Small Catechism

The Office Of The Keys

As The Head Of The Family Should Teach Them In All Simplicity To His Household.

What is the office of the keys? Answer:

It is the peculiar church power which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of penitent sinners unto them, but to retain the sins of the impenitent, as long as they do not repent.

Where is this written? Answer:

Thus writes the holy Evangelist John, chapter twentieth: The Lord Jesus breathed on his disciples, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

What do you believe according to these words? Answer:

I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, especially when they exclude manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian congregation, and, again, when they absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend, this is as valid and certain, in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us Himself.

How the unlearned should be taught to confess.

What is confession? Answer:

Confession embraces two parts: one is that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

What sins should we confess? Answer:

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the confessor we should confess those sins only which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these? Answer:

Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any person by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected or wasted aught, or done other injury.

Pray, give me a brief form of confession. Answer:

Say to the confessor, Reverend and dear Sir, I beseech you to hear my confession, and pronounce forgiveness to me, for God’s sake.


I, a poor sinner, confess myself before God guilty of all sins. Especially do I confess before you that I am a servant, etc., but, alas! I serve my master unfaithfully; for in this and in that I have not done what they commanded me; I have provoked them to anger and profane words, have been negligent and have not prevented injury, have been immodest in words and deeds, have quarreled with my equals, have murmured and used profane words against my mistress, etc. For all this I am sorry, and implore grace; I promise amendment.

A master, or mistress may say:

Especially do I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my children and household to the glory of God; I have used profane language, set a bad example by indecent words and deeds, have done my neighbor harm and spoken evil of him, have overcharged and given false ware and short measure;—

and whatever else he has done against God’s Commandments and his station, etc.

But if any one does not find himself burdened with such or greater sins, he should not trouble himself on that account, nor seek or invent other sins, and thus make confession a torture; but simply mention one or two that you know, after this manner: Especially do I confess that I have once been profane; I have once used improper words; I have once neglected this or that, etc. Let that suffice.

But if you are conscious of none at all, which, however, is scarcely possible, then mention none in particular, but receive absolution upon the general confession which you make before God to the confessor.

Then shall the confessor say:

God be merciful to thee, and strengthen thy faith. Amen.

Furthermore: Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? Answer:

Yes, I believe.

Then he shall say:

Be it unto thee as thou believest. And I, by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive thee thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Depart in peace.

Those, however, whose conscience is heavily burdened, or who are troubled and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and incite to faith with more passages of Scripture. This is designed merely to be a general form of confession for the unlearned.

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