Steps to Christ
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 4: Confession
If you have offended someone, you are to
acknowledge your wrong, and it is his duty
freely to forgive you. Then seek the forgiveness
of God, because in injuring the brother you
sinned against his Creator and Redeemer.
Review and Herald Publ. Assoc.
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper:
but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall
have mercy." Proverbs 28:13.
The conditions of obtaining mercy of God are
simple and just and reasonable. The Lord does not
require us to do some grievous thing in order that
we may have the forgiveness of sin. We need not
make long and wearisome pilgrimages, or perform
painful penances, to commend our souls to the God
of heaven or to expiate our transgression; but he that
confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy.
The apostle says, "Confess your faults one to
another, and pray one for another, that ye may be
healed." James 5:16. Confess your sins to God, who
only can forgive them, and your faults to one another.
If you have given offense to your friend or neighbor,
you are to acknowledge your wrong, and it is his
duty freely to forgive you. Then you are to seek
the forgiveness of God, because the brother you have
wounded is the property of God, and in injuring him
you sinned against his Creator and Redeemer. The
case is brought before the only true Mediator, our
great High Priest, who "was in all points tempted
like as we are, yet without sin," and who is "touched
with the feeling of our infirmities," and is able to
cleanse from every stain of iniquity. Hebrews 4:15.
Those who have not humbled their souls before
God in acknowledging their guilt, have not yet [p. 38] fulfilled the first condition of acceptance. If we have
not experienced that repentance which is not to be
repented of, and have not with true humiliation of
soul and brokenness of spirit confessed our sins,
abhorring our iniquity, we have never truly sought for
the forgiveness of sin; and if we have never sought,
we have never found the peace of God. The only
reason why we do not have remission of sins that are
past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts
and comply with the conditions of the word of truth.
Explicit instruction is given concerning this matter.
Confession of sin, whether public or private, should
be heartfelt and freely expressed. It is not to be
urged from the sinner. It is not to be made in a
flippant and careless way, or forced from those who
have no realizing sense of the abhorrent character of
sin. The confession that is the outpouring of the
inmost soul finds its way to the God of infinite pity.
The psalmist says, "The Lord is nigh unto them that
are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a
contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18.
True confession is always of a specific character,
and acknowledges particular sins. They may be of
such a nature as to be brought before God only; they
may be wrongs that should be confessed to individuals
who have suffered injury through them; or they
may be of a public character, and should then be as
publicly confessed. But all confession should be
definite and to the point, acknowledging the very sins
of which you are guilty.
In the days of Samuel the Israelites wandered
from God. They were suffering the consequences of [p. 39] sin; for they had lost their faith in God, lost their
discernment of His power and wisdom to rule the
nation, lost their confidence in His ability to defend
and vindicate His cause. They turned from the great
Ruler of the universe and desired to be governed as
were the nations around them. Before they found
peace they made this definite confession: "We have
added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king."
1 Samuel 12:19. The very sin of which they were
convicted had to be confessed. Their ingratitude
oppressed their souls and severed them from God.
Confession will not be acceptable to God without
sincere repentance and reformation. There must be
decided changes in the life; everything offensive to
God must be put away. This will be the result of
genuine sorrow for sin. The work that we have to
do on our part is plainly set before us: "Wash you,
make you clean; put away the evil of your doings
from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do
well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the
fatherless, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:16, 17. "If
the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had
robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing
iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die."
Ezekiel 33:15. Paul says, speaking of the work of
repentance: "Ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what
carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of
yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea,
what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge!
In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear
in this matter." 2 Corinthians 7:11. [p. 40]
When sin has deadened the moral perceptions, the
wrongdoer does not discern the defects of his
character nor realize the enormity of the evil he has
committed; and unless he yields to the convicting power
of the Holy Spirit he remains in partial blindness to
his sin. His confessions are not sincere and in earnest.
To every acknowledgment of his guilt he adds an
apology in excuse of his course, declaring that if it
had not been for certain circumstances he would not
have done this or that for which he is reproved.
After Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden
fruit, they were filled with a sense of shame and
terror. At first their only thought was how to excuse
their sin and escape the dreaded sentence of death.
When the Lord inquired concerning their sin, Adam
replied, laying the guilt partly upon God and partly
upon his companion: "The woman whom Thou gavest
to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."
The woman put the blame upon the serpent, saying,
"The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Genesis 3:
12, 13. Why did You make the serpent? Why did You
suffer him to come into Eden? These were the questions
implied in her excuse for her sin, thus charging
God with the responsibility of their fall. The spirit
of self-justification originated in the father of lies
and has been exhibited by all the sons and daughters of
Adam. Confessions of this order are not inspired by
the divine Spirit and will not be acceptable to God.
True repentance will lead a man to bear his guilt
himself and acknowledge it without deception or
hypocrisy. Like the poor publican, not lifting up so
much as his eyes unto heaven, he will cry, "God be [p. 41] merciful to me a sinner," and those who do acknowledge
their guilt will be justified, for Jesus will plead
His blood in behalf of the repentant soul.
The examples in God's word of genuine repentance
and humiliation reveal a spirit of confession in
which there is no excuse for sin or attempt at
self-justification. Paul did not seek to shield himself;
he paints his sin in its darkest hue, not attempting to
lessen his guilt. He says, "Many of the saints did
I shut up in prison, having received authority from
the chief priests; and when they were put to death,
I gave my voice against them. And I punished them
oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to
blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I
persecuted them even unto strange cities." Acts 26:
10, 11. He does not hesitate to declare that "Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom
I am chief." 1 Timothy 1:15.
The humble and broken heart, subdued by genuine
repentance, will appreciate something of the love
of God and the cost of Calvary; and as a son
confesses to a loving father, so will the truly penitent
bring all his sins before God. And it is written, "If
we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:9.
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