James Smith, 1842
"Only acknowledge your iniquity!" Jeremiah 3:13
Conviction of sin is an inward consciousness that we have
done wrong — very wrong — that we have done the very worst thing we could
do! We have . . .
insulted the holiness of God,
grieved His love,
trifled with His mercy,
despised His grace,
dared His power,
and defied His justice!
Is not such conduct dreadful? And yet such conduct has been ours. If the Holy Spirit is pleased to bring home the law to the conscience, and fix the eye of the mind upon its requirements; and then lead us to compare the temper we have indulged, and the line of conduct we have pursued with it — we shall clearly see that it has been the case. And we shall not only clearly see it — but painfully feel it! An alarm will spring up in the soul, and a thousand doubts will immediately hover over the spirit. We shall begin to fear that our sins are so numerous, or so aggravated, or of such a peculiar cast — that there is no hope of pardon for us; no promise of mercy will appear large enough, or free enough to reach the case — and we shall begin to be in dread.
This will especially be the case if we have backslidden from God, and fallen into open sin since we made a profession of His name.
Sin will seem to be set in array before us,
the eye of God will appear to be fixed upon our crimes,
the profession we have made will aggravate every sin,
and justice will appear ready to cut us down!
Then there is a proneness to aggravate the case, to indulge despairing thoughts, to judge ourselves severely, and pass sentence upon ourselves without mercy. It appears to be presumption to hope, and the soul concludes all is over: "I am cast out of the sight of God — I am justly condemned to perish — I have no hope — there is no help for me in God — my case is desperate" — is the language used at such times.
But all this is wrong! Yes, we ought to feel — and to feel acutely; but it is sinful to despond, and more sinful to despair. There is no stain which the blood of Christ cannot remove, "All manner of sin and blasphemy is forgiven unto men." Our gracious God says, "Only acknowledge your iniquity."
The Lord will have confession, and "if we confess our sins — He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Confession always goes before a sense of pardon.
Job must be stripped, humbled, and confess His sin — before he is restored and finds peace. "Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile! What shall I answer you? My ears had heard of you — but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!" "And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends."
Just so with David; he tried other means — but all failed, he must confess or continue to suffer. Hence he says, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD' — and you forgave the guilt of my sin!" Psalm 32:3-5.
He roared from pain — but found no relief; he was exhausted by suffering — and obtained no comfort; until he confessed sin — and then he enjoyed pardon, and found peace. Then he knew the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Then he could say, "You are my hiding-place; you shall preserve me from trouble; you shall compass me about with songs of deliverance!"
Just so with Israel, having backslidden, and being brought low — the Lord says, "Return, O backsliding Israel, and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, says Jehovah, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity!"
And you, my dear reader, must not only be convinced of sin — but you must confess it before the Lord! You have every encouragement to do so — your God bids you, and His gracious character holds out the strongest inducement to do so. Then consider the benefits which flow from confession; it clears the guilty conscience — for the atoning blood is brought home when we acknowledge our transgressions unto the Lord. It introduces afresh to communion with our God; as the prodigal first confessed, "I have sinned against Heaven and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son!" and was then introduced into fellowship with his father at the feast. Frank confession also produces self-denial, and leads to holy obedience.
But when confessing sin, be sure you conceive of God as a
kind and gracious being — as a Father who pities you, and has promised to
forgive! Do not go to Him as to a Judge — or confession will only
lead to bondage and distress. Remember . . .
He is ready to forgive;
His heart is tender;
His terms are easy;
He wills our happiness;
He waits to be gracious.
If you neglect confession — then gloom will continue; if you refuse confession — then sin is aggravated. While the spirit is stubborn — sin is unpardoned; and unpardoned sin demands condemnation, and closes the mouth forever!
No sin is too great to be forgiven — if confessed with sincere sorrow before God! No sinner has any cause to despair — if willing to confess and seek pardon in the name of Jesus. No doubt can be scripturally encouraged — if the soul is willing to submit to God's terms.
Thus you see, dear friend, that you have sinned — but God is gracious! You deserve punishment — but He says, Confess and be pardoned! You doubted and feared — but the gospel scattered every doubt. Fear not, for grace is free. Doubt not, for "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin."
Be not discouraged, for "GOD is LOVE." Your trials have done you great good, if they have brought you to the Lord's feet to confess sin, and obtain the tokens of His forgiving love. Never forget, that there are no difficulties, where the wisdom and love of God, and the power and blood of Jesus, are engaged. Hence you may truly say,
Had I a heart as large as earth,
And that a frozen ball,
The Sun of Righteousness breaks forth,
And soon dissolves it all!
Had I a heart as dark as night,
Without one cheering ray,
My Lord, by His transcendent light;
Can turn my night to day!
Had I a heart as hard as stone,
A heart which none can move,
When Jesus makes His presence known,
It melts the stone to love!
Had I a heart as full of fears,
As drops that swell the sea,
When Jesus' pardoning love appears,
He makes them quickly flee!
However perplexed my case may seem,
'Tis easy to my Lord;
All things are possible to Him,
For powerful is His Word!
Then let me rest upon His power,
And run my heavenly race;
He will, in the most trying hour,
Impart preserving grace!