THE MAN OF GOD  Or "Spiritual Religion Explained and Enforced"
by Octavius Winslow

Sin Confessed and Forsaken

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 32:5

The great controversy which God has with man is that which concerns His own holiness. God is essentially holy, and He has exhibited and shielded His holiness at the expense of His heart's dearest treasure- the sacrifice of His beloved Son, upon whom He laid the iniquities of His people. The great end of all His dealings with His saints is to bring them into the deeper experience of this truth- to know, to confess, and to forsake sin: "By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin." And this is the blessed end of His chastenings, even for "our profit, that we might be made partakers of His holiness."

But there is a beautiful connection here which we wish in this chapter to illustrate- the relation of confession and forgiveness of sin: "I said, I will confess, and You forgave." A subject entering more deeply into spiritual religion does not invite our attention than this. You will observe that a heartfelt acknowledgment of sin to God is closely connected with His full, free, and immediate remission of that sin. Men endeavor to sever these two by substituting a general and spurious acknowledgment of sin, and so cherish a general and spurious notion of the pardon of sin. But what God has thus joined He will never disannul. He will bring it home to the consciences of His own people, that a true, heartfelt acknowledgment of sin shall ever be connected with a clear sense of the full forgiveness of that sin. We consider the subject in its three particulars: penitence- confession- forgiveness.

Language could not be stronger in expressing the deep conviction of sin as employed in this passage. David seems to exhaust the vocabulary of words: "my sin" "my iniquity" "my transgression" and, as if to crown it, "the iniquity of my sin." Here was no floating upon the surface of sin. Here was no attempt at that refining away of sin by those nice distinctions which some minds are prepared to make. Here was no scanning the sin of others, which the great mass are so ready to do, to the blinding and hindering of their own.

Mark this, my reader, that man who is most ready to uncover the sin of another, is the most ready to conceal his own. The Pharisee had many stones to cast at the poor trembling woman whom they dragged into Christ's presence, but not one to cast at themselves! But when Jesus turned the light in upon their own consciences, in a moment they were silent, and went out one by one and left the guilty accuse in the presence of the Righteous and Saving One.

The great mass of men know nothing of sin. It is appalling to think that the great and the only controversy God has with men, men are ignorant of. What is that controversy? It is sin. Why famine? why pestilence? why war? The answer is sin. If He touches you in your property, in your family, or in your person, it is because of sin, and the fruit of it all is to bring you to know and to acknowledge how exceedingly sinful you are in His sight. And you have lost the great end He had in all His dealings with you if they result not in the prostration of your whole soul before God under a sense of your vileness. For what was the law of God revealed? To demonstrate His holiness "By the law is the knowledge of sin." What is the end of the gospel? To reflect His holiness still more gloriously. Bright as is the mirror of the law, the gospel is still brighter, in which we see how infinitely, gloriously holy is the Lord God. Take the sacrifice of His Son- there is the most glorious unfolding of man's sinfulness and God's holiness. When He took that sinless Lamb, that impeccable Savior, bound Him upon the altar of justice, and consumed Him with the fire of His wrath- oh, it was to demonstrate to this guilty world that He was a God of spotless holiness, and man was a hell-deserving sinner, and could not be saved but as the innocent suffered for the guilty!

But now let us turn to the case of David. Oh, what music God brought out from his sorrowful soul! It is delightful to see what a personal matter David made of it. My sin- my iniquity- my transgression- the iniquity of my sin. Our sins cannot be charged to another, except only, in simple faith, to Him who bore them as our Divine Surety. The sinner is accountable to God for his own transgressions, and shall be finally dealt with- saved or condemned- upon his own individual responsibility. This is one sign of true repentance- for a man to see his sin to be his own, and to be brought to lay his mouth in the dust before God, and to acknowledge it, and say, "My sin."

Let us now turn to the penitential acknowledgment of David of his sin to the Lord. He confessed his sin: "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord." The frequent mention by the Holy Spirit of this Christian duty, the relation in which it stands to the glory of God, and the immense blessings of which it is the channel, mark it as a matter of the greatest moment. Yet, even in the Church of God, we know of no spiritual duty upon the surface of which Christians more rest, more set aside and overlook, than this one- the confession of sin to God.

We cannot but mark the hesitancy of David's mind, and consequent anguish of his soul, before he was brought to this acknowledgment: "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer."

"When I kept silence,"- when he hid his sin, and refused to acknowledge it, then did all the anguish of his soul come in like a flood. Do not overlook this feature. It may be a word of comfort to some who scan this page. He was brought to this acknowledgment with great reluctance and hesitancy; it was not until God, as it were, placed him upon a rack. If you are wise and thoughtful to learn, you will see a volume of most blessed truth in this.

But he was now brought to acknowledge his sin. Oh, how forcible his language! It sets forth the character of his sin: "I acknowledge my sin; mine iniquity have I not hid: I will confess my transgression;" as if he would exhaust all language in setting forth the deep sense he had of the blessedness of unveiling his heart before God in confession of sin. He did not conceal his sin, as did Achan; he did not deny it, as did Ananias and Sapphira; he did not extenuate it, as did Adam; but he frankly, fully, and freely acknowledged it. We have a striking reference to Adam's attempted concealment of his sin in Job 31:33. Job is speaking of his frank acknowledgment of sin; he says, "If I covered any transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom." Now, the whole posterity of Adam just do as he did: they wrap up their sins in their bosom- a sure evidence that they belong to him. Beloved, sin creates a shyness of God. Why did Adam wrap up his sin? He was afraid of God- he shrunk from God's presence and eye. Oh yes! there is a tendency to this in every child of God. When guilt is on the conscience, he loses the filial nearness he once had, and, as it were, hides himself from God, and does not fully confess to God his sin.

In explaining what true confession of sin is, I would remark, that the confession of many is no confession at all. Do you ask me why? Because it is not a minute, honest, frank acknowledgment of sin to God. What does God say? "Blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no deceit." Here, observe, deceit is spoken of in connection with the acknowledgment of transgression. How much deceit there may be in many of us in confession of sin to God, He only knows. We cannot but think there was some latent guile in Moses' confession to God in Exodus 4. God bid him go to Egypt. Moses excuses himself: "Lord, I am not eloquent; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." This was his excuse. But God knew there was something that he had not honestly, fully confessed. What was it? God tells him, "Go, return to Egypt, for all the men are dead which sought your life." Here was the secret wherefore he hesitated to go. It was unbelieving fear- an unmanly trembling for his life. God will have no reserves in our confessions to Him of sin. He will have us open all our hearts to Him in the same confidence with which He has opened His.

But overlook not this truth, for it is of great moment- one individual may take up the confession of another, and yet be a total stranger to true confession. It was a law, under the Levitical economy, that if a man touched only the waters of purification in which another had been cleansed, he was unclean. Now, just what the waters of purification were, is the confession of sin. A man may adopt another's confession of sin, quote his language, and counterfeit his spirit, and yet be utterly unacquainted with a genuine sense and acknowledgment of sin before God. I may breathe the publican's prayer, the briefest, yet the most comprehensive of all prayers; but if I have not his prostration of spirit, his profound sense of vileness, his sincere penitence, what does it avail me? On the contrary, is there not a fearful augmentation of guilt, an enormous increase of iniquity, in adopting a form of confession while destitute of real brokenness of heart?

Having endeavored to lay before the reader in what true confession of sin consists, let me place before him, in two or three points of light, the true posture of CONFESSION. We find it in Lev. 16:2I "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." Behold the posture! the hands laid upon the head of the live goat, and so confessing sin. The gospel of this is glorious! What is the true posture for confessing your sin but laying your hand of faith upon Christ him self? It is beneath the cross of the Incarnate God that true confession is made- with the eye of faith upon the great oblation for that very transgression which we honestly and penitentially confess.

That is a striking passage in Hos. 14:1: "O Israel, return unto the Lord; for you have fallen by your iniquity." How shall I return? comes the question from the heart. The answer is, "Take with you words." What words? Oh, take with you the words of God himself. Tell Him He has given His Son to die for sinners; tell Him there is pardon for the vilest in the blood of the Savior; and remind Him of His promises of forgiveness to the humble and the penitential soul.

Beloved, great are the blessings which spring from confession of sin. Would you know the believer who has the most tender conscience, who most earnestly desires to walk uprightly, closely, holily with God? I would unhesitatingly point you to him who is much at God's confessional; who has his hand much upon the head of the Lamb; who is much where the purple stream flows; in other words, who is much in the confession of sin. He is the most searching, self-examining man; his conscience is the most tender, his enjoyment is the richest.

Oh, it is utterly impossible for a child of God to be found much in the confession of sin- of what are called little sins- and not walk with a tender, honest conscience. Oh, there are no little sins! If there were a little God, if there were a little Savior, if there were a little hell, there would be little sins! There are no little sins with God. But for a child of God to confess what are called little sins- sins which some consider as no sins, transgressions which are overlooked as the violation of human laws only, but which involve principles hostile to his own soul and to God's glory- he is the one who knows what the happy walk is.

This brings us to the comfort which David felt in connection with, the confession of his sins. How expressive are his words: "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You FORGAVE the iniquity of my sin." Ah! had he not so long kept silence, but come at once to the confession of sin, he would not have known the deep anguish he experienced. In asserting the relation which exists between the confession of sin and its pardon, let me not be misunderstood. The confession of sin is not the cause of its pardon- the moving cause is God's free, unmerited grace; it is the blood of Jesus. God pardons from the fulness of His mercy, and on the ground of the Savior's sacrifice.

But the confession of sin is the channel by which God speaks comfort to the soul. There are several examples in which this is strikingly illustrated. "And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord"- there was the acknowledgment. "And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also has put away your sin"- there was the forgiveness. That, too, is a striking passage- "I have declared my ways, and You heard me." I declared my ways- I confessed my sin; my ways have been crooked, but I declared them, and You heard me. Oh, what a God thus to bow down His ears to such an acknowledgment!

Those are precious words in John's epistle, "If we CONFESS our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Believer in Christ! this is one of the most precious truths that could engage your thoughts- the connection between the honest and heartfelt acknowledgment of sin, and God's full and free forgiveness written upon the conscience. When was it the father rose to welcome home his child? was it not when he said, "I will arise, and go to my father, and will say to him, I have sinned?" The moment the father heard the echo of his voice, he went out, and advanced to meet and welcome back his child. If you want to know the sense of pardoned sin in your conscience, you must know what the honest and sincere confession of that sin is beneath the cross.

In closing, let me remark, that it is possible this subject may address itself to those who are living in a mere formal confession of sin. Do not over look our reference to the waters of purification. Beware of mere cold, premeditated forms of confession! Multitudes use them without any enlightened sense, with no real or true acknowledgment of sin. Do not be deceived. You may read Daniel's confession over and over again without Daniel's repentance. You may repeat the publican's prayer a thousand times, and know nothing experimentally of the publican's real confession.

Have you really felt your sins to be a burden? Have you truly felt the plague of your heart? If so, you will not rest in a mere form of acknowledgment, but will find thoughts, and feelings, and words welling up from the lowest depths of your soul, to express to the Lord that you feel yourself to be a poor, hell-deserving sinner; casting yourself upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

This subject, also, may address itself to many who are entire strangers to all confession of sin whatever- who have never really bent the knee before God in prayer and contrition for sin. But oh, living and dying without a real conviction and confession of sin before God, hell must be your portion! There is no escaping this awful conclusion. No man enters heaven who has not found, beneath the cross, the ear of a sin-pardoning God; who has not laid his hand of faith on the head of the atoning Lamb, acknowledging his guilt, and accepting in faith the blood that effaces it.

To God's saints would I say, In all your sins and conscious departures be beforehand with Satan. Do you ask what I mean? Satan is the great accuser of the brethren; and if you do not accuse yourself, Satan will accuse you, and you know what his accusations are! Go and accuse yourself before God; give your adversary no opportunity, but, anticipating his indictment, go and confess your sins before the Lord; and oh, you shall know what it is to meet the glance of a sin-pardoning Father, and shall know the "blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

To this thought we would add a kindred one: By this confession of sin you will disarm God of His judgments; for, "if we judge ourselves," says the apostle, "we shall not be judged." If you do take the judgment-seat against yourself, you shall stay His chastening hand; for all His corrections are to this end, that you may see and acknowledge yourself to be a sinner. What was the end of all Job's trials? It was found in one brief expression: "I am vile; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." But if you are found confessing sin, not wrapping it up in your heart, but going to the slain Lamb, traveling to the blood of atonement, and, as a child, opening all your heart to God, God will stay His chastening hand, and, instead of covering you with the dark cloud of His anger, He will sun you with the radiant smile of His love.

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.