Anselm of Canterbury: An 11th Century “Sinner’s Prayer”

There is an exhortation of Anselm (1033-1109) to a dying brother, written in the most comforting words: “When a brother seems to be in his death struggle, it is godly and advisable to exercise him through a prelate or other priest with written questions and exhortations. He may be asked in the first place: ‘Brother, are you glad that you will die in the faith?’ let him answer: ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you confess that you did not live as well as you should have?’ ‘I confess.’ ‘Are you sorry for this?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you willing to better yourself if you should have further time to live?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has died for you?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you believe that you cannot be saved except through his death?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you heartily thank him for this?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Therefore always give thanks to him while your soul is in you, and on this death alone place your whole confidence. Commit yourself wholly to this death, with this death cover yourself wholly, and wrap yourself in it completely. And if the Lord should want to judge you, say: “Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thee and thy judgment; I will not contend with Thee in any other way.” If he says that you have merited damnation, say: “I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between myself and my evil deserts, and the merits of his most worthy passion I bring in place of the merit which I should have had, and, alas, do not have.” ’

Martin Chemnitz, “Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, Eighth Topic: “Concerning Justification”, Section II, “Testimonies of the Ancients Concerning Justification”, pg 511.

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4 Responses to Anselm of Canterbury: An 11th Century “Sinner’s Prayer”

  1. infanttheology says:

    John,

    I would submit that this demonstrates in spades the *proper* “system of the priestly mediation of grace by the Church.” A beautiful demonstration of how it is supposed to work and how Luther saw it working. Catholic in the best sense.

    +Nathan

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    • John Bugay says:

      Thanks Nathan — I was surprised to find this. Chemnitz gave this quote, but I couldn’t find the citation for it. Do you know if anyone has tracked that down?

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      • infanttheology says:

        John,

        I will keep my eyes peeled. If I am not mistaken, there are other quotations from Anselm like this one.

        +Nathan

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        • John Bugay says:

          Thanks Nathan — I did see that he had some other citations in there; this particular one did not have a citation though.

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