From Luther . . .
(Luther speaks of the reality of the minister in the stead and by the command of Christ when hearing confession and giving absolution.)
This ought especially to be taught, that confession's not made to man but to Christ. Likewise it isn't man who absolves but Christ. But few understand this. Today I replied to the Bohemians, who insist that God alone remits sins and are offended by my little book on the keys. Wherefore one should teach that men make confession to Christ, and Christ absolves through the mouth of the minister, for the minister's mouth is the mouth of Christ and the minister's ear is the ear of Christ. It's to the Word and the command that one should pay attention, not to the person. Christ sits there, Christ listens, Christ answers, not a man.
[from Table Talk, No. 5176
in Luther's Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk © 1967 Fortress Press, p.394]