1920s Arguments Over Absolution In The CRCs (2)

Perhaps a few words regarding the context of this service of reconciliation will not be amiss…. Note first of all that it follows the opening service. In this service the Lord and His people greet each other. After the greeting comes the meeting or the actual exercise of communion. But since God’s people are a sinful people, God can have fellowship with them and they with God only on the foundation of divine grace, a grace realized for them in Christ’s atonement and bearing fruit in God’s reconciliation with them and their reconciliation with God. Hence the service of reconciliation must follow the opening service in which God and His people greet each other.

The service of reconciliation, to be complete, should consist of the following elements:

1. The Reading of the Law. As the Lord came to Abraham at the establishment of the Covenant with the words: “I am God almighty; walk before me and be thou perfect,” so He comes to His people with His law as the rule of their life and the teacher of sin. This is appropriately followed by:

2. The Confession of Sin. Shall the church remain silent when she hears the law of her God? In our present form of worship she does. There is no response to the Law. Is that proper? Is it fitting? Abraham fell on his face when he heard the command. Likewise the Church, having heard God’s law, falls on her face when she answers, as did the Reformed fathers, and in the words of Form which they left us, with a humble Confession of Sin. This is not at all a strange invocation but a perfectly legitimate practise [sic] in Reformed churches.

3. The Absolution. A humble confession of sin cannot be the end of this service since the Lord will not remain silent when his people confess their guilt and plead on his forgiving grace in Christ. He is righteous and true, says his Word, if we confess our sins, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And it is His will that we shall know the things which are granted us from Him. Therefore we may expect a divine response to our confession of sin and that response is the Absolution: the divine declaration that all who have sincerely confessed their sins have remission of their sins. And since this element was present in the liturgies of the times of the Reformation, notably those of Calvin, à Lasco, and Dathenus and the forms in which it was embodied still exist for our use, it should not even be called an innovation!

—Supplement XIV. Report No. IV Of The Committee On The Improvement Of Our Public Worship. Acta der Synode 1928, 279–81.

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