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"IF WE CONFESS."
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' -1 John i. 9.
A subject of vast and vital importance lies before us. It is one in which we are each and all personally interested. I would rather say, a succession of subjects is presented to our view. They appear and rouse the interest of all who are described therein, and, I am sure, I desire for all here present the enjoyment of the precious privileges thus brought to light. None but living souls, whose life is Christ, can truly appreciate the covenant blessings treasured in this short verse. None but the children of light can delight in the sparkles of glory, yes, gracious glory, springing forth from these words of spiritual life. Here, "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart" (Ps. xcvii. 11). Notice the characters of these privileged persons as set before us in this chapter. In the third verse they are described as having fellowship with the friends of Jesus, with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. They are worshippers-sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty-persons saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation-anointed
saints taught of the Spirit, and walking in the light of God. They enjoy fellowship one with another, and are blessed with the knowledge of the fact that "the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanseth THEM from all sin." There is no mistaking the character of these persons, their privileges, or of their relationship to God. Yet, with all the favours the God of all grace had showered upon them, they were compelled to say, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' Here come the words of our text:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
May the Lord the Spirit breathe upon us while we look at them according to His own arrangementI. Confession-" If we confess our sins."
II. Forgiveness-" He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."
III. Cleansing-" and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
I. Confession-"If we confess our sins." This is a very salutary exercise for living souls. It is the acknowledgment to God of sin against Him, or wrong done to His word, works, or ways. Mark, it is to God against Whom we have sinned, and not to man, that we confess, except in the case where personal wrong has been done. This is right, scriptural, heavenly, godly. But to confess sin against God to man is wrong altogether, unscriptural, earthly, devilish. Those who do so are sure to find themselves in unenviable company, such as Pharaoh (Exod. x. 16, 17), Saul (1 Sam. xv. 24, 25), Judas (Matt. xxvii. 3, 4). From all such company may the Good Lord preserve us. We live in a day when prayer is almost deified, and I hesitate not to
say that if we had less so-called prayer and more Spirit-wrought, heartfelt, honest confession to God, we should have a healthier state of affairs than at present exists, even in the assemblies of the saints. God requires not flowery effusions-nicely rounded periods-eloquent phrases-strings of verses from the hymn book, Prayer Book, or the Bible-telling Him what He knows--dictating to Him what He should do, and the way to do it. Oh, no! God is not pleased with anything of the kind. He desires, and will have, the confession of sin, upon which He will not fail to prove Himself more willing to give than we are to desire or entreat.
God dwelleth in light, and light He loves. Reserve, guile, holding back that which is due, are foreign to His nature. He loves to open up His heart of love to His loved ones. He delights in teaching them to make a clean breast to Him of all they know to be wrong. He loves to hear them tell Him all their mind in confession of sins-pleas for forgivenessentreaties for mercy and for acceptance with Him in the Beloved. Turn with me to that searching word in Prov. xxviii. 13: "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." I know what that means. Confess I do, but I have to confess again. To forsake sins is my desire, determination and doing: but somehow or other they soon again overtake me. That is my sorrow. If I knew nothing of sin, salvation would be far off from me. If heartfelt confession were not mine, forgiveness would be strange to me. If sorrow, godly sorrow, were not mine, the consolations of God would not be enjoyed by me. Thank God, salvation stands not aloof from me-forgiveness is no stranger to me-God's consolations are the solace of my soul. But mark! Sin I know, and hate, and loathe. Confession I
groan out in agony of spirit at times. This is the language of a heart that feels acutely its own sore and its own grief (2 Chron. vi. 29), and experiences deeply its own bitterness,
"True, I am a foolish creature,
And have sinn'd against His grace!
Though He justly hides His face.
As you turn to Ps. xxxii. 5, you will see that David was no stranger to these exercises. acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Here the Psalmist looks back to the time when guilty silence, self-deception, and obstinate dissimulation wrought wretchedness in him, keeping him at felt distance from his justifying God, with the lack of the blessedness of transgression forgiven, sin covered, and the nonimputation of iniquity. This attempt to palliate or conceal sin in not confessing it, is a painful secret of spiritual decay and increased weight of sin, and. guilt, and shame. David knew this as his past experience, and how, in the distress of his soul, he found sweet relief in open-hearted confession to his offended God, and the blessedness of full, free and frank forgiveness instantly following it. Confession was made. Guilt was gone. This is not written for David's sake alone, but for "every one that is godly" throughout all time. We who have been thus taught of God, and exercised by His indwelling Spirit, know this in the sorrowful solemnities and joyful thanksgivings of our hearts before Him. He searches-I confess. He forgivesI rejoice.
Now notice what I have just stated, that this is the experience of "every one that is godly." In no case is this more clearly exemplified than in that of Daniel. If ever there was a man who could claim exemption from confession of sin, surely that man was Daniel, for turning to Dan. vi. 5, we hear his enemies and those of his God saying, "We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." Of how many of us here present to-night can this be said? Some of you may fancy you have the right to this judgment; but, I assure you, no such fancy, thought, or feeling dwells in me. I have prayed, groaned, energised to be blameless before men; but the more I have thus exercised myself, the farther I have found myself from the goal of my expectations. Turn with me to Dan. ix. 4, 5: "And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O LORD, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts, and from Thy judgments." Here we see a man high in the enjoyment of God's favour, and strictly moral in the eyes of the people-a saint indeed: yet, no cant, no sentimentalist. Though a saint, he knew and felt himself a sinner, and along with his fellows acknowledged himself one with them in sinning against a God of purity and holiness. He knew this by the entrance of God's pure word and the power of His Convincing Spirit.
All taught of God know it in the same way and by the same process. This you see in the confession of the Psalmist in Ps. cvi. 6: “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have