With the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Rom. 10: 10.
Let it be said concerning confession that everything ought to
be free, so that each person attends without restraint, of his own
accord. But what ought one to confess? Here is where our
preachers in the past have pounded a great deal into us by means
of the five senses, the seven deadly sins, the ten commandments
and the like, thereby perplexing our consciences. But it should
be that you first of all feel that which weighs you down, and the
sins that pain you most and burden your conscience. These you
ought to declare and confess to your brother. You need not
search long nor seek all kinds of sins; just take the ones that
come to your mind, and say, This is how frail I am and how I
have fallen ; this is where I crave consolation and counsel. For
confession ought to be brief. If you recall something that you
have forgotten, it is not to trouble you ; for you made confession,
not as a good work, nor because you were compelled, but in order
to be comforted by the word of absolution. Moreover, you can
easily confess to God in secret what was forgotten, or you can
hear the absolution for it during the communion service.
We are therefore not to worry, even if sins have been forgotten;
though forgotten they are still forgiven ; for God looks not
to the excellence or completeness of your confession, but to his
Word and how you believe it. So also the absolution does not
state that some sins are forgiven and others not ; it is a free proclamation
declaring that God is merciful to you. But if God
is merciful to you all your sins must be blotted out. Therefore
hold fast to the absolution alone and not to your confession
whether or not you have forgotten anything makes no difference;
to the extent that you believe you are forgiven. Therefore
confession and absolution must be carefully distinguished,
that you give attention chiefly to the absolution, and that you
attend confession not to do a good work, thinking that because
of this good work your sins are forgiven. We are to go only
because we there hear God's Word and by it receive consolation.
This is confessing in the right way.