Confession; “a Bill of Indictment Against Four Sorts of Persons” …THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 8.

Written by, Thomas Watson.
Taken from, “THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE.”
Published in 1668.

comeback9[In this series we are looking at all the ingredients for true repentance. In today’s thoughts, we are looking at the ways we can pervert “True Confession.” Once again, observe how Thomas Watson uses scripture with both faith and imagination to bring home his points on Confession. Now, let us look again, at the rest of  the third of these respective ingredients. –MWP]

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1. Sight of sin
2. Sorrow for sin
3. Confession of sin
4. Shame for sin
5. Hatred for sin
6. Turning from sin

REMEMBER: If any one ingredient is left out, repentance loses its virtue.

Ingredient 3. CONFESSION of Sin

When considering whether confession a necessary ingredient in repentance, consider this bill of indictment against four sorts of persons:

It reproves those that hide their sins…

…as Rachel hid her father’s images under her (Gen. 31.34). Many had rather have their sins covered than cured. They do with their sins as with their pictures: they draw a curtain over them; or as some do with their bastards, smother them.

But though men will have no tongue to confess, God has an eye to see; he will unmask their treason: He will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes’ (Ps. 50.21). Those iniquities which men hide in their hearts shall be written one day on their foreheads as with the point of a diamond. They who will not confess their sin as David did, that they may be pardoned, shall confess their sin as Achan did, that they may be stoned. It is dangerous to keep the devil’s counsel: ‘He that covereth his Sins shall not prosper’ (Prov. 28.13).

It reproves those who do indeed confess sin but only by halves.

They do not confess all; they confess the pence but not the pounds. They confess vain thoughts or badness of memory but not the sins they are most guilty of, such as rash anger, extortion, uncleanness, like he in Plutarch who complained his stomach was not very good when his lungs were bad and his liver rotten.

But if we do not confess all, how should we expect that God will pardon all? It is true that we cannot know the exact catalog of our sins, but the sins which come within our view and cognizance, and which our hearts accuse us of, must be confessed as ever we hope for mercy.

It reproves those who in their confessions mince and extenuate their sins.

A gracious soul labors to make the worst of his sins, but hypocrites make the best of them. They do not deny they are sinners, but they do what they can to lessen their sins: they indeed offend sometimes, but it is their nature, and it is long of such occasions. These are excuses rather than confessions. I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord: because I feared the people’ (i Sam. 15.24). Saul lays his sin upon the people: they would have him spare the sheep and oxen. It was an apology, not a self-indictment. This runs in the blood.

Adam acknowledged that he had tasted the forbidden fruit, but instead of aggravating his sin he translated it from himself to God: The woman thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat’ (Gen. 3.12), that is, if I had not had this woman to be a tempter, I would not have transgressed. That is a bad sin indeed that has no excuse, as it must be a very coarse wool which will take no dye. How apt we are to pare and curtail sin, and look upon it through the small end of the perspective,’ that it appears but as ‘a little cloud, like a man’s hand’ (i Kings 18.44).

It reproves those who are so far from confessing sin that they boldly plead for it.

Instead of having tears to lament it, they use arguments to defend it. If their sin be passion they will justify it: I do well to be angry’ (Jon.4.9). If it be covetousness they will vindicate it. When men commit sin they are the devil’s servants; when they plead for it they are the devil’s attorneys, and he will give them a fee.

Let us show ourselves penitents by sincere confession of sin.

The thief on the cross made a confession of his sin: ‘we indeed are condemned justly’ (Luke 23.41). And Christ said to him, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23.43), which might have occasioned that speech of Augustine’s, that confession of sin shuts the mouth of hell and opens the gate of paradise. That we may make a free and ingenuous confession of sin, let us consider:

Holy confession gives glory to God:

‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him’ (Josh. 7.19). A humble confession exalts God. What a glory is it to him that out of our own mouths he does not condemn us? While we confess sin, God’s patience is magnified in sparing, and his free grace in saving such sinners.

Confession is a means to humble the soul.

He who subscribes himself a hell-deserving sinner will have little heart to be proud. Like the violet, he will hang down his head in humility. A true penitent confesses that he mingles sin with all he does, and therefore has nothing to boast of. Uzziah, though a king, yet had a leprosy in his forehead; he had enough to abase him (2 Chron. 26.19). So a child of God, even when he does good, yet acknowledges much evil to be in that good. This lays all his feathers of pride in the dust.

Confession gives vent to a troubled heart.

When guilt lies boiling in the conscience, confession gives ease. It is like the lancing of an abscess which gives ease to the patient.

Confession purges out sin.

Augustine called it ‘the expeller of vice’. Sin is a bad blood; confession is like the opening of a vein to let it out. Confession is like the dung-gate, through which all the filth of the city was carried forth (Neh. 3.13). Confession is like pumping at the leak; it lets out that sin which would otherwise drown. Confession is the sponge that wipes the spots from off the soul.

Confession of sin endears Christ to the soul.

If I say I am a sinner, how precious will Christ’s blood be to me! After Paul has confessed a body of sin, he breaks forth into a congratulatory triumph for Christ: I thank God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 7.25).

If a debtor confesses a judgment but the creditor will not exact the debt, instead appointing his own son to pay it, will not the debtor be very thankful? So when we confess the debt, and that even though we should for ever lie in hell we cannot pay it, but that God should appoint his own Son to lay down his blood for the payment of our debt, how is free grace magnified and Jesus Christ eternally loved and admired!

Confession of sin makes way for pardon.

No sooner did the prodigal come with a confession in his mouth, I have sinned against heaven’, than his father’s heart did melt towards him, and he kissed him (Luke 15.20). When David said, I have sinned’, the prophet brought him a box with a pardon, The Lord hath put away thy sin’ (2 Sam. 12.13). He who sincerely confesses sin has God’s bond for a pardon: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins’ (1 John 1.9). Why does not the apostle say that if we confess he is merciful to forgive our sins? No; he is just, because he has bound himself by promise to forgive such. God’s truth and justice are engaged for the pardoning of that man who confesses sin and comes with a penitent heart by faith in Christ, )· “

How reasonable and easy is this command that we should confess sin!

  1. It is a reasonable command, for if one has wronged another, what is more rational than to confess he has wronged him? We, having wronged God by sin, how equal and consonant to reason is it that we should confess the offense.
  2. It is an easy command. What a vast difference is there between the first covenant and the second! In the first covenant it was, if you commit sin you die; in the second covenant it is, if you confess sin you shall have mercy. In the first covenant no surety was allowed; under the covenant of grace, if we do but confess the debt, Christ will be our surety. What way could be thought of as more ready and facile for the salvation of man than a humble confession? Only acknowledge thine iniquity’ (]er. 3.13). God says to us, I do not ask for sacrifices of rams to expiate your guilt; I do not bid you part with the fruit of your body for the sin of your soul, Only acknowledge thine iniquity’; do but draw up an indictment against yourself and plead guilty, and you shall be sure of mercy.

All this should render this duty amiable. Throw out the poison of sin by confession, and ‘this day is salvation come to thy house’.

There remains one case of conscience: are we bound to confess our sins to men?

The papists insist much upon auricular confession; one must confess his sins in the ear of the priest or he cannot be absolved. They urge, ‘Confess your sins one to another’ (James 5.16), but this scripture is little to their purpose. It may as well mean that the priest should confess to the people as well as the people to the priest. Auricular confession is one of the Pope’s golden doctrines. Like the fish in the Gospel, it has money in its mouth: ‘when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money (Matt. 17.27). But though I am not for confession to men in a popish sense, yet I think in three cases there ought to be confession to men:

  1. Firstly, where a person has fallen into scandalous sin and by it has been an occasion of offense to some and of falling to others, he ought to make a solemn and open acknowledgment of his sin, that his repentance may be as visible as his scandal (2 Cor. 2:6-7).
  2. Secondly, where a man has confessed his sin to God, yet still his conscience is burdened, and he can have no ease in his mind, it is very requisite that he should confess his sins to some prudent, pious friend, who may advise him and speak a word in due season (James 5.16}. It is a sinful modesty in Christians that they are not more free with their ministers and other spiritual friends in unburdening themselves and opening the sores and troubles of their souls to them. If there is a thorn sticking in the conscience, it is good to make use of those who may help to pluck it out.
  3. Thirdly, where any man has slandered another and by clipping his good name has made it weigh lighter, he is bound to make confession. The scorpion carries its poison in its tail, the slanderer in his tongue. His words pierce deep like the quills of the porcupine. That person who has murdered another in his good name or, by bearing false witness, has damaged him in his estate, ought to confess his sin and ask forgiveness: ‘if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift’ (Matt. 5.23-4). How can this reconciliation be effected but by confessing the injury?

Till this is done, God will accept none of your services. Do not think the holiness of the altar will privilege you; your praying and hearing are in vain till you have appeased your brother’s anger by confessing your fault to him.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.

Elements and Characteristics of Confession …THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 7.

Written by, Thomas Watson.
Taken from, “THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE.”
Published in 1668.

images[In this series we are looking at all the ingredients necessary for true repentance. In today’s thoughts, we are looking at “True Confession.”  Today, observe how Thomas Watson uses scripture with both faith and imagination to bring home his points on Confession. Now, let us look at the third of these respective ingredients. –MWP]

1. Sight of sin
2. Sorrow for sin
3. Confession of sin
4. Shame for sin
5. Hatred for sin
6. Turning from sin

REMEMBER: If any one ingredient is left out, repentance loses its virtue.

Ingredient 3. CONFESSION of Sin

Sorrow is such a vehement passion—that it will have vent. It vents itself at the eyes by weeping, and at the tongue by confession. “The children of Israel stood and confessed their sins (Neh. 9:2). “I will go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offence” (Hos. 5:15). This is a metaphor alluding to a mother who, when she is angry, goes away from the child and hides her face until the child acknowledges its fault and begs pardon.

Confession “a salve for a wounded soul.”

Confession is self-accusing: “I have sinned!” (2 Sam. 24:17). When we come before God, we must accuse ourselves. The truth is—that by this self-accusing we prevent Satan’s accusing. In our confessions we accuse ourselves of pride, infidelity, passion, so that when Satan, who is called “the accuser of the brethren”, shall lay these things to our charge, God will say, “They have accused themselves already; therefore, Satan, you have no suit; your accusations come too late.”

The humble sinner does more than accuse himself…

…he, as it were, sits in judgment and passes sentence upon himself. He confesses that he has deserved to be bound over to the wrath of God. Hear what the apostle Paul says: “if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Cor. 11:31). But have not wicked men, like Judas and Saul, confessed sin? Yes! but theirs was not a true confession. That confession of sin may be right and genuine, these eight qualifications are requisite:

1. Confession must be VOLUNTARY.

It must come as water out of a spring—freely. The confession of the wicked is extorted, like the confession of a man upon a rack. When a spark of God’s wrath flies into their conscience, or they are in fear of death—then they will fall to their confessions! Balaam, when he saw the angel’s naked sword, could say, “I have sinned!” (Num. 22:34). But true confession drops from the lips—as myrrh from the tree, or honey from the comb—freely. “I have sinned against heaven, and before you” (Luke 15:18). The prodigal charged himself with sin, before his father charged him with it.

2. Confession must be with REMORSE.

The heart must deeply resent it. A natural man’s confessions run through him as water through a pipe. They do not affect him at all. But true confession leaves heart-wounding impressions on a man. David’s soul was burdened in the confession of his sins: “as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:4). It is one thing to confess sin—and another thing to feel sin’s wounds.

3. Confession must be SINCERE.

Our hearts must go along with our confessions. The hypocrite confesses sin—but loves it; like a thief who confesses to stolen goods—yet loves stealing. How many confess pride and covetousness with their lips—but roll them as honey under their tongue. Augustine said that before his conversion he confessed sin and begged power against it—but his heart whispered within him, “not yet, Lord”. He really did not want to leave his sin. A good Christian is more honest. His heart keeps pace with his tongue. He is convinced of the sins he confesses, and abhors the sins he is convinced of.

4. In true confession a man PARTICULARIZES sin.

A wicked man acknowledges he is a sinner in general. He confesses sin by wholesale. A wicked man says, “Lord, I have sinned”—but does not know what the sin is; whereas a true convert acknowledges his particular sins. As it is with a wounded man, who comes to the surgeon and shows him all his wounds—here I was cut in the head, there I was shot in the arm; so a mournful sinner confesses the various sins of his soul. Israel drew up a particular charge against themselves: “we have served Baal” (Judg. 10:10). The prophet recites the very sin which brought a curse with it: “Neither have we hearkened unto your servants the prophets, which spoke in your name” (Dan. 9:6). By a diligent inspection into our hearts, we may find some particular sin indulged—point to that sin with a repentant tear!

5. A true penitent confesses sin in the FOUNTAIN.

He acknowledges the pollution of his nature. The sin of our nature is not only a privation of good—but an infusion of evil. It is like rust to iron or stain to scarlet. David acknowledges his birth-sin: “I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). We are ready to charge many of our sins to Satan’s temptations—but this sin of our nature is wholly from ourselves; we cannot shift it off to Satan. We have a root within, which bears gall and wormwood (Deut. 29:18). Our nature is an abyss and seed of all sin, from whence come those evils which infest the world. It is this depravity of nature which poisons our holy things; it is this which brings on God’s judgments. Oh confess sin in the fountain!

6. Sin is to be confessed with all its circumstances and AGGRAVATIONS.

Those sins which are committed under the gospel horizon, are aggravated sins. Confess sins against knowledge, against grace, against vows, against experiences, against judgments. “The wrath of God came upon them and slew the fattest of them. For all this they sinned still” (Psalm 78:31-2). Those are killing aggravations, which enhance our sins.

7. In confession, we must so charge ourselves as to clear God.

Should the Lord be severe in his providences and unsheath his bloody sword—yet we must acquit him and acknowledge he has done us no wrong. Nehemiah in his confessing of sin vindicates God’s righteousness: “Every time you punished us you were being just. We have sinned greatly, and you gave us only what we deserved” (Neh. 9:33). Mauritius the emperor, when he saw his wife slain before his eyes by Phocas, cried out, “Righteous are you, O Lord, in all your ways”.

8. We must confess our sins with a resolution not to commit them over again.

Some run from the confessing of sin—to the committing of sin, like the Persians who have one day in the year when they kill serpents; and after that day allow them to swarm again. Likewise, many seem to kill their sins in their confessions, and afterwards let them grow as fast as ever. “Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16). It is vain to confess, “We have done those things we ought not to have done”, and continue still in doing so. Pharaoh confessed he had sinned (Exod. 9:27)—but when the thunder ceased he fell to his sin again: “he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart” (Exod. 9:34).

Origen calls confession “the vomit of the soul whereby the conscience is eased of that burden which did lie upon it.”

Now, when we have vomited up sin by confession—we must not return to this vomit! What king will pardon that man who, after he has confessed his treason, practices new treason? Thus we see how confession must be qualified.
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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.