539. There are two duties incumbent on man, to be done after examination, namely, supplication and confession. The supplication should be that the Lord may be merciful, that He may give power to resist the evils that have been repented of, and that He will provide inclination and affection for doing good,
Since apart from the Lord man can do nothing (John 15:5).
The confession will be that he sees, recognizes, and acknowledges his evils, and finds himself to be a miserable sinner. There is no need for man to enumerate his sins before the Lord, nor to supplicate forgiveness of them. He need not enumerate them, because he has searched them out and seen them in himself, and consequently they are present to the Lord because they are present to himself. Moreover, the Lord led him to search them out, disclosed them, and inspired grief for them, and together with this an effort to refrain from them and begin a new life. Supplication need not be made to the Lord for forgiveness of sins, for the following reasons: First, because sins are not abolished, but removed; and they are removed so far as man continues to refrain from them and enters upon a new life; for there are innumerable lusts inherent, coiled up as it were, in every evil, and they cannot be put away instantly, but only gradually, as man permits himself to be reformed and regenerated. The second reason is, that as the Lord is mercy itself, He forgives all men their sins, nor does He impute a single sin to anyone, for He says, "They know not what they do." Nevertheless, the sins are not thereby taken away; for to Peter asking how often he should forgive his brother's trespasses, whether he should do so seven times, the Lord said:
I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21-22).
What, then, will not the Lord do? Still it does no harm for one burdened in conscience to enumerate his sins before a minister of the church, in order to lighten his burden and obtain absolution; because he is thereby initiated into a habit of examining himself, and reflecting upon each day's evils. But this kind of confession is natural, while that described above is spiritual.