, I once used improper words. I have once neglected this or that, and so on.” Let this be enough.
But if you don’t know of any sins at all (which, however, is hardly possible), then mention none in particular, but receive the forgiveness upon your general confession that you make before God to the confessor.
Then the confessor shall say:
God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith! Amen.
Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?
Answer: Yes, dear sir.
Then let him say:
As you believe, so let it be done for you. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Depart in peace.
But for those who have great burdens on their consciences, or are distressed and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and to encourage them to believe with more passages of Scripture. This is supposed to serve as a general form of confession for the unlearned.
Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 341
Soli Deo Gloria