Conscience And Confession Of Sin
“He that covers his sin shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”‑Prov. 28:9.
A guilty conscience needs no accuser. Men do not need to be told their consciences condemn them for sin. By its scorpion lashings, and stinging, biting, acute condemnation, they know this only too well. But, “tell us, oh, tell us,” they cry, “is there relief from the stings of a guilty conscience? Is there peace for our troubled conscience?” There most assuredly is a remedy, if carefully taken, according to directions, which will bring that priceless boon to the troubled soul. It is found in the prescription of our text: “He that confesses and forsakes his sins, SHALL HAVE MERCY.” However, we might as well expect the doctor’s prescription to benefit us, if left untouched, as to expect ease for our condemning consciences while we do not faithfully follow the directions for soul recovery, given by the Great Physician.
Notice, God is pledged to give us mercy: “Shall have mercy.” But, notice also, the preliminary steps which lead up to mercy: Confess, forsake and uncover sin. Mercy comes at the end of our text. God delights in mercy. He is slow to anger and plenteous in mercy to all who truly call on him. So it is with the promised bestowal of His love–it always comes after the preliminary conditions are met-repentance, obedience and faith. God’s love and mercy are ever ready. He delights to bestow them on all proper subjects.
The very term, mercy, implies we are offenders against His Majesty. As mercy seeks the highest good of the offender, it implies we have offended Him, are at war with Him and have been His enemies, and some medium of reconciliation must be effected.
God’s mere well wishing to the sinner, and, His strong desire to give mercy unto all, does not bring the offending sinner into conscious pardon and fellowship with Himself, independent of the sinner’s confessing and forsaking of sin, and trust in His grace. God is love. Yes. God is good. Yes, God pities. Yes, God longs to bestow mercy. Yes, all very true. But what sinner, in his sins, has consciousness of God’s favor, from this fact alone, independent of meeting God’s terms of reconciliation? God may not bestow mercy to a rebel who continues his rebellion I He may not pardon the unrepentant! For reasons sufficient to Himself, He may not fellowship those who continue in wickedness. It is unthinkable to suppose He would, seeing He commands us to have no fellowship with the world, sinners, or the unfruitful works of darkness.
So it is in the government of my child. I may not be lenient if I know him guilty while yet he persists in professing his innocence. But let him confess and ask forgiveness and how quickly it is granted.
So is the government’s policy with an offender. Unless he throw himself on the mercy of the court, confess his guilt and his desire for leniency, it will go hard with him. To be guilty and plead not guilty, and then to be found guilty by indisputable evidence, is to add falsehood to crime and to incense the judge’s righteous anger and to incur the full penalty of the law.
And so in God’s dealing with the guilty sinner. Until he confesses and forsakes his sins, pleads his guilt, and throws himself on God’s mercy, there is no hope of God’s mercy benefiting him. So the text affirms. It is to the one who confesses and forsakes his sins the promise of mercy is given. It is not mercy first, and then, slowly culture sin out of the heart, but it is first confess, and then forsake, and then, and not till then, shall he have mercy.
The text, on the other band, expressly affirms: Cover your sin, deny your guilt, and you shall not prosper. It is true, you may do many external, apparently religious things; teach a Sabbath school class, lead the class or League, give more money, commune, pray, testify, do personal work in a great Union Meeting. God says it all avails naught. While you cover your sins and refuse to confess and forsake them, you SHALL NOT PROSPER. This language is as emphatic as that you SHALL HAVE MERCY, if you obey. This is God’s sovereign, imposed condition. There is no way to avoid it; no substitute will answer.
Confess What?‑‑To Whom?
What shall I confess, says one, in order to mercy? And to whom shall I confess? And how far must my confession be public? We will try to comprehensively answer these vital questions.
Scripture informs us confession of sin is to be primarily to God, as sin is primarily against Him. David had sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba. Yet, in confessing his sin, he said, “Against thee and thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” He seemed to realize God so entwined Himself around His creatures that to sin against them was to slap God in the face and insult Him.
“I said I would confess my transgression unto the Lord and ‘Thou! forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
“If we confess our sins HE is faithful and just to forgive us.” So, confession is PRIMARILY to Him, and not to priest or man.
What Are We To Confess?
Our sins. Confess them in general and particular to God, as far as memory makes that possible‑all of them. Cover none. The text is in the plural number. Do not cover sins, but confess them (plural).
We Are Also To Confess Jesus
As our only source of forgiveness. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father.
Furthermore the Bible Enjoins the Confession of Our Faults
“Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another that ye may be healed.” Confession of faults may be exceeding
difficult–all but as hard as confessing sins as it is humbling to the pride of the heart. No surer gauge of growth in the divine life can be found than a willingness to acknowledge and confess faults. We are to be “easy to be entreated”‑reasonable. Practice much on those three hardest words in the human tongue: “I was mistaken.” Wife, I see it all now, upon reflection. I was hasty; my temper was wrong; forgive me. “I was mistaken.” Children, forgive the fault; I was to blame; my temper was not Christlike.
The great revival in Korea recently came through this method. Confession of sins and faults by the church. We are convinced many professors will never have a wholesome influence on their loved ones and community until they confess publicly their breach with Christ. Conscience is to be void of offense toward men as well as toward God.
I said confession was of paramount importance in receiving peace to the conscience, and that it was primarily to God, but confession of sin, as well as faults, is also to, men.
Confession, secondarily, is public, to men.
To men, individually and collectively, in as far as our sin has been of a public nature or concerns only an individual. Hasty words between husband and wife need only be confessed to each other.
When thou comest to the altar and there rememberest (it is astonishing what one there remembers) that thy brother hath aught against thee, go FIRST to thy brother, confess and make every effort for reconciliation and then come and offer thy gift and God will pay attention to it. This, Jesus teaches, is of first importance. Go to thy brother FIRST, not second. It might be well to add, all which is there remembered that hinders communion with God must be adjusted, as able. But I have nothing against anyone, pleads the objector. True, but some questionable act, practice or liberty of yours has offended him. First go to thy brother whom you know to have aught against you though you have nothing against him. It may be a bitter dose, but it must be taken. The bitter will be made sweet. Afterwards it will yield the peaceful fruits to all who are exercised thereby. We remember reading of one who had thirty‑seven people to go to to ask forgiveness. When the thirty‑seventh was reached such a sense of God’s approval and blessing was felt he wished he had a thousand more to go to if the blessing would increase proportionately. Let none misunderstand us. There is no virtue in the mere confession of sin, but only in the blood of Jesus. Still God requires the confession of sin, and pardon, and peace can not come without actually confessing., or willingness to confess.
Let me give a few examples under my personal observation. A student who had used ponies‑cheated in class work‑was deeply convicted of sin. We held him to the necessity of confession. He said, “I am willing, but the teachers are not present.” “Shall I send for
them?” “Yes.” They had left the meeting and gone home. About fifteen minutes we patiently waited on our knees. Some one prayed during the interim. Lord help the seeker not to look to his works or confessing, but to Jesus alone. Now the fact is he could not look to Jesus and exercise faith until he performed what God had laid on his heart. He only says go in peace to those who obey and sin no more. God kept us firm and patient, and presently, when the three professors had come and he had confessed to each of them his sin of dishonesty, immediately a sense of Divine forgiveness was given to him. This order may be reversed. God may forgive and afterwards reveal the necessity of confession as is often the case.
Suppose the thief says: “I will steal no more. I will be a Christian;” and yet he makes no effort to confess his past thieving and restore the stolen money to the parties injured, is this sufficient? Nay. None would have confidence in his profession until confession and restoration is made.
Sad is the number who long for God’s gracious smile and favor, yet who will not confess sin God has discovered to them. We know a party whose soul would be in an agony of conviction for sin, every revival. They would come up to the necessity of confessing infidelity to the wronged life partner and refuse and go away unsaved. “He that covers his sin shall not prosper.” “But whoso CONFESSES and FORSAKES shall have mercy.”
A brother confessed to us be had stolen his way on freight trains for twenty‑five thousand miles‑not as a common hobo. He simply wanted to save his money and beat the railroad company. God laid his hand upon him and held up the sin to him with such conviction that he was willing to do anything. He finally experienced true peace after he paid seven hundred and fifty dollars to the companies whose lines he had ridden over. Three cents a mile, first‑class fare, for hobo accommodation!
A fine, intelligent young fellow, a college graduate, and principal of a school, deeply under conviction, came to us and said: “What shall I do? I can not have confidence in my father’s religion, though he is a preacher. He is deceptive; my mother is deceptive, and marked me prenatally for deception; and I am deceptive. My mother deceived my father and he deceived others and I have deceived him. How shall I get out of this tangle? I am born to deceive. It is as natural for me as breathing. I used to go to father’s prayer meetings and I knew if I did not testify it would make him nervous. So I always testified to being fully right with God and happy in the Lord. And then, brother, I would get with the boys and we would smoke and chew and drink and gamble and curse and swear till near midnight and the next prayer meeting I was on hand with the same deceptive testimony and afterwards went through the same disgraceful proceedings and I kept this up for a long while.
We told him, “There is only one way out of your difficulty.” Go home, tell mother how she deceived father. Tell her it was wrong. Get her to confess to him. Then tell father how he deceived the people in representing to them he was hard up and badly in need of money, when he had money hoarded in the bank. And then confess to him how your mother, during your own embryotic existence, by deceiving him, prenatally, as well as post‑natally, too, deceived him, and how through it all you were marked to be deceptive. And also her example of deception practiced on her husband to help him from worry and nervous spells, and then, lastly, tell your father how, growing up in such a deceptive atmosphere, you learned to deceive him, confessing how you did so, in minute detail. Ask forgiveness all around. Forsake deception. Get on your knees together and implore the mercy of God to forgive you all and the blood of Christ to wash away the sin and shame of it all; pray clear through until your hearts are softened, tendered, mellowed, broken, forgiven, Get up, embrace each other, and start anew and do not afterward refer to or think or speak of the matter.
A young‑lady who married secretly and kept it from her parents for months, came to the altar, but could not get blessed of God until she sent for her parents and confessed to them her deception and begged their forgiveness.
Directions For Confession
What shall I confess? Below I will give some suggestions for professors:
Confess your sins of omission. Things you should have done you have failed to do. Duty that has been neglected constantly.
Confess you have practiced things you know you ought not, and cease their practice.
Confess your selfishness and turn from it. See your selfish indulgences. The worldly lusts, lusting after things the world lusts for. For example, in one church there were three men who spent about three hundred dollars annually for cigars and tobacco. Twice as much as they all gave together to God’s cause. We were emboldened to say to them‑publicly if by denying themselves that useless, harmful, hurtful, needless, selfish, fleshly indulgence (worldly lust) and diverting the money wasted into another channel, say missions, they knew forces would thereby be set in motion which would result in the conversion of ten thousand souls, their action said: “Let the souls go to hell; we must smoke.” If they knew hundreds of hungry mouths would be thereby fed, let them starve for all ‘we care, our consciences do not condemn us; we must smoke. If they knew scores of shivering, freezing bodies could be warmly clad and winter’s chilling breeze kept out of homes by warm fires the money would buy, let them shiver, there is no harm in smoking; we must smoke. Confess and forsake your selfish indulgences; and, that you have loved worldly lusts more than the souls or bodies of men.
Confess your prayerlessness. Confess since the Spirit of God maketh intercession in the hearts of all His true children, and you are utterly destitute of the spirit of prayer, it must be because you have lost the Spirit who gives the Spirit of prayer.
Confess your soul deadness, your formality and coldness; your lack of the spirit, your lack of zeal, courage, love, joy, victory.
Confess your evil speaking, gossiping, backbiting, scandalmonging and taking up (and spreading around) a reproach against your neighbor.
Confess that while you can find no time for prayer while the souls of men are dying, it is true you can find time to gad about from house to house and gossip by the hour.
Confess you have little or no love for souls. They can go to hell all about you, but you do not seem to care.
Confess to God, though outwardly you are a professor, a member of the church, inwardly you are unlike Jesus.
Confess you love the world of which God says mere friendship with is enmity to God and if a man will be the friend of, he makes himself God’s enemy.
Confess your fretting, murmuring, fault‑finding, nagging, grumbling, growling and complaining; and implore Him to put these all away from you. Confess your un‑Christlike tempers.
Confess your coveteousness, avarice, greed, grasp and love of money.
Confess your bad temper, anger, ill will, impatience, hatred, wrath, unforgiving spirit and consequent evil influence.
Confess your stubbornness. You never humble yourself. You are always right. You never make a mistake and have nothing to confess. A brother from the Methodist church told us how he wanted his way and because he could not have it they were all stubborn. Of course, he was not stubborn, but they were stubborn. But of course he was not(?). O,no,
Confess your SIN of Prayerlessness.
Yes, sin! Surely it is this when a thousand million or more have gone down to hell (says Finney) because the church either was too lazy to pray for them or else lived where their prayers were useless.
Confess your lack of humility. If you do not believe this, look back and see where you were wrong and then say to the party those hardest words, “I was mistaken.”
Confess your penuriousness, close‑fistedness, and downright stinginess. Confess you have robbed God in tithes and offerings and then quit it, and more, pay God the, back tithe just like you would pay any other honest debt.
Confess your failure to obey God in making restitution and the consequent condemnation. Make a list of all which should be adjusted and never cease till all is paid. Confess your slowness here has grieved the Holy Spirit and kept you from your full freedom and power in His service. Every known wrong must be made right, according to your ability. Confess your failure to apologize and confess and beg pardon, and bury the old score. Confess your reluctance to forgive.
Confess your sin of being insincere. You have said publicly, “All I have is His;” but what are the facts? You oppose giving God one paltry tenth, though it belongs to Him, and oppose His faithful messenger of this truth. You have said, “I will go where He wants me to go,” and then turn around and go with the world and look, talk, act, and do as they do, while knowing God commands you to be separate from and unlike them.
Confess you have grieved His Spirit. Confess you have had no interest in Holiness. Confess your lack of love for God’s word and Bible study.
Confess you have lived by a false principle of conscience and thereby justified yourself in wrong‑your conscience has been contrary to the Spirit of God and the word of God. Still you have followed it and rejected these. A man’s excuse to his wife who labored to get him to stop smoking one hundred dollars annually in cigars was, his conscience did not condemn him. But God does on the score of extravagance and lack of selfdenial, to say nothing of decency and cleanliness. You see, his conscience was false.
And then after this thorough comprehensive confession, hear what God says further in the text that you shall do‑AND FORSAKE THEM. Stop all these practices; by the help of God’s Spirit do them no more. Die first, and then, dear reader, exercise simple faith in His promise and His promised mercy shall be yours in abundant measure.