ABSOLUTION. Signifies acquittal.
It is taken also from that act whereby the priest declares the sins of such as are penitent remitted. The Romanists hold absolution a part of the sacrament of penance: and the council of Trent and that of Florence declare the form or essence of the sacrament to lie in the words of absolution. “I absolve thee “of thy sins.” According to this, no one can receive absolution without the privity, consent and declaration of the priest; except, therefore, the priest be willing, God himself cannot pardon any man. This is a doctrine as blasphemous as it is ridiculous. The chief passage on which they ground their power of absolution is that in John 20:23 “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” But this is not to the purpose; since this was a special commission to the apostles themselves, and the first preachers of the Gospel, and most probably referred to the power he gave them of discerning spirits. By virtue of this power, Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead, and Paul struck Elimas blind. But supposing the passage in question to apply to the successors of the apostles, and to ministers in general, it can only import that their office is to preach pardon to the penitent, assuring those who believe that their sins are forgiven through the merits of Jesus Christ; and that those who remain in unbelief are in a state of condemnation. Any idea of authority given to fallible, uninspired men to absolve sinners, different from this, is unscriptural; nor can I see much utility in the terms ministerial or declarative absolution, as adopted by some divines, since absolution is wholly the prerogative of God; and the terms above-mentioned, may, to say the least, have no good influence on the minds of the ignorant and superstitious.