VIII. OF CONFESSION.
Since absolution or the power of the keys, instituted in the Gospel by Christ, affords comfort and support against sin and an evil conscience, Confession or Absolution shall by no means be abolished in the church, especially on account of weak and timid consciences, and also on account of untutored youth, in order that they may be examined and instructed in the Christian doctrine.
But the enumeration of sins should be free to every one, to enumerate or not to enumerate such as he wishes; for while we are in the flesh, we shall not speak falsely, if we say that we are miserable beings, full of sins. Rom. 7, 23: "I see another law in my members," &c. And since Private Absolution results from the office of the keys, it should not be contemned, but should be highly esteemed, like all other offices of the Christian church.
And in respect to those points, which concern the oral, external word, we should maintain firmly, that God grants his Spirit or grace to no one, unless through or with the external word, previously delivered. Thus we shall fortify ourselves against the enthusiasts,* that is, deluded men, who boast of being in possession of the Spirit without and prior to the word, and accordingly judge, explain, and distort the Scripture or the oral word at their pleasure, as Munzer did, and many others still do at the present day, who wish to be acute judges between the Spirit and the letter, but know not what they say or resolve. For Popery is a mere system of enthusiasm, in which the Pope boasts that all rights are in the shrine of his heart, and that whatever he judges and commands in his church, must be right and according to the Spirit, even if it is contrary to the Scripture, or the oral word.*corrected spelling from Henkel, 1854: entusiasts
All this is the spirit of that ancient Satan, the serpent who made enthusiasts of Adam and Eve, leading them from the external word to spirituality and self-conceit, and did it however also by external words. Precisely as our enthusiasts condemn this external word, and yet they themselves do not keep silence, but fill the world with noisy controversy and contention, as if the Spirit could not come through the Scripture or the oral word of the Apostles, but that through their writing and their words he must come. Why then do they not also omit preaching and writing themselves, till the Spirit himself enters into the people without and prior to their writing, as they boast that he entered into them without the preaching of the Gospel? But we have not time further to discuss this subject here; we have sufficiently urged it in other places.
For those also, who believed prior to their baptism, or who in their baptism began to believe, have obtained faith through the external word, previously heard; as adults, for instance,* must previously have heard that he who believes and is baptized, shall be saved, even if he does not believe at first, and ten years afterwards receives the Spirit and Baptism. Cornelius, Acts 10, had heard long before among the Jews, of the future Messiah, through whom he was justified in the sight of God; and his prayers and alms were accepted in this faith, as Luke calls him just and pious, and not without such previous word or hearing could he believe or be justified. But St. Peter had to reveal unto him that this Messiah, in whom he had hitherto believed as yet to come, had now come, so that his faith concerning the future Messiah might not hold him captive among the obdurate, unbelieving Jews; but that he might know that he must now be saved through the present Messiah, and not, like the Jews, deny or reject him. *corrected spelling from Henkel, 1854: intstance
In short, enthusiasm implanted and infused with the venom of the old Dragon, has infected and will infect Adam and his posterity, from the beginning of the world to its end; and it is the source of every species of heresy, even the life and power of Popery and Mahometanism. We should and must, therefore, constantly maintain that God will not confer with us frail beings, unless through his external word and sacraments. But all that is boasted of, independent of such word and sacraments, in reference to the Spirit, is criminal. For God desired first to appear to Moses, through a burning bush and the oral word; and no Prophet, neither Elijah nor Elisha, independent of, or without the Ten Commandments, received the Spirit. Neither was John the Baptist* conceived without the words of Gabriel proceeding; nor did he leap in his mother's womb without the voice of Mary. And St. Peter, 2 Pet. 1, 21, says: "The prophecy came not in old time by the Holy Ghost." But without the external word they were not holy, much less were they, as still unholy, impelled by the Holy Ghost to speak; for they were holy, says Peter, when the Holy Spirit spoke through them. *corrected spelling from Henkel, 1854: Bastist