Large Catechism (Tappert Edition)
A Brief Exhortation to Confession (8-14)
8 To begin with, I have said that in addition to the confession which we are discussing here there are two other kinds, which have an even greater right to be called the Christians’ common confession. I refer to the practice of confessing to God alone or to our neighbor alone, begging for forgiveness. These two kinds are expressed in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” etc. 9 Indeed, the whole Lord’s Prayer is nothing else than such a confession. For what is our prayer but a confession that we neither have nor do what we ought and a plea for grace and a happy conscience? This kind of confession should and must take place incessantly as long as we live. For this is the essence of a genuinely Christian life, to acknowledge that we are sinners and to pray for grace.
10 Similarly the second confession, which each Christian makes toward his neighbor, is included in the Lord’s prayer. We are to confess our guilt before one another and forgive one another before we come into God’s presence to beg for forgiveness. Now, all of us are debtors one to another, therefore we should and we may confess publicly in everyone’s presence, no one being afraid of anyone else. 11 For it is true, as the proverb says, “If one man is upright, so are they all”; no one does to God or his neighbor what he ought. However, besides our universal guilt there is also a particular one, when a person has provoked another to anger and needs to beg his pardon. 12 Thus we have in the Lord’s Prayer a twofold absolution: our debts both to God and to our neighbor are forgiven when we forgive our neighbor and become reconciled with him.
13 Besides this public, daily, and necessary confession, there is also the secret confession which takes place privately before a single brother. When some problem or quarrel sets us at one another’s throats and we cannot settle it, and yet we do not find ourselves sufficiently strong in faith, we may at any time and as often as we wish lay our complaint before a brother, seeking his advice, comfort, and strength. 14 This kind of confession is not included in the commandment like the other two but is left to everyone to use whenever he needs it. Thus by divine ordinance Christ himself has entrusted absolution to his Christian church and commanded us to absolve one another from sins.7 So if there is a heart that feels its sin and desires consolation, it has here a sure refuge when it hears in God’s Word that through a man God looses and absolves him from his sins.
7 Matt. 18:15-19.